IFH 667: From Short Film Script to Spielberg with Sacha Gervasi

Being a podcaster now for over 600 episodes I’ve heard all sorts of stories on how people make it in the film business. From Sundance darlings to blind luck. Now today’s guest story is easily one of the most incredible and entertaining origin stories I’ve ever heard. We have on the show today award-winning director, producer, and screenwriter, Sacha Gervasi.

Sacha won the screenwriter lottery with his first-ever screenplay, which was a un-produceable short film script, caught the eye of the legendary Steven Spielberg. That script, My Dinner with Herve would eventually be expanded and released in 2018 by HBO. The film stars the incomparable, Peter Dinklage 

Unlike most writers/directors who go on to produce their debut films, Gervasi’s 1993 entry project wasn’t made until just three years ago. I promise you, Sacha spills every detail of the fascinating story of his encounter with Hervé Villechaize, the famous little person from shows like Fantasy Island and films like James Bond’s The Man with the Golden Gun. Hervé was arguably one of the most famous people in the world in the late ’70s and early 80’s. Sacha sat with Herve in a marathon interview, and the connection they forge during their brief, yet impactful meet.

After his life-changing encounter with the Fantasy Island star, which followed Hervé’s abrupt and unfortunate suicide, Sacha was determined to get his story told in its entirety and justifiably.  He ditched his mid-level journalism job in England and moved to Los Angeles to attend film school at UCLA after developing the script for My Dinner with Herve. 

While on the climb-up, Sacha wrote screenplays for The Big Tease (1999) and The Terminal (2004) which was directed by Steven Spielberg and starred Tom Hanks. The comedy-drama film grossed $219.4 million at the Box office with a $60 million budget and has become a holiday classic in the UK.

Tom Hanks played an Eastern European tourist who unexpectedly finds himself stranded in JFK airport, and must take up temporary residence there because he is denied entry into the United States and at the same time is unable to return to his native country because of a military coup.

In 2008, Sacha made his documentary directorial debut and executive produced Anvil! The Story of Anvil

The amazing documentary premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival about a heavy metal band that never gave up on their dreams of being a successful band. Anvil was established in 1978 and became one of the most influential yet commercially unsuccessful acts with thirteen albums. The documentary ranks at 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.

He also directed the 2012 film Hitchcock, a story about the relationship between Alfred Hitchcock and his wife, Alma Reville during the filming of Psycho (1969). It starred Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, and Scarlet Johansson. 

I also interviewed Sacha and an old friend of his, Iron Maiden heavy metal band singer, Bruce Dickinson on my new podcast, Next Level Soul that you have to catch up with if you are down for more knowledge bombs and cool stories from Sacha. That episode comes out on Saturday. 

Here’s a bit on my new podcast Next Level Soul.

The Next Level Soul Podcast is a self-help & spirituality podcast that asks the big questions about living and thriving in the world today by having candid and inspiring conversations with thought leaders from every walk of life. The show covers inspirational, motivational, spiritual, health-oriented, yoga, meditation, wellness, and many more topics. New episodes of Next Level Soul air every Saturday anywhere you listen to podcasts. Let’s take your SOUL to the next level.

Sasha is such an interesting human being, I had such a ball talking with him.  We talk about the film business, his origin stories, his screenwriting craft, what he’s doing now, and so much more.

Enjoy my entertaining conversation with Sacha Gervasi.

Alex Ferrari 3:56
I like to welcome to the show Sacha Gervasi, man How you doing Sasha?

Sasha Gervasi 5:03
I'm good man. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 5:04
I'm doing great man. I am I'm excited to talk to you, my friend. we've, we've talked a little bit off air already. And it's I wish we could record it.

Sasha Gervasi 5:14
Frankly, cannot put on this podcast,

Alex Ferrari 5:16
obviously and legal or legal reasons. So I knew just from those few interactions we had that this is going to be, this is going to be fun, without question. And you so I wanted to ask you when we before we start the whole thing, how did you get into this ridiculous business?

Sasha Gervasi 5:37
I got into Well, I was always fascinated with film. I went to a school in unequal Westminster and I started the film club at Westminster School in about 1980. And my what I would do is I would go with my housemaster of I called Tristan Jones Perry, who was literally a character Brideshead Revisited a brilliant mathematician, completely, Ill functioning socially, but really a wonderful man, we wouldn't he would accompany me to Soho where we would pick up 16 millimeter prints of films. And so I remember bringing to all my classmates, I was 15 or 16 at the time, movies, like don't look now and Easy Rider. And so I loved film at school, and, you know, kind of got into actually getting the 16 mil prints and putting them in the film club. So I think it was a very early dream, but I never thought I'd actually end up working film. Because I was for many years, you know, a really terrible musician. And I was struggling with my own mediocrity for quite a few years, even though I ended up in some bands, you know, actually did some stuff. But the reality was, I think the real dream was always film. And ultimately what happened was, I was in the music business, got out of the music business. And then I decided I was offered an opportunity to work for a very sort of famous British satirical magazine called punch. A fantastic guy. They're called Sean McCauley. I called him up, he was the features editor, and pitched him an idea over the phone, I got through to him and Secretary was out to lunch. And he gave me my first assignment. And so I started as a journalist, and I worked for work for punch, punch, punch magazine, and associated newspapers, Evening Standard Mail on Sunday, and I would do kind of profiles and interviews with what I thought to be interesting people. And remember, in one week in 1993, I think it was I interviewed Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols released

Alex Ferrari 7:25
in February, that must have been a hell of an that must have been a hell of an interview,

Sasha Gervasi 7:30
an Italian restaurant in Greek street in Soho, and he ended up throwing a chair at me, because he didn't like he was promoting his book, no black, no Irish, no dogs, which was a great book, but he didn't like the sound of my voice and thought I was a tosser and decided literally to throw some kind of, you know, Art Deco chair in my general direction, which of course made it but that same week, I interviewed, you know, Ted Heath, the former British Conservative Prime Minister, you know, and many, many people along the way, and I just would meet all these fascinating characters. And journalism, for me was just a, you know, an opportunity to try and make money writing, even though I wasn't really, you know, that wasn't really my end goal. But it was massively fun for me to fly around the world. And I remember my first foreign assignment, I was flown by associated newspapers to meet this young prodigy violinist called Sarah Chang and Florence, and I met her. She was 11. And this was brilliant musician who we had performed some exquisite. I think it was of all the I can't remember what she was doing at the time. But you know, she had an entourage her dad, her cousins, her mother's there was like, 40 adults in the room while I interviewed this 11 year old genius. Yes, I have these incredible kind of experiences just meeting very different types of people. And I think all of that ultimately, as you know, probably, if you know, a bit of the story is that, you know, one of the interviews that I was sent to do in the summer of 1993 was was to interview Herve vilchez, who, you know, had been the star of Fantasy Island, and 10, you know, 10 years after you've been fired by Aaron Spelling was in quite a bad condition. I was sort of sent to this interview, kind of as a joke. You know, while I was waiting for, frankly, something more important. So the Gore Vidal interviews appears in, in the film, and ultimately, that experience changed my life and led to screenwriting. I know that sounds very strange, but I was sent from London to LA to do a series of important show business interviews as if that really exists as a concept in reality, and have a village with the kind of throwaway joke piece, you know, and they said to me, you know, get 500 words with the midget, you know, where are they?

Alex Ferrari 9:37
So that's your, cuz I didn't know as a tester to write that's it. Yeah.

Sasha Gervasi 9:41
Yeah nicknack in the bond, film and write a seminal, kind of famous kind of cult figure in the 1970s and, frankly, the most famous little person that's successful that the person after that, that had been at all And you know, I went in there filled with judgment and cynicism and you know, fuck I've got to get through. This is the this is the dregs of celebrity I've been given like the, you know, the formerly famous dwarf from fancy Island, the

Alex Ferrari 9:45
one hit wonder the one hit wonder almost

Sasha Gervasi 10:14
Yeah. I was like, wow, this is really where my career is, you know, I'm interviewing tattoo, I wanted to shoot myself. Well, I won't say I knew I was gonna say something terrible. But anyway, so we, we went to meet at Liberty Chateau in West Hollywood, and I was with this photographer who was sent from the newspaper with me and his, his name was Sloane Pringle. I mean,

Alex Ferrari 10:38
you can't make this up. You can't make this up.

Sasha Gervasi 10:39
You can't make that up. Not a stage name slump. And, you know, Stein was like, Look, we've got to get to this other place. We have half an hour just get your interview. And so you know, I just went through what was your life class, the island, The Man with the Golden got the stories and I literally was packing my shit to go away. Right? To say, you know, thank you heavy. It's been wonderful, great stories about Fantasy Island. You know, it was all the ludicrous kind of showbizzy stuff we knew. And I was putting my stuff and I turned back and Herve had come off his chair and around the corner, and was holding a knife at my throat and I was like, I'm about to be shipped to death by tempted by tattoo is about to kill me. And I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. And he wanted to get my attention. He was like, he literally said to me, You wrote the story before you got here. You prejudge me, you have no idea who I really am. You just see me as a joke, you know, on this show. And I'm just like a sort of Sunset Boulevard, kind of sad, past celebrity. And he was right. He was absolutely right. He wasn't really threatening me with my life. He just wanted to puncture kind of this bubble of judgment and cynicism and disinterest that I kind of clearly walked in with. And he said, if you want to hear the real story of my life, come meet me tomorrow night. So I was so shocked. I was like, you know, because my editors said, Look, 500 words, three paragraphs, you know, where are they now? They didn't really, but I there was something about him that was so fucking compelling. So human and a broken and, but also interesting, I mean, such a charismatic person, that I decided to meet him. And I ended up spending three days with him. And he told me his life story with such kind of emotional intensity and need. And you know, as as I'm sure any other journalists will tell you, when someone tells you the story of their lives, they become quite mad, because how often do you tell all the major emotional events of your life and badger let's take advantage of it, I actually found him so different to how I imagined him to be to me the whole thing was like a lesson about judgment and pre judgment. Because I really did just see him as being defined by his size, and being defined by these kind of quote unquote, you know, jokey roles. But at the end of the three days, I was so compelled, I went to see him at the universal Sheraton where he was staying. And I remember having this really weird feeling and it's actually recreated in the film my dinner with Herve and we shot the final scene of where the actual events have taken place in the same lobby of the universal Sheraton. 25 years after it happened, it was just a very weird thing to think pledge, recreate the scene with, you know, I'd have with her back in the same place. And, you know, I went up to his room, and he had all his band mail laid out, and it was just so sad, you know, it was like he said, they still write to me, and, you know, I just felt I felt they it man, I just, you know, I reconnected with them, I felt, here's this guy who's been basically totally destroyed by the cruel fate of, you know, his biology, and was totally rejected by his mother, and became famous. And of course, none of it really worked, you know, worked for a time, but you know, and then, of course, he lost his mind, blew up his career, and was just, but also underneath, it was really just a painter, you know, he really is really a very talented artists who have won prizes, and gone to, you know, some very famous art schools in Paris. And he was the youngest painter, for example, to be exhibited in the museum of Paris. And he was just an extraordinary character, I really connected with him at the end. And so I remember going back and he had all these photos of his life, and he says, you take these for your article in 2000 slides of his whole life, and I'm like, thinking to myself, my editors want like maybe one photo, and you know, like, what am I gonna do, but I felt like I had to take it. And we went down in the elevator together, and then he sort of tagged me on my sleeve, and he pulled me into very close to him, and he said, he had tears in his eyes, and he said, Tell them I regret nothing. And I just had this like, fear of like, what is going on this? I just knew something was going on. I didn't quite know what it was. But it was just so like, such a shiver up my spine. And I just had this connection with this weirdo that you would never think I would never Why would I connect with this guy? You know, it just we have something in common and yet we have everything in common. I just was newly sober. He was clearly struggling. During our three days together, he tried, you know, I told him that I was stopped drinking, and he was like constantly trying to get me to drink and take him to strip clubs. I mean, it was, he was like the devil and an angel. He was just like, the most interesting, charismatic and unusual person I think I've ever met in my life, probably to this day. And I ended up having this bond. And anyway, so I go home to London, and I've got basically 14 hours or 12 hours of these little micro micro cassettes that used to have, you know, you recorded. I remember listening back to this thing going, how the fuck am I going to put this in an article to take to my editors, like, I'm really interested to begin with, and then I come back with this anyway. So I got a call from Kathy self, who was his girlfriend who I'd met during the sort of three day interview. And Kathy called me at home, it was a Sunday, it was like 615, in the evening, Sunday, September, the fourth 1993. I'll never forget it, it was a really pleasant early afternoon, late afternoon, evening, and the phone rings, it's Kathy and Kathy says, have a committed suicide four and a half out. And I know we will have wanted to let you know that that happened. And just to let you know how they really connected with you, and is so happy that you have this interview. So I'm like listening back to these tapes now. And suddenly, I have a whole new perspective. And the perspective is, this guy knows that he's gonna kill himself. This, this is like some random, you know, English journalists, some young kid who knows nothing has been sent to interview me, I'm just gonna grab him. And I'm gonna give him the whole story about the family about everything. And it really like was like, you know, what do I do with this, I started crying when I listen to the interview again, because I understood that he was absolutely conscious of the fact that he was telling someone his story for the very last time, and he was clearly planning to do this, I decided to change my whole perspective on the article and come at it from a point of view of here, I was walking in this judgmental, cynical British journalist to knows nothing. And I was just completely captivated by this extraordinary character. And he opened his heart to me. And then, you know, six, five days after we see each other, he kills himself. And so the whole article was about so I do a 5000 word piece. And I take it into my editors, the paper, and they were like, this is great. But this is not what we asked for. We wanted you to go do a stupid, funny story. And I was like, but this is the truth. I mean, this is the story important. And luckily, I had already spoken to someone else who I thought would take the story. And they agreed, okay, we'll take the story, and plot it and publish it the way you wanted to do it. And I went to my newspaper, I said, You've got to give me front cover. And I need, you know, six pages, whatever it is lots of photos. Here they are, you know, the whole thing. And so I had this extraordinary thing where they basically said, No, we sent you out there, we own the story, you're going to rewrite it. And it was really tough, and I just couldn't really do it at a certain point. And in the end, someone else rewrote the story. It was, I think, four pages or two pages, somewhere in the middle of the magazine. And I really felt horrible, because I'd had credibly important personal experience completely out of the blue. With this person, I was essentially his suicide note. And here were these guys who would just didn't give a shit, they would just get it to me summed up everything about British journalism, and that and those newsrooms at the time. And the editor literally came out of the room and said, well, Giovanni's top two midgett, which means made a major commit suicide, where do we send him next, and everyone's laughing? And I'm like, Wait, hold on a second, like, this guy is a human being, and you guys are just your pigs, you know, and they're all bitter. And they're all just, you know, judgmental, and they're not, you know, none of them probably wanted to be writers or painters, or filmmakers, and none of them really were willing to take that risk. And so it's much easier to sit on the sidelines and judge than actually take a risk, you know, do something. And so I just got that was where the idea for the film was born. And so I'd never written a script before. And it leads into my very first script. Well, I wrote a short script, a 32 page screenplay. I've never written one before, called my dinner with her back. And I thought, This is great. It's a short about the most famous short man in the world. You know, what I didn't understand is that I'd written essentially, an unmistakable $2 million short film that once someone looked at it, they were like Paris in 1940, and Barbados. I was like,

anyway, um, became an interesting thing, because I wrote this script from the heart to feel like, I felt like the newspaper robbed me of the truth of that story. And so the script was my first attempt to tell the story from a technical point of view. And I, I ended up being read by Steven Spielberg. I mean, that script that I was, you know, got to speak But you

Alex Ferrari 20:01
made the 32 page $2 million short film about a dinner with her but unbreakable, unbreakable called my debt my eat my dinner with with aurvey about the most famous short man in the world, that script. How did that 32 page script that's

Sasha Gervasi 20:19
another story you see as as So, okay, here's the story. This is crazy story. So I had applied to UCLA film school and I was really on the fence about whether I wanted to go and I got for whatever it is, I got I applied to UCLA. So I was in LA doing all these interviews have a and the kids from Beverly Hills 90210, by the way, on the same trip that I interviewed her, but you know, when he pulled the knife on me, the interview was going to was the kids of Beverly Hills 902. That's how I also interview. So I'm like, Well, I'm sitting there listening to these imbeciles talking about this terrible show. And all I'm thinking is about tattoo shaming me. And what happened back then I'm like, I was so disinterested. 24 year old. Anyway, so. So, anyway, so I was I was basically I applied to UCLA because I was in LA so much. And I do I went back to the original dream, you know, I was, I was at school, and I started my Film Club, and I loved film. And, you know, I really wanted to see, you know, UCLA was a legendary school, you know, that so many fantastic filmmakers, and I was a huge I am a huge Paul Schrader fan. And Paul Schrader had been at UCLA, and he's just an extraordinary and USC seem to be like the, you know, really successful, rich kids and UCLA was the kind of, you know, messy disaster. It felt like Anyway, it was much cheaper. So I just applied to UCLA. And I got into UCLA. And so I was in LA. My mom said, Go to LA, I knew not a single person, not one person. And so my mom had an old friend called Ruthie Snyder, who she grew up with in Toronto. My mother came from Toronto, and then it moved to New York, whatever, and then to England. And she said, Look at my old school friend, you know, she hadn't seen her in like, 30 years. I was like, great. I walked up in LA. I have some woman I don't even know. Anyway, so she was very kindly introduced me to her daughter Fonda Fonda Snyder. And what happened was, I got invited she said Fonda was running a company called story opolis, which was a bookstore and in LA, opposite the IB restaurant, Robertson, and Paul Allen, that, you know, the Microsoft guy was funding this kind of children's bookstore. And so she said, I were doing a dinner. Do you want to come? I didn't know her at all. Anyway, so I go to this dinner. And I and I get there early. Because you know, I don't know anyone at all. I'm like, you know, I'm talking to the waiters.

Alex Ferrari 22:47
What year what year? Are we talking?

Sasha Gervasi 22:49
Like 93 to 92? three foot 494. Right. Something like that. Yeah. And anyway, so I'm in my suit, like, cuz I'm very English. I'll put on a suit or the card for me, whatever. So I go there. And I look at this, these long tables, and they're having a dinner to honor the incredible author Maurice Sendak, who did Where the Wild Things Are. So and I'm looking at this table, and I'm looking at David Geffen, Peter Guber, you know, but like the people coming to this dinner would like and so Fonda was like laughing because she thought I was going to some kind of, you know, like free festival

Alex Ferrari 23:26
mixer mixer.

Sasha Gervasi 23:28
What I was talking to so she thought was very funny. So anyway, so I see all these kind of luminaries, Oliver Stone was at the dinner, I think, and you know, unbelievable, so I'm nervous as hell. I'm no one. I have no idea. I'm smoking met read more Brits. Like, without stopping. I've smoked two packs. Anyway. So I go outside. And I'm watching all these Hollywood luminaries through the windows, if you know aware of where new line needs to be opposite the IV. The story of this was all glass and they had this kind of little area, Piazza area with benches. So I'm sitting on the Piazza benches watching through the windows is like Oliver Stone and David Geffen. And all these people arrived, going, what am I doing here? I was thinking about going anyway. So this tramp comes up to me, who was like wearing some sort of that kind of grungy Seattle look or whatever. And it was sort of a bit befuddled, and he sits down and he says, you know, do you have a cigarette? I was like, Sure. So I ended up chatting with him. And we started talking and smoking cigarettes, and he was very nice guy. And he said, you know, what are you doing? I said, Well, I'm English. I'm actually here. I think I'm going to go to film school. And, you know, and he says, really, what, what, what are your plans? I said, Well, you know, I'm going to become a screenwriter. You know, I'm going to be a screenwriter like that. And he looks at me and goes, hmm. And I literally remember thinking I looked at him, I thought maybe I can help this guy. Maybe I could just give him I don't know, some money for the bus or something. I don't mind how he seems nice. So anyway, so we're chatting. We're getting on incredibly well and talking about, you know, America versus England and the favorite TV shows and customers But I can't remember. But it was great conversation and we're big cigarette smokers. Anyway. So I'm watching the assembled mass through the windows, we both are on this very beautiful woman comes out and goes up to this tramp. I thought perhaps to give him money. I didn't really know. But she comes up to him. It turns out, it's her husband. And she is coming to this event. And by the way, he is coming to this event. And I'm like, okay, they're letting the homeless in his open community. I mean, we've got the luminaries, but we're also we're working with. So I, so I was basically just like, okay, so anyway, whatever. So she says, Who are you? And I said, Well, I'm Sasha, Razia come from London. I'm going to UCLA. I'm going to be a screenwriter. And Elizabeth says, Oh, really? That's what my husband does the tramp. And I'm like, Oh, okay. So So who are you? Oh, he's called Steve Zaillian.

Alex Ferrari 25:54
He's like, Oh, my God,

Sasha Gervasi 25:56
the Oscar the previous year for his screenplay for Schindler's List. So I could not speak.

Alex Ferrari 26:03
Oh, my

Sasha Gervasi 26:05
dad's one of the greatest

Alex Ferrari 26:07
living screenwriters

Sasha Gervasi 26:08
ever together right now, then. Doesn't matter. Unbelievable. And so anyway, we go into the dinner. I'm like, freaking out. Elizabeth finds it very funny. Cuz I'm like, you're steaming. Okay. You're Elizabeth Second. Okay, great. So then I find out but I'm seated like three seats away from him my card, you know, next to the head of new life, you know, sees me freaking out. And he finds it hilarious,

Alex Ferrari 26:37
because he's 16

Sasha Gervasi 26:39
as well. So that will like laughing at me anyway. So I couldn't speak after that, because I felt like I behaved like such a dickhead. Like there I am proclaiming, I'm a screenwriter. And there I am next to the academy award winning writer.

Alex Ferrari 26:52
So the equivalent of me of a kid going to Steven Spielberg, you know, one day I'm going to be a director. Right? Not knowing that that was Steven Spielberg.

Sasha Gervasi 27:00
I went into a massive shame spiral. And I remember just eating all the food and picking out on dessert I was trying to eat on my feelings. It was so I was so nervous. I felt terrible. I felt like an imposter. And I felt like I really made a fool of myself in front of essentially, I've never seen him but I'd read all his screenplays. I'd read searching for Bobby Fischer. I'd read his awakening script, you know, it was extraordinary. I, you know, there is so you know, serpentina and other scripts and bad manners, whatever these things. were, you know, he was just an extraordinary human Bob town to me with the guys, right? So I'm like, meeting him made a photo. Anyway, at the end of the dinner. He comes over to me and he said, here's my phone number. If you want to have a coffee, let's have a coffee or whatever.

Alex Ferrari 27:48
How many? How many days? Are you in LA at this point once you arrived?

Sasha Gervasi 27:54
like three weeks? in LA. I know my mother's friend from high school in Toronto. And I'm meeting literally, but so anyway. Now I had written that my dinner with her a script, right? But I didn't know what I was doing. But I had this script. So he said, Do you have anything, you know, that I could read?

And I said,

I have the script. And I told him the story of meeting have any found that story? Very interesting. Yeah. Anyway, so I ended up sending him the script to where to where to where he lived in Santa Monica. I sent him the script. And I didn't hear anything,

Alex Ferrari 28:31
as you know. Yeah.

Sasha Gervasi 28:33
And I was like, okay, I've met Mick Jagger. I've given him my demo tape. And I'm a loser. And I made a fool of myself. And I offer basically the given bus money home. I mean, it's just like, a full on disaster from start to finish. So I was in my little $100 a week apartment. I was living in West Hollywood. And the phone goes and this is like three months later. It seems alien. I'm so sorry for not getting back to you. I've been on a project that's finished. Now. I just happened to get to your script. And I think it's really good. Would you like to have coffee? I drive down theatrics and cinema. In fact, my friend Adam dropped me off because I didn't have a car because remember, I felt Well, for the first two, three years in LA. I did not have a car traveling by bus or walking, which was fine, right? So I'm going to I got dropped off at diederichs. I had a coffee with Steve. And he said, I think this is special. I think you're a writer. I think you're right to go to UCLA. And I think this is a very important and special piece of work. And I was just like, Jesus, I've never written anything. This is the first thing I wrote. And so in the end without getting into it, because there's lots more obviously to chat about. He gave that script to Steven Spielberg. And so I myself on the set of Amistad you know 10 feet away from Anthony Hopkins, you know, right on the on the set with Steve introduced because Steve was oh We're working on that I've rewritten the whole thing was to me to Steve, Steven Spielberg, and I just couldn't believe it. And he complimented me on the script and said, Would you like to watch and was could not have been that nicer. And ultimately, that ended up that led to me working with Steven on the terminal. So it was all through Steve's alien, like literally had I not had that chance meeting with Steve had Steve not been as cool and generous and so unpretentious and kind with me. He was just extraordinary with me extraordinary. Like, you know, in life when you get people who suddenly appear in a certain moment and their aim is alien was for me. He was absolutely an angel. I would not like everything that's happened since that moment, I would have absolutely no career without Steve and his belief in me and and at times when it was really, really tough. You know? Yeah. Anyway, so

Alex Ferrari 30:57
alright, so you basically had and I've talked about this a lot as because I mean, so many screenwriters listening tonight and filmmakers as well who are listening. You You, you look up to people, like you know, Steve Zaillian, and, and Spielberg and, and I, I consider them to be Gods on Mount Hollywood. They're literally like Greek gods in Mount Hollywood. And when one of them decides to come down with the peasants and touches you on the shoulders that you now shall be a screenwriter. You now shall be a director that literally happened to you. And, and he was, and he wasn't even. And the funny thing is, if I if I may go full Greek mythology on you, he was like, hidden. So he was in disguise. Oh, my

Sasha Gervasi 31:40
God, because I was totally myself. I had no I was I didn't, I was giving this guy cigarettes and possibly giving him money. And possibly any screenwriter, helping him when I discovered he, too, was a superhero.

Alex Ferrari 31:54
Oh, my God. No.

Sasha Gervasi 31:56
It was like magic. Because had I not look, I'm very like, had I known it was Steve's alien, I would have probably completely clammed up. And I am. And so therefore, it was a massive gift. It was like such a weird and wonderful thing. And, you know, he and his family and Elizabeth and Nick and Charlie would just have been fantastic.

Alex Ferrari 32:16
Well, yeah. So I have to ask you, because I mean, and I've spoken to other people on my show as well, they've had these kind of magical paths. Because this is a this is absolutely lottery ticket. This is magical. And so so many ways. Do you believe in it, there has to be some sort of fate in this because the chances of this happening? Do you believe there are other things that that kind of guide, because I do, I truly do. Like when doors are supposed to open for you, they opened for you in a magical way that you just can't understand, you know, how how I get how I have had the opportunities to talk to certain people on my show, like yourself, and like, what's happened to my show what's happened to my career, all these other different things, when something's supposed to happen? It happens in a way that you will never know. Like, if I would have told you this exact story, when you were flying over to LA to go to UCLA, you would have said, you're you're mad, you're mad, if I would have told you that tattoo was going to be the catalyst for your entire career, you would have said, That's right. You're insane. So what do you what do you What's your feelings on that?

Sasha Gervasi 33:24
Also, him threatening me with a knife?

Alex Ferrari 33:26
Obviously. I mean, that's, that's the given.

Sasha Gervasi 33:29
The whole thing I do, what how can you ignore that? I mean, there's obviously something going on. I'm not saying that goes on for everyone all the time. That doesn't go on me all the time. But I think there are certain critical moments in life when things happen when you meet someone. And I think it's all about being open. And recognizing it. Because, you know, a lot of times we don't recognize things. Yeah, so I got very lucky because, you know, without getting too much into my personal story, I didn't really, you know, a pretty bad time with drugs when I was younger, and I, you know, nearly was not here. And I think when I got out of that was able to figure out, like, actually, I don't really want to, I actually do want to be here. And here. When I sort of got clear of that. I just saw everything in a strange way as a huge blessing. Because it's like, you know, whenever things would be going badly, you know, I would say to myself, you know, for a dead man, you're not doing that badly. You know, I'm alive. I may and I definitely have that appreciation of life at a very basic level. I don't take stuff for granted. And so I think when you carry that energy, perhaps you invite sometimes positive perhaps the negative but in this case of very positive things. You know, I was recently kind of, you know, in recovery clean and sober when I came to LA like coming to LA was all about a completely new beginning. And I think when you've been through a tough time, and I'm sure many of your viewers have And listeners have been through their own version of that, you know, you know that there's something about getting through it where you just, you want to live. Yes. And that brings stuff to you. And I think that that may be that was an example of that. I don't really know. But I was just, you know, I think when I nearly pop, you know, when I nearly was not here. It's very humbling. Oh, I think that, you know, like, I think the problem is, I see a lot of Hollywood, you know, screenwriters sell their first script for a ton of money, and then it all goes to their head, you know, and, and I had that later, I actually have to say, I call myself all that, you know, because it does affect you, right? When people start telling you all this shit, and you have to really watch it. And I would say, as a writer, as a writer, particularly in Hollywood, you know, if you don't seek humility, it will find you.

Alex Ferrari 35:53
Amen, brother,

Sasha Gervasi 35:54
amen. You will be fired, you will be, you know, taken down and denigrated, and all that. And so, you know, and actually, Suzanne gave me a great good advice. He said, it's a roller coaster, when it when the corner get squeaky, squeeze on tight, just hold on, you know, and I think that, I've always done that there have been some terrible, terrible moments, as well as some extraordinary moments. And I think that, you know, it is about not being a wanker. Being You know, one thing when people like that, but I think what happens is, you get these moments of grace. And clearly, that was some kind of a miracle with Steve, you know, it's when the ego cuts in, and it starts taking credit for all that shit, you get into a lot of trouble. So you have to just count your blessings and go, thank you, rather than start making it about you. And that is something that, you know, we're all prone to at different times. But you've got to watch for that. And I've certainly, if I haven't been watching for it, I've learned the lesson the hard

Alex Ferrari 36:50
way. I mean, the ego is the I mean, listen, the ego is one of the the thing that we all fight every single day, and I believe in the in the film industry, more so than ever because, man it is, so it is so enticing.

Sasha Gervasi 37:07
Having an ego is kind of like, you know, that night in the Monty Python, we get knocked off, and then his leg does that flesh wound. It's like a quivering stump, you know, that's like, a screenwriter will come here,

Alex Ferrari 37:19
come here, I'll take you.

Sasha Gervasi 37:23
You know, it's just a waste of your energy, just better get real and take your breaks when you get them. And and pass it on. That's the key thing. Yes. If people come into your path, and you feel even if you can make it like a tiny difference, but you know, you don't delude yourself into thinking you could do what someone likes things only Steven Spielberg could do. But if you can actually help someone, even if it's reading a script, or listening or whatever, you know, do it, man, because you got given that times 10. And I think it's in a strange way, it's, it's your duty to do that. It's the pay forward. It's not you, you know. So that's, I just think if you're coming from basically a place of honesty and fairness and trying not to be a tosser, trying not to be and catching yourself when you are, then you know, you're going to be alright, you're going to go, you're going to survive the crazy times of the roller coaster, and the ups and downs and the rapids and the river. And there will be plenty, as I'm sure you know, most of your, you know, writers, no, it's just very, you know, and you can go from the hottest thing to the coldest and the hot, you know, and it's like, try not to pay attention to the temperature reading, focus on the process, and the long term plan, because, you know, today's hottest screenwriter is tomorrow's cold is like, I've got, I've got the best reviews and the very worst, you know, it's like you'll have all of it. Try not to get buy into it too much. I think just focus on Okay, I got to deliver this script, and I got to deliver this movie or whatever. Stay in what you do, you know, and don't worry about the other bullshit.

Alex Ferrari 38:46
And look at Herve, I mean, look, I mean, he was the hottest biggest thing in the 70s you couldn't, just couldn't, he was everywhere. I mean, he was, he was so hot, and look where he

Sasha Gervasi 38:59
was the lesson of the Hyundai story. And he went ahead and he got into it with Ricardo montalban. And he wanted to trailer as big and basically spelling fired him because he was completely out of, you know, out of control. And, you know, he was destroyed, he went from, you know, a TV star on an ABC show getting 30 or $40,000 a week in 1979 8081. to, you know, when I found him having to flush his toilet by taking water out of his swimming pool to flush the toilet because the water had been cut off. You know, it was really extreme. So yeah, here's an example to me, you know, and I also fell for him because there was clearly he realized that he kind of completely fucked himself, you know, and if you go you know, his ego was not his amigo as they say, you know,

Alex Ferrari 39:51
what, like, that blew everything off. So

Sasha Gervasi 39:53
anyway, yeah, there are so many examples of that you know, of just don't take the work seriously. They just don't take yourself too seriously.

Alex Ferrari 40:02
Now, so let me ask so you're working with Steve and Steve Steve's on on terminal. What is that? Like did Steve bring you in? I think he It almost sounds like he Donnie Brasco. Do. He's like he's a good fella. He can come in with me. So he kind of like vouched for you. You walked in and Steve's like, I want to work with you on the terminal is how did that? How did you first of all, how do you collaborate with it? Well, it

Sasha Gervasi 40:25
was waterparks really who I work with mostly waterparks. It was then running Mike's also brilliant producer, who we develop the script together. And then initially what happened was that Tom Hanks came into just thinking my first meeting with Tom Hanks. Tom Hanks said he would like to do the script. And then I went to meet him in his office in Santa Monica. And it was, it was unbelievable. It was hilarious.

Alex Ferrari 40:47
Well, what happened? What happened when you?

Sasha Gervasi 40:49
I can't remember I think I had I said, I've got to do something really? No to I'll come up with a joke. So I think I came into his office. And Walter Park said, and here's Tom Hanks. And I looked at Tom and I looked at Walter and I said, but you said Tom holes. And then he laughed his head off. And then we became friends.

Alex Ferrari 41:10
Oh, my God. Oh my God. That's a myth.

Sasha Gervasi 41:13
A notable entry. It was hilarious. So we ended up having a good time. And I ended up being hired. So anyway, so he came on to terminal he wanted to do it. And then originally, actually, Sam Mendez was gonna direct the film. And I met with Sam and Sam was like, don't change the word of the script. And then it sort of all went quiet. And it was really weird. I was on a research trip with Tom Hanks in Europe. And we were working on this other project, but unfortunately, never got made. It was called comrade rock star. It was a great project. And Tom was very into it at the time. And so we flew on on the DreamWorks jet, which was also another, of course,

Alex Ferrari 41:48
why wouldn't you?

Sasha Gervasi 41:50
I went, and we went to, we went to Berlin, to do search and meet various people to do with the Conrad rock star story. And we were staying at the Adlon Hotel in Berlin. You know, this point. I didn't know what was happening with time. And I knew Tom was interested in it. I knew we were developing this other thing. And so Tom was on the catch me if you can, you know, press junket. And I remember I got a call. Tom's driver or whatever called and said, You know that there's a car downstairs, you know, go and have dinner with Tom, right. So I got into the car and I go into this restaurant in Berlin, which I think was called Vaughn or vow, I can't remember it was this big room with a like a gallery and like a main floor. And there was this table of like, 20 people. And there's an empty chair at the end, and there was waterparks, Leonardo DiCaprio, and suddenly, you know, Tom Hanks or whatever. And then there was a guy not facing me, just as I walked in. And Tom was with Steven. And Tom said, Hey, Sasha, yeah, Steven Sasha's here. And Steven Spielberg turned around to me, and he said, congratulations, we shoot November the fifth. And I was like,

what, what are we?

Alex Ferrari 43:02
What are we? What are we? What are we shooting

Sasha Gervasi 43:05
his moment where he said, I'm gonna drag the terminal. And I just was like, they were all again, that they were all laughing at me, because I was just like, so.

Alex Ferrari 43:13
I feel that I hear a theme here, that when I hear a theme here, Sasha, that when, when these giants when the gods when the gods get together, and they see the and they see that the commoners walking among us, they they like to poke fun at them, essentially, is what I hear

Sasha Gervasi 43:32
the same thing with sweetness of all right, oh, yeah. So in fact, when Tom Hanks told me he was going to attach himself to the script, he said, I was at his office, he said, will you drive me home? I said, Sure. I didn't really know. I thought maybe he couldn't afford Uber. I didn't really understand.

Alex Ferrari 43:48
Don't give them don't give him No, he don't give him changed for the bus like you were gonna do.

Sasha Gervasi 43:52
Steve gave some bus tickets designing and then I thought I'll help him with some vouchers. Anyway, so I'm driving. So this is a true story. So the mirror stories that I'm driving with Tommy's in the passenger seat, I'm driving by, you know, very excited, I've solved my first script. And I've Of course, got a Cadillac cuz I'm an idiot. He said, Why did you go from Britain? Why did you lease a Cadillac? And I said, because I'm from Britain, you know, and so anyway, I driving along and he says, I'm just gonna hold the steering wheel for just a minute. And I said, Sure, do you Okay, so he holds the wheel. And he turns to mean, he says, I'm going to start in Terminal. And I was like, because he knew I was gonna have a moment. And so we held the wheel. So Tom did that. And then we had the when Steven Spielberg told me, he was directing the film in Berlin. So it was quite, you know, you're outside. This is my second movie. So I've done a small hairdressing comedy called the big tease at Warner Brothers that no one saw which we made 4 million. And then, you know, suddenly I'm doing the Spielberg Hanks movie. Number two, right? So it's like complete madness.

Alex Ferrari 45:03
Oh my god. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. And I have to ask you that, because I told you off air, I absolutely adore the terminal. I adore it. I, my wife and I watch it every few years because everyone's, you know, between the story and the characters, and of course, Hanks his performance and and in Stephens direction. I mean, how did that story come together? Like it's based on a real story, right?

Sasha Gervasi 45:40
I called them Alfred, the Sarah, who lived for many years at a Paris airport shelter ago, he was an Iranian dissident. It was a true story, when it is done, who escaped escaped into, into France illegally, and came back to go to his home country, they discovered that he was he would probably be imprisoned or executed if he got on the plane back to Toronto. And so but at the same time, he did legally been in France, so they wouldn't let him back out. And they said, Just wait in the terminal a minute. So that was a whole story with, you know, a lot of political complexity. And it was about many things. And we decided, well, let's just take the scenario of a man stuck in the airport based on the true story. And let's do something slightly different. So that became, you know, Victor Navasky and crocosmia, and all of that stuff that was in the film. So does that mean, people love that movie? And it's sort of it's sort of, you know, what, some people love to initially not everyone, but over the years, it's become kind of has this own life. And in England, I started to realize it's become a christmas film on the BBC, like five years ago, like, either plays Christmas Eve or Christmas Day on BBC One. BBC, you know, it's sort of a bit of a tradition. Now, I didn't really realize that. But it's obviously great to be part of something like that. And, you know, it was an extraordinary experience having this film made by obviously, some of the greatest people, people had to study the film school, and then, you know, six months, I'm working with them. Yeah, no, it was without those guys. And Spielberg was just, he was extraordinary with me, incredibly generous. And it was hard. You know, when this is happening to you don't really understand what's happening in you, right? You don't handle it brilliantly. I didn't really, it was only like now years later that you really understand my God, Steven Spielberg decided to make your movie. Wow. You know, I kind of knew it at the time. But I really know now. And I really feel grateful to Steven and to Tom and to Walter and to Steve's alien for really creating that whole scenario. So I'm lucky.

Alex Ferrari 47:43
I mean, lucky. I mean, I can only imagine reading a textbook with Steven Spielberg in it. And then a few months later, or a year later working with him. I can't even I can't even comprehend that. Now, you You are not just a screenwriter, you're also a director. How did you make the jump from screenwriting to directing?

Sasha Gervasi 48:06
Well, I just decided that I was gonna direct something. I wanted to be a director always. And then I thought, you know, because what happened after terminal was that I got offered lots of kind of big studio comedy rewrites and stuff, right, you know, and I thought, I obviously had this incredible experience, but I didn't really want to be, you know, just doing big assignments all the time. I really wanted to see if I could be a filmmaker and to you know, have a go. So I realized no one was really going to give me a chance. And I realized that I'd have to, you know, think think it through on my own. I knew this band. And then tie a tie into what we what we talk about later with our mystery special guests. Yes, I, I knew this band when I was 15 called Danville, a Canadian heavy metal band. And I met them when I was 15 at the marquee club in London, in 1982. And I got into the dressing room and I ended up talking to them. They'd never been to London before they were my heroes. I said, Have you been here? They said no. I said, I'll give you a tour of London. I ended up taking Advil, you know the band behind metal on metal and, and, you know, strength of steel and hard and heavy. I ended up taking them on a tour of the Houses of Parliament, the Tate Gallery, and I took them back home to meet my mother. You can imagine my mother's how thrilled she was when she opens the door to find me with the four members of a 15 year old 5050 with posters on the wall of that band. She's completely she said, You've got 10 minutes, get them out of it. Anyway, so they will find me quite entertaining. And I found them I'd say they said look, what do you do next summer. I said, Well, I'm old school holiday. Do you want to come on the road with us? Rob Reiner, the drummer of amber was named Rob Reiner. Like as in the director of spinal tap. You couldn't again make that shit up. And Rob said, Would you like to be my drum tech on this tour? So I following summer, I lied to my mom. She was never letting me go on tour with them. But I told my dad, they were split up he lived in New York. I said I'm gonna spend this Somewhere my dad went to my dad and I said, I'm going on tour with this heavy metal band will you meet them to make Give me your blessing and my father, you know taught economics at Oxford. So you know that Andrew was not his core demographic band. And they met and he was you know, he gave them a talking to and said protect my son, but he gave me the go ahead to go on tour. We went on a tour of Canadian hockey arenas in the summer of 1984. And I learned how to play drums from the drummer of and or Brian and on that tour, and had you know, an incredible experience. I was just really young. Yeah, at I went on three tours, I think at three, four or five or four or five or six. I can't remember but I was a, you know, a drum rodeo is a roadie. So I met those guys, and I loved them. And I remember this young guy, this young Danish tennis prodigy, or prodigy or player called Lars Ulrich, who was around my age who was around at the time and anvil fan and Scott Ian, who later went on to be anthrax. And basically 20 years past, I lost touch with Advil. And then I realized that you know, all the bands that influenced you know, Metallica, anthrax, mega death or whatever, they don't become mega bands and and all that disappeared. I went online, I figured out and I figured out that they were playing like pub gigs in like Northern Ontario. It was still going after 30 years. And I was like, why are you still going? So I wrote to the lead singer, whose name is lips. And I said, Come to California lips flew out, he was wearing exactly the same scorpions t shirt he'd been wearing. Last time, I'd seen him in 1987. He was like, frozen in time. And he was going, my band's gonna make it man, it's gonna be great. We're gonna do it. And I was like, thinking to myself, he is completely mental, like, What is he talking about? It's over, right? But there was something so infectious. And actually, I took him to see Steve's alien mental that weekend when he was in LA. And I'm sitting there with Steve making coffee, and we're looking out as lips is talking to Steve's wife, Elizabeth. And he's saying, Who the hell is this guy? And I told him the whole story. And he said, there's a movie there. There's a movie about friendship and not giving up on your dream. And it's bittersweet, and you should direct it. And I said, wow. And I did. And it became and so it was and it was one of the enville

Alex Ferrari 52:13
the story of anthem.

Sasha Gervasi 52:16
And I just rolled the dice, no one was gonna pay for it. I financed it myself. And I within, I think, 12 weeks of that encounter with Steve, down on the beach with the lips. I was in northern Romania, shooting Advil on one of the worst tours that you've ever, ever seen the film. I mean, it was beyond a disaster. Oh, my God. And so that and that movie, then, you know, became my directorial debut, which then came into Sundance. And, you know, still to this day, actually, you know, people love that movie. Because it really is about not giving up. And it really is about, you know, doing something for the right reasons and passion, and you know, all of that stuff.

Alex Ferrari 52:55
absolutely remarkable. So that documentary, which has become a cult phenomenon. People love that movie. And you were telling me, like, everyone says, is your best work ever?

Sasha Gervasi 53:07
Well, people love that film. It's so well, it's also done from a place of total naivety innocence, and I don't know what I'm doing. I'm just following a feeling. And I think the film captures that, the essence of it. And it just has travelled so far and wide. And it was like an amazing story, because he was this banner that the movie in one sense is essentially a portrait in failure. And yet, every band loves this film. And in fact, ACDC we're doing a stadium tour and invited Anvil to open for them. I remember standing on the side of the stage with Anvil, a giant stadium and 50,000 people are shouting, Advil, Advil, apple, and it was just like, you never know what's going to happen. You just never know. Like, we had no idea that any of that stuff, we had no idea that, you know, they went to the total rock awards, you know, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin came up and bill to thank them for inspiring him to keep doing what he's doing. And it's like, you know, it was just like, we were at the Bowery Hotel in New York. And, and, and lips is smoking a cigarette on the terrace of the bar, and he comes out, he said, this is really interesting guy, and another guy, and they really like the movie and I don't know who they are. Maybe you can go talk to them. For me. I'd like to know more about them anyway, so go out with lips. And it's Chris Martin of Coldplay and Jay Z. And they're talking about and they had no idea. They had no idea if anyone

Alex Ferrari 54:28
they live in this. They live in this black bubble.

Sasha Gervasi 54:31
Yeah, I mean, the premiere in Hollywood. We did the premiere at the Egyptian theater, Dustin Hoffman came to the premiere. And he's in tears after the movie coming up to lips and Rob and Rob is like, has no idea who he is. And then after about 10 minutes he he turns to me he goes, is that the guy from Pappy? Oh yes. I feel happy. Oh, was wonderful about this is they're just living their own magical world. But were it not for that there would have been no movie to make about, you know, and then I'll be turned into as inspired, you know, other bands and certainly a lot of other movies about bands. Emotional,

Alex Ferrari 55:12
amazing. Amazing. So then, okay, so from story from from Anvil, so I'd love the title and what the story is. Great title. So once that happens, that's a documentary. But then you're, then you're thrown into more narrative work. And one of the films you worked on was Hitchcock,

Sasha Gervasi 55:29
which, well, that's that, but it's all to do with Advil,

Alex Ferrari 55:33
right? Like, how did Advil, get you? Hitchcock?

Sasha Gervasi 55:37
So what happened was that Tom Pollack, who was another angel of mine who would run universal from 85, to 95, incredible guy, and he was partners with Ivan Reitman, and they had Montecito pictures, and they financed them they did, you know, and they, they were fantastic. You know, they, they just supported young filmmakers. I actually got my first fan letter with about Ando was from Tom Pollack, who saw the film and said, This makes the old guys think they can keep going, and I want to meet you. Anyway. So they had this assignment for Hitchcock. And I was like, Okay, I'm fast. I'm, you're obviously Hitchcock. I'm fascinated subject. I thought it was based on this thing that Hitchcock in the making of psycho. I thought the book was brilliant. And I was just like, so I thought, okay, I'll you know, my agent said, we'll just go in and meet Tom Pollock. He likes your movie and, and the, the meeting began with, it's lovely to meet you. We love and Bill, you're not going to get this job. But anyway, let's just meet we just wanted to meet you. Yeah. And I was just like, you know, when someone says, something's not gonna happen, you're just like, fuck it. Okay, whatever. So I just, I said, this has got to be about Alma and you know, the, the unknown force behind hitch and it's got to be fun and irreverent, and tongue in cheek, hopefully. And it's, you know, it's only a movie, you know, like, Don't take it too seriously. It's meant to be sort of droll in the way that Hitchcock was, so I pitched them this. Anyway, they were like, well, this is great. But you know, Anthony Hopkins, pretty major actor, you know, probably you're not going to get past him. Anyway. He was a massive and OFAC was an apple fan.

Alex Ferrari 57:18
Oh my god,

Sasha Gervasi 57:20
how it just goes to show like you're coming from a place and you're doing it for your own fucking reasons. Fuck everyone else. And somehow. So Tony was like, let's do the film. And then Helen was like, love it need a bit more of our so I did some work on the script. You know, it was john McLaughlin script, but I did do a little work on the Alma roll. And yeah, and then the movie came together and such like made the film. So you know, it was and then I got Scarlett Johansson. I did have this weird moment where I was in rehearsals with with Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren. And I was like, I can't believe I'm actually in. I can't believe that talking to me, let alone like, you know, listening to a potential suggestion. Anyway, it was. I learned so much. I mean, you could imagine like working with those people in Scala Johansen and Jeff Crone and laugh and the incredible Pam Martin who cut the fighter was cutting the movie and working with searchlight. I mean, it was an extraordinary learning experience.

Alex Ferrari 58:20
Yeah, I, you just says like, I can't believe I think if there's a biography about you ever, it's gonna be I can't believe I just can't believe this is happening. Because it's from everything you've told me. There's just been one amazing event to Atlanta. And I know look over the years. These are the highlights and I know there's been ups and downs throughout like anybody's life. But again, just like Herve just like Steve Zaillian and then and then you're like, you'll never gonna get past it. Anthony Hopkins, because I watch saw your documentary. I'm a huge and,

Sasha Gervasi 58:51
like, in it three times. Yeah. Like mean is like, what

Alex Ferrari 58:54
is the what are the chances that the legendary Anthony Hopkins would be a fan of a, basically a failed metal band from the 80s that you happen to make a documentary about? Because you have, by the way happened to be

Sasha Gervasi 59:11
the thing that people should take them all of this? No, the thing that people should take for this is the deep down inside. Anthony Hopkins feels like a failed metal band from the 80s. You know, we all you know, have like it's a human right. We all you know, we're always on ourselves, and we're most more critical of ourselves than perhaps anyone elses. And it's, you know, so it was just it was very truthful. You know, it was about flawed human beings who are trying their best who don't actually necessarily succeed. And I'd say, of all the people I've met, who, some of whom are massive successes, they don't necessarily think about things like that or feel that they often just carry the wounds of the failures with them. Structurally, it's just a weird thing that I've observed. I don't know if it's true, but I think that that Sometimes true. So, you know, some of the greatest successes feel like failures.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:04
Oh, no, I mean, I can get 1000 good reviews. But I'll focus on the one bad review. And it's just, it's, it's human nature. And it's so overwhelming because you're looking you've obviously been given literally 1000 reviews are fantastic. But there's that one guy or gal who just like, you know what? terminal? Yeah. But then there's 1000 other ones that are just like, right. Now,

Sasha Gervasi 1:00:29
there's a great English newspaper, but I can't forget it. It's a terrible review. They said something like, watching this film was like standing in a waterfall of vomit and treacle,

Alex Ferrari 1:00:42
oh, my God, what a visual.

Sasha Gervasi 1:00:46
And I just thought, you know, okay, but what I'm saying is, you remember, I just remember that, I don't remember anything else. Apart from that, like the worst kind of shave. You know, and I don't know, maybe that's just human nature.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:59
I was, I was talking to Troy Duffy, the the famous director from boondock, saints, that whole legendary documentary, ledgering documentary, as well. And he told me, he's like, there was this one review, I he goes, by the LA Times, I think it was so brilliantly written, that if you're going to get smashed by someone, at least, let it be a really good writer, because it was entertaining, it was

Sasha Gervasi 1:01:26
world class beating, you're gonna have to deal with that man, you're gonna have to deal with getting shipped in every part of your body by someone at some point, you're gonna have a knife sticking out of it. But you know, you've got to kind of also ignore it. It's like, you know, having been also having been a viewer, myself, and having been a journalist, I really do understand what's on the other side of that, you know, a lot of those people are blocked creatives, they're blocked filmmakers who aren't able to actually do it themselves for whatever reasons, either they don't have the talent or the courage or both, or whatever, or it just hasn't happened, you know, so, you know, so it's, they're kind of bitter, slightly, a, some of them and others are really constructive. And they use the criticism to try and say, actually, here's how you could have done a better job. And here's, you know, and you can actually learn from a great review, you learn a ton of shit. So it's important to be aware of them and look for the stuff that you can learn from, rather than taking any of it too seriously. Because when it gets like, nasty, you know, the person's got, like an axe to grind. Like, you know, people have a, they've got an agenda that's not really about, you know, like, sometimes you read a review of something, and you go, and you've seen the film, and you go, they obviously did not see the same film. The film they just had this is that this was, this is a review based on the what they wanted it to be, and what I was, you know, then go make your film. You don't I mean, but everyone's entitled to be creative in their own way. Anyway, so it's you, you can learn that for I think you can learn

Alex Ferrari 1:02:52
Oh, no, absolutely. I mean, I mean, Roger,

Sasha Gervasi 1:02:55
although highly entertained by the, you know, standing in a waterfall of trouble and vomit, which is I mean,

Alex Ferrari 1:03:01
I mean, that's amazing. But like Roger Ebert literally got the Pulitzer for his criticism, his film criticism, and he's, he's one of those. And he loved filmmakers, he loved filmmakers. And I have a Roger Ebert story, I'll tell you off afterwards, that when he he was kind to a short film

Sasha Gervasi 1:03:16
of mine, for example, when we have when we had an NGO, right? No, we didn't know how anyone, if anyone was even gonna see it, let alone review it. And it was incredible. I got the New Yorker one week, and we had two and a half pages from Anthony lane. He's one of our greatest viewers. And he said, this is all about mortality and aging. And this is the ravages of time. And I was like, Oh, my God, you know, I will know. But what I'm saying is circumstance, people will get stuff from it that you didn't even intend, yeah, that you do something for a pure point of view for you, then you do something for an emotional point of view, or you want to tell a certain story. And if there's something pure about it, people will bring in their own interpretations which you had no idea, you know, yeah. So I feel lucky when that happens. And it has a couple of times, and I feel good about it and the other stuff we learn from

Alex Ferrari 1:04:06
Okay, I wanted to touch on something really quickly for you. Because you've I mean, you've obviously played you know, you've roamed in circles, with you know, legendary filmmakers, and you've worked with studios and you've worked inside the machine. Can you touch a little bit about the politics of working and navigating those waters? Because

Sasha Gervasi 1:04:24
I would say what I've what I've learned is very simple, is listen to everyone. executives, producers go crazy. If they feel they have not been heard. You know, I just think that when when you're in a development meeting, a writer or a director shuts an idea down without entertaining it, that person gets really mad. And look, to be fair, those people are considering giving you millions of dollars to go off and make your dream come true and tell your story. You know, the least you could do is at least listen to them. doesn't mean you have to take their suggestion, but at least be civil and at least Do that. And I see a lot of people get into problems where they're just like, oh, that guy's an idiot, you know, he's also writing you a check for $10 million, about listening to that part of it, you know, so, but there are certain techniques, when you do have someone in the creative mix who's absolutely stupid, you just keep that to yourself. First of all, don't say anything. And then you can do something called IOI, which is technique I use, have you heard of IOI? I have not. Okay. It's, it's a term called it's It stands for the illusion of inclusion, where what you do is you listen to that absolutely stupid idea. And you pretend to No, you got that, that's great. I'm gonna try that, you know, knowing that it's done. And you just let them feel that they've been considered and that their thoughts have been entertained. So that's, but just be nice to everyone. Even if it's like, this should take place on a skateboard on the moon, you know, just go. Okay, you know, let's, let's see what we can do with that, you know, so I just think it's best to be polite, and use the IOI technique, if in doubt, because, you know, there's nothing worse than a frustrated filmmaker who wants you to do something. And who is not a filmmaker, but who's an executive or producer, or, you know, someone who everyone just wants to be heard. So that's one thing I would do is listen to everyone. Even if disagree, just be politic. Just don't tell people that idiots people do not like to hear that. They're idiots.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:20
And by the way, and you might, and this is something I've seen throughout my, my, you know, being a student of the industry for the last 20 odd years, is that there might be a moment where you have the power and you are hot, and you have the power to crush somebody. Yeah, but that power generally doesn't hang forever. And there will be a moment where you go down. I mean, even Steven Spielberg, I mean, I remember 91 when Hulk came out, everyone's like, It's over. It's over. He's done. He's done. And hooked. By the way, still one of my favorite i'd love hook, but it didn't do well. And he's like, Oh, he's, he's washed up. He's not. And then Jurassic Park is Schindler's List, same year.

Sasha Gervasi 1:07:02
The same? Yeah. But you know, probably took that as like, well screw these guys. I'll show them you know, sometimes down. But really, it's like, anger is a powerful emotion. You could wrap it in the right way. You know, it's like, it's a very powerful thing. You know, I think when I direct an Advil, I was like, I got something to prove that I, you know, yeah, I'm gonna, I'm gonna do it. Like, I'm just doing it right. And I think that so use it, like, whatever your cards are, even if they're shit, use the power of what they give you, even if it is disappointment, anger, frustration. People, listen, people write you off all the time, all the time. And they take delight in it. Nothing Hollywood than the sharpen Freud aspect, right? Luckily, I hang out with a group of filmmakers who are extremely supportive of one another. Like, for example, Alexander Payne, you know, whoever it is, you know, we, we read each other's scripts, we're supported, you know, we give each other notes and thoughts and stuff, I try and support all other filmmakers, you know, because it's so hard. Oh, my God. You know, sitting in judgment and kind of belittling people and trying to you know, it's just not, it's just not the way to live. Because if that's what you put out, that's obviously what you're going to get back. If you put out support genuine help and generosity, that's what comes back to you. Amen. Very, very simple. So it's really math, it's physics actually. Just, you know, be smart about it. And the people who are hot and take advantage and you know, put people down and, and, you know, act like they're hot shit, you know, guess what ain't gonna last. And then you will come a time when you want people when you're down to be supportive of you. And because you are such an asshole when you are hot, they won't do that. You've there's many careers where people were so unpleasant as they went up that when they got hit, no one wanted to help the Knights coming. You know, endless executive studio heads will make it No, just, you know, what is it that a wise man learns from his own mistakes? A genius learns from the mistakes of others, you know, just look around? Because if you just learn from what other people do, you know, you know, take that information they get.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:16
Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests because I know I could talk to you for about another hour. And I might actually with our mystery guest and a little bit. But a few questions ask all my guests. What are three screenplays every screenwriter should read?

Sasha Gervasi 1:09:29
Well, for me, I would absolutely say that Chinatown. I would absolutely say that Steve's aliens. Shooting script of Schindler's List is extraordinary. There are so many The Godfather.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:45
Yeah, of course.

Sasha Gervasi 1:09:48
The Graduate script is incredible. Sunset Boulevard is incredible. You know, even I read recently again that the original Magnificent Seven script is You know, so those are the kinds of scripts that were an A useful technique. If you're blocked as a writer, which I've been many, many times, I nearly threw me out of UCLA at the end of the first year, because I didn't finish a script, I started three and finished. Now, a great thing is take a great script, like it's trying to town and begin typing it out, as in copying it out. So when I've had a blog, I'll take a Rob town script, or Robert Towne script, or a steep learning script, or a Scott Frank script, depending on you know, and I'll sit down, I'll begin typing it out, you unblock maybe because when you've like, got nine pages into Chinatown, it's that something just by the proximity, the engagement with the energy of that kind of intellect and ferocious kind of justice, it just somehow could just push your block. So it's a technique I just discovered by accident, because I was so frustrated. And I actually started writing Schindler's List, if you actually go and copy a script out in is great for unblocking.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:58
That's what I what I thought when I when I'm writing, one of the things I found as well as like, when I get blocked in something, I'll actually just go back to the beginning, and just start reading. And just that process of going, it's kind of like getting the it's kind of getting the momentum going. So as you're reading, then it just kind of and then you.

Sasha Gervasi 1:11:16
But then there's a potential trap there, Alex, which is you can also have people who spend 10 years polishing the first 30 pages, it's important to write a compiler is less than you've got to write a complete bad script, but just get the end, even if it's total shit, because it's much harder to go from nothing to something than from something to something better. So just get to the end, even if it's trash. Another trick people use is right, the end seen first. So you kind of know, okay, but I'm getting there, you know, so you don't have this big, you know, wild, sort of massive unknown ahead of you, you know, you're going to end on this scene, which you've already written. So I would say that, I agree with you, the layering, and the going back and forth is important. But I also know people who can get stuck in the pattern of writing 30 to 50 pages, and then overnight, just write the rest,

Alex Ferrari 1:12:11
I go back to I go back to like that scene or a couple scenes back, I try not to go back all the way to the beginning. Because if I go where the beginning, I get caught. And you're right, it's it's like this kind of Whirlpool.

Sasha Gervasi 1:12:22
Exactly. That gets you. If you're if you're a good writer, or you think you're a good writer, you know, that you get, you have to work yourself into a place where you're basically taking notes, and you're basically getting something, it's not about you creating it, it's about you allowing it, it's doing the kind of grunt work so that you can kind of deserve actually to get to get what it is you have to sort of earn it through hard work, if that makes

Alex Ferrari 1:12:47
sense. So yeah, so and I think this is, I believe this completely is when I'm writing, I honestly, sometimes I don't even know who's writing like, I'll just I'll be it's almost channeling, if you will, like something is just like they're talking and it's talking by themselves. And I'm like, Okay, I'm just here to write this stuff out. Do you as you as a writer, do you feel that as well,

Sasha Gervasi 1:13:06
I think in the best cases, when I remember when I was really writing the draft of the terminal that Spielberg said that he wanted to do, I remember being in a zone for the first time where it was just like I was irrelevant. I was just in the stream, just kind of servicing whatever the story was that wanted to come through, and it is blissful. But guess you're just able to not you're not responsible for it, you're not the source of it. But you're doing the work, you're earning your place by kind of like servicing, you know, your creativity. And it's a it's a freeing feeling. And actually, when you're starting to write, it's a lot of work, and it's horrible, and you get headaches, and you want to distract yourself with any number of things. But if you just push through, then you reach that time where it's just like, okay, the thing basically is working on its own now. And you just allow it to kind of pull you where it wants to go, rather than you determining everything. I think that's the difference. You'd go from cerebral to kind of creativity being the spirit that pulls you through the thing and gets gets it done. You know, I did not do the best work I've done. Like it comes from somewhere. Hopefully there's some source out there. And I think people who take credit and think that they're geniuses, you know, I don't know, I just I would say that if they're being honest, they know that, you know, they're merely the facilitator. I think I don't think they're the facilitator then the probably have a crash at some point.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:34
Absolutely. Now, what advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Sasha Gervasi 1:14:38
Write a fucking good script. I mean, it's as simple as that.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:42
You put that on a T shirts or

Sasha Gervasi 1:14:43
put that on a T shirt? No, it's not like having part you know, going to the right parties and meeting people. There's a certain amount of bullshit that you can do and have the right agent But at a certain point, your script will find its home. If you just focus on the work, just focus on the work, not the bullshit or the trades. Or you know what your task

Alex Ferrari 1:15:01
was not.

Sasha Gervasi 1:15:03
And don't jump on a bandwagon? And don't, you know, just do try and be you. You know. So I do think the screenwriting courses I find UCLA massively helpful, you know, the full time program, but there's also the professional program is fantastic. There are some great teachers in it, you know, go and meet other writers, man, find your group of people, you know, that you respect and trust, work together, support each other, read each other's material, you know, engage, but focus on the material, because the material will get the actors, the actors will get the film made, you know, because actors want a great role. So if you're writing, you know, strong roles, you know, you can focus on getting good at that it will fall into place. That's my feeling.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:43
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry our life,

Sasha Gervasi 1:15:52
I obviously I'm still learning it. Just to be really grateful for every thing that tap is happening right now. Like right now, because that's really all we've got, you know, I've got like, right now, I'm really enjoying this chat with you. Right? Thank you. You know, but because as we're doing this, I never really obviously do stuff like this very often, when I'm promoting a film, I do an interview, I never really do an in depth chat or anything like this. So for me, as you're asking me these questions, I'm like, remembering all the fighting, that I had to all the fighting I had to do to get all of these films made, to get them seen to get anyone to be bothered. And it just reminds me that like, you know, I just feel lucky and grateful for that. So what I'm saying is right now I'm in that because you're replaying to me all this stuff, and I don't think about this stuff. So I think staying present focusing on the work, I would, I would say, you know, be genuine, be genuine in your dealings with people be genuine in the emotion you're trying to put on the page. You know, if it's being funny, be genuinely funny, like, do stuff for you, not because you think other people are gonna like it. Yeah. most authentic to your voice. Like Anvil is a movie that like literally no other person could have made apart from me. My dinner with Kobe is a movie that literally no other person could have made apart from me. What are those stories that are so singular to you and your existence in your experience, and what you want to say in the world, that you alone must do them. And I think if you're coming from that place, you know, you can just get through a lot of bullshit. You know, life is short, man, we're not here for that long. For long, man, you know, so you might as well go for it and, and Don't bullshit around. And also procrastination. I think that's a lesson I could still learn. I still procrastinate. I still, you know, go well, I maybe I'll watch that daytime TV show. It's really fascinating. I really want to learn about haymaking in Flanders in 1765 it's fascinating. It's just I'm trying, I don't want to face the pain. But I am a shit writer who must earn my place at the table every time to become a slightly better writer. You write a really good, you feel good about it, you go back to the beginning page ones blank, your total shit again, all that experience is gone. You've got to climb another mountain, and it's just as fucking hard. That's my experience. So don't procrastinate still working on it. But I would say I probably wasted two full years of watching bad daytime soap operas, televisions, game shows and useless historical programs.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:28
And this is pre This is pre Netflix pre populates. Now what is what did you learn from your biggest failure?

Sasha Gervasi 1:18:41
Only work at studios where you like the studio head word namely that is you learn you know in the immortal words of yes keyboard is Rick Wakeman, who played keyboards for years. He said success is buried in the garden of failure. And so that's important by the way you know we have our special guests

Alex Ferrari 1:19:04
Yes, we're gonna we're gonna be there in one second Give me one second and we're gonna bring him in and

Sasha Gervasi 1:19:13
then I feel it and I

Alex Ferrari 1:19:14
know I can I can feel the energy as well we're gonna bring him in in a minute because I just want to finish right off and last question sir. Three of your favorite films of all time.

Sasha Gervasi 1:19:24
Oh my god with nail and I with nail and I have you had with now my Bruce Robinson genius film? Yes. As

Alex Ferrari 1:19:30
long as was that 80s

Sasha Gervasi 1:19:32
Yeah, yes, that's gonna pay for the killing fields. Yes. With the with Leyland I terribly uncommercial film one of the most brilliant films of all time, Richard II grant, Bruce wrote and directed the film. If I were to pitch that film, no one would buy it to unemployed actors go away to Wales for the weekend. That is the plot of Withnail and I can do it is absolutely fucking brilliant, sweet smell of success one of the best scripts ever. But I guess the Tony curve Is Clifford Odette's and it's late. James Wong How is the camera man it is. Kendrick directed it. Brilliant. So I'd say that also Chinatown I have to go with Chinatown again. This is a nice sweet smell of success Chinatown. And also Christmas American movie I love

Alex Ferrari 1:20:19
Oh my god so good

Sasha Gervasi 1:20:20
cause spinal tap. Yes, but I will say Bertolucci's underrated masterpiece, the last emperor won the Best Academy at seven o'clock. If you go back and look at that film, it's unbelievable. I have a 35 millimeter print of it. So those are some of my films. I love the Bond movies obviously not the Pierce Brosnan period. A little bit limited. But yeah, so stuff like that. Any jack tatty is fantastic. And all that jack tatty stuff made its way into the original script of terminal. So yeah, those are films British films. I also love the long Good Friday with Bob hoskin. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:20:57
Yeah. Yeah.

Sasha Gervasi 1:20:59
Fantastic British film.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:01
Sasha, we could, I know, we can keep talking for hours about your insight, you're easily one of the most interesting screenwriters I've ever had in the show. Your adventures are mythical almost in its way so much drug fueled. I mean, I mean, this is Hollywood.

Sasha Gervasi 1:21:18
I like the sound of

Alex Ferrari 1:21:20
Exactly, but I appreciate your time. And thank you so much for for coming on the show

Sasha Gervasi 1:21:25
Project snacks.



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IFH 666: Shazam! You WON’T Believe How David F. Sandberg Created This Blockbuster Film!

So many times we hear those mythical stories of a filmmaker who makes a short film and uploads it to YouTube in hopes of a big-time film producer sees it and comes down from Mount Hollywood and offers him or her a deal to turn that short into a studio feature. Today’s guest had that happen to him and then some. On the show is writer/director David F. Sandberg.

David’s story is the “lottery ticket” moment I speak about so often on the show. His journey in Hollywood is remarkable, inspiring, and scary all at the same time.  He created a short film called Lights Out. That short was seen by famed filmmaker and producer James Wan (Furious 7, Aquaman, The Conjuring) who offered to produce a feature film version at New Line Cinema.

The feature version of the film was made for $5 million and grossed $150 million at the box office. Here’s what the film is about.

When Rebecca left home, she thought she left her childhood fears behind. Growing up, she was never really sure of what was and wasn’t real when the lights went out…and now her little brother, Martin, is experiencing the same unexplained and terrifying events that had once tested her sanity and threatened her safety. A frightening entity with a mysterious attachment to their mother, Sophie, has reemerged. But this time, as Rebecca gets closer to unlocking the truth, there is no denying that all their lives are in danger…once the lights go out.

The film stars Teresa Palmer (“Triple 9”) as Rebecca; Gabriel Bateman (“Annabelle”) as Martin; Billy Burke (the “Twilight” franchise) as Martin’s father, Paul; Alexander DiPersia (“Forever”) as Rebecca’s boyfriend, Bret; and Maria Bello (“Prisoners”) as Sophie.

After the success of Lights Out he tackled the horror prequel Annabelle Creation. That film went on to make over $300 million at the box office with a $15 million budget.

Several years after the tragic death of their little girl, a dollmaker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home, soon becoming the target of the dollmaker’s possessed creation, Annabelle.

The studio Gods were pleased with David because he was offered New Line Cinema’s Shazam!, the origin story that stars Zachary Levi (TV’s “Chuck”) as the titular DC Super Hero, along with Asher Angel (TV’s “Andi Mack”) as Billy Batson, and Mark Strong (the “Kingsman” movies) in the role of Super-Villain Dr. Thaddeus Sivana. Shazam! was a box office smash.

David and I discuss his days making short films, which he still makes on the side, working in the studio system, his filmmaking philosophy, how he could afford a place to stay in Los Angeles while he was in pre-production on Lights Out and what it takes to make it as a filmmaker in today’s world.

Enjoy my conversation with David F. Sandberg.

Alex Ferrari 0:02
I'd like to welcome the show David Sandberg. How you doing, David?

David F. Sandberg 5:04
All right. How are you doing?

Alex Ferrari 5:05
I'm as good as I can be in this insane world that we live in. But um, yeah, well, man, I'm doing I'm doing I'm better than I should. That's just

David F. Sandberg 5:18
pretty much Same here. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 5:20
Is the thank you so much for being on the show. Man. I'm, I'm a fan of your work. And I wanted to kind of talk shop with you for a little bit. So first things first, why did you decide to be a filmmaker? Like what made you want to come into this ridiculous business?

David F. Sandberg 5:35
I mean, I've always been fascinated by movies and always wanted to make movies like since I was very, like, I think my dad bought a video camera when I was. I think it was five actually. So it's always been a thing. And I've always been sort of fascinated about how it works and how to do it. And one of my early sort of memories, I remember, because I was playing around with my dad's video camera and like, Okay, this is how it works. And then I remember watching the Muppets as a kid. And they had this thing where they had a musical number. And when they were changing angles, I was like, how do they do that? Because I only knew like having one camera. So it's like, do they everyone just pause at a certain moment, and then they move it around? And then they do it again? Like I'm trying to figure out like, how does that work? multi camera? No, so it's always been my Golden's always been what I've wanted to do. I've had certain other interests but movies have always been the same.

Alex Ferrari 6:40
And let's give a shout out to the Muppet Show. For our for artists. We're similar vintages. I'm a little older than you, but we're similar vintages, the Muppet Show.

David F. Sandberg 6:48
Yeah. Was the thing man growing up. And by the way, everyone listening all five season will be on Disney plus coming next month. So yeah, I saw that.

Alex Ferrari 6:59
It should be it should be fun. Now, you also did a lot of animated shorts. What what what was what drew you no pun intended to animation, when you first started out,

David F. Sandberg 7:10
it was actually a necessity, like I've always liked drawing. And you know what, comic books and stuff like that. And then, as I was in my early 20s, or something like that, I really started messing around with it, because it was something I could do all by myself. And my first real animated short, was something I made after I was going to do a horror movie with some friends in Sweden. This was during the winter, and it was so cold that we gave up after just shooting a couple of shots. And then when I got back home, it's like, I still want to do something. So I made like a little animated. I mean, it was actually barely even animated. It was almost like a slideshow. But I made that. And this was in early 2006. And I put it up on YouTube, because I had just gotten an account there because it was like, I didn't even know what it was. It's like, okay, you can upload videos. So I uploaded that. And it actually got some traction in Sweden, you know, got some views, and people seem to really like it. So I made another short that got even more attention went viral in Scandinavia, which got me like, won some awards set like Film Festival and started getting companies asking me to do like, Hey, could you do a little animated short for our company that we can put up on YouTube or so I was starting to get, you know, work doing that? Not a lot of money or anything, but it was I was able to, like, start my own company, which was just me, but so I could charge people for it. So I did that and did documentary work for a few years in Sweden. And made an OK living. Like sometimes I had money. So other times I had to live off my wife and because she had a steady job, you know?

Alex Ferrari 9:05
I know that feeling very well. We're filmmakers. Isn't it true that all filmmaker all guy? Well, filmmakers in general should have a spouse that is extremely supportive, and also does not work in the business or has a steady job.

David F. Sandberg 9:20
It's a it certainly helps. Yeah. But the goal for us for a long time in my wife was to make things together. And that's what we started doing. We started making shorts together. And that's how we made lights out which went even more viral than anything I'd done before and which led to ending up here in Hollywood.

Alex Ferrari 9:40
So you'd make so you've been in from my from my saw and your filmography you were you were making shorts constantly making these small shorts and just kind of putting them out and then you made lights out, and you just posted it not really thinking much. It was just another short it wasn't like this isn't gonna blow me up or anything like that.

David F. Sandberg 9:56
No, no, it was actually just the second short the Latino made together? Wow. Because what happened was, you know, I done, I'd started doing like animated shorts, I think that got a little bit of a following on YouTube from from Swedes because it was mostly in Swedish. And then yeah, we did a little short called cam closer look than I, which was just two minutes or something like that. But we really enjoyed that. And we're like, yeah, let's keep doing this. And yeah, we saw a contest online, like make an under three minute horror short and win some prizes. And that's what we made lights up for. But yeah, it was only supposed to be a contest submission. And I did win Best Director. But the movie itself didn't make like the finalists, the top six finalists. So it's like, yeah, that was cool. I won Best Director. But that was the end of that was, was what we thought. But then a couple of months after that, yeah, some it just suddenly went viral. And that, so we got, when that happened, we started getting contacted by all these people, like in Hollywood, you know, agents and managers and producers and our thing, and started having conversations about making a movie. But while this was going on, that was a little over a year of like, back and forth and deciding which manager to go with and talking to the producer and all that. So and we didn't know if this was actually real. So that's when where we kept making shorts, because it's like, let's, let's not take this for granted. Let's just let's keep making stuff. So most of our shorts were made in that period. And we even started having these plans on to make a feature just not on AI, which would have been difficult, but had an idea that it would just be the two

Alex Ferrari 11:51
of you. It was just been the two of you.

David F. Sandberg 11:53
Yeah, the same way we've made our shorts, just feature length, based on

Alex Ferrari 11:57
that would have been interesting.

David F. Sandberg 11:59
That would have been taken it would have but yeah, before we got that far, the Hollywood thing turned out to be real. We got to move here.

Alex Ferrari 12:07
So that's the thing I want people to listen to, to understand that just because you start getting calls from Hollywood, and you get a lot of attention, you have a short and you get some heat, because I've been down that road a bunch of times earlier in my career as well. You just don't know sometimes it pops like it does for you. Sometimes it doesn't like other directors. And you guys were smart. You're like, you know what, this? This, this could all be BS. Yeah, you didn't feed into the hype, which is so amazing. And how old? Were you at this point?

David F. Sandberg 12:37
My weight When was this? So I must have been 33 or 34? All right. So

Alex Ferrari 12:45
you've been around the block a couple times, you know, so it wasn't like your 20s?

David F. Sandberg 12:49
No, I mean, that was kind of the thing as well, that we were kind of feeling like, something needs to happen soon. Because in Sweden, you know, I was trying to get money from the Swedish Film Institute for like horror movies and things like that. And what happened was, they were like, well, you're not experienced enough to get the, you know, the proper funding, and what, and they also have like beginner money, but that's for people under 30. And I was now just over 30. So I was like, Well, what am I supposed to do? Now I'm too inexperienced for this. And I'm too old for that, like, what are we going to do? Which is why we started just making things with no money on our own. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 13:31
And so you start called, so they so you, you spend this year you're making other short films, and then the thing from lights out actually starts turning into a real thing. And they fly you out to LA and and they want to make a feature with you off your short, right.

David F. Sandberg 13:43
Yeah. So yeah, pretty early on. They wanted us to come out like our manager, and an agent wanted us to come out and meet people and everything. But we were like, We don't have any money. We can't fly to the US. That's expensive. So we had to do everything via Skype and email and phone calls and stuff. But then when it started getting closer, the producer of the movie flew us out for a little over a week. So we could meet everyone and like start, you know, meet Jane Swann and who produced the film, and take a bunch of meetings. And then a couple of months after that. It was like yeah, movies happening. We need you're here now and we're gonna pay for the flight and everything.

Alex Ferrari 14:24
That was the key point, you'll pay for the flight. Okay, I'll

David F. Sandberg 14:26
show up. Well, yeah, otherwise I couldn't do it. You know,

Alex Ferrari 14:29
I know. I know. I feel you man. I feel you. So you, did you. You did something that most a lot of independent filmmakers dream about, which is make a short film, put it on the internet, get it goes viral Hollywood calls. They want to develop a feature around that short. What was the development process like because I'm assuming it was a kind of shock to the system coming from Sweden and doing everything ourselves like a DIY stuff, and then just being thrown into you know, a Hollywood movie.

David F. Sandberg 14:59
Yeah. I mean, I do. I think that experience is pretty unique going from like, no budget, and the budget right into the

Alex Ferrari 15:07
other side of the world, which is another whole conversation, I'd like Kansas or another part of America, like you're completely culture shock.

David F. Sandberg 15:15
And yeah, we had no idea that a two and a half minutes short could lead to anything like that we thought, you know, we had a plan of like, trying to get some money so we could make longer shorts, and maybe that would get some attention. You know, we got to skip all of that. But yeah, it was sort of a journey, because first of all, I had to figure out who these managers and agents were, they contacted me, because, you know, I'd never heard their names before. And so I got like, an IMDb pro account signed up for that. So I could see, okay, what other clients do they have? And like, are these guys for real? So you have the process of sort of first, getting worse, you know, deciding on a manager. And an agent was a very strange position to be in to have sort of multiple offers. Because then once I decided I had to, like, contact, you know, like, Who me and say, like, yeah, sorry, I don't want to, I've already picked someone else, you know, which was very strange, because if it had been like, a month earlier, I would have been begging them to take me on. So that that was sort of the first step. And then, at first, I started talking to a writer, who I came into contact with, through one of the many managers I was talking to, he was like, Hey, I have this client. And he had written this script that I had heard about, because you know, the blacklist that comes out every year, even, you know, back in Sweden, you can usually find, even there, you can usually find these scripts online, you know, someone always puts them up. So I would download a bunch of scripts to see like, Okay, what, what are good scripts, what they, what do they look like, and he had a horror script that had been on there. So I started talking to this writer, he put me into contact with a producer, he knew Lawrence gray, who, you know, became the producer on the movie. But then, the writer, his ideas, were too big for me, like it was like this worldwide event. And yeah, it was just like, no one's gonna give me a first time director all this money to do such a big movie. So I told my managers and then one, like, I don't like the idea. And they were like, well, what would you do? And I wrote down sort of a treatment that is very similar to what lights up became. And the producer I talked to he still like that. And it was just a long back and forth. So then we got Eric heisserer, onboard through that producer, and then I needed to get a lawyer so we could make a deal and everything. So I had to lots of you know, interviews with that. And it was like, Well, how do you even pick a lawyer? I don't know. So I went with the guy who, who had watched my entire YouTube channel, like even the Swedish stuff he had watched and was like, Well, okay, he really seems to be very dedicated. Okay, now I have a lawyer. Now we have a producer. Now we have a writer and you know, it's pretty soon we had like a deal made and that was about that point when the producer flew us out. So we could meet for real and start talking more and meet with like, new line because James Wan came on board as a producer. And he was like a new line of great for her you know, he cuz he had done conjuring and all this stuff with them. Yeah, it was just a long process of lots and lots of conversations. And then, you know, once I got here it was, yeah, that was quite a shock to just because I've never been on a film set before. Like, I didn't know how things worked. I knew how to tell a story. But I didn't know how movies were made here beyond what I had seen in, like, behind the scenes and commentary tracks on DVDs and things like that.

Alex Ferrari 18:54
Yeah, so that's the thing is so you, you're basically a DIY guy. I mean, you're doing everything yourself is like you and your wife, essentially. So you're shooting everything yourself on all these. The shorts and even when you were in talks to do lights out, you're still shooting all the shorts by yourself. So coming on to a professional Hollywood set must have been just completely jarring. You'd like you were saying you didn't know who did what, other than the only the only educate because you didn't go to film school. Right? No, right. So the only education you had was YouTube, or director's commentary is a behind the scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yeah.

David F. Sandberg 19:30
No, no. So when we were interviewing, when I got the interview, like the crew members, a lot of that was just asking, so what do you do what what's your job on set? You know, how, how did these things work? And, and, you know, we, before we started shooting, we did like a camera test. And that was sort of my first feel of how of a movie set. I mean, it was a smaller scale because it was just a camera test. But already then I was like, oh, like when do I say action? were like, how do I, that's when I started realizing like who I really don't know how things work on a movie set. So I had to ask the assistant director like, Yeah, when do I say action? Because it's like, yeah, sound speed and these things that were called out first. But yeah, I think they thought that I was more experienced than I was because they would ask like, okay, so who's the DP you usually work with? Or do you have a storyboard guy? And I was like, No, that's just me doing that myself. So it was just like, trying to keep up appearances. Like I knew what I was doing, because obviously, they think I'm more experienced than I am. So it was extremely stressful, to be honest. I can imagine. And yeah, trying to navigate that and working with so many professionals, because even, you know, the PA is had more experienced than me, they had worked on a bunch of movies, I'd never worked on any movie. So yeah, it was extremely stressful. And

Alex Ferrari 21:00
I could only imagine that the PA knew more than you. I mean, so you're going through that whole process. Did you have to deal with? I mean, because you weren't, that's like a $5 million budget, right? Like, you have no money to $5 million budget, which is a substantial shock to the system, and also the pressure and the stress of just having.

David F. Sandberg 21:20
Yeah, shoulders? Well, you think so. But what I discovered, is that a $5 million movie in the studio system, Oh, is that the absolutely lowest budget? Like they don't even know how to make a movie with less money than that? Because I mean, things are more expensive with unions and everything and like, overhead. And so, and I think on lights out as well, crew members, were saying like, this feels more like a $1.2 million movie or something, because I think we had, you know, we had big producers on it. And you know, a lot of above the line money, and thanks. So yeah, I quickly realized that, okay, you can't do anything, because it felt like that whole $5 million. There are no limits to what we can do. But but then it was like, Yeah, can we have rain in this scene is like, no, can't afford that. Okay. And it actually was more limiting, because I was told it was kind of in error, but because I would be like, hey, what we can do this effect, if we just do a split screen, or, you know, we do this thing here. And they were like, well, that's not part of the plan, because that's a split screen is a visual effect. You know, that's, that's going to cost money, you know, to get a VFX company or whatever to do these things. Now, so what you can do that in the editing software, or like, but the thing is, you know, when you're editing, I mean, you're just editing QuickTime files, you know, like progress or whatever, like proxies. And then everything else is done by the post company or the DIY, it was just very confusing of like, how can I How can I not do these simple things that I can do in my no budget shorts. But what I then found out once we got into the editing process, then the editor told me that no, the VFX, they don't have a union. So anyone can do VFX. So you can do that yourself, if you want to, we can get you the files and you can. But even that was weird, because if I wanted a I need this shot and this shot, so I can do it myself. I need the raw files. And then I was like, well, that's a little bit of a cost to get that from the the company who's dealing with all the files, and that where we're going to do the DI and everything. There's just so many things where the kind of felt more limiting, than on a no budget short, I would make myself which was weird. But it Yeah, I found out that anyone can do visual effects on a movie, which which helped me in that case.

Alex Ferrari 23:50
Now, when you were and I've had this happen to me on set many times when I'm working when I was younger, especially when I was coming up. I'd imagine that some some people on the set picked up that you were not the most experienced direct.

David F. Sandberg 24:04
Oh, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 24:05
They usually smell that out pretty pretty quickly, especially if you're a veteran. Did you have any pushback? Did you have to deal with any kind of politicking on set? That you have?

David F. Sandberg 24:15
Definitely. I mean, yeah, I mean, we had, I mean, these were guys who had worked on huge movies, you know, like, x men and like, you know, these things and, and I think some of them, were just doing it. It's kind of like a favor to James Wan or, you know, you'd want to be in his circle. And that, I mean, what one problem was, you know, when we're doing the effect of the ghosts being there and not being there, I mean, it's simple like you, you put the camera down, and then you shoot it with a person and then without a person, you do a clean play. And what happened was, like I was got into this argument with a camera guy because like we shot the ghosts there. And then it's like, Okay, now let's do the cleanup. plate and he was like, we already got it. I was like, What? No, we don't have it from this angle. No, but we got it from the other angle. That's fine. You know? And it was like, What are you talking about? Like, we can't cut between the two things. I mean, if it's off even a centimeter, yeah, it's not gonna work. I mean, what I've then learned on doing shoe, Sam, like on a movie like that, the clean plates don't have to match that much, you know, because they will, you know, you can just do a somewhat similar move where you're like, you can move the camera around and whatever. And they'll take the clean plate and like reprojected and track it and create a new shot that matches perfectly from that. So I mean, the camera operator on lights out, I mean, he came from movies like that. So to him, it's like, well, we already shot that area without a person when we were over here, so they can just use that. But that turned into an argument where I had to like, I think that was the first time I had to, like, raise my voice on that film set where it's like, No, just put the camera here. Okay, press record, okay, now we take in the actor, we do the thing, keep rolling, she steps out, and like a head, really do it. Like step by step, this is how we do it. So there were a lot of things like that. And I've talked about, you know, with the DP as well, like he was, you know, he was worried about going too dark. And I was like, well, it needs to be really dark. That's obvious. But yeah, it's got lights, but he was worried that well, you know, if the studio thinks it's too dark, they're not going to hire me again. And right. Yeah, there were a lot of those things that were extremely frustrating. And, you know, I'm not a very confrontational guy. So it, it sort of builds up until I just can't deal with it anymore. And either I get depressed, or I will have to raise my voice and, and get it done, you know.

Alex Ferrari 26:57
And that's the reality of things that these are the kind of stories I'd love to talk about. Because these are the things that are generally not in the press kit. Generally, not in the press tour of films and filmmakers, when they watch a story like yours. They're like, Oh, my God, look what you know, what David Sandberg did, he did lights out, and you become one of those kind of like El Mariachi stories, you know, the or Kevin Smith stories, like, you know, those kind of mythical stories like, Oh, my God, that's the thing. But there's stuff that happens behind the scenes that, that they have to understand that this is there's there's the lottery ticket, which is what you got, but there's a lot of people who didn't win the lottery, or there's a lot of stuff in between that going through that process that they don't talk about. So that's why I love going a little bit deeper into these things. So people really have an understanding about what the realities of working in, in how

David F. Sandberg 27:45
Yeah, and I mean, the thing I reflect on now afterwards is like how bad things could have gotten because when we got here, the you know, they paid for the flight. And they paid for, you know, a hotel for a couple of weeks. And then we had to find a place and everything. But the thing was that I wasn't didn't start getting paid until the movie was officially greenlit. Which was weird, because we had like a production office with all these people there working. And I was like, Well, how can the movie not be greenlit? Like spending money was, yeah, we're spending money. Everyone's here. I was like, why am I not getting paid? So you know, we had to, first of all, you know, we borrowed everything we could from our families back home, like so we could survive. And then that money ran out. And so then we borrowed money from the producer, we borrowed money from my manager, and it was like, it was this feeling of like, if this falls apart now, and movies can fall apart. At any moment, like, you can start shooting a movie and falls apart and you Everyone has to go home. If that had happened, we would have been in so much shit, because we wouldn't have been able to pay back people because that was another shock coming here and finding out like what rent is in LA,

Alex Ferrari 28:59
it's very affordable to live in LA, very, extremely affordable.

David F. Sandberg 29:03
I mean, we were I mean, we lived in Gothenburg, which is not the cheapest city in Sweden. And you know, our apartment there we thought was pretty expensive for us. And we came here and we lived in half a garage in Burbank, and the rent was two and a half times our big apartment in Sweden. And it's just like, holy shit and, and that's another thing. Everything happens so quick that we didn't have time to like sublet our apartment or anything. So we just sort of locked the door and got on a plane. So that money was going as well. So it's like, if this doesn't happen now, we're going to be so much shit. You know, and I'm sure there are for every story like ours, I'm sure there's like 100 or 1000 stories of people where it did go to shit and they were like it most bros and yeah, so I mean, we know how extremely lucky we were. That it that it worked out.

Alex Ferrari 30:00
I moved out here 12 years ago, and I literally had, all I had was a Final Cut system. And my wife, we got apartment in North Hollywood, we had I think 10 or 12,000 bucks saved up. And I had no job. I knew two people in LA, my wife knew nobody and, and we just like, we'll figure it out. And that and we're like, we have at least six months to a year that we can survive. But I know a lot of personal friends of mine who made the trip out here and try to make a go of it. And they just they go because it's, it's too hard. It's not it's your story is definitely the unique, this unique story in the bunch. But you're right, you were you were and you were you were actually in a place where you were like, on you were working with big producers, and you were working and you were still not getting paid. And that's nothing against them. It's just the way the system is set up. And you're just and you're coming in just looking around going. What What do you mean, how can I not be being paid? We have an office like this is not the way businesses run? in general. Yeah.

David F. Sandberg 31:00
No, I remember one of the guys involved with with one of the producers was talking about having a chef working for like a private chat or whatever, who was getting like 1000 bucks a week announced like, Holy fucking shit, like, I I'd kill to have 1000 bucks to get paid that, you know, it's like it we felt so, you know, like such outsiders. And it, you know, pretty early on after we got here was when you know, James Wan he had he had, you know, furious seven had just made like, a billion dollars. Sure. So and we were invited to like, we were at the same agency. So we were invited to this like party in honor of James Wan to celebrate the his achievement. And so a lot and I mean, yeah, we we had no money. So we were like, Okay, what kind of clothes do we have that we can look kind of fancy in you know, and we're sweet. So we're always like, early, we're on time, you know? So we show up to this mansion in Beverly Hills. And they had like valets, and I was like, holy, do they have valets for a private house? It's like, holy shit. Yeah. And we go in there. And since we're so early, there's like, pretty much no one else. There's just the two of us in this giant mansion. And then these people start coming in. And we were just like, we felt like such imposters, you know, like we had just snuck into this party. So we were just like standing in a corner. And you know, we had our own secret language, Swedish. So we were like, trying to look like we were just having a casual conversation, but all we were saying which is like, holy shit. What are we doing here? This is just weird. And then like, these celebrities would show up the Vin Diesel and Adrian Brody and like, holy Yeah, it was just surreal. And yeah, we were just two broke Swedes who felt like we had just gotten into a hollywood party.

Alex Ferrari 32:56
Yeah, you're waiting for any any moment security would come in like you to come here.

David F. Sandberg 32:59
Yeah, so be here. Just Yeah. Yeah. That that's insane. All right. So you had that experience and obviously lights out came out it was a very big hit for the studio. It did very well especially off of the budget that you made. So then they offer you your second feature Annabel creation Yeah, they actually did that before the movie even came out because they you know we had test screenings and stuff and it tested really well so everyone was really happy about it and they were everyone Oh, this is going to be a hit and I was like well how can you know like you can't be sure it could be a total bomb but everyone's really sure that it was going to be a hit. So they off they offered me Annabelle a sequel to Annabelle And so yeah, I started working on that before lights out was even out that so that came out during the middle of shooting Annabel which was also very surreal and that we had to like break or wrap early that day. So I could go to the premiere of lights out at the you know Chinese Theater which is so Hollywood like yeah, we have to go wrap early so I can go to the premiere of my other movie but I think it was also good because then I didn't have time to freak out like Oh, how is it going to perform and all that because I was already on my second movie and that that was also a thing where it's like I needed to find a second movie quickly because on the first one you know I got paid scale for for that movie because it was my first one and you know scale on a $5 million movie is still more money than I'd ever made before. But because we like had to pay everyone back and like to take care of everything that movie that money was starting to run out and I remember like this person at the studio was surprised like what you already burned through your lights out money. It's like yeah, to pay back a lot of people. So that was you know, I had to find something the next thing quickly and I was very happy that they offered me to interact Annabelle

Alex Ferrari 34:59
so then What was the difference in experience from you know, doing lights out to Annabel? We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

David F. Sandberg 35:16
I mean, it was night and day. I mean, I still, to this day, animal creation has been the best experience so far. Because then then I knew how movies worked. Like how it films that worked. And I knew all the steps, you know, because there was just so much learning. I mean, even, you know, when we were doing the sound mixing on lights out, I came in there and they were like, doing all these things. And I'm like, when do I say what I want or like, what's happening here and like, you know, so on Annabelle creation, I finally felt that, okay, now I know the whole process. I know how films that works. And now we had more days, we had more money. And it was just pleasant experience. It was just yeah, enough money enough days, and in the less pressure as well, because it wasn't my first movie and this feeling of I better get this right. Or, um, this is my one shot at Hollywood because now I felt like yeah, I even if I fucked this up, I will have made two movies in Hollywood. And you know, I might still get a third chance if lights out does well, everything.

Alex Ferrari 36:28
Yeah. And I'm imagining that it was a good feeling that while you're in production on Annabel, that you're, you know, you see the returns and the reviews on lights out, come out. And I'm sure that boosted your confidence a bit. I mean, we all go Yeah, imposter syndrome, I'm assuming Yeah, probably were. You weren't positive

David F. Sandberg 36:46
all the time. And the thing was that I hated lights out until we had test screenings of it. Because just watching it. I mean, first of all, the first time you watch it is it's temp, audio, music and like temp effects and like the colors aren't right, and it just feels really lame. So I was really depressed, seeing like the first cut of it. And thinking like, maybe, maybe we can cut a cool trailer out of it, because there's some cool shots in there. But the movie just sucks. So we, you know, just started cutting out as much as possible. Just like, take out this, take out that scene and trim this and just to get it down to like the bare bones story. Like, I just wanted as little of the movie in the movie as possible. So it's a very tight movie at 80 minutes. But yeah, so but I still sort of felt that this is a piece of shit until we started screening it to people and I could sit there in the audience and hear and see their reactions. They were laughing they were getting scared. And that was the moment where it's like, okay, maybe it isn't so bad. Maybe this is an okay movie, after all. So yeah, it wasn't until then that I started feeling a little bit better about it.

Alex Ferrari 38:05
And then Annabel comes out and it's also another hit. So you have now hit you've had two hits back to back. Yeah, so you're you didn't even have time to worry about your sophomore. Jinx, there's no that you weren't.

David F. Sandberg 38:18
And it was the same thing with HSM that I got, right that job before animal creation was even out. So yeah, my agents and I mean, everyone was telling me like, don't get used to this, like things don't usually go this quickly. And this well, like, it's it's not normal. Right.

Alex Ferrari 38:37
But but then you got so then you got your exam, which is a I mean, dude, that's a step up a budget. That's a step up in everything. And Shazam, you know, you're in the DC Universe now, which, you know, the DC Universe has had a couple stumbles along the way on their side, and they have some, you know, obviously Batman and Superman and those kind of things. But it was rough. And then you got something like Shazam, which was coming out completely different than it's not a dark and broody movie. It is a fun, let's have some fun kind of movie. It's what I love about Shazam so much. It was just so much fun. And it's also mean the story is great with the little kid that turns into who doesn't want that story. So, you know, what was it? What was it like going in dealing with not only the pressure of a big studio movie, and it's a big superhero movie, but also translating a beloved IP and character onto the screen that's never really been on the screen like that before? I don't remember at that level.

David F. Sandberg 39:37
No, they did serials in the 40s and TV show in the 70s. But not Yeah, no movies. No, it was. It was interesting in that he's not as known as you know, Superman or Batman or Spider Man or anything like that. And he hasn't had movies before, which I think helped a lot because it I can't imagine like taking on like Superman or Superman movie or something, because there's so many expectations. And there are so many like versions of, you know, some people will say Superman has to be this way for them. Other people are like Superman has to be this. She's AM. It's like, I mean, he's been around for as long as Superman, but he's never been quite as big, or at least not recently. And there have been a lot of different variations of him in the comic book world as well. So it didn't feel like oh, it has to be this one thing. And so it was a bit that pressure wasn't as big, I don't think. And also, the fact that it was something so different from what I'd done before. I felt like, if I fuck this up, I don't want to fuck this up. But if I do, it's something that's completely different. Because then I can go back to horror was like, yeah, superheroes. That's not for me, obviously. But horror, I can still get more chances there. But But yeah, overall, making the movie was like making my first movie again, just because there was so much to learn, it was so big. And it was, you know, things that are sort of out of your control. Like, for example, with visual effects on lights out and about creation, I did some of the visual effects shots myself, and even the ones I didn't, I would shoot in such a way that I would know exactly how to put it together myself if I would have to, while on a movie, like Shazam, it's just such crazy stuff going on. It's like, I don't actually know how we do this. So you have to like, Listen to the visual effects, guys. And like, Okay, so what do you need, you need these elements to put this together. And, and, and I've always had issues working with like, storyboard. People because like, I tried it on lights out. But then it was like, you know, they would go off and draw things, and then they come back with all these shots. And it's like, but I want to design the shots. I mean, if they're doing that, then they're kind of making the movie, you know. So I had real problems with that. So on Annabelle creation, there was just a couple of sequences where we needed to storyboard. So for some of that, I would draw really simple things myself, because I didn't have time to do them properly all by myself. So I would draw, you know, little thumbnails, it's like, yeah, just do this, but make them look better. And then I'm sure Sam, I finally got into this thing of like, I don't have to do I mean, I can do a lot of revisions with them. But I also don't have to do exactly what they draw. It's just sort of a starting point. And then we can work it from that, you know, it was more of getting the action, right. So we can take that to previous and so on, maybe I've always had that feeling of, I don't want to give up all this work, especially not like figuring out the shots because that's sort of what filmmaking is to me, right?

Alex Ferrari 43:02
Now. So working on on a film of this magnitude and this kind of scale. And I think you're right, because you Sam's not Superman, Batman or Spider Man or something that's so well known. There wasn't as much pressure attention. Like, I remember when I saw the trailer, I'm like, Oh, that's gonna be interesting. But it wasn't like, but when the next Batman comes out, everyone starts thinking of, of Nolan. Or when Superman came out, yeah, like everyone starts thinking of Donner or, you know, or x men or they, there's so

David F. Sandberg 43:29
much comparison and like things to live up to. And you know,

Alex Ferrari 43:33
so when 40 years when they make a reboot of Shazam, they're gonna be like, but David, you've got to live up to the David's and versions. So the pressures not as much but working inside, I mean, working inside the studio system with lights out and Annabel, that's a certain level, but when you're dealing within the studio system, with so much money is at risk here. What kind of pressures are you dealing with creatively, because you're just, you're just hot, you know, you're being hired as a director to tell the story to direct the film. But there is so many other kind of pressures was just like, I mean, I don't even know I don't even know what the budget was, if it was, I think 100 million years, like $100 million. So when you've got $100 million on the line, people are are a little bit more on hand. And there's

David F. Sandberg 44:20
Yeah, it's what you can feel those some of the concerns more like, you know, I mean, they're in any movie, they're gonna care about casting and maybe it's a little bit more and then, you know, a lot of the look more at different choices. And just making sure that is this the right way to go. But I think they're quite open at Warner Brothers. Because I've heard stories from other people working with on certain movies at certain other studios. Not just superhero movies, but the movies of that size. Where it like I've heard horror stories where Director comes in. And they already have like previous for the action scenes. And it's like, you know, I wouldn't. That sounds awful, like you see, so you just do the Why am I here? The dialogue scenes or like, and, you know, I didn't have that was the good thing about Shazam that I got to do all those things and I got to cast it. And you know, because there wasn't already a Shazam cast for the universe or whatever. So it felt quite free in that way. But yeah, of course, people care a lot when it's that much money at stake. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 45:39
Right. And, and, and launching a new IP based off of a new filmmaking IP is based on an old IP. One thing I have noticed too, in your films is that I think I saw a video you I think you were saying in one of your amazing YouTube videos about characters, and like, the more characters you have, the more complicated things get, and matches Sam has a lot of characters to deal with. So what did you give in regards to other other than not having characters? So you have you have an obscene amount of characters? Yeah. On a visual effects? Yeah. You know,

David F. Sandberg 46:13
to to is even worse, because now all the all the, all the kids, I mean, they now they all have superpowers. So, you know, all the action scenes are what? Most of them you know, and yeah, it's, it's quite an ordeal. No, it's just like, a lot of figuring out, you know, like fishing, Sam, I would do like this overhead view of the carnival. And then because it was even more complicated at one point. And I had all these like, icons that I animated to just keep track of, Okay, this person is here, and then they move here. And then this happens of, it's just so much to keep track of which, you know, once you when you see a finished movie, it doesn't seem that complicated. Because, yeah, of course, they cut to this and then this guy's here, and then they fly there. You know, it seems obvious. But to get there is just so much work and worry of like, how is this gonna fit together? And? Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 47:10
it's, it's yet it's not as easy as it looks. I mean, you make it look easy. So that's, that's, that's why you get hired.

David F. Sandberg 47:17
Right? No, but I yeah, I don't have a good solution for it. Other than Yeah, don't do stuff where, where you have six superheroes all the time. And there were seven sins, and it's so much.

Alex Ferrari 47:33
You look stressed out just talking about

David F. Sandberg 47:35
it? Well, yeah. Yeah. Okay. It was interesting, because I wanted to, we tried to fit in a little horror movie between season one, and two. It didn't work out for a bunch of reasons. And I mean, COVID stopped everything as well. So I was very sad about that, because I really wanted to have that sort of palate cleanser. I mean, it's, it's a great problem to have. It's like, Oh, no, I get to do a second superhero movie.

Alex Ferrari 48:01
You know, darn.

David F. Sandberg 48:03
Yeah, no, but it would have been, I really look forward to, you know, next movie, it definitely got to be smaller. Like, we wanted to do this little horror movie with a lot of it's just a guy in a cabin, you know, it's like, oh, would have been so easy to shoot. And I mean, when you when you look at like dramas and things, it's like, imagine, imagine how easy it is to shoot that because once you cut it, you almost have your movie. It's not like months of visual effects reviews, and over and over again, and just all this complicated stuff. It's just like, nice people talking and a little drama, and then it's over. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 48:40
yeah, maybe maybe you clean out a little thing here. You clean out a license plate there and visual effects something. Yeah. But nothing. Nothing is crazy. So at what point in the process, did you because I'm assuming that as you're making Shazam, when did you feel that you had something that was fun? Or did you have the same feeling as you did lights out? This is horrible, my career's over. Oh, my God.

David F. Sandberg 49:04
It felt some of it felt pretty good. Like, I would watch certain things back on the dailies, you know, you get an iPad where you can access all the dailies. So there were things there where I would like, rewatch at the dais. And it's like, yeah, this this is pretty cool. I think this is pretty good. And I you know, I when we shot, the first sort of Shazam scene we shot was in the convenience store when he gets shot for the first time. It's like, Hey, I'm bulletproof. It was just when we shot that scene, it felt like this is fun. Like this is I think this could be something and then there were of course other scenes where it's like, oh, shit, this is terrible. We need to fix this. Somehow, or cut it out. But yeah, it felt like there were there were good things in there. You know.

Alex Ferrari 49:51
Did you do any reshoots? Did you have to go back to doing

David F. Sandberg 49:53
Yes, we did. I mean, new line that I've done all them who said that they always do reshoots So yeah, because it kind of gets a bad rap of like, oh, the movie must be in trouble because they're doing reshoots, but they always do that they count on it. Which is, it's interesting, because on my first movie on lights out, I was told by another one of the editors, that, here's what's gonna happen, you know, you're going to test the movie. If it tests Well, they're going to come to you and say, so what do you want to add or reshoot? If it tests poorly, they're going to come to you and say, here's what we're going to reshoot or what we're going to add. And luckily, you know, the movies have tested well. And Shazam was very interesting, because I think we did a lot of reshoots and things, which, it kind of felt like, it almost feels like this movie is in trouble or something, cuz we're reshooting so much, but I think it was more of a thing of what we only spent $100 million on this or close to that I'm sure we had some savings. So it was like, Yeah, why not? Just get a little extra money and see if we can, you know, make it even better in certain places. spice it up. Yeah. And I mean, some of that. It was interesting, because, like, in the main shoot in the script, it's so there was that scene where he's on the rocky steps in Philadelphia by the Art Museum, you know, he's doing the lightning with my hands. That was always in the script. But then, during the main shoot, it's like, well, we don't have the money to go to actually go to Philadelphia. So I was like, Okay, we'll shoot it here on this street in Toronto. And then when I showed the movie to the studio, they were like, Ah, yeah, that scene really needed to be in Philadelphia. So go to Philadelphia shoot that scene, you know? And there were a lot of those things where it's like, yeah, maybe we can just make it a little better. Like the opening of the movie, originally had young Savannah in his house during dinner, and he takes an elevator and winds up in the rock of eternity. And they were like, ah, maybe we can do more action. Or maybe we can have something like with a car crash, or something. And to me, it was like, hey, if you want to pay for a car crash, I'd love to shoot that, you know, and because the thing is, if it turns out better than what we have great, if it turns out worse, then we still have the old thing, you know? So I was open to to anything like yeah, let's let's do this. Let's shoot that scene and do this, you know, and see what happens as long as you pay for it. I'm willing to do it. And and some some things I asked for, in particular, like, originally, when they first get to the group home, I did all that in one continuous steadycam shot. And it just didn't work. It just felt it kind of Yeah, didn't get there. And then there's no editing you can do when you when you do that. So I was like, I told the studio, it's like, I really want to reshoot that. But I know that's a big ask, because that means rebuilding that whole set. And the studio is just like a it's a big movie. So we actually rebuilt the whole set, and I got to reshoot that scene. So yeah, they were I think they were happy with what they saw and felt like it was okay to spend more money. Because it was going to be good.

Alex Ferrari 53:19
Right? Now, you you also a post production guy, you do a lot of stuff yourself. So what what, how much are you involved in the post production process in your films? From lights out all the way tissues? And because like you were saying earlier, you're not doing all the visual effects. But do you even still do titles or stuff like that?

David F. Sandberg 53:40
Yeah, I mean, certainly pushes them. I never did any final thing. I think some of the overlays for the news is mine, the news cast, but otherwise, I did tons of temp effects. Because, you know, when you do test screenings, I mean, we do that quite early on, and you just, you want it to look alright, you don't want all these blue screen and weird things in there. So I would do a lot of temp effects myself just to try to get it as close as possible, which is pretty fun. Because then when you do temp effects, it only needs to be good enough for one quick viewing, you know, no one's gonna rewind and look at it again. So that's a lot more fun than when you do final visual effects because there's so much work for those little things just to make it right you know. So lots of temp effects and I'm yeah, I'm quite involved in during the post process because I think that's probably one of the most fun aspects of movies. It's, it's like I forgot who said it, but you make three movies. You make the movie you write a movie producing the movie you edit. Absolutely. And I kind of I love that kind of problem solving as well where like, Okay, if we cut this scene out now this You know, now that we don't have B, how do we go from A to C? And you start looking at, okay, what kind of footage do we have? And what can I create? Because that's that stuff I did for lights out as well as, like, I need this shot of just a potion on this empty room. But we don't have that. But I have a similar thing here what I can take textures and reprojected them in Blender in 3d and create that shot. You know, I love that stuff. I'd like just figuring out stuff at home or in like, in animal creation, there's an insert shot of blood dripping on the floor. And that was one where I that I shot with my gold Black Magic Pocket camera in my apartment, you know, with some food coloring, and just put that in the movie. And yeah, you know, just yeah, that puzzle puzzling together. And just finding nifty solutions is really fun.

Alex Ferrari 55:55
So you actually shot something with a pocket camera just inserted it and no one cares. Like, perfect.

David F. Sandberg 56:00
Yeah. And yeah, and there's that shot, inanimate creation. This is shot in a bedroom where you see all these photographs of Janice growing up, I shot that on my Ursa mini 4.6 K. And then like, and put the pictures in there with blender and everything. And yeah, it works great.

Alex Ferrari 56:22
And that's, again, another myth that you're debunking. And once you get to a certain level you like, you don't do things like that anymore. Of course,

David F. Sandberg 56:30
you know, but yeah, and I mean, even when we were, I remember when we were, I think we were mixing lights out, Michael Bay was mixing a movie on the soundstage next to us. And they were telling me that he had been out in the parking lot shooting something on his iPhone for the movie, because he was already so far down the post production that he was in the sound mix, but he was like, Oh, we need a shot of this thing. And he shot it on his iPhone out in the parking lot. And they put in the movie and made it at work. So yeah, it certainly happens on on everything.

Alex Ferrari 57:03
Now, what is the most stressful part of making a movie for you?

David F. Sandberg 57:08
Well, I mean, the shooting in general, just sort of keeping up with with everything, because it's such a marathon and you get so tired. And like, there were days where I was like sick, and I was just, yeah, not doing well at all, but you just have to do it. And she's an was also weird. And that that was my first time really working a lot with a second unit. And just like with the storyboards, it's like, I don't want someone else making the movie, you know. So we scheduled it, so that we shot menu during the day, and then second unit was shooting during the night. So I could once we wrap the day, I would go to second unit and hang out there and make sure that they shot things the way I wanted to. So I didn't get a lot of sleep for a few weeks there, which was, you know, not healthy and something I need to work on. But yeah, it's just a hard especially when you start sort of when you far along a shoot where you start feeling like you were behind and you were like, I haven't even had time to think of this thing we're gonna shoot next. It's like Oh, shit, like when it feels like things are just coming at you at a quicker pace than you can keep up with. That's very stressful. And you need to sort of just take any moment, you can just sit down and think about how you're going to do all these things.

Alex Ferrari 58:35
Now, do you suffer from the same thing as I think I do? And many directors do is when when you're done on the last day of production? Isn't that the kind of depression starts setting in like, like, you've built that family? If it's been a good experience, obviously, if it's been a bad experience, yeah. But do you get that kind of feeling to like, not?

Unknown Speaker 58:55
Yeah, not quite. Not that soon. I mean, one first, when you wrap the movies, like, Oh, it's over. I'll get to sleep for a few days, you know? But certainly, yeah, once you've once you're finished with a project, you get that feeling of like, Oh, well what now? And you know, it feels kind of empty yet. And that happens with even with short films and stuff as well. Like you're, you have a purpose and you know what you're doing and then it's done. It's like that was it. Okay, what now? You know,

Alex Ferrari 59:29
always looking for that next high, if you will.

David F. Sandberg 59:31
Yeah. as it existed that Yeah, in the moment, you have a purpose and you know, what your future is going to be like, and then afterwards, it's like, Okay, well, what's my future now? And what's my goal now and what's what's gonna happen? Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 59:47
Now I have to ask you about your little. I need to know the backstory about your little known for our feature film that that got released called I flip you off for four hours. Which is an official film. It's officially on your IMDb as a feature film. So I saw that I was like, wait, what is that in here about this? And I've started looking at it and it is available on YouTube. Can you please tell us the backstory of that film?

David F. Sandberg 1:00:15
Yeah. No, what happened was I, I was talking in one of my YouTube videos about the fact that, you know, being a YouTuber isn't my job. So I don't really have to care about views and all of that stuff that YouTubers have to worry about, like, oh, how's my channel doing and everything. And as an example, I was like, you know, I can do whatever I want. And as an example, I had a screenshot of a movie called, I flip you off for four hours with just a picture of me doing that. So that was just a joke in that video. But then, for some reason, some months later, I was like, well, maybe I'll actually do that. just for the hell of it, just as a joke. So I did that. And it's a cheat. Of course, I did it for like less than a minute and just added it together. So it looks like it's four hours. But I put that up, people who really ran with it and like they put it up on letterbox, and people started giving it his all fantastic reviews. So it's like, for a moment there. It was like among the top rated movies on letterbox, like next to love parasite, you know, the Oscar winner and all these. But then eventually, letterbox took it off, because it's like, it's not a real movie. But I love seeing that out there. Everyone just ran with it. I love when internet does dumb stuff like that, but not like now with the Bernie Sanders. Oh my god sitting in his chair. I've seen that in every situation now. Like people have drawn artwork and paintings,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:50
dolls, they're making dolls of it now.

David F. Sandberg 1:01:52
Yeah, I saw like a crocheted doll. And like, yeah, it's everywhere.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:57
But you heard you know what Bernie did now? Right? He actually grabbed it, put it on a T shirt, and now he's selling it for charity.

David F. Sandberg 1:02:03
Yeah, I saw that. That's amazing.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:05
So if you could do one thing and say one thing to your younger self, before you start a directing, at first, like the one thing that you wish you would have known before you started going down this directing journey, what would that be?

David F. Sandberg 1:02:20
I don't know. I mean, maybe to be to ask for a little bit more or not be too afraid with some things. But yeah, I mean, that was the big thing with lights out where we didn't want to ask for too much. Because it was like, Oh, this is our shot. Like, for example, a lot. You know, she really should have been a producer on the first movie. I mean, we're sort of correcting these things. Now. We started our own production company and whatnot. But it was like, oh, let's not ask for too much. And it's Same thing with, I've always seen myself as a writer and director. But like, I couldn't ask for like, Oh, yeah, I want to write the movie as well. Because, you know, first time director, first time writer as well, and they're not gonna, they're gonna say no, right? So there were there been moments where it's like, I probably could have pushed for a little bit more. But at the same time, it's worked out great. You know, I love what Eric heisserer did with the script. I mean, he's a great writer, and I've gotten to work with riders and see how that isn't get, you know, feedback and be able to bounce ideas off of each other. So but yeah, maybe I think that's been a bit of a problem, sometimes of me, not, you know, being able to afraid of conflict, or like taking too much space, and instead backing off.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:39
Yeah, just ask for a little bit more. I feel I feel that a lot of artists are like that. I was like that as well. You know, I do jobs. God for anything. You're gonna pay me to do this? Oh, sure. Whatever you want to give me?

David F. Sandberg 1:03:52
Yeah, that's been a constant problem of you know, back in Sweden now. It's great having like agents and managers dealing with that, so they can be the bad guys. You know, that's been awesome.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:03
Now, I'm going to ask you a few questions asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

David F. Sandberg 1:04:10
Well, I mean, the, what I always say because it's, it was my path was to just keep creating things. Because the more you create, I mean, for everything you do, you're gonna learn even if it turns out to be shit, then you learn what not to do. And you're gonna get better and better for every short or every little creative thing you do. And it just, you know, it's like buying more lottery tickets, because, you know, one of those things you do might really resonate with people. Yeah, we had no idea that lights up was gonna become the thing it did. And also, you know, whenever I do something, I always think it's shit, halfway through whatever it is, if it's a short or it's a feature halfway through, I think it's shit and I want to give up, but that's you have to actually finish things you start even It feels like it's shit because you don't know how you'll feel about it later on. Because whenever you know you do the next thing you think like, why do I suck? Now the previous thing I did was good. But when you were making the previous thing, you hated that, too. So you just never know. I think

Alex Ferrari 1:05:15
that's basically just being an artist. It is it is, what is the cross we have to bear? Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

David F. Sandberg 1:05:30
Huh, oh, that's a really good question. I mean, if it's something, I'm still just trying to figure out the best way to do certain things like s, is it? You know, storyboards? Or, you know, I've been experimenting with so many different things with everything from shooting action figures, to just walking around a location and shooting things. You know, trying to find shots, even without people like cutting together that stuff. And I'm still working out what is the best quickest way to get my thoughts and ideas across to other people? And it's, it's hard, but yeah, at the moment, I'm using a blender a lot to do animatics and animated things and boards. And yeah, that's been working pretty well.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:23
What is the biggest fear you had to overcome to make your first film?

David F. Sandberg 1:06:30
Well, I again, I think it's has a lot to do with. Knowing that I mean, being confident in myself, in many ways, because like, on that first movie, there were arguments, where I felt like, well, these guys have done it for so long. So of course, they have to know better than me, they have to be right. I have to be wrong, because I'm new at this. But I wasn't always wrong. There were things like no, I do know this. So experience does not always make you right. So you get Yeah, even experienced people can be wrong. And I think that's something that can be good to know sometimes.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:11
And what are three of your favorite films of all time?

David F. Sandberg 1:07:16
Aliens is up their races of the last are. Yeah, I mean, it's sort of changes a lot sort of, but But yeah, those two and like the thing you know, john Carpenter's the thing. But yeah, I think aliens is probably the movie I've seen the most.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:37
That was an hour, but it's a masterpiece. I mean, it's Yeah, it's an absolute masterpiece. I mean, Cameron. I mean, Jesus, man. I mean, did you ever see the the the you've seen the best obviously? Oh, yeah. Did you see well and obviously James dispersion is much much better I think that with with with

David F. Sandberg 1:07:59
with the title is a little long, but it's Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:08:02
but the tidal wave makes it Yes. Work. Did you see that? Behind the Scenes of that? That the whole movie The documentary of the like, of how they made that movie, James Cameron?

David F. Sandberg 1:08:12
Oh, yeah. And all the problems and everything and I love the like three hours documentary about aliens. Oh, my God.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:22
Yeah. Oh, so in depth. It's it's absolutely insane. But David, I want to thank you for not only being on the show, but I want to make sure everybody knows about your YouTube channel. Because you're one of the few directors out there who still are trying to give back even after they are, you know, after they hit a certain level of success in the business. A lot of times it just Oh, whatever. Screw screw the little filmmaker. I don't care. I'm not that guy anymore. You're still doing it. I mean, up until recently, like, a few weeks ago, I think you've posted a new video. You do it often, man so thank you so much for doing that. It really means a lot to me and to also a lot of filmmakers out there and learning and I've watched your stuff your videos and I've learned stuff. I'm like that Yes. Like I didn't know about the river. I didn't I kind of knew about the reverse thing with the neck is an alien with the with the Oh yeah. That the edits like doing that within the edits and stuff like that. Like they just reversed it because I know Copeland it's just an old the oldest Hollywood trick in the book is to shoot something in reverse. But camera did it so beautifully in that scene that you just don't even realize it.

David F. Sandberg 1:09:26
It's the stuff I love to see. That's why what I can you know, but but I do understand why directors don't do it because you kind of reveal things where you know, you can get things in a movie that seemed like they were intentional or brilliant and maybe it was just an accident or like something that just, oh well we were gonna do this and then that fell apart. So we just slap something together and it happened to work. You know, like you You kind of reveal your true magic.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:59
Yeah, yeah. You pulled the curtain back a little bit. Sometimes directors want to keep that magic.

David F. Sandberg 1:10:04
Some people can think that Oh, he's a genius. Yeah, I'm not a genius. Open with that.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:12
But very humble of you, sir. Not call yourself a genius. But this seriously, man, thank you so much for being on the show and, and continue doing what you do. And I cannot wait to see Sam. Is his black Adam gonna be interested to

David F. Sandberg 1:10:26
know not? No, no is that they're separate for now. But also they're not maybe in the third movie or something?

Alex Ferrari 1:10:33
Yeah. So they're building it up. They're building it up. Yeah, very quickly. Listen, man, continued success. Brother. I really, really appreciate what you do, man. So thanks again.

David F. Sandberg 1:10:41
Thank you, man.



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IFH 665: Secrets to Working Inside the Hollywood Machine with Boaz Yakin

We have for you on the show today screenwriter and director, Boaz Yakin, The writer behind The Punisher, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, The Rookie, & Safe and directing, The Fresh, Remember the Titans and the comedy-drama, Uptown Girl among others.

Growing up in a talented theatrical family, it was only natural for Yakin to pursue a life in film or some sort of performing arts. His dad, who was a teacher at Juilliard and a theater director enrolled Boaz into the famous Stell Adler script analysis class when he was only 17 years old. Thereafter, he tried out film school at US City college, later transferred to NYU, before quitting school after his first script was auctioned and got him in the door at 19 years old.

At age 22, Yakin wrote his first produced film, Marvel’s The Punisher. When Frank Castle’s family is murdered by criminals, he wages war on crime as a vigilante assassin known only as The Punisher.

In 1990, Yakin co-wrote one of the action films of the times, The Rookie, starring star boy Charlie Sheen, and Clint Eastwood who also directed the film.

But his big hit came right after, FRESH, Yakin’s directorial debut is an emotional coming of age story, that offers a realistic glimpse of the dangerous life in New York City’s projects during the crack epidemic.

Michael, nicknamed Fresh, a 12-year-old kid running drugs for gangsters, notably Esteban, inspired by the chess lessons of his father, an alcoholic speed-chess master played by Samuel L. Jackson. Fresh devises and executes a brilliant plan to extricate himself and his drug-addicted sister from their hopeless lives.

Next up for Boaz was directing the box-office smash REMEMBER THE TITANS.

Academy Award® winner Denzel Washington shines in REMEMBER THE TITANS. Based on real events, this remarkable story celebrates how a town torn apart by friction and mistrust comes together in triumphant harmony. After leading his team to fifteen winning seasons, beloved football coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton) is demoted and replaced by tough, opinionated Herman Boone (Washington).

How these two men overcome their differences and turn a group of hostile young men into champions is a remarkable portrait of courage and perseverance. You and your family will never forget the Titans!

His blockbuster smash, Now You See Me featured big industry names like Morgan Freeman, Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Michael Caine, etc. The $75 million budget film grossed $351.7 dollars.

The plot follows an FBI agent and an Interpol detective who track and attempt to bring to justice a team of magicians who pull off bank heists and robberies during their performances and reward their audiences with the money.

Boaz continued his blockbuster ways by working on the $200 million tentpole film Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

A young fugitive Prince and Princess must stop a villain who unknowingly threatens to destroy the world with a special dagger that enables the magic sand inside to reverse time.

Boaz and I chatted about his creative process, the business side and political side of screenwriting and directing in Hollywood during this conversation. He was extremely raw and honest about what it really is like working inside the Hollywood machine.

Enjoy this conversation with Boaz Yakin.

Alex Ferrari 2:15
I like to welcome the show Boaz Yakin. And how you doing, buddy?

Boaz Yakin 3:43
I'm great. Thank you for having me, Alex.

Alex Ferrari 3:45
Oh, man, thank you so much for being on the show, man. Like I was saying, before we got started. I'm a fan. I've been a fan of yours for a while of films, you've written songs you've directed for sure. And it's, you know, it's, I just wanted to have you on the show to talk shop, man.

Boaz Yakin 4:00
Thank you. I'm glad to do it.

Alex Ferrari 4:01
So. So um, so first and foremost, how did you get into the business?

Boaz Yakin 4:07
Wow. Now this is a long time ago. Right? I know.

Alex Ferrari 4:11
You were only 25 bucks. How is that?

Boaz Yakin 4:13
Yeah. I haven't seen that for a long time. I, I was, you know, I grew up in a very with a very theatrical family. So it's kind of a family business. My father's a teacher at Juilliard and a theatre director and I always had that in my life, you know. And, in fact, I was lucky enough that when I was in high school, my dad got me into Stella Adler ad with a great acting teacher Stella Adler's script analysis class when I was 16 0 17. She never let anyone my age. See her classes and that was probably the most important school I ever got. was hearing her break down plays from the social Economic, religious personal perspective. And it really filled me up even as a teenager with an appreciation and a love for writing, even though it was ostensibly an acting class. And I thought I wanted to become an actor and I didn't get into Juilliard. And almost immediately after I went to film school, I went to a US city college because my grades were so bad in high school, I had to go to City College, and then I did get into NYU for a year. And this is a long time ago, this is the 80s. Now, what I think a lot of people don't necessarily understand, who are younger, is it screenwriting and getting into the movies wasn't as popular of a thing back then, as it is now. So for instance, I could get into NYU with grades that were pretty shitty. Today, I would never, ever get into Tisch, like with the grades that I got into Tisch with in the 80s, right. And I, I remember, my some teacher, one of my film teachers gave a course, a few days of how to get into the movie business. And it was all about like, you know, getting into a production company and working in internships and all this kind of stuff. And I have to say, I had a panic attack, because I hate real work. And I kind of attacked him after class. And I was like, Dude, what do you do to be a movie director? I can't listen to all this production companies. And he was nice enough, he said, Let me take you out to lunch. And he took me out to lunch. And he told me that a lot of directors start out as writers it was editors decides that I can do that. Right. So I actually wrote a screenplay on my spare time, when I was a sophomore at NYU. And my dad knew a guy who knew a guy, you know, and I'd sent him the script. And next thing I knew an agent from LA was calling me up saying I want to, I think I can option your script. And he did, he auctioned it. And I optioned it to a producer who had, at the time was already older and had produced some big films like he had produced the exorcist and a couple of things. And I auctioned the script. And I ended up moving to Hollywood, at like, 20- 19 years old actually left school. And I was terrified. But I came out here to work. And I started a career very, very young. I didn't the script never got made that it up. But it got me in the door, took a while for me to get stuff made. But I got in the door, and I started working, that must have been like 1986 or something.

Alex Ferrari 7:34
So the film that you wrote your first produced credit that I saw, which is because during that time 88, 89 I was working with a video store, I was still in high school. So between basically between 87 to 93, I'll go head to head with anybody in general pursuit, as far as film are concerned. So you made a few films, or you written a few films during that time. That was the hidden one of them being you wrote the first Punisher

Boaz Yakin 8:07
Yeah, I did. Was I mean, it was rewritten, rewritten by the producer would have been a lot better if it hadn't been but

Alex Ferrari 8:16
the theme of the show I hear,

Boaz Yakin 8:18
yeah, well, no, sometimes your shit, isn't that good. And someone else makes it better. I mean, that's happened to me once or twice. But but that time, it was just that Yeah, I was very young. I was like, 22. And I pitched them The Punisher idea. No one was making superhero movies at that time. In fact, you know, and, and it got made, it got made

Alex Ferrari 8:41
within a pitch the Punisher, and then then they went, they called up Marvel and said, Hey, can we get the rights to me?

Boaz Yakin 8:47
Yeah. And remember, at the time, Marvel, no one was making Marvel movies they were making like Captain America, and like weird rubbers are so bad. Like, and it was like, did you know so no one was making Marvel movies. Basically, yeah, I pitched the Punisher to this mentor of mine, who was a producer as well as a writer, and took it over to new line or new new world new worlds pictures, not new world pictures. And they went for it. And I wrote it. And what was interesting was that a lot of the time, their concern was it was to comic books. Right? Meaning that like, he had a skull on the shirt and all this stuff. So they changed a bunch of that stuff. And then very shortly afterwards, the Batman film The Tim Burton did, came out. And sort of right, they were around the same exact time or right afterwards. And it sort of changed the game in terms of what people were willing to do and how they were willing to approach it. But yeah, that was my first produced credit.

Alex Ferrari 9:45
So that for people not around at that time, in 1989, which is an amazing year for films. You couldn't walk the street without seeing a bathroom somewhere.

Boaz Yakin 9:57
Yes, that's right. Very big.

Alex Ferrari 10:00
It was everywhere. And it's so funny like punishers alerts and comic books. But because Batman is not comic books at all,

Boaz Yakin 10:11
But they really went for it with that with that version of the film. And that kind of opened things up for people a lot.

Alex Ferrari 10:17
Yeah, and that's, that's something a lot of screenwriters starting out have to understand is when you are, and even when you're more established you once you sell that script, unless you're a producer and or director on it, the powers you kind of let go, it's like you put it out.

Boaz Yakin 10:34
You know, I mean, obviously, I've managed to move into directing, after some years and all that. But one thing that I always, at the time when I was young, and I wrote scripts, I found it very painful to like write something and then have it taken away and completely reworked by somebody else. At this point in my life, when I'm writing a, quote, unquote, studio type film or something like that, I just for It's been years now I just want to do a draft or two, and then please fire me and take it. And like, you basically know that unless two or three other people rewrite your script, it's not going to get made

Alex Ferrari 11:17

Boaz Yakin 11:18
So when you're dealing with more personal films, with independent films, that's a completely separate story. When you're dealing in the studio system, you do a lot better for your health and mental well being understanding that you're part of a factory, that there is zero personal element involved, that you have to just be willing to like do your best as a craftsman and a professional, which doesn't mean you're not doing good work, right? It just means that you're treating it as a craftsman and as a professional, and hope that whatever combination of elements comes together and that they go make it somehow and that you make some money. But as a young person, you have this dream as a writer, whatever, that somehow Your voice is meaningful and that the film is going to reflect with it. Forget about it. So you know that that's definitely a learning experience. I think that screenwriters go through.

Alex Ferrari 12:13
Yeah, cuz everyone can, I'm going to be Storkin or I'm going to be Terrantino no first script out. I'm like,

Boaz Yakin 12:18
Well, but don't forget that Quentin direct his own movies. He's a filmmaker, right? PT Anderson direct his own movies. Wes Anderson direct his own room, right there. If you're going to be a script writer, it's a whole different story. You may be Aaron Sorkin you know, some of it, you know, he was also for the most part, someone who did television. I mean, he did a few features, right. But his his real, his real kind of claim to fame is television. And in television, the writers can, which is very different than feature films. That is a different world when we talk about TV, and now TV is much bigger, right? Like network, like, the writer in the writers room. And the executive producer is a different story in movies, the writer is not in the same position as the writer isn't in television.

Alex Ferrari 13:06
So then after the Punisher, you do another one of my favorite films of that time period, which is the Rookie with ..., it was in my mind,

Boaz Yakin 13:15
it's hard for me to talk about these things, you know what I mean? But like, Okay, why not?

Alex Ferrari 13:21
And the rookie, in my mind, I remember it fondly. I don't I don't want to watch it again. Right now, because I love the memory that I have of it. And then you know, start start a Clint Eastwood and a young, a young Charlie Sheen. So it was it was a warner brothers film, it was it was a studio project.

Boaz Yakin 13:39
Yeah. And look, I have to say I'm grateful, immensely grateful for it in the sense that like, first of all, it was I was 23 years old. It was a lot of money. And not just that, Clint was incredibly generous with me. And allowed me to watch him direct the whole film. I was there behind this, that the monitor the whole time and never spoke. But I got to watch his process. I got to see the way he ran a set, I got to understand the way he set up shots and constructed sequences. And it was an incredible film school. For me, it was probably the greatest film school I've ever had was just to sit behind Clint and watch him direct the whole film. And, you know, there's not a lot of actually, as I've learned, there's not a lot of filmmakers that would even allow a writer on set for more than two minutes, or two days, you know, and the fact that as long as I shut up, he let me sit there and just watch every day was was really something and when I directed my first film, so many of the lessons that I learned from from Clint Eastwood were there. So I'm forever grateful for it.

Alex Ferrari 14:52
And it's so funny because I was talking on the show to John Lee Hancock, who also did a movie with plant called a perfect world and he did yeah. The exact same thing he did with John Lee was just like, now I'm hearing it. And I'm hearing these stories as I'm talking to people who have worked with him. He does that for writers. And he didn't leave you and young people, just writers who were directors yet.

Boaz Yakin 15:15
Yeah. And he's he's very generous and very giving. And the thing that was really interesting about watching him direct. One of the things that's amazing, and really was something I learned from, aside from the creative aspect was how drama free Clint is, and how much he likes a drama free environment and how little he'll tolerate, you know, excessive, you know, emotions and like, and I appreciated that I love a quiet professional environment without drama without bullshit, you know, and I've had it, because I'm not Clint and people create that, you know, but as an aspirational work environment, it really did teach me a lot. But the other thing that's interesting about and I know this is about writing, but that's really great about watching Clint work is that Clint does very, very little planning, right? Like sometimes he'd show up on the set, and it would pick up or he'd go in a location scout and he'd see the set for the first time on the location scout. And he would basically plan out how to do a scene on the way to work, right? He didn't have a lot of shortlist, no storyboards, no nothing. And what that did was it created an environment where essentially, you're watching the person construct the scene right in front of you, right? There's nothing more boring than to watch a director's coming in with all of this planning and all the storyboards and everything. You're basically watching something that's completely pre planned. I mean, it can be fantastic, right? But with Clint, you really got to watch him create the scene on the spot. So you learn. And what was interesting for me was that like, after a few weeks, I could literally tell you where he was going to put the camera next from what to like, and be right 25 to 30% of the time, like, because I started to understand the process of how something was constructed. You know, and it really was an incredible film school on that particular way.

Alex Ferrari 17:16
That's amazing. That's an IT he did he directed he directed the movie too, right.

Boaz Yakin 17:20
Yeah, he starred and directed it.

Alex Ferrari 17:22
He directed Yeah, because it well, we could talk about calling for hours. But that's a whole other. That's a whole other show for another episode. Now, how did you make your jump? Because I know a lot of screenwriters listening to like I want to direct How did you make that jump from that to fresh which is your directorial debut?

Boaz Yakin 17:39
Well, what really happened was, you know, I am, you know, when you're young and kind of like your life is like that John Fabra movie in LA what was that movie?

Alex Ferrari 17:49
It is Swingers were

Boaz Yakin 17:49
Swingers, right? Like, yeah, like, that's literally what it was like to be 20 something in Los Angeles at that time. And you I didn't even enjoy that movie, because I was just kind of like, this is not like, it is boring. Like what happens when I walk outside? You know, now you watch it. You're like, God, super entertaining. And then, you know, but at the time, it was just like, what this shit like, no, but But anyway, that's it pretty much exactly what our lives were like. So I had a number of friends that I was making at the time, right? And a couple of my best friends was like this, this guy called Scott Spiegel, who co wrote Evil Dead two with Sam Raimi. And my friend Lawrence Bender, who was just an aspiring producer at the time, and, and I had put them together, I knew them separately, and they made Lawrence produced this little horror movie Scott did on Trudeau. Right

Alex Ferrari 18:39

Boaz Yakin 18:40
And after the rookie got made, honestly, I had gotten to a place which is, by the way, still, what I struggle with all the time in this creative field that we're in is that, you know, I started out trying to write commercial films and action films and all that, but I very quickly, so quickly, because I was only barely 23 realized it's not very much what I wanted to do at all with my life. And actually, I decided to quit the business and go live in Paris and write a book like, like most young Americans off to try and do. But before I left, I put together Scotty and my friend Lawrence, and I had met Quentin Tarantino through my friend Sheldon. And both Scotty and I were like, I was like, you gotta meet Scotty and Scotty actually ended up becoming friendly with Lawrence. And he introduced Lawrence to Quentin. And so while I'm in Paris, Lawrence and Quentin went away and made Reservoir Dogs. And I really had wanted to leave the business and so on. And I did write my book that never got published. And when I came back, Lawrence and Quentin had finished the movie and it had gotten some kind of like some real hype behind it. And it was Lawrence who pulled me back in Lawrence was kind of like Boaz. If you read the script, I think that we make can make for a low enough budget. I think I can get the money for it and so I spent half a year or however long researching and writing trash it took me a while on that one It took us a while to find the funds some French financing and we made the movie but that's that's how it came together It was actually Lawrence who pulled me back in after I was going to quit you know?

Alex Ferrari 20:21
Yeah. And from what I heard is more inset that as legend goes more into the one that'll quit and Hey, give me a minute. I'm gonna see if I can find money he's like, Man, I'm just gonna do this 50 grand with some friends on the weekend it that's why

Boaz Yakin 20:35
That's actually true Lawrence connected with Monte Hellman and with I think Lawrence pulled in Harvey titled said give me a little time. And he pulled on Harvey Keitel and managed to make the movie for like a million something rather than 30 - 40,000. So the Lawrence was the Lawrence was instrumental in that.

Alex Ferrari 20:52
Now, I'm one of the films that you directed that I absolutely adore. And I've seen as participant encounters Remember the Titans. It was just such a wonderful, wonderful film. How did you get involved in that because you didn't write that one right? You were just a director?

Boaz Yakin 21:07
I mean, I did rewrites But no, I look it was I had made I had made fresh. I made a movie about a frustrated Hasidic housewife with her nasal webinar called a price of always a popular genre. Backdrop is pasta has Coulter box office go frustrated see them. Although they didn't really did one on Netflix this this year that got a lot of attention, I have to say. It's called was it called Unreligious or something that I don't remember. Shira Haas was fantastic. And anyway, but um, I was actually in a position where I was having a hard time as I always find myself a hard time getting anything made. The Bruckheimer people reached out to me about the movie, and frankly, I would, you know, the truth of the situation is this. None of the big directors that they wanted to, for that movie, were willing to do it because Disney was only giving them a very limited budget. So the usual Bruckheimer suspects, you know, Tony Scott, people like that, we're just like, I'm not gonna do this,

Alex Ferrari 22:13
I don't, I don't get I don't get up for less than 100. Now

Boaz Yakin 22:16
He was doing what he does sometimes, which is he then looks for like an independent, whatever, someone that he can bring in. And I needed a job. I had no interest in making a football film or a Disney film. And that, you know, but I recognize that if I didn't try and do something like that, that I was going to be in trouble. And I kind of audition for it. I The script was like, 140 pages long. And then one weekend, I kind of cut 40 pages out and restructured things and showed it to them. And they were like, Okay, you've got the job. And I went in and I made it. I wish I had been less conflicted about it and enjoyed the process more, it was very challenging to make a film that became like, by far the most successful film I could have made. And it was the film I was the least interested in, in many ways at the same time, you know, and that's always a blow in some way. I wish I had handled it better. And with a little bit more fun and grace, but I it's it's sort of what, what ended up happening.

Alex Ferrari 23:22
Yeah. And it wasn't, it was a fairly big hit. I remember,

Boaz Yakin 23:25
I was a huge hit, and it's very watchable till this day. So

Alex Ferrari 23:30
I mean, I could turn it on with my girls. And we just watched it, it just, it's just such a it's just that that twist the heartbreaking scene and you're like, Oh, my God, like there's still emotion, so much emotion in that. And what was it like working with Intel on that project and directing it? Once you're, you're out? You got to? You got to two features under your belt at that point, right? And then yeah,

Boaz Yakin 23:49
mismatched features.

Alex Ferrari 23:50
Is that right? So then you got Denzel who was Denzel at that time, he still stands out.

Boaz Yakin 23:54
He was Denzel. He wasn't Denzel post Titans and post training day which he made those two movies one two punch really solidified themselves, like the major star, but at the time, he he still was, you know, he still was Denzel Washington. And you know, I, I can't say that. It's like, I direct you basically just where are you going to be you know, and then Okay, let's make the medium shot and but, you know, we he knew what he was doing to an extremely high degree. I think he was seeing the same movie as I was, you know, and so it went pretty smoothly in that regard.

Alex Ferrari 24:35
Now, let me ask you, when you when you write, do you start with character? Or do you start with plot? I always look at the question.

Boaz Yakin 24:45
I think I always start with character. Always except the man even, except for when I'm trying to come up with a more commercial Hollywood type idea. Then sometimes you think about plot, no, of course, plot always involves character in the sense of, there's this guy, or this gal who does this, and this is their problem. And this is what they're trying to solve, oh, it's about a spider fell out of the sky, you know, I don't know, it's always a character. It's always a human being. But, you know, with a more sort of, quote, unquote, commercial ideas, you know, you tend to think more of the situation. You know, and and I think with more personal work, you think more about the emotional and kind of his social emotional situation and the person's. But it does always start with with the character.

Alex Ferrari 25:38
Now, what, what advice would you give writers who, to on how to write a good protagonist? Something that like that can drive that story?

Boaz Yakin 25:49
Wow, I mean, that's such a personal kind of a thing. You know, I mean, I don't even know how to advise someone on something like that. Not not being evasive. But I do think, I guess, I mean, again, it's different when you're writing a studio film, and when you're writing a personal kind of a piece, it's quite different, although maybe certain similar rules apply, in terms of not being boring, and so on. But I think a strong connection to what that person wants, and meet, or at least what that person is searching for, even if it's unspecific. Right, because I mean, I think that's the thing that I think is sort of frustrating about trying to write commercial films or is that, you know, people are always asked to kind of come up with a very specific want or need or desire that somebody has. And if a person isn't driven in a particular direction, people have very little patience for it. Whereas I find that a lot of times, human beings, right, we are in an ambivalent state. And that a lot of stories that are interesting to me are about ambivalent people who are in a particular cycle of their lives. And somehow something happens to them in that space, that moves them into recognizing what it is that they are needing or wanting, or connecting to, and so on. But I always find myself starting from a very ambivalent state. And I think it makes for interesting pieces, but it makes for pieces that take more patients in the opening stages for an audience to get into, does that make sense?

Alex Ferrari 27:42
It makes perfect sense. It makes perfect sense. One area that that is not really talked about enough, I think with screenwriters, and I think this is where screenwriters and filmmakers for that matter, get sideswiped in our business is the politics behind the scenes, the stuff that you have to deal with, about how to get that how to get us to finance how to how to deal with personalities, how to deal with ego, how to deal with agendas. Do you have any advice? Because obviously, you've been able to navigate these waters

Boaz Yakin 28:14
Not so well all the time. I mean, when you think about the fact that I've been in the film business for 30 years

Alex Ferrari 28:21

Boaz Yakin 28:22
Like, the amount of scripts that I've actually had out there that got made or that you know, hey, the most personal work I've done, I paid for myself. Like the to like the movie, I just made a Viva this other movie I made it's very dark and painful and personal death and love. I paid for them with my life savings, no one finance them. You know, and not not a lot of people do that. And the last one I did before that this little strange little kitsch horror movie thing I did called boarding school. Like, I paid for a ton of it. Not all of it, but for a ton of it. And it's it's very, like, it is very challenging. And, you know, making a movie, even a lower budget movie. That's the thing, right? That that's the thing that's so difficult with our business, right, is that it takes so much money to make a movie, even if it's a small film, right? Even if it's a few, even if you're talking about a mic what they call a micro budget movie. Hey $150,000 in the real world is a fuckload of money, right? And people don't want to give you their $150,000 any more than some big company wants to give you $15 million. Right. And everyone wants to know there's going to be a return on their investment and Odetta. And it makes for a completely uncreative not risk taking, not kind of encouraging exploration environment, especially here in the states where you have no funding from like the government or anything like that, right? So there is no Lars von Trier here. There is no, there is no Thomas vinterberg here, right like it. There are good filmmakers here. Right. The Cohens are incredible. But somehow that filmmaker has to find the Zeitgeist that that work, they have to fit their work into an environment that makes a certain amount of money, right. And they have to, you can't really explore or, and fuck up and discover the way you can. And other art forms the way writers can, or painters can or even musicians can write. And it makes for a very boring array of work.

Alex Ferrari 30:53
So when you talk about politics and trying to get your stuff work, like, I would easily say that 90% 95% of what I think the most interesting stuff I've written is never got to the light of day. Now, am I saying it's great, or that that it up? No, not at all. It's interesting, though. And that doesn't really cut it in our particular field, because people have to feel they're going to make money off it. So it's challenging. And if you want to be a script writer, and if you want to sell your work, and if you want to be a solid, you know, you have to make sure your work can fit stars in it still till this day, and that actors who have some kind of a name are going to want to do it. It has to sort of fit cleanly into some kind of genre that people feel they can make money from. And, you know, anything that isn't that is very infrequent.

Right? And even when you were coming up, I mean, look, can you imagine taxi driver? Or Raging Bull? Getting finance today? I mean

Boaz Yakin 31:58
No, no, the differences. I mean, we all know that, like movies with the actual budgets that feature, you know, production value, and all that, that you can make with certain stars and all that in the late 60s 70s, very early 80s, that doesn't exist anymore. They take more chances with streaming shows and things like, you know, the taxi driver of then became the Breaking Bad of today, right where you have? No, but I will say this as much as they take chances. And they have like, you know, dark protagonists and things like that, right? All started by the sopranos, I suppose, right? Like and all that. The fact that these things need to go on for three, four years, to me inherently saps them. Have for me personally, have a genuine creative perspective. So at that creative art, I guess it's such a silly word artistic or something like that.

Alex Ferrari 32:59
I understand what there's like, like, there are there, there's this film, there's a shows that just go go go go. But something like Breaking Bad. Who this event actually said it this is this is the arc. It's five seasons, this is how long they wanted.

Boaz Yakin 33:12
I mean, five fucking seasons of it. Like, I mean, it's a good, right. But after a few episodes are like I get it, he's breaking bad. I mean, what more do you need? Like, what can you say in five years that the Godfather two couldn't say in about three hours? And I'm not saying you know, and I don't know. So. And by its nature, it becomes diluted. There's like a ton of directors, even if some of them are very good. There's a writers room filled with writers

Alex Ferrari 33:42
a different vibe.

Boaz Yakin 33:43
It's a it's a product of some kind, it can be wonderful. It can be a great show that people love, like the wire or whatever. But it's still a product, a corporate product. Whereas there is still something to an individual film, you know, whether you're watching, you know, the master by PP Anderson or Grand Budapest Hotel, by west or some where you go. It's a piece, it's other piece. It's complete in a division, its perspective, it says what it wants to say. And that's it, you know, that that day is close to being done. And it was certainly easier in the 80s was already getting more difficult than it was in the 70s. And in the 60s. That now I think it's completely shifted.

Alex Ferrari 34:34
Well, I mean, if you look, if you look at Well, first of all, I think that one thing you said the product television is it's close to a product as we can create in our industry. Because you know, like that bottle you're drinking from right now that's a product. It's a battle. It's a price you make it for certain costs, and you get certain you get, you know, markup and that's it. Television is the closest thing we have to that that's why they just keep pumping them out because you can keep pumping up product product.

Boaz Yakin 35:00
A lot of super talented people doing it. Oh, and making high level writing high level work apps. And yet, there's something about it.

Alex Ferrari 35:11
No, I get I get you. But if you look, you're saying that, you know, you were sent mentioning Wes and MPP. And these guys, I'm noticing that films that actually get some budget, have some star power is rarely the young, unknown directors anymore, or even the young, you know, maybe have one or two, it's the colon, that it's the guy that came up in the 90s. In the early 2000s. The had those they came in at that right time, and they're there, they've got the keys to the castle to keep doing that. I mean, Woody did it for

Boaz Yakin 35:45
Well, you know, what happens now? What happens now, it's sort of like, you know, it's what happened was, like, because the corporate structure is become so overwhelming, like, right, like, you can't be a robot, like, you can't be the class anymore. And like, do four or five album and then finally, like, the media realizes, oh, shit, the class is awesome. And then put them on a tour with the who were already bloated and all that stuff. And then the class basically fall apart. But they've had like five fucking class albums before they, you know, the rock, the Cavs Bon Iver commercial, and it's done. Right. Right now, if someone does something successful for two seconds, Disney marked like big jump on these kids. And some kid who just did like, you know, a great first Sundance movie or whatever it is. The next thing you know, is they're directing like some gigantic Marvel movie they've been set or a jurassic park or whatever it is. And that's also what people want, like, people are starting to approach this idea of making their first film or whatever as this sort of like, entree into like, the main corporate product. And so you get good first films still. But you almost never get to second, or third or fourth, right? It's like if you went and made Reservoir Dogs, and the next thing he did was direct, you know, Captain Marvel, whatever, you would have never gotten Pulp Fiction, right? Never. And that's the difference is that people are still making Reservoir Dogs here and there or, you know, their versions of it. that no one's doing the second one and the third one and the fourth one that really allows a voice to grow. That's what was had that PT Anderson Wes Anderson, Quint, the Cohens huge, I mean, they're the best American filmmakers right now. Like, today, you do one thing, that's good. And the corporations are just all over you. And it's super tempting. You can't blame somebody. And it's getting harder and harder to get financing for second and third films, right. So essentially, it's almost like a little beauty contest making that first films like this little beauty contest, so that you get picked up by the corporations.

Alex Ferrari 38:08
And it sucks. No, and it's really good to like right now. So if today, Joel and Ethan, bust out blood simple, then the net, they're there on a Netflix series, or they're they're doing a Marvel film or or they're doing a gritty Star Wars Show. I mean, it's, you don't get

Boaz Yakin 38:29
And what's kind of, I don't need to go dark with it. But what's kind of depressing is how much what once was like a synopsis he asked and kind of like, film lover community, right has basically been co opted by the corporations into becoming this sort of Geek community that just like, will argue about, you know, how big hammer should be or whatever it is. And they genuinely care about this stuff. Whereas once that type of person was caring about, you know, what the next Scorsese movie was, or what the next parent you know, Terrence Malick movie was and now it's become this kind of I don't know what you even call it,

Alex Ferrari 39:19
It's, it's like it's a different thing. I mean, it's the basically now people listen to like, Oh, these two old farts are just talking about the good.

Boaz Yakin 39:28
I I enjoy. It's like, the thing that that I find difficult is that it's not like is that people have the priorities are so weird. It's like, people aren't looking at like these gigantic entertainment. Like we used to look at these gigantic studio entertainment movies, whether it was Indiana Jones or whatever. In the day. It's like, oh, man, this is so much fun. I'm like, this is so much fun. It's so entertaining. This is great, like fun product, but I'm going to put my attempt Going into something else, my attention, my critical faculties, my discernment, my my real focus into something else as both a fan, a critic, a, you know, a creative person. But that level, I mean, their level of attention paid to stuff that's essentially well made version of McDonald's hamburgers. It's like, and the kind of discussion that that gets is what has flipped from the way things used to be. So anyway, folks getting around to shipping,

Alex Ferrari 40:40
I mean, but there's still the Criterion Collection for the rest of us. And we get it. And we get to do that still. And I remember like, I had my laser dip. And I had, you know, with with Scorsese commentary, and Coco commentary, and Dracula, and I'm listening to them. And that's the cinephile in it. But yeah, it's, it's just a different world. And there's nothing that's been wrong,

Boaz Yakin 41:00
I have to admit that as an American. I mean, not to be like that. America bothers me. Like, my brother. And I just did this deep dive again, into like, how yummy is Jackie's entire, you know, old one, or smorgasbord? Or smorgasbord. You know, she's a genius of some kind, right? And he's a genius. And he is a popular filmmaker. I mean, he is the Disney of Japan, like he is the Spielberg and Disney wrapped up into one of Japan. All over the world. His movies are like enormous. And in the States, finally, because of like, they're on Disney plus, whatever, you know, people have finally seen a little bit but no one talks about it. Right? Like, that's not what people do here. I'm not saying it's not possible to make beautiful popular films. But I just feel like our particular culture and our particular filmmaking culture is is is pretty frustrating. I get it. I get it on in 10%. I understand exactly what you're saying.

Alex Ferrari 42:08
And we can keep going down this path for a while but

Boaz Yakin 42:12
Okay we'll go with another path. What path would you like to go down?

Alex Ferrari 42:16
So now the you actually wrote a sequel to a beloved classic called dirty dancer, and you deserted dancing Havana nights now? I particularly liked. I liked it a lot, because I'm Cuban. But you know, Viper,

Boaz Yakin 42:31
Really talking about things I'd rather not talk about anytime.

Alex Ferrari 42:36
I loved it. I thought it was a lot of fun. watching that.

Boaz Yakin 42:41
Glad you did.

Alex Ferrari 42:43
Apparently, I'm the only one is what you're saying.

Boaz Yakin 42:46
I think you're like the only one. Like I find it very difficult that it's on my IMDB page. And when I do when and when I do something else people always like Oh, the guy who wrote Dirty Dancing too. And you're like I did a fucking written you know? Wish. I know I come off like the crankiest person in the world. I'm not really but here's something is difficult talking about screenwriting. By the way,

Alex Ferrari 43:14
Sure go ahead

Boaz Yakin 43:18
as script writers, we have to make a living. Right. And I say this, you know, in thought, like, we have to make a living. There are a few brilliant people, like Quentin or PT, or whatever that everything they like to do is what other people like to see. And they managed to like, right? A lot of us have to make a living, because this stuff that we make our independent stuff isn't as successful, blah, blah, blah, you've got to keep a roof over your head, right? And what you can't do as a filmmaker is having non diploma, right? You can't have a non diploma, like when I do rewrites for Jerry or for whatever My name is, you know, jack Ryan, you know, and when I do my own stuff, it's Bo as a key because there's a lot of egos involved and a lot of people's pride involved. Right. And so like if you're going to do a rewrite for a producer on a project and everyone Hey, my name is good enough to be on this movie. What your net, it's not good enough for you. You know. Larimer McMurtry said something really interesting in this book about script writing he wrote called stone plan. You know, and it's like a series of essays about filmmaking. He's a fantastic novelist is right. And he's written some beautiful scripts. That's not really been his focus, but so he has some interesting and always funny and biting stories about Hollywood. And the thing that he says it's so interesting for anyone who takes Script meetings or tries to get jobs in the screenwriter or whatever is that there's this sort of illusion in our business, that you need to be passionate about the material that you're working on. Right? That like, when you're going to take that writing job for that script about the dog who flies and saves the day that you can't come in there and say, yeah, you know, I'd like to do this, because I just got a kid and I need to build an addendum to the house, and I can really use that. $150,000. So, yeah, I'm down to write the story about the dog with the cake. Right? You have to come in there and be like, you know, when I was a kid, I had a dog. And, and, and you know, and the dog died when I was 14. And I realized that dog meant so much to me. And I can really identify with this material, I think it's going to speak to everyone who loves it. Right. Right. And as Larry McMurtry says, some of the worst work ever done has been done by people passionate about that work. And some really incredible work has been done by professionals who, you know, decide not to do and who decided to do something because they needed to pay the rent and put their craft and imagination and intelligence do it, and fucking knocked it out. Right? Like, like whoever wrote, I don't know, anyway, I'm not going to get into specifics, but there's a lot of very good commercial work that's been done by people who did it with a sense of commitment, and and, and intelligence and professionalism, but not because they were dying to tell that particular fucking story, right. And I think that that sort of illusion that we need to create that we're so passionate about everything we do, because otherwise you won't get hired, basically puts people in a situation where a lot of the work that you see like a lot of you know, an A name on a script, like whether it's dirty dancing to or whatever it is, it's like, yeah, you know, you did a job, there were four writers on it, what your, what that piece ended up being has very little to do with what you actually wrote and maybe recognize three words of it, and some structural changes that you put into it, that were deemed significant enough by the Writers Guild committee to give you a credit, right? And you're happy about it, because it means you get residuals, and you got a credit. And that means you might get another job, right? But does it reflect you as a creative person? No. And you could argue, well, then don't do the jobs that don't reflect you as a creative person. Right? If that's going to be something difficult for you later on in life, don't do that job. Don't do things that you don't believe in. I get that point of view. I know people who haven't done it, and I've done well, I know people who haven't done it and are like, out of the business. And for me, it's always been this sort of juggling act of trying to find a way to do things that I like to do that really do reflect my perspective. And things that you go back. If I don't make some money this year, I'm fine. Oh, you know, this thing? Yeah, sure. I'm down. I know how to do that. Right. And that's the thing, that being a professional, you know what I mean?

Alex Ferrari 48:16
I love I love that you bring this up, because it is a almost a myth, that the struggling artists that so passionate about everything they do, and you know what, of course, you know, at a certain level, your private things and things that you do are at that, like, I'm passionate and passionate. But man, when I was coming up, I would take jobs directing stuff that I'm like, I don't want you know, or I would do, I would do post and I'm like, I don't even I don't even want my name on. You know, but it was it was it was a paycheck, and you have to do and that's what a professional is. Yes. Like you said, there are those few geniuses who gets do both, but that those are anomalies. You know, the Coen Brothers barn anomaly. pcns is an anomaly Wes Anderson's an anomaly Tarantino's an anomaly, these guys are anomaly in our business. So for the rest of us, sometimes you got to take jobs that you might not be happy with, or do something else, or figure another way out to tell your stories. I mean, I know the duplass brothers, they just dropped their budget down to a place where like, I could do whatever the hell I want. And they just go out and do it. Great. If that's the kind of storytelling you want to do, and that makes you happy as an artist. Great. I mean, I heard the story when the duplass brothers were brought into Marvel, and they were offered a movie and they're like, yeah, we're good. Yeah, we're, we don't want to do that. Because they understood what was that going to be entailed? Let them kind of talk about today. But that is a myth that needs to be broken that you like it's all about the passion and it is about the passion but man you got to eat sometimes man or Yeah,

Boaz Yakin 49:45
I mean, look, I I just made a film that really was that. I mean, I basically I lucked out, in the sense that this movie that I wrote, I every once in a while I write something I'm like I have right so I wrote this piece. A dance movie about the this thing called a diva about the difficulty in being both in your masculine and feminine self and the struggle in that regard. So I did a story about a couple where I had four actors playing two people, a man and a woman playing each of the two characters. It's a dance movie. It's a sex movie. I mean, it's it's fun. It's so much sex and dance and experimental

Alex Ferrari 50:27
disulfide argument 500 million worldwide box office.

Boaz Yakin 50:30
Exactly. I i. And you know what, I, I got a surprise check. from years ago from this little comedy I made for a for MGM called uptown girls. were like, 15 years later, money that I didn't realize I was owed, suddenly came to me. And I was like, I'm making my movie. And I took that money. And I put it into making this movie. And I made it and i and i love it. It's unique. It's different. It's personal. If I had $20 million, I would just make 20 of these things and not give a shit who saw them or who didn't? But I don't. So after you make one of those things, suddenly you're like, Oh, fuck, what do I do? I guess I got to find a way to build again, to pay the bills, and to make sure that I can make another film or whatever it is. So it's this constant dance, you know?

Alex Ferrari 51:37
What I love about you was and what you're because, again, from if someone just let's say your IMDb, they just like, Oh, well, he's this and he's doing that. And you're just like, Look, man, I pasted this myself. I'm an artist. I'm still I'm still hustling. I'm you're still doing it the way you want to do it. The normal the normal mind. And I always tell this filmmakers, it's been the worst that we're we've been infected. It's a horrible disease that we have, because it lies dormant for years sometimes, and then comes back up. The normal human being would have seen that check and said, Oh, good, I could put it away. And they asked for security. Maybe I can invest it. You said, I can make my movie. That's what I love about that. I love about you.

Boaz Yakin 52:20
Well, yeah. And you know, I mean, I think the other thing that is very, again, we're not talking about our outlier, don't makers who both do exactly what they want to do and get funded funding for it and all that. But I think that a real hole that people fall into. And maybe it's good, I think in some ways, maybe I should have done a little bit more of it. But I it always freaked me out is that when you find a way that you're successful, you make Remember the Titans or whatever. The next thing you're offered is like 10, big sports movies or like another job. And I had that opportunity after that movie. And I kind of freaked out. And I was like, This isn't who I am, this isn't what I want to do. And if I go down this road, I don't think I'll ever remember who I really am. So I pulled back and tried to do my own thing with moderate levels of success, rather than, you know, pursue the thing that's most comfortable. And that makes me the most money. And I'm not advising it to anyone. I'm not advising it to anyone. But I am proud of the fact that at my age, and after doing this for a long time, I'm still when I can pull it together, experimenting and trying things I've never tried before, and trying to do things that are off the beaten path, rather than just sort of perfecting this thing that I quote unquote, know how to do over and over and over and over again, may be great for some people, and some people may be creatively inclined in that way. But I find that very uninteresting. You know,

Alex Ferrari 54:01
What i what i respect about what you're talking about what you're saying what you're doing is that you're still willing at this stage in your career that you've been in the business for a long time, you've done a bunch of stuff, you're still taking the swing at the bat, you're still taking swings at the bay at the fete where a lot of guys. And a lot of a lot of professionals who are at this point in their career. They just want to say say I'm just gonna do I'm gonna do the sport.

Boaz Yakin 54:23
I know people who want to stay safe the minute they do their first thing that does well okay, I've known a lot of people like that. Honestly, now that I'm getting older and I'm like starting to look at that like oh my God wouldn't be nice just to be on a beach in Hawaii for the rest of my fucking life and stop with this shit. Now, like go oh my god, what am I an idiot? Like? I think a million dollar good. You know, like, I would have been nice to have some money to buy that fucking house in Hawaii, right? Instead, I made this RTS movie that no one's ever gonna see. So it is it is it's a mixed bag but you know the Truth is, as someone dropped the check on me tomorrow, I would turn around and make another movie with it. Right? Yeah, I wouldn't like Hawaii. So maybe that's something.

Alex Ferrari 55:12
But that's the sickness. That is the sickness of being an artist, you know, and being a brave artist because there are artists who are brave and artists who are brave, and you are brave artists, no question about it. Now, you know, I was gonna ask you about Prince of Persia, was that the

Boaz Yakin 55:25

Alex Ferrari 55:26
It's a rewrite. Okay. So,

Boaz Yakin 55:28
Actually, I love I became really good friends with the guy who created the video game and wrote the first draft, right, but that's very much an example of what I'm talking about in the Hollywood world, right? Like, there was a video game. Bruckheimer bought the video game and hired Jordan was a wonderful guy to write the original script, then they hired another writer to rewrite Jordan's script. Then they brought me on to rewrite the third writers, the second writers script, I did a bunch of work on it, a couple of drafts and then went, I think this is what I got for you guys. And then they hired two other guys to come on a writing team to come on. And they wrote the rest of the way for like, the next year and a half. The movie comes out, and it's like six people have written on it. I guess they decided that what I did had enough of left in it to have a credit. And that's a credit that you have, you know, and it's interesting, because people say, Oh, you wrote Prince of Persia right now like, yeah, I mean, I guess, is there two words in that thing that I did I that, you know, I don't even think so. But that's what that particular machine is. You make money. You get residuals, you get health benefits. This is the reality, dude, this is the reality of being a writer. And you cannot fucking complain about that. I mean, how many jobs are there in this world? Other than these fucking Elan musk types, right. But how many jobs are there in this world that you work on something for a few months, you make hundreds of 1000s of dollars, you get health benefits? If it does, well, later, and ancillary markets, you keep getting checks every year for a few $1,000 that you Whoa, I didn't reach out to you pay by the you know, $20,000 for Prince of Persia came in five years later, right? fucking amazing, right? So it's a factory, it's a machine, you do it to make a living? And that's, you know, I'll never get another job again. I'm sure if any one of these people listen to this.

Alex Ferrari 57:43
Or maybe you'll get the right job?

Boaz Yakin 57:44
Oh, no, I think I think people know, I think this, which is why sometimes I have a hard time getting those jobs, you know, and care about the dog with the cake. He doesn't care about the dog with the K I don't, but I'll do a good job. If I have to do it. You know what I mean? And and, and that's the thing, look, you know, what can I say? No, I get it. So. So when you when you What was your involvement with now you see me without an original or that? You know, that's an example of a friend of mine, a very good friend who's become who's actually a great person to talk to, because he's a writers writer, my friend and record. It worked for like 10 years, and I didn't mentor him a bit and co wrote something I mentored him had a lot of years of not succeeding, a lot of years of not succeeding. And he had this idea for a script that at the time, I remember we were sitting in a car, and he called it something insane, like poof, or something like that. And he was like about four magicians who robbed a bank in Vegas. And in Paris from the stage in Vegas. I was like, Ed, the dumbest idea I've ever heard, right? Like, I was just like, don't bother me. There's no money. There's no money here. No, it was just utterly brutal, dark, personal film that I called Death and love about horrible family dynamics and stuff like that. And after I finished it, I was kind of in a place where I was like, holy shit, I don't know if I'll even know how to ever write another commercial script. Again, this is like a year later or something like that. And I was talking to Ed and Ed said, Boaz, I wrote the first 15 pages of the script. Fucking read it. Right. So I picked up Ed's first 15 pages. And I read them and I was like, ah, like, essentially, everything that now you see me became very successful, right. And second, moving on, is based on that first 15 pages of EDS, his concept. And I was like, Ed, this is a great idea. How did they do it? And he goes, and I was like, Oh shit. Like that, huh? And I was like, I guess I better get in here with you, right. And so I then got in with Ed and we basically fleshed it all out. But it was Ed's concept, right? And then I came in, and I helped him figure out how everything would work. And we came up with all the solutions, and then the theology and all that. And we wrote it. And in fact, it got sold. And it was interesting, because we had one of those moments where they finally after a few dot drafts, replaced us with someone else. And Ed was very upset, you know, he was hurt. And I was like, Ed, this means they might make the movie.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:48
And that's exactly it's like what I was telling you before, right until they hire someone else to rewrite you. That movie is not getting made. And, and they did, and they ended up making the movie. But Ed and I really created the concept, and the first draft and then they took it from there,

Did you because it's a pretty common did you go down the rabbit hole of magicians and how magicians do things like me?

Boaz Yakin 1:01:12
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. For the time that we wrote it. Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:17
Did you interview that

Boaz Yakin 1:01:18
Expert, an expert on all that stuff? While we were writing?

Alex Ferrari 1:01:21
Do you call? Did you interview magicians? Did you talk to me? Just what kind of research did you do for that?

Boaz Yakin 1:01:26
Well, I mean, we do have the internet.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:30
There's that

Boaz Yakin 1:01:31
Which by the way, has made research a completely different experience than it used to be back in the day, when we had to go to library. He didn't call people, all that stuff, which was an interesting experience in and of itself, right? It was much slower, but in some ways richer. But yeah, there's the internet. And we also interviewed two or three magicians and blah, blah, blah, but you know, did our research.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:55
And of course, he took a couple trips to Vegas, obviously, just for research purposes.

Boaz Yakin 1:01:59
I think I've been to Vegas already. I don't know if we went there for that. But yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:05
But right now that you've directed the phone call max. Again, I'm now I'm afraid to ask about any buildings, right? Is that is that a film that you were like, really passionate

Boaz Yakin 1:02:14
Massacre is a film actually that it, it was sort of like me, trying to make amends in a way for myself for how I felt when I was doing Titans. Whereas I also found myself again, in a position where I needed to make a movie, I had written a movie to sell with my friend, Sheldon, an old friend of mine, who loves dogs. And I had some idea about a dog. And I was like, he was like, Come on boys, we have to write this. And we wrote this movie, and sold it to MGM, I had no intention of directing it or anything, I sold it. And about a year later, I found myself needing to do something. And the producer had actually the producer called me up and asked me to take a look at the script that someone else had done some writing on and said, Well, what are your thoughts on it? And I read the script, and I read our draft. And I was like, you know, I think if we can go back to our draft, I know how to make this movie and make it appealing. And I call them and I said, Look, if you guys want me, I'll direct this. As long as we can go back to our script, did it? And they said yes. And I went, you know what, let me just try and have a good time work with some nice people and make some kind of an appealing movie. And for everyone, I can you tell everybody what Max is about the max is a movie about what they call an N WD a military working dog. So it's about a dog that gets traumatized in Iraq and gets his his handler killed. And then he gets adopted back into society by the family of the guy of the marine that was killed. So it's about a traumatized that dog who has to sort of like, get his shit together with his family that adopted him. So it's almost like an old school 5060s Disney kind of a movie those days those Disney movies had kind of an edge. You know, like when you watch Old Yeller or something like that. He just kill that bear like that. Those boards just Gordon. Wait, that kid just shot three walls like they don't do stuff like that. And I think we are at the end What the fuck? like wtf

Alex Ferrari 1:04:27
Soiler alert for everyone who hasn't seen all yellow?

Boaz Yakin 1:04:29
Yeah, spoiler that like family movies back in those days were like definitely a lot more hard bitten than they are now. And And anyway, so it was sort of like a callback to like those 50s kind of like Disney Disney family movies, the 50s just go back to the 80s.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:46
Remember, Neverending Story, or secret or man? \

Boaz Yakin 1:04:50
Which one?

Alex Ferrari 1:04:51
He could have named the animated dark blue film.

Boaz Yakin 1:04:53
Yeah, that was a little harsher.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:54
That was a little harsh and neverending story that killed the horse and you're like, I'm like Are you kidding? Like never. I mean, they're, they're freaking out about the Swedish chef right now on the Muppets. I mean, can you imagine

Boaz Yakin 1:05:07
Is that the character that they say is a negative stereotype? Why they put the disclaimer to the Swedish chef?

Alex Ferrari 1:05:14
Is the Swedish chef. Yeah. See the chef?

Boaz Yakin 1:05:17
Holy shit, man. I'm in let the as you get, but this is the one area where like, I'm like aligning with all these whiners about cancer, like come on people. act as if it's,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:32
I don't want to go into that conversation because that's not what you at a certain point, you just got to go look, movies were made at a certain time. shows were made at a certain time. Just have a conversation about it. And at that time, didn't look Can you can't even imagine. Like I was watching Clockwork Orange today. And the first 20 minutes of talk of words are in our insane, In. Insane. And I was remember, cuz I saw when I was a kid, and then I watched it again as an adult. And it just it just reminded me and like, first of all, what it seems Kubrick is obviously imagine a film like that being released today. You can't allow people to lose their collective mind over that.

Boaz Yakin 1:06:20
I mean, one of my favorite filmmakers of all time is Ralph Bakshi. You know, Ralph Bakshi?

Alex Ferrari 1:06:26
I don't.

Boaz Yakin 1:06:27
He made animated films back in the 70s. And he brought adult animation into the mainstream for a minute before he burnt they didn't let him keep going. But he made Fritz the Cat. It was the cat guy. Yeah, which was based on our crumb stuff, but the great movie, but it is based on our concept. Then he made two super personal movies that are I think that just some of the best films of the 70s. One of them is called heavy traffic. And one of them is an exploration of black politics and identity. He was Jewish, but black politics and identity called coonskin, which is so Roche's and one of the greatest animated films of all time, and you watch content, and try By the way, it ended his career then in the 70s. Although you may have to imagine now, can you imagine if someone made that film today, and it's a masterpiece, it's amazing. So it's a different time, you know, then hey, maybe it's okay for a minute to absorb that, you know, to absorb this different time, but it does make for a blender stew.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:36
Oh, there's, there's no your 70s 70s 60s 70s and 80s and 90s were much more interesting.

Boaz Yakin 1:07:43
Yeah. But by mid 80s, things started to go like

Alex Ferrari 1:07:48
compared to today, the 80s

Boaz Yakin 1:07:49
maybe my parents are dead, but yeah, but he's

Alex Ferrari 1:07:52
like the 60s.

Boaz Yakin 1:07:54
Like the 70s I have a by 8483 84 things were like, you know, starting to go down. I was just I was just you know, it was the kind of movies I was trying to write at the time that I was just literally watching like one of my friends and they like one of those you know, at HBO stations they have or whatever and you just flick through them and like Rambo First Blood Part Two came on. And like back in the 80s that was like actually an acceptable action movie. Like were you like, Oh, yeah, Rambo. He's fighting this. And you want it now and you're I literally with laughing out loud the entire time. I mean, it's it's a porn film. Basically. It's like just shiny greased up guy blowing apart hundreds of people and and just walking around it and you're just like, what am I even watching? What is this?

Alex Ferrari 1:08:51
If you want if you want to go down

Boaz Yakin 1:08:52
I really enjoyed it. I thoroughly enjoyed enough but I was like, it's a relic of a different time. a different mentality. a different perspective. Like it's actually surreal. The movie is actually surreal. And at the time, no one thought that

Alex Ferrari 1:09:10
I think Rambo was that there was that Rambo but then there's another film around the thing came up the same year even. That was even more than Rambo which is Commando.

Boaz Yakin 1:09:24
It came out after Rambo.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:25
Yeah, it came out. Yeah, around the same time. It was like a year or two different Yes, it came out afterwards. But commando is even more surreal. I mean, they literally have cardboard cutouts being blown up. In deceit.

Boaz Yakin 1:09:37
Oh, commandos. commandos, hilarious. I mean, on ramps that Rambo is a better movie in some notes, right?

Alex Ferrari 1:09:43
Rambo's the better.

Boaz Yakin 1:09:44
It was surreal. The 80s became absolutely surreal. kind of fun. Anyway,

Alex Ferrari 1:09:55
talking about the good old

Boaz Yakin 1:09:57
weird ass movies that you like, wow. We were actually trying to make those things back then and now you look at them and they're like, what is that?

Alex Ferrari 1:10:04
I remember when look when I was during that time in theory to the 80s, late 80s and early 90s I, you know, john Claude Van Damme. Steven Seagal did there was a greatest things ever for me. And I remember Bloodsport being show good and so revolutionary.

Boaz Yakin 1:10:20
The guy who wrote that as the guy wrote Max width my friend Sheldon.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:24
Oh, yeah. Oh, really? So Alright, so he wrote Bloodsport, right. I felt amazing appetite to Sheldon now. I gotta get. I gotta talk to

Boaz Yakin 1:10:34
Directed Lion Hart.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:36
Yeah, no, we I saw I spent I spent two months with Sheldon and john Claude in Hong Kong making doing rewrites on double impact. Okay, so now what do you see the writing this on your IMDb? I would be talking to you. Because I didn't get I was uncredited rewrite, but I was there. Okay, so you now Okay, so now See, see how the how the conversation has turned?

Boaz Yakin 1:10:58
Okay, so we're just gonna watch this. I'm telling anybody,

Alex Ferrari 1:11:07
Just as you make your movies for you, I make these interviews for me and if someone listens to them, fantastic. Alright. So you're in your Sheldon, here. That was a pair of Europe. Hong Kong making double effects. I remember going to the theater, seeing double impact and going. That makes all the sense. Absolutely not cost. What because jakab was that that was that? Was that a universe? That was a universe? Yeah. JOHN quad was in the studio system at that point. He hadn't left yet. He was he was working. I think it's Warner's or Sony or somebody like that. He was working. But that was a big. That was a big release. I remember that. That was what was it like being on that set? Because it was john Claude at the height of his powers. You know, and Sheldon had just done Lionheart was a huge hit for universal. Like, what was that? Like?

Boaz Yakin 1:11:56
I thought it was fun. I mean, basically, I was living in Paris. Remember, I told you I left the movie business. I was living in Paris. I was with my younger brother. He had just gotten super sick. It was winter. And Sheldon calls me up. And he's like bow, we're making double impact in at the time. I remember what was called was based on the Corsican brothers. This old Alexander Dumas story about these two twins, and they ended up updating it into Hong Kong and, and so that was like, and we could really use a few rewrites or whatever. Do you want to come to Hong Kong for a month and help us out? Right? And I was like, Eric, do you want to go to my brother? Do you want to go to Hong Kong for a month? And he's like, Yeah, what's the fuck out of here? And I was like, let's do it. So I was like, Yeah, man, let's go and they flew me into this hotel. This is before Hong Kong turned back to the Chinese. It was still a British protectorate or whatever it was called. And we just found ourselves hanging out with john Claude having dinner with bolo Yang from like, Enter the Dragon bow from Dragon. Yeah. having dinner with john Claude and bolo and bolos family and me and my brother. Were just like, Oh, my God. pinner with bolos is fucking insane. I mean, I had already known john Claude, right. Like I had been Sheldon and john Claude brought me in to help edit, re edit a movie called Cyborg, which was john Claude second. I was, like, total mess. And I cut my teeth editing, re edit, helping to re edit that movie. So I mean, I was friends. I was that was friends with those guys. And, and my brother and I spent a month, month and a half in Hong Kong. And just like, it was so much fun. We just like would write I would write a little bit in the morning, I go to that, like I try and do notes and I was there when they auditioned all this this stuntman and all this kind of and it was it was super fun. Like the culture clash of it all was super fun. I introduced Sean cloud the jungles movies, he had never seen one before. Nearly Yeah. Among amongst us guys. Like we had just seen. Better Tomorrow and a better tomorrow to I don't know if hard boil that come out yet. I mean, if the killer had come out yet, I don't think it had even come out yet. Maybe it was.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:15
That was later later. 80s.

Boaz Yakin 1:14:16
If certainly a better tomorrow and better tomorrow to had come out. And we were like john Claude, man, you've got to see this movie. And john cloud saw the movie and it's like, I have to shoot two gun. And that's why in double impact, there's a couple of couple of scenes where he's where he shoots to God, a great impression of a bah bah, bah, bah, what do you think of this idea? Bah, bah, bah. That was my conversations with john claddagh. Like, and it was super fun. It was super fun. It really was cool. So basically, your film school essentially was and why did they couldn't use what editing Cyborg that was a lot of my son's school. actually edit. So I've worked in clinics that was before and then Clint Eastwood

Alex Ferrari 1:15:03
Yeah. No cuz I remember editing, because I remember Cyborg and it was it was okay because I am. There's that there's a time a time period and die on the job on afficionado so there was Bloodsport, but before blisworth it was Black Eagle. Then came after Black Eagle, which he had a small part. Oh, no, no retreat, no surrender. Then he went into Cyborg and remember Cyborg? Yeah.

Boaz Yakin 1:15:23
You know. And by the way, I do have to take a little credit for this. He had just made Bloodsport. Yeah, we're super excited about him. Like, like cannon films, I think or whatever. And they made sideboard and it was such a complete and total it was visual, but it was such an utter mess. And they were going to basically just put it straight to video. Luckily, not straight to audio, right, but straight to video, and audio. And show them again, show them to john Claude said, Hey, do you want to take a look at this and I looked at it. And I was like, Guys, I had an idea if we can completely recut and restructure, and like re put like new dialogue on like scenes and data. And I just since it wasn't my movie, I just went in there and went crazy. I flipped the film, I reversed it. I turned it upside down and made sequences out of stuff that weren't sequences, and show them to john Claude to edit in the other room, and we were all just editing away. And then I

Alex Ferrari 1:16:25
John Claud was editing as well?

Boaz Yakin 1:16:27
Yeah, would show them in the room like composite, really smart dude. And, and, and we were at and we all like sort of re edited the movie, and I restructured it and they edit in the other room. Then I left they reshot a little ending. And they looked at it and they liked it so much. They put it in theaters. Mind you, it's not a classic. But it made money in the theaters. It made money and kind of saved john clods career. Like if that had gone straight to video as his second movie, he would have been in trouble. Instead, his second movie ended up getting a release, making a lot of money, and it just sort of took off from there. So I'm always very proud to have been part of helping john clods career stay afloat at a time when it looked a little a little shaky.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:10
It was a little bit and of course, as long as you have a split in there with I still remember that split between the two walls is a pain in the rain of good times during the 80s. Now, real quick, I wanted to ask you about your new project Bingo. called the harder they fall. Is there anything you could talk a little bit about no J visa, a producer with Lauren's on that?

Boaz Yakin 1:17:36
Yeah, what my mind and my friend James Samuel, who was a mutant comes from music, mostly, you know, he's a songwriter. And he, he directed a couple of shorts, a couple of his own videos. And he had this concept for this Western that he'd been trying to make for years. And he asked me to help him with rewrite it. He had, he had written the original drafts. And it was filled with great ideas, but a bit unruly or quite unruly. And I basically helped kind of pare it into something that I think was more like Mabel. And James then came in and rewrote on that. So we wrote, ended up writing that script together, based on his concept and the end, and they made it and they just shot it, it's, it's going to come out on Netflix at some points, great cast. And yeah, it's an all African American spaghetti western, basically. But it's going to have like a lot of music and all and he definitely has a vision and a style. And yeah, he just did. He directed it. And he it's a huge budget first directorial film, I mean, unbelievable. But again, taking those kind of chances. They're taking those kinds of risks. And I imagine it'll be fun. That's awesome.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:01
That's very awesome. I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What is the biggest mistake you see young screenwriters make?

Boaz Yakin 1:19:12
Interesting, I mean, I'm gonna kind of not answer that question. Just in the sense, just in the sense. I don't tend to really focus on screenwriting in my ingestion of movies. I tend to think of it I think, filmmakers, you know, I tend to think that filmmakers I never know when I see a screenwriters name on a movie, how much of their voices in the movie or not?

Alex Ferrari 1:19:42
Or let me, let me rephrase the question. What were some of the biggest mistakes you made when you were first starting out at this?

Boaz Yakin 1:19:49
Well, nothing's a mistake you're learning. Okay, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:19:56
you need to go through so you're basically saying we got to go through some of these hardships in order Democrats, you got to cut.

Boaz Yakin 1:20:01
Yeah, you're learning. I mean, you know, your process as a human being is filled with self imposed barriers, externally imposed barriers, some of which you cross, some of which you don't, you know, there's no mistake, right? Like, you know, like I could say, you know what, when you're writing a Hollywood movie, it's a mistake to take anything personal. Right? But it's not a mistake. You just have to go through that experience. Get your ass beat, and then somehow come out of it as either as a human being who can absorb that with a thicker skin or a deeper capacity to like, handle things or not. But there's no mistake in it. It's It's It's just the process.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:50
It's a great and I answer I love it.

Boaz Yakin 1:20:53
That's, that's my answer for your question

Alex Ferrari 1:20:55
What are the three screenplays that every screenwriter should?

Boaz Yakin 1:21:01
Wow, again, I don't really read scripts. I see films, right. Three well written films. Oh my god, there's so many well written sounds. Just pick three that comes to your head. Three well written films Ingmar Bergman's persona, yep. Mr. Bergman's scenes from a marriage, especially and winter, like, biting my bird. So, if there's another word that you want to see anything with a really well written script, watch a Bergman movie. That's my advice.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:46
Now, what advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Boaz Yakin 1:21:53
I have no advice. Make a move.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:56
Because it just don't make something write something make.

Boaz Yakin 1:21:58
Make a fucking movie. I mean, are you know, I don't know. I have no idea. I have no idea.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:06
World is so different. Now. It's just

Boaz Yakin 1:22:07
it's so different from like, I mean, I'm still trying to stay afloat in the business, right? That's a different thing. It's like trying to stay afloat. And I feel like I'm trying to reinvent the wheel for myself everyday. That's the thing that you mentioned before, when we that's what's so crazy is that, like, I've been doing this for so long. And every time I finish something, or whatever, I feel like I'm never gonna work again. Yeah, and sometimes, you know, like, right now I'm kind of in that zone, where I'm like, Oh, shit, am I ever gonna get another job? Like, Oh, my God, am I ever gonna make another trip like, and then one day you find yourself making something, whatever you're like, holy shit, I can't believe that happened. Like, I've always been really jealous of people that just seem to work, and treat it like a job. Because I always think it's a miracle every time I get a job, or every time I make a film. I'm always in shock. I'm always in shock, you know, but in terms of how you get in now, it's a totally different world.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:02
And what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business

Boaz Yakin 1:23:05
Oh, my gosh. gratitude.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:13
Yeah. grateful for everything.

Boaz Yakin 1:23:18
Gratitude to God, the Creator, the universe, whatever you want to call it, for being a part of it. Not taking things personally, no matter what it is. Understanding that nothing in this universe is personal, even if it might seem like it is. That's been the hardest. And the most important lesson for me

Alex Ferrari 1:23:39
I can I know I can keep talking to you for a long time, at least three, four hours, but I want to respect your time, and I do appreciate you.

Boaz Yakin 1:23:47
Thanks for having me, man. It was fun to talk to you.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:49
It was an absolute pleasure talking to you, man. So thanks again!

Boaz Yakin 1:23:52
Down the rabbit hole, disappear.



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IFH 661: How to Make Money in TODAY’s Indie Film with Jon Erwin

In 2002, Jon Erwin founded a production company with his brother, Andrew. Their first ventures were commercials, documentaries, and music videos. The brothers soon were directing videos and producing concerts and television programs for platinum recording artists such as Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Casting Crowns, Switchfoot, Skillet, and others.

They received 11 GMA Dove Awards nominations and 3 wins for Music Video of the Year. Jon and Andrew have also produced and directed several documentaries, including the multiple award-winning 9/11 story, THE CROSS AND THE TOWERS.

In 2010, Jon and Andrew began exclusively developing dramatic feature films. In August 2018, they partnered with Kevin Downs and Tony Young to launch Kingdom Story Company, in an exclusive partnership with Lionsgate, which creates life-changing content from a variety of talented storytellers.
Their features have all opened in the top-ten box office and they have received the coveted A+ CinemaScore® three times.

Early hits include OCTOBER BABY, MOMS’ NIGHT OUT, WOODLAWN, and the surprise hit I CAN ONLY IMAGINE, which became the #1 independent film of 2018, earning more than $86 million at the box office. Others include I STILL BELIEVE, a biopic about CCM megastar Jeremy Camp which was released by Lionsgate in 2020, followed by the 2021 release of THE JESUS MUSIC, sharing the untold story of how Jesus Music transformed into the multi-billion-dollar industry of Christian Contemporary Music.

AMERICAN UNDERDOG followed in 2021, which told the story of NFL MVP and Hall of Famer, Kurt Warner. JOHNNY CASH: THE REDEMPTION OF AN AMERICAN ICON, is a documentary that details the true story of a music legend’s spiritual quest and releases Dec 2022. Their latest film, JESUS REVOLUTION based on The Jesus Movement that changed the course of history and comes to theaters Feb 2023.

Jon is also the author of the book Beyond Valor: A World War II Story of Extraordinary Heroism, Sacrificial Love, and a Race Against Time, which tells the amazing true story of his grandfather Red Erwin, who received the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War II. Beyond Valor was published in August 2020.

Enjoy my conversation with Jon Erwin.

Jon Erwin 0:00
Like if you can combine two things, eventually you'll win. And those two things are just, you know, maybe call it grit, or just pain tolerance or endurance versus perseverance. If you can, perseverance if you can combine that with curiosity. Yeah, eventually you'll win. Like if you can just have a higher tolerance to pay. And just keep going like it's going to take longer than you think.

Alex Ferrari 0:25
This episode is brought to you by the best selling book, Rise of the Filmtrepreneur how to turn your independent film into a money making business. Learn more at filmbizbook.com. I'd like to welcome to the show Jon Erwin, how're you doing Jon?

Jon Erwin 0:39
I'm good man. You've already had my brother on so set the bar low. You know, you've had the you've had the suave, friendly brother on the product. You know, like mad scientist, brother. I think he calls me anyway. So, but thanks for having me on. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 0:54
I've had Andy, I had Andy on when you guys were promoting American underdog, which I love that film. And after I watched that film, I went back and I just went through your catalog because I was so impressed with how that film was put together. story wise, I was like, wow, there's something here. And then I went, and then I'd heard of the other films I hadn't seen, you know, I still believe and I can you imagine and all those kinds of films. And my wife and I just had them binge them all, man, you guys. Really? Yeah, you guys are doing some really good. Yeah, seriously, you guys are doing some really good stuff. So when your new film, Jesus revolution came up, I was like, Oh, I gotta have I gotta have John on, you know, if I had one, I gotta have the other one on. And then yeah, I'll have both of you on and now.

Jon Erwin 1:33
We'll do it together. Right now we're dividing and conquering. You know, we do so much grass roots, marketing. But I'm glad you enjoyed the films. I mean, ultimately, it's a privilege. I mean, it's a privilege to entertain people, like it's, I just think the business of entertainment is so hard, and, you know, sometimes sucks on a certain level, because it's so hyper competitive. You know, sometimes it's easy to lose sight of just how cool it is to get to do what we do, you know, and anytime that you can have, you can sort of see something in your mind or feel it deeply in your soul, write it on a piece of paper. And then hundreds of people come around you to make that thing real. And you're you're sitting there with an audience and they're, they're moved by it, and they're watching it as if it were real. It's like magic. It's like dreaming while awake. It is a privilege to do this. And I'm grateful for the audience to supporting the work enough to let us do this for a living. And this is a job that you should like work another job like behind the desk for years and years and years, save up some money and just blow it all getting to do this. So the fact that we get paid at all for this is really, really cool.

Alex Ferrari 2:39
It's a miracle that anything gets paid. It's a miracle that any gets made. And that is fascinating that as as, as an artist, we are the artists that spends the least amount of time doing the art, which is the days on set are so few and far between. It's mostly revving up to get the damn thing made writing getting produced getting trying to raise money, do all that stuff, then you spend if you're lucky 30 to 60 days if you're lucky.

Jon Erwin 3:12
Yeah, I was. I was talking to but having said that, I'm going to talking to Mel Gibson about his movie, Hacksaw Ridge. Very good movie. And, you know, it's the directors question. Like I was like, how many days did you ever shoot it? And he was like, man, you know, they didn't quite have their money together. I had to shoot that movie in 58 days shooting. I'm like, oh, shoot two movies now. And he's like, Well, on Braveheart. We had 85 I'm like, I would shoot three movies. So yeah, I've never had more than 30 days to shoot a movie. And, and there's there's magic to that, though. I think the absence limitation is the death of creativity. Like there's magic to being in a corner backed into a corner, feeling panicked, you know, and in not being able to second guess your instincts. But But yeah, you're right, you prep for months, you shoot for just a small time, you know, and it's like summer camp, and then it's over and then you then you edit it for months, and then you market it for months. And so you're right. actual making of the theme. The theme, the overall process is very, very short.

Alex Ferrari 4:15
And if you want to really get crazy, if you remember, John Woo, on the killer, he had 170 days.

Jon Erwin 4:24
Oh, come on. What do you do? What do you show you make one shot and you're like, Okay, there's good day,

Alex Ferrari 4:30
You, you basically shoot those insane action sequences until your heart's content. Like that's how he was able to make the killer and hardboiled. They had like 140 180 Day

Jon Erwin 4:43
That's insane, man. That's that's no idea. I don't even know. I don't know. I wouldn't I wouldn't know what to do. I would have no clue how to even show up for a day's work.

Alex Ferrari 4:56
We're gonna shoot half a page today guys. We're gonna shoot it yeah.

Jon Erwin 5:02
Gonna get it 18 Always and we're done. Yeah. You know what's funny, though is is for the independent filmmakers out there, I think, for me, we used to do music videos in our career started in sports television, lied about our age to live on Mondays, we go caravan, somebody gets sick randomly. And then my dad bought us a camera started making stuff. And it's like that Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 Hour Rule. kicked in, just, you know, I really think what we do is, to your point, much more of a business than it is an art form. It's the symphony of art. And it's also much more of a craft than it is an art form. And it combines a lot of art. But a craft is something that you sort of like, just get better and better at every day. You know, it's sort of an iterative process. It's sort of like you against you. And it's a quest to just improve and slowly but surely, seek to master your craft. But you know, way back in the day, we would make all kinds of music videos, that was sort of our grind. And we would do a bunch of them, like four or five a month. And

Alex Ferrari 6:09
500 bucks, like 500 bucks 1000?

Jon Erwin 6:10
Well, that's the thing, it won't know what happened. It was after Napster. And so Andy and I came into Nashville, and the whole industry was like, there are no more $300,000 music videos, what are we going to do? Well, and we were like, someone's gonna pay us $15,000 To do a music video. Let's do all of them, you know. And so we just, we just don't, you know, and so we, but it was this process. But what I realized is, whenever we were on the random occasion that we had all the money in the world. And there were, you know, it just becomes decisions by committee, and there were 12 execs there and all that stuff. There was a magic loss, whenever, like, the way we would do it is like Andy would prep a music video, and I so I would show up to his that, and I hadn't even heard the song, and then he would show up to my set. And he had, you know, we would just sort of LeapFrog. And there was just always a magic when we never quite had enough and time or money. And there's something to the strain of having to solve problems creatively in an environment that's full of pressure that you can't second guess your instincts. It's terrible for your health and, you know, mental sanity, but it really is good for the work. And so I'm a huge fan of, of even like on the movie that you mentioned, American underdog that went from a 46 day schedule pre COVID to a 30 day schedule post COVID, we had to cut a third of the budget out to keep it greenlit. And I don't think that they're the other movie would have been better. And a lot of a lot of the things that we came up with, like using the real footage of the game, you know, which in editorial really did well, we couldn't choreograph near as much stuff. So we choreographed what we could exactly as it happened in the real game. And then that way, we could use the actual game footage, but and so a lot there was a lot of articles, a lot of people saying that was a great artistic choice. And I'm like, that wasn't an artistic choice. That was a production limitation, you know. And so I think you just find great ideas when you're constrained.

Alex Ferrari 8:09
Right! It's like, it's Jaws is the classic example of that, right? Yeah, the sharp doesn't work. Okay, I guess we're gonna show it. We're not going to show the shark as much it kind of worked out for that that that I forgot the guy's name. I don't even know that guy's name. Did he do anything else after?

Jon Erwin 8:24
Now that was that was a 50 day shootings getting jobs was they went 150 days. They went

Alex Ferrari 8:31
But what not his fault. And can you imagine that his first big like he did Sugarland Express. He did duel. We're talking about Steven Spielberg, everybody, if you don't know. And then and then you and this is his first kind of big studio based on a best selling book. And he's like, I'm never gonna work again. I'm never going to work again. He's like yeah,

Jon Erwin 8:53
He was gonna get fired every day and his credit water is horrible. Anytime you introduce in any substantive way to to our industry,

Alex Ferrari 9:05
Nature and general nature in general, but water has water specifically because you got cold water, you can't move everything just and it doesn't doesn't do what it doesn't do what you want it to do. It doesn't

Jon Erwin 9:21
Look good. Boy Does it look good. I think in this movie that we just did Jesus revolution there's a whole sequence in the rain and and there's also some underwater dive take work and for this sort of dream sequence and and I remember talking to a keystone cinematographer, and I'm like yeah, I think we do the sequence and you know, a couple hours or whatever this conversation in the rain, he was like, six hours later. I was like, You were totally right. AKIsE and, but you know, we do have this thing that we say Pain is temporary film is forever, you know, and I do believe it. Yeah, like, go for difficult. It Go for it. Go for death. because no question and, you know, because it's just better.

Alex Ferrari 10:04
So John, I mean, we just kind of ran off with this because a lot of people don't know who you, you, you and and we did.

Unknown Speaker 10:09
We went on it. We just we just went because yeah, we just we just went off. Probably so

Alex Ferrari 10:14
So tell me tell me how you and your brother got you said you got into the business by music videos. Yeah. But your your first kind of F if I'm not mistaken your first narrative was October Baby or one of your first Yeah, was that so right. And that was a completely indie film back then, how did you raise the money for that? How did you you know, get that off the ground wasn't an easy film. You know, subject matter.

Jon Erwin 10:40
Yeah. Why start there? You know, looking back. You know, basically, we were, you know, we, we started in as sports Gehrman was 15. And then we, you know, when we started, we were a service company, really found our footing doing music, videos, and commercials. And then I went to but you know, from the south, right, born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, you know, obviously, my faith has always been a huge part of our life and community and upbringing. And, and, and then, you know, just around the time that all this sort of new thing of faith based films was sort of emerging, post passionate of Christ, and Sony was doing faith based films. And so I went to direct second unit on a faith based film called courageous in Georgia, and the real Cinderella story, these, this church was making these movies and Sony was funding them. And they were doing like 30 million a box office, and they were tiny films like wanting to make movies. So it was amazing. And, and so I went down there to work on those films, they wanted to do a police drama with car chases, and action sequences, and like, churches, making movies and car chases should never be combined, you know, people will die. And so I was hired to sort of go in and with professionals and take go far away from the set and do the stunt work and do the action sequences. And which I love. And the director of that movie asked the question that doesn't really matter, I think what your your beliefs are? And it's a great question to ask, he's, like, you know, trying to understand you like, like, what's your purpose and the purpose of your work? Like, why do you do what you do? And I think a lot of us focus on what we do. Very few of us focus on why we do what we do. And, and I couldn't stop thinking about the question like I couldn't, the whole time I was working on a film. I was like, I couldn't stop thinking about it. And that led to sort of a fusion of a career and calling and the idea of, of joining the fray and jumping in on values based faith based entertainment, you know, Heartland type stuff, and I remember it, we were doing a film with Sean Astin. And he said, I see you guys frontiersmen pioneers. And I said, Thank you, Shawn, That's high praise is like, you know, most volunteers didn't die on the frontier. And I'm like, well, the name roads actress and the, the, the trail will be paved. But what I learned was, it's such an, it's such a privilege to be a part of anything that's emerging, you know, most industries are, it's like, the cement to the foundation has hardened. So to be able to make your mark on anything that's emerging right in front of you, is, first of all completely out of your control. It's a factor of timing. So that's like technology in the 70s. You know, in you know, computers or, or even that group of directors like Spielberg and Scorsese and Lucas and Coppola and department, all these guys inventing the modern blockbuster, like you just have to sort of catch lightning in a bottle. So it's cool to, to be a part of something, you know. And so that led to a completely different business to finally answer your question which is, which is going from a service company to intellectual property is coming and starting raising money for for, you know, our own films, and October Baby was first we had to raise $100,000, to get the production to that movie made. And, and then we had to raise the marketing as well. In the first quarter million, no joke was from my grandmother, who I kept getting to remind that she invested in film, and, and then the second quarter million from a surgeon named Jim who we hit film, like 150, of his orthopedic trauma cases, and, and so it's just you have to be very pragmatic, you got to get really good at solving problems. And I think the thing that we didn't realize was that, that really helped us was that, you know, you really have to think holistically about a business. And in entertainment, we don't so we think so much about the product, and then but we don't think about how to market and distribute the product. And so as a filmmaker a lot of times, it's like you're, you're climbing a mountain and you get to the top of the mountain. And, you know, you think that you've summited Everest or something, and actually the fog clears and there's a mountain ahead of you that's twice as tall and, and that's marketing and distribution. And so it was very it was it was it was it was it was good fortune at the time that we couldn't had a distributor sorted the film and had to then go raise another three and a half million, which is this category of money that we that was printed advertising was called PNA to get the movie released, and then you know, you're throwing up in a in a trash can on Thursday night because you You bet your your grandmother and everyone else believe that, you know, and, you know, you're thinking, you know, it's funny, as you know, we make the utricle movies. And so, you know, it's a, it's a rare part of our business that on on a Friday by about new, you know, if the last two years of your life were worth anything at all. It's like an election. And I've experienced all sides of it. And it's a thrill. But But luckily, the film went well, and it cracked the top 10. And everyone made money that God included, my grandmother made a film for Sony, called mom's night out. But I think one of the biggest things that I would recommend is just like, if you can combine two things, eventually, you'll win. And those two things are just, you know, maybe call it grit, or just pain tolerance or endurance versus perseverance. If you can perseverance, if you can combine that with curiosity. Yeah, eventually, you'll win. Like if you can just have a higher tolerance to pain, and just keep going like it's going to take longer than you think. But if you keep going, but you're not learning anything, then you're just going to repeat your mistakes over and over again, there's a lot of people like that. But if if you have a level of tenacity, and perseverance, and you match that with just being a student, and learning all the time, and trying to understand how things work, eventually, you'll you'll catch your moment. And for me, I became obsessed with the interrelated disciplines of our industry that a lot of people resent, like, if you're a writer, and director, he's like, Oh, the marketing people, or the finance people. But what I learned is all these things are sort of inextricably linked, you know, the high concept and scripts is essential to the marketing campaign, and the movie itself and its budget is essential to the overall p&l of the enterprise. And, and so what I think really helped me was the ability to think holistically and understand and just by, by, by, by virtue of having to being able to look sort of, like the name of your book that, so Film, film to film intrapreneur, that's such a cool terror, to try to really have the mindset of an entrepreneur, first and foremost, and then let your creativity funnel through that, I think, I think is a much better way to be successful in our industry.

Alex Ferrari 17:41
Well, I mean, that's the thing. That's the reason I wrote the book is because so many filmmakers, and I've been doing this now, eight years, and I've been doing my business I've been doing the film is almost 30. So I've seen and played in so many different sandboxes over the course of my career. But I keep seeing filmmakers make the same mistakes. They just they, they just like they're stuck in the 90s. They think they're going to make a movie, go to Sundance, and someone is going to come down from Mount Hollywood, write them a check. And then they're making a Marvel movie like that's, that's their idea of success. But you and I both know that that's not the reality of the marketplace. The marketplace isn't what it was in the 90s a movie like slacker could find, could find its footing of film, like clerks could find its footing in the 90s. Because it was the new VHS, the video is

Jon Erwin 18:27
Home Entertainment safety net, you know, you lose money at the time. Yeah, totally. And then pick it up in home entertainment. And the theatrical window was and that was enough of a billboard to justify the spin even if you lost a lot of money, because Home Entertainment was so lucrative. But that was a 2030 year bubble, you know? And, and unfortunately, it's changed. The other thing that the reason you got to stay curious is we are in an industry that is rapidly changing. And and so, you know, that's one of the I think the problems with film schools is if you're out of the industry, for four years, it's a different industry. And certainly COVID has actually accelerated that change. And so what COVID did, in my contrarian point of view is that COVID COVID is going to end up reshaping our industry very similar to how Napster reshaping music and and what it's going to do is it just it's going to pull forward about a decade of change into a more constricted window. And it's going to take a lot of time for that. Now, having said that, if you can sort of skate where the puck is going to be as Wayne Gretzky said, there's enormous opportunities opening up. But you got to sort of let go of the past and really be hyper curious about the future. And so learning to me being curious and learning and I'll give you an example of what you just said, we did our second film, our first 100 5 million or second 10 was very profitable. Then we found our voice with a phone call Woodlawn. We, we you know, they say a filmmaker finds their story and tells it over and over again and our we found inspirational true stories and that's just like our Our niche spent raised all the money for the film was about third of the PNA did the wrong deals, didn't basically make as much money as we hoped we were about 15. And box office really needed to do 20. And that was the first time I didn't get all the money back to the investors, we had like this perfect batting average up till then with the films and documentaries. And we really, I couldn't sleep at night, I just I hate to lose, it's like, my philosophy is like, either either we win, or let's just play again, let's just whatever it is ping pong, whatever, you know, go go get and so. And so what we did is we actually, to me, a huge part of success is just learning to fail correctly. And mindfully, and failure, in my opinion, is the great teacher, if you'll let it be. And so with Woodlawn, we stopped in for five months, we studied it, we asked questions. And we did something that I don't know why more people don't do we solicited a ton of criticism from people like if we're going to be in an industry that has this whole category of people called critics that and we're going to read all those things obsessively. Why not solicit criticism from people that actually care about you, and want want the best for you? So we went out to all of our friends and people in the campaign outside of the campaign, what did we do wrong? How can we do better? What what can we learn from this, and it ended up with this 170 page, you know, post mortem slash Jerry Maguire manifesto. So you know, and, and we saw inside the market, we saw new business model. And that was the playbook that led to I can only imagine, and I can only imagine was built to break even at 15 million box office. It did that in its first two days, first three days. And it did. So everything between that and the 86 million in box office that it did, and becoming number one of the year was margin. But that would have never happened if we hadn't failed number one, and we hadn't feel correctly. Number two, and really learned, we didn't make a better movie we actually spent less on the movie with Imagine we actually implemented a better business model, and a much more innovative business model. And that's what led to the success of the movie. And we also learned a lot about what people wanted. And so I would just say that you have to embrace and what I found is the titans of our industry, Steven Spielberg, you know, we were just talking about he is as good a businessman. Oh, as he is an artist and filmmaker, he's produced more films that he's directed. He is incredibly true on the business. So it was Tom Hanks. And so it was Matt Damon. So it was Ben Affleck, like, like, we think of these people as artists, but they're also really astute business people. And you have to hold both together, and you have to value both. And you have to see the interrelatedness of both. And I think what keeps a lot of filmmakers back is they have this sort of almost elitist resentment, that we're in a business and we're selling products right now. And they had to buy, you know,

Alex Ferrari 23:05
It's so annoying. It's, again, why I wrote the book, because it was so annoying that nobody's thinking outside the box. No one's thinking that this is a product. And we're like, It's art. Dude, if you want to go make art in the backyard, my friend knock yourself out. But the second you take grandma's $250,000, you better figure out a way to get grandma's money back. I mean,

Jon Erwin 23:25
It's entertainment. It's not art, it's entertainment. It's a symphony of art to create it. But there's a nobility, I think it was John Lasseter, that said, the nobility of entertainment. You know, the idea that, you know, we provide a service and by the way, and I just believe we're in a service business, like one of the things that we say there's not about us, it's about the people sitting in the seats and the experience they're having. And that's it. And you got to get out of the way of that. And, and so to me, it's about entertaining an audience about loving an audience is about getting getting to know an audience and serving that audience well. And the people that have really done well in sort of other niche sectors like Jason Blum has become a good friend. And the way he thinks and the way he talks about the audience, and entertaining the audience and the way he places you know, jail is this friend of mine, and he was one of the pilots and Top Guns he talked about every day, Tom Cruise shut up and just said, this is a privilege what we do is a privilege, how can we exceed the expectations of the audience? So I've found the really great people our industry are much more service oriented than they are sort of selfish about their, about their precious ego and their their sort of artistic expression and the greats in our industry are much more about let's entertain the audience like that's the normal thing to do is people are paying money. They're paying, they're they're paying in their time, they're buying popcorn that's more expensive than anywhere else on the earth. They're paying basically the same price. For my movie as they are for Avatar, they cost like

Alex Ferrari 25:03
100 times more 540 million.

Jon Erwin 25:07
So the attitude that I need to have is like, I'm gonna do everything I can to entertain you, and to uplift you, and to give you a great experience in the movie theater. And then if I've done that, well, maybe I can also tell you what I believe, and what I hope will enrich your life as well. But if I just the more you apply a mindset that is not common, and certainly not taught in business, in film school, but a mindset of the pregnant is in the business, and a mindset of service, entertainment, the more the more you win in this industry, that's what I found. And I think a lot of what the attitude that comes out of you know, that that's expected, from filmmakers is actually the opposite of what will actually get you to the top of the industry.

Alex Ferrari 25:54
Well, let me ask you this, because I'm really curious to hear your position on this, you know, the theatrical business model has changed dramatically since COVID. It was already on the downward slope, we were all we all saw. And like you said, a decade worth of change is been compacted in two or three years, and the theatrical business is hurting. There's no question about it. Last time, I went to a theater. And I've said, last last year, there was only two movies that I went to the theater that I actually went and paid money to go see, which was Top Gun, and Avatar. And those are the only two because those are the only two that I felt that deserved a theatrical experience, from my from my point of view for me to get out of the house and go and all that there are other deserving movies. But you know, for me to the kids, all that stuff, you know how it is. But your films are interesting, because you are servicing an audience that doesn't get serviced, often, and definitely not serviced. Well, often. So it's, again, goes back to that, that my book was, which is the future of filmmaking is niche filmmaking, finding an audience of good news. Yeah, finding an audience and serving that audience. Like you said, you want to serve them, you it's a privilege. So your audience is faith based. And and specifically, not only faith based, but the sub genre of, you know, true stories that are that's kind of like where you found your, your, your really, your, your magic, your secret sauce, if you will. But so, it was so interesting, because I just moved from LA to Austin. And it's a very difference. Great City. I love Austin, low Austin. It's amazing. But I you know, when I go to the theater, or I passed by the theater, what was one of the posters I saw Jesus revolution?

Jon Erwin 27:36
Oh, great. Yeah, we're doing that.

Alex Ferrari 27:39
But that was, but I but I saw that months ago, months ago, I saw that in the theater, I would have probably not seen that in LA. Probably not, because it's not the demographic, quote, unquote, of this film. This is a Heartland center of the country kind of film. And but that audience shows up. They show up to the theaters, they do that. So it's a lesson that I hope everyone listening is, is about is one, an audience will show up for Top Gun. Because it was an amazing experience. I would go see it in IMAX today. There's such an amazing experience. But if there's something that touches their emotional nerves, that's what will get people out of seats. But with that said, What do you feel about where the pucks going to be in three or four or five years because theaters are starting to drop more and more screens are just going away? I've seen them just close the shop. So how is your business model going to work differently as you might still, you probably have a longer life theatrically than most filmmakers. But at a certain point. Yeah, I think it's, you know, yeah,

Jon Erwin 28:47
Well, it's interesting that you it's a great question. It's one of the questions to ask is what's the future of the theatrical experience in theatrical window? I do study it obsessively. In RG has put out some really good reports on trends post COVID. I really, I the short and the long. The short answer is I think that the actual window will absolutely endure, but it's just going to be different. And I think it's going to look a lot more like Broadway. Then then then what we had before COVID And I could literally talk about for hours about until like Steve Carell and Crazy Stupid Love. You want to like roll out of a moving car, like oh my gosh, I'm done with this guy. I'm a nerd for this stuff. But But, but I'll say I'll say this. Here's the question to ask for every independent filmmaker. If you're asking the question, which I think traps us, is this a good movie? Therefore, it deserves a theatrical experience. That's the wrong question. The best thing that I wrote down that I think is way more true now than even when I wrote it in that post mortem to Woodlawn is I wrote down this is no longer a movie business. This is a brand driven event business. And that's what it is. So avatars a brand, you know, top guns a brand, and it's an event, it's a social event. And we need those things and we need to go see them. The thing is, we just need fewer of them. And we want them to be bigger, and there's just there's not everything. Post COVID, coinciding with the streaming war, we don't need a lot of categories of films outside of our home. So if you can be one of the things that works outside the home, you actually make a lot more money right now, like Avatar sitting on top of the box office number one, or was it six weeks, seven weeks? Like that's not a good indicator, most of the industry, that means that we're all just gonna go see Avatar and Avatar is going to play forever, like a show on Broadway, like Les Moonves or you know, whatever. And Tompkins the same way. And so what does that mean for all of us? And yeah, loves doing it. Megan did great. You know, and things will work, but less work. So the real question, the real question to ask yourself with evaluating a movie for theatrical opportunity is can I think my god live at Samuel Goldwyn, who is true to my first film, one of the great old Titan executives, the industry said, he always asked, you know, is it a? Is it a? Is it a good movie? Not the right question. Is it a great movie for an audience? How many of them are there? And do I know how to talk to them? And so the real question is, can I make this as an event? For an audience? If the answer to that is yes, then you have a theatrical shot. Okay, then you ask how large is that audience? And do I know how to talk to them, and then you actually reverse engineer the economics to that end. And so what I've learned is, I'm still alive in this business, number one, by the grace of God. But secondly, it's much more about mitigating risks and modeling a downside than it is betting for an upside. So like with imagine, we built it to break even in our prior film, films box office 15 million. The film that I'm doing right now Jesus revolution, I feel that it's an event for our core audience, I think people are going to show up for it, I don't know, talk to me in three weeks, or whatever. But I really do feel like I really do feel like it's an advance. And it's like a social event. And that's why we're putting in theaters and really going for it. But it still has a very achievable, breakeven. And so to me, it's really about reverse engineering outcomes and protecting a downside. And so and letting instead of saying, what does this movie cost? That's the wrong question. And say, what's the business model of this? What do we think it could achieve? And, you know, if we don't know if it's the actual, but it might be well then make it at a cost where the product is now usable. And you can probably create a marketplace around it and flip it to a streamer at a profit. But still test it for theatrical, you get over a certain budget where sort of has to go theatrical so. So I think it's just about really thinking about the audience. And I think that the actual question will become, is this an event for the audience, if you can say, with a straight face, this is an event for an audience of people that I know, release it in theaters, that's going to still work? If it's not, if it's not a social event, and typically a social event that's undergirded by a brand, then you're going to really struggle in today's environment, releasing computers.

Alex Ferrari 33:30
Well, I mean, the brand, you guys put it right in the title Jesus. That's the brand. Arguably, what a great marketing by the way, Jesus, His people. Great, great marketing over the years. Yeah, well, we'll see. Yeah, Jesus, Jesus has done well. But the point is to me,

Jon Erwin 33:47
Yeah, but

Alex Ferrari 33:49
I didn't You didn't hide it. And that's why I was so impressed about it. Because a lot of people would be scared, they would change it to something else. But the put the word Jesus, that Jesus is a trigger word, for a lot of people has nothing to do with poor Jesus. But it's a trigger word for a lot of people. And you decided to put it right out there because you know who your audience is. And that man, God bless. God bless you for that, brother. I mean, seriously, I was like,

Jon Erwin 34:12
Well, also, you know, what I want to make your movies that I don't care who you are, or what you believe, I'm going to try to make a movie that you love. But I found it's actually better. Instead of trying to make a million people love like you. Yep, just find 100 People that absolutely love you, and build a relationship with them, and super serve them and then let their let them be your voice to the masses, and just trust that those people are indicative of some level of the population, you know, and there's more of them. And so with Jesus revolution, you know, it'll be very interesting to see what happens because we don't have as much you know, advertising money as we did with American underdog but we've taken the time to go all over the country and really connect the film to the audience. It's leaders and, and you know, there's just a there's a message behind the movie and it's, I love the movie. It's a fun movie, it's you make you laugh and cry. I think the performance is really good. It's kind of like my almost famous or some like, you know, to a Cameron Crowe film, you know,

Alex Ferrari 35:15
oh, I could tell that could see that.

Jon Erwin 35:17
What is the cost of a good artists copy Great artists steal Cameron Carver, listen to this, I'm sorry. But, you know, but it sort of is in that spirit. And the cool thing I think about it is I didn't name the movie, Time Magazine named the movie. And this is a cover of Time magazine from 1971 at a very similar time, and there was this psychedelic sort of Jesus on the cover and, and with this 10 page spread that was so incredibly optimistic and hopeful. And it just said, Jesus revolution, and it was this sweeping hippie revival that was going on all over America. So the good news is, there's a historical context in Time magazine called, we're just telling the story that cover.

Alex Ferrari 36:00
And you know, what's fascinating is, after I watched the movie, it's not a it's not a preachy movie. It's actually I love the trailer, because it's not like, you know, if you don't believe in Jesus, or you don't believe in that, you could still enjoy this film, because it's just a great story, of transformation of people searching for themselves and finding, you know, the divine within themselves and divine, within groups of people opening up doors that are shut discrimination against people just because of the way they look. Yeah, there's so many themes in this film that I absolutely loved and connected with. It's not like a beat you beat you over the head with a Bible conversation. It is not by any stretch of the imagination. It really is a wonderful thing that almost anybody can enjoy.

Jon Erwin 36:42
I'm glad you said, man. So that's what we were trying for it. I'm so yeah, you say that we we basically. That's that was exactly the intent. You know, I wanted to make a movie, I just think the narrower the focus, the wider the appeal. And that's why I think Jason Blum does that really well. Oh, yeah, something specific, really well, but I took my daughter Megan, and really enjoyed it, you know, and, and so I think that, that, what we're doing is we understand who we are and the audience that we serve. And we're, we're unapologetic and unafraid of telling stories that we love that we hope other people are going to love to. And with this story, what's been interesting about it is because it is set in the world of the church, in the 70s, but people that don't believe or have any sort of religious affiliation at all, love and appreciate the movie because they see it as sort of a modern day allegory of loving the other. So basically, the story is this sort of square pasture geared by his daughter, opens his church to this group of hippies, that at the time, weren't allowed become the church like the at the time, it was like, you know, for a hippie to go to church, it was like, go home, get a job, take a bath, cut your hair, we joined society now maybe you can come to church, and he just let him in. And there was this hippie street preacher named Ronnie frisbee, and it was like a nitroglycerin moment. And that sparked this nationwide awakening. So there's a ton of natural humor in it, because these groups of people are so different. But that theme of like opening your heart in your mind. And literally your diverse to a group of people that society would see you can't hang out with that society would say is a polar opposite point of view, then you and actually learning to love each other. And joining together in something that seems to play a really strong and really rabid relevant to today's sort of just this, this situation that we're in as a country, you know, no matter no matter what people believe. And so it's cool to be able to do something really specific. But that also plays as a broader sort of motivational allegory, you know,

Alex Ferrari 38:53
And you know, what's, what's wonderful about what you and Andy your brother do with your films, is that you have this beautiful balancing act that you do with all of your films that you put just enough in to serve the core audience. But you put just enough in that someone outside of your core audience could enjoy like, I can only imagine was you man, you nailed it right down the middle for your core audience. But when you're watching it, anyone can enjoy that film. Anyone can enjoy American underdog. Like you don't have to,

Jon Erwin 39:25
I'm glad you say that's the goal. I mean, a lot of times it's like it's fun to be able to test contrary in opinions, like like opinions that maybe other people don't share. And my opinion about Christianity is it's not divisive. It's not. You know, there's this verse in the Bible. It says, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness. And then it says against these things, there is no law. And my opinion is when you portray those things correctly, like who's gonna say we don't We'd more love joy, peace and patience and kindness to each other and goodness and society like, like, we need these things today. And I think if you just let the story do the work, you know, trust the audience's, you know, abilities, and you don't have to beat them over the head. And I think that just choose stories that you feel are powerful and life changing, and tell them to the best of your ability. I think that that's just a better way to do it. And I think if you do it, right, these stories can be inviting and inspiring, no matter what belief you have, and I don't think anyone should ever feel alienated or driven away, or ostracized by Christianity, I just think that that's, that's unfortunate. And one of the things that I would hope changes, you know, over the next decade is this is this is just, this is good stuff for everybody. And those are the stories that we want to tell. And I think when you just really portray and infuse the virtues of Christianity in ways that are really entertaining and stories, you know, they're things that are universally needed, and, and things that we who doesn't love a good redemption story? You know,

Alex Ferrari 41:09
I mean, absolutely. And I mean, it's very progressive, what you're saying, you know, it, it shouldn't be, but it is, and wonderful in a wonderful way. Because your point of view on your faith is not, you know, it, this is a weird thing, because I lived in the bubble of Los Angeles for 13 years. And then when I moved to Austin, I just saw things a little bit differently. It's really interesting to see and by the way, Austin, not the, the most conservative situation. The imagination, all the crazies and all the weirdos, you know, Keep Austin weird. It's a wonderful city. But yeah, I just start seeing things a little bit differently on the way I'm like, oh, okay, this makes sense now, and it's, I love this, I love what you guys are trying to do, because you are trying to bring the two, the two sides, whatever, those two sides together together, because that's what we should be doing. Regardless, you know, you and I both grew up at a time where we both could, you know, believe different things and still have a beer, or still have a conversation. I was, like, you know, are you kidding me? My, my father and me have completely different points of view on life, you know, and uncles and, you know, all that kind of stuff in the family. But, you know, we still get together, we still love each other, we still, you know,

Jon Erwin 42:28
That's right. You know, it's, it sounds like such a cliche, but yeah, love really is the, you know, in the sense of, like, you know, when you think of like, you know, there's so much more that unifies us, and things to agree on, and then then divides us. And I think there's just this gap of sere in the middle. And, and I, for me, you know, I had the good fortune of being born and raised in like the buckle of the Bible Belt, Birmingham, Alabama, but very quickly at the age of 15, traveling outside of it, because I was working for ESPN. And then in marketing the film's you know, I live in Nashville, Tennessee, I commute to and work in Los Angeles, spent about half a week or a week of the month or whatever, there. We market these films everywhere. I've traveled the continental United States man. And you just realize that there's a lot that binds us together. And there's a lot to have a beer over and talk about and celebrate. And when you just boil things down to their themes and their values, there's a lot of values that we agree on. And so I think as a as a Christian, what I've realized is man, actually there's a hunger for this stuff beyond belief, you know, in terms of like, beyond what people believe, I think if you sit down and watch some things that are really well made. But but you know, this is where we had a decade of the antihero are very good versions of that. But if you binge Game of Thrones House of Cards Breaking Bad, you just it's hard to believe in anything, let alone yourself. And I think people are craving a sense of meaning and purpose and, and values. And so there's sort of a return. So yeah, has Christianity been weaponized and counterfeit? Absolutely. But that's just what we do as people, whether it's politics, or religion, or whatever,

Alex Ferrari 44:24
All religions, by the way, almost all of it, yes.

Jon Erwin 44:27
But I would say that, you know, it says something about the source because you only ever really weaponize something that's intrinsically powerful, and you only counterfeit something that's intrinsically valuable. So of course, the crazies are going to use this thing to their own, you know, purposes, and there's going to be televangelists, and there's going to be rogue people but, but I think the thing at its source is, is beautiful and meaningful and powerful. And whether you believe it to be absolutely true, like, like I do, and I find great meaning from that or whether you like Thomas Jefferson, who famously cut all of the references to the divinity of Christ out of a Bible. It's called the Thomas Jefferson Bible. The reason he did that is he said, he didn't really believe in the the Divinity, or questioned it, but he thought the teachings of Jesus were the greatest moral reset in the history of the world, you know, and I agree with them. And so what it's just good stuff, it's, you know, loving your neighbor, going the extra mile turning, turning the cheek, you know, being known by how you love people like these are things that if we reintroduced to society, society would be better for it. And I think that the best way to do that is through stories. And so what we want to do is we want to tell stories that, that certainly resonate with our core audience with that Heartland audience and super served them. But also are just hopefully, entertaining and applicable to whoever wanders in the theater. But what we want to do first and foremost is entertain. We're entertainers first, and I hope to there's nothing like being in an audience of people and hearing them laugh and cry, and tear at it at a movie. I've never seen a movie. Like Jesus revolution, we really screened it far and wide and early last week, let us we've shown it to a lot of people. And you know, I've not ever been a part of the movie where people are cheering during the film, at certain points. And that's a wonderful experience. And it's so it's wonderful to connect with a core audience like that.

Alex Ferrari 46:26
You know, it's in what you're saying is true, because I've noticed that as well, in some of the other work that I do, and other shows that I do, that people are starving for this kind of message, these positive messages, these positive stories, these things that are that fill you up. And look, I love Breaking Bad. I thought Breaking Bad was one of the

Jon Erwin 46:49
Most perfect last hours of television ever, ever,

Alex Ferrari 46:52
Ever made. And other than maybe two episodes of the entire series, but that fly episode drove me nuts. Other than that, the whole series was almost perfection. It really was as as, as as an art as an art piece. It was beautiful. But at the end, you don't feel really uplifted by by what Walter White has been doing. You know, it's been entertaining as hell. But then you watch something like Shawshank, which is one of my favorite films of all time.

Jon Erwin 47:20
And that's right, that's exactly the difference. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 47:23
And then you look at Shawshank and if you look at IMDb, it overtook the Godfather as the most is the best film ever made. How and why? And I've said this and I've talked to Oscar winning screenwriters about this. I've talked to every story analysts about this. I've talked to filmmakers about this and like what is it about that film that is connected with so many people from every walk of life since it's released, and it's the worst name in film history worst name in film history? On on paper, it is not a particularly great story. You know, it's like oh, it's a it's a pretty it's a it's not a it's not a particularly like innovative story on the surface. But what Frank Darabont was able to do with that movie has connected so deeply with people who you know people who think Steven Seagal is the greatest actor of all time. Love Shawshank.

Jon Erwin 48:22
Yeah, though it transcends man, and I'll tell you what it is at its essence. You know, I love I love to think about and find the essence of things. There's this great book, Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl disguises was in several, you know, survived the Holocaust, his family did and a psychologist was in several camps came out and finished the work that he beaten began before, which led to one of the Great's psychology books ever written, which is Man's Search for Meaning and, and he had this incredible optimism, even though of all he had been through, and his take was that he can was thing logotherapy is the Greek word for me, or Lagertha, I don't know how to say it is the Greek word for meaning. And his point was that actually, pleasure wasn't sort of the end all. Like Freud, you know, his point was that actually, the the quest is to find a sense of meaning and purpose to your life, that is what everyone's looking for. So if you talk about the function of the storyteller, whether that's a movie, or a play, or sitting around a campfire, the function of the storyteller in society is to try to take all this nonsense and all these things that don't connect and, you know, and fit them together to bring a sense of order and meaning and purpose. So the stories that I think transcend you know, when, when, when a wall is right, that line, every man dies, not every man really lives in the middle of a brilliant film Braveheart. But that's meaning and purpose. And I think it's actually the power of that theme that makes that movie transcend not that you Onra I think it's the theme of living from your heart and living from your soul, you know, and living from your passion and Shawshank the same way Hard movie but brilliant material in terms of meaning and purpose. And so I think when we did I can only imagine barbicide just as what is the essence of like, what do people how does this dude that looks like you know, offense? Right? This multi platinum juggernaut independent artists, not you, I'm talking about Bart, you look great anyway. And so does Bart now, but anyway, but the idea of, you know, how does how does, you know, just, he's just an everyman, you know, I'm saying like, there's anything, you know, and he was an everyman with an everyman band that was, you know, independent from Texas, how do you ride this multi platinum juggernaut? I just said, what do people feel when they hear the song and because I got to match that with the movie, whether people know it or not, they're gonna feel the same way. And he said, You know, it's a rush of hope. That's what they feel. And so we sort of, we sort of engineered the whole movie around that same experience. And I just feel like people need a rush of hope right? Now, they need a sense of like, my life matters. There's meaning to life. There's some sort of destiny, there's some sort of purpose here. And, and I and I need sort of, I need to go out of a theater feeling hopeful and feeling like, I'm matter, and life is worth living. And I think that, as great as Breaking Bad is as great as Game of Thrones is, except for the last season, please remake it, you know, you know, that you, you have the opposite. After you watch those things, you just sort of feel this sense of, it's me versus everyone else, hopelessness, you know, and it's survival at all cost. And I think that seeped into our society a little bit. And I honestly think that the aggregate entertainment is one of the reasons why we're at each other's throats, you know? Because if you watch Game of Thrones, and house guards, Breaking Bad and other things, it's like, Okay, there's one law, I gotta live and you gotta die. And that's it. You know, it's me versus everybody. And I think that's gotten into society a little bit. And I actually think, you know, what we say is the world needs a little more Catherine. Sense of Frank Capra, you know, It's a Wonderful Life and things like that a little a little optimism, a little hope. And, and I think that there's room in the marketplace.

Alex Ferrari 52:22
Do you think that because I think there's going to come up, I do think there's going to come a point in the next decade that there's going to be a runaway hit like a juggernaut hit, and it's not going to be one there's going to be a series of them that are and you guys are probably going to be behind one or two of them at least. But there that's going to connect with the majority of people looking for that rush of hope. And they're gonna go oh, wait a minute. Maybe we shouldn't remake another Star Wars or another Marvel show. And maybe we should start putting some money into this. Do you think that will ever happen within the studio's because they always go with the money goes, even after passion.

Jon Erwin 53:02
Everything is cyclical. I think everything is cyclical, and everything is counterprogramming. And I think one of the reasons I can only imagine worked was there was an article before it came out that deadline wrote that said like the music biopic is dead like these films don't work anymore. The point is, we sort of were at the front end of the reemergence of a dormant genre. Now you think like Elvis and stars born and, you know, Bohemian Rhapsody, and all these music, like one right after the other, this is now a reestablish genres, it's actually a little more risky. One of the real hard things about filmmaking is an independent filmmaking especially, is that the way to win with independent film is our minds are differential engines, meaning there's a great marketing book, Seth Godin book Purple Cow. Yeah, his whole thesis is that if you see a cow, you don't take a photo of a cow, you don't tweet a cow. You've seen a cow. They're all cows, they'll say, but my gosh, if that cow was purple, you know, oh, my gosh, there's a Purple Cow. You know, so I'm going to tweet that, you know. So my point is, that you really have to have the courage and conviction that if something is entertaining and meaningful to you, it'll be entertaining and meaningful to other people. Like there's more of you. And I remember what I can only imagine we had done all this research and we had seen a gap in the market. And then we had seen the need for a brand and I knew that I love that song. And everybody I knew love that song. And so in the core community, but every studio told us now one executive is Studio said, you know, you know, I think there's 18,000 people that would watch this movie and that's, that's it. That's the total audience. This will never work. But we just went forward with a conviction, but because we record with the conviction, we owned it because nobody would. Nobody would take a risk on And we benefited from that. And so I think you have to be willing to be different, you know. And you have to be willing to take it take bets on things that you feel deeply. And, you know, I think when you listen to the stories of like Star Wars or jaws were one of the great one of the great blocks of our industry. And that three our entire dreams documentary is the chairman of 20th century fox came to Alan Ladd Jr, who was the who was the chairman most vision group and said it was in post production said shut down the Star Wars, The Star Wars thing. It's an embarrassment to the studio. And Alan Ladd Jr, not having seen a frame of the film said, I've seen it, it's the greatest movie ever made. It's one of the greatest flops in the history of our industry. But the point is, that's how weird Star Wars was to, to everyone that that was looking at it, you know, and they were the studio was sending notes, like the Wookie should have pants, why does the pinata and they're like, really, the point is that the studio business is a rear view business. And they only the thing is like, hey, we want something totally original, that's just like something else that made a billion dollars last year, like that's just the way they think. And so it takes a level of conviction. And, and it takes a level of as an independent filmmaker, extraordinary belief. And, and I actually think a lot of filmmakers have like, they want to stay above that, like, Oh, I'm working on this thing. And you know, it's gonna be good, you actually have to have an attitude of like, I love this. I know, there's people that love this, I'm trying to make it the best I can. But I'm telling you, there's an audience for this. And you have to have a level of conviction in yourself, and in the thing that you're creating that is uncommon, to will it through the system, and to get money for it, and then to will it into existence. And that and that's, I think missing a lot within independence all you know,

Alex Ferrari 56:57
And I think the one thing that we can kind of summarize from this conversation is as independent filmmakers, you need to not just make a movie that tickles your own fancy, it has to do with a little bit of that. But you have to find out if there's an audience for it. And don't say horror movies, a lot of people like a horror movie, that's that that's too big, which is again, going back to my book, it's about niching, down and niching down to the point where like, what is an audience that will enjoy this movie? And I can talk to, which is what your what would that executive said? Can you reach that audience with the money and the resources and the abilities that you have? And if you can kick them by combine those two, then you have a potential, not a guarantee of potential for success. But the biggest thing is, I'm gonna make an action movie because people like action movies, you've done, you're done.

Jon Erwin 57:48
Well, you know, what's interesting about that is, I think one of the, one of the real secrets to that if you want to know like a key that sort of unlocked it. It's summarized in the word distain. And what I mean by that, that's what I really bonded with Jason Blum over was the any audience that feels the same, right? He felt like 20 years ago, the horror audience felt mistake, like studios were like, they don't care, like just murder a bunch of people, it doesn't have to be good. And the audience felt that and, you know, I've learned in therapy, and shouldn't do it a little more, you know, the primary needs of people are to not to be agreed with, you have to agree with them. People just want to feel seen, and heard and understood. And, and, you know, identifying, oh, people like horror movies is like, well, now it's like, well, no, yeah, they like horror movies. And guess who saw that before no one else did Jason Blum. And now he's dominated and monopolize the market. So you have like, a one in 1000 chance of competing with him. What you really have to see and have the courage to, to embrace is an underserved audience. That, that, that is being sustained by the industry. And you have to be willing to understand that instead of trying to be cool at cocktail parties in LA, you know, what makes you cool at cocktail parties in LA winning, so go in with an audience, and then, you know, in focus on just loving an audience, and so for me, the faith audience is one of those groups that, you know, they're being called things like, again, it's not a political affiliation, but it's seen that way in LA and so they're being called things like deplorable. And so and there's also this stigma of poor quality, and I'm talking to an investor whose daughter was there and I said, you want to know the you want to know the opportunity and the problem in faith, it's the same things the chart, turned his daughter and said, Let's Play rapid word association game. I'm just gonna say something just responded. She said, Okay, I said, Christian movies, and she just do and I'm like, in one syllable, she just described the problem in the opportunity, like if you fix that, so for a lot of people, they don't wanna be associated with it. I would rather go right at it like Jason Blum went right at it. with work and say, Okay, we hear you, we hear that there's a quality problem. And it's also a lack of authenticity and you're underserved, and you're disdained by whatever you're getting, we're gonna, we're gonna fix that on your behalf. That's the business opportunity. So you really know whether that's Crunchyroll. Think about it. Vic's plus is just having huge growth right now. Or, or or Blum. Doing something's

Alex Ferrari 1:00:26
Or Mr. Beast, Mr. Beast on YouTube

Jon Erwin 1:00:29
Yeah, is getting to know developing a relationship nurturing relationship with an audience that's underserved, that no one else sees value in yet, then, or no one has the courage to really give them what they want. Or an audience that you understand and are representing in a unique way, like a movie like Crazy Rich Asians or whatever, having the courage to do that, instead of like, have the courage to be unique. Conformity is not the way forward in our industry, everyone in LA looks the same, has the same spec script in their back pocket, you know, wants to talk about themselves, you know, and so, how it's homogenized and so to me, the courage to be different is is the way forward and the people like Tyler Perry, or Jason or people that, you know, interacted with, they have way more success by differentiating. And the narrower the focus is, the wider the appeal. And so it's just have the courage and conviction to do something that you really believe in, that you want in need. And that you're connected to an audience that wants wants and needs and be willing to be unpopular while you do it, because you'll be popular when it works. And and, and that's just a different a different way to think in a different way forward. But if you if you identify if you're just in the rearview mirror, and like, you know, oh, the audience was actually filmed his work. Yeah. And everyone knows that. And that's why it's it's saturation. That's impossible. You have to be the one that says, hey, this will work. And everyone says you're crazy and weird. For years.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:05
Not all of them,

Jon Erwin 1:02:06
Cameron, that's how you know, right? That's

Alex Ferrari 1:02:10
Horrible idea. Avatar, horrible idea. Right?

Jon Erwin 1:02:14
If you listen to Peter Chernin Titanic, most expensive movie, at the time, on top of the most expensive movie, it was $100 million at the time, and he went 110 million over budget. Yeah. So you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:02:27
That we knew the first story that we ending of.

Jon Erwin 1:02:31
So so to me, just, I think, look, if I can leave you with anything, is do things that you really believe in, and just match perseverance with curiosity. And then also a level of courage and your decisions, you know, I would rather fail courageously than fail, because I made a safe choice, you know, and do something that you really believe and have the courage to be different and have the courage to put a different voice out there. Because I think that that's what people want is, is unique voices that represent unique audiences. That's one of the joys of the film world is you get to sort see thing through through someone else's eyes. And so and so that's what I'll what I'll leave otherwise, the biggest thing is just keep learning constantly, and never ever, ever quit. Success might be just around the corner, you never know.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:19
So Jon asked you a few questions asked all my guests. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Jon Erwin 1:03:25
Oh, my gosh, I'm horrible at answering questions. You know, I would I would actually say the value of failure, I think, yeah, I think that's what people don't under failure is incredibly valuable. And it's really the only path to success. And I think it's something that we all run from. But if we actually ran towards it, and learn to sort of fail, small and iterate, you know, I mean, whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Yes, some things do kill you, though. You want to avoid those things. But if you can sort of fail and learn, it's like Thomas Edison said, have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways not to make the light bulb. If you embrace failure as a part of your process, I think that that's the way to win. And it takes took me a long time to, to it. It's a very vulnerable thing to be willing to fail so that you can learn how to win and and I think that took me the longest to learn,

Alex Ferrari 1:04:18
And the toughest question of all three of your favorite films of all time.

Jon Erwin 1:04:22
Three, my favorite films of all time, I have this list of sort of films that I just think No, first of all, there's no perfect film. I think George Lucas said the best films are never completed. They're only abandoned. But but there are films that I think for the moment in time in which they were created are untouchable, like don't change a frame. So I think I'm trying to think it's one of those and then there's also just great films that that that I've seen, you know, recently but to me Braveheart is still just like, super my soul. I just think that that's such a The well made film that I just it just gets me man, it just gets me. Good. You know, I still think Saving Private Ryan is, is one of those things when he says earn this at the end I'm just that's a summary of an entire generation and, and and just incredible you know I think I think the King's speech is amazing. I think, Gosh I'm beyond three Slumdog Millionaire Fellowship of the Ring was just one of the transcendent experiences I had in the theater like oh my gosh and then I think some of the old ones I think it's a wonderful life and you know, Casablanca you know, I think it's a perfect movie. I've exceeded my

Alex Ferrari 1:05:55
Well, I mean, I

Jon Erwin 1:05:57
What's your answer to that question?

Alex Ferrari 1:05:58
I mean, well, Shawshank is a perfect movie in my opinion. I mean, Shawshank is, it's perfect. I think back to the future is perfect. It's one of the greatest scripts ever made. It kind of is, isn't it is it's the it is as perfect of a screenplay and perfect and an execution

Jon Erwin 1:06:12
Produced by Steven Spielberg. There's no better there's no better producing the director.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:18
And everyone said he was everyone said they were crazy. And it was only the Steven that was able to push it through and then they stopped at two weeks after shooting with the wrong guy like yeah, we're gonna redo these laughs Can you imagine? And Jocelyn Jaws is another perfect film. I mean, that that movie doesn't, it just is perfect.

Jon Erwin 1:06:37
Jaws is Jaws is one of those things where the limitations, the limits personal limitations are what made it perfect. For sure. I think. Look, I would put Top Gun Maverick up there as one as experiences I've had in the theater. Oh, long time, man. I can really really good

Alex Ferrari 1:06:56
Man it is such a good, good movie. It's yeah, there's nostalgia with that film. Without question for guys like you and me. But it is just damn near perfect in what it was aimed to do. Without question and I mean, and also put up the matrix as almost as a perfect movie as well.

Jon Erwin 1:07:16
The matrix is a tote is one of the again, it's it's as perfect as a movie gets by far. I think probably the filmmaker that I most trust now. And I can't wait for Indiana Jones is James mango. I think that dude just fires he nails nails every time. Like I thought Ford versus Ferrari. Unbelievable. You know,

Alex Ferrari 1:07:37
Logan, I mean, Logan Logan sent it transcended the genre.

Jon Erwin 1:07:40
And again, Logan is one of those where it transcends, you know, it's hyper violent, it's gritty. But that quest for meaning and purpose and transcendence is all right there and then television I just think I'm one of those I know everyone's on it. But I think the last and this is great. I just think it's

Alex Ferrari 1:08:01
I hear I hear that's good. But for me Yellowstone right now is anything that tailors

Jon Erwin 1:08:05
I haven't taken the Yellowstone trip like I haven't moved yet. It's on my list

Alex Ferrari 1:08:11
Best writing I've ever seen on television. It's so good.

Jon Erwin 1:08:15
And then I think anything that's I think anyone's Gilligan does is just like he's such a student of our industry. And that just comes out Tarantino in that way. He just comes out his love and obsession of the of the craft comes out so

Alex Ferrari 1:08:29
Jon, man, when can when and where can we see Jesus revolution?

Jon Erwin 1:08:33
Jesus revolution comes out nationwide, February 24. It's in theaters everywhere. And thank you, Cameron Crowe for all the things that I still and I hope you enjoy the very same way and and I think I think no matter what you believe you really enjoy it's an enjoyable film and, and go check it out theaters.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:49
Jon, I could talk to you for hours, brother, I appreciate you coming on man. My man like you and your brother have to eat. When you come down to Austin. We gotta go grab a beer man. Without question.

Jon Erwin 1:08:58
I love it. I'm there. I'm there pretty frequently. So let's do it.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:01
I appreciate you!



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

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

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

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

His latest film is the remarkable A Man Called Otto.

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy my conversation with Marc Forster.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 7:01
Not helpful.

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

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

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

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

Marc Forster 9:07
A real discovery.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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IFH 650: Winning Oscar® & Changing Television History with Alan Ball

Academy and Emmy Award-winning writer/director/producer Alan Ball is among our generation’s most important creative voices. Born in Atlanta, Ball studied Theatre Arts at Florida State University. In March 2000, AMERICAN BEAUTY, Ball’s first screenplay to get produced, won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.

Ball went on to create and executive produce the groundbreaking HBO drama SIX FEET UNDER. The series ran for five seasons and received two Golden Globes, six Emmys, and an Emmy and DGA Award for Ball’s direction of the pilot.

In 2007, Ball made his feature film directorial debut with TOWELHEAD, distributed by Warner Independent Pictures. In 2008, Ball continued his successful collaboration with HBO by creating and executive producing the series TRUE BLOOD.

The series received two Golden Globe nominations for Best Television Drama Series, as well as an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Drama Series, a Producer’s Guild nomination, and a Grammy soundtrack nomination for Ball.

Then, in 2018, he created, and executive produced HERE AND NOW for HBO. Most recently, in 2020, Ball wrote, directed, and produced UNCLE FRANK for Amazon Studios, which was nominated for an Emmy.

Please enjoy my conversation with Alan Ball.

Alex Ferrari 0:14
I like to welcome to the show, Alan Ball. Thank you. Thank you so much for coming on the show, Alan.

Alan Ball 0:29
Yeah, my pleasure. I'm happy to be here.

Alex Ferrari 0:31
I appreciate you, man. I've been a fan of yours for a long, long time. Six Feet Under my wife and I were obsessed. And we caught it after it went off the air and we just binge the entire show, which is the only way to watch truly that show is just just to sit there and just enjoy it all at once. And, and we were to blood, of course and American Beauty and so many things you've done over the years. But my very first question to you sir, is Why and how did you get into this insanity that is the film industry?

Alan Ball 1:03
Well, I wanted to be a playwright. I majored in theater when I was going to college and I started a theatre company. I started to theatre companies actually. And I was I was writing plays. I was working for Adweek magazine during the day living in New York. And then our theatre company would put on plays in basements, you know, and often dark nights for theatres. And, and I wrote a play called five women wearing the same dress about bridesmaids at a wedding in Knoxville, Tennessee and it got a it got produced off Broadway off off Broadway, to be honest. And somebody from Carsey, Warner TV, a man named David talked to man saw it, and, and suggested that they hire me to write for sitcoms, and I got I got a job offer to write for the second season of grace under fire. And I figured, well, how many times is this gonna happen, and the theatre company I was working with in New York was more of a hobby for most of the people in it than it was actually pursuing, you know, what they want to do with their lives. I mean, it started out that way. But then as the years went by people's day jobs turning into careers, people started having children. And so I thought, well, how many times this is gonna happen? And I came out to Los Los Angeles, I think it was probably around 1996 or 97. And, and started working in television. And that was where, you know, that's, that was where it all started.

Alex Ferrari 2:58
What was what was the culture shock of going from playwright to a writers room?

Alan Ball 3:07
Well, first of all, in the theater, everybody has a certain respect for the text and a certain respect for the writing that just did not exist in at least on the shows that I worked on. Writing was just viewed as disposable. And I remember, you know, we would, we would have a table read on Monday morning, and there would be a joke that would kill and then we'd have to run through on Tuesday. And it wouldn't, it wouldn't kill as much because people they'd heard it, you know, it didn't. It wasn't a surprise. And then when the network came on Wednesday, for the run through, they go, well, that joke doesn't work anymore. And you're like, oh, it's, it does work. It just doesn't work for you, because you've heard it. And then we'd have to stay and write a whole new script. And then on, on show night, when the show was being filmed, you know, the new joke would do, okay. And then everybody would huddle. And they say, let's go back to the to the table read joke. And they would, and it would kill because the audience had never heard it before. It was also sort of shocking to me. I mean, this was so long ago. But, you know, there was a there was there was a level of political correctness, for lack of a better term that was prevalent in the theater when I worked in the theater. Whereas when I worked in, when I started working on grace under fire, that writers room, anything could be said, and things that wouldn't that would get a lot of people in trouble today. I mean, I remember one of the writers, a guy who I love actually said, you know, at one point he said, if it was reining horse, I get hit by a fag. Which is funny. I mean,

Alex Ferrari 5:08
To be fair, that to be fair, that is a funny gag a funny joke, but I could understand how the Twitterverse might not accept that right now.

Alan Ball 5:14
Well, at the time, I was like, wow, I didn't, I'm not used to people who, you know, talk like that. So, you know, but it took some getting used to. So that was the biggest culture shock. And also, I think, you know, working multiple seasons, you start to just feel like, the work is so disposable, you know, it's like, okay, there's, you know, Sybil got a bad haircut, and it reverberates through what was civil was the show I worked on after grace, and you're fine. You would, you know, you would spend all this time on this 22 minutes, and then it's done. And then you're doing it again. And basically, it's just like, you know, figuring out ways for a bunch of people in designer clothing to, to insult each other. And I sort of felt like, this isn't about anything. And it really wasn't, you know what I mean? And it sort of frustrated, it frustrated me a lot, because I felt like my work, which has always been something that I didn't get paid for, but that I was really personally invested in, had become just, you know, like punching a clock and doing factory work. And I started to feel really disgusted with myself. And ultimately, that led to me writing American Beauty because I just had to write something that I cared about, and that I felt like had something to say about something, even if just to me

Alex Ferrari 6:48
Now, and that's so that I as you were saying this story, I'm like, This must have been what led up to American Beauty because it's around that same time that you were writing it. I always like to ask this question, because a lot of people think that you just sit down for the first time like the the legendary Stallone rocky script. I wrote it in a weekend and I won the Oscar, how many? And he actually said he goes I wrote the first draft in a weekend but I beat the hell out of that thing for the next handful of months. But so for people listening have to kind of take the delusion away. How many scripts? How many things have you written? Either plays or, or sitcoms or other scripts? Have you written before you tackled American Beauty?

Alan Ball 7:28
Well, I had written a bunch of sitcom scripts, but you know, I hadn't set I mean, I wrote a bunch of sitcom first drafts, but the sitcoms I worked on got rewritten by an entire room of people. I had written several one act plays, I had written a full length play the bridesmaid play. But, and I had written the screenplay, because I wanted to just teach myself if I could, if I could do it, if I could write in the medium. And I had written that before I moved out here. So I had you know, I and I had been I guess, you know, that I had written a fair amount of stuff. But in terms of writing American Beauty, that was my second screenplay, and my first produced screenplay,

Alex Ferrari 8:25
And, and how did American Beauty come to, like come to life? Like how did that story it's a such a, such a brilliant story in the inner and inner the way the characters work with each other. And, you know, obviously, how it was directed and how it was produced was, you know, magical as well. But it all starts with the text. How did it even come to life? How did that idea Germany?

Alan Ball 8:46
Well, when I was living in New York, and I was working with my theatre company, there was the I don't know if you remember this, you probably maybe were not even born. But there was a there was a big trial going on. And they're this Long Island. guy. His name was Joey but Foucault Oh, I'm

Alex Ferrari 9:09
I'm older. I'm old enough, sir. I know who.

Alan Ball 9:13
So the whole Joey by the Fuko Amy Fisher thing was happening. And I remember they were selling comic books outside the building that I worked. And, and they were these weird comic books and on the cover was Amy Fisher looking off virginal Catholic school girl and Joey but uh, Foucault at the door, leering at her with a big beer belly and wearing a white, you know, theater and having a beer and looking at her monstrously and then you turn, you flip the comic book, and on the other side, there's joy, but a Foucault standing at the door with his shirt all buttoned up, and a tie and he's going to work and it looks like a good husband and a good Christian and AMI by Foucault is all tarted up and looks like a sled trying to seduce him. And I remember thinking, the truth lies somewhere in between that, and we'll never know, we will never know what happened. And, and, and so then when I moved to LA, I had written, I was working on TV. Actually, I'd written two screenplays before the American Beauty, I did a rewrite on this, this romantic comedy about two divorce lawyers who fell in love with each other, who had been married before, but they were divorced now. But they fell back in love with each other. And I, I, my agent, I switched agents, because my agent left his agency. And it was it was a time, it was time for me to kind of get better agents. And I had dinner with him. And he said, I need you to write a new script, because everybody's read these two scripts, and nothing has happened with them. So I need to write I need you to write a new script to reintroduce you to the town. And I said, Okay, well, I've got these ideas here. One, this is pretty standard romantic comedy, too. Here's the second pretty standard, romantic comedy, and I was pitching these to him. And then I said, and then there's this movie, I don't even know how to characterize it. There's this, you know, this couple in the suburbs and their daughter and, and there's a guy next door with a video camera. And, you know, and, and I just expected his eyes to sort of glaze over because it was not. I couldn't, you know, it wasn't like a one sentence pitch.

Alex Ferrari 11:43
It's not a great, it's not a great pitch. It's not a great pitch.

Alan Ball 11:46
And he said, that's the one you should write. And I said, really? Why? And he said, because that's obviously the one that you feel the most passionate about. Later, he told me, I had no idea that I could sell it, I just thought we'd have a really interesting writing sample. So that's how that came about. And so I worked on it for about I, I was doing the sitcom Sybil by then. And there was this big meltdown on the staff and a bunch of people quit. And I wanted to quit and they said, please stay for one more season. And they offered me so much money. At the time for me that I thought well, okay, I'll stay and I'll just bank this money. And then I'll write the great American screenplay. But I hated the work I was doing on civil and I hated, I hated it so much. And I was filled with so much rage. You know, mostly at myself for having accepted, you know, another season on that. And I couldn't wait. I just, you know, I would come home at like, you know, midnight to in the morning. And I would sit down at my computer, and I would just pour all my rage into the screenplay.

Alex Ferrari 13:06
And so when the the script gets sent out the town and and then you've got, if I remember it was Spielberg was, was the was the producer on that. Or it was DreamWorks, if I remember. Right. Yeah. So Spielberg was involved. And I mean, when all of this this magic happened of, you know, the filmmakers behind it, and Spielberg and what were you feeling like? Because at this point, you were really just a sitcom writer, essentially. Yeah. So you weren't like, you know, you weren't any big time screenwriter or anything like that. So what what was it like for you going through that process? I'm assuming you met Stephen. And you sat down and had conversation like, This must have been a world win experience for you.

Alan Ball 13:45
It was crazy. You know, I have the script went out. And it got passed on by most everybody. But then there were a few people who wanted to meet with me, and who and DreamWorks was one of them. And I went over to DreamWorks and I met with Dan Jenks and Bruce Cohen, who were the producers. And Bob Cooper, who was I believe, Head of Production over there. And they were talking about it and then and how much they loved it and you know, that they really wanted to do it and and I had gotten a I had gotten a phone call from my agent the day before saying, Steven Spielberg's reading the script, so let's wait until he reads it to, you know, decide where we're going to go. And so I met with Dan and Bruce at DreamWorks and Bob and I was walking back out to my car and Dan and Bruce were following me, you know, saying, you know, just they read, they were really passionate about it, and they really wanted to do it. And then I see Steven Spielberg coming out and walking towards us, and I was like, oh, okay, I'm about to meet Steven Spielberg Just act normal. Because I felt like a big geek and and he said, Oh, hi. You know, he said, I really thought they introduced me. And he said, I really love your script. Why haven't I heard of you? And I said, Well, I've been working on sitcoms, you know? And he said, Well, you should only be writing screenplays and you should only be writing your own screenplays. And would that was an amazing thing to hear from, you know, a filmmaker like him. And then through the whole process seem just sort of charmed. You know, I, I met Sam Mendes, I went to see cabaret on Broadway, which was running at the time that he had directed. And I really liked how he had put his stamp on on it, but was, it was always in service of the story. It wasn't like, you know, here's some directorial flourish that I put in here because it's cool. Everything was always in service of the story and, and the characters. And then I met with him and we immediately hit it off. And we immediately you know, found realize we were both sort of on the same page about the movie. I,

Alex Ferrari 16:09
And then by the way, that was that was that was the first movie he directed if I'm not mistaken. Right. So yeah, the first time quote, unquote, first time writer, first time director, with Spielberg and DreamWorks pushing, this is a this is a unicorn of a story, essentially.

Alan Ball 16:22
I know. I know, everybody kept saying to me throughout the entire process, you know, it's not always like this.

Alex Ferrari 16:29

Alan Ball 16:31
No, it is not, it is not always like that. But then Sam was, you know, we were talking casting and Sam was like, you know, I personally see Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening. And I was like, Okay, get them. That's great.

Alex Ferrari 16:46
Sure, why not? Yeah.

Alan Ball 16:50
And it went into production relatively quickly. And, and the whole thing was felt sort of charmed.

Alex Ferrari 16:59
So let me ask you, so, you know, obviously, the movie came out. And it was it was a big hit. And it's such an interesting movie, because it's, it's a hard sell. It's not an easy trailer. It's not an easy. The poster was like, what it's like it all was extremely unique. And so outside of a Hollywood studio, imagine Hollywood studio doing that today like that wouldn't have. There's no way a Hollywood studio would release a movie like that in a major way today, in the way that the studios are right now. But so let me ask you that once it got out, and Oscar showed up, and you're there at the night, and you're have to did you think that you had a shot in the world to win an Oscar?

Alan Ball 17:41
I did, because I had won a bunch of other awards.

Alex Ferrari 17:46
Awards season. Yeah, there's awards.

Alan Ball 17:47
I won the Writers Guild Award, I had won a Golden Globe. So I was like, this might actually happen. I had a flask of whiskey in my tuxedo pocket, which I hit throughout the night, because it was so overwhelming. Sure. And yeah, it was really weird. Especially once, once the award season, things started. And DreamWorks started sending me to Santa Barbara Film Festival, this particular conference where screenwriters are talking and I just said, yeah, how I did everything. And it became very strange for a while it became like, my job was just being me. And being the scoop the screenwriter of American Beauty and talking about it at, at Panels and film festivals and, and, you know, on radio stations, and I got interviewed by CBS this morning, and it was, it was crazy. It was it was really sort of insane. But fun. You know, in a, you know it all it it was an experience that I will both treasure and feel like I'm lucky I survived that. Because I think that kind of attention can make you go crazy.

Alex Ferrari 19:20
Especially early in your career. Like if you're if you're young screenwriter, young director, young actor who gets that kind of attention. Like yeah, I mean, you worked with Anna Paquin. She was one of the youngest ever won an Oscar, it can destroy a person, that kind of that kind of attention, that kind of love and you're the best, you're the best. You start believing that hype and all of a sudden you just derail,

Alan Ball 19:42
Especially if you're like a neurotic person who was all for that without ever getting it. But I was lucky that I was in you know, I was like 4243 44 So I wasn't I think if it had happened in my 20s I would have gone crazy and probably become like a coke addict or something.

Alex Ferrari 20:00
Right exactly any success at that young age is so, so, so difficult. So you win the Oscar, I always look into this question from Oscar winners. How did the town treat you? What was that? What was that? Because that's another the next world win of the water bottle tour. I'm assuming you're starting to take meetings all around town, and what's your next project? And there's throwing, like, what do you want? What do you want anything? So you got a golden ticket for a short window of time? If I'm not mistaken, correct? Almost. So how did that how did it work for you? How did you capitalize on on that time in your career?

Alan Ball 20:36
I noticed that when I went to meetings, people would people acted like, what I what I was saying was worth listening to. Prior to American Beauty prior to I would go to these meetings and you know, talk about, you know, I remember I got a script. And I went in. I had a meeting at Sharon stones house with the producer. And they they wanted to remake this old movie. And and so I watched the movie. And then I came over to meet Sharon, and we, you know, I started to pitch my take on the movie. And I said, I think, you know, if you're going to update it, I would make this guy a politician. And, and immediately somebody said, or an art gallery owner. And I was just like, okay, yeah, I guess you could do that changes the pitch that I have prepared. So, and I there was a lot of, I remember I went to a meeting and and I had, I had written a screenplay of five women wearing the same dress. And I went to a meeting. And there was this, this young woman, she she must have just gotten out of college. And she looked like Katharine Hepburn. And I remember she was wearing black velvet pants. And she had requested a meeting with me. And I went into the meeting. And she was like, so I read your script. And I suppose I admire what you were trying to do. And I was just sort of like, well, okay, so why did you want to meet me? Why? Why am I here? Because she then proceeded to trash the script and told me that ensemble comedies didn't work, of course. But then after I won the Oscar, every time I went into a meeting, everybody was sort of sitting there leaning forward, like listening to me. So it validated my thought, you know, in a way that I nothing else could have, I think. So it was very, it gave me a certain amount of freedom in the stuff that I wanted to do. Go ahead. No, no, no.

Alex Ferrari 23:05
So so. Yeah, it's it's always it's very interesting with with Oscar winners, because sometimes it's like, it opens a lot of doors. And other times, it's like, I have 15 minutes, and then I'm back to back to the grindstone. So it all depends on how you capitalize, but I always tell people, I would rather have one to not, Oh, yeah. Even years later, it's like, what a master screenplay. It's definitely a badge of honor for for any screenwriters career, regardless of how it works out. Now, one thing I noticed in your filmography, though, is after the winning the Oscar for American Beauty, you decided to kind of jump back into television and not continue the road of a, you know, prolific screenwriter doing movie after movie after movie. You said no, I think television is where I want to be. And I want to hear why you decided to do that. Because at least from my point of view, it seemed that the more there was more exciting stuff happening especially on HBO at that time in, in the in the time of the of when you were starting to come into HBO. They were doing really amazing stuff. I mean, the sopranos obviously with David and, and, and Sex in the City and all these kinds of things that they were just breaking moles. So is that what attracted you to back to television? Because you weren't doing sitcoms? Obviously, you were like, Nah, I'm gonna do something a little different.

Alan Ball 24:22
Well, I had signed a three year development deal a week before I sold the script to American Beauty. So I was committed to this to this TV development deal and I created a sitcom for ABC that was called Oh, grow up there was did not work and didn't, did not succeed. And actually in 90 at the end of 1999, there was a people's best and worse. Magazine, People Magazine best and worst of 1999 and there was the top 10 movies. And American Beauty was one of them. And literally you turn one page and it says the worst TV shows, and my TV show which was called Oh, grow up, was there. And so at the time, I was winning all this acclaim and stuff for American Beauty. I was also trying to salvage this sitcom that eventually got canceled. So it was a great lesson in perspective. But I had, you know, so then I had, I had two years left on this development deal. And I, I didn't want to just like, say, Fuck you guys, I'm gone. I, I was trying to figure out what to do. And I kept being kept taking these meetings about sitcoms, and it's like, we, you know, we have a deal with this stand up that we think you're perfect to write a show around them. And we have, you know, or I have, you know, we have this idea about a man who dies and is reincarnated as a dog and his wife gets, you know, rescues infinite power. And she doesn't know he's her husband, I'm like, you please just shoot me. And then I had a meeting with Carolyn Strauss from HBO, who was head of original programming at the time. And she said, I've always wanted to do a show about a family run funeral home, and that something in my head clicked. And I just went, I can't I, I, I, I spent a lot of time in funeral homes when I was growing up, because people a lot of people in my family died during a certain time. And so I had a very specific emotional can feeling about what that show could be. And and I went home for Christmas break. And I, I wrote this back on pilot, I mean, I wrote the pilot on spec. Because I just was I was dealing with grief because my sitcom had been canceled. And all these people had been put out of work. And even though the show was bad, it was a great group of people. And I was gonna miss them. And I just sort of poured it all into this pilot for six feet under I got back to town after the holiday and in call, my agent said, Call HBO and tell him that that pilot I wrote it, and and she sent it over to them, my TV agent, Sue Nagel, send it over to them. And they read it and they wanted a meeting. And I came in for this meeting. And they said we really liked this, it feels a little safe. Because there any way you could just make it up a little more fucked up. And I was like, Yeah, I'd love. I've been working in network TV for so many years, I just, you know, I always assumed assumed, you know, that you have to the notes that I would get in network TV were always, always could be distilled into two thoughts. Make everybody nicer, and articulate the subtext. Which are, yeah, terrible. You know, both of them are terrible. And so I did another pass on it. And they said, Great, we like it, we want to make it. Again, I was having an experience where everybody was saying, you know, it's not.

Alex Ferrari 28:20
So okay, so I've been ever since I saw six feet under the if I ever get a chance to talk to Alan, I got to ask him these questions. You obviously now you kind of explained a little bit that you had a little bit of an inside view of a funeral home run by I don't know if I run by family, but you said funeral homes, because the depth of what's happening like did you like did you do research? Did you jump into? Did you hang out a funeral homes? Did you interview family run funeral homes? How did you get the details of stuff? Or did you make a lot of it up?

Alan Ball 28:53
Well, I read a book, a book called the American way of death, which is a book that was originally published in the 60s. And it is a sort of screed against the what refers to itself as the death care industry. You know, just sort of saying It's so terrible and they you know, people are customers are at their most vulnerable and people are trying to sell them you know, use that to sell them the most expensive casket because that means that you really loved the person who died. And it went into a lot of detail about what happens within bombing and in the in the, the prep room and what what actually goes on with these bodies. So that they can be looked at before you know, they go in the ground. So I did do a lot of research we had we had a some consultants that we talked to, but in terms of the story in terms of the emotional arc of the characters and of the fish Your family. I just made all that up. I mean, of course, it's based on I come from a very emotionally repressed family where people don't really deal with what's going on. So that that kind of found its way in there, too. But

Alex Ferrari 30:17
It's fascinating that, you know, I had a chance to talk to David chase on the show, and finding out that the sopranos was really about him. And his mom's relationship was fascinating. So it seems that you know, as far as the shows, it's the writer, the creator is pouring part of themselves in there. That's what makes it seem really does it makes it sing if you didn't have that personal Yeah, it made but the audience feels the authenticity of it. In the writing, and, and obviously, in the performances. And I mean, the whole beginning of each episode. With the deaths, it's just so brilliant, bad. So absolutely, bro. Did you did? I mean, did you? I mean, obviously, you came up with that. And it was just like this gag that just, it was part of the story for for the rest of the series? How? How did you come up with that like that this would be a good way to start show an episode.

Alan Ball 31:09
You know, I think it was just, it was very obvious that that was the way to open each episode. You know, obviously, we're gonna need obviously, it's a story about a family. Yes. But it's also a story about America's relationship with death, you know,

Alex Ferrari 31:30
Very much so.

Alan Ball 31:32
And these are, and these people who work in these funeral homes are the people that we hire to face death for us. You know, what I mean? We don't do things like, keep the body at home. And, you know, the family washes the body, and that kind of we don't do that kind of stuff anymore. So I, what was the question?

Alex Ferrari 31:59
The the beginning of the show the death of each?

Alan Ball 32:01
Yeah, it ultimately, you know, after, after the pilot was shot, and HBO, we sent it to them on a Friday, and they call it on Monday, and they said, Let's go to series. So I was like, okay, and then I was sitting down to write the second episode. And I was like, Well, how do you start and it was, like, we started with a death, then we should, that's what everyone should do. And then that that'll be, you know, the person who goes through and, and we can build the stories around that. So it turned into the death of the week, that kind of the way that hospital shows are the, you know, disease week, because it worked. And it was it was just, I don't remember struggling a lot to figure that out. I remember it just sort of being obvious that that's what it should be.

Alex Ferrari 32:52
Well, let me ask you, what was the biggest struggle with telling the stories of that show a lot of those characters, because, I mean, it was groundbreaking for David's character. And, you know, coming out, I mean, there's so many groundbreaking parts of that show. I mean, it is in the it's in the conversation every single time when you're like, Oh, the great television revolution, you know, that started arguably with the Sopranos. And then you had, you know, the Breaking Bad Six Feet Under, it's always in the conversation, what was the toughest part for you as a creator, telling those stories and, and specifically, how those characters were kind of brought out into, into the public the way they are, they were?

Alan Ball 33:33
I mean, the toughest part for me, I hate to say this, but it wasn't all that tough. I mean, working at HBO, at that time, they wanted a specific point of view, they wanted, you know, a voice. They weren't, I wasn't getting tons of notes to like, you know, blend everything out and make it palatable for the lowest common denominator, or make it really resemble something that had already been successful. You know, they wanted something that felt new, that was interesting. And and because they were working with a different business model, then, you know, network television, we didn't have to worry about ratings, you know, and are the advertisers gonna be happy. They just wanted a good show. They just wanted to show that would sort of, you couldn't see anywhere else. So the kind of freedom that we were given was was was great. And I'm not sure it exists that much anymore.

Alex Ferrari 34:49
Huh, not much. I mean, they I mean, yeah, it's not it's there was a window of a good

Alan Ball 34:55
10 fit there was a window and then I you know, since I've, you know, stuff I've done Since I've, you know, I mean, I would get network, I would get HBOs notes for six feet on there and for True Blood, and it would be like three notes. You know? That? Yeah. And most of them made sense. And, but then later Later, you know, I did a show, and I would get pages and pages of notes. And I was just like, what, what would? I don't? Yeah, it was, it's been a, it's the industry has changed a lot. And I'm trying to now I find myself in a place where I'm trying to figure out how to fit into it and how to it's interesting.

Alex Ferrari 35:45
It's, it's, it's a struggle with a lot of creators. I mean, the business changes so rapidly, I mean, you know, show a show, like six feet, or two blood could have never come out in the 90s, or the 80s. And then I wouldn't, it just wouldn't have existed. And it's so well, let me ask you this. And please remind me because I know David's character as a gay character, on on six feet under how many other gay characters were on television. Prior to his carry, I mean, it was pretty. If I remember, it was pretty like, oh, that Wow. The first time like, you're treating a gay character as not a token character is not a, as a funny sidekick, as like, Oh, this is a real human being with real feelings. And, you know, who's a real person?

Alan Ball 36:30
I mean, I think there was, I think there had been a bunch there. There was a, an auxiliary character on 30, something who was gay. And they showed him in bed with another man and like, everybody's heads exploded. And ABC removed that from reruns or something like that. Now, while we were on the air, Will and Grace came out. Because I remember there's a there's a scene where Nate catches David watching gay porn and, and David is like, mortified. And Nate is like, come on, David. I watched Will and Grace. I have gaydar. So I know wheeling Grace was on the air, I think, I think Queer as Folk was on the air as well. I can't remember if that was on Showtime or what, what

Alex Ferrari 37:22
It was, yeah. But, but

Alan Ball 37:25
In terms of in terms of, in both of those shows, where like, everybody's gay. You know, this is a this is a show about gay life. Whereas David was just a character within a family. And the show wasn't so much about gay life as about this one gay man struggling to come to terms with his own internalized homophobia. All right.

Alex Ferrari 37:52
Well, let me ask you this. When you sit down to tell a story, what is like, what is your process? Do you outline? The mean? How do you face a blank page, which is always the end of every writer's dread? Is that blank? That blinking cursor, not the blank, but that blinking cursor? Do you outline a lot? Do you just sit down and just start stream of consciousness? How do you approach a new project?

Alan Ball 38:13
If I'm rolling, if I'm writing something for myself, and like a spec pilot, or a spec screenplay? I don't outline because for me to outline, it becomes well, okay, that's the story. I've told the story. The story is told. So now I'm gonna go back to the beginning and just it so and I liked the journey of discovery. You know, I'll things will percolate. And I'll think about something and I'll think about the character and I'll think about what is the opening and I'll, I'll have a lot of that figured out before I sit down to right. But if I'm working on a show, everything is outlined? Absolutely. Because other people are going to be going off and writing scripts, you can't just say like, Okay, everybody, just go write what you feel. You have to you have to outline what's going on so that it tracks over the course of the season. And so that's but but on my own, I don't outline. But let me let me be honest, I have like a drawer full of scripts that I started that never did, I never finished because the steam or I didn't know where how to make it go anywhere or whatever.

Alex Ferrari 39:34
And also, I think, you know, for young screenwriters thinking that like you see, Alan Ball doesn't doesn't outline I don't need to outline I'm like, Well, there's a difference to you've been doing this for how many years? You know, so it's like you already a lot of the things that you would work out in an outline as far as pacing and Archons in structure and plots are all that you have that almost innately in the back of your head and your subconscious when you're writing or because you've done it so many times. So it's not like Have you a lot of time because I know a lot of writers who do that they'll just kind of stream of consciousness and just go, and then go back and tweak. But, but because you have this base, you can do that, as a young writer, it would probably be not a smart idea that just start, let's just write and see what happens. But it depends.

Alan Ball 40:17
Also, I think everybody has their own technique. I don't, you know, and I think part of one's journey, as an artist, as a writer is to discover what that technique is, and to be true to it. Some people, you know, outline everything, extremely, you know, very intricately before they start writing the script, and it works. You know, some people do stream of consciousness, and it works for them. I always, I'm always a little bit leery of, of any formula for, for what is what is storytelling, because I think the minute you do that, you're limiting yourself. There are formulas that work for certain people, but they don't work for other people, you know. So ultimately, it's up to the it's up to each person to discover their own technique. What works best for them.

Alex Ferrari 41:15
Now, Alan, I imagine that I know you had a good start with American Beauty and a fantastic start. I'm assuming it wasn't Yes. Is the entire way through your career. I'm assuming you've had a couple of knows along the way. Yeah, how? What advice can you give people who are at that place in their career where they're just getting the No, the No, the no, what did you do to just keep moving forward? Even early on? I'm imagining even during the grace, grace under fire, and several times, you were getting those left and right or being rewritten or being overruled? And, and that was where that frustration line? And how did you keep going? Because a lot of people would have just said, you know, what, screw this Hollywood crap, I'm just gonna go back and be a playwright, I don't need this, I want to go back and be, you know, an important writer with my, my, my stories that I want to tell that are important to me. You know, but you decided to keep going and keep going. So what was it that what advice can you give? And what did you do to just keep going?

Alan Ball 42:11
Um, I mean, a lot of people say like, what should I do? I think you should just one of the things I learned when I was working as a playwright in New York, with our little gorilla theatre companies, and everything is we weren't waiting for permission. We were putting on a show at midnight on Thursday, that maybe 10 people came to see, but we were still putting on a show. You know, and I think I would say, do it yourself, especially now, when you can make a movie on your iPhone. You know, if if you're getting though, then do something, start short. Start short. Start Something short, do like a five minute film, but do it yourself, make it get your friends to work on it, make it make it with your iPhone, it's not going to go you know, it's probably not going to go become like an award winning short at festivals, but it might and at the very least, what you have learned from making that is things that you can only learn by making things and if you're sitting around waiting for permission waiting for somebody to give you permission. Maybe they will most likely they won't because you know I think most everything that gets submitted gets turned down. I mean, I'm dealing with that now I just I just my producing partner and I suddenly you know submitted for scripts of a of a TV series that I think I was super proud of and everybody passed on it I don't know if it was I don't know if it's because it was too expensive or because there we didn't have any stars attached because it seems like TV has become that movie star test or a TV star tat but it's frustrating and if you are creatively if you are organically connected to your work emotionally which I feel like is important is important for work to feel really personal and and and emotional.

When it gets passed on it's gonna hurt but you just you can't give up you can't give up.

You know, just keep going and and ultimately figure out ways to do it on do it yourself.

Alex Ferrari 44:32
Now before I move on to Trueblood I have to just say thank you for arguably one of the greatest last episodes on 66 feet under it it is it is a tightrope that is is walked by many show creator on on the ending of a show and it is one of the most beautiful endings so satisfying. So wonderful. Arguably you couldn't end it any other way. I mean We won't ruin it for people who haven't seen it. But it is it was just so beautifully done. And I just felt so warm inside at the end of that, like, okay, I can let go of these characters now, as opposed to, you know, just turning to black David, or any other shows that just it's hard to nail that ending the nail the ending of a show, so I wanted to thank you for that because that's just what it was. I was I was scared to by the way as I was going through last season, I'm like, Oh God, how are they gonna finish this man? How are they going to finish this? Please don't let me down, please. I've spent hours and hours and hours. Please don't Don't drop the ball Alan please. It was so beautiful that you guys did it so well. So I just wanted to thank you for that.

Alan Ball 45:42
Oh, thank you. I appreciate that.

Alex Ferrari 45:44
Now True Blood another, you know, iconic show. How did you get involved with because that wasn't an original. That wasn't an original idea that was based off a series of books. How did you get involved?

Alan Ball 45:56
I had a dental appointment in the valley, and in Encino. And I was I got there early, like, you know, an hour early. I there was a Barnes and Noble nearby. And I went and I was just perusing books. And I was and I saw this book. And it was called dead until dark. And the the logline on the cover was maybe having a vampire for a boyfriend wasn't such a good idea. And I thought, that's funny. And I looked at it a little book. And, and so I bought it. And I started reading it in the waiting room. And it was like crack. And I remember at that point, there were four books he originally wrote. I mean, she eventually wrote 13. But it was you know, it was it was all about this world where vampires came out of the closet because of this synthetic blood that they can drink. And, and it was just, you know, I'm from the south. I that whole Southern Gothic thing is in my blood. And I just remember reading it, and I couldn't put it down. There was just such a great world in such great characters and so much fun. Oh, yeah. You know, and I think after six feet under, I think I just wanted to do something that was really fun. And so I called the I had my agent call the woman who wrote it, and it was under optioned by a filmmaker, but it was about to run out. And I said, Well, I'd like to purchase it. And I'd like to and I bought the rights and wrote the script, on spec, took it to HBO. And they said we have a vampire show and development. I said, Okay, well, you know, I'll take it somewhere else. And they were like, No, you can't you can't go anywhere else. Because you know, you're part of the HBO family. And I said, Well, shut up. Yeah. And they did they they killed that other show. And I feel really, really bad about her. You know, about the person who was working on that show. But I remember Chris Albrecht was still there. And he called me a before they said, let's go ahead and do it. He called me and he said, Just give me a one. One sentence thing. What is this show about? And I was like, Oh, my God, I don't know. What am I going to say? It's about the terrors of intimacy. Which is something I just pulled out of my ass. You know, I guess it's kind of true. But But I can see now when he went okay. All right. And they they greenlit it and we shot the pilot. And then. And then it took and Chris Chris had left at that time. And it was Richard Plepler. And Mike Lombardo, who were in charge, and it seemed like they were gonna pass on it. And they it seems like we were, you know, that it had taken like, a couple of months. We hadn't heard back, they were still deliberating. And finally they they said yes, and, and we made the pilot and, and we made the series.

Alex Ferrari 49:32
And it is in I mean, the stuff that you did in that show. I mean, you could tell you were having some fun.

Alan Ball 49:38
Oh my God, it was so much fun.

Alex Ferrari 49:40
Oh, my God, the characters were so brilliantly written, acted. I mean, it was like a magical each actor was magically designed for the character that was written on the page. It was so beautiful. And, and I mean, let's not even talk about the sex stuff. I mean, that's, I mean, it was you're just sitting there like, we gotta keep the kid A robot got locked the door when we watch True Blood? Yeah, they could just walk in on the wrong seat. And all of a sudden,

Alan Ball 50:07

Alex Ferrari 50:08
It was so much fun to watch that show. Now I know, you know, and I know you directed a little bit on on a bunch of your shows on set, there's always that day that you feel like the entire world's coming crashing down around you, as a filmmaker, we all have those days, regardless of budgetary cars, or anything. What was that day for you either on six feet under? Or any of your shows? For that matter? What was that day that you felt like? Oh, man, I'm not sure how we're gonna get out of this. What was that thing? If you could talk about it publicly? And how did you overcome that event in the day as a filmmaker.

Alan Ball 50:42
Um I remember there was an episode of six feet on there, I think it was the I think it was this season finale of Season One. And there was Rico and Vanessa are having a party for their for their, they just recently had a second child and they're having a christening party, and they're doing it at the funeral home. And for some reason, we just got so behind, you know, and it was like, we've been working for, you know, 10 hours already. And we have at least five hours that we left that we have left to do. And we can't push it off to another day, because this is the last day that we're shooting. And I remember just feeling like oh my God, I'm such a failure. I'm such a failure that I had, that I that I allowed things to get this far behind. And, but we you know, we worked overtime, and we got it and we got everything we needed. We simplified the shot list, but there was a moment where I felt, I have no idea what I'm doing and it's about to come out and everybody's gonna see what a big imposter I am. And, and, you know,

Alex Ferrari 51:59
It's, it's fascinating, too, because as I've talked to, you know, more and more high profile people on the show like yourself, we've had some Oscar winners, Emmy winners, things like that. I always find it so fascinating. And I think so educational for people listening that, you know, a lot of times they put, you know, people like yourself and other you know, Oscar winners up on a pedestal like, oh, they just they must just wake up in the morning. And it's pretty though, I'll just write an Oscar winning script today. Or I'll just why, you know, I'll just write six, under, I'll just, I'll just whip up, Trueblood, like these things I found to for after speaking to so many people like yourself that imposter syndrome is a thing. A thing. So even at the day that you're talking about, you've already won an Oscar. Yeah, you might have won an Emmy or I'm not sure. But you were on the way you want Golden Globes, you'd won a lot of awards already. Your award winning writer, and filmmaker and you still at that moment had like, Oh, my God, security is going to come in and they're going to find out what a fraud I am. And I'm going to be escorted off the set. And that was the feeling that you had still had after the success you had. And it's I think such an edge. Such a wonderful educational tool for people coming up to understand that throughout your career. It never leaves you.

Alan Ball 53:12
Oh, yeah. No, it never does. It never does. I have such a weird relationship to if I'm, if I'm about if I'm finishing a script, and I'm doing that last portion of it. I'll read it and I'll be going this is really good man. I really love I think I think I did something really great here. Close it file, you know, turn it to PDF, send it off to my age at the minute I send it off. I'm like, oh, there's a typo of fuck. And then and then from there, it just completely unravels. It's like, why is this scene even here? What the fuck are they saying? This is the worst dialogue I've ever read in my entire life. And so, you know, I mean, I think, you know, insecurity and it fuels a lot of people to become to express themselves in ways that I think they probably wouldn't do if they were more self esteem. I think a lot of a lot of great work comes from people who are working out their own

Alex Ferrari 54:24
Now if you if you had a chance to go back in time and talk to your younger self, and you could tell that person one thing if you were on that when you were making those off off Broadway plays and and the Alan Alan Ball of today could go back and just say one thing to that person to that island ball, about what the journey is about to be he's going to go on is what would be that warning or piece of advice.

Alan Ball 54:48
When I first I thought I'd say don't take the sitcom job, but I had to I had to, I had to and I wouldn't, I would just say like Try to keep keep your perspective. Ultimately, it's, it's just a movie, it's just a TV show is not worth making yourself crazy about, it's not worth destroying relationships over. It's just, it's, it's not real life. You know, because I get so invested in my work that it becomes, like, you know, when, when my sitcom for ABC got canceled, I got really depressed. And in retrospect, if that show hadn't been canceled, I would never have done six feet under, you know what I mean? And I guess I would, I would just say, like, try to take your work seriously, but don't take yourself so seriously, and don't take praise and or criticism that seriously. Because ultimately, you do the work that you do, you do the best work that you can do. And that's the reward. Whether you get a, you know, a statue or a nice review, or somebody pans you or your show gets canceled, that stuff is just whether, you know, it changes, it always changes, and just stay focused on being true to yourself and don't. And also don't compare yourself to other people. You know, don't compare yourself to other writers or other directors. Because you just don't

Alex Ferrari 56:47
It's so tough though.

Alan Ball 56:48
I mean, we're always gonna find somebody that you feel like is better than you and that you feel inferior to and that's in just don't, don't feed that particular demon.

Alex Ferrari 56:59
Before I go to my last few questions I always ask, I just have to say, in Banshee because I know you worked on Banshee, the fight sequence in the jail. One of them was brutal things I've ever seen filmed. It is. It is a it is an an art piece. And how you how on God's green earth did you guys do that? In the way that you did it? It was so brutal. It is not it was violent and brutal, but it it's visceral. The way it was shot? How did you guys get that?

Alan Ball 57:33
I mean, it's, you know, I was I was like an exec producer on it. I was not really that involved in the day to day, day to day. So that was that was Jonathan tropper, writer, and Greg etain Is Director and Anthony star who is now on the boys was just a really just a really genius. I mean, he was he was so good in that role. I mean, I gave notes on on, on on cuts. But usually I would just be like, Oh, good, I gotta Banshee cut because it would just be fun to watch because they were doing such amazing work, you know, and I really wasn't that involved. So I can't really take credit for that.

Alex Ferrari 58:23
Okay, fair enough. But it was for anyone watching you kind of watch that sequence. Watch the show. Watch that sequences. Yeah, that's it's a good show. And it was a very, very good show. Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions as all my guests, what advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Alan Ball 58:39
First and foremost, write about what you care about. Don't write about what you think will sell. Don't write it, write about something that matters to you. Because that, that's going to infuse it with love level of personal passion that hopefully will make, you know, make it rise to the top of because everybody's writing scripts that they think will sell everybody's writing scripts that resemble something that have that has already been successful. So I would say write what you care about.

Alex Ferrari 59:13
I would agree because American Beauty is not like anything that anybody had written before or since. And there's there's not like an American Beauty type of script. Without question, now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn That failure is part of it, you know, if you if you if you insist on seeing things as success or failure you're gonna you're gonna get in trouble. Failure is part of it. Sometimes. You're never going to get to a place nor should you want to, I think where everything you do is good. Because you're because to grow as a writer to grow as a An artist you have to try things, you'd have to try things. And not everything is going to fly. That doesn't mean you're a bad person. It doesn't mean you're you're a shitty writer and you've lost your touch or whatever. It just means that that's part of it. And try not to take it too personally and just keep going. You know?

I think the big swings is what you say. Yeah. Without question, three screenplays that every screenwriter should read

Alan Ball 1:00:32
Three screenplays every screenplay Well, Chinatown I would say Nashville so bad I'm stuck on this third one.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:49
Anything that comes to mind?

Alan Ball 1:00:51
Well, one of my favorite movies of all time. Oh, the apartment.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:57
Oh, God. Yes, check. It still holds today. The timing jokes the way they popped it. You know a lot of movies from the 60s do not hold from but The Apartment still hold and what are what are I always ask what are your favorite films of all time?

Alan Ball 1:01:16
To Kill a Mockingbird. I Nashville and Chinatown. And the apartment that I mean, those are three of my favorite films too.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:28
Well, Alan, I appreciate you coming on the show. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with all of us. Hopefully it inspires a few screenwriters and filmmakers out there. And thank you for all the hard work and great stories you've been telling over the course of your career. You You're making a difference out there not only entertaining but shaping the young minds of people out there.

Alan Ball 1:01:46
Thank you so much, Alex, appreciate it. pleasure talking to you. I'm really glad that we did this.



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IFH 649: First-Time Filmmaking, Oscars & Netflix with Scott Copper

Scott Copper (Director, Screenwriter, Producer) made his feature film directorial debut in 2009 with Fox Searchlight’s Oscar-winning CRAZY HEART, which he also wrote and produced. The film, which starred Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall, earned three Academy Award nominations, winning for Best Actor (Bridges) and Best Original Song (T Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham). Cooper won an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature and earned WGA, USC Scripter and Independent Spirit Award nominations, for his screenplay.

Cooper’s follow-up was the Leonardo DiCaprio/Ridley Scott-produced OUT OF THE FURNACE, starring Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Zoë Saldana, Forest Whitaker and Sam Shepard. For his work as writer, director and producer, Cooper won the Best Debut and Second Film Award at the 2013 Rome Film Festival, where he was also nominated for a Golden Marc’Aurelio Award. Next was Cooper’s 2015 Warner Bros. gangster film BLACK MASS, which Cooper both directed and produced and which made its worldwide debut at the Venice International Film Festival.

The box-office hit garnered wins from critics associations across the country, and earned lead actor Johnny Depp the Desert Palm Achievement Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, as well as a Best Actor nomination from the Screen Actors Guild. In 2017, Cooper’s western epic HOSTILES debuted at both the Telluride Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festivals, earning widespread critical acclaim. The film reunited Cooper with his OUT OF THE FURNACE star Christian Bale and featured performances from Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Jesse Plemons, Rory Cochrane and Ben Foster. Cooper followed this up with ANTLERS, an exploration of yet another genre in the Guillermo Del Toro-produced horror film. Searchlight released the film to acclaim in October 2021.

Most recently, Cooper re-teamed for the third time with Bale on THE PALE BLUE EYE, an adaptation of Louis Bayard’s novel of the same name. The film tells the story of a series of murders at the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1830 and a cadet the world would later come to know as Edgar Allan Poe. Robert Duvall, Gillian Anderson, Timothy Spall, Toby Jones and Harry Melling round out the cast. The Netflix film will debut in Fall of 2022. Born in Virginia, Cooper now resides in Los Angeles.

Please enjoy my conversation with Scott Copper.

Scott Copper 0:00
I mean, even when you work with trusted collaborators, there will be moments on set where there is Sturm and Drang as the director, and as the writer and as the producer, you have to be able to solve those issues.

Alex Ferrari 0:12
This episode is brought to you by the Best Selling Book, Rise of the Filmtrepreneur how to turn your independent film into a money making business. Learn more at filmbizbook.com. I'd like to welcome to the show, Scott Copper man, how you doing, Scott?

Scott Copper 0:26
Great. Thank you, Alex.

Alex Ferrari 0:28
Thanks for coming on the show. Man. I'm a fan man. I've been a fan for a while. Man. You you're doing some really good work, brother seriously, man.

Scott Copper 0:35
Thank you. Thanks. So upper and tougher.

Alex Ferrari 0:38
It's man, I I was just talking, I was just talking to somebody a few minutes ago about how the movie business is changing so dramatically, even from when you made Crazy Heart to now getting somebody to the movie theater. If avatar is having a problem. I mean, is a problem? You know,

Scott Copper 1:01
I suspect people go out for that though.

Alex Ferrari 1:04
I did. And I saw it. It's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in my life. Like what Jim Jim did was, ya know, it's remarkable, but it's doing well. But people are like, Oh, I should be doing better. And there's a lot of pressure on a movie like that. But other than avatar in Top Gun last year. It's tough to get people out.

Scott Copper 1:24
Man. Yeah, well, in fact, maybe that was happening also a little bit before COVID Certainly accelerated during COVID. Look, it's expensive to consider dinner and parking and then price of a movie, maybe for the kind of movies that I make. And some of my favorite filmmakers, perhaps the ticket prices should be lower. And then right will be more likely to come out because there really is nothing like experiencing. And in fact, that film will not have the same effect on you, regardless of what it is if you're watching it anywhere. But in this.

Alex Ferrari 2:05
There's no There's no question my friend. But But you've lived a very interesting life in the film industry. You've you've you came up as an actor. So my first question, how did you and why did you want to get into this insanity that is the film industry?

Scott Copper 2:19
Well, look, it's you don't choose your obsessions, your obsession, you choose you right very much. I also spent, I was born and spent a lot of my formative years in this kind of artistic crown jewel of Virginia called Abingdon, Virginia, where the State Theatre is also a lot of great music comes out of that, that region, the mountain empire, as well as a lot of arts and crafts. So the arts were always a part of my life. My father would take me to see films at a young age at a local college. And then you know, when you're young, and you're transfixed by that, and you also had spent time as an actor, Christian Bale and I had discussed this, that people who get into the film business aren't meant to have office jobs. And I think I realized that at a young age, I also realized at a young age that there were actors who were a whole lot better at this vocation than I, especially when you're on the other side of the camera and your first film is your you're recording Jeff Bridges for posterity and Robert Duvall and Maggie Gyllenhaal and Colin Farrell, that quickly makes you realize that there are people who do it a whole lot better than you. And then my second film was Christian Bale and Casey Affleck and Woody, Willem Defoe and Sam Shepard and, and Forrest Whitaker and Zoey Sadat. And then I'm like, Okay, well, I'm definitely not gonna be an actor again. So, but quite honestly, Alex, this is I mean, I couldn't imagine a better job than being a film writer, a film director. I mean, I suppose being Mick Jagger, or Bano, Eddie Federer, someone who's a rock star, right and sings to at 100,000 people, certain events. But I love being able to express myself as a filmmaker. I love the people that I've met over the course of my career. I mean, look, I've been for an actor with an unremarkable career, I have been incredibly fortunate as a filmmaker, I'll just say that.

Alex Ferrari 4:31
You know, it's interesting, because a lot of people like, you know, everyone could play basketball. You know, generally everyone could take a ball and try to make a shot, but we're not all Michael Jordan or LeBron James. And, and that's, I think that's where you were at?

Scott Copper 4:44
Well, sure. I mean, even Robert Duvall, who was my mentor and expressed to me and still does how much he liked me as an actor Jeff Bridges the same thing but but I just have much more fun doing this and and I never even really had A chance to grow as an actor, I wasn't getting the kind of challenging parts that, that I now write for actors and I adore actors. And performance is critical to me and, and, and working with actors that I've always admired. And, you know, also being able to work with actors that teach me something, as Jeff certainly has, or Robert ball or Christian. Or even Johnny Depp. So I'm blessed man i But that's, that's just the truth.

Alex Ferrari 5:36
So at what point? Because I'm assuming as you were going down the path as an actor, there might have been some rejection not much, I'm sure but some rejection all

Scott Copper 5:45
The actor who isn't? Who isn't rejected a lot. Right. So I'll look at started 12 I mean, so yeah,

Alex Ferrari 5:53
He had he had a good start. That's Little Spielberg independent film thing. He did. Yeah. But so when you're going so when you're going through the the acting process, at what point did you say, you know, what, I'm not going to hit the all star team as an actor, I want to jump to the other side of the like, what was the point where you just said, I'm

Scott Copper 6:14
I was just auditioning a lot, and you know, kind of becoming a bridesmaid coming in second. And, and, and not getting the parts that made me want to become an actor in the first place. I think everybody who's you know, a young actor coming up in the 90s, one, you know, a career or at least I did, like Sean Penn or dinero, or PacMan or Pacino. So, when you're not getting those parts, and you're going up for leading men, and you're not really loving them, but you have to support yourself. It just, ultimately, the rejection, that's a lot. And I mean, look, we all get rejected, certainly in the arts, sure, when you make things that, that take big risks, for sure. But it was really just the continual process of of auditioning and films that I would have liked to have been in not getting parts in them. Whether it would be thin red line or Saving Private Ryan. And then I was doing a Western with Duvall being directed by the great Walter Hill, who's also a mentor of mine. And, and and you've all said, you know, you should really write something. And of course, I ended up at the time I had spending a lot of time considering writing the film about Merle Haggard. He had too many ex wives getting the rights were difficult. So I ended up writing precis Hart and Duvall was the first person to read it. And, and you know, Alex, the truth is when Jeff Bridges says yes to your film, it changes your life. And that's exactly what happened to me.

Alex Ferrari 7:52
So is that how you got? Because I was gonna ask like, you're basically a first time filmmaker at this point. Yeah, you've been on set for a long time. But you're a first time writer.

Scott Copper 8:00
That's right. never directed a film. I've never directed a commercial. I've never directed a high school play. But I know this world. And I know that by surrounding myself with great collaborators, production designers, customers, cameraman, women, that sort of thing that I knew that I can tell the story. And Jeff, I remember it is is though it were yesterday, Jeff said, so this is your first time. Yeah. So it is. He said, Well, I've had a lot of success with first time directors, Fabulous Baker Boys being one of them. That I'm in. And you know, Alex, at that point in my life was never the same.

Alex Ferrari 8:40
And so I have to ask you, first day on set, you're sitting, you're the big man on your big man on campus first day? How do you deal with not only the pressure of the first day and making sure that you make that first day, but you're looking through the lens? And you see Jeff Bridges? They're like, and you're directing a legend? Multiple legends, by the way in that film? How do you deal with that as a director?

Scott Copper 9:07
Well, you deal with it by forgetting to call cut. And my ad cabinet shows looking at me as the scene had finished. And I'm transcendent, this is the truth and I'm transfixed and, and she looked at me, she said, and I said, Cut. And literally, it was like, my god, I remember that night that Jeff Bridges is taking dialogue that I have written in taking it to places that I never expected. And that's especially because I've written specifically for him. That's the sign of a great actor. And now, five films later it's happened in, in every film, thankfully.

Alex Ferrari 9:46
So the one thing that's so impressive about your work not only the writing and the directing, but the cast that you're able to attract is honestly unheard of. I mean, your second film, that list of actors, any one of them could have been the star. But a lot of them took secondary roles because they wanted to work on the project. How do you attract all of these? I mean, it's film after film after film after film. As I'm going through filmography, I'm just like, how the hell is this guy grabbing, I know it's the material. But like, even good material doesn't attract a lot of times because of politics and schedules. And this or that.

Scott Copper 10:23
And often that is that is the case, it's difficult to get all the actors that you're referring to everybody else wants, and trying to fit them into a schedule is often one of the most difficult things to do about making a film. But I think, look, certainly the success of of of Crazy Heart has helped when when you're filming, your first film is nominated for three Oscars of wins a couple. That certainly changes the calculus for everybody else, when they see how wonderful Jeff is Maggie and Colin and Duvall, and on and on and on, right. So that probably doesn't happen if that film doesn't have the success, but it did. And then out of the furnace had kind of like a murderer's row of actors that all of whom are, you know, considered to be favorites of mine. So I think once those two films were made, I think actors felt like you know what he, I can feel safe with Scott, because that's the key is to really make an actor feel very safe, safe to take big risks, knows that I'm going to protect them not only on the day when we're shooting, but also in the cutting room. I think the actors that we're talking about know that I'm more interested in films that push me into an uncomfortable space, I've spoken to all of them about the great danger is really doing safe work, where all of the edges are sanded off, so that a lot of people will like your film, The Academy or people who are voting bodies, right. And I think they realize that those don't, those concerns don't really concern me. So it's all about telling a very honest story, a very authentic story. And a story that's not afraid to not let the audience off the hook. I think striving for consensus is not something that I tend to do. I don't make films out of fear, and certain actors respond to that.

Alex Ferrari 12:32
And so another thing about working with all of these amazing actors is I know that all of them have very different processes. So as a director, I mean, as a director, how do you handle like when you have, you know, four or five different of these actors in, in a scene? You can't just yell out direction, you got to kind of go,

Scott Copper 12:52
I've never do that I own two actors that nobody hears, but the actor, I'm actually exactly mixer has turned off all mics and nobody on set will hear the direction that I give Sam Shepard, right? Where Robert Duvall, Christian whomever it is, I think, why don't think I know you have to be very specific, with actors. Don't talk in the abstract. It's really about who is your character? What does the character want the scene? What's the subtext? And again, make them feel safe, safe and free to take big risks. And every actor comes at a scene differently. Casey Affleck and Willem Defoe couldn't be more dissimilar in terms of styles. You have to on the day balance those styles to make sure that all ideas are welcome. But that we're all trying to serve the theme of the film. And what's the subtext of a theme. And then when you cast people, Willem Defoe has made that around probably 100 films or Christian who's made 50 Evolve is made 100 I mean, it's like, and I've said this before, it's almost as though you're like a jockey at the route. Imagine wanting to be at the Kentucky Derby, you're on the best. And it's a little bit of guidance here, a little bit of guidance, they're showing the whip, you know, and then let them run rest of the work. I mean, that's the key is like not getting in their way. And helping an ice ball would always say to me, the key to being a successful director of performances, which is what I hope I am, is knowing how to help an actor when he or she is in trouble.

Alex Ferrari 14:29
Now with crazy heart you I mean, again, you very rare example of your first film being nominated for three Oscars. It doesn't happen quite very often. How did you

Scott Copper 14:42
I gotta be honest

Alex Ferrari 14:43
Yeah, I that was my question. How did you handle the print not only the pressure, the accolades the year, the greatest the ego trips, being in the center of that hurricane and then after winning, you know, the film winning a few a couple Oscars, and how the town entreated you because Hollywood's a dangerous place. And, and but you already been in town a bit as an actor. So you've seen a few things that I'm Oh yeah. So how did you deal with it man?

Scott Copper 15:13
Well, by making a film that was the complete polar opposite, which was out of the furnace, which, you know, I hope to make as an L.A giant crime film. Right, that would remind me of smaller version of The Deer Hunter, right? And you feel like, okay, well, you're definitely not going to sand off the edges. You're not going to strive for consensus, you're gonna make a film that is as hard hitting as the people experience who actually live there. Right. And fortunately, that's where Christian and I met in Braddock, Pennsylvania Mayor John Fetterman, who's now the senator from Pennsylvania. Right. And I know how tough it was to live in a place like that probably still is in Braddock. So if you're being authentic to tell him the story, that's really the key. And you don't worry about what others will say. You know, worried about what category voters will say you don't worry about what critics say because if you look at most of Stanley Kubrick's films, they were not well received when they first came out.

Alex Ferrari 16:18
All of them almost I think all of them unanimously were not well received.

Scott Copper 16:21
And time is what settles the score. Right? So often, you see movies that go on to win Oscars and receive a claim and you watch them 234 years later, if not sooner, you've and you realize that they don't really hold up right so if you're if you're playing and these actors that I work with know that you're playing for the long game. And really what what means something to me is that when I hear from people who are also filmmakers who have responded to me whether it's Bogdanovich with crazy horror, whether it was Michael Cimino calling me or William freaking after seeing out of the furnace, you know, Michael Mann, who was has been very kind to me, Mike Nichols, like all of these people that I admired, really reached out to you after seeing your films and, and continued to applaud you and continue to push.

Alex Ferrari 17:14
How do you as I mean, as a filmmaker, there's so many traps with that, because you know, when you're getting you're, you're basically the people you admire calling you telling you that you're great. And to keep going. The ego has to fall into how do you keep that in place? Because that's a problem when you have so much

Scott Copper 17:33
Yeah, of course, yes. And you have to, of course, my wife would disagree with saying that I feel like I have no ego she

Alex Ferrari 17:42
Wives do that.

Scott Copper 17:43
Yes. But ultimately, it's really about serving the story about telling the stories that that you want to tell. And you and Alex, what you try to do is, is try to keep ego out of any decisions that you make. Which is often very difficult for artists to do, whether you're a painter or whether you're physician, whether you're a filmmaker, Jeff Bridges, said to me, I don't care what happens to a movie when it comes out in terms of winning awards that the reward is, is in the journey for him. And it's the experience and the more movies that I make. That's the truth. It's when you and a group of gifted collaborators are, are all striving for the same goal. And I think that's really important. I think, also, I have tended to try to figure out how the how to tell the truth about how tragic and unfair life is without losing hope. You know, most narratives lie to the audience about how life works out. And shocking. Yes, and

Alex Ferrari 18:53
Hollywood does that. No, you're kidding me?

Scott Copper 18:57
Yes. So that's our bread and butter. It is yeah. So for me really, it's it's about, you know, working through the difficulties in my life by dressing them through art.

Alex Ferrari 19:09
Fair enough. Fair enough. Now, the one thing that's not spoken a lot about in, in the filmmaking space, especially in the film, schools, and for young filmmakers coming up, is the politics of the set. As a first time director, you know, you have collaborators who you might have chosen wrong, you know, incorrectly that you didn't align with what you want it or or try to enforce their vision on top of the director. Have you dealt with any of that? And if you have, how did you overcome it?

Scott Copper 19:37
No, frankly, I haven't. Because I didn't think so having gone to film school, actually, all six of my films have been incredibly harmonious. Now I work with the same crew largely over and over because we have a shorthand, and you know, my films are not inexpensive and every moment counts. And every minute is, you know, you can just hear the dollar sign I think it was Kubrick again who, who said that actually, prepping is much easier editing, you're much more relaxed. But when you're shooting, it's like you're in this cauldron of fire because you have to make so many decisions every day. And you're dealing with production designers, actors, cameramen, and women sound. Everything is coming together at once. So the key is, how do you hire people that see the world as you do, who will make push you to become a better filmmaker, because I didn't go to film school and all of my film school is reading as much as I can about film directors, watching their movies over and over and over with the sound off, how do they move the camera. Most importantly, when they don't move it, how they use composition and missile scene and lighting, staging, to help tell the story. And which is more and more difficult because we're living in the most impatient of ages. Because of this, right? And because we're getting instant, in social media, we're getting instant gratification constantly, and that we were no longer patient. We have to you have to really resist that when you're making a film. Because if you were to put an audience today in front of 2001 I knew what that was. Barry Lyndon The Godfather even and it never heard of these actors have seen it, people would find it painfully slow, boring. And if they were watching home, they would turn it off. Not everybody but a lot of people. And you have to resist that. You have to say okay, well, this is the story I'm telling you, you might find it to be a slow burn. But I said this before making you know, experiencing a film in a cinema is not like getting an enema. You don't want to have wanted to get over as fast as possible. luxuriate in Stanley Kubrick's world, or in Jane Campion's world, or countless other filmmakers that have inspired me for years. Right? That's the key. So. So it's really about trying to assure an ego, hire people that see the world as you do know their work incredibly well. Take meetings with them. And then you will just learn to push one another. I mean, even when you work with trusted collaborators, there will be moments on set where there is Sturm and Drang as the director, and as the writer and as the producer, you have to be able to solve those issues, you also have to be open, and realize that all ideas are welcome. And that is the key, you can't only just say it's my way, you have to very strong vision. But it's clear that there are people that you hire, who will bring ideas to make you not only a better filmmaker, that makes the film better.

Alex Ferrari 22:46
Now, how do you approach the writing process? Because your your, your, your work is so character driven? How do you how do you just deal with the writing process?

Scott Copper 22:57
Quite quite frankly, and and I work very long stretches from early in the morning, through lunch, take a break, and then get back at it because I do kind of what Coppola did, which is like this vomit draft, where you don't go back and edit. You literally write the story from page one to page 120 or however long it is without going back to edit and reading it it very often will be terrible to see if if this is a story that you would want to race out to see on Friday night. That's my litmus test. And before I became a writer, I would study Robert towns work I would study free King's work I would study the network perish is the whoever. And I would I would try to understand these are all people who write characters. How is it that they're telling the story largely through subtext. And they're telling it visually, they're telling it with spare dialogue? All these sorts of things that you just keep writing, writing is rewriting and and eventually you come to a place where we feel like you can share a screenplay with Robert Duvall, who's the first one to to read crazy art or now, the person who reads all my scripts, whether he's in them or not, is Christian Bale. Right. Christian has been making films since he's 12. He'll tell you if a story of a character is working quickly. And it's great to have and I'm very fortunate to have those kinds of trusted collaborators who read my things, and help guide me because so often, and even in the editorial process, you get very Snowblind it's snowballing and you can't quite see think things are great. But then there are other people who will come in and say this didn't quite land for me. This isn't working. This is overstated. This is understated. So all of those sorts of things. I'm just getting a text from my pal Casey Affleck right now speaking. So Alex, that's really hitman. It's about how do you use other people's ideas? Look at I mean, I can't say enough to young filmmakers read great screenplays. see not only what a writer is trying to express, but what they aren't. So much is left to the unspoken, that will make a real connection with the audience. And I tell people all the time, first time filmmakers tell the truth. write stories that are close to you that you know, and personalize everything. Because then if you do, your theme will become universal. And it will speak to most everybody because we're all suffering, right? And we all if you if you deign to make the kind of films that I do, you want to move people, or you want to challenge people, a great filmmaker who shall remain unnamed, once said to me, and this guy's one of the greats. He said, Scott, if everybody likes you film, it's likely not very good.

Alex Ferrari 25:57
Very true. Now do you outline at all

Scott Copper 26:02
If I'm adapting something, if I'm writing an original, it's funny because I use Kubrick again, because I've read everything he's ever said, Oh, me to my friend to me to all of his interviews. And he would never direct an original screenplay always has to be based on existing material, because he says you can sit down in one city and tell this is a story that I want to tell. This is what I want to spend the next five years of my life. Outlining can be really quite helpful. If there's existing, the pale blue i Very sprawling novel, more characters that I could, that I could or should explore on a two hour timeframe different if you're making a limited series. Something that's longer, more sprawling, you should certainly outline but original screenplay. It helps it helps to give you guideposts as you're writing for sure. But certainly, if you're adapting something, and it's really all about finding the essence of the novel, or nonfiction pieces, or magazine, or whatever it is you're adapting podcast. And then it helps to outline that for sure. But there's also something very freeing about not knowing where narrative is going. You have a kernel of an idea, like out of the furnace and off I went in and just wrote, and I was doing press for crazy hard. I was in Pittsburgh, drove over to Braddock, Pennsylvania, wrote very specifically for all of these locations, took images. Out of that came the narrative. So I do both. I've just just adapted something that I hope to make certainly my next film or a film after that. And I didn't outline, I'd read the novel four or five times William Goldman, but certainly once he realized he was going to read something and read it two or three times, did I like it the second time as much as the first, what are the themes? Who are the characters that I'm going to exercise, who the characters I'm going to focus on. That's, that's the piece that I just that I've just adapted with that. When you have someone who's given you a great piece of source material, like for instance, those by art in the pale blue eye, you can take that. And if the author knows and understands that a film is very different than a book, you could just use a sea and off you go. So it really is is project continue whether I outline or not. I don't do always.

Alex Ferrari 28:42
Now, as directors, there's always that day on set where we feel like the entire world's coming crashing down around you the sun's every day there is that but there's that one day that's like, oh, I don't think we're going to make it that day that you like holy cow. What was that day on any of your projects? And how did you overcome it?

Scott Copper 29:00
Well, you never have enough time. Honestly, even though you've got and I've got 55 days to shoot this Jesus, I had 24 for crazy heart. Every day by the time you're finished up, you know, there are no easy days on a film set. One of them of course is is if you have to vacate a location because it's a restaurant that you've rented or someone's house and they're ready to move back in. Or it can be because you have monsoon rains coming and that would have been in hostiles where I was shooting the sequence towards the end of the film where Rory Cocker this character before he before he meets his maker and it's pouring rain and it's I think it's probably 38 degrees. It's going to be snowing later. Rory is dressed only in a very thin shirt, but we hadn't quite gotten the scene but I could tell that he was. He was very affected by the weather and was starting to become hypothermic. I'm not a doctor, I'm supposing I can see how it was affecting him. In these monsoon rains up in the Continental Divide, you just can't control but it was giving me everything that I wanted in the scene. So you're trying to balance somebody's help with also trying to know that you have to vacate a location, vacate a location and trying to balance the scene but and I would go to Rory and say, Listen, I think we have this. But I'm also very concerned that you are experiencing something now that you shouldn't be. No, Scott, I haven't quite gotten it is what Rory would say, we're going to keep pushing. And then you're sitting behind the monitor next to the lens and you're thinking okay, man, I've got to stop him because he'll keep going until it until he falls down. Because he's that kind of actor he's so great, Rory, great actors I've worked with. So seems like that really pressure you or when the monsoon rains and rattlesnakes have come out of the ground, they're everywhere, but you're still shooting, you know, those sorts of things. So it's all about really balancing. And you know, if you're 810 1000 feet above sea level, and oxygen very difficult for people, it's always trying to balance those sort of things, or shooting the pale blue eye and and it's eight below zero. And those are long days. And you want to make certain that the crew are well taken care of. But if you're the writer, director, producer, and you're in a location, and you're focused on that, and then but you're also concerned about the crews. Well being you know, those are things that you really have to juggle as a filmmaker they certainly don't teach you in film school having gone to film school, I don't know for sure, but I suspect they don't rattlesnake. Elevation,

Alex Ferrari 31:57
I missed the rattlesnake. Bears bronze class. When I went at least it wasn't there. It wasn't in the curriculum. I went I went.

Scott Copper 32:08
Right. Maybe there should be a class on.

Alex Ferrari 32:10
I mean, if someone's listening at USC USC film school should have that exactly. Now, I've talked to so many writers that when they are when they're writing, and it happens, it's happened to me, it happens to every writer, I think, is when you're writing you, you're almost channeling, you're almost like it's something flowing through you to what point to the point where after you're done, you look at and you go, Holy crap, who wrote this, this is good,

Scott Copper 32:41
Almost every time. And quite frankly, it comes from a very deep, subconscious place. I mean, you're very conscious as you're writing it. But you're not questioning that my wife asked me that all the time when she when she reads something. She's like Jesus, where'd this come from, and you can't quite really understand it. And, and quite frankly, the more films you make, and the more experienced you become known as a film director, but as a film writer, the more difficult it gets about saying less, and not over imparting to the audience, and trying to give them enough information to keep them satisfied, but not too much information. And that's where you become more conscious about it. But generally, if you're writing, if you're in that flow, and that stream of consciousness, and it's coming from a place, don't question it, and don't stop

Alex Ferrari 33:30
So it seems like it's, you know, we could call it the other side, the ether, wherever ideas come from ethics, Spielberg talked about it. And I think Prince and Michael Jackson talked about it as well, like where ideas come from. And I think Spielberg said it in an interview where he's like, if an idea comes to me, I know that if I don't act on it, in a week or two, I'll hear that Marty got it, or someone else got it, because the idea needs to be birthed into the world. And they chose you first. But if you don't move, they'll move on to the next one.

Scott Copper 34:02
Look at those are three geniuses that you just mentioned. So I wouldn't question any of that, but I think he's probably right. And I try not to I try not to question anything, honestly, in terms of where it comes from, because when you make the kind of films that that I make you you have to understand that no two people see the same film. Right. And which is why I think it's so frankly, absurd to rank art as we do in America. What's the best, you know? Who do you Who do you think's a better painter Cy Twombly or Jackson Pollock? You're gonna have very responses, right from a number of people when you present them with that. Are those better Meyer miles or Coltrane? Right? Those were things in the fact that we that we rank are something that are a whole nother discussion. Keep out. But you can't really be concerned with any of that when you are making a film, or when you're. So these come from don't know, how are people going to receive this?

Alex Ferrari 35:13
Oh, God, no, you can't think that. No, you have to just let it come out. And, and that's where I think a lot of writers

Scott Copper 35:20
Will be generic and easily forgotten.

Alex Ferrari 35:24
One thing I've noticed with your work is, it seems that there hasn't been a drop off. Meaning that the level that you were able to set the bar, you were able to sit with Crazy Heart, you've been able to keep that film after film, on the level of the writing and the directing, because to be honest, and I know you know this as well, there are directors who pop, but then they overthink or they and then you could start seeing it in their work, their work starts to drop off, unfortunately. Do you think when you wrote crazy heart where you were basically, there was no pressure to recreate the heart? Oh, no, no, that nobody? No, no. So it was such a freeing experience that you let go? Yes. Do you? Are you able to continuously do that with your work? Or do you start to get in your own way and stop that flow sometimes from happening?

Scott Copper 36:13
Well, both only because my work explores the darker corners of the human psyche. And since crazy heart have gotten progressively darker, although pale blue eyes, certainly it's not that I mean, that's much more accessible. So you try to guard against that, only because you know that your films affect people in ways and I've been to countless screenings over the last six movies, where people have come out of my films as though they were just, you know, festivals, screenings, because they were just hit by a two by four. And you can tell that they were deeply moved or deeply angered, or upset. Whatever it is. So you're sometimes mindful of that, like, you know, and I never tried to make the same film twice, you make it music film, you make a gangster movie, a Western for our family, hard trauma with antlers. And now this. So I never tried to repeat myself, but I also never let the audience off the hook. And that is something that you sometimes have to be reminded, because look we want I mean, movies are an expensive endeavor, and their investment want their movies at least to break even. But they want to make money. You know, it's cliche as it is it is show business and not show art. So I've been lucky to make the kind of films that I make. And quite frankly, I think actors and other directors, whether they're my contemporaries, or people that I have long, long admired became a filmmaker, because of them, have embraced my work in ways that the public just isn't aware of. And that really keeps you going. Walter Hill, got an email from Walter today, telling me how much that he loved pale blue eye. And what he thinks is my same reason I bring it up because you just mentioned it, and how he's seen my career ascend. And if you know, I think people are thankful when directors really, really respect the audience, and want to give them something that's challenging and something that's different, and most importantly, something that, and I do believe this will stand the test of time.

Alex Ferrari 38:31
Let me I gotta ask you this question. Because I mean, we you and I are both of the generation that remembers all those great filmmakers. You talked about all those great movies, from the 70s in the 60s in the in the 80s. And I feel like those kinds of filmmakers and to be honest filmmakers, like yourself aren't dangered species right now. Because of what's happening in the in the business. There's, it's, it's just getting crazier and crazier. And if it wasn't for people like Netflix, you know, a pale blue eye, which is your new movie. That's not getting a theatrical release today. That's not being made today. It just wouldn't get made unless it was with a streamer who wants to do that kind of work. Because the studios, honestly, if Scorsese is having a problem getting his films made, and he has to go to netflix. We're all in trouble.

Scott Copper 39:28
So we'll make it his new film.

Alex Ferrari 39:30
Right, exactly. So what do you think about the future of where we're going? Because as a film lover, I'm seeing I'm seeing a problem, the new generation coming up. It's,

Scott Copper 39:41
I mean, Christian and I just spoke about it today. Because the pale blue eyes debut on Netflix, it's been in theaters for the last two weeks. I mean, I'm eternally grateful that Netflix have allowed this film should people want to see it in the big screen experience to debut in the top markets. All over the world, you got two weeks to see it in a theater, if you want to see that. And should you want to wait until it comes to your house, which is what most people will do to your home theater. That's how the majority of people will see my film, then that's how they're gonna see. I am eternally grateful that Netflix, Apple, Amazon are making films that the legacy studios no longer want to make, because those are the films that that the reason I became a filmmaker, and the movies that still excite me, I mean, I've been asked to do major superhero films, or the kind of films that that guarantee an audience have been offered as many times and have as of yet elected not to do them because I want to tell these stories. Stories that make me want to race out to see a film on Friday night. It's getting tougher and tougher. Because if you look at this fall, and some of my pals their films, that debuted in cinemas just no one came to see them. And these are excellent films, and made them with the highest craftsmanship in great performances. And it's a bit terrifying, and we're heading into potentially strike here. we potentially could be facing the facing, you know, economic headwinds. So all of these things make it more difficult for people to get their films made. Certainly more difficult than than it does for Scorsese. Or, or, or your those Landmaster, myself, whoever are making, you know, challenging adult dramas. But still, it's never easy. And I fear that people until we're really beyond COVID, which we certainly are not. I think an older audience won't come back. And I think ticket price is probably going to have to come down to entice people to come back to the cinemas. But I can assure you because you look around the world are such great cinema being made. And those are the films that I most respond to, quite frankly, international filmmakers who've inspired me a great deal over the last 1520 years. They're still getting their films made. Their their home, countries sometimes help subsidize them, which we don't quite have here. It is getting tougher, but then every year movies come out you think okay, great. This is why we love cinema. It's just just getting harder and harder. Alex and James Rockwell any filmmaker, you should make the film you're about to make is though it's your last.

Alex Ferrari 42:58
Yeah, and it's good. You know, a lot of times, well, first of all, I think what you said about foreign films, we're getting access to them so much easier now because of streaming services. They're just coming in, and something like parasite winning the Oscar and things like that, that would have never happened. No, 1020 years ago, we just wouldn't have happened. So that's a good, those are good signs. But the younger generation of filmmakers coming up because I teach these filmmakers I they listen to me all the time. And, and they watch the show. And it's I see them at festivals, and I see them at events and I talk to them and it's just it's so much harder now to get stuff off the ground than it was before and especially to tell the kind of challenging stories that you're telling. And I mean, any of Kubrick's films, any of them tried to release them today. Oh, any Kubrick film today release it. It's not it's not even possible. You can you imagine the Clockwork Orange, I watched the other day, just the first. The first 20 minutes of that. I'm like, you can't release that today. It's just not in today's environment. You can't release a film like that. Or a taxi driver?

Scott Copper 44:10
No. Are you kidding? Are students dispirited from from following their passions? Or do they you know, it's gonna be a tougher road to hoe?

Alex Ferrari 44:21
Well, this is the thing, man, I think that filmmakers, the younger film generation coming up, are still stuck. A lot of times in the glory days, which in many ways for our generation was the 90s, which was the independent film movement, the Sundance movement where and I've spoken to a lot of these filmmakers, you know, the Ed Burns and the Robert Rodriguez and the Tarantino is these guys that there were legendary stories of what happened in the 90s. And they're stuck into that world that like think that that's the path and I keep yelling from the top of the mountain. This is not the way anymore but you can't. I talked to Ed burns about Brothers McMullen. That movie wouldn't make it De Klerk wouldn't make it today. El Mariachi wouldn't make it today. Slacker wouldn't make it today. It's there and they think that that's the path. So then I have to kind of break that illusion a bit. And then they go, Well, what do I do? And I go you that the game is so different now. And it's so much easier to make a film. But it's so much harder to get it seen. Because when we were coming up, it was impossible to make a film cos you needed 35 You need 16 If you were lucky, and then you had to really understand technology, you really need to understand lighting now anyone can make it I had Shaun Baker on a few a couple times on my show it what did he did with tangerine with the iPhone and and cameras are so cheap and things look so good

Scott Copper 45:45
Sean's doing it the right way.

Alex Ferrari 45:47
No, Sean is amazing. And he's, you know, Red Rocket, I love red rocket. I saw I saw that in the theater shot that 16 It was great. But that but that it's I think people are starting to get disheartened a bit. And I think what we're our generation looked into the 90s, let's say for for hope. And and of course, obviously the 70s and the 80s. And the 60s and the great filmmakers and the legends. We were we kind of like if you remember when that when everybody wanted to grow up to be a rock star, right. Then, in the 90s, everybody wanted to grow up to be a director, because Quinton made it so cool. And Robert made it so cool. And it was just like everybody. Yeah, so Soderbergh everybody was so cool to be a director. Now, the younger generation didn't, they want to be content creators. They want to be YouTubers to tell their stories, and they're able to monetize they're much faster than they could with film. And then don't get me started about film distribution, which is a whole other world that I've deep into as far independent film distribution. So it's such a difficult, it's so hard, man, at certain levels. Yeah, you're gonna get the rank Googlers that come out of film school and, and make some great films and your film like crazy are these but these are anomalies. I mean, your story is an anomaly, right? So I don't know, I don't know where this conversation is going. But I just love to hear your thoughts on where you think from your point of view.

Scott Copper 47:09
Well, now you might want to crawl up in the fetal position. Jesus, Alan Toro, who write my film antlers, and yes, it was a great pal of mine said, he said, Look, you know, if COVID remind us of anything, we know that we need food. We need shelter. We need medicines, and we need stories. And we will always need films, we will always always need long form television. Whether it's content, as you mentioned, on YouTube, whether it's short films, people need stories we always have ever since when we go back to caveman, right, the corpse of corpse, in cave art in caves in France and elsewhere. So that I'm not concerned about what I am concerned about are the economic headwinds. The difficulty to entry for the marketplace? The marketplace and distribution. And my hope is that that I don't know that we're on the tail end of COVID. Hopefully, still have it now. And it's as bad as ever as intense as ever. Hopefully, once people come back, the older audience come back to cinemas, perhaps it will get easier. But I don't know that film going is the first choice for 18 to 34 year olds. I have kids, they love going to the cinema. They try to go as often as possible. But it's also because I'm a film director, I love to go to the movies. But they're also on Tik Tok all the time. And they're on Instagram and they're on YouTube. owns YouTube. Yeah. So it's it's there are many things that are challenging our time for movies. Because it's expensive and time consuming to get to the to the cinema. I hope that changes. I hope that that will shake out with COVID and the Lego studios now realize that making films, like the films that I make are more important, but it's really all about economics always has been,

Alex Ferrari 49:25
But you know, it has but I think that the studios are now run by corporations and by boards of directors. Oh, but before they were run by filmmakers, you know, you know, I mean, arguably Iger, Bob Iger is probably the only guy who understands it. Look what he's done with Disney for God's sakes. He got his back and think he's back. He understood he understands storytelling understands filmmaking. But I remember growing up I worked at a video store and we would have movies like What About Bob? You know, and these smaller films in Virginia. Right, exactly. So the smaller films with big stars Nice budgets, you know, 10 million 15 million, that there was a shot that do 10 Of those, and one would pop, and the other ones would do, okay, and then maybe two or three would bomb, but they will all work together. And there was more content, more ideas, more things. And that's why we're going back to those times to mind those ideas, because everyone's terrified of doing that kind of stuff right now, where Netflix, and Amazon and Apple aren't scared to do that, because their business model is different. That's right.

Scott Copper 50:28
And I suspect that there are a lot of different streaming platforms, which are expensive for people to have six or eight of them. I imagine that there will be fewer going forward. And but those will still be providing great content. And that's, of course, Netflix and Apple and Amazon Disney plus who are well capitalized. But then I think you'll probably also see some consolidation. And the less buyers the worse off for all of us.

Alex Ferrari 51:03
Agreed my friend agreed that's without question

Scott Copper 51:06
Companies like Sony Pictures, classics, and my good friends at Fox Searchlight who backs Yeah, a couple of my films, and they and they really are run by filmmakers. Films, year in and year out. They're great supporters of film

Alex Ferrari 51:24
A24 A24.

Scott Copper 51:26
And, and and now and of course, Netflix, Netflix as a whole division that will allow you to make Romo or Bardot or power of the dog or the pale blue eye or on and on and on. And hopefully we can continue to make that because there's so many young filmmakers who are listening to this podcast or your podcast in general, who have stories to tell and should be absolutely, there's no problem. And if you can, if you have that burning desire that says this is the only thing I can do with my life, which is ultimately what I said, then you'll find a way to succeed and tell your story.

Alex Ferrari 52:01
Amen, brother, I think that's that's the key is it's not and maybe you should, maybe you can back me up on this. It's always not about the talent. But perseverance, because there's a lot of people who are around. They're like, man, they're not the best, but they just stuck it out.

Scott Copper 52:18
They just survived. Oh, yeah, we all know examples of that for sure. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 52:24
And that's something they don't teach you in film school. It's like, I don't look, Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan got cut from his high school team talent wasn't enough talent wasn't he had to go and hustle and work and build it up and keep going. And, and that's something that I try to I try to yell at from the top of the mountain here as well.

Scott Copper 52:41
Hey, if you had my pal, Adam Sandler on to talk about hustle,

Alex Ferrari 52:45
Please, I would love to have Adam on the show. Please call them up and let them know because I love the show. He should be on. I don't know why he didn't come on hustle. I love by the way, love that movie, love.

Scott Copper 52:56
He's a great, great man. And he's great in the film. And

Alex Ferrari 52:59
If he's if you want to talk about Adam, and people always ask, like, how come Adam keeps getting all these this deal on Netflix? And I always say like, the reason why is because when you're on Friday night with your wife sitting on Netflix, and you're scanning all those thumbnails and you see Adams face. You go, I know what I'm gonna get. And I'm gonna get some livers, man, and he's going to be super funny. Or when he gets into this drop dramatic stuff, which is so underrated. It's dramatic acting great. He and he just he gets it and he understands his brand. He understands what he's doing. And man, he unlike any other actor, I really, he's he's done such amazing stuff over the years. Whether you like yeah, whatever you like. I don't care if people like his films or not everyone has their opinions on stuff. But you can't deny what the man has done. And continue to do it keeps knocking it out of the park. I love to hustle. I love to hustle. So good. I love the guy. So let's talk about the pale blue I you know with Netflix, I you know, it looks beautiful dude. It's stunning. It is stunningly shot. It almost reminded it almost has a Sleepy Hollow vibe to it as far as it gets. Yeah, that's right, that that has that kind of texture? Well, for sure. It's It's stunning, man. So tell me how that that whole thing came to be and and how you were able I mean, I'm assuming you gave the script to Christian Christian said yes. And then Netflix.

Scott Copper 54:31
Yeah, he read it probably a lot. I don't know 10 or 12 years ago after we get out of the furnace. That he was too young to play Augustus landour The world where he detected with too old to play. Edgar Allan Poe, but we'd always talked about it. I mean, I've written a lot of things that I think he and I will make at some point. It's all about as we discussed early on in the podcast, all about timing availability, what we feel like making but we both We're interested in what drives someone to madness, how much pressure has to build before they explode. And violence is what causes morality and decency to erode and otherwise decent people. Right? real horrors seldom have easy explanations. And that's what we wanted to explore with the story. In terms of the aesthetic. It was a it was a brutal shoot is all my wife thinks I'm a masochist. But like I said, it was incredibly cold was bracing winds coming from the northeast, or just almost revenant style. Yeah, it was it was tough. But that was all in serving kind of this Gothic aesthetic, and, and really trying to serve as a, an Edgar Allan Poe origin story, that the two hours that take place in this film, motivate Poe to become the writer that we know and love, the writer of the McCobb, the man who bequeathed to us detective and horror fiction, the man who writes about tragedy and death and the Satanic and the occult, and where life ends and death begins, all those sorts of things that kind of course, through this narrative. And I thought that again, in trying not to do Safe Work. Christian stood on that ledge with me. And then we both took the took the leap, and we're, yeah, so once I attached Christian, my agency, creative artists took the screenplay out and, and we got a lot of bids from Legacy studios, a lot of bids from streamers. But Netflix made us an offer that we thought was too good to pass up in terms of having both a theatrical experience and streaming my first platform experience. And also, quite frankly, there there have the ranks are filled with great filmmakers who really understood the film and allowed me to make the film that you see. I hoped that people find it, you know, starting today on the on the streamer and, and allow people coming behind me to make films that are similarly difficult to make in this marketplace.

Alex Ferrari 57:21
And you've worked with Christian so many times now. I mean, you guys are you're the Scorsese to his dinero at this point, or to his DiCaprio, at this point. Christian is one of the greatest actors of his generation. There's no no question one of the greatest actors of his generation, and his physical transformations that he's done over the course of his life, which I know it's harmed his health.

Scott Copper 57:43
Oh, it has to harm himself. And

Alex Ferrari 57:46
There's nobody who's ever done anything at that again, and again, and again. And again, from the machine is to Batman. You're like, what, how? Tao? How? It's really remarkable. What is the what is the biggest lesson you've learned working with an actor like him?

Scott Copper 58:05
No detail is too small. And always striving for the truth. always striving for excellence, and realizing that we can always do better. And you need people like that to make you a better filmmaker. spoken about it publicly, Christian is my closest pal, my closest collaborator, is a brother to me. And and I'm thankful that as a director, I've had someone who has served as a muse for, for the stories that I want to tell, and people continue to come out and see our work, it won't be the end of it, our collaboration for sure. But he pushes me to be the best filmmaker I can be. And and quite frankly, I admired him more off the set than I do on music is incredibly devoted father and husband and you'll never see Christian in the public eye. You never see him on talk shows. Because he always thinks the less the public knows about him, the more easily they will believe Him as Batman, or Dick Cheney, or Augustus landour and the pale blue where he pumps his gas who he's partying with, where he went through holiday. Never see it.

Alex Ferrari 59:16
Yeah, it's almost a Daniel Day Lewis vibe to because when Daniel, he just wouldn't you don't? Nothing. You didn't do nothing about it. He just show up. 310 years later, I'll do a part now.

Scott Copper 59:27
And that way, you're able to be transported with the filmmakers to a world never even question. Hold on. Is he dating?

Alex Ferrari 59:36
You're right. You're right. He's brilliant. He's brilliant on multiple levels without question, and I have I continue to write for him. Now I have a few questions. Ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker or screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Scott Copper 59:49
Tell personal stories, tell personal stories that you know will connect in a very universal way to people in America. Are people in Iran, people in Afghanistan, people in Ukraine, all people need stories tell make personal films?

Alex Ferrari 1:00:08
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Scott Copper 1:00:14
It's difficult but patience, and to believe in yourself into Believe in your stories and to believe that you will ultimately cultivate your talent in such a way that it will be undeniable that people will want to work with you. But it all takes patience and experience.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:32
And the toughest question of all three of your favorite films of all time.

Scott Copper 1:00:38
I would say even though I have yet to make a documentary, I love them. I would say Barbara couples, Harlan County, USA. That's a great movie. One thing that really has influenced me the Maysles brothers salesman. It's another I would say John Pierre Melville's, Last Samurai.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:06
Nice. Very nice, very nice list. My friend, Scott brother, I appreciate you coming on the show and and sharing all your knowledge and experience with the audience, man and please continue to make movies man.

Scott Copper 1:01:15
Great questions, man. Keep it up and please people. In all seriousness, don't lose faith. We got to tell stories.



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Top 101 Filmmaking Quotes to Inspire

Top 101 Filmmaking Quotes to Inspire

Anyone who has ever listen to the IFH Podcasts knows that I start off every episode with a filmmaking quote. I decided to put together a list of some of my favorite filmmaking quotes from some of the masters of the medium. Without further ado enjoy the inspiration.

Pick up a camera. Shoot something. No matter how small, no matter how cheesy, no matter whether your friends and your sister star in it. Put your name on it as director. Now you’re a director. Everything after that you’re just negotiating your budget and your fee.
James Cameron


When given an opportunity, deliver excellence and never quit.
― Robert Rodriguez


The saddest journey in the world is the one that follows a precise itinerary. Then you’re not a traveler. You’re a [email protected]@king tourist.
― Guillermo del Toro


We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.
– Walt Disney

Film is, to me, just unimportant. But people are very important.
― John Cassavetes


Let me just pause a minute and drink in this moment. And if you film it, I’ll be able to get free refills for life.
― Jarod Kintz


Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out.
― Martin Scorsese


There are no rules in filmmaking. Only sins. And the cardinal sin is dullness.
– Frank Capra


The characters in my films try to live honestly and make the most of the lives they’ve been given. I believe you must live honestly and develop your abilities to the full. People who do this are the real heroes.
– Akira Kurosawa


If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies.
– Kathryn Bigelow


A storyshould have a beginning, a middle, and an end… but not necessarily in that order.
– Jean-Luc Godard


A film is – or should be – more like musicthan like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.
Stanley Kubrick


The Biggest Mistake in Student Films is That They Are Usually Cast So Badly, With Friends and People the Directors Know.
– Brian De Palma


Although I Write Screenplays, I Don’t Think I’m a Good Writer.
George Lucas


A lot of times you get credit for stuff in your movie that you didn’t intend to be there.
– Spike Lee


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People say I pay too much attention to the look of a movie but for God’s sake, I’m not producinga Radio 4 Play for Today, I’m making a movie that people are going to look at.
Ridley Scott


I think audiences get too comfortable and familiar in today’s movies. They believe everything they’re hearing and seeing. I like to shake that up.
Christopher Nolan


For me, filmmaking combines everything. That’s the reason I’ve made cinema my life’s work. In films, painting and literature, theatre and music come together. But a film is still a film.
Akira Kurosawa


A Film is a Petrified Fountain of Thought.
– Jean Cocteau


My idea of professionalism is probably a lot of people’s idea of obsessive.
David Fincher


If you have to have a job in this world, a high-priced movie star is a pretty good gig.
– Tom Hanks


I like unformed characters. This may be because, no matter how old I get, I am still unformed myself.
– Akira Kurosawa


If a million people see my movie, I hope they see a million different movies.
Quentin Tarantino


The only safe thing is to take a chance.
– Mike Nichols


I Am Certain There is Too Much Certainty in the World.
– Michael Crichton


First cuts are a bitch for a director, because it’s been so many months and you put your trust in your editor and you’re going to see your film assembled for the first time. You look at it and go, This is terrible. I hate it.
– Richard Donner


I Hate Television. I Hate It As Much As Peanuts. But I Can’t Stop Eating Peanuts.
– Orson Welles


Casting is 65 percent of directing.
– John Frankenheimer


You see so many movies… the younger people who are coming from MTV or who are coming from commercialsand there’s no sense of film grammar. There’s no real sense of how to tell a story visually. It’s just cut, cut, cut, cut, cut, you know, which is pretty easy.
– Peter Bogdanovich


I couldn’t sleep one night and I was sitting in my office and I realized that I was an independent filmmaker.
Darren Aronofsky


Hollywood is great. I also think it’s stupid and small-minded and shortsighted.
– David Fincher


Being an artist means not having to avert one’s eyes.
– Akira Kurosawa


A director must be a policeman, a midwife, a psychoanalyst, a sycophant and a bastard.

– Billy Wilder


In the future, everybody is going to be a director. Somebody’s got to live a real life so we have something to make a movie about.
– Cameron Crowe


People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don’t have a middle or an end any more. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.
Steven Spielberg


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Film is a battleground.
–  Sam Fuller


Our feeling is that the most important thing on a set is that actors have enough confidence to try different things. If there’s stress or tension, they won’t go out on a limb because they won’t want to embarrass themselves if they don’t feel completely comfortable.
– Peter Farrelly


All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl.
– Charlie Chaplin


Why Pay a Dollar for a Bookmark? Why Not Use the Dollar for a Bookmark?
– Steven Spielberg


Eighty Percent of Success is Turning Up.
– Woody Allen


Human beings share the same common problems. A film can only be understood if it depicts these properly.
– Akira Kurosawa


If My Film Makes One More Person Miserable, I’ve Done My Job.
– Woody Allen


The first monster you have to scare the audience with is yourself.
– Wes Craven


We tend to do period stuff because it helps make it one step removed from boring everyday reality.
Ethan Coen


Movement should be a counter, whether in action scenes or dialogue or whatever. It counters where your eye is going. This style thing, for me it’s all fitted to the action, to the script, to the characters.
– Samuel Fuller


It is the power of memory that gives rise to the power of imagination.
– Akira Kurosawa


But having a really good understanding of history, literature, psychology, sciences – is very, very important to actually being able to make movies.
– George Lucas


Cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theater.
– Roman Polanski


I’ve reached a place that many directors and filmmakers get to, and I’m grateful for that, and I can work within those boundaries. If something comes along that is totally outside of horror, fine, but I find there’s an immense amount of freedom within the genre.
– Wes Craven


In order to write scripts, you must first study the great novels and dramas of the world. You must consider why they are great. Where does the emotion come from that you feel as you read them? What degree of passion did the author have to have, what level of meticulousness did he have to command, in order to portray the characters and events as he did? You must read thoroughly, to the point where you can grasp all these things. You must also see the great films. You must read the great screenplays and study the film theories of the great directors. If your goal is to become a film director, you must master screenwriting.
– Akira Kurosawa


“I just want to tell good stories in ways that will shine a light on lives rarely seen on screen,  because stories can push humanity forward.”
– Nia Dacosta


“It sounds kind of flighty, filmmaker-y, but I believe films are a piece of art. They are meant to be what they’re meant to be, and sometimes the artist is informed by the film of what it needs to be.”
– Ava DuVernay


“Truly creative things happen when one thinks differently, yet nobody wants to think differently.”
– Shonda Rhimes


“The challenge with this kind of work is in trying to make it everyone’s story. That can quickly make it no one’s story, and so I like projects that are risky and scary and that aren’t sure-shots.” – Dee Rees


“I don’t really wanna think about themes, I wanna just think about the experience of the movie. I feel like, as soon as I reduce it to a theme, once I write that sentence, it won’t be that great […] there’s more potential for it to mean something interesting if I’m not forcing it to mean something I’ve already decided.” – Wes Anderson


“In film, we sculpt time, we sculpt behavior and we sculpt light.”
– David Fincher


“There is no free lunch, so if you’re playing with the big train set – on big movies – it’s a lot of money they’re entrusting you with, and you have to get that money back for them. I don’t take that responsibility lightly.”
– Jon Favreau


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“It’s one thing having, for instance, nice images on your studio wall that influence you when you’re just beginning as an artist or filmmaker, but when you go about getting into a situation where you begin to make work yourself, it’s a different kettle of fish altogether. It’s all about doing it—the physicality of making films. What you see at the end is never the same as the situation of how it was done, yet that process is very important. It’s all about making a lot of mistakes and being brave.”
– Steve McQueen


“Don’t show it to somebody until you’re ready to show it to somebody. You only have one opportunity to make a first impression. Put your strongest foot forward.”
– Kasi Lemmons


“When you’re doing films, just with friends, with no money, on a shoestring. You have to be able to do all the jobs… And it’s a wonderful way to learn everything.”
– Christopher Nolan


“To me, no matter who you’re casting for what role, if something’s authentic, usually you can mine something good there.”
– Barry Jenkins


“We want to see drama told in a cathartic way, with power, with emotion, where you empathize and then you’re frightened. All those feelings charge up in you and you feel for the story.”
– Danny Boyle


“I am not here to bring trauma into people’s life so, my job as a director is to conjure the best out of other people within what they have already to work with.”
– Patty Jenkins


“People will forgive pretty much every technical thing before they will forgive bad sound. Your movie could look amazing, but if on every cut, the audio track is popping and making them aware of the cuts, it will pull them out.”
– Ryan Coogler


I’ve been obsessed with doomsday for a long time – the idea that different cultures respond to it differently, and religions will change people’s outlook on it.”
– Lorene Scafaria


“When you work for other people you’ll find … that they do know what’s best for them, and for the company. And you should listen to them and be respectful, but they don’t know what’s best for you.”
– Mike Judge


“I’ve been very fortunate. Some people might call me a hard head, but I’m not going to let other people dictate to me who I should be or the stories I should tell. That doesn’t register with me.”
– Spike Lee


“If you wanna do a film where you have a big scope, you’ve got to make your characters relatable and genuine.”
– Jennifer Lee


Screenwriting is like ironing. You move forward a little bit and go back and smooth things out.”
– Paul Thomas Anderson


“If I could boil it down to one thing… never ask permission to make movies. There’s no reason why you have to be asking permission to do your work.”
– Chris McQuarrie


“The advice I would give to any director is that you should act. A lot of directors spend a lot of time getting very good at technical things and imagining things visually, but they’ve never really learned how to direct a scene… It doesn’t matter how good a shot looks, the lifeblood, the thing that people will connect to, is these people.”
– Greta Gerwig


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“You hear it said time and time again by successful directors: You have to make a movie for yourself. Don’t make it for anyone else.”
– Jordan Peele


“I’m quite optimistic, but I feel we do need more female producers, more female cinematographers and such, just to make a better working environment among predominantly male film crews.”
– Mary Harron


“Every actor comes with their own experience, method, methodology.”
– Todd Haynes


“We need Storytelling. Otherwise, life just goes on and on like the number Pi.”
– Ang Lee


“The movie is not only about what story you’re telling and who you’re looking at. It’s mostly about how you’re telling it and how you’re looking at it.”
– Celine Sciamma


“My favorite genre lies inside myself, and as I follow my favorite stories, characters, and images, it sums up to a certain genre. So at times even I have to try to guess which genre a film will be after I’ve made it.”
– Bong Joon-ho


“A documentary filmmaker can’t help but use poetry to tell the story. I bring truth to my fiction. These things go hand in hand.”
– Chloe Zhao


“The lies are in the dialogue, the truth is in the visuals.”
– Kelly Reichardt


“When I started writing the script, I realized that I hadn’t really seen any film with a black couple that was worthy of Romeo and Juliet…And through Ada and Souleiman I wanted to relate a similar kind of tragic love, in the age of rampant capitalism.”
– Mati Diop


“So I feel a responsibility to help first-time filmmakers in Brazil, but also to increase the dialogue between film cultures which are really wonderful and so much closer to us than what we do see on our screens.”
– Walter Salles


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“My advice for anyone wanting to direct is that nobody is going to hand you an opportunity. You have to create your own opportunities and not take no for an answer.”
– Marielle Heller


“The questions I want to ask will revolve around humans, connection, relationships, family, and stories – what are the stories we tell ourselves and each other?”
– Lulu Wang


“I feel like there’s more of a need to tell more optimistic stories.”
– Eliza Hittman


“If you have the opportunity for your art to meet activism, you shouldn’t pass that up when it comes your way.”
– Regina King


“I started making films for myself and embracing the craft of filmmaking again. Consequently, my work got so much better.”
– Chinonye Chukwu


“There’s still a 1950s view of cinema, that there’s one audience and they all want to see the same thing.”
– Michael Winterbottom


“I would tell filmmakers: ‘Don’t just be seduced by the same old, same old. There are interesting things you can explore that may get your film out there to audiences better than the traditional distribution mechanisms.”
– Alex Gibney


“In a kid’s film, you go through the full range of human emotions…You’re scared, you’re excited, you laugh, you’re joyous, you’re sad. It’s exactly what she aims to capture.”
– Josephine Decker


“As independent filmmakers, we are actually deeply dependent on each other. The Spirit Awards are a public expression of those bonds, the intricate set of relationships and histories that we filmmakers depend on to make our most personal work.”
– Ira Sachs


“Storytelling was a way to see the world bigger than the one you were looking at, and that had great appeal for me.”
– Robert Redford


“I feel that as a writer and as a performer too. I never really thought about the backstory for characters. It was much more of a musical approach: You learn a melody, and then you sing it, I suppose, or you find a rhythm or a cadence that works for the material. And then it’s sort of about hitting that note correctly and finding those beats.”
– Brady Corbet

“Perhaps it sounds ridiculous, but the best thing that young filmmakers should do is to get hold of a camera and make a movie of any kind at all.”
– Stanley Kubrick

“You’re learning as you’re going, as a director, and each movie is its own entity.”
– Chris Buck


“Cinema is not only about making people dream. It’s about changing things and making people think.”
–  Nadine Labaki


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“I wanted to make gritty independent films that explored the same issues the movies that I looked up to when I was a teenager: coming of age, trauma, what it meant to live in really confusing situations. Of course, you try to figure out your world narratively.”
– Bing Liu


“I think what you need to search for in films is the integrity of the image. I wanted to make films with solid images that confront the spectator.”
– Alice Rohrwacher


“Movies don’t have to impress everyone the moment that it drops. Stuff can take its time to find its audience.”
– Cathy Yan


“The one thing that helps me construct the film […] is the places, actually, […] places have a soul [..]and I don’t even know what’s going to be in the scenes, I just know I want them to be here, and it gives me a frame.”
– Mia Hansen-Love


“Making films is about having absolute and foolish confidence; the challenge for all of us is to have the heart of a poet and the skin of an elephant.”
– Mira Nair ​​


“Movies don’t look hard, but figuring it out, getting the shape of it, getting everybody’s character right, and having it be funny, make sense and be romantic, it’s creating a puzzle.” – Nancy Meyers


IFH 645: Directing as a Team & NOT Killing Each Other with Vanessa & Joseph Winter

Vanessa and Joseph Winter are a writer/director duo best known for their critically acclaimed SXSW midnighter “Deadstream,” a horror comedy coming to Shudder in October. They also wrote and directed a segment of the highly anticipated V/H/S/99 which will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Their feature debut, Deadstream, has been getting rave reviews since it debuted at SXSW (it’s at 91% on Rotten Tomatoes). The film is about a disgraced internet personality who tries to win back followers by live-streaming himself alone at a haunted house. The whole thing takes place in real-time and is a found-footage style film with the bonkers horror-comedy feel of early Sam Raimi. It’s a funny satire of social personalities and a creepy, supernatural flick. It impressively balances the mixture of tones.

They also have a segment in the latest entry to the V/H/S/ series, V/H/S/99. It premiered at TIFF, with many critics citing their segment “To Hell And Back” as a highlight. Like Deadstream, it mixes horror with comedy and is filled with horrific, practical creatures.

Vanessa and Joseph met in film school and have worked together ever since. Before shifting to focus on writing/directing/acting, the duo cut their teeth doing everything from art direction to score composition to costumes to production design to editing. They have an interesting story about getting these projects off the ground that feels like a great fit for the podcast. Joseph also listens to Indie Film Hustle and was excited to be part of the show!

Please enjoy my conversation with Vanessa & Joseph Winter.

Joseph Winter 0:00
We made that stream as a huge swing, everything about it, we put everything on the line for the movie. Why would we stop doing that right now when this guy is telling us there is a shot, a small shot, but a shot. So we came back and said, Alright, let's do it. Let's talk to the sales agent, we withdrew from the past that we had like some of the small ones we've been accepted to. And we just, he, the sales agent started submitting for us, which is how most festivals are programmed. And

Vanessa Winter 0:30
It sounds it sounds dumb, but it was so nerve wracking because we'd had some offers for distribution. And I felt like, you know, if we pull out of the fall festivals, which is very genre friendly, there's a chance that nobody we get rejected from the bigger festivals, and nobody just ever sees our movie.

Alex Ferrari 0:48
This episode is brought to you by the best selling book, Rise of the Filmtrepreneur how to turn your independent film into a money making business. Learn more at filmbizbook.com. I like to welcome to the show Vanessa and Joseph Winter. How're you guys doing?

Joseph Winter 1:03
Great Alex!

Alex Ferrari 1:06
Thank you so much for coming on the show, guys. I have not had a couple, like a romantic couple of filmmakers ever on the show. So I was intrigued by that. And then the horror aspect was also more intriguing. And then the image that you guys sent. I was like, Well, I mean, I gotta have gone now. I mean, that picture's worth 1000 words right there. So it's no, it's really good. I'm really glad to meet you. I'm fascinated with you guys. I want to I want to find out how all of this happened. First, the first question is, how did you guys meet? How did you guys get together decide to go? You know what we should do? We should be horror filmmakers together. Let's do. Like, I want to know what that conversation was.

Joseph Winter 1:48
When we very first met and never crossed my mind that this is my horror filmmaking buddy for the rest of my life. But it was so we were in film school

Vanessa Winter 1:58
At the same time. It was so natural.

Joseph Winter 2:00
Yeah, it was total natural progression, like really quickly. But I was in a film class. It was like the first film class you take when you get into the program. And Vanessa was in the class we'd never talked, she came up to me after class one day said, I'm the production designer of a senior capstone project. You feel like a great fit for the art director to work under me. How do you feel about that? And that was the first time we'd really spoke. And I mean, it was all it was because I found out later everyone else said no, but I was really grateful for that. Because it was I mean, she was really awesome. And we got along really great. And then I talked her into loving whore. I mean, it wasn't hard, but she hadn't been exposed to, like, you know, the stuff that I'm into.

Vanessa Winter 2:46
Yeah, yeah, I was always into horror. But film school really was my introduction to cinema. I grew up in a small town, my family was like very conservative with what we could watch. And so in college, took my first film class. And immediately I fell into the genre lane of horror and sci fi and so I feel like us deciding oh, we're gonna make more movies for the rest of our lives. Easy. That was an easy that was way easier than should we have kids. Yeah. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 3:17
Well, I have to ask you, because I'm married. I have kids. How in God's green earth do you guys balance the family life, you know, in the in the relationship with the filmmaker, because both are fairly stressful. And both are horror shows. If you have

Vanessa Winter 3:37
Perfect description, like I, we, I mean, we were like, we've been hustling to become narrative filmmakers for like 10 years together, working lots of different corporate jobs, commercial jobs, doing the whole whole thing that everybody does. And then we got pregnant at the same, like, got pregnant had a baby. We made a feature almost immediately afterward. Like I was getting up at 3am writing scripts, like the baby's like four weeks old. And then we made a movie almost finished it. We'd almost finished filming it and then got pregnant by accident. And so then we had a baby and then we finished our movie and then we may were part of VHS and like it's honestly we just run around all day screaming and then collapse at night.

Joseph Winter 4:25
It's really like I don't really know how to answer it because this is like when dead string production was actually going to happen and I still had a full time corporate job that was just looming over the whole thing is like how and I still looking back and like okay, I can see how we squeezed by with like having a little baby and stuff but it's like I don't have the model to teach somebody how to do that. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 4:48
It's there's an I've said this so many times in the show. We're all insane and it's in there as insanity to do what we do. But you guys are a little different. You're a little you're your next level insane. Uh, because I mean, you've gone to another place, you've transcended the insanity of just making a film. You got into relationship, you have kids, and while you're having kids, you're like, oh, but my film, like, like, these are the thoughts that go through your head. It's fascinating. And it is just a testament to your love of what you guys do. And is there in the relationship? Is there anyone who's grounded? Are you both psychotic? Because I'm the psycho Drake crazy one in my relationship? And my wife to grounded was like, no, no, we're not going to do that. And we kind of balanced each other out a little. Because if it was two of me, I don't know why would self destruct. So I'm curious how that dynamic works. And you're and you're

Joseph Winter 5:40
Crazy about different things. I think that's how it works. Like, sometimes I get really scared at the scope that Vanessa will pitch about something where she's like, No, I really think we can do this. And it's like, that's not possible. So I start to panic. And that pragmatic kind of says,

Vanessa Winter 5:56
I'm like crazy like bite off more than you can chew person. But I've got a more chill energy where Joseph Scott, the performer, like, he's got the excitement, but also the like, anxiety, things are going wrong. Kind of like the even person, but I've definitely got, yeah, like, he was just saying, my own set of crazy where he's like, what, like, it's very the beginning of projects, I get super amped that's like, my, my place and Joseph's like, okay, but like, for real? Yeah, real, what's good?

Joseph Winter 6:30
There's plenty of crazy crossover, though, where we're not compatible, like we just aren't. And we're still trying to figure that out. So

Vanessa Winter 6:36
Yeah, sometimes there's too much crazy.

Alex Ferrari 6:39
I could see that. I can see that without question. So how did you guys, you just said that you guys have been going, you know, 10 years? And that's kind of the number I throw out to people like, how long is it going to take like, starting points? 10 years? Just, that's how you got to look at it. You got to just you're gonna be grinding for 10 years to make something happen for yourself? How did you guys keep going? I always love asking that question. Because I mean, everyone's different, unlike what you mentally had to tell yourselves. And you hate each other, which is a blessing. But most of us don't. We're alone. We're, you know, the filmmakers by themselves. And, you know, I tried quitting 1000 times. But I can't because because it's a disease and you can't get rid of it. And it's done. So how did you guys keep going? What did you like? Did you guys help each other out? Did you Did one is like, I can't do this anymore? The other one's like, no, no, we got to keep going. And vice versa? How did it work?

Joseph Winter 7:32
I'm genuinely interested in your answer. If you want to answer first,

Vanessa Winter 7:35
I was just gonna say I think you hit the nail on the head with the fact that there's a benefit with us being we're having the same insane dream. Because we there's definitely like dark nights of the soul. I guess you could call them multiple times where we are like, on the verge of like tears like, can we actually make this happen? Like, what what are we doing with all of our time and money? depressions, but I think that, yeah, the nice thing about being in it together is that and I feel like, the risks are a little bit easier maybe than for somebody that's like in a partnership where the other person is like, You're crazy. You're taking things too far, like for a relationship or, you know, financially or something where we kind of, yeah, we had the same crazy dream. So when it was like, should we mortgage our house to make our first feature? We're like, Yeah,

Joseph Winter 8:32
Yeah, let's do it. Yeah. So the essential part, oh,

Alex Ferrari 8:37
By the way, everyone, listen, don't do that.

Joseph Winter 8:40
That's what I tell. That's what I tell people, like, don't do what we did. It just so happened to have worked. In our case, it's not a good business model, like, but but in order to feel good about what we did, to get dead stream off the ground, we needed 10 years of like, for me, changing my value system. Like honestly, if I right out of film school had had the opportunity to do a feature. There's some version of that where I would have imploded just looking back because the thing I was valuing, valuing at the time, was getting the filmmaker being in my 20s and trying to rise to the top and like, things that don't mean that much to me anymore. And as we were going along in our life started to change to like, Okay, I'm approaching my 30s. Does that actually matter to me? Is there a version where that doesn't like, can I just make a movie when I want to, like, the kind of movie I want to and I started to remove like the superficial stuff, or the things that were separate for the love of from the love of the craft and the things that I actually wanted to engage in. And that really helped not feel so panicked about the years burning by and having not made a feature. So I mean, that's how, for me, that's how when we got to the point of like, Hey, should we open up some 0% interest credit cards and like go for it was like, Okay, I feel like I've got a good foundation now of like what's important to me and we're not willing to sacrifice everything in order to do it. Like we're going to try to balance the family and stuff and then it just finally made sense.

Alex Ferrari 10:14
Well, it can and I'm imagining you guys had the same conversation that we all do at 23 year like, Shit, I didn't make my feature Orson Welles did 2020 sevens like Spielberg made Jaws at 27 I'm just jacking around right here, let the hell that's exactly what I'm talking Tarantino made the reservoir when he was like 31 Like, and that just the number just keeps creeping up until you're like, well, Ridley Scott didn't make it to 40. So that's like, Yeah, but he did 4000 videos, music videos and commercials prior to that. So that's you lose, you're getting loosey goosey. But did you have that conversation with yourself? As well as that as that time gets cooking away?

Vanessa Winter 10:51
Absolutely. For sure. I've got like, I've got an issue with like, my like, I don't know what you call it the like, the life clock ticking away, where I get really freaked out about time passing by Joseph's a little cooler about it.

Joseph Winter 11:07
No. But that took effort, though, because I just made a decision that was you know, earlier than you about the I'm going to be at peace about the clock aspect and just just have some faith that at you know, when I'm in the right mental place, and you know, things will just happen at the right time if we just keep healthily working at it and not sacrificing like our health and things along the way. But yeah, that was always there, man. I'm also pretending right now that it stopped mattering to me. But you know, it always matters.

Alex Ferrari 11:39
I love the neuroses that's going on here, you're in this conversation, because you're just kind of like, this is really getting inside the mind of the insanity of a filmmaker. And this is not what they teach at school, they don't never did that they teach you about you're going to be Spielberg, you're going to be the next Nolan. Here. Look, we're going to teach you how to make $100 million movie, no one ever in film school is teaching you look, it's going to be 10 years of grinding, you're going to want to break psychologically multiple times a day, you're going to probably go bankrupt a couple of times, you probably lose relationships, like I mean, they don't tell you all these things. But this is what the truth of it is. So I'm so glad that you guys are being so raw and honest about this process for people listening, because I hope it helps wake some people up to like the realities of this. And the other thing I wanted to ask you is because as a filmmaker myself, like I, my wife, and I've taken strategic, you know, risks through my filmmaking career. At the beginning, I threw credit cards and almost went bankrupt and all that kind of stuff at the very early beginning of it. But as I got older, we're like, okay, let's strategically, how are we going to do this without a family? The second the kids came into the picture, it changes things, but it seems like you were able to balance having kids, because it's one that you guys could eat ramen mean? Probably not. Now, I mean, you don't want to, but you know, you can. You don't want to, but you could, you know, but now when you have kids, it's a different responsibility. How do you balance the insanity of the dream with the responsibility of a family?

Vanessa Winter 13:13
I think, I think for me, like I almost experienced what you did backwards, where I think I had, I kind of had this thing coming out of film school where I didn't, and maybe it's because I'm a woman, but I had this feeling of like, I didn't go to school for a hobby. So I kind of had this overcompensating, like, I'm gonna get this corporate job, and I'm gonna make enough money while I'm also chasing my dreams so that I could show that I can, like make a living. And there was something about having my first baby where I was kind of like, oh, like, this is it, like, I am going to make a feature now, or it's never going to happen. And so I got a little bit more crazy and risk taking where I started putting like child care on a credit card where I didn't have I had never done that before, like, spend credit card money on. I mean, besides some student films, like but really, I hadn't been really doing that. So that for me was kind of like the switch went off, where I just started saying no to all of my comfort, like commercial clients, or most of them and was just like, I'm going to do this thing. Because if I don't, I'm going to regret it, even if it goes badly. So that's, that's where I was.

Joseph Winter 14:23
I'm really interesting. I mean, this happened for both of us. But the thing that I like to tell people about having our kids is like before then it was 24/7 film stuff, like what we would talk about in our house, there were no boundaries. It wasn't like, Okay, at this time, we're just talking about our personal lives like film, our ideas, the things we're working on our corporate stuff, it was all just, you know, laying in bed talking about it. And when we had our daughter, there started to be some structure around it where we said at this time, which just family time like we have to, it's only fair to our family to do that. But it was so weird that once we started putting back Andres on when we would work on film, I became way more productive. My output was so much more than it had ever been. And I feel like that has stuck. So now we have that second daughter, it's the same thing, the hours of the day that we have to work are a lot more productive than they ever were before then. So there's that benefit that's come from it.

Vanessa Winter 14:23
Yeah, unfortunately, we should have discovered you earlier, Alex, and we could have made a lot of smarter decisions.

Alex Ferrari 14:26
Well, but that Well, I appreciate that. Louis, I wish I had me when I was. Imagine if a show like this existed in the 90s. You know, we peep millions and millions of dollars would have been saved relationships would have not, you know, busted at that point. I mean, less people would be in the insane asylum right now, if we kind of information back then. But so what were some of these mistakes that you guys made along the way that you were just like, that maybe you could talk about that other people can learn from and hopefully not fall into those same traps?

Vanessa Winter 16:02
One of my biggest things, I think, was just not saying no to anything. And same thing. Yeah. And yeah, I think that with your, like, I think the advice that you give like having multiple legs of your business, I guess you could call it is a really smart thing to do. But I think you don't want to have like 40 legs to your business, you don't want to feel like you're missing out. Because you're not working with this producer, you're not like letting go some of your clients or whatever it is. And I think that I just had that for a long time where I was overworking. Just overworking for not enough money. And then creatively, I kind of had the same problem where I always wanted to be a horror filmmaker. And with doing that you you take like, just in the nature of horror, you take big swings, and you isolate a certain amount of audience. And I think that there were when I would do my own creative, like projects, I like a short film or something I would have in mind, like, oh, but if my commercial clients saw this, like, couldn't help me out and like both ways. And as soon as I just started really writing and making the things that were purely Vanessa, I guess you could call them they're just weird and, and just what I wanted to do, that's when audiences started responding, or that's when I started getting into festivals and ended up finding my management. And so I think, yeah, I think specifically for me, there was a lot of mistakes and just not being focused enough.

Alex Ferrari 17:38
And it sounds like you it sounds like you did the same thing I did. I think I think every filmmaker goes through this process is you find your voice. And then you have the, you know, the the kohona is, as they say, to actually put your voice out there. And that's what people are your secret sauce. That's what people are attracted to not. I'm gonna go make a Sam Raimi movie. I'm like, Well, we have Sam. He doesn't pretty well. We don't need another Sam Raimi. You know, he's, he's solid. Like, we don't need another one of him. Or a cheap copycat. But what but but there's only one, Vanessa. So that and that's and that's the thing. There's only one, Joseph. So that's that when you are able to finally put that out there is that's when I'm so glad you said that, that you're like, oh, that's when stuff started to happen. When you were brave enough to put yourself out there. I'm assuming that's the same for you, Joseph?

Joseph Winter 18:26
the thing that came to my mind is I was afraid after I mean, in college, I was afraid to make bad things. After college, I was afraid to make bad things that actually kept me from making I wish I would have made so much more things and bad things because you learn a lot when you make something that's not turning out, right. And you actually learn a lot when you make more things that are shorter. And in my mind, like the next project I was going to put my energy into was going to be a 17 minute like really ambitious thing. And I wish I would have just taken the opportunity to give myself more smaller experiences have things that I'm too ashamed to show people because I did anyway, along the way. And like that's how that's how you learn and I I'm jealous looking back at my other friends that were jumping on these like, yeah, I just got this opportunity to direct a little thing over here. It's not that good, but I'm going to do it and in my mind, I was like why would you want to have that on your reel or have that but like no, I that was a mistake you can you should make bad things you should make lots of bad things and you can curate what you show people

Alex Ferrari 19:33
I think it's the same kind of itis that we we filmmakers have they're like, well Spielberg didn't have this and you know, like, on his real I mean, on his his film, like you want your filmography to be perfect, because that's the ego inside of you going one day there'll be studying me in film school, and when they do, I can't have this crap out there. You know, kinda like that's the you laugh because both of you have thought this in your mind at one point or another because I Dude, I think all of us do because we all are insane. The filmmakers ego is oh my god it is there's the level of delusion we have. But you know what I said this the other day I was at AFM and I was on stage talking, and I said this out loud. And it was a friend of mine, who told me this, and he told me I could steal it. My friend John Kim, he said, the delusion and the skills that you need to get a movie done, hurt you after the movie is done. To try to sell it, because you can't be delusional when you're selling it. You can't be to like my movies, the greatest. Obviously the next Quinn Tarantino, why kampsen? Anybody? recognize my genius? Is that do you agree with that?

Joseph Winter 20:48
I mean, yeah, I feel like, I feel like that's for sure. True. I just right now, what you're seeing is me trying to think how if I felt that way, after we made dead stream, like if I had the healthy mindset, I will say what health is like, We're mature enough, right going into dead stream that I grew out of so much of that kind of mindset, by the time we made it, that we didn't have SXSW aspirations. When we were making dead streaming, we didn't have like, the successes of the movie, we're not the goal. Like by the time we made this, it was like very pragmatic, it was, we're going to pay for an education in learning the part of the business that most people don't talk about, or won't talk about, learn how much people are offering for a low budget movie. And like, what, just like that kind of thing. And so I mean, 10 years before, I wouldn't have made a movie that was just my best shot, but mostly for an education and mostly, you know, to just do something. So I think that's something that did help with being older and getting started with that.

Alex Ferrari 21:54
The the, the 20, the 20s version of all of us were idiots. Absolutely, of course, I didn't make a movie till I was 40. Because I was like, Well, I has to be Reservoir Dogs. It has to, like, blow everybody out of the water. Because again, my filmography is going to be taught in schools, and I can't have this kind of insanity. So

Vanessa Winter 22:18
Yeah, man, that pressure can really get to you though. Right? It's crippling, it's crippling?

Alex Ferrari 22:24
It is it because it's all self inflicted. It's completely your own delusions in your mind. I you know, I kind of asked you, why do you think we do that to ourselves? Why? Because I've never asked this question on the show before, but like, what? Who told us that that's the weight, like what isn't enough? And it's not just us? It's most filmmakers have this conversation with themselves in like, my first movie has to be this. And it has to be that and you know, and I have to be respected and it has to win into this. What is it that we can't just go out and like you did with dead stream and just go, we're just gonna go make a movie. We're going to learn about the process. And if it gets in some places it gets in some places, as opposed to this is Oscar worthy, which I've had that conversation, not me with other filmmakers who have done posts for and they're like, I'll see you at the Oscars next year. I'm like, You see, see they're all right there, buddy. All right, let me know how that works out for you.

Vanessa Winter 23:24
Man. Yeah, like I feel it. I feel like there's a there's a particular kind of crazy of filmmakers that puts you in that mindset. In fairness to filmmakers, I feel like there is a lot of when I compare it to other other art forms. There is some truth to this, like fear and feeling that everything you make could be your last. Because if you blow it bad enough, people don't want to work with you and don't want to pay like help you pay money. It's so hard to make a film just by yourself. So that does I think add to some of the pressure. Yeah, the I also hearing other writers talk, I think this may cross over to writers too, which is how crippling it is to sit down and realize that your first draft is going to be complete crap, right? And that's like a big mental hurdle. And I don't know if it's just because you're admiring other films that are so good or other books that are so good. But this idea it's really hard for the idea to sink in, that it started as bad. It's like hard to believe. Well, I tried. I believe that the first iteration of JAWS or whatever was probably bad. And it took a long time before it became jaws. One

Joseph Winter 24:49
of the biggest reasons is that's what they put in front of you at film school like they put the awesome first films in front of you. A masterpiece Yeah, about Reservoir Dogs. It's not even And technically, Tarantino is first movie. Oh, and like hearing Edgar Wright. It's like, well, you don't know this really like it's not really talked about like that. And then I heard Edgar Wright on a podcast years ago, where he talked about fistful of fingers, which he doesn't even want people to see. And I still haven't seen it. And he explains why. And I wish I would have been taught that in school, like, here are the filmmakers who made first films that either you can't see, or they don't want you to see. And then they learn from it and went on to make Shaun of the Dead or like, you know, something else like that.

Alex Ferrari 25:34
Where they don't do that that doesn't sell, doesn't sell them seats in film school. I mean, they sell the sizzle, but they don't sell the steak real well, but they sell the sizzle really, really, really well. And you know, what's fascinating is after talking to as many people as I have on the show, and speaking to like Edgar and some of these bigger, you know, Oscar winners and things like that, I've come to realize in just my own personal journey, that all of them go through the same things that we do. It's always shit at the beginning. It's always crap. They're nervous, they have to look at the same blank page you guys have to look at. And they just work it out in a different way. But it is it is, I think Hollywood puts it out there that that like the story of Rocky, that he wrote it in like, what, four, three nights or something like that, he wrote Rocky. And then like, that was the the myth like, oh, he wrote any one of the Oscar. And then years later, I saw an interview with Stallone. And he's like, Yeah, I wrote the first draft in three days, but I beat the hell out of that thing for the next six months, you know, perfecting it, you know, it's, it's that kind of delusion that's put out there. But I think that's a Hollywood thing, too. And I mean, it's been, you know, it's always been that way with this kind of the sizzle, not the steak. You know that question. So with so let me ask you a dead stream. How did you guys first of all, fantastic. It looks great, man. It's so much fun. And then I'm like, wait a minute, is that Joe? Is he the star of this too? Like, that's tough enough to do it behind the scenes, but in front of the scenes, and for in front of the camera to be able to do it all. And you're right. It's like basically, you're the show on top of it. So it's a lot of pressure on you, Joe as as a performer of that movie. Yeah, you got some ghosts and goblins and other things flying around, which are really interesting. But your funniest shit by the way, you really, really funny this funny as hell, really well produced looks nice. It looks like you know, because I've see, I see a lot of stuff. See a lot of stuff. And in the horror genre, as you know, not always is production value. But always, how did you guys decide to do like, this was the thing like, Get this thing off the ground? And then we'll talk about the South by Southwest call.

Vanessa Winter 27:51
Yeah, I think yeah, we started writing it around Joseph strengths because he can act and He is hilarious. But it did end up being really Gru grueling, and a ton of pressure. As

Joseph Winter 28:04
you I think we should like talk about why though. The reason is, like we we were trying to, we gave ourselves the creative prompt of like, what if there was a movie, no one could say no, to, if we made like, could we, in theory, make something by ourselves? And that's the thing that led us to? Well, that would of course, I would be in it. And it wasn't like, honestly, we didn't think I was great. We just thought that I could act like I had been in some of our other stuff that we had made. So it was like, okay, a given. It's me in a haunted house. Is there and nobody else is in it. Like that's kind of where what we were building off of?

Vanessa Winter 28:39
Yeah, I think we're like, originally were like $25,000 2530. Like, what could we do if we just strapped cameras to Joseph and that was kind of like, and we were kind of like simmering on that like a little bit. And then I think once it started once it started feeling like somebody who was going to go in and do a real live stream and put up extra cameras, and a movie that was going to escalate from maybe a little bit more grounded to just completely bonkers 80s Creature Feature. That's where at least I started getting really creatively excited. But then of course, the budget, like tripled. It was having to pull some shots that off. So that I guess that's its own. That's its own Genesis. As far as Joseph's role in it, it became clear, like, increasingly that how difficult it was going to be because on the on the performer, just the pressure on the performer to carry the whole movie. And as we started diving into YouTube personalities and started writing the script and refining the script. We became really scared about how hard it is actually, to talk for 90 minutes and have people care and It also made the date the influencers online a lot more of just what kind of talent and art form they've kind of honed in with this blogging style. Comedy, I would call it, I would think some of them are definitely comedic artists. So we started studying that a lot. And yeah, so it ended up being a lot of pressure for Joseph to, to deliver that kind of performance. And that kind of nuance that could actually be watchable. And even when we had a script that was super, we felt like it was really solid. We have a casual writers group with friends that we would read stuff out, read stuff with, and even when we felt like it was slain pretty well with them, we started doing some tech rehearsals and realize that the character wasn't there yet that he was just going to be unwatchable. So anyway, ended up being a lot of rehearsals for Joseph. And then the technical side was also a little bit unexpected. Just how difficult it was to operate the camera. So a lot of the movie was just me, like, not yelling at you, but like basally, directing and saying, Hey, pan that room again, but this time, 20% slower. So all of this was like while he was trying to be here. So that

Joseph Winter 31:15
was the thing that we didn't like, we had thought through a lot, we did not think through the part of operating while acting like we just didn't, I didn't. And it was a completely different thing. It was engaging a different part of my brain than the performer. And it was just incredibly difficult. And like at the time, so I had avoided actually thinking about me doing some of the emotional scenes or like, actually the weight of the movie, because I knew if I did think about it, I would clam up, I would get that paralysis before we ever made it. So I waited to think about it until we were shooting. And it really felt I just felt crashing that first day was a mess. We had to reshoot almost the whole thing. Like I just wasn't good. I wasn't on. But But yeah, I mean, thank goodness, it wasn't a studio movie, because we had, we had the ability to pop in some weekends to the same location over the next few months and do some pickups just on our own dime on you know, whenever we have a chance. So that was fortunate. And that really saved the movie.

Vanessa Winter 32:15
Yeah, so I think the missing piece as far as when we talked about starting starting the movie, it was a kind of do it yourself. But then as the script progressed in the idea got bigger, we ended up bringing on a partner, Jared Cook, who was our CO producer, and also our DP. And so this wasn't, he was so instrumental in pulling off the how seamless the camera rigs worked. Along with that he designed the interface for the chat. So he was a really big creative force. And we did we put a lot of work into the the tech rehearsals and camera tests to make sure the movie wasn't too shaky. Joseph actually had two cameras strapped to his head as the POV of the point of view camera so that we could change angle or lens length. And one of them had a little gimbal in it to help stabilize so that it wasn't a nauseating found footage. Scary Movie experience. So anyway, that's I was really happy with the way that the tech worked out in the movie, but it did put extra pressure on Joseph to camera operate. It wasn't just a it's free. It wasn't an improvised, like go back scared tell some jokes. Everything was like very finely tuned with timing and where he was looking and how to access very precise

Joseph Winter 33:46

Alex Ferrari 33:47
I'm exhausted and I didn't even make this movie. I mean, just what you explain. I'm like, oh my god, I'm tired already. Well, let me ask you. So like, how many days you guys shoot?

Joseph Winter 33:59
That is hard now. Because of all the partial stuff. But the first we did seven days back to back as our main principle. And then there were a few pickets. I think the way last time we calculated probably ends up at 14 or 15 days when it was all said and done

Alex Ferrari 34:15
with the pickups and things that you just put back into what was so I always like to ask him this question. You know, we're all you know, we all are on set. And there's always that one day that you feel the entire thing is going to come crashing down around you as directors. I'm assuming that happened every day, probably every hour of every day. Was there the one thing that you just like, I don't think we're gonna make it. How what was that thing and how did you overcome it?

Joseph Winter 34:37
What should we choose? But,

Vanessa Winter 34:39
man for me, for me it was day one. And maybe it's because I as like the director that was behind monitor. The schedule was more on my shoulders. But we had a huge windstorm that came through the very first day and blew off all of our makeshift duva teen on the outside of the house. which

Joseph Winter 35:00
was like to cover the entire house so that we could shoot during the day. We ended

Vanessa Winter 35:05
up like spending hours and hours repairing that and then by the time we got our first shot off, just the morale wasn't there, the character hadn't really vibed yet. And we got the camera Tech, we realized even with all of our tests, it just I mean, they're not action cameras are not cinema cameras. So the consistency, there's just a lot of surprises. And we thought we were going to shoot the whole movie in six days. Oh, man, it's so scary. Like, Jesus night for me, which is like coming home late. And just we only had a couple hours asleep anyway, but I just remember just sitting like awake the whole time being like, how are we going to pull this off? Oh, that's what we that was the worst. I think that was the darkest. We

Joseph Winter 35:50
literally sat in this office. It was like, man, it's like 17 hours after showing up for the shoot. And we were sitting here literally saying, How are we going to save the movie? Because it was like this is going to crash and burn. We're not even gonna finish making it. It's not. And then what we finished we will never show anybody because I did so bad that first day. But yeah, so I agree with her first day.

Alex Ferrari 36:14
Well, I mean, if it makes you feel any better, when I did my first big film, a hurricane came and in Florida and flooded our sets. Completely, of course, so we decided to write it into the script. That's good. I mean, I wrote it into like, like, Oh, and also FEMA decided to set up at the hospital that we're at 10,000 people outside online getting food and water while we're trying to shoot a movie in the basement of this like working slash abandoned hospital. So like we just like yeah, write it in, man. We can't What do we gotta do? We have no money. Let's so lesson for everyone listening that sometimes you got to write it in.

Vanessa Winter 37:03
That's, that's hero status. You have to keep making movie.

Alex Ferrari 37:09
Again, the insanity of what we do. It's not that's like hey, maybe maybe we shouldn't do this. No, that never crossed our mind is like we got trucks out here. There's a dolly we're shooting on the Panasonic dv x 100 A mini DV the best film camera ever made in the world. I mean, you gotta go, gotta go. I even had the adapter for the wide angle we have to go. This was happening. This was happening. It was five days of Oh my god. Anyway, that's a whole other story. If you guys had a chance to go back in time to talk to both of yourselves. At the beginning of this insanity, what will be the one thing you would tell them?

Joseph Winter 37:55
Would it be the beginning of the dead stream insanity or Oh,

Alex Ferrari 37:58
no, no, no, no, the entire journey of this 10 year odyssey to get to where you are right now. At the beginning you're at film school, both of you and you. And all of a sudden you Marty McFly it in and you just walk in and just go dice. I'm from the future. I can't tell you much. But I can tell you this one thing I need you to

Joseph Winter 38:19
do, I would say chill the eff out and, like adjust expectations. This is like getting in touch with the love of the craft and life. And then let's talk making an actual feature length film. So like that was the thing if you would have told me back then 15 years later, your first movie comes out or whatever. I would have imploded and like I wish I could go back and just say don't implode, like be okay with that.

Vanessa Winter 38:50
I think I would have been like look myself in the eyes and be like, you're never going to be good at commercials. You know, you're never going to be good at commercials just go make horror movies.

Alex Ferrari 39:01
Unless there's horror crime here so for commercials you

Vanessa Winter 39:04
know, I've actually done some of those and that was a lot of fun. I guess it's not like a whole thing it's just a cardinal so

Alex Ferrari 39:13
every once in a blue moon you get

Joseph Winter 39:15
you get to play like that.

Alex Ferrari 39:17
Well you know when you guys when you guys work do you guys work together as a team like besides dead stream like how do you direct on set? Do you guys work as a team? And if you do how what like how do you I always fascinated by teams of directors like what do you guys do? Do you mean do you like know what each other's thinking? Are you calling brother ring it like how are you doing it?

Joseph Winter 39:37
Yeah, so what we say like usually, I mean I'm usually in front of the cameras so far and what we've done and because of that we do a lot of pre pro so that when we show up like a lot of like storyboarding with our iPhones and like making sure that the decisions as much as possible. Get made before we show up that way there is less likely of the friction of having a completely different idea for something, which will still happen. Because no matter how much you prepare things are different.

Vanessa Winter 40:10
Yeah, I don't think we're on like the Coen brother level yet. Actually, I haven't seen them direct. So I don't know what it's like. But if we realize on set that we've been imagining something completely different, then we just kind of argue it out. And our Luckily, our crews have kind of gotten used to it. But we'll just sit there and be like, Are you sure you want it to be over the shoulder like, not a two shot, and we'll just argue the pros and cons and tell somebody's out loud in

Alex Ferrari 40:34
front of the children or you.

Joseph Winter 40:38
on VHS 99, we made a goal to not do that like to, we'll be like, hey, sidebar, and then we would go last very long. But like we we started that way with the sidebar, but then it was like it was so crazy with the schedules, and we decided there wasn't time. So we just had to say like, after a take, I just be like yelling over the camera like, hey, wherever she was hiding. And we would just argue it out like that. So we're working on that.

Alex Ferrari 41:03
That's, you don't you don't argue for the children, that the children being the crew, you can't do that. Oh, like but apparently they figured out that mom and dad are fighting special

Joseph Winter 41:13
crew is the same crew as dead stream. So by that point, they felt like our actual children, and they were great.

Alex Ferrari 41:19
Mom and Dad are fighting again, let's just take a break. Now, what did you do with dead stream is a horror, comedy. horror comedies are not easy. They're arguably one of the most difficult things to do in that genre. Because you got to balance how much comedy versus how much horror. I mean, Sam is the SAM is the master of that. I mean, you Evil Dead or Army of Darkness is, is beautifully balanced. And I think you guys did a really great job here. But how do you in the creative process? Think? Should we throw a gag in here or scare in here? Like how? How do you balance that out?

Vanessa Winter 42:00
I always say a lot of like when I think about the process. It's a lot of trial and error. So yeah, lots of lots of rewrites in the script. And then I think on set, there's moments of feeling like, you know what, I think even if we have to cut this joke that we love, I think it's most important that this scene is scary. So we'll make those kinds of decisions. And then I think it still really finds itself and post. Yeah. test audiences are really helpful. And there is sound design, like also transformed our movie because we were able to really lean into okay, this is this is scary, like moment, do we need to cut some dialogue? really emphasize the scare with sound. But yeah, it was just kind of a it's kind of a crapshoot.

Joseph Winter 42:49
Yeah. If you if you were to read the draft, if you were to read what we thought we were making, when we set out to make Devstream, so a lot more jokey. I mean, our movie is very comedy. But on the page, there were more little gags and jokes and longer monologues that we thought were funny that weren't actually funny. And like, by the, the version, you see now is way more scary than what was on the page. And that's because of the editing. Like we actually shot it pretty true to what that was on the page. But then we refined it and post and it was like test screenings, and just feeling it out with different people. Or we finally were able to realize, yeah, this is like too many jokes in this moment. This needs to be scary. So I would say the secret sauce so far was has been post production.

Vanessa Winter 43:36
Yeah, we also kind of benefited from being two brains where I think because Joseph was the performer, he could really focus on the moment and the comedy in the moment. And I was very focused on things, the tension, and the scares that I wanted. I was thinking about the movie a little bit more as a whole. And so that yeah, unlike the super brain of Sam Raimi, we have to I don't

Alex Ferrari 44:04
know, he's, he's not he's not human. Obviously. He actually opened up the book. And that's how he that's just the way it is. Now, I always love asking this question, especially you guys now that I know the backstory of dead stream. You submitted all these film festivals. And we all do it. Well, you know, we all going to submit to the lottery ticket of Sundance slam dance South by Toronto, the top five or 10 and then you get a call from South by Southwest. What was that like for you guys? Considering that wasn't the delusion? At the beginning of this process? You were just like, oh, let's just I'm assuming you just like let's just see what happens kind of vibe, right?

Joseph Winter 44:47
Let me actually tell you about the delusion. So like we weren't, we were so like, we we were so non delusional about

Vanessa Winter 44:55
I hated Phil, like, at least for me like I had a thing against film festivals. It's Like the rejections and lottery of it is so painful. We also live right by Sundance and go every year and it's just kind of this looming like, we don't even try. That was like my reaction to it. Like, I don't, I don't have any. I'm not even gonna have hopes that they can crush anymore. Okay. Oh, yeah,

Joseph Winter 45:19
that was That was rude towards Sunday. We love Sunday. So it was just this feeling of like, we don't belong, you know what I mean? Like, like we're not, we're not going to give them that power, we're not going to submit to the Ailis festivals. So we didn't like honestly the biggest festivals that we submitted to or the fall festivals that was like beyond fest, and there was Fright Fest and Fantasia. And those were like the long shots to us. The thing that changed the course of the movie was, we got rejected by the big ones, except beyond fest, and from Ersoy, who helps run the festival. He called us and he said, I would love to play you at beyond fest. But I think you're selling yourself short. I have a sales agent friend who could talk to you take over the festival thing that you're doing. And you could try for first quarter festival like South by Southwest, and Sundance. And we were like, no brainer, no, thanks. Like, we're not, we're not that, like we have a

Alex Ferrari 46:18
no sweet guy was.

Vanessa Winter 46:21
But it was like, What's your

Joseph Winter 46:23
angle? That's how I was feeling like, what's this guy's angle? Because he's just being too good to be true. Like, he's been so nice and so sweet. So we're

Vanessa Winter 46:31
like, what this guy does love cinema or something.

Alex Ferrari 46:34
He's like, he's not really human. No, no, no, there's none of that in film business.

Joseph Winter 46:40
But the but the thing is, like, after thinking about after we actually told him, No, we want to do world premiere at your festival. We thought, Okay, we made that stream as a huge swing, everything about it, we put everything on the line for the movie. Why would we stop doing that right now, when this guy is telling us there is a shot a small shot, but a shot? So we came back and said, All right, let's do it. Let's talk to the sales agent, we withdrew from the path that we had, like some of the small ones we've been accepted to. And we just he the sales agent started submitting for us, which is how most festivals are programmed. And

Vanessa Winter 47:19
it sounds it sounds dumb, but it was so nerve wracking because we had had some offers for distribution. And I felt like, you know, if we pull out of the fall festivals, which is very genre friendly, there's a chance that nobody we get rejected from the bigger festivals, and nobody just ever sees our movie. And these offers kind of go away. And so yeah, I was pretty nervous. So this is all leading up to your question of the call from,

Alex Ferrari 47:45
by the way, what were the what were the offers? Were they any good? Or were they pretty predatory? Or they were like solid or No,

Joseph Winter 47:51
I have strong feelings. I feel like I usually say the strongest version of this, which is very predatorial in my mind. Now here's the thing, I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't listened to indie film hustle, because I had no frame of reference. But you talk about the predatorial distribution industry. And so that was on my brain. When I saw we got this very big distribution company that started talking to us after the beyond fest offer. And we were so excited. We're like, if we have their name on our movie, oh my god,

Alex Ferrari 48:21
I without you saying it. I know who it is. And we won't say it publicly. But when we stop recording, I'm going to ask you, and I'll tell you who it is. I know who it is. Go ahead.

Joseph Winter 48:30
You probably do. And it was so it was so low and it was just deflating, and I felt offended but also might be offended at this like it's just a stupid movie. And so basically from that to like, with the sales agent using the South by Southwest like behind the scenes, hey, let's have exclusive negotiations to like shutter it's a completely different Oh, like it's it's not even close.

Alex Ferrari 48:59
So so you get so you get into South by and we'll get to the phone call in a second. But you your sales agents, you know, working behind the scenes to negotiate a good deal for you because now you're in South by and now it's a conversation and because you're going to premiere it South by hey, let's talk to shutter now. You want to make a deal before this goes out? Because once this goes once this premieres this is going to be a feeding frenzy. Let's Let's Make a Deal beforehand. Is that kind of that was kind of the vibe.

Vanessa Winter 49:28
Yeah, it was for a little bit more detail. It was going out to some big some big people first so like shutter Netflix Blumhouse and seeing what they thought and seeing is there any is there any chance of kind of creating not like a bidding war but like a friendly version of that. And then when it didn't seem like that was going to happen. It was a conversation of shutters offering a really good price now and they benefit from like announcing at attend a list festival. So do we go with that? Or do we take the risk of it premiering? And then trying to negotiate? And so, yeah, yeah, so we ended up. And we also, we really love shutter. And that was one of our goals at the beginning was to be on shutter, we just feel like that's where our audience was. So after talking with them and stuff, we felt like signing with them before self buy was the right decision. And we ended up being really happy with it. Today is the name of our sales agent, blue Finch. They're based out of London, I've never heard anybody have a bad experience with them. I've heard of them. And they've like, they've also handled the international sales portion, which has ended up being significant for us, which was great and unforeseen. And having somebody that's really honest and transparent. And showing you all of the deals, is just made such a huge difference. And I know it's so rare. It's so rare. What's

Alex Ferrari 51:01
your a unicorn? You guys are unicorns,

Joseph Winter 51:06
we were so aware of that this whole time. Like, we kept thinking when's the part where blue Finch is going to screw us light us and they never did. It's It has not happened, they've been such a great partner. And with the shutter thing I want to say like, the numbers made sense. There's a reason why we said alright, let's just go to shutter. This is like, we're happy with this. But a big part of that was they wanted to take care of the movie. So it was like it was a good deal. And there was that promise of we will release you in October, that week that you come out will be all about dead stream. And like they really believe in the movie got the movie where the other distribution company that we're talking about, was talking about it like just a number. It was like something they're gonna throw at the wall, see if it sticks, and then that's it. I've heard that so so we're very, we're so it's

Vanessa Winter 51:56
gonna be so rare to just in the streaming days of having a streamer that actually is passionate about your film and is planning a release and a marketing strategy. And so that was that was also just really shutter was really great. And that way.

Alex Ferrari 52:13
No, so you get the phone call what happens?

Vanessa Winter 52:16
So we actually got we actually got an email because the phone with our sales agent got the phone call since they submitted. So I saw it in the middle of the night because I woke up for some reason saw the email, and I was so excited. I was shaking and I like I woke Joseph Joseph up in the freakiest way possible, just like shaking him and shaking him. He's so confused. I finally get it out. Like what happened? I'm not kidding. He went back to sleep.

Joseph Winter 52:44
No, this is what happened. That's a dream. But it's a dream. It's a dream of

Vanessa Winter 52:47
ours by myself just eating like canned soup on the floor being like, Whoa,

Joseph Winter 52:53
check it out. We got we got rejected our entire new strategy rejected from everybody except for South by South by was like the last thing we're waiting for. So we're not going to get it in my mind. It's like, we blew it. We blew it with this whole thing. So she wakes me up by literally shaking me going. We got into stuff like that. And I was like looking at her dad died. Like, that's how I came out of my sleep is like her dad died or something.

Alex Ferrari 53:19
I'm so sorry for you.

Joseph Winter 53:22
I also as soon as I realized that it wasn't bad. In my mind. I was like your, your sleep is so precious. So I was like, Okay, I'm gonna I'm just gonna try to go back to sleep. And I did when I woke up the next day. I was like, What was I thinking going back to sleep like I I legit did not let myself feel anything.

Vanessa Winter 53:40
Like if you have a six month old baby, it makes sense. Why you Oh, no,

Alex Ferrari 53:44
no, no, no, no, no, no six month, six month old. I don't care if you would get an Oscar nomination. That's nice. I'll deal with that in the morning. But so so you but you went back to sleep knowing that you got to the south bar, or did you still think it was the dad had passed?

Joseph Winter 54:01
No. I knew as soon as it was good news. I'm like, Okay, I'm gonna go back to sleep. And like, wait, I feel this. But I woke up being like, South By

Alex Ferrari 54:11
Christmas Day. It's like Christmas day.

Joseph Winter 54:15
It was it was awesome. That's amazing.

Alex Ferrari 54:17
As I look, I'm so happy that you guys i hope this story. I mean, we've gone through the rollercoaster of emotions here from the very state of despair. To Getting to to like now look, we haven't been screwed. We're actually making money. We made a movie with your the VHS 999 coming out. You guys are off and running now and I'm so happy for you guys. And you know, it was overnight. Obviously you just this was overnight success. Obviously it was very quick. You didn't have to struggle at all through this process. You know, when is when is it? It's already out and shutter right up. Everyone can see that shame on shutter. One is one is VHS 99 Come

Joseph Winter 54:57
out. That came out in October as well. they're also both.

Alex Ferrari 55:01
And what's next? What's next for you guys?

Vanessa Winter 55:04
It's totally more horror movies. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 55:07
nothing lined up. Like, I'm assuming you got a couple things lined up. We got a couple

Joseph Winter 55:10
of things brewing, but not ready to announce. All right, all right, but you're working on stuff. That's all. I can say horror comedy,

Alex Ferrari 55:19
for sure. Or comedy you sticking in the genre that you like, is to stay right there. I'm going to ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests. If you guys have listened to me, You know what these questions are? What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Joseph Winter 55:35
Let me tap into my memories of all the times I've imagined answering this question. I feel like I'm gonna go back to that regret of like, making not making more stuff, and just being willing to make bad things to write bad things, because that's how good things are made.

Vanessa Winter 55:54
Yeah, I would say the landscape is always changing, like things are changing so much that all the stuff I learned in film school, and I think you've said this before on your podcast, which is like all your heroes in the 90s or whatever, that stuff's not relevant anymore. So it's always carving out your own path. And I think there just is this trial and error of finding your niche, and it's going to take some time.

Joseph Winter 56:17
And also don't make 20 minute short films. They're hard to program and really short films.

Alex Ferrari 56:24
Make them short. I mean, my first film was 20 minutes and I got into 160 film festivals, but it was 2005 Less competition. I could have gone to 250 festivals if it would have been 10 minutes

Vanessa Winter 56:39
a 17 minute sci fi 3d movie it was

Joseph Winter 56:43
22 minutes it was two minutes really like 3d 3d and this was my this was my film school delusion. Like I was like that I'm going to make

Alex Ferrari 56:53
the 3d one 3d was like super hot and then you get Yeah, it was like this whole thing. We built like bricks.

Joseph Winter 57:00
Yeah, we didn't say that was when everything everything was being converted 3d And we were like, eff this let's make real 3d So that's what we did and I regret it honestly, it was like why would make a 22 minute epic thing I could have made like six things and grown as an artist Wouldn't that have been nice? That well that doesn't

Alex Ferrari 57:19
that doesn't fall into the delusion sir. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Joseph Winter 57:26
Everything's gonna be okay when everything is going bad like literally every production big stakes small stakes, they'll end up being okay after the bad it's hard for me to still remember that but like it's true.

Vanessa Winter 57:42
Hmm. Sounds like yeah, life. Yeah, the risk when to take risks was my I think my biggest learning thing. So I think yeah, you the business requires taking risks and committing. And so by default, you're going to miss out on other things.

Alex Ferrari 58:05
All right. And three of your favorite films, which I'm assuming will be horror of all time.

Joseph Winter 58:10
Okay. For me that here's the three. We've got the shining creep show. Silver Bullet the gate Monster Squad three amigos.

Alex Ferrari 58:21
That's that's six.

Joseph Winter 58:24
You can't make me choose. I've tried.

Alex Ferrari 58:27
You were ready. You are ready for that. You are ready for the question. I appreciate that. Monster Squad. I mean, Wolfman has nartz She is you my dear.

Vanessa Winter 58:39
Um, and yeah, I'm not as prepared. I would say I love the original Alien. I think it's a perfect monster movie. Um, there's a 1979 Russian movie called Solaris, which is sci fi horror. And I think it's just beautiful and haunting. I also love from the 70s Don't look now with Donald Sutherland in Yeah, it's a great husband and wife relationship, but also just terrifying. And imagery super iconic. So I don't know if those are my favorite but those are three.

Alex Ferrari 59:15
And where can people find out more about you guys and what you guys are doing?

Joseph Winter 59:19
I'm on Twitter and Instagram at Joseph Winter VHS.

Vanessa Winter 59:25
My handle is Vanessa M is and Marie Winter.

Alex Ferrari 59:30
All right, guys. It's been such a pleasure talking to you guys. And I really hope that this conversation inspires and terrifies people all at the same time. I appreciate you continued success and congratulations on everything guys.

Vanessa Winter 59:45
Yeah, very honored to be here.


  • Joseph Winter – IMDB
  • Vanessa Winter – IMDB


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IFH 643: Directing the #1 Christmas Film on Netflix with Janeen and Michael Damian

Michael Damian is an award-winning actor, singer, director, writer, and producer. He first gained recognition for his 18-year run in the role of rock star Danny Romalotti on the #1-rated daytime television drama, THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS. On the stage front, Damian starred as “Joseph” in the Broadway production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, which broke box office records in both Los Angeles and on Broadway and earned Damian a Grammy nomination. In addition to his Broadway career, Damian has released five albums and has had eight Top 40 hits, including the smash single “Rock On,” which shot up the Billboard music charts landing at #1 and garnering Damian two gold records.

Damian won the BMI Song-writing Award for his hit single, “Was It Nothing at All,” and has also written and produced songs for the soundtracks of A PRINCESS FOR CHRISTMAS, FLICKA 2, FLICKA: COUNTRY PRIDE, MARLEY & ME: THE PUPPY YEARS and SWEETER SIDE OF LIFE. Damian has also enjoyed a prolific career behind the camera and has co-written/directed/produced 15 films and television movies.

He is a filmmaking partner with his wife Janeen Damian and most recently co-wrote, directed and produced Hallmark’s #1 movie of the year for 2020, CHRISTMAS WALTZ. Some of his other recent credits include the feature film HIGH STRUNG FREE DANCE and its predecessor, HIGH STRUNG, Lionsgate’s holiday romantic comedy, A PRINCESS FOR CHRISTMAS, which starred Sir Roger Moore and Sam Heughan (Outlander) and launched Hallmark’s smash hit Princess Christmas franchise.

Janeen Damian is an American writer, director, and producer of film and television. Together with her husband, Michael Damian she has made 15 feature films and TV movies. This year she co-wrote and produced the #1 add-supported cable movie of the year for 2020, CHRISTMAS WALTZ. She also co-wrote and produced the award- winning feature films HIGH STRUNG and HIGH STRUNG FREE DANCE which were released theatrically worldwide and distributed by Sony and Disney. Ms. Damian also co-wrote and produced A PRINCESS FOR CHRISTMAS starring Sam Heughan and Sir Roger Moore and distributed by Lionsgate and received Hallmark’s highest ratings for the year launching their original Christmas Princess franchise. The Damians went on to co-write A ROYAL CHRISTMAS and A CROWN FOR CHRISTMAS.

All three films air annually on Hallmark’s power rotation with continued high ratings. Some of Ms. Damian’s other Filmmaking credits include 20th Century Fox’s MARLEY & ME THE PUPPY YEARS and the popular reboot of the Flicka franchise, FLICKA 2 and FLICKA COUNTRY PRIDE starring Clint Black and MOONDANCE ALEXANDER, which starred Don Johnson and garnered Ms. Damian best screenplay honors at L.A. Femme Film Festival.

She also co-wrote and produced THE SWEETER SIDE OF LIFE, starring Katherine Morris and James Best. LOVE BY DESIGN starring Jane Seymour and David Oakes, and the award-winning independent feature film HOT TAMALE starring Jason Priestly and Randy Spelling. She co-directed the TV Pilot RED EYE for France’s #1 television broadcaster, TF1. She also co-directed the award-winning film FINDERS KEEPERS starring James Best.

The Damians went on to co-write A CROWN FOR CHRISTMAS and A ROYAL CHRISTMAS. Damian also directed three films for 20th Century Fox: FLICKA 2, MARLEY & ME: THE PUPPY YEARS (which he also wrote), and FLICKA: COUNTRY PRIDE starring Clint Black. He directed, wrote, and produced the feature film MOONDANCE ALEXANDER, which was also released by 20th Century Fox, and romantic comedies SWEETER SIDE OF LIFE and LOVE BY DESIGN. Damian also co-wrote, directed, and produced the indie crime comedy HOT TAMALE and co-wrote and co-directed the television pilot Red Eye for France’s TF1 network, which he also starred in.

Falling for Christmas is about a young, newly engaged heiress who has a skiing accident the days before Christmas. After she is diagnosed with amnesia, she finds herself in the care of the handsome cabin owner and his daughter.

Enjoy my conversation with Janeen and Michael Damian.

Janeen Damian 0:00
I think that it starts with the fact that we have very similar artistic tastes and tendencies. And so our vision tends to be a cohesive idea. And we don't really argue a lot about stuff because we, we tend to like the same things. And we, we tend to want and a lot, and especially because we write, you know, most of us have at least rewrite and polish everything we do. We're so close to it, we've already worked through it. So

Michael Damian 0:32
We finished a lot of thoughts in writing, like, we'll be writing and she'll start a sentence. And then I'll just say it just comes out and finishing and that she's perfect. And then I ended and then she does the other character. And then we start to have a dialogue and we start acting out the scenes right there in the office. And so it's

Janeen Damian 0:48
Between the script and then pre production, we're mostly we'd like to we're really specific about everything that we want to put on screen. So by the time that we finally get there, I think that we have a pretty good a pretty good idea and we don't really have a lot to fight about except for fight for something together.

Alex Ferrari 1:08
This episode is brought to you by the best selling book, Rise of the Filmtrepreneur how to turn your independent film into a money making business. Learn more at filmbizbook.com. I'd like to welcome the show to Janeen and Michael Damian, How're you guys doing?

Janeen Damian 1:23

Michael Damian 1:25
Alex hi!

Janeen Damian 1:25
So nice to be here. Thank you for having us.

Alex Ferrari 1:28
Oh, thank you for coming on the show. This is like a Christmas special episode because I haven't had a like a Christmas heavy filmmaking, you know, partnership on before. I mean, looking at your filmography. You guys are fairly obsessed.

Michael Damian 1:44
She has some decorations here. I just realized we don't have any decorations.

Janeen Damian 1:50
Heavy weights before that. Yeah,

Michael Damian 1:51
Yeah, we're honored we'll take it.

Alex Ferrari 1:55
Before we get started, I have to ask you one question. What was it like working on the set of Captain EO?

Janeen Damian 2:02
Oh, that was a career highlight, I have to say,

Alex Ferrari 2:06
For everybody for everybody listening. Captain EO was a short film, directed by Francis Ford Coppola produced by George Lucas starring Michael Jackson in 1983, something like that he 45. In that world, when Michael Jackson was basically at the they just made a they made an amusement park ride around Michael Jackson at that point. That's how big he was. And it was, I remember seeing it at Epcot. And many times and I've watched it online ever since. But I've never spoke with anybody was on set. What was that like?

Janeen Damian 2:40
It was it was phenomenal. You know, the production design was by the production designer who did Blade Runner so. So there was all that steam and all this crazy smoking. And it was really loud, actually. And Michael had to speak with me to everybody with his with a microphone on there. And when we first we actually hadn't rehearsed with Michael, we rehearse without him. And then he came out on set. And the very first take, you know, you got Francis Ford Coppola yelling action. You've got George Lucas, who's created this 3d camera for this movie and bleachers, for guests like Elizabeth Taylor, Nick Cage. And you know, it was just this celebrity bleacher over there. And I was in the bleach and Michael was in the waiter, I got to invite Michael because Michael is a celebrity too. So that was there watching it. And they and so when he yelled action, Michael Jackson goes. And it was rainbows flew out of him. And it blew all our hair back. And we all messed up the choreography, the first take, and they had to redo it. But it was really amazing. It was an amazing experience. So that's one of those special ones.

Alex Ferrari 3:49
I mean, I think it's such an in the George Lucas Coppola and Michael Jackson all of like, with a short film with an insane budget that never would have had happened any other way other than if it was an amusement park ride. Like,

Janeen Damian 4:06
I mean, Angelica Houston was was the was the Wicked Witch as well.

Alex Ferrari 4:10
I forgot. She just did such a great job. I can't recognize her. But she was there.

Janeen Damian 4:15
She was terrifying and fabulous.

Michael Damian 4:17
I told him about the music wasn't loud enough when they first started. And Michael Jackson couldn't feel the music, the rhythm and so he quietly

Janeen Damian 4:28
So he gets it gets on the microphone and he says, you know, I'm sorry. I can't feel I'm not gonna try to him. Anyway, he says, I'm sorry, I can't feel the rhythm of the music and until I can, I can't work so thank you very much. And then he and Macaulay Culkin whom you keep brought with him left. And we all stood there said okay, what's happening? And so that's when we're going to take a break. And while we're waiting, they bring in these ginormous stacks. Have martial speakers that go from all the way to the to the ceiling. I go to the soundstage. And that and then the music was so loud that, you know, we came back in and Michael was happy. Everybody's happy. We're shooting and then we get a visit from next door and they were shooting Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy in WarGames, WarGames is that? Yeah, I'm working. And they said, Well, we hear you were over here, so we can't work now. And so we had to stagger our shooting between work and

Michael Damian 5:32
It was either war games, or I think it was more games or

Alex Ferrari 5:35
No it was war games with John John Batum directed that one. Yeah.

Janeen Damian 5:38
Yeah. So that so that was kind of that was, I don't even know how they work that out. But they worked it out to where we actually rotated, who was going to shoot when awesome. So that's insane. It's a great story, though. And it was really, it was intense and amazing. And we had a phenomenal photographer. So

Alex Ferrari 5:59
How long did you guys shoot for, by the way,

Janeen Damian 6:03
Month that we were I mean, it was also it was we had rehearsals as well, and then they shut up shot a bunch of stuff without us without the dancer. So that was that was a big printer. We were on that show for I was on it for a month, but I don't actually know

Alex Ferrari 6:19
What I had. When I saw that on your filmography. I had to ask you, so thank you for indulging me. I appreciate that. Yeah, how did that how did you guys meet and start collaborating working together as a direct producers?

Michael Damian 6:32
Oh, how did we meet? Well, we met on an airplane. And I thought that Jane's dad was her boyfriend because I didn't know at the time and I later found out it was her dad and it was awesome. And I was like, Oh great, because it was one of my favorite actors James best Roscoe from the Dukes of Hazzard. So I got himself a young girlfriend. But I want to make her mind. Jessie's Girl Roscoe is the girl now. And we met at Utah going to the Osmonds, Children's Miracle Network. telefone. And that's where we first met. And then we started writing together. Janine was dancing. You know, she was on the show solid gold she was dancing with, as you know, Michael Jackson, Prince, George Michael, Elton John. Dinah Ross, Lionel Richie, the list goes on and on. And on a mile long. It said I was doing young and the restless and my music career. Rob, you know, tours and Broadway and all that. And we just started. We started writing together. We started with a script as short stories in New York. Yeah, started there. And

Janeen Damian 7:40
Well, Michael started he wanted to, he wanted to try the other side of camera. So he actually was the impetus to us trying to write together actually he was writing and he said, Well, we can write I said, Well, we can't write. We're not writers.

Michael Damian 7:54
Well, Janine really helped me a lot. You are you're a

Janeen Damian 7:58
Guy that he doesn't take No, he doesn't put limits on himself. And so it was really amazing the way we've made that career pivot together, but it started small and then just kept going. And we

Alex Ferrari 8:13
Mike, if I may. Correct. Rosco P Coltrane. If you if you just go be

Michael Damian 8:17
Coltrane. Yeah, you got to put the gold

Alex Ferrari 8:23
Trade back in the day. Oh my god, solid gold. I remember watching that growing up, Mike. That's it. I'm going back for Michael Jackson.

Michael Damian 8:30
Roscoe was Quentin Tarantino who was engineerings dad's acting school. And he was one of the students.

Alex Ferrari 8:36
Also, he's he was the one that was teaching Quinton, How to Act back in the day when he was trying to be an actor,

Michael Damian 8:42
Urging them to write their scripts. And he brought scripts in from Reservoir Dogs and Janine would rehearse the scenes with him. Because, you know, she was just an actor. Yeah. And she was always she was very kind to everyone. And she was rehearsing dialogue. And the scenes are like, it's kind of weird that all these characters with bizarre names and Mr. What

Janeen Damian 9:00
Were the listeners think Mr. Blonde? Yeah, Mr. Payne? Yeah,

Michael Damian 9:04
She was just kind of wild, you know, but he's really, you know, passionate about, you know, quit acting.

Alex Ferrari 9:10
I've never heard this guy. Did he ever do anything ever come out of him? Did he ever do anything else? Yeah. Never heard

Michael Damian 9:21
About the Oscars all the time.

Alex Ferrari 9:23
Anytime you write something, you just see him at the Oscars.

Michael Damian 9:26
Oh, he's amazing. I love Quinton. So those are all really fun. These are all the movie experiences, you know that we grew up in our background. You know what you mean when I say dance? It's really important because she worked with Barry Levinson. She worked with a lot of well there so the list goes on and on. Some great people and I got a chance to work with Gary Marshall and a lot of faculty directors and so you know, this was our background we were take we were like sponges, not really knowing, not realizing effort. time, this will be transferred to the other side of the camera. We were just taking it all in, as performers, and, and you know, great experiences and always listening. And you know, I had a great opportunity working with Angela Webber for two years when I did Joseph on Broadway. And that was an amazing experience. So we got, we got all these, you know, these amazing mentors. And that's really kind of that's why it started.

Alex Ferrari 10:23
So I mean, you it was pretty much osmosis at this point. You're just kind of absorbing it all just being on set. Yeah. For Masters. I mean, you're talking about legends. Yeah, yes,

Janeen Damian 10:33
Exactly. It's really inspiring and a little intimidating, but at the same time.

Alex Ferrari 10:39
I mean, I can only imagine being on set and just watching these these masters work, and then just not knowing that this will ever do anything else for you, other than like, oh, you know, it's nice that I worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber and, and parva joven

Michael Damian 10:54
Fans, and really, it was great. And it's really great to you know, we ran into Paul a couple times. And it was their home and, and it was really wonderful to see how we reacted when he saw you Jeanine, it was it was what do you say?

Janeen Damian 11:09
He was really nice to me. Yeah. So that was a that was a really fun experience working with him because he's kind of a little bit of a different personality than what I had worked with before.

Michael Damian 11:19
They worked on Basic, Basic Instinct.

Alex Ferrari 11:21
And I saw that too. I was asked about you worked on basic is, you know, so funny. I have a funny Paul story. Paul Verhoeven story. I reached out to his people a year or a year or two ago. I'm like, Hey, would you like to come to? I'm a huge fan, Paul, you know, would you like to come on the show? And he goes, Paul, is going to respectfully decline, actually, I'm putting the respectfully and because he thinks podcasts are absolute shite. And that is perfect. Because that's Paul Verhoeven. He's,

Janeen Damian 11:54
He doesn't, that's for sure. You know, he's just honest.

Alex Ferrari 11:57
Oh, he's so honest. But he'd made some of the greatest movies. I mean, just whatever Mr. Verhoeven, whatever you like, but I just thought that was such a wonderful way, if I make so much sense coming from him, it just like, because I've known, like, I've heard stories about him, and just seeing his interviews, he's just a, he's an intense dude. But that's how he made his movies back, back in the day, so they're great. Now, all those years that you guys have been in the business, kind of believe that it wasn't all happy go lucky puppy dog tails and unicorns, the entire ride, right? I'm assuming as,

Janeen Damian 12:31
As actors and performer as

Alex Ferrari 12:34
Well as acting performers, on one side of the camera is one thing, and you guys get just the nose, the amount of rejection that you get, as an actor, I'm assuming that prepped you for the moment, you said, hey, I want to be a filmmaker. And people are like, yeah, that's nice. Pretty much, right?

Janeen Damian 12:55
That's the biggest level you get, actually, because I think that I think that today, they're much more open to people crossing over. And but at that time, you didn't you I mean, you get a film, or you did TV, or you or you did Broadway. And, and Michael, is he's just, he, he, the other day was saying to me, he's like, I'm just better at denial than you are. You know,

Michael Damian 13:24
I cross the streams, like, it goes both ways. It's like, you know, when when I was doing the music, that, well, you can't act and do music. And I just didn't understand why I couldn't do that. And then it was about, well, you can't do this and then do Broadway. That's just not how it works. And so all these kinds of things, you know,

Janeen Damian 13:42
You started actors weren't really directing so much. And now I have to say that we've really evolved and as, as in the entertainment community, and, and I think the streaming services have helped also to sort of to make it an easier flow to move from one, you know, one side of the cameras or the other. But you're right, that was a really big no, as a matter of fact, we actually had to go to France before somebody would let Michael direct something because he was the most popular in France than anywhere else in the world at the time. And we thought what was my accent? Can we go where you have the most heat? And that was France? Yeah.

Michael Damian 14:19
And we developed a pilot. With TF one. It took quite a while because everything had to be written in English, translate translated back into French, and then back into English again. And we had to do to two languages. And she looked into languages. And it was a it was an adventure, but it was a great experience. And that really got the ball rolling. Yeah, that was actually there. It was off and running.

Alex Ferrari 14:44
Well, Mike, I mean, I completely understand because I can't walk the streets in Japan. I mean, I'm just saying I'm joking. I was gonna say I've seen you before. And I saw you everywhere is funny is funny. I was doing The the the alcohol ads, the whiskey ads just like just like Bill Murray.

Janeen Damian 15:07
John Travolta Can't you hide?

Alex Ferrari 15:09
Did you did you do you must have in the same amount of stories I mean things you could say on air and things you could say off air.

Michael Damian 15:17
He was riding horses in commercials. Nice knife wheeling.

Janeen Damian 15:22
I mean, no, but the country high commercial was was back when celebrities were doing Japanese commercials when you didn't do television commercials in America back then. Yeah, back then.

Alex Ferrari 15:33
You know now for me it was and there was no YouTube or there was no internet. So it stayed in Japan.

Janeen Damian 15:38
Exactly. Nobody knew that they were doing them. Yeah.

Michael Damian 15:41
Except you're giving away John Travolta secrets now.

Alex Ferrari 15:45
Trust me this. He's fine. He's done. All right. I think I think the cats out of the bag on that one. That's all right. I remember when doing some like commercials over because in Japan, he was huge after all, you know, Pulp Fiction, all that stuff. And he would do commercials over there too. And I've seen some of them. It's just like, the weird is to have weird commercials. I read just When was your was,

Janeen Damian 16:13
It was weird. It was at the Hilton estate in the pool. And we had, um, for some reason, they put bunny tails on us, and 50 swimsuits and beach balls. And John was doing well, we were riding rockets. And this was on a soundstage. We did a couple with him and they put these crazy wigs and they could only bottom fake eyelashes. Honestly, it was really you know, and they were like fashion.

Alex Ferrari 16:39
Bats. That's a very polite way of saying it's weird.

Michael Damian 16:44
To the director, they said, put this on and you said

Alex Ferrari 16:47
So so once you got once you got that first production off in France, which is faster, because I've heard that from so many actors that they go overseas, because they can't, they won't get a shot here. But overseas, they're much more open. Even back then to actors are like, oh, yeah, he's a big star here because we weren't watching him and you know, all that kind of stuff. After you got done with that. Did that open the door here for some projects?

Janeen Damian 17:11
Well, no, because then we're back in America, and then the nose kept coming. But you just have to keep pushing, you know,

Alex Ferrari 17:16
Just so so let me ask you this, then how did you guys keep moving? I always love asking that question. How do you guys keep moving forward, when you keep constantly getting nose and nose and nose? And I remember that time I remember, you know, I was I was young coming up in the 90s as a director, and I remember everyone was you have to be in a box. You couldn't move back and forth between things. You know, like I was I came up in the commercial world and like if I happen to do a Spanish language, commercial, my agent would tell me, you're done. You have to then you can't do general market. I'm like, What? What? Like, oh, we can't you didn't get the job. Why? Because you never had you never shot anything with any dialogue in it. I'm like, a camera just speak. I could I don't it didn't. It didn't make any sense to me. Like you have to like, everyone's so boxy and everything. So how did you during that time?

Janeen Damian 18:04
Well, actually, in the movie, well,

Michael Damian 18:06
Actually, let's back up just a little bit. If you don't mind. We, we did a short film. And this was really great. We put together a short film, yes, I'm going to show and Janine produced it. And and I directed and we wrote it but what was great about it was that Janine did all the producing and the line producing so she literally had to learn on the fly hire everybody ensure the film every single grip trucks this I mean, she she really it was like a super Master's quick class on on, you know how to produce and, you know, run a budget. And and I was, you know, doing the same thing, and we were working together. And we picked a lot of people's brains. I was over burns and Sawyer seeing them there every day after young in the restless. Yeah, we leave to go to the rest of the time, do my shoot my scenes. That was his, that was his school, and I go over there and I would, I would just harass them. They were so nice to me. And I just I said can you can I see the inside of the 35 millimeter. Okay, now what now? What is this now? How do we load this and these guys were, they were showing me everything. And I just sat and learn how to load, learn how to shoot bought my own cameras and started shooting. And we and we were we started making stuff you know.

Janeen Damian 19:23
So then what then I guess are the first project that we did in America was we but then we came back and we raised money.

Michael Damian 19:30
Well Michael raise money, and we shot an indie film was like what no one's going to go in. And then we sold it after. Yeah, we did a product and we were off and running. Yeah, we did a modest, you know, indie film, met fabulous producer named Brad Krivoy. Who makes a lot of movies. You know, Brad, Dumb and Dumber. He's the guy that made that film happen. And he bought the movie. Yeah. And so he bought that short film and sold it worldwide. And then we we've been

Janeen Damian 19:56
Working together. We worked with him on falling for Chris I say yeah, we it's he's actually Brad was the one who was the big turning point in

Michael Damian 20:05
Our career. Brad introduced us to 20th Century Fox Fox hired us for the flickers the prequel to Marlene, the. And so we just sort of, again, networking through people and working with people and building up, you know, you just have to, you've got to, it's great where we started. And we were able to, to, you know, inch up the budgets and get higher and higher with the budgets and take on bigger responsibilities. And it's been it's still understand the value and understand the dollar. Because when you raise your own money, and you're working on that, it really teaches you a lesson on Oh, yeah. And really how to and putting your own personal money into into it. And we've learned a lot

Alex Ferrari 20:43
You wish you don't do. Don't do that. Don't

Janeen Damian 20:44
No, no, no, we don't

Michael Damian 20:48
But we used to, but it really helps you respect, of course, every dollar you put into a film, and that's why, you know, we're always asking a lot of questions about stuffing, can we get this? And do we have to, you know, what's that going to cost? And is there any other options? Because we'd love it, but it's too expensive.

Alex Ferrari 21:05
Right! Exactly. Yeah, it's, well, it's nice that Brad was like the 800 pound gorilla in the room that kind of opened the door. And you know, you need everyone needs a champion. Everyone needs a champion. I mean, and it's many times I've interviewed so many filmmakers on the show, Oscar winners and everyone in between. They, they always have a champion, they always have either someone who's crazy, like the producer of Oliver Stone, who's like go make go make this into the Vietnam movie here 6 million that nobody would give it to him for 20 years. And they in the heat goes off and makes platoon and then the rest of it. So you have to have a crazy 800 pound gorilla or, or an 800 pound gorilla is very skilled. Or

Janeen Damian 21:46
See something in you, you know.

Michael Damian 21:50
And Brad was like, I really would love a Christmas script. Can you write a Christmas script?

Alex Ferrari 21:55
So that's the next question. What is this this obsession with Christmas guys? Seriously, you're out of control? Like, no, I just know. You filmography I'm like Christmas, Christmas Christmas. But like, I think I think I see a pattern here. So this is what I mean. It's great. And it's fun. And I see that I mean, obviously the Marlene me and the flickers and death thing. But then recently, it's just been Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas. And another new movie coming out with balloons. These next ones the Irish bride the bride movie.

Michael Damian 22:25
Spooky. Yeah, so we go ahead. Yeah, no, no, it's like, well, well, we

Janeen Damian 22:35
Well, we love doing Christmas movies. So I mean, you know, the first one was because we actually love Christmas. And we're big fans of Christmas. So we thought, well, let's make one and see if everybody watch ours every year.

Michael Damian 22:47
Yeah, let's do a castle and let's go to Europe and shoot it at this beautiful castle. Let's find someplace to go off. I'm going to send you I found he sent this to Romania. Castles a castle in Romania. And here's you go and make the movie. And it was he got us. You know, Roger Moore got us. Roger Bowie, Sam. It was awesome. Yeah, Sam, Sam. Nobody knew who Sam was. And we were telling back to the stage. Like, we have this. This guy is amazing. And he's gonna be a megastar. And like, Oh, really? Yeah. Yeah. And Sam is obviously he has, you know, exploded and, but as Janine said, Roger Moore. I mean, Brad is like, I know, Roger Moore. Do you want James Bond in the movie? Like, yes. How do we get him in this movie?

Janeen Damian 23:31
And, and so it was a it was an awesome movie. And it went number one. So then we then we were sort of, you know, we were proven in Christmas films.

Michael Damian 23:40
And I had a lot of requests a lot of Christmas. Yeah.

Janeen Damian 23:43
And so I'm going to work is, and they're beautiful. And they're inspiring and hopeful. And so why not, you know,

Alex Ferrari 23:51
You go where the work is, hey, you know, people like what, you know, it's that's the that's one of the big mistakes. I've heard from a lot of people on the show that talked about the like, they get a big hit in something and they're like, Christmas now I, I want to do horror. Now. I don't want to do Christmas, but I just want to go into horror films, because that's where my passion is, like, no, just stick to Christmas a little bit longer, and then go off and make something else up. But you have to establish yourself on a path of success before you can start, you know, you know, playing bass. In other words, Michael Jackson can Amanda Michael J. Michael Jordan can jump from basketball to baseball because he was Michael Jordan. He shouldn't have we all agree. But because he had established himself.

Michael Damian 24:30
Yep, he shot Yeah, yeah, you're right. Yeah, right guy. I forgot about that.

Alex Ferrari 24:37
But imagine after his rookie year, he's like, You know what, I know. I'm like the greatest but I really needed a little time. So that's the lesson that people should take. If you're lucky enough to have a lot of success in one arena. Stay one stick with it. And you gotta love it too. It seems like you guys do love it though. You do love the Christmas would

Janeen Damian 24:51
We love it. I mean, if it was if it was something that we were really unhappy doing, then I'm sure that we would, you know, look, another way to kind of transition out but we really do. We really do like we love rom coms in general and also what's happened is is that rom com sort sort of had you know, they sort of kind of fell out of fashion and they're now coming back again but they but Christmas is always rom com so so for us we thought well that's great well we can stick with rom com you know, if we stay in Christmas, then we can still do our rom com. And now it's starting to have a resurgence again. So, so Irish wish is not Christmas, and it's still a rom com.

Alex Ferrari 25:29
Right! Exactly. And the days of When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, where the studios were making these big rom coms they don't like or my best friend's wedding. Those don't exist anymore in the studio system. Not really. Now it's all Netflix. Hallmark. These many studios, right? Yeah, the

Michael Damian 25:47
Ones Yeah, they're the ones making the rom coms. The bigger studios are more on the franchise, franchise action. You know,

Janeen Damian 25:55
I mean, I think Amy Schumer is doing stuff and you know, Rebel Wilson a little bit. I mean, I think they're starting to kind of come back in a more offbeat way. But you know, not quite the classic rom com like they were back then. But Irish wishes is I think more what, what people are thinking of when they think of like, following Yeah, that's exactly what fanbase is looking for.

Michael Damian 26:16
Because it's not the Christmas genre. It really is more of a classic rom com.

Alex Ferrari 26:20
Yeah. So let's talk about your latest film fall, falling for Christmas, which I saw on Netflix before I even knew that you because my wife and I were looking and like, oh, this would be a great family film that we got the girls their moods are watching it. And it's just a fun, you know, Saturday night, you know, everyone around around the campfire kind of watching movie and was so it was so beautiful. It looks gorgeous. And I was I was asking you before we got on, I'm like, is that a real place? That you build the sets like, and I'm like, analyzing I'm like it think it's because my wife was like, I don't know, it looks. I think it's real. I'm like, Yeah, I think it's real, too. So I like that there's some sets there. They built some stuff there. But it's not like a completely. It's not the Grinch that stole Christmas, dumped the entire world scenario.

Michael Damian 27:02
What it was, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 27:03
But it was beautiful. So how did that how did did did Netflix get involved first? Or did you make it and they get Netflix? How does that work?

Janeen Damian 27:10
No, this was our first movie with Netflix. And we were really excited when they they approached us with the script and Lindsey attached. So yeah, so we with

Michael Damian 27:20
Brad, our wonderful, Brad. Yes. And we all came together. Yeah. And we Yeah, and

Janeen Damian 27:28
They wanted to and what was great was that Lindsey schedule worked out so that we could shoot it actually in December. So we shot it in the snow in Utah, Deer Valley Park City midway, so we were able to actually shoot it in the snow. So that made it just that much more authentic and

Michael Damian 27:44
The locations that you're talking about are extraordinary because what we found was a gem it's the Goldener Hirsch in Deer Valley is they have the Austrian side and then they just built this spectacular modern side and there's a pasture rail between them and not to give away all the secrets and the magic of it but we had some stuff at our that was real physical right there that we had at our disposal that we could really dress and work with those structures

Janeen Damian 28:14
And they were and they were so close in proximity that we didn't have to move our base camp so we were able to shoot so we saw our dates we were able to use our our days actually shooting as opposed to moving around and then we found

Michael Damian 28:25
A beautiful North Star extender is this charming in in Midway Utah called blue bar end and we that's the one you know the the North Star exterior you saw that's the BlueBoard en and it's and we did build like the we built a little stable for

Janeen Damian 28:41
The horse and the work shed and they're still there they kept a basket

Michael Damian 28:45
Keep them sure it's a term down we didn't talk about apart now we just don't know and so fun because we go visit

Janeen Damian 28:55
The blue bar and you go you simply have brunch and then there's boundless our there's our settings so stable right there. private dining area so

Alex Ferrari 29:05
And this in this film, if I'm not mistaken he went to number one right on Netflix.

Janeen Damian 29:09
Yeah, it went number one on Netflix and in the world. And then I think of all streamers of all streaming of almost all streaming service. That's insane.

Alex Ferrari 29:20
How did you guys feel after you? I mean, that's, that's a pretty decent accomplishment. Yeah, it was.

Janeen Damian 29:24
I was huge. We were really excited.

Michael Damian 29:28
We pop some champagne for sure.

Alex Ferrari 29:30
I mean, so you know Lindsey is such a wonderful actress. I mean, I've been a fan of her since since she was a kid and I've spoken to some of the directors who worked with her on like Freaky Friday and, and Parent Trap and those kinds of things. But she's such a fantastic actress. And in this project she was she was she was great. And she has his fan base that just love her obviously. Because I saw it I was like, Oh yeah, Lindsey Yes. She's one of those people that we all recognize. We all were Remember, and we all genuinely have fond memories of the work that she did you know, when she was coming up? And I think that's one of the reasons why everyone just gravitated to this film and made it number one around the world no less.

Janeen Damian 30:12
Yes, you know, it's multigenerational her her fan base and then the young people are embracing Mean Girls again. And so everybody's kids and grandkids so her her fans when when we were in Ireland, her fans were you haven't split. There's all these little school girls and they're little.

Michael Damian 30:31
They're like, 1315 years old aside, you

Janeen Damian 30:33
Know, her hundreds of, you know, streets.

Michael Damian 30:36
Yeah, we're Wow, where are these? How do they know her? And like you

Janeen Damian 30:40
Said, so she just crosses over and, and well deserved because she really is an amazing talent. And we're so excited that she's decided to come back.

Alex Ferrari 30:50
Right, exactly. And then yeah, now you have the new movie coming out, which I'm excited to let them I love romcoms it's like one of my dirty, deep secrets. I just love walking. Dirty, stupid. I just love walking. It's like killing

Michael Damian 31:02
Cars, but it's a dirty secret. It's

Alex Ferrari 31:04
A dirty secret. That and, and boy bands like I like listening to boy band. What am I gonna do what I mean? Come on. I don't care. Leave the comments if you want guys. I don't care. I wear it with pride now.

Michael Damian 31:16
Yes. When's the best one? Right? I swear.

Alex Ferrari 31:19
Oh, no, stop it. Don't get me started. I'm not You're not gonna get me to sing it on there. Because they will become a meme. And I'm not gonna let that happen. It's already in my head. I can't. I won't be there. But. But so I always like asking directors, this producers this. What was the worst day on set? Meaning like we all have that day that the entire world's coming crashing down around us? Because that's production. So what was that day for you? And how did you overcome that challenge? I know the day.

Janeen Damian 31:52
Well, what happened was is that we had no snow and it was December. And we all did a snow dance. Oh, yeah. And it snowed so much that we couldn't get anybody through the

Michael Damian 32:03
Mountain. Everybody was stuck down at the bottom of the mountain. We and Janine and I stayed at the top of the mountain. So we

Janeen Damian 32:09
Lost a half a day. And also none of our background talent made it out. Yes. So we had to figure out how to Yeah, we had all the crew had to step in and be in the background. I got my Yeah, it was. But it was we really I mean, it's really hard to maneuver in a lot of snow. Yeah. And

Michael Damian 32:30
So however, the market the Christmas markets, of course, that was coming out. It was 10 below zero.

Alex Ferrari 32:36
I was gonna say, You know what? I literally said, my wife, my wife look at it, because we're, she's she's become a visual effects expert, all of a sudden, over the years after being with us, is that it's just like, is that real? And I go, they didn't have the budget. This is no way they had the budget to do that digitally. That's not that's real. So it's really that polar. Like, I promise you, it's probably that gold. And it was,

Janeen Damian 32:58
It was It wasn't all that snow and we were in a watershed so we weren't allowed to make any snow. So that's why we all had to do the snow dance.

Michael Damian 33:05
The snow on the trees, we couldn't put it on a synthetics. We couldn't do any synthetic anything.

Janeen Damian 33:10
Nothing or the soap bubbles. We couldn't do anything. So we're so here we are with a Christmas market, no snow, and then all of a sudden, it just dumped it snowed three feet. And then we couldn't get anybody up there. We all know and then we couldn't get anybody up there or any of the equipment. But anyway, so that was the most challenging day. But so we had to shoot really fast because we lost a half a day.

Alex Ferrari 33:31
And that's it. So in other words, you showed up with 150 shots on your shot list and you shot 10

Michael Damian 33:39
Exactly. Okay, wide

Alex Ferrari 33:41
Shot here. Move the camera there and we're out boys. Let's

Michael Damian 33:44
Go. Okay, move on. Next. Move on. The 500 extras we have 50 Okay, so let's put them all over here. Now. In other jackets are moving over here.

Alex Ferrari 33:56
I did that all the time. That's the best. I mean, you don't need 500 I mean, unless you're Ridley Scott. I mean, you don't need them and you need good 20 or 30 Yeah, fill the screen just fill the frame. That's all you need.

Janeen Damian 34:10
That when you watch it that you can't tell. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 34:13
I couldn't tell at all. No, that was a beautiful little Christmas Town.

Michael Damian 34:16
And we did get we finally they came up and what was great is that they actually made it but it was now 11 o'clock at night. And and then then

Janeen Damian 34:26
We weren't allowed to sing. They said we can't play music after 11 So we had the whole singing and the fireworks when everybody's singing and they're all there to sing and then we couldn't sing because we couldn't play music. So we just kind of you know, it's one of those

Michael Damian 34:38
We just said just ask forgiveness. Let's just crank up the music once. We'll probably get one take at this. Let's just turn around, put it on 11 Go to 11 Sing everybody until they just say stop you know the till they pull the power plug on

Janeen Damian 34:54
Us eat us but you know it was Christmas and it was a Christmas song and everybody loved it. Yeah, nobody complained

Michael Damian 34:59
Actually. Thank you We're so worried about the people in the condos complaining but nobody was complaining

Alex Ferrari 35:04
About like, hard. It's not like thrash metal, you guys.

Janeen Damian 35:09
World, the world of your shop and not to

Michael Damian 35:14
Shut us down on Joy to the world.

Alex Ferrari 35:15
I mean, what kind of, you're gonna go straight to hell, you're gonna straight to hell at that point. I mean, what's the point? Now, another question of asking, you know, especially couples who work together, how do you balance? I mean, because it's insane to be in the film industry? How do you balance the work relationship with a personal relationship, especially onset, because onset is a stressful place, production is a stressful place, feelings get hurt, egos get crushed? You know, how do you especially working so closely together as a producing directing team? How do you balance that for other other teams out there might be listening?

Janeen Damian 35:54
What you know, go ahead, you say so, oh, I think that it starts with the fact that we have very similar artistic tastes and tendencies. And so our vision tends to be a cohesive idea. And we don't really argue a lot about stuff because we, we tend to like the same things. And we, we tend to want a lot. And especially because we write, you know, most of us ever at least rewrite and polish everything we do. We're so close to it, we've already worked through it. So

Michael Damian 36:30
We finished a lot of thoughts in writing, like, we'll be writing, and she'll start a sentence, and then I'll just, it just comes out and finishing and then she's perfect. And then I ended and then she does the other character. And then we start to have a dialogue. And we start acting out the scenes right there in the office. And so it's

Janeen Damian 36:46
Between the script and then pre production, we're ammonius. Mostly, we'd like to we're really specific about everything that we want to put on screen. So about time that we finally get there. I think that we have a pretty good a pretty good idea. And we don't really have a lot to fight about except for fight for something together. Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 37:07
It's done. That makes sense that makes perfect sense. Let me ask you, if there was something that you guys could say, each of you, if you can go back in time and tell your younger self one thing about this business, a warning, if you will, just a little piece of advice at the beginning of the career, what would that be?

Michael Damian 37:28
Well, I would say I would say, if you really believe in yourself, and you really believe in something, and know it to be true. You've i You're gonna hear a lot of stuff down the road. And I'll give you my quick, probably my quick story on that, which is my record, when you say that's probably the best,

Janeen Damian 37:51
I'm always saying you're gonna tell yourself something, something different.

Alex Ferrari 37:54
Something that something like you know, guys, it's gonna be

Michael Damian 37:58
Other people, others wanting other people something that happened to me,

Alex Ferrari 38:02
No, no, no warning set, like you personally can go back in time with Marty McFly, you talk to your 16 year old self and you're thinking about getting into this business. And you go Listen, guys, you're gonna have a hell of a ride, I can't tell you anything else. But the one thing you should worry or be wary about is it's going to take a long time, you're gonna have to write, don't eat carbs, I don't know.

Janeen Damian 38:23
The sooner that you can figure out what what it is, what your passion is, and what it is that you want to do. Go for it. And it may it may not present itself right away, but really pay attention to what is meaningful to you. In, in whatever industry, you know, within the industry, I wish that I would have paid more attention. And I wish that I would have transitioned out of dancing sooner. Or at least while I was while I was on camera, I would have paid more attention to what was going on. But I didn't know that that's where I was gonna go. So I went to like Michael Jackson.

Michael Damian 38:56
And he went to bed with Coppola and Lucas and all those great people.

Janeen Damian 39:00
So don't really waste your youth. Don't waste your seize the moment. Really. I mean, if you want to go into the entertainment industry, the sooner you know that you can get in and get work experience and actually dive in there and not and not wait for stuff to come to you. I don't know. That's what I would say.

Alex Ferrari 39:21
That makes perfect sense. Now I'm going to ask you a few questions. I ask all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Janeen Damian 39:29
Be tenacious and creative. Because, you know, if one door doesn't open find another door because there's a lot of doors available now.

Michael Damian 39:38
I would say get on a movie set as fast as you can. Yeah. I don't care. Where are you going to be because Janine and I have elevated people on our sets that came in and had no experience and we just said you know what? This young person should be over with the production design team. They're there. They're getting us coffee and this person needs to be over there learning. Because we saw what we saw what was happening here. I mean, and so

Janeen Damian 40:09
70 and be really good troubleshooter and elevate quickly.

Michael Damian 40:14
Yep, exactly. And be open and listen. And anybody, just any department engaged with them? You know, don't harass them. But you know, like I did with burns and Sawyer but the camera. Yeah. How did was that sprocket doing? No, but you know, you know, there's a point where you're annoying but but just really be there and be present. And listen, and pay attention is so important and have positive energy on set. When you don't you don't yawn? Yawn. That's a really big one.

Janeen Damian 40:45
Yeah, don't ever yawn to really try not to yarn.

Michael Damian 40:48
Yeah, go outside, go away, go go in the outhouse or something and move on, but just don't let anybody see of yawning on a set.

Alex Ferrari 40:55
Now, what is the lessons that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Janeen Damian 41:00
Good question. i Okay. Why is the opposite of my goals is to, to be confident in myself

Alex Ferrari 41:09
Believe in myself more,

Janeen Damian 41:10
Believe in myself. And that I am, I am prepared. And I am. I am worth it. So, it took me a long time to have a lot of confidence in my stuff. Michael is the most confident person I've ever met.

Michael Damian 41:30
I was just naive. I just thought you know, I My parents just instilled that it's just sad. If you're going to do it, go all the way. Do not ever quit anything. I don't care. What is the only thing I did quit, I want to tell you is that I had a paper route. And I had to quit because the dogs attacked me. Every time I went down the road. My pants were shredded. Sorry. I just I've never told anybody in any interview that so anyway, I quit. Question, What was the question?

Janeen Damian 42:05
It's a basic question. Alex, remind me that.

Alex Ferrari 42:09
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether the film industry or in life?

Michael Damian 42:15
The longest to learn? I would say probably not to echo you. But I think I think a lot of it was learned, really just learning and paying attention. And really picking up all the all the nuances on the set, I could have learned a lot more. I did learn but I think if I would have I guess I didn't know I was going to be on the other side of the camera, I would have been, I would be paying a little more attention to certain things. But gosh, did He mean Good answer?

Alex Ferrari 42:48
Good answer. That's a good answer. And also never underestimate the power of naivete. It is it is

Michael Damian 42:56
It's denial

Alex Ferrari 43:00
It is a gift. It is a gift. But also the the thing I always tell people is like there is an there's an insanity to what we do. It's insane. It's insane. It's insane to get a whole bunch of people together to tell a story in up a hill with snow. And there's just it's an insanity to even believe that we could do this in the first place. So you need that to even just get on the field to play. But then when you're you have denial, and you have night, like you're completely clueless along the way, but it's very powerful, but extremely dangerous.

Janeen Damian 43:36
I came along. Got me for no, you're just that you've got such a good team. Why are we such a good team? This is why you balance?

Michael Damian 43:46
Yeah, you got to you got to know your stuff. And we're have we'd like to have a lot of fun. But we're really detail oriented, we have a plan every single minute. And you know, and of course the plan is gonna go right out the window, the minute you get on the set. And we now find out that we can't shoot this way because now all the wind is blowing the blue screen into the set. And now we have to shoot another thing. And you got to learn how to adapt quickly. The most important thing is keep the train moving. Don't panic. Find a way to adapt and always keep rolling camera. It's really when I see people just stop and everything just grinds to a halt. It's painful. Sometimes it's necessary but

Janeen Damian 44:30
Try to keep shooting, find solutions, find something to

Michael Damian 44:33
Shoot, find solutions and find something to shoot. Because the clock it's in the taxi with the meter running and you've got at the end of the day time is the enemy obviously you know the enemy but constantly, you know, have a plan, but be prepared for the unexpected. And I think that's what happens almost every day on the set to be honest with you.

Alex Ferrari 44:52
And three of your favorite films of all time. Days of Heaven, Star Wars The natural Field of Dreams. Where's your baseball movie coming out? I'd love to I'd love all three of those movies. But what?

Janeen Damian 45:15
Romeo and Juliet. And he's having

Michael Damian 45:18
Romeo and Juliet as

Janeen Damian 45:20
Well, because these jerseys are sort of life forming experiences for me. So and then Also A Star is Born the Barbra Streisand one.

Alex Ferrari 45:28
Okay. All right. That's a good that's that's a good that's a good set.

Janeen Damian 45:33
Those were the ones that made me want to get into the film.

Michael Damian 45:37
Can I throw a fourth in there? Sure. Nice. Oh, that was the one that when I sat in that theater, it just,

Alex Ferrari 45:45
I mean, you want to talk about suspense of disbelief, though. You were 45 year olds playing teenagers? I mean, seriously. I mean, seriously, I mean, what was it was it candidate was that what's what's her name? Stockard Channing. She was like, 33.

Michael Damian 46:04
I didn't know we listened. I didn't know.

Alex Ferrari 46:08
I love that movie. But like, like, we go back and like, they're, they're like, 50 What is going on? Why are they flying away at the end into the sky that was never established, like what's going on?

Janeen Damian 46:24
All those questions just said, you know, I liked Greece. But I did want to know what was with the aja. She said you

Michael Damian 46:29
she was asking me all these. I was like, I don't really care. I just love them.

Alex Ferrari 46:35
Michael, I'm like you I completely suspend disbelief. My wife on the other hand, like that's not the way it would happen. And I'm like, can you just enjoy Can you suspend a little disbelief?

Michael Damian 46:48
Together Alex, you and I need to watch you because

Alex Ferrari 46:50
I just like to name my mighty cruise. But she's like, she just watches it and she like ruin stuff. And I'm like, I'm like, it's like, oh, that's not the way a doctor's office would be because I don't care. I don't care. I just let me enjoy. Like, she's ruined many a movie for me. And I'm very careful now. Like, this is okay. So I forced her to watch Star Wars. Okay, Michael, I forced all six of them. It this is years ago, years ago when we first started dating. And at the end, she goes like, she's like, you know, Darth Vader's kind of a punk. And I'm like, What do you mean? She's like, he you know, he's basically the the Emperor's like, you know, you know, like lapdog and he goes around intimidating people with his deep breathing and choking people out with his imagination. I didn't understand it. And I was like, Oh, my God, that is really amazing description. is deep breathing and chokes people out with his imagination. I was just like, You know what? I think so. You want to talk about balance? There's the balance. There's you always need. I love Star Wars too, though. Thank you. I like to

Michael Damian 48:06
Sneak I love. I sneak up and all of a sudden I hear God like, are you watching Star Wars again? It's either that or Indiana Jones and Oh, I love it. I really? That is my fourth my fifth film. Indiana. Yeah, Raiders. The Lost Ark.

Alex Ferrari 48:24
Oh, I did see the new trailer. I just came out. It just came out like two hours ago. I looks really nice. It looks good. I enjoy it looks good. I'm a James Mangold is the director. So awesome. I have high hopes I have high hopes that he's not going to be blown up by a nuclear bomb in a refrigerator this time. So buddy, we could keep geeking out about movies forever. Guys, I appreciate you coming on the show was such a pleasure talking to you guys. Continued success. I can't wait to see Lindsay's new movie and your new movie when it comes out coming out by the way. I wish wish

Janeen Damian 49:00
Oh, we don't have a release date. Well, we're just editing it now. So I think they'll it'll be forthcoming your release date but we're not sure yeah. 2023 2023

Michael Damian 49:11
Yeah, we're we'll be done. Probably around April May when you know when we've picked your lock and color and sound music all that should be around May, April May. So alright.

Alex Ferrari 49:21
Well guys, continuous access, and it's been an absolute pleasure talking to you guys. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Janeen Damian 49:27
Thank you so much for having us.



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