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IFH 626: Creating Hocus Pocus: My Life in Horror and Nightmare Cinema with Mick Garris

I am extremely excited to have on the show today a fellow podcaster, established producer, director, and writer, Mick Garris. Mick’s podcast, Post Mortem with Mick Garris, dives deep into the devious minds of the greatest filmmakers and creators of your worst nightmares to bring their distinctive visions to life in fascinating one-on-one conversations. 

He’s renowned for his classic screen adaptation of Stephen King’s books like Sleepwalkers (1992), The Shinning and The Stand. and creator of 2005, Masters of Horror series.

The California native began his passion for storytelling as early as 12 years old – writing short stories. He launched his passion onto the journalism path at just 16 years old. Driven by curiosity, he freelanced as a film and music critic and landed interviews with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Rod Serling, and Ray Bradbury in the 70s. 

It’s remarkable what Mick accomplished in a time where everyone needed to know someone to get a foot in the door, let alone that early in life and without the help of social media. I guess folks were intrigued by his talent and drive.

While doing film criticism, Mick wrote specs, publications for magazines, and did some filming on 8mm. The guy lived the dream. The hard work began to pay off. His agent, Rick Jaffa read some of his specs, believed in him, and introduced Mick to Steven Spielberg. Mick ended up writing the first episode of the Spielberg sci-fi series, Amazing Stories, and seven other episodes.

He’s credited for writing screenplays like Psycho IV: The Beginning, Fly II, and the She-Wolf of London series. He was also was an editor on Spielberg’s other project, *Batteries Not Included, in which aliens help a feisty old New York couple in their battle against the ruthless land developer who’s out to evict them.

Garris has written and directed a lot of other horror classics such as Halloween comedy favorite, Hocus Pocus. The film follows a villainous comedic trio of witches who are inadvertently resurrected by a teenage boy in Salem, Massachusetts, on Halloween night.

Garris and I talked about his incredibly difficult yet fun experience shooting his small budget directorial debut, feature sequel Critters 2. In the film, Eggs of the small but voracious alien creatures called Crites are left behind on earth and, after hatching, set their appetites on the small farm town of Grover’s Bend.

The man’s contribution to the horror genre has amazing. Can’t wait for you to catch up on my conversation with Mick Garris.

Alex Ferrari 0:15
I'd like to welcome to the show, Mick garris. How you doing, Mick?

Mick Garris 0:18
Great, Alex, thank you for having me.

Alex Ferrari 0:21
Thank you so much for coming on the show. Like I was telling you earlier, I was extremely excited that you agreed to do the show because you're you're your own established podcaster as well with with a great show. And you you've interviewed some giants in the business as well. So I was I was humbled that you said Yes, sir. So thank you so much.

Mick Garris 0:42
Well, I'm humbled that I'm able to work with some of my heroes. And it's a pretty exciting thing.

Alex Ferrari 0:48
Yeah, absolutely. So, um, let me ask you, how did you get started in the business?

Mick Garris 0:55
It's sort of a long story. But I had been writing since I was 12 years old, I wrote short stories and all that sort of thing. And, you know, I was born in LA so but no one in my family had any kind of connections to the entertainment business or anything. And so I started out as a journalist, and I interviewed people when I was like 16 years old, like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and stuff in music. That's about right, Bradbury was my first interview, and Rod Serling was my second. So so I was always able to meet my heroes and learn about them, you know, something that was always really important to me was my curiosity. So I was doing film criticism and interviews and writing screenplays on spec and trying to make a go of it. And I finally had some material that made for agents wanting to meet me and maybe work with me, because an agent only wants to represent you if they think they think that it's easy to sell you. If you are a marketable commodity, it doesn't matter how nice a person you are, or you know how well you play with others. But if they feel that they can make money off of you, it's great. So I went through a couple of agents who never really did me any good. And I was, you know, making my living working at Tower Records and that sort of thing. My first job was as a receptionist at George Lucas's Star Wars Corporation, during the first Star Wars. And I actually operated our two D two on the Oscars that year, but I was basically a receptionist. But it allowed me entree to the universal lot and looking at how people made movies seeing Alfred Hitchcock on the lot towards the end of his life. And finally, a an agent named Rick Jaffa, who is now a very successful screenwriter with his wife and partner, Amanda silver. He was an agent at William Morris. And he was the first guy who read my stuff believed in me and actually got my material in front of Steven Spielberg's company. So I was doing publicity. And I'd hire myself to do making of is because it was a lot more affordable than the studio would spend. And it would give me film school on how to take pieces of film and put them together into a narrative, even in a documentary or documentary format. So I did the making of Gremlins, I did the making of The Goonies. And the first, I had an interview show on the Z channel, which was the first pay TV channel in Los Angeles. So I would interview filmmakers, who made the films that were scheduled to come up on the Z channel schedule. And one of those filmmakers was Steven Spielberg. And after we did the show, I mean, I'm doing all the talking here, Alex, but

Alex Ferrari 4:07
don't quote me, please.

Mick Garris 4:09
But after the show, he said, You know, I really enjoyed that. And he doesn't. He didn't usually enjoy all the interviews that people normally ask all the same canned questions and all but there was a shared passion for movies from a similar background as my own. So when I was making the making of The Goonies, on the first day of shooting in Astoria, Oregon, I was setting up the camera man was setting up the lighting and stuff to interview Steven for the documentary. And he said, You must do a lot of these sorts of things. And I said, what nobody should ever say to Steven Spielberg was I'm trying to do less because I'm trying to make a go of it as a screenwriter.

Alex Ferrari 4:56
What I really want to do is direct Steven, right? Yeah.

Mick Garris 4:59
Well I would never say something like that today, however, then he said, Oh, really we're looking for writers for this new show I'm doing called amazing stories. So it turned out, my agent had gotten amblin, a spec script of mine called uncle Willie, that is still never been made. But I got to read the coverage that they did in the last three words of the coverage were higher this man. So Stephen called me and asked me to, to write the first episode of amazing stories that was ever written. And I wrote it in three days. I mean, it was like a call from Steven Spielberg. And I'd

Alex Ferrari 5:42
love to do it. And by the way, for everyone listening, it's Steven Spielberg at circa what 8485.

Mick Garris 5:48
This was in 1985 85. So

Alex Ferrari 5:51
it's post, et and everything else he did prior to that. So he's already Steven Spielberg. He's been Steven Spielberg for quite some time. So it's like, basically, a god coming down from Mount Olympus and touching you on the shoulder and go, you now shall right.

Mick Garris 6:06
So yeah, I mean, we get a phone call. And I pick it up and Steven Spielberg calling from Mackerras and I'm looking at my wife and our little crackerbox house in the valley. And then they asked me to adapt, write a screenplay based on one of his two paragraph story ideas for amazing stories. And I knocked it out in three days. And they read it and asked me to do another one. And then a day and a half into it. I'm only halfway through. And he and Kathy Kennedy called me to ask me if I would go on staff as the story editor. And I had never done anything like this before. And so suddenly, I'm in $100,000, a year job back in 1985. Oh, and I was, I was on food stamps, when I got the job, also. So it's a convoluted story, but that's how I got my first writing job.

Alex Ferrari 7:04
So and again, not a bad first job. And no as, as first jobs go, not too shabby, not too shabby. So, which, by the way, which were you I mean, I loved. I was obsessed with amazing stories when it came out. I watched. I mean, my favorite one. I still remember to this day. I mean, obviously the Kevin Costner one was fantastic, which we think was the first episode, wasn't it? Steven directed that one.

Mick Garris 7:29
It was the second season the first episode,

Alex Ferrari 7:33
that one and I remember the train. I think Stevens did the train. Both of those. Yeah, right. I remember those two. But my favorite amazing story besides when Santa's got arrested, which was fantastic. Was the episode where the kid had the goo that you poured it on a picture and the picture came to life and right he was like a horny college kid. And he just was trying to get this girl on and you would get half a girl or too big of a girl and right. It was like trying to get it perfectly. Whoever kissed the girl first it was it was theirs forever. It was it was just obviously because was such a dream for any adolescents. And adults, obviously. And I love the ending of that. I'll never forget it. Sorry, spoiler alert for everybody. But it just spills onto Fangoria magazine or something like that. And it just fades to black. It was like, Oh, that's amazing. But I remember that show. So well. I guess I mean, that experience. I mean, it must have listened starting at that level must have. I didn't say Jay, did you what you understood later on that it's not all like that, like that was kind of like the red carpet.

Mick Garris 8:42
Right. But I was also 33 years old when it happened. So I had been writing for years and years and years. Like I said, since I was 12 years old is when I first seriously started writing. And so I've never gotten jaded about it, you know, the excitement of being able to do what you dream of doing. A lot of people get spoiled by it, and expect their lives to continue to be at the top of the heap. I'm always concerned that I'm gonna fuck it up. And you know it every time especially directing every time I I do it, I feel like it's my first time out and that I've got a lot to prove and, and being contemporary and being aware of the technology of filmmaking as it as it metamorphosis sizes. But as far as writing goes, writing has always been I'm a rather fast style writer, in that it comes easily to me and I love it. And I'm just lucky to have been born with a facility for writing and, and I I'm good with language and stories come to me quickly. I mean When I'm writing on spec, which is almost all the writing I do, I just sit down on page one, I don't do an outline or anything, I have an idea. And then I just plow into it and let the tributaries take me where as they will.

Alex Ferrari 10:14
But when you say that, and I've heard other various other screenwriters say the same thing, but do you agree that, you know first for screenwriters just starting out? You're able to do that, because you've been writing forever. So the structure and the you already almost instinctively know how to structure the story in a screenplay from stage one when you don't have the outline? But from somebody who's just starting out, would structuring them outline makes sense?

Mick Garris 10:41
Well, I think it depends on the writer, every writer works differently. And for me, I started out that way. Because I'd been writing but not writing screenwriting, I've been writing short stories in the leg for a while. But I've always watched movies and television my whole life. And I think that there's an intuition that grows within you, as you consume. Screen storytelling. So when you're writing on assignment, you have to do those steps, you do a treatment, and then you do an outline, and then you do a draft. And then because every step of the way, you're going to get interference from the studio executives, from the director, if you're not the director, and all of those sorts of things. So every way is valid for me. I used to think Wouldn't it be great if I took six months to write a script, think how good it would be. And for me, if I took six months to write a script, that means I'm having trouble and it's, it's labor, it's not, it's not coming out, like the magic, it's not storytelling, it's a job. And so I am lucky to be able to write quickly and and Lee and fairly simply, but, again, on the jobs where it's an assignment, then you have to take each step at a time. And then it's never your own unfiltered storytelling, you know, you're going through the hands of a lot of other people.

Alex Ferrari 12:12
Now, do you start with plot or with character, like when you sit down? Are you Do you already have a plot in your head? Or are you starting with the characters like, let's see where this guy or this gals adventure goes?

Mick Garris 12:23
Well, it's kind of half and half, I'll usually start with a character. And of course, every character you write, I tend to write my fiction, even I write books as well. A lot of my fiction is written in the first in the first person, and when you're writing a screenplay, every character is the first person. So they're always some facet of who the writer is, or who he or she imagines he is, or would like to be. It's, it's just a matter of empathy. And usually, I'll have an idea of a character who is some what thwarted in his life, whether it's romantically or ambitions. You know, there's there's a roadblock, and that roadblock is part of what the story is. And then I'll take a combination of who that character is and why his his quest is not an easy one.

Alex Ferrari 13:21
Now, when you said earlier that you you know, you shot a lot of making of documentaries of films, like the thing in Goonies and yeah, is it Gremlins as well? Yeah, so you're on the set with, you know, a Rogue's gallery of some of the most amazing directors of their generations. What were some of the biggest lessons you learned from just just being there and watching their process day in because as I'm making up, you're there every day shooting? What's going on?

Mick Garris 13:54
If you're lucky with the budgets we had, I was there for a couple of days or a few days out of the production schedule. But surprisingly, the thing I learned most is how much of the movie is directed off the set the conversations with the production designer with a dp with the actors, all of those things, you're really seeing almost the finished product when you are on the set and watching them work. That said, watching how a director elicits a performance from an actor. You know, the lighting is already been planned out. The shots in general have been planned out depending on what the director style is. But the job of a director is to communicate. And a writer doesn't have to be very communicative. They're very different disciplines. A writer is monastic and own and mystic in a way, where as a director is confronted with being a social animal, he has to be able to To communicate, not only communicate what the overall movie is, so that each department head and each actor isn't making a different movie choice, but to be able to instill enthusiasm and confidence and excitement that they're doing something special, and to be encouraging people, whether they're cast or crew to do their best work, because they're going to make something really special together. And, you know, there are directors who are directors because they enjoy being autocratic. They like to be the boss, and they like to throw their weight around. Nobody's going to do their best work for somebody who yells at them. You get their best work by being a teammate and somebody who encourages the best ideas from every department, even if it's craft services. Somebody from craft Services has a good idea. I'll take it, you know?

Alex Ferrari 15:54
Yeah, absolutely. Not you, you. Your first Is this your first feature or one of your first features that you wrote? was called Batteries not included? Which Yeah, I have an absurd absurd love for because I remember it. I remembered it and everyone listening, please forgive me back in my video store days. When I was there, renting it out and recommending it to people. And it was a Steven Spielberg produced film. I remember you also co wrote that with a another. He's done okay for himself, Brad Bird, as well. Yeah. So how was it like coming up with that it was very cute, just adorable. It's just like an adorable.

Mick Garris 16:34
Well, it's, it's what Spielberg was known for in the day. So that story was originally an amazing stories episode called Gramps and Grammy and company. The idea was Stevens, he wrote out a paragraph or two. And then I wrote a screenplay for the TV show. And then he changed his mind and said, I think this idea is big enough for a feature film. So I wrote the feature film script, I wrote two or three drafts. And And then, when Steven brought in Matthew Robins to direct Matthew Robins brought in Brad Bird with whom he had written before. In fact, the first script I wrote for amazing stories was the magnet kid. And Matthew Robins directed that and he brought in Brad Bird. So I didn't write with Matthew or Brad. As you know, when it's a writing team, there's an ampersand between your names. And if you're writing and rewriting somebody, there's an and between your names. And I've been lucky enough to be the first writer on virtually every movie that I'm a screenwriter and not a director on. So yeah, it was very much Stephens idea. And Matthew Robins had co written Stephens first movie, the Sugar Land Express. And so he felt very, very beholden to him and gave Matthew an opportunity to do a big Hollywood studio picture, which worked out really well for him. But yeah, it started and ended with Steven Spielberg,

Alex Ferrari 18:15
as it as it always does. I mean, I've had the pleasure of speaking to some amazing filmmakers and writers on this show. And I cannot and I say this all the time, I cannot believe the the the Spielberg touch, he has touched so many careers, of filmmakers. I had john Lee Hancock on I had Kevin Reynolds on and they were telling me something like I had no idea that that that Spielberg was the one that kind of crack the door open for them. And he's, he's done that for so so many people around this, this business. It's, it's remarkable a truly truly is.

Mick Garris 18:57
It's kind of what he wanted to do with amazing stories. Yes. Get Martin Scorsese, and Clint Eastwood and you know, mucky muck directors. But he also gave first time opportunities to people like me, and Todd Holland, and Leslie linka glatter. And Kevin Reynolds, you know, directed one of the episodes. So, he really wanted it to be kind of a flower box for for new blooming directors and, and it was an opportunity you don't often get,

Alex Ferrari 19:30
yeah, and he's just, it just never ceases to amaze me the influence that that Stephen has had on on Hollywood history, not only for himself, but the opportunities he's given to so many people along the way. It's been pretty remarkable. I have to say that you're I think it was your first directorial film, critters too. Now, the time was classic, the time is close. So obviously, there were questions left over from critters, one that needed to be addressed. In a sequel, obviously,

Mick Garris 20:01
it was an absolutely necessary sequel that the world could not have lived without, until it came out. And opening night I went to my local theater in Universal City, and there were three people in the audience.

Alex Ferrari 20:15
So, how did you I mean, listen, I remember I remember critters do I remember critters? It was obviously after after Gremlins, so it was kind of like write a spin off of Gremlins. And there was to be charitable, it was a spin off, it's actually to be but to be fair, to be fair, there was one that was even a little bit more ghoulies was even actually a little little less, less connected to the original

Mick Garris 20:42
material. That's for sure. There's spooky there's ghoulies there's all kinds of little creature movies out there

Alex Ferrari 20:49
after Gremlins. Yeah, but so it was what it was your first shot directing really wasn't it?

Mick Garris 20:54
Well, I directed an episode of amazing stories, right. And before that, I directed, wrote and directed a Disney TV movie, which was my very first a one hour movie called fuzz bucket. That was a story that Steven rejected for amazing store.

Alex Ferrari 21:11
Fair enough. So well, kritis was, but that was, but it was a sequel. It was, you know, it was had a decent budget, if I remember,

Mick Garris 21:19
well, you know, for what we were doing. Your original critters was much better than anybody expected it to be. It was a $2 million movie, which, for a little indie, little creature movie was not insubstantial. And it was mildly successful at the box office, but made most of its money on home video. And so they decided, Well, time for critters to. And I think the reason I was hired, and Bob Shea, who was the head of new wine, gave me the opportunity to do this for four, which I will always be indebted. But David to he had written a script. And he was very happy where it was Bob Shea felt that it needed more. And rather than just hire another writer, the idea was to hire a writer, or director. So it would be a much easier game to to actually have the shooting script done by the director. And I believe that because kritters was very spielbergian in it's in the first movie and even more so in the second that they wanted an associate of Steven Spielberg, so maybe some of his pixie dust would rub off on the project. And because stylistically, you know, I absolutely was influenced by Steven Spielberg and Joe Dante in the making of critters to and by Warner Brothers cartoons and all those things. But the idea of Norman Rockwell goes to hell is something that fits very, very well into the Spielberg canon. And I think that's what they were looking for at New Line. You know, it was a PG 13. It wasn't an R rated horror movie. And, you know, we got away with one naked lady and some some critter violence that wasn't too incendiary. But yeah, it was an opportunity to be both writer and director. And it was on a scale that I thought was so manageable. However, it was special effects, kids, animals. You know, they had a

Alex Ferrari 23:30
trifecta.

Mick Garris 23:31
Yeah, action scenes, all this on a $4 million budget. And with that $4 million, we built the town, we did all kinds of amazing things. So we got a lot of bang for the buck. But, you know, Gremlins was made for $10 million. And Gremlins two was made for $60 million. So

Alex Ferrari 23:52
$60 million of Gremlins two cost. I think so I think that's a lot for that time period. That's it.

Mick Garris 24:00
It definitely is. But it came well after the first one. So

Alex Ferrari 24:04
yeah. Wow, that's remarkable. Now after krytus, two, you jumped on to another sequel, writing from from another successful another successful first film the fly, which is arguably a you know, classic at this point. And I would say so yeah. I love that film with a passion. Oh, God. And I mean, Jeff Goldblum in that kind of made Jeff Goldblum like that. And, I mean, Jeff had been acting for a while but that's I mean, I remember when that came out. Everybody was talking about the fly was like in his Cronenberg in you know, in his element of is fantastic. Now you pick then, of course, you get dawn, the daunting task of writing the sequel to a very successful loved film. How did you write Roche writing a sequel to such a hit

Mick Garris 24:50
very differently than what you see in the movie that that has, that was made. You know, I was the first writer on that and I came up with an idea I wanted it to be as respectable as the Cronenberg film. I Cronenberg is a friend, I love his work to death, and the depth and intelligence and humanity of that movie was something you rarely get any genre film, especially a monster movie, which, when you come down to it, it's that's what it is. But it's so much more than that. It's a romance. It's an impossible romance, which is a theme I really like and return to time and again, in my own work, fiction and film work. But so my idea was something quite different. It had to do with giving the baby up for adoption, because you know, she was going to have an abortion. But the original idea was that it would be an evangelistic group that takes the baby from her, as they do with other young mothers who don't want to abort, give it a good Christian household, but they are training it and all these other children in the way that in the Soviet Union in Russia and the 30s, they did lots of experiments where they would exercise children, mentally and physically to be far beyond the powers of mortal men and women. They would develop their psychic abilities, they would give them Olympic Training from from toddlerhood on, so that they would become superheroes, basically in reality. And, you know, I wanted it to be a Christian army sort of thing. So it was a really interesting, adult kind of attitude. But the head of the studio, wanted a teenage monster movie. First, Scott Rudin was our our production executive. And he's great and has gone on to produce a bunch of really high end movies for the Coen Brothers for lots of other people, has run into some metoo issues in the last year or two. But there was a change in management and wondered Goldberg, who was half of spelling Goldberg, the people who made The Love Boat and other TV shows, letter, Goldberg was named the head of the film studio, which was very controversial at the time, because he'd only done television and not features. And when a Goldberg wanted a teenage monster movie, so there was a lot of infighting between Scott Rudin and Leonard Goldberg. And I was, you know, in the middle, and trying to accommodate both masters and the opportunity, the author of critters two came to me. And so I had to leave had to leave the project to fly to which was in the middle of all those problems. Then Frank Darabont inherited all of those problems. Frank Darabont was the second writer and then Jim and Ken wheat, who had done it young Indiana Jones and some other things. They were the final writers on it. So it changed quite a bit from where I was and where it ended up.

Alex Ferrari 28:11
And Frank and also Frank did okay, as well, I think he's done. All right. He's done it. He's done. He's done. I think he's done a couple other things. I'm not sure what but he's done wonderful. things as well. Now, another film that you directed, which you didn't write, but you directed, and arguably was one of my favorite films. Growing up in the horror genre was sleepwalkers, I absolutely adored sleep walkers. And not just because it was it was just a cool, I must have been I was in high school, probably when that came out. So I'm dating myself, but I was probably around high school time when that came out. And I had the largest crush in the world on match anomic I mean, you're not alone. It wasn't just me, I'm sure. But I mean, holy cow. She was amazing. I just adored her, and then forgot the lead actress named who's also in the palace, Krieger. Yes, it was also a Blue Lagoon and charmed and Brian Crowe. Brian. Yes. broadcast. Thank you. Let's return to the Blue Lagoon. Yes, return to the blue the good. And then he went on to charmed and all that now it's kriega from ghost story. Yes, exactly. It's, it was remarkable. But you wrote an A you directed an original screenplay by Mr. Stephen King. Not too shabby. A writer himself. And he doesn't. I don't think he does. He I think this is one of the this was an original screenplay that had nothing to do with original material. So it was an

Mick Garris 29:42
original, his first original screenplay to be produced. Correct. And what was the slide? Oh, yeah. Well, I never met him until I screened it for him afterwards, but we would talk on the phone. And he was incredible. I mean, we've since become very good friends that have worked together a lot. And I'm lucky enough to have had four projects that he wrote the screenplays for himself. sleepwalkers was the first one. It was also my first studio movie as a director, and really my only studio movie as a director, feature film, all of the other stuff I've done has either been television or independent. And then after that, I mean, we got along so great. And he was so happy with how sleepwalkers turned out. And the battles that we had to fight together, that he asked me to do the stand the next year. And I had only done movies of a relatively small scale. And then along comes the stand, which is 100 shooting days, six states 126 speaking roles. I mean, always on the road. Just Yeah, massive and and that experience was also my first experience with an unmitigated success. sleepwalkers opened as number one in the movie theaters in America that year, that week, but dropped out very quickly. The stand became the highest rated miniseries ever. The four nights it ran, it was number 123 and four that week, but each of the nights went up. It was 50 million people watched it in North America each night. But it went up each of those four nights, which is very rare. And, you know, it was it was incredible to have made something first of all with Stephen King. But secondly, that cast I mean, Gary Sinise and Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis and Matt frewer. And Rob Lowe, and, you know, so many people, but also to go into a supermarket and hear people talking about it the next day. You know, see, it's not something that happens very often. And you know, nothing I've done ever reached the heights of what the stand did. Well, except Hocus Pocus.

Alex Ferrari 32:08
Yeah, well, we'll get we'll get to Hocus Pocus on Reddit,

Mick Garris 32:11
which was actually written eight years before it was made. Right. My draft Anyway, there are 11 other people on it after me. But we'll get to that. But to to have your work talked about when nobody knows that I was the guy who directed it. And I'm standing in a supermarket line listening to people talking about how much they enjoyed it is an experience that is so odd and wonderful and thrilling.

Alex Ferrari 32:40
Yeah, I mean it. When I have guests on the show who have had obscene success, and a project, I always ask them what it's like to be in the, in the center of the hurricane when it comes into that kind of stuff. And for you it was the stand. And you know, 50 million plus people watching your work in the night in the 90s on television. Yeah, is something it is a major deal within the Zeitgeist. It was in the Zeitgeist wasn't it?

Mick Garris 33:10
It was and still is, you know, people still talk about it with the remake having just been done last year. It's amazing. And yet, because it happened on television, probably more people saw it than anybody saw any movie in the theater, but it's television. It's immediate, and then it's gone. It comes back on home video, but it's gone. So Spielberg wanted King and myself to do a movie with him together that King wrote called Rose Red, which became a mini series later when King and Spielberg couldn't agree on the direction it went. There was an 800 pound gorilla on each side. It was about

the size two juggernauts the 50 pound champion the wearing a banana suit, yes.

So, you know, because it didn't happen in a theatrical film. It's not the same as being in the eye of a hurricane. If your movie is in theaters and number one week after week after week, there it's a totally different thing. Plus, it's not the director, especially in television who is brought attention to and in this case, Stephen King not only produced it, but he wrote the screenplay himself. And so I've always been under the wing of either Steven Spielberg or Stephen King or any other Steve's you can think of but, but which is fine, but it doesn't bring attention to the person who is not the famous person on board. And, you know, I'm happy to be a guy behind the camera anyway. But, but career moves, you know, the this Rose Red project never happened. So I Didn't direct for another three years after having directed this massive success. So

Alex Ferrari 35:05
insane, that's insane. But to be fair, you know, being under the wing of either Stephen King or Steven Spielberg, not again, not a bad place to be in,

Mick Garris 35:13
I wouldn't change it for anything. luckiest guy I can imagine.

Alex Ferrari 35:18
It is it is pretty remarkable. And I know so many people are trying to break into it's like larceny, we're trying to break into the business. It's always like, I had a hacky, and I got a break, and I gotta get through the back door. Like it's, it's always something along those lines. Talking, and I'm sure you've come across this to talking to the people you've had on your show is things that happen a lot of times, it's just the right place, right time, kind of its right place. right time. There's, and all you could do is prepare you were waiting for 33 when when Steven showed up, and but you would have been preparing for that moment. All your life, essentially, yeah,

Mick Garris 35:55
it's not only right place and right time, but it's also the ability to deliver what people were looking for. And to be a person that people want to work with. Again, you know, if I were a producer, looking for a screenwriter, and I had some egomaniac pitching me in my office and telling me how to do things in the white, I no matter how good the story is, I don't know that I'd want to go through that process. But, you know, it's it's the ability to deliver to, you know, I was very lucky in that. At the time, I was confronted with Steven Spielberg, and I'm interviewing him on location for The Goonies, they were looking for something that I was capable of delivering, and that they saw, at the same time, my agent had sent to his people, a spec script to read. And so while I'm in Astoria, Oregon, while Steven Spielberg is in a story, Oregon, someone in Universal City is typing up coverage, saying they should hire this guy that he just spent time with. And, you know, the timing could not have been more fortuitous. And the good news was, there was material to back it up. That didn't come from me, but came from his development, people saying, take a look at this guy, we you should hire him. And I happened to be in front of him the day before he got.

Alex Ferrari 37:23
Now would you agree? You know, you've been in this business a long time. I've been in it over 25 plus years, you know, hacking away as well. I've dealt with people, the best advice I could give anybody trying to get into this business is don't be a dick. And I think that I think that is a mantra that a lot of filmmakers and screenwriters don't understand and you are a personification of it. Because it was because of you being so you know, you're able to work and connect with people like Steven, that he hired you again and hired you again. If you were if you were a dick, and that first that first pilot that you were writing the first episode you were writing at Kathy Kennedy and Stephen would have called you up like, do you want to be a story editor? And if that experience wouldn't have gone? Well, there's no batteries not included in your career could have gone on a completely different trajectory. Just by being obviously you have that talent and being able to provide the service that you said, you can write that nice is really something that a lot of screenwriters don't they underestimate how important because would you as a as a filmmaker and a producer, work with someone who might be slightly less talented or experienced, but wonderful to work with, as opposed to a much more superior writer, but just a complete ass? Well, no, I'd probably write it myself. But it's a general.

Mick Garris 38:47
Yeah, but no, that's probably true. I mean, I'd much rather write with somebody being if it's for me to direct. I'm going to write the last draft anyway. Sure. But yeah, you want to work with people who you respect their talents and their abilities, as well as being able to sit in a room and bounce ideas back and forth and have a good time doing it. You know, everything about making movies is incredibly difficult. And so the more fun you can have doing it, often it reflects now, it is often said that the hardest movies to make are the ones that come out the best. And that's not really true. And you can feel the camaraderie of of when a creative group is clicking with one another. But another thing about about screenwriting, is that spelling matters. It is literary, you know, it's, yes, it's a blueprint. And the the extreme example of that is Walter Hill shooting script for alien, which is just so spare and sparse and all but also, if you're writing a screenplay. You're not just laying down a blueprint. And first of all, you're not telling a director how to direct his shots. You know, that's not part of the job. But you are engaging the reader in the same way you would engage the reader of a novel, you want the descriptions, not only to just be guy goes in store sneezes, buys a box of Kleenex, you know, you, you want to embroider it with language that compels you. And it's not just strictly a schematic, which a lot of people feel it is. So being able to write well, writing fiction is a really good practice for writing screenplays, too, you know, Stephen King, you want to turn every page because he engages you, the humanity of his prose, the, you know, he writes very sparsely. But it is woven in such a way that it compels you to turn the page. And a screenplay needs to do that, too. It doesn't. It's not there just for an actor to mark in yellow marker, his dialogue, and not read the descriptions scenes in the scene in between. But those descriptions have to be compelling, they have to be interesting, and they can't just be nothing is harder for meter action movie script, where you're describing lots of action scenes in detail. I can't do it, I can't get through it. But, you know, anything that draws the reader in, whether it's fiction, or or screenwriting is the most important thing, you know, if, if, if writing had never been invented, if a camera came first, no one would have ever invented the written word. To take it down to, to cast it into history. But we have developed an ability to tell stories in engaging ways and the use of words. And grammar matters if I'm reading a script, and the first five pages have 42 typos and your and your are used improperly and things like that, I feel like I'm reading someone who is an amateur. And you want something that is more compelling than that.

Alex Ferrari 42:27
And also I have heard it referred to as the sea of white, you want that page to be a sea of white as much as you can be yet. But yet, especially in the descriptions, and I've said this many times on the show, I equate it to being a haiku, you got to really get a lot of information in with very sparse words. But you have to make it interesting for the reader, the shooting script could become something else. But the actual script that a reader reads a producer reads as a direct reads has to be that kind of thing that pops, but you can't, you can't spend

Mick Garris 43:00
it by, okay, go ahead and give you a description but make it captivating. You know, make it funny, make it really propulsive, you know, and I tend to fully capitalize important words in a script, whether it's introducing a new character or not, you know, I will make sure that you don't miss those important words they stick out.

Alex Ferrari 43:22
Right? It's it's, you don't have the luxury of writing a page on how that tissue feels. Right? where a lot of I've read a lot of scripts that do that, that the writer just like sits there and like, it's a 240 page script. Okay. You know, it's it's though,

Mick Garris 43:40
I'll tell you a story about Batteries not included. This, I felt my life was on the line. This was the biggest opportunity anybody had given me write a feature for universal and amblin and Steven Spielberg. My first draft was 140 pages. And beefy. Yeah, very. So I turned it in Ohio. It was a while before I heard back from Stephen. And then, you know, he called me into the office and I'm being dead honest here in painful ways. But he said, You know, it took me three sittings to read this script. And that's not a good thing. So but that was the best thing anybody could have said to me, and he did it. Because he wanted me to learn. He wasn't criticizing me. But he was telling me I'd fucked up. And so I took it to heart and I took it home. And I worked on it. I worked on brevity and I tightened it up and made it much better brought it in at 110 pages, and it got the green light. So I had learned my lesson, and it's a lesson that has stuck with me ever since.

Alex Ferrari 44:54
Now, you also worked with Stephen King, on the shining mini series, which is has a lot of being the shining. movie adaptations have a lot of lore behind it because of Stanley Kubrick's version and, and Steven, Mr. King finally came out and said, I despise it. I hate what he did with it. And I think that just two different things. I mean, Steve Stanley just did what he wanted with the material. Well, Kubrick did a Kubrick film and right not a king film,

Mick Garris 45:25
not a kenotic King film. And there's a big difference between them as artists. Kubrick is very cool. And King is very warm. The writing is all about the humanity. But also it's a very personal book to King. When he wrote it. He was a drinking alcoholic. And it was all about alcoholism and the guilt he felt for actually hurting his child breaking an arm of the character of jack Torrance, his child in a drunken rage. And so here he is recounting something that's personal to him. I I'm sure he never broke one of his son's arms. But, but he knew that there was a boiler that was gonna blow inside of jack Torrance, because he'd been in that boiler too. And so Kubrick turned it into something very chilly and very Other than that, and it became an iconic horror movie. But it was not a good adaptation of a Stephen King book. And that novel is one of my favorite novels of all time. And the good news was that Stephen King himself what after the success of the stand, ABC said to King, what do you want to do next? Anything you were all there? And he said, you know, I'd kind of like to do the shining like the book. And he wrote the script himself. And it's one of the best scripts I've ever read and certainly ever had my hands. And so because we had done so well with the stand together, and become friends on that, he trusted me with this three years later. And we were able to do something really special with that, too.

Alex Ferrari 47:03
Yeah, it was, it was remarkable. I love watching both versions and seeing the distinct differences between between your version and Stanley's version. And they live as different pieces of art in different ways. There's no glare on the same shelf in the video store. If we may go back to kids or kids just Google video store, you'll see it Yes. Very, very cool. Now, there was a there's a project or a film that you wrote that I don't think you thought and please correct me if I'm wrong, I didn't think you would think it would have the legs that has has had, nor the the love that has come from it. It was just Hocus Pocus. It's become this classic Hollywood Halloween film, but it's a Halloween family film. It which is pretty,

Mick Garris 47:57
which is pretty amazing to hit the you know, it was not particularly successful. Whatever came out, it was a very mild success, right. But over time, and it really started with the Disney Channel. They started running it on Halloween, and then ABC started doing it. And every year it gets bigger and bigger and bigger. And people keep asking about a sequel and all that that's finally about to start production, right. And the merchandise. It's the biggest Halloween movie in history.

Alex Ferrari 48:31
And bigger even bigger than Halloween.

Mick Garris 48:34
Yeah, I would have guessed. You know, on, on Halloween day on free form, they show it back to back 12 times on that day. And every day of the month of October they show it

Alex Ferrari 48:47
and my children finally just watched it. They're not there. They're young. They're young girls. And we watched it on Disney plus, because it came on Disney plus and we watched it and I hadn't seen it probably since the video store days. It's just I see clips in it, but I hadn't seen and I said they're like what is so much fun. It's just like a fun and like, Oh my god, they're making a sequel and they're all coming back. Oh my god.

Mick Garris 49:11
Yeah, great. Well, and it's it's again, I was hired to do that because I was working with Steven Spielberg at the time. And the producer, David Kirschner who came up with the idea designed all the characters and everything had just done an American tale for Spielberg and amblin. So it was to Spielberg guys getting together with, you know what Disney wanted. And at first, Steven was interested in being a part of it, that it was like, oh, with Disney. Now we're going after the same audience and they were very competitive at that time. So it was almost a collaboration with with Spielberg, Disney and sorry, my gardener is

Alex Ferrari 49:55
it's all good. It's all good. It's all good.

Mick Garris 49:57
It's not to me, but that's it. Thank you But, yeah, it's amazing to hit with something that you go out on Halloween night and you see children dressed as Billy butchers and the Sanderson sisters, and they carry their big book, you know, the book of spells. And it's like, I helped create that thing. You know, this thing exists partly because of me. And it. It's really humbling.

Alex Ferrari 50:28
Yeah, it's something that just lives on and on and on. And you've, you know, you've been a part of things that that have shelf life, I think Hocus Pocus arguably, is the is the thing that holds like it's just hold, it's been going on and on and on, and on and on.

Mick Garris 50:43
Absolutely, absolutely. in it. You know, I have had the fortune of having worked on things that were not successful initially, that became either cold favorites are much more successful in their afterlife than in their first lives, you know, critters to shows in theaters and festivals every Easter and on television and stuff. It's one of the few Easter horror movies and you don't see critters one revived, you see critters to revive. And psycho for was only on Showtime when it came out. And you know, it was written by the same guy who wrote psycho one. And, you know, it has developed a love and the stand. Huge, and it still maintains its its power and to be able to create something. Popular culture is very much of its moment. It's not meant to last forever. But fortunately, I've been involved in some projects that have had a very long shelf life and a shelf life that continues to grow. And so maybe it's better to have flops, that becomes

Alex Ferrari 52:00
I mean, the residual payments become better later, I guess.

Mick Garris 52:03
Yeah, I wish. You know how residuals work. They shrink every time.

Alex Ferrari 52:08
I know. But is it like Seinfeld? Where you get a penny? You get 1000 checks that are petty? Yes. Yeah. And the stamps are more. Yeah, that's something that a lot of a lot of writers think that. I think and I'd love to hear what you think about it, because I think things have changed so much over the last 10 years is you mean before I mean, I've known a lot of people in the gills and that get those residual checks. And they do get smaller every year. And but then it boosts up when a new new release comes out. Like oh, it just hit HBO. Okay, great, Greg, okay, just a video. But in nowadays, with streaming and everything, it's not what it was once before. So I think a lot of young writers coming into like, Oh, I gotta get that sweet, residual residual money. Like we're gonna live in the life like Seinfeld and friends. And I'm like, I don't think that even exists anymore. I think that's that, that kind of residual, like, I mean, for instance, those guys, oh,

Mick Garris 53:05
yeah. pay TV and theatrical and that sort of thing. And network television broadcast, cable television, those residuals live on. But in streaming, you know, Netflix doesn't pay residuals, even for their original programming. So you got to make a big deal upfront. But I don't know what I would do if I were a new filmmaker starting out, because there are movies made by filmmakers you would know and films you've seen, and that you know, that you like, that are familiar, where those filmmakers can't make a living off of what they get paid to make them for. You know, it's in the world of streaming, it's hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. You know, who knows, from a little thumbnail on amazon prime, if it's good, or if it's not, and, you know, Netflix will produce movies that they don't promote, and just say, let's see what happens, see if they hit. Or they'll make something like birdbox, which connects in a big way. But the residual thing, you know, if you want to write or make movies, you have to do it out of a passion, and out of a true desire to to be a creative force. Because if you do it to make money, you're in the wrong business. Anybody who sets out to make money making movies is in it for the wrong reason, and they're not gonna make it

Alex Ferrari 54:33
right. What's that saying? How do you how do you become a millionaire in in the film business? Start with a billion. Yeah. It's, it's, it's so true. And I've had so many so many filmmakers over the years come to me like Well, yeah, you know, I'm gonna make this money and that money I'm like, honey, Sir, this is you. You are so in the wrong you know? Like, do you want to Do you run into this? I mean, I'm sure you've spoken to screenwriters coming up screenwriters and filmmakers over the years? Do you see a lot of that a lot, I call it a lottery ticket mentality where they think the next movie is gonna give them you know that they're going to get Steven Spielberg's eye, and he's gonna come down and do all this stuff, or it's going to hit Sundance, or it's gonna get me an agent that's going to give me a million dollar on my next spec, or do you see that mentality in people you want to,

Mick Garris 55:24
there's still enough of that happening, that it's, it's, it's worth, you know, don't give up a dream if your head if you've been pounding your head against the wall for 20 years and have never sold a screenplay, chances are good, that it may not happen. But then it might, you know, I've just reworked a movie that I wrote, I wrote a screenplay 30 years ago, called Jimmy miracle. And I've always thought it was the best movie idea I ever had. And Spielberg loved it at the time. But it wasn't a movie whose time had come. And it's a period picture takes place during the Depression. And so I thought, maybe I'll write it as a novel. And I rewrite it now and then. But I came up with an idea on how to completely revamp it. And keep all of the elements that made it exciting to me, but gave it new elements that made it even more exciting to me. And almost immediately it's been optioned, and we're taking it out to the studios next week. So you know, it's, you got to keep at it as long as you can stand. But if it's been 20 years, and you haven't been able to do it, then do it. Not, you know, don't live at your mom's house, mowing lawns in the hopes that you're going to make it as a screenwriter, if it hasn't happened for 20 years, go ahead and get your job as a lawyer, you know, finish school and, and do that. But, you know, a lot of times I wrote more when I was working a day job than I do working full time as a writer and filmmaker. But it's something it doesn't cost you anything to be a writer. And you know, it's a great hobby, regardless of whether things get made or not. I've written a lot of spec scripts that have never been made, or optioned. And that's just part of the game. But I get to be a better writer each time I do it.

Alex Ferrari 57:30
Now, there's one other project I wanted to talk to you about, which is I generally don't bring up short films on this on this show. But I mean, you worked on ghost. It was a famous short film, starring the late you're not that well. I mean, quote unquote, short work, starring the late great Michael Jackson. And your collaborator was also the late great Stan Winston. And and Stephen King. And oh, that's right. Stephen King was involved with that as well. So I mean, talk about a trifecta of icons, each of them an icon and you're working. What was it like collaborating with, with Michael Jackson, Steven and, and Stan on this, and the show for which I remember was not released in the States. While we're a long time. Yeah.

Mick Garris 58:24
I think it premiered on Halloween, like, two years after it had been made.

Alex Ferrari 58:29
Because I wanted to watch it. Yeah.

Mick Garris 58:32
It was an incredibly troubled production for a number of reasons, including the obvious ones. But Michael went to Stephen King, he said, I want to make the scariest movie ever because he had so much enjoyed making thriller in which I am a zombie, by the way, oh, I mean, what you should

Alex Ferrari 58:49
have led with that make

Mick Garris 58:52
very delete. But so I was shooting the stand at the time. And King had written a draft for Michael. And he'd recommended me as the director to Michael. And so I met with Michael and we hit it off great. He was very sweet. And so we started production and we shot for two weeks. It was originally going to be the end title song for family Addams Family Values. And once we were shooting, we shot for two weeks and never got to the musical number yet when you work with Michael, you worked on Michael time and it didn't have much to do with a 24 hour clock or even a 30 day calendar. So, you know he was great and hard working but it was really slow and two weeks into the shoot. Michael didn't show up the next day. And suddenly we started hearing about this scandal that had happened that none of us believed because Has anybody who'd worked with him could not believe that this was going on. And, to this day, I don't know what the truth of his of it is. My only experiences with Michael were really good ones, we became friends. But, you know, if he did what it said he had done, it's the worst thing in the world. And if he didn't, it's also the worst thing in the world. But he disappeared. And it turned out he was in Thailand. And then we were going to finish it in Japan and my line producer went to Japan and shipped all of the sets we'd been working on to Japan. And then they were shipped back it, it didn't happen for three years. And then Michael said, Okay, I'm ready. We're gonna do it now. Make it's gonna be great. It's

Unknown Speaker 1:00:48
gonna be fantastic.

Mick Garris 1:00:50
And it's been a very good, very good impression, Bella. Thank you. But I was already scheduled to do the shining with Stephen King next. And so I said, Michael, I can't just keep putting this off. I have a hard start date. And you don't. So I, I think you should talk to Stan Winston, they were friends. Stan is a very was a very good director. He had done pumpkin head at that time. And so I said, you guys are friends. He's doing the special effects. Anyway. You should ask him and he he did. And so I had shot two weeks worth of stuff. Including a lot of the visual effects stuff that stands company did digital domain Stan and Jim Cameron's company. And so Stan took it over and it was great. It was everything but the kitchen sink. It was a 35 minute movie that was originally going to be a seven minute music video at most a 15 minute video, but you know Michael ended up paying for the whole thing ended up costing $15 million the most expensive music video in history. And it was a blast but I would love to seen it through from beginning to end but that just though I wouldn't have been able to do the shining

Alex Ferrari 1:02:12
and I'll tell you I had the pleasure of going to stand studio visiting Stan studio while he was still alive and I didn't get to meet Stan but I got to go they took me through the entire studio and that that board room. Oh my god that boardroom for everyone listening the boardroom had the Terminator the predator an alien every like Tom Cruise's. Let's start from Interview

Mick Garris 1:02:36
with the Vampire all that Christopher Lloyd holding his head. Yeah. Facing stories episode.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:42
That's right. All of that stuff was it was two stories. I remember to two floors of all these things looking down on you. Oh my god. How cool is it to have meetings in here? Lucky, lucky people. Yes, absolutely. Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What are three screenplays every every screenwriter should read

Mick Garris 1:03:05
every screenwriter should read well alien to see just how concise it can be. Anything by Preston Sturges to see just what what dialogue can be at its best. And you know, Billy Wilder in an eye all diamond as Sunset Boulevard is a great example. Now, none of those are contemporary. You know, I think some of the Tarantino's writing is amazing. He's not the best speller.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:34
But when you turn to you know, it's it's okay.

Mick Garris 1:03:37
It doesn't matter. Because his dialogue and everything is so great and the ideas are big. And, you know, most people will say, don't write a dialogue pay scene longer than four or five pages. He can give you 15 Great, great pages of dialogue. And he savor every word.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:58
You're in like Inglorious Basterds. I'd like that scene in the in the basement with all the Nazis that that was like 20 minutes. Amazing. 20 or 30 minutes of the movie was just that scene. It's it is it is truly, truly remarkable. Do you appreciate just as as a viewer and as a filmmaker, people and filmmakers and screenwriters who take the swings at bat? They might not always connect, but they take the big swings.

Mick Garris 1:04:25
Absolutely. You know, I think Jordan Peele doing get out was great. And then when he did us, he took bigger swings. They didn't connect as much. But it was great to see him make the attempt to do go beyond what he's already done. And yeah, I mean, obviously my favorite films are where it works in every level. But I love creative. There's is a couple of filmmakers named Aaron Morehead and Justin Benson, who write and direct their own movies and they take big fantastical swings, and they more often than not connect. And it's, it's really fun to see adventurous movies. And, you know, I'm not a fan of franchise movies, particularly within the horror genre. It's a, you know, I want to see somebody, I want to see the next David Cronenberg, you know, somebody whose films are so iconic clastic that they couldn't be made by anybody else.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:28
Right. Exactly. And, I mean, and carpenter, obviously with how that Yeah. And and Well, I mean, the list of things that john has done. Oh, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Now, what advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Mick Garris 1:05:45
Write, and write and write and write, and the you need to be represented. But you need to write something that's not just good, but reflects a personality that nobody else has. It needs to be something an agent's taking home 30 scripts every weekend. And most of those scripts, he's not going to get further than five or 10 pages. And you need to galvanize your reader, and make that reader excited that he's reading a movie that not only is really great, but is something he feels an audience will come to see that he's not looking for an art film, although there are great commercial art films, you know, you're talking about a medium that costs millions of dollars to do it, right. And you're not just masturbating with a camera, we're doing something for an audience, not for yourself. Now, please yourself first, and please the audience as well. But if you imbue your writing with your own personality in a personality that stands out from all others, and makes your script, even if it's audacious, even if they don't buy the script, they look at it and go, this is a writer we should meet with who might be right for such and such a project. So it's just do the best that you can in the most original way that you can to differentiate yourself from the other 29.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:13
And then it is it is true that and I think a lot of screenwriters and filmmakers don't understand this is that they need to understand what their secret sauce is. and lean into that secret sauce. Don't try to be Tarantino cuz you're never gonna be Tarantino he's already Tarantino, right? You're never gonna be we really have a Nolan. We already have a carpenter, you can be inspired by them. But you have so but you have to be you have to have that secret sauce. And that's the only thing in the marketplace that nobody else has. Right?

Mick Garris 1:07:42
Yeah, I mean, your main your main target, is to get them to want to keep turning the page. Make your scripts readable.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:56
Excellent, excellent advice. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Mick Garris 1:08:04
Well, in life, I think there are still lessons I haven't completely learned. But as far as the film industry goes, I mean, it's always going to be up and down. You can do something huge, like the stand and not work again for three years. You know, same. It's, it's every bit as hard. The second, third, fourth and fifth time out is the first time maybe the wheels have been greased a bit in that people know who you are or know your work. But you have to keep proving yourself and you can't rest on your laurels because those were out real quick.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:43
And finally, three of your favorite films of all time. Okay. Dead Ringers. Oh, great. Cronenberg. Yes. Great writer Frankenstein. Yes. And Raiders. avastar. nice combination. That's a good that's a good movie night. That is a good movie night. They'd have nothing in common. Yeah. Now, where can people find watch your show and then consume your content, sir.

Mick Garris 1:09:15
Okay, my podcast post mortem with Mick garris is on Apple podcasts and every other podcast app around. We interview do interviews every other week. And on the alternating weeks, we do post mortem ama where you can ask Nick anything, and we solicit questions. I'm on Facebook at post mortem with Mick garris Mick garris pm on Instagram and on Twitter. And we'll keep things alive that way all the time. You'll know what's coming and when we're asking for questions from the audience, and all that stuff.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:50
And I will put that all in the show notes. Mick, thank you so much for taking the time for the show and dropping your knowledge bombs on My tribe today so I appreciate

Mick Garris 1:10:02
All right, always a pleasure. Thank you

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IFH 625: Indie Film Hustle Success Story – American Murderer with Matthew Gentile

Matthew Gentile is an award-winning filmmaker based in Los Angeles.

He most recently wrote and directed his first feature, AMERICAN MURDERER: a true-crime drama about a charismatic conman who became the FBI’s most unlikely and elusive top ten fugitive. Photographed in Utah during the height of the pandemic, AMERICAN MURDERER stars Tom Pelphrey, Ryan Phillippe, Idina Menzel, Jacki Weaver, Shantel Vansanten, Paul Schneider, Moises Arias, and Kevin Corrigan. Traveling Picture Show Company produced the film with Gigi Films, Productivity Media Inc, and Radiant Films International.

AMERICAN MURDERER opens in select theaters on October 21st and becomes available on streaming on October 28th.
And that for more information, they can follow me on Instagram @matthewlgentile or go to my website: www.matthewgentiledirector.com

A graduate of the directing program at the AFI Conservatory, Matthew’s thesis films FRONTMAN (which won 12 awards including the Student Emmy for Best Directing), and LAWMAN played over 100 festivals worldwide.

A Brooklyn native, Matthew holds a BA in English & Film Studies from Connecticut College and an MFA in Directing from the American Film Institute.

Please enjoy my conversation with Matthew Gentile.

Matthew Gentile 0:00
Every actor is different. They all have a different language. And you know, your job as a director is kind of figure that out, right? Not necessarily trying to figure them out and pinpoint them. Okay, no, you know, but figure out how they work what they need.

Alex Ferrari 0:13
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 Matthew Gentile. How you doing Matthew?

Matthew Gentile 0:27
Great, how are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:29
I'm doing good, man. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Man. You, you wrote me an impassioned email to, you know, to come on the show. And, and, you know, tell everybody, first of all that how you found me and what, what the show is done for you. Because I always love kind of sharing those stories with the audience.

Matthew Gentile 0:45
Yeah, well, you know, as we were saying, I found the show in 2020 and COVID. You know, I was in a phase where I just want to listen to as many podcasts as I could with all the time we have in our hands. And this one rang red straight to the top of my list, because I saw your episode with my mentor and dear friend, Judith Weston. And I thought you just did an incredible job interviewing her about her process, and how she works with directors and actors. And you know, Judith is such an important person to be in for so many filmmakers have benefited from her wisdom. I just had a consultation with her recently for my next film. And, you know, she, of course, just blew my mind and pushed me and she's, she's just so she's such a deep thinker about film. And I thought your interview did a really great job getting to the heart of it. And I've seen filmmaker friends of mine, you know, Film School alums, like Chloe Okuno, and Max Barbic, who I went to AFI film school with, I've seen them do great interviews with you promoting your film and promoting their films. And I just think what you really specialize in is getting to the core of, you know, indie films, how we make them, how do we get them out there? But like you said, you know, you're you Britain, cut through the delusions about the film industry, I think you're there just real conversations with filmmakers. I feel like when I listen to your podcast, and like having coffee, with the person you're interviewing, you know, I'm a fan. And, you know, as I'm doing the press rounds through this movie, I thought I gotta get on that one. I have a few on my lesson. Like, I want to get on that one on that one. So I'm glad you were so receptive, and had me on Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 2:21
I appreciate it. Man, I appreciate I try to, we try to break through the delusion of most filmmakers, because most filmmakers are delusional I was, I'm sure you weren't? Sure. There has to be a sense of delusion. I think to get into the business, you have to be delusional. To stay in the business, you kind of have to be kind of delusional there is this level of delusion for us to even do or try to do what we're doing because it's insane. In sane to get a movie off the ground shot film, and then when you're exhausted, then you got to find distribution. And then hopefully, you'll get a check. And hopefully, someone will give you another job again, it's just this. So you, there has to be a healthy amount of delusion, but a healthy amount, not a unhealthy amount, which is what I generally run into, was I was extremely unhealthy with my delusion for quite some time for a long, long time. So that's why I can speak about it so clearly. So Matt, so first question, Brother, how and why did you want to get into this insanity that is the film industry?

Matthew Gentile 3:25
Well, the story I typically tell is when I was 12 years old, my father showed me Doctor afternoon. She's 12 years old.

Alex Ferrari 3:35
It was it was the 80s It was the 80s kids, it was it was 80s or 90s.

Matthew Gentile 3:41
It was early 2000's.

Alex Ferrari 3:43
All right. So yeah,

Matthew Gentile 3:45
I think I'm in my 20s. But I'm 32. So the Yeah, I saw talk to everyone. I was 12 in the early aughts. And you know, it was a film that just completely blew my mind. You know, to the point where my father showed it to me, I kind of said, Hey, I don't want I want that. Give me more of that. And you know, that led to godfather. Films I grew up loving. But so I that movie really spoke to me, you know, set in Brooklyn where I grew up. I'm from Brooklyn, New York. And when I saw the film, you know, I was so captured by Al Pacino and his performance. Just really, I felt sympathy for him. Even though he was going around the bank putting the gun in people's faces. I felt so much like when he finally gets caught that last shot of the movie, when he's it's all on his face, and just everything about spoke. I mean, I was you know, I was into theater as a kid, I was into film, you know, so I was into the arts, you know, and so acting was something that was going on my mind writing stories was on my mind. So I had a creative energy within me like, you know, but I didn't know where to necessarily put her whatnot. But finally, one day, I was still age 12. My mom and I grew up in New York City. We're walking down the street You and they used to sell at these on the streets it I don't know where you're from but New York, from New York. Well, yeah. So they used to sell these stuff on the streets dance, they would have scripts like that were printed.

Alex Ferrari 5:12
Oh, when I went back in the early to the 2000s. I saw that in front of like NYU and like they have like, yeah, Fight Club and like the bootleg bootleg scripts basically

Matthew Gentile 5:24
Exactly. Like they printed off like Drew scriptor, Rama and like, put a cover with the like, Yes.

Alex Ferrari 5:34
Put the poster like but it was black and white version.

Matthew Gentile 5:37
Or like, yeah, or some generic still from the film. Like I think dog afternoon. It was the picture of like him holding the woman holding Silvia outside the bank. So I saw this script on the streets. I was like, Oh, they had only scripts and I saw a job do you afternoon I was crying. And my mom sees that. And so she bought me the screenplay for $10 is a Hanukkah present. And I took the screenplay, I read it. And I had a VHS and I watched the movie. And I read the script. I watched the film. And that was the first time I saw in my own life that like oh my god, words on a page could become images on a screen. And I was just really fascinated by that. And I love the screenplay architecture. Fred Pearson who wrote the script was you know, one of my favorite writers Cool Hand Luke I saw shortly after that also became one of my all time favorites. I know right Phil things in the movie said that Paul Newman and cool I look was the reason he became an actor. So you know, I think there's there's a lot of you know, these movies and Frank Pearson was incredible screenwriter. And he actually was also the artistic director of AFI. But he passed right before I started as a student. So, you know, dogs, it was kind of that one movie. And then there was another film watching experience that really kicked me out the door. senior year of high school, my English teacher showed a cure curse I was robbed. In a King Lear class. And it was a class just it was actually a class was interesting. CG was cool. He did a class that was called King Lear to end it. So same effects end game and King Lear, and about existentialism and all that when you're 17 you're on your journey English is so mind blowing. And I loved King Lear as a play. But the Phil Ron just shook the box. And it's funny because when I saw it, we saw it in like segments, because it's high school. So they show you like 30 minutes. That's a long movie. So it took like four weeks to watch run, but I couldn't get anywhere. So I was like, I really want to finish run like so badly. But seeing Ron and more than that reading about the process of how Kurosawa made that film. You know how he was 75 years old, and he was going blind. And he was his wife, who had been with his whole life and career had just passed away. And he mourned for two days and then went back to filming how he built castles and blew them up, like for real, and the costumes and the extras and, and I just thought the madness of this was so interesting to me. And I just you know, he quickly became my favorite director of all time still is I have a Seven Samurai poster on my apartment. You know, I just love Carissa Moore. You know, I love a lot of great directors, but he's my, that's my all time spirit animal.

Alex Ferrari 8:16
I will tell you that the I own two autographs. One of them is Akira Kurosawa know what I have when we get off. I'll grab that it's sitting over there. I'll grab it. I'll show it to you and the other ones George Lucas. Which I got on a on a Star Wars lunchbox

Matthew Gentile 8:31
Personally, that says disciple. Yes. At the world premiere of this film, American murder hybrid premiered at the Toronto Film Fest in Sicily. And Francis Ford Coppola was there showing the Godfather night before my film screened. And I got to meet him and I. And I asked him about Kurosawa and like his stories, and they were great. He's talking about how they would like go to the steakhouse and talk for hours. And I asked Coppola. He asked me what my favorite Kurosawa film was. And I said, Ron, and he said back Oh, my bad sleep. Well, it's like, of course, I know that. You stole the cake scene. Whether they stole the shots or not. But he then Coble asked me, he was going Okay, so you've seen this one. And then basically, he goes for me like, yeah, of course, I'll be I think 30 feature films, total, something like that. So he basically goes about 12. I've seen them all. And then he gets to one I haven't. I'm liking what's called Looking after, but it was really funny. He stumped me finally, and I was like, do I lie and tell him I've seen it, or do I just tell the truth and I told the truth. But it's a fairly light hearted comedy one that he did. I mean, he just made so many incredible films and masterpieces. And, you know, I think Coppola's famous quote was like most filmmakers make one or two masterpieces you know, carousel only made eight to 10. Like it's, you know, it's an ending Made them across such a and I know a lot of filmmakers have cited him like Florence Carson said, you know, comparison of Shakespeare or the Beatles, you know, and yeah, he's just an incredible.

Alex Ferrari 10:09
Yeah, it's like him and Kubrick for me. It's, of course, I want to Kubrick. They may you know, masterpieces like they just come in and they just do what they do. But it's pretty remarkable now on your on your filmmaking path. Based on your IMDB, which I was looking at you did a good amount of shorts. You made a good amount of short films before you even got to AFI. Is that Is that correct?

Matthew Gentile 10:36
Yeah, you know, I did I, you know, my film path was, you know, I in high school, I made like, think like one or two with my brother, actually, who did the score for the film. He's a class my brother's a classical pianist and conductor. Sure. And this was his first film score actually did an incredible job. He just won an award yesterday

Alex Ferrari 10:55
And the price and I'm assuming the price was right. I'm assuming the price was right back then. Was that the price was right for hiring your brother.

Matthew Gentile 11:02
Oh, yeah. He was very unexpected. He's still we're both expensive. But yeah, the price was right. So he was Yeah, but we, we wrote You know, we were kind of like the Gentile brothers in high school, we made a couple of movies and what I don't know if those are an IMDB they might be. Obviously IMDb keeps everything on there. But I know a lot of people try to get stuff erased from them, and they never do it. So they aren't they aren't extensive, or exhaustive. But I made a couple of films in high school. You know, I in college, I did a liberal arts degree, I went to Connecticut College. I majored in English and film studies. But it was a semester abroad where I went to the family film school in Prague, which I'm sure someone else but as I've talked about before, a lot of filmmakers kind of seem to have come through that. And that was my first time experiencing film conservatory. And I made a short film that I adapted from a Hemingway story called got in the ring. That, um, you know, that was my first time making film. I was like, oh, you know, this is it. It's, you know, writing and directing is what I want to do. Like, for sure, you know, it's kind of always there in the background, you know, but like, I remember being in high school, I was like, really obsessed with acting like that was like my passion. And as a teacher kind of say to me, great drama teacher, who was a good actor himself and had worked and, you know, was teaching in between jobs. And he worked with me a lot. And I kind of asked him, I was like, Do you have what it takes to be an actor and he looked at me and he was like, one of the truth like, maybe, but I think your director or scream, he assaulted me. And I was really great. At the time, I was pissed at him. So I want to say it was gonna be the next you know, Marlon Brando. Retrospective like what a great teacher because he really told me the truth and, you know, pushed me to where he could sense the passion for the arts, but he saw was being used in the wrong place. And so so you know, but around Yeah, junior year of college, that was one of my when I did that semester abroad in Prague at the family film school, that was kind of like, I would say, my point of no return to use screenwriting terms. You know, after that, I was like, I'm gonna go, be a director, whatever it takes. And then, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 13:06
So so when you're on your journey, now, I'm assuming you're getting paid left and right, you're making tons of cash as a director, right, just tons and tons and tons of cash all the way through.

Matthew Gentile 13:16
I don't know what to do with all of it.

Alex Ferrari 13:18
I mean, it was just, it was kind of like, it was kind of like Pablo Escobar, you were like burying it in the back. That was just so much guys. Over the years, you know, because it looked like from when you started to when you finally got your first American American murderer is your first feature, correct? Yes. So from the point of view, getting your first feature done, you did a whole bunch of short films. I assume you weren't getting paid for these short films. You weren't making a tremendous amount of money. So this is the thing I love asking filmmakers, because so many of us listening right now are going through this. How did you keep going? How did you wake up in the morning going? Am I on the right path? Because this is we're talking about better part of a decade. And yes, you're at school and you're and you're, you know, you're AFI in Prague, I get that part of it. And you're when you're surrounded by that the delusion continues. Because you're surrounded by filmmakers and film teachers, and you're learning and you're just like, Yeah, but at a certain point, you have to go, you know, how many no more? I'm assuming you had a few nodes along the way, as well. So how did you so what what tips what how?

Matthew Gentile 14:28
Well, yeah, I definitely talked about the path because you know, when I, you know, when I graduated college and decide, okay, I want to be a filmmaker. It's like, great, who doesn't? You know, who doesn't want to be a director screenwriter, so you know, or act, right? Yeah. And so, my parents my first job in the industry, I actually, I mean, I had a lot of internships throughout college, but I actually worked at William Morris Endeavor in the mailroom. And then I became an assistant there. And with one week's paycheck, which at the time, I think was $670 I made a short film for that amount of money. And that's the film that got me into AFI, which is not a cheap film school to go to as well I know is not. And, you know, so I went to AFI and was very felt very lucky to be there. It was, I think the youngest director, there are one of them at least, because AFI tends to skew older in terms of the applicants to graduate school, not an undergrad. And, you know, but at such a talented class. Like I said, Max Barbra Cal was my class. Chloe Hakuna was the year before me was director Akasha Stevenson, who just booked the Omen film and has been doing TV for five years was my classmate. So I had a really, I think, I hope we become a what was in the water that your class because there are so many talented directors who I think, you know, we're gonna graduate now six, seven years ago. And I think there's a lot of them are going to come out and blow people's minds. So it was, it was quite a class, it was a matter they weren't talented, to the point where it scared me that these these people were good. And so but you know, you graduate film school, and in my case, I was quite lucky. My short my thesis short. Well, what's cool about AFI actually is your first year you make three but they call cycle films, where you make really cheap, and you you know, like the the, they make, like $5,000 budgets, right, and you like, you go out and shoot them in a weekend and you come back at them, and then you screen them for your peers, and they go to and on stage and bellick My first press conference for American murder and Terminator which went very well only reminded me of it just from the physical act of walking up on stage to be like to talk to or ask questions. But in the case of backpass narrative workshop, you specifically go up on stage, I know a lot of filmmakers have talked about how it just made them, you know, throw up on the waist, or whatnot. But it was, it was really great. Honestly, though, because it really prepares you for the industry. Because, you know, when you do a test screening of a movie after that, nothing really fazes you. But um, you know, it was it was it was incredible opportunity. But so, you know, you graduate film school, and in my case, you know, my first three films I made that year, were not overly exceptional. My third one was my best so I was getting better. But then you make a thesis film your second year, and for me my thesis film frontman, which was probably at this point, like short film, six or seven in the game. That one really opened a lot of doors while the student me got a lot festival traction. And I had the opportunity actually, I was paid to do one short, but very little money by AFI to come back and direct law man, because the director of the year below man dropped out and left the team and so they needed a director. So they paid me like a TA salary. And I was able to do that. And that was actually my first technical, you know, directing for hire job. It didn't feel like that since I was extremely passionate about. But that was the first time I think I got paid to direct. And you know, when I graduated film school, I kind of was in a bit of an awkward place. So I was like, I was like, you know, do I, you know, I was an assistant before I was like, well do I go try to be an assistant to a director again, and I had some kind of almost there. And I think that's a totally valid path that I know a lot of people have done, but what I was sensing was I kind of needed to embrace the indie film, hustle and the entrepreneurial way of, you know, you know, support myself get through this work but like don't work for someone you know, like an alias director because you're going to be working for them 17 hours day or no time to work on your own stuff. And because I was having traction with my thumbs, I was like, I need to work towards getting my first feature paid. And so you know, I did when I graduate I'm gonna do all kinds of gigs from you know, I did reality TV under a fake name. I did like these awful like cooking.

Alex Ferrari 18:45
Allan Smoothie?

Matthew Gentile 18:47
Something like, Sean, something. Um, but you know, yeah, and I did whatever I could, you know, to like keep keep the lights on like really cheap a rumble, I didn't know what write my scripts, and then I'd be like, oh, I need to go do another gig. But finally, what actually ended up sustaining me through my years up to American murderer was script reading. I was I was qualified for that, because I had worked at William Morris. And that became the easiest and most sustainable way for me to, you know, work consistently and be able to write my own scripts, and, you know, have the flexibility to be able to stop finding too or, you know, binge down. I read a bunch but and it also was for me script dream was my screen read school, you know, AFI was my directing school and script reading for I can't say the sites right now. Because, you know, they like anonymity, but, you know, think big screenwriting competitions or, you know, sites like that. And, you know, they were my screenwriting school, they really allow they gave me a way to support myself. So that book without them, I don't think I would not be here because I came here to support myself as I became a professional writer, and director. And so the path towards getting American work or made, you know, a year or two out of AFI. I thought I thought I was hardship because my film wildcards and then I realized after five seconds, nobody gives a shit anymore.

Alex Ferrari 20:14
You know, they didn't just walk up and go, How much money did you need?

Matthew Gentile 20:18
Yeah, do you think you're good? Because you want to know more? Oh my god, and then no one cares. And they're because they asked you the first thing you do when you make, you know, anything decent, as they say, what's your next thing? You know, what's your next three things?

Alex Ferrari 20:30
Let alone the next?

Matthew Gentile 20:31
What's your next? Exactly. It's a what's next business as we know. And so, you know, I was kind of in between a call er, because again, I think, if I can give some advice, which I don't know, if you should listen to but you know it, you know, when you leave film school, I think a lot of people have different visions of like, what they're, or even if you don't go to film school, because, you know, there probably are more great filmmakers that didn't go to film school that did, arguably, who knows. But um, you know, whatever it is, when you decide to build a career for yourself, you know, like, I don't know, I think everyone's vision of their own career probably changed at some point along the way.

Alex Ferrari 21:07
Every single Yeah,

Matthew Gentile 21:09
Like, because I never set out to be necessarily Mr. True Crime filmmaker, you know, now, American murder, I could say, and one thing I'm very proud of, is it is 100% A movie I wanted to make. It's not a film. I was like, hired to do. I mean, I wasn't contracts, I guess. It's terms with the contracts. But I but I did. It was a film that came from inside very personal, very deep rooted not, you know, but, but we know that it's very hard to get movies made. And, you know, everyone has to figure out how to work in the business and how to make films how to get financing for them. And it's a constant struggle on crime.

Alex Ferrari 21:44
So how so that was my next question. How did you get American murder American murderer off the ground, because you have a really great cast? You know, I won't ask you the budget, but it looks good. It doesn't look like you made it for five grand. So like for five grand? Five grand, we sold it for 50. And I'm done. And

Matthew Gentile 22:06
You've never heard of

Alex Ferrari 22:07
Exact the highest sale ever for, that you've never heard about. I saw I signed nondisclosure. I can't even talk about it. But how did you get this? I know you did a short film version of it. And that I'm assuming, because that's, that's a myth as well, that so many filmmakers, I'm going to make a short film version of this script. And hopefully, that's going to get me to the feature. I did that multiple times in my career and never worked out. But it does work for some people. But I've heard in most of the times, it doesn't work, because it's just so damn hard. So how did you get this thing off the ground? How did you get your cast to agree to work with the first a quote unquote, first time director?

Matthew Gentile 22:51
All that kind of stuff? Yeah, no, that's, that's a great question. And so basically, you know, going back, I was, yeah, 2017 or 2018. I'm thinking, What is my first feature? What, like, what, what will it be? You know, and there were a couple, like, I was thinking, MIDI go, you know, trying to make something like, and I was very inspired by the Duplass brothers, who's, you know, I like their films by sensibility. As you could probably tell from the trailers, absolutely nothing like that at all. But I really like their stuff. And I love what they've had to say about indie film, just go out and do it. So I thought, okay, maybe I could make something for like 10 grand or 50, grand, even right, through Kickstarter, or whatnot. But, you know, I didn't quite have a story that fit that budget. Exactly. So I was sort of like, and then there was a film that actually, you know, an agent had sent to me, that was like, a home invasion thriller. That was like, you know, maybe like a small budget, but an offer to direct something. But, you know, the script didn't even work. And the writers of it didn't really, like want to change anything. So I realized I was like, if I shoot this, I'm just going to be a traffic cop, basically, and I'm not really going to have any, like, you know, not contributing much. And so I've kind of left that project, which, you know, people might give like, why are you doing that?

Alex Ferrari 24:09
Right, it was it was a gig. That's, that's a really interesting because

Matthew Gentile 24:12
Yeah, but I didn't want to do you know, because one thing about, you know, directing a movie as we know, your your side to that for life, you know, that's a 25 to life. You know, and so, look, I'm in movies don't always turn out how you want and, you know, every director, you know, has to take risks and swings and some of my favorites, you know, taking like real swings, and sometimes they're not understood in their time. But, you know, at the very least, I think you got to be able to wake up and say, you know, like, I did something I want to do or I'm proud of, or has my heart in it or whatnot. And so I was in this awkward time, so cut back a little earlier. I'm 14. I wanted to be an FBI agent before I was a filmmaker, and I used to go on the FBI as top 10 list with the dreams and hopes of helping the FBI catch a fugitive. And it's at this time that the face of Jason Derek Brown enters my life. You know, you got to see menacing faces, Osama bin Laden white Bolger, right. And then the surfer dude from Southern California. So the face stands out to me. And I'm like, What's that? That's interesting. Cut you 12 or so maybe 13 years later, I'm figuring out what's my first feature? Some storyboarding. A shoot I think was a really bad dentistry commercial. But I also used a fake name. And I, all of a sudden, as I'm storyboarding, I always have documentaries on the background. And the face of Jason Derrick Brown was popped onto the screen. Again, I was the first time I'd seen it. And like, since, you know, age 14, and I'm like, that's crazy. skystone essay? What, like, what happened here? What's the story? And so I became absolutely obsessed with the story. You know, because it was a camp, that's charismatic con man becomes a bank robber, just really, it's dark to me. And, you know, I have a great writing mentor, named Billy Ray, who always says that, if he's in, he's a great guy. You know, he has in his lectures, he's very, like, tough, you know, in terms of like, he's very, like, you know, coming to the delusions, in your face kind of guy from what I've said, but he's a great human being. I mean, he's like, just a heartfelt good guy. There's so much for political causes everything. There's a real mentor and match of a human. And he, he's his big philosophy always is, if I don't wake up in the morning thinking about the project, I don't say yes, he's in a position to turn down projects, which a lot of us aren't. But he you know, he's as if I wake up thinking about in the shower, I'm not, I shouldn't do it. And I think it's kind of similar about a film. And so I kept waking up thinking about Jason dark brown, this could be a really cool movie, and it felt like it to me. So at first I thought, maybe I'll try to write it and sell it as a script. Because it might be too ambitious for first movie, you know, this would be probably, you know, some some cachet behind it. So I got I thought, just give it a go as a script, because why not? And so I wrote the script. And at the time, I had known this actor, Jonathan gruff, who was about to be on the show of mine, Dr. And I knew him because, yeah, yeah. And, and he, I knew him because I used to tape his auditions in the William Morris mail. And so after my short did decently for me, I kind of touched with him to his agents, I think. And I said to him, Hey, would you like to be in this? You know, I'm writing a script for you. And he was like, oh, that sounds a pitched it to me. That sounds cool. Send it to me. And, you know, we'll see. And so he read it a few months later, he really liked it. And, but I don't think his agents did.

He wanted to do it, though. And so we kind of were like, I was like, great. So I have this guy I have, he's gonna show it's about to come out with David Fincher, that's pretty cool. And so I was kicking the thing around, it was hard to get people to read it. So to go to the proof of concepts, or I go into a company one day, and I pitched the script, and, you know, I pitch the dragons and you know, wants to do it. And they're like, you know, they have five out of 10 interested, so not great. And so I'm leaving, and this guy kind of pulls me aside and he goes, you need to do a proof of concept of the script. And I kind of like looked at him. And I was like, oh, yeah, like another short, great. That's the last thing I want to do. Right now I've done at this point, maybe eight, right? I'm like, you know, how many more shorts can I do? What am I going to do? What do I need to prove? And the guys that are very smart. Like I said, You've proven you can direct with those shorts, but you have not proven you can direct this. And I was like, Damn, that's pretty smart. So he gave me kind of a different instruction that this guy really kind of gave me he was like, but don't try to make a short work as a short, right? Because like, what makes a great short film and I honestly I even though some of my shorts didn't win awards, I would say I'd never made a great short film personally. I mean, very well made ones possibly have in areas for the time of being a student. You know, I didn't make pioneer by David Lowery ever or curfew by Sean Christianson. Like those were shorts that really like you know, had that or even mark McDonough shorts over the broken like those shorts had like real, you know, payoff structure. All right. My shorts were like really like good trailers first features.

Alex Ferrari 29:16
So that's exactly what you needed. That's exactly what you needed.

Matthew Gentile 29:18
And so I went for American murder inside just to shoot one scene. And we shoot one shot one of the climactic scenes of a SWAT invasion. We did it all in one shot. And I got Jonathan to do it. And when I made that when I shot that scene and put it up on IMDb, all of a sudden, mine 100 dropped and then a lot of people were interested in reading the script and wanting to know about so I was totally right. The script did become a really valuable calling card by the called the short became a very good calling card for the screenplay. However, it did not walk me up to a deal, you know. So I would say that I think what you were saying earlier is is accurate that it can help you get a step ahead, but it's not necessarily going to secure a thing because what happened was that they were Getting the script by that point had gotten a lot better. So people were interested, but some were interested in me not doing it. Because it was like ambitious and you have a script and run with it, thank you, but I wasn't interested in that. And then two different producers slash companies kind of came into my orbit that were very supportive of me directing it. That was traveling picture show company. My producers, Kevin Metacell, and Karissa fell, and Gigi films, Gia Walsh, those two came at me from different angles around the same time, they now debate who came first, it was geotech, Kevin grossa. And they, they saw my short, they read my script, that's all my other shorts, and they were like, Okay, we'll develop this with you. And we'll go through a process and we'll get it out to the right actors, and they really helped me, you know, because that process of working with them, you know, we developed the script for the year, roughly, I think, and there was option for me, and they were giving me notes, and I was doing rewrites. And that was my professional riding school. Right. You know, and then after that, we finished the script, you know, are like, okay, it's ready to go out for casting now. Awesome. And it's March 1 2020. So at that point, you know, we don't know where the world is gonna go are thinking, yeah, that'd be filming, you know, the third quarter of 2020 and get, get an actor touch and let's go. And then it didn't really look like it was going to happen, you know, for a little while. But what I decided to do in the pandemic, I was working, I had remote work as a script reader. So I was, you know, fortunately, I was able to keep working. But in my off hours, all I did was prepare with my team, non stop, I cinematographer and I shot listened script six times, I've worked with all my thesis shorts. And same with my editors. You know, one of them was doing pre visualization with me on all the set pieces were like, Let's hit this thing. Let's do my about every shot and like, be ready to go for tomorrow. And I was it was nice, because it helped keep people's morale up and the time when it was not great. And then, you know, we were getting, in terms of the big thing about getting this movie made specifically because it's really all about the character of Jason Derrick Brown was getting the right actor. And by this point, Jonathan was no longer available. He was shooting matrix and you know, millions of other things because mine better blew him up into, you know, exponential proportions. But he's the nicest guy. And you know, we had the most amicable authority for the project. But now we need to find our Jason and Tom Pelphrey came onto my radar because my producer GIA Walsh was watching Noah's Ark. And she said to Matthew, this guy's dynamite, and I had actually never watched it. So I was like, Okay, I guess I gotta watch Ozark. And I did it. It was a great show. He was phenomenal. And it's very clear that he was the guy, you know, like, you have a lot of people on lists, this business and whatever. But it became very quick, clear, quick, that he was the right actor to play this character, quality, the right range, and all that. And so we sent him the script, he came in, he became attached. And then once he got attached, the other actors came Orion.

Alex Ferrari 33:03
And yeah, everybody else started. So So you had a producer, you had producing team helping you put this in cool thing together the financing. I'm assuming they helped to put together as well once the cast came on. So you had you had a doubt around you putting this together?

Matthew Gentile 33:16
That was all Yeah, no, I mean, I can take credit for writing the script and directing the movie. I cannot take credit for financing of that. And I very little do with that other than material.

Alex Ferrari 33:26
Exactly. So, so Alright, so you're off. You're off and running. You're making your film. Is there a day as directors we always have that day that everything comes crashing down around you? What was that day for you? And how did you overcome it?

Matthew Gentile 33:41
I love that question. I've heard you asked him before. But I don't know if I was prepared for it. So the on the fly. The day when everything came crashing? I mean, look, you know film is anything that can go wrong will go wrong. The first day, we filmed a scene that took place on a boat party. So we're here to help, you know, and the first thing we shot actually quite easy. It was was Tom's character. Jason's shooting targets in a national parks are doing nice, beautiful wide shots. It's just one after you know, it's gone and some squibs on the paper, please shooting but really not too complicated. We're like, Okay, we got this. And you're like, Yeah, I think I heard I think I heard Yeah, I think I read more in the hanaway, the director of the novice, she was talking about how like, you know, there's always a feeling of when you're directing at first it's going like, Oh, this is direct. It's easy. I just do this overall. Or even even Bob Schrader said in an interview, he was like, yes, Charlie Rose. I think you asked him like this directing a hard job and he was like, Wow, no hard job. It's just a it's hard if you wanna make a great film, for a good film, but it's not like a think about theory. It's like it's quite, you know, comfortable as a job as far as jobs go. But anyway, so we filmed a paper plate shooting, we descend the mountain to go into this beautiful lake and shoot A scene where this character is filming himself having a lavish party where he's doing drugs, what? Wild stuff. And we get to the boat, and the winds start blowing us 40 miles per fucking hour on the ledge. Surrounded, boom, boom, boom, boom. And so I'm like, oh my god, we're not gonna have sound and I also was a small boat we were filming. So the only crew that could be there were me. Mike, my cinematographer was operating and our sound man and my Ed those four people on the boat, crew, and then 12 or so extras. And we played actors. So it was just a, it was funny, because as I was walking to the set, you know, I see all these se trailers, I see honey wagons and stuff. And I'm like, Oh, my God, this is like, a real movie. We're making a real movie, like I'm here. And then I'm on the boat, and my camera operator is hanging on the thing and the sound guys trying to get in. And I'm like, This feels it's film school. Still nothing changed. It's the same ship. The honey wagons and trailers are are fooling nobody. You know, it's, it's the same, it never changes. You're still chasing the day, you're still just sneaking under the radar you're trying to get like, every day is like robbing a bank. You know, I just tried to get the shots unique because we filmed that movie quite young 22 shooting days as the as intense shoot and a lot to get them with action elements and SWAT invasions.

Alex Ferrari 36:34
Yeah, it's not all in one location either. So it's like it's

Matthew Gentile 36:39
No we have 27. So it was, it was a pretty intense, it was an intense shoot. But honestly, though, like I say, as hard as it wasn't, you know, intense as it was, it was also incredibly rewarding, because here we were, in this time we filmed, you know, December 2020, November 2020, and did some second year, early 2021. So, we were filming pre vaccine, you know, pandemic, right. And we were getting to do what we loved. You know, my cinematographer, I guess it was my classmate from AFI my editor, you know, was also moved, both my editors were classmates of mine, so to be able to do my producer. So you know, I know by this point that's going to start filming for at least two or three years. I'm getting to basically make movie with my friends, you know, on a pretty, you know, for first time director of quite a nice scale. So it was really nice to be able to do that. And, you know, so even though it was insane. And with a cast that far exceeded any extra extensor. Your other question, you know how this guests come together? I mean, if you know, by the time we were making offers to people like Ryan Phillips, a Jacki Weaver, and a dean of an Zelle or Moises Arias or Chantal, all these people would have, if it wasn't COVID would have probably been busy. Right? They would write on their mobile Deena tours all the time. Right. Ryan's current or at Ryan works more than anyone I know, Tom the same. Like they're all you know, Chantelle just is always on a show. So it would have been really hard to I think, get these people. And so, you know, I was definitely am certainly Jack waver a two time Oscar nominee playing, you know, a great but small part. So it just no small parts, only small actors I know. But, you know, yeah, to have that luxury. You know, I mean, it's it's a no, it's great. It was hard. But I

Alex Ferrari 38:29
And since you've already direct, I mean, in some of your short films, you were directing some very seasoned actors as well. But when you when you're working with, you know, the kind of caliber of actors that you were working on in this project, I mean, you have to believe there's some intimidation, maybe? Or like, how do you approach a two time Oscar nominee? You know, how do you how did you kind of work with those actors to get them to where you wanted to be as a first time director? Because it's a very different than when you're Ridley Scott, this is not a conversation. I would never ask Ridley Scott this. Because he's got he's not 40,000 hours on set. No, no exaggeration. That time, but when

Matthew Gentile 39:08
Can be so confident,

Alex Ferrari 39:09
Oh, my God, you just walk it. On a side note here. I was. Remember, I thought I was talking to somebody who was working with Tony Scott. And he was on a commercial. And it was like five helicopters, like a bunch of stallions running down in the desert. And like, you know, cars, like all this craziness, and someone's like, Tony, are you are you like nervous? He goes nervous. He's like smoking a cigar. He's like, this is vacation for me. What do you talk about?

Matthew Gentile 39:37
I love him. Yeah. He's one of my favorite directors. He's actually the one director. He's the one director who has my birthday. Birthdays. Oh, nice. I'm so I've been doing scars, but I'm like, What a great burger. sherbert.

Alex Ferrari 39:53
So anyway, so how did you? Yeah, he was the best. There's no question he changed the acting. He changed action film.

Matthew Gentile 40:00
And by the way, he he discovered right Philip and film. Which movie in which movie crimson Crimson Tide has rights first movie, and

Alex Ferrari 40:09
Ryan was in Crimson Tide really? Oh, wow. I have to double check. That was before Cruel Intentions, obviously. Yeah,

Matthew Gentile 40:17
A few years. I think it's a couple of years because Crimson Tide was in the early 90s.

Alex Ferrari 40:22
Yeah, it was early 90s. But it was all about right and intense.

Matthew Gentile 40:26
Yeah. And he was on TV first, Ryan. He has a great he has a very interesting story about how he broke it, but I'll let him tell. But um, yeah, Tony Scott. I know. It was like a mentor to him. And he just did an interview. I learned this recently. Because I know that the next time I see him, I will ask him more about it. But he said, Yeah, he like went to Tony Scott's guesthouse things like, the kindest guy mentor. Yeah. So very, very cool.

Alex Ferrari 40:49
So how did you approach working with these actors?

Matthew Gentile 40:52
Well, you know, like, like, we said, yes, these are incredible actors. I am a first time director, and you know, naturally, you know, you're gonna even if you're as confident as Tony Scott are, you're gonna have some insecurities, you know, but I felt like, I mean, I, you know, the thing is, every actor and Dude, this is a Judas quote, and I'm glad I got her. You know, every actor is different, they all have a different language. And, you know, your job as a director is kind of figure that out. Right? Not necessarily trying to figure that out and pinpoint and be like, Okay, I know, you know, the figure out how they work what they need, you know, some actors, like, peek early in terms of their takes, right? Some actors are like, kind of real hot, take 123 Some actors need more to fight it. Right. And, you know, Jack Nicholson, famously was, like, amazing, I'll take one and then he kind of does the same thing, right? Or some did, there's only six stories, but how they, how they work, Leonardo DiCaprio likes to take a lot of takes to get to where he wants to go, you know, and, and so there's no one way. You know, that said, I gotta say, I don't mean to be falsely modest, like, I just felt so as a director, taking care of why these guys because they were all so good in different ways. Yeah. And that I didn't really feel that I had to do too much like, micromanaging or anything like that, ever. And I'm not that way with actors, because I personally, again, taught, you know, all the things Judith talks about her, not just her book, but also in our, you know, consultations that, you know, she read many versions of the script and worked me on it closely. And, you know, it's always about first incomes, enter into the relationships, what are the relationships of the movie that are the most important, and that's how I would kind of work. When I would work the, with the actors and say, like, we did zoom rehearsals, you know, we would really, I would focus, like one day would be alright, Tom, and Adina. The next day would be Ryan in the data, because a lot of interrogations or, you know, some scenes I couldn't rehearse didn't have some scenes. I didn't know for sure. But I did have some significance in rehearsals and chances to work with Tom. And I mean, they each were different, Tom, you know, came so prepared, knew his parts so well. And you know, it was really fun, because he would sometimes go off the page and adlib and do incredible things. But, you know, it says in terms of the intimidation of being a first time director, and having these high caliber actors, you know, one pretty great moment was we were filming a scene. And as we'll also answer your one on all white Rob story, you know, we were filming a scene that's really midway in the shooting, things seem to be going quite well, overall, you know, overall, we're making our days, we're getting good stuff. You know, the actors are great. And then we're filming one scene, with the three actors, I talked about some of the commentary, where they just like it, the scene wasn't working, you know, just get there. It's it was written, you know, you know, we read it in a rehearsal, we talked about it, and then we get to set it's just not there. Like something about it's awkward, right, the tones off, you know, they don't feel present. There's, they're struggling to engage. So I couldn't really tell what was going on. But I took the three actors aside, and said, as well, great actors. And I said, Listen, something's wrong on the page. You know, I failed you. I don't know what I didn't get it. Right. I'm sorry. Somebody drops the script. But this scene seems to have stumped me in us. So can you help me? Like, figure out what's on what's up here? And how can we make this like, what can I do? Thank you. I can I can rewrite blinds for you right now. Like, what do we need? And the actors all looked at me, and some of them are new that they do, and I think it helped them really lower their guard and go, Okay, this guy's going to work with me. And we figured it out. And the scene plays beautifully, you know? And so I had moments like that, you know, where it would just Just like sometimes just, you know, being like, like, I had everything in this movie, in my mind, like so prepared, right, the whole storyboard of the whole thing. rehearsals, you know,

Alex Ferrari 44:55
The COVID Prep, it's the COVID

Matthew Gentile 44:58
Scene breakdown. gallons of every scene costume Florida, every little thing that I could think of I did. And then you know, you get there and things change. But you know, I think something Jacki Weaver said to me, because every actor I worked with, I made a point to ask them either whether it was in the rehearsal, or the phone call before, you know, they kind of set because I do think it's important to try to meet actors before they show up in some way. So it's not possible to meet the person for a coffee. But if you can do that, I think that's the best. But I called up. You know, I remember talking to Jack, I always ask, How do you like to work? Because I have a number one question, but to get anything you get that? How do you like to work? What can I you know, and what, and then I would also ask him, because a lot of these people, you know, Tom was coming from David Fincher, right. Ryan has worked with Robert Altman and Clint Eastwood and has stories about that, you know, Chantelle, are some of the best TV directors, you know, Jackie, David O. Russell, and like, you know, the heaviest of heavy hitters, right. So, you know, I would ask them, like, what are the, in your experience? What are the best directors do you know, and something Jack, they all basically actually said the same thing, which was the best directors are prepared, organized, but flexible. That was the recurring answer. So they will always have a plan. You know, they would have their, their ship together, more or less, but they were also flexible for changes, because I think that's like, sometimes people just especially writer directors, like, I know, you are, you know, we get like, you know, we can be very protective of our work, you know, so I think having that flexibility to let people's ideas, but also, there's a danger of being too flexible. Right?

Alex Ferrari 46:34
So you gotta you gotta guide them in. Yeah, we gotta you gotta think and

Matthew Gentile 46:37
Then you're not really making a move anymore. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 46:41
Do that. Let's do that. Why not? Let's just try it. And then you're like, we've only we've only done a quarter of a page. A third of a page all day. Sorry, we didn't make our day. You know, there's one scene in the movie, you know, that. I always love asking directors is because this is a very awkward scenario for directors is the love scenes. Man, how the hell did you shoot some of these love scenes? In the movie? They're intense. And also, I mean, it's an awkward, it's not sexy. It's not a sexy thing. It's awkward for the for the talent. It's awkward for you like anytime I've ever had to do something like that. It's just like, how, you know, and I was doing it coming up in the 90s in the early 2000s. Where, you know, there wasn't a an intimacy, you know, agent on I forgot what it is an intimacy person on set to kind of guide you through the process. How did you approach that scene? And how do you make the actors feel comfortable? And do you clear the set? What how do you work that?

Matthew Gentile 47:43
Yeah, absolutely. And that it's those digits. I was not scared of the action, but I wasn't scared about right. Yeah, it's. Yeah, it's definitely it's, you know, I mean, look, I think number one, yeah, you have to have an intimacy coordinator. There's really no way around that. And of course, like, why wouldn't you? Right, right. So we have intimacy coordinator, we did clear the set as much as we could for you know, other than the person operating the camera or whatnot. Everyone did not need to be out, in a way. You know, and it's about making the actors as comfortable as possible. It's hard to what I made sure to do when I shot those scenes was to be very clear about what I wanted and needed, and to not as much as I love him be David Fincher. On that day. Do you know?

Alex Ferrari 48:36
One more time! Yeah, one more time!

Matthew Gentile 48:39
What you need and get out and, you know, try to make you be sensitive to that, because grafting is very hard. You know, I think I once said to none of my actors were difficult and as the truth, like, you know, I hate to sound so forth. But really, none of them were. And, you know, there's one time when I know one of them is like, I'm sorry, if I'm like, you know, this is hard for me, I'm figuring this out. And also, you know, my job is hard as director, and I'd say it's not, but I don't have to be up in front of that camera, and I'm gonna get vulnerable in front of that. Right? I can hide by the camera, I can hide behind my script pages. You can't you gotta be vulnerable and truthful. And to get yourself to that place is very hard, and then to be seen really is no different. It's just it happens to be a physical product. So it's just yeah, it's important, I think, to be sensitive to people and making sure they have what they need. And, you know, hiring the right people to do the job.

Alex Ferrari 49:33
Fair enough. Fair enough. Now, when is this? When is the film coming out? Where can people watch it?

Matthew Gentile 49:38
The film will be coming out October 21, in select theaters, and then it will be on October 28. They'll still be in theaters, but it'll also be on demand and digital platforms. So you can rent it on all transactional VOD. So yeah.

Alex Ferrari 49:51
Now it's awesome to know I'm gonna ask you a few questions ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Matthew Gentile 49:59
You know, While I'm, I think, trying to be a director, you know, I think learn, I think forcing yourself to write scripts is very valuable and important. Even if you know, you're not a good writer or you don't think you're a good writer, a lot of good writers don't think they're good. And a lot of bad writers think they're great writers. So I think, you know, because for me what really move the needle forward was writing, writing my screenplays, and you know, because I had to write myself into the director's chair. Personally, I do think making lots of shorts is great. I think short films are an incredible training ground. I know they work for me. And I know there were a lot of people I know. So I think making short films, I think, writing constantly and I think, you know, I'm gonna go back to Billy Ray Now, he says, You have to get that work, everyone. That doesn't mean it's such like a competition, I get that work, you know, bathrooms have to report Alex OFSAA Bauwerk, yourself, you know, I think constantly push yourself to do better to be better. And that's something I know, I'm taking myself right now, even, you know, I made a movie. That is my first feature. And in many ways, I'm very proud of it. But I'm also trying to learn how I can be better as a filmmaker and how I can go up because it's my first idea, like, on my last, so I think you know, yeah, and I think the tenacity is really important, because it's very easy to lose momentum in the process of moving. as a, as a director, I do believe you are responsible for charging the call. Because I think that's what everyone comes around. You know, I've seen a lot of movies fall apart, whether it's in development or whatnot, because or even post, like, you know, they get taken away, because the director kind of checks out. So I think as a director, when you're going to make a movie, you got to be ready to be like, Okay, I'm gonna spend, I can give three or five years to this thing. Because it's not just making the movie. It's like we said, selling it for distribution. It's, and I've said it myself many times, like, even now doing interviews, I was like, oh, man, if I hated this movie, I'd be so miserable. Get people to see it. It's an endless grind. And you're associated with that. So I think you know, yeah, my advice would be to have the tenacity and make sure that you know, the project, you're doing film, you're investing your time. And it's something you really want to do more than anything else.

Alex Ferrari 52:22
Three, film three of your favorite films of all time.

Matthew Gentile 52:25
Three or so my first favorite film is Lawrence of Arabia, seen it so many times on 70 millimeter on the big screen. Ron 95, Kurosawa total masterpiece that just blows my mind every time. And the third one I will go with for this one is also the Godfather, and people were out. But you know, upon my eating Coke, blood and all of that, I just, you know, I've seen that movie, not three times this year, and it just continues to hold up.

Alex Ferrari 52:56
Did you see Did you see the offer?

Matthew Gentile 52:58
I have not I heard it's great.

Alex Ferrari 53:00
I like it. I love if you're a filmmaker, you're gonna love the offer.

Matthew Gentile 53:05
That's what they're saying. Yeah, because that kind of the critics weren't. Because they don't get it. But people but people are loving it. I've heard I've had 10 People saying to me often guys,

Alex Ferrari 53:15
I mean, if you're a filmmaker, you've got to watch. There's very few quality projects out there about filmmaking. And that's just you sitting there going, Well, what happened here, it's like, it's crazy.

Matthew Gentile 53:31
I think I found the lesson that's taking me the longest to learn, I think is to never say never. I think that's something I continue to learn. Like, I get to a phase in film where like, I'm never gonna work with that person again, or I'm never gonna make that mistake again. And I'm never gonna, you know, do this gun or that kind of again, I think that while it's great to have a clear vision of what you want, and your career, I think, being open to possibilities and you know, not trying to control everything, because as directors we love control. You know, we love that and I think learning the biggest lesson that might be learning that actually you're not in control.

Alex Ferrari 54:11
Oh, no, no. As a director you are barely you're just trying to scrape some shots together for the day. You are you have no control of whether you have no control over locations. You know, no control over an actor not being able to get there or being difficult or a crew member who thinks he knows better than you or she knows better than you and giving you hassles and politics and fight you when you start listening to stuff. A director truly just like what wakes up and goes well help something's gonna happen today. Right? I hope that this camera working step one, good. Everyone here step two, always food is there no food, okay, no food, no lunch, everybody. Okay, so now we got to figure that out. Like it's just just very little You can control. But when you're there, you're just it's a carnival man. It's we're carnies. It's a carnival. It's but it's this insanity. That is I call it the beautiful sickness, that once you get bitten, it's with you and you can't get rid of it ever, ever, ever, ever, and it makes you to do insane things. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Matthew Gentile 55:23
No delusions about that, man. Yeah, no, but it's a plan. I mean, to be able to direct and write and, you know, like, in some regards, I don't think doing a movie at 100 million is very different from doing maybe a 5000. Like, it's all there. You know, there. Of course, there are differences, but it is at the end, they had storytelling and its narrative and its art and, you know, finding a way to make things work. You know, you look at the biggest directors talk, like, I love listening to interviews with Scorsese. He's still talking like he just started, you know, he's figuring it out, or Spielberg to the same thing. He's like, I wake up, and I have no idea what I'm doing, or I want to call in sick, right. It's, you know, so I think, yeah, I think being able to embrace that being out of control is something that I'm gonna have to keep learning. Sure. You, you and our listener and your listeners. Oh,

Alex Ferrari 56:12
Yeah. And there's I forgot what directors said this, but that I interviewed on the show, but it was one of these big, you know, kind of heavy hitter directors I've had on the show. And they were telling me the cat was doing this movie was like, $100 million movie studio movie. And then we went down the street and stole the shot. I'm like you what you what? It was? Yeah. Yeah. We just like between takes everybody was setting up and I just grabbed a camera and my DP and the actors and went down the street and just stole the shots. You're stealing shots at $100 million. He goes, Yeah, dude, it never ends. And I'm like, This is great. Because cuz you think you know, you're sitting there in your reclining chair like Peter Jackson was in, in Lord of the Rings. And it's just like, No, no.

Matthew Gentile 56:59
You always have you always have a day to me. You know, you always have there's never pages.

Alex Ferrari 57:04
You got to pay

Matthew Gentile 57:05
Never enough time. Never enough money. You know,

Alex Ferrari 57:07
Never enough time. Never enough money. It's it's but we're here. And that's what we love doing it man. Man, man, I appreciate you coming on the show. Brother. Congratulations on new film, and I wish you the best with it. And keep making movies, man. Keep doing what you love doing and, and getting getting the stories out there that you want to tell my friend but congratulations, seriously, you are at the top. One 2.1% of all filmmakers, you made a movie. And it's you know, with with a budget and with a cast. And that is good. And it's a rare thing in this world that we live in. So be very proud of yourself, my friend. So thanks again.

Matthew Gentile 57:43
Alex, thank you so much. And thank you for all that you do for filmmakers and for the films you make today. So thank you, and thank you for having me. It's a real pleasure to be here and this is a great fun!

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

2. Thomas Jane

Thomas Jane is a prolific actor, director, and producer, with extensive credits including the series The Expanse and Hung, and the features The Punisher, 61, The Predator and Boogie Nights. Jane recently starred in in the hit thriller The Vanished, and his film Run Hide Fight world premiered at the 77th Venice Film Festival. Jane will next be seen in the anticipated drama series Troppo for IMDb TV/Amazon, based on the bestselling novel by Candice Fox, which he is also executive producing via his Renegade Entertainment banner.

3. John Leguizamo

Fast-talking and feisty-looking John Leguizamo has continued to impress movie audiences with his versatility: he can play sensitive and naïve young men, such as Johnny in Hangin’ with the Homeboys; cold-blooded killers like Benny Blanco in Carlito’s Way; a heroic Army Green Beret, stopping aerial terrorists in Executive Decision; and drag queen Chi-Chi Rodriguez in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.

4. Edward James Olmos

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

5. Eva Longoria

Eva Longoria has long established herself as one of the most sought after television directors in Hollywood. Named by Variety as one of their most anticipated directors of 2021, Longoria continues to hone her craft, seek new projects, and expand opportunities for others by paving the way for future women and minority producers, directors and industry leaders in Hollywood and beyond.

Her strong work ethic coupled with her passion for storytelling has led to a pivotal moment as she prepares for the release of her feature film directorial debut with Flamin’ Hot. She recently wrapped production for the highly anticipated Searchlight biopic about the story of Richard Montañez and the spicy Flamin’ Hot Cheetos snack for which she beat out multiple high profile film directors vying for the job.

Eva became well known worldwide thanks to Desperate Housewives, where she played a main character, Gabrielle Solis.

6. Guy Pearce

Guy Edward Pearce was born 5 October, 1967 in Cambridgeshire, England, UK to Margaret Anne and Stuart Graham Pearce. His father was born in Auckland, New Zealand, to English and Scottish parents, while Guy’s mother is English. Pearce and his family initially traveled to Australia for two years, after his father was offered the position of Chief test pilot for the Australian Government. Guy was just 3-years-old. After deciding to stay in Australia and settling in the Victorian city of Geelong, Guy’s father was killed 5 years later in an aircraft test flight, leaving Guy’s mother, a schoolteacher, to care for him and his older sister, Tracy.

Most recently, he has amazed film critics and audiences, alike, with his magnificent performances in L.A. Confidential (1997), Memento (2000), The Proposition (2005), Factory Girl (2006), The Hurt Locker (2008), The King’s Speech (2010) and the HBO mini-series, Mildred Pierce (2011). Next to acting, Guy has had a life-long passion for music and songwriting.

7. Kyra Sedgwick

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

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

8. Lance Henriksen

Lance has been in over 300 films through-out his remarkable career.He’s mentored Tarzan, Evel Knievel and the Antichrist, and fought Terminators, Aliens, Predators, Pumpkinhead, Pinhead, Bigfoot, Superman, the Autobots, Mr. T, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal.

He’s worked with directors James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Kathryn Bigelow, Sidney Lumet, Francois Truffaut, John Huston, Walter Hill, David Fincher, John Woo, Jim Jarmusch and Sam Raimi, but this is just skimming the surface.

9. Robert Forster

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

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

10. Edward Burns

Many of you might have heard of the Sundance Film Festival-winning film called The Brothers McMullen, his iconic first film that tells the story of three Irish Catholic brothers from Long Island who struggle to deal with love, marriage, and infidelity. His Cinderella story of making the film, getting into Sundance, and launching his career is the stuff of legend.

The Brothers McMullen was sold to Fox Searchlight and went on to make over $10 million at the box office on a $27,000 budget, making it one of the most successful indie films of the decade.

Ed went off to star in huge films like Saving Private Ryan for Steven Spielberg and direct studio films like the box office hit She’s The One. The films about the love life of two brothers, Mickey and Francis, interconnect as Francis cheats on his wife with Mickey’s ex-girlfriend, while Mickey impulsively marries a stranger.

Even after his mainstream success as an actor, writer, and director he still never forgot his indie roots. He continued to quietly produce completely independent feature films on really low budgets. How low, how about $9000. As with any smart filmmaker, Ed has continued to not only produce films but to consider new methods of getting his projects to the world.

BONUS: Adrian Martinez

Being yourself in any situation in life is hard for many people. Actors do make a living playing other people but the art of being comfortable in your own skin is a lesson we can all learn. I invited on the show Adrian Martinez, an actor, writer, producer, and soon-to-be-director, with nearly 100 film and TV credits.

Adrian’s career began as a high school track star on NBC’s “Unsolved Mysteries“. Some in casting have called Adrian, “the sidekick to the stars,” as evidenced by his recent sidekick trifecta– Will Smith’s sidekick in Warner Bros’ “Focus,” Ben Stiller’s sidekick in his Fox remake of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” Will Ferrell’s sidekick in Lionsgate’s “Casa de mi Padre,” to name a few.

 

IFH 623: How NOT to Quit on Your Filmmaking Dream with Pete Chatmon

With a deft ability to balance both half-hour single camera comedies and one-hour dramas, Pete Chatmon has directed over 50 episodes of television including HBO Max’s The Flight Attendant, InsecureSilicon Valley, and Love Life, Netflix’s You, ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and Black-ish, Starz’ Blindspotting, FX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and the Apple TV+ series Mythic Quest. He is in development on The Education of Matt Barnes with Showtime, for which he will direct the pilot and serve as executive producer and is currently co-executive producer and producing director on Reasonable Doubt, the first project to be produced via Hulu’s Onyx Collective.

His debut feature as writer/director, Premium, starred Dorian Missick, Zoe Saldana, and Hill Harper, and premiered on Showtime after a limited theatrical run. Chatmon also wrote, produced, and directed 761st, a documentary on the first Black tank battalion in WWII, narrated by Andre Braugher. Through TheDirector, his Digital Studio, he has directed, shot, and edited content for advertising agencies and Fortune 500 brands.

Chatmon’s career began in 2001 with the Sundance selection of his NYU thesis film3D, starring Kerry Washington. His most recent short filmBlackCard, premiered on HBO, and his narrative podcast, Wednesday Morning, engaged voters around the 2020 election. His podcast, Let’s Shoot! with Pete Chatmon is available on YouTube, iTunes, and all podcast platforms. In January 2022 his book, Transitions: A Director’s Journey + Motivational Handbook was released by Michael Wiese Productions

Enjoy my conversation with Pete Chatmon.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Pete Chatmon 0:00
Like choosing your battles and picking your moments. I feel like for the most part, if you do that, you'll be able to find a way to collaborate with anybody.

Alex Ferrari 0:11
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 Pete Chatmon, man. How you doing Pete?

Pete Chatmon 0:25
I'm doing well, brother. Good to see you, Alex.

Alex Ferrari 0:27
Good to see you too. Man. We've been trying to do this for months now back and forth between our schedules. Now I'm so happy we finally got to do this man. So thank you for your patience. And I'm looking forward to get into the weeds with you about the about the fun and easy world of the film industry.

Pete Chatmon 0:44
Of course, it's like snap, crackle pop, you know.

Alex Ferrari 0:48
I mean, just I make millions you I mean, I mean, that's the way it works, right? I mean, here's the thing, you can make a movie. I have a $200 million movie coming up. I don't know about you. But

Pete Chatmon 0:57
Yeah, I'm thinking 350 You know?

Alex Ferrari 1:00
I mean, yeah, push the edge. So first question, brother. How and why God's green earth? Did you want to get into this business?

Pete Chatmon 1:09
You know, I, I blame I blame my high school. I'm looking at what I think is a Super Eight camera. I can't tell if it's a Bolex or what on your on your

Alex Ferrari 1:20
I have multiple super eights and 60s back there.

Pete Chatmon 1:23
Yeah, yeah. And, you know, Oh, yeah. See the lower shelf now. And, you know, I had a, I had a Super Eight filmmaking class in my high school in New Jersey, Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey. I was trying, we had to take these electives. And I had taken architecture in 10th grade, and we had to build a little house. And I thought I'd be an architect until we got into the measurements. And I mean, it was it was like, one 1,000,000th scale of a home, you know what I mean? But like, I was like, I like this, but it's not for me. And so I was like, Well, let me do photography. And I was like, this is cool. I did the TV station. That was cool. But southern about like the moving image just kind of really connected to me. So I picked up that Super Eight camera, my high school film teacher, George Chase had gone to NYU. And so I'm kind of hearing these anecdotes about NYU. And at the same time discovering the, the eyes, the reality of the director, you know what I mean? Like, oh, there's a, there's a person for whom, you know, what I'm seeing, you know, we can argue about the tour theory, but like, there's a person for whom is, is kind of heavily responsible. And in film was mostly responsible, arguably, for what I'm seeing. And I was, I think, in the same way, I was attracted to architecture in designing a world. Film spoke to me and I found that I was pretty fluent with what to do with the camera, and how to edit pretty early. And so I was like, it was like, it was like creative crack.

Alex Ferrari 3:07
Yeah, that's, that's, I call it the beautiful disease, because once you get it, can't get rid of it.

Pete Chatmon 3:13
Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 3:16
So looking through your filmography, man, I see that you did a tremendous amount of shorts, man, you did a lot of short films at the beginning of your career. And even throughout a little bit, what impact did shorts do for you to get you those first paid directing gigs? Because I'm assuming these weren't all paid short term.

Pete Chatmon 3:34
None of them were they were all their debt, fulfilling prophecy? You know, I'm saying, but I think that look, like I was gonna make it, I'll answer the question, but I'm starting here, I was gonna make a short in 2020. But when COVID hit, it was to come, it was too cumbersome economically to pay for all the COVID protocols. And so I made an audio podcast, one episode, audio, podcast, and narrative. And so I would make a short right now. Like, I feel like short filmmaking is its own little masterpiece. It's a great challenge to tell a story or, or pick a theme and deal with an event, you know, a setup an event and kind of propel the audience to imagine what happens after the conclusion. Because, to me, there's no resolution and a short film. It's too short. And so, you know, I made shorts throughout my NYU. Time I made shorts in high school, probably like 10 shorts, you know. And after I graduated, I just found like, shorts were the way to stay sharp, because you're it takes forever to make a feature film. And it's almost like in my mind, it's like if you're a Chef you cook, right? You can't say like, the last meal I cooked was in 1999. And it's now 2004. It's still a cook, but I'm still a cook. Right. So I was always making shorts, because it was keeping it was feeding my passion and, and keeping my keeping me energized. And so specifically though, for how it fed into my career, me and my, my thesis film went to Sundance, coming out of NYU. But that didn't necessarily, there was no real straight line to the next thing, you know, it took six more years before I raised the money to make my feature. And then, but in the middle of that I had made like two or three more shorts, which I use to kind of build awareness around myself as a director and filmmaker, while I was trying to independently raise money. So more people will become aware of like the kid from New Jersey. And then, you know, most recently, man like after, after two features, a doc and a narrative feature, you know, winning a screenplay competition at Tribeca, a whole bunch of, you know, branded content projects in 2014. I made a short just for myself. And it was kind of like, let me see what I can do when I'm not doing it for a client. And I paid for it, I paid $30,000 out of pocket. And that short, got picked up by HBO. And so that short, then led to a bunch of these director programs, and they helped me get my first television job. But I didn't get paid to direct anything narrative until 2017.

Alex Ferrari 6:50
So So overnight, is what you're saying. So just overnight, out of film school, you just jumped in just got mad money. So. So I want to, I want to take you back to take back a little bit what you said, because it was really interesting. I always love to point this out for filmmakers. Because there's such a myth behind getting into a Sundance or things like that. I mean, even getting into NYU, it's a lottery ticket to get into NYU, or USC or UCLA, one of these big film schools. And so you're already we're coming out of a really, really one of the arguably one of the best film schools in the country, if not the world. And then out of that your thesis film gets called into Sundance. So I want to just want to go back into your mind back then, man, right, because I can only imagine what that was like. Right? How old were you when that happened?

Pete Chatmon 7:41
Let's see. That was 2001 that it went to Sundance, so I was 20 some? Yeah, I was like 20 How old was never met? I guess? That doesn't seem right.

Alex Ferrari 8:02
Late 20s Let's say late 20s.

Pete Chatmon 8:04
Yeah, well, I was born in 77. That was 2001 So that was what 24 24 Alright,

Alex Ferrari 8:10
So you're 24 years old? So you obviously have the entire world understood at this point in your life? You're completely you're completely altogether there because I definitely was not but so when you're sent to Sundance you automatically this is it man. I'm ready to I'm on my way. I'm like, so am I right?

Pete Chatmon 8:28
Yeah, I thought I thought I was like, I thought all the dots had been connected. The phone's gonna start ringing you know and and part of that to man is like, you can you can feed you can buy into these things that people tell you or show you and and on one level like I always think about like, you know, when I was raising money for my future, and I will have thrived done it everybody wanted me to kind of look at their business plan. And I'd be like, Look your your appendix of of comparable films. All be lightning in a bottle. You know. Spitfire grill Yeah, whatever that sounds like you know $10 million pickups like it's not it's not real.

Alex Ferrari 9:18
So can I so Yeah, can I can I can I just take a shot at the dark of what those movies where are you? Napoleon Dynamite? Yep. Blair Witch Project? Yep. Paranormal Activity. Yep. Did they even go as far back as like Brothers McMullen or El Mariachi?

Pete Chatmon 9:34
Of course, of course. And it's like, and you're not even any of these genres. Right? But this is these are comparables and so you know, I feel like people buy into that and like, and even for me, like in film school, it was like, the, the kind of pinnacle of student filmmaking was Sundance, or Khan, you know, center foundation for student films. And so when that they'd happened. I was like, okay, cool. Like, I'm like, rubbing my hands together, like things are good. But it didn't work out that way, you know. And so it was a, but I always try and hop back and say, Well, what is the real lesson here? You know, like, like, I'm a big basketball fan and like, Kobe is one of my favorite players. And I remember like watching something that he was talking about, like this playoff game, where in his rookie year, he had three air balls, right? And in and he, people were laughing and booing. And he was like, Okay, well, what's going on here, it's like, I've never played 82 games, you know, high school is 3035 games, my legs are tired. That's why I can't I don't have any lift in my shot. So y'all can laugh. And y'all can do all these things. But I know how to train for next year. So like, they're my takeaway from that experience was like, A, I was in I went to NYU, and I kind of minding my own business, and I didn't really have anyone that kind of looked at me as their guy, any professor, you know what I mean? And this is, you know, it is what it is, right? Because you always have advocates. And and then at the same time, you know, I, well, that's really, that's really my main point. And that's kind of driven by the fact that there was after Sundance, we had a festival at NYU, where, like, if you just finished the film, you show it and it's selected. And there were awards at that festival. And they were using the fact that my film was one of six NYU films that went to Sundance that year, like they were using it as promotion and advertising. And then it didn't get recognized for any of the craft awards or anything. And at my young age, I was like, well, that how the fuck you doing that? Right? Like that's, you know, you sent me the cell.

Alex Ferrari 12:00
But you give me a trophy, bro, give me a gift certificate of participation, something

Pete Chatmon 12:05
Exactly. Like in my naivete, I got scheduled a meeting with the with the head of the department. And, you know, he, he a great guy, David Irving, one of my favorite teachers. And he was like, Look, we've had films that have won the student prize at Sun or won the short film prize at Sundance and have come back here and not received any accolades. I was like, okay to shake. But the takeaway for me was like, I bet, I think if I would have had more people on my side and advocating for me, I'm aware of what I was doing that maybe that would have been different. And so that's what drove me to the earlier question to make all these short films, because when I went back to New Jersey, after leaving NYU, I wanted to make sure that was never going to happen again. And people would be aware of me, and what I was trying to do,

Alex Ferrari 12:59
So that did you a favor, that is your favor, by by not by not being advocate for you, you have to like I gotta do this myself. And you started out and you start hustling it out yourself. Sometimes, things that happen to you when you're younger, and you're like, Man, why did that happen to me, they probably the best thing, that it forces you to go in a direction that you might have not gone through. So that's always fascinating to me, man. Because we you know, when you get that Sundance call, and you're like, oh my god, I got into Sundance, everyone's like, you're done. It's over. You should get those folks. Now. It doesn't it doesn't work that way. So between the Sundance short, and your first feature was, what six years?

Pete Chatmon 13:37
Yeah, because so you know, Yeah, cuz the short shot and 99 it took me so long to get, you know, get the finishing funds that it didn't go to Sundance until Oh, one. But it was 99. I graduated. And it was that was May, and it was June of oh five that I first that was that we started shooting premium. My feature.

Alex Ferrari 13:59
Great. Alright, so during those years, how the hell did you survive? Brother? How did you survive? How did you keep going? How did you mentally break through the barriers of? Is it I have to I have to have to guess that this was thoughts going through your head? Did I make the right choice? Am I on the right path? Am I really that good? Like it's all these because this is what goes through a normal director's mind.

Pete Chatmon 14:25
Right! Well, I gotta say, man, it's funny because when I when I when I get asked these questions, I realize how I can sound but fuck it like you're asking me so. So I always knew that I would work harder than anybody else. You know what I mean? Like, I just felt like, once I like I'm gonna I observe. I'm gonna sit back. I'm going to watch how this works. And then I'm going to gain some information about how and how it works right now, because it can work differently next month. It could work Definitely in New York from LA, but so like, there's always a playing field that I need to look at and get a handle on before I decide how I'm going to inject myself into the game. Right? And so, you know, I was just always like, Well, okay, I learned this. But I, the more I do, the better I'll get. So that's also what shorts were for. Right? Like, you know, I would, I would, I would, I would do things like, I would go home to my mom's for like holidays, and I make videos like my little nephew, or from his point of view, like when he was two years old, because I wanted to try shooting from a kid's perspective. And years later, when I did TV shows with kids, I had that in my back pocket, you know? So I feel like I'm kind of straying from from the answer. But I, I was never really deterred. I was always like, well, what's the information to take from what's happening right now? And that was driven by this question of like, is everything? Am I doing everything that I can? And I think the answer will always be No. So I can always refine and try and improve my outcomes.

Alex Ferrari 16:19
So you are asking the right questions, as opposed to the negative questions that I was asking. bottom bottom, I mean, bottom line is like, the, those three questions I asked you are the questions that go through a lot through a lot of, you know, directors, especially during those years, not months, years, that things aren't working out the way you expect them to work out a huge switched it in your mind. And you're like, What can I do to keep going? What can I you were asking positive questions, that created positive answers that kept you going in an easier way than the struggle I went through.

Pete Chatmon 16:55
Well, you know, I wish I could remember the quote that I put it on my Instagram a few months ago, but the person was talking about how, in the beginning, we don't have talent, but we have taste. And it's our taste that keeps us going. We make those early projects and recognize from our tastes, that it's not where we want it to be, but we have a target that we're going to reach and we're going to refine with each thing to there's a point where what we do, what we can actually accomplish is commensurate with our tastes. And it's always that taste and then like a little bit of ego to that lets you think that it's like, Who the fuck thinks they can be president? You know what I mean? Like, like, you gotta have a certain level of ego and like, and I think that you got to have a certain level of ego to to think that, you know, you're going to whether it's raise money independently, or, or be given hired to direct something that costs millions of dollars. Like, there's a particular kind of drive that I think, you know, fills this industry. And it's also why you get so many challenges sometimes because you put all those people with all that kind of drive in a room. And all hell breaks loose.

Alex Ferrari 18:13
Yeah, it's it's kind of like, I mean, it's it's a slight bit of insanity. I mean, you have to be insane to be in the film industry in general. At the beginning, there is an insane because there's such a, like, Who who are you, like you said, Who the hell are you think someone's gonna give you a million dollars to go make your vision? Like there's, there's a slight bit of an insanity and ego that is needed to do that, you know, can you imagine what James Cameron said, when he walked into Fox's office back in the early 2000s, and said, Listen, I'm going to make a movie about a new IP. There's, I'm going to build out an entire new technology. No one's ever seen it. Hell, I don't even know if it's gonna work. I just need 100 million just to see if we can get this ball rolling. It's probably gonna cost about 500 600 million. Right, right. Right, right. I mean, that takes, arguably, there's probably no other filmmaker on the planet that could have had that conversation anywhere. Not Spielberg, not Nolan, Finch. Nobody. But that's who James Cameron.

Pete Chatmon 19:16
Yeah. And you got to believe that you're the one.

Alex Ferrari 19:19
You gotta believe you're Neo man. And you're in the matrix, and you could stop bullets. And that's what a director does. And so now, so you so you made your first feature. How did you get from that first feature into television directing, how did you make that pivot? And what was that first gig that you got?

Pete Chatmon 19:38
And so so you know, it was it was that feature. That feature was premium. It starred Dorian Missick Zoe sat down a hill Harper, Frankie phase on Bill Sadler. And it was a romantic dramedy, and it was me trying to you know, shake up the genre and

Alex Ferrari 20:00
Your ego again, as we say ego again,

Pete Chatmon 20:04
And of course, I'm proud of it, but I often look at it and wonder like, and recognize all the things that I could have done better, because I was trying to be different before being before honoring some of the things that the genre needs, you know? And again, right, like, that's me, like, I got to always look, go back and say, like, what could I have done better in this thing? And so, you know, that led to the feature. And basically, man, it was like, it was there was just a stretch of, I'm working at NYU, and as assistant Production Coordinator, like signing forms and talking to the students about insurance and whatnot. I'm teaching at NYU, acting classes, and then production classes. I'm on committees at NYU, you know, and there's so much full circle next to it. Like, there was a point when I was on the film festival committee. And now I had an opportunity to advocate for films, you know, in a way that I felt like mine hadn't been advocated for, and kind of getting in those rooms and seeing the politics of these things like, all very eye opening and affirming, and understanding what's on the other side of our creative, you know, output. And so, yeah, it was really it was really that short film that I did for HBO, that HBO picked up that really led to TV. And in an interesting way. You know, I'll say, for the industry, because I entered with the short, or that was my kind of access point into the industry was a short, and then I did these director programs, Disney, ABC, HBO, Sony and NBCU. It's almost like not even almost all the things that I did before that short film did not exist for the folks in the industry, because that was not they were not involved with that. And so that is partly why I wrote my book transitions because I wanted to have something that could be like, Okay, here's like, the director's journey and motivational handbook that's like the subtitle, but like, also, it's like an autobiography of all these things that I've done. And now, for those who do read it, it's like, oh, you actually were doing this for a long time before that short. But you know, that, um, the first episode that I got, you know, and anybody listening, I can't, I can't say enough how much of it this thing is, so it's, it's just a marathon and it's full circle. My first TV job that I booked was blackish. And I had shadowed on blackish, in the disney abc program. But the thing that is important to note is that when I came to LA for the very first time in 2000, to 25 years old, you know, I'm out here thinking it's I'm going to connect all the dots and just go and raise the money for my film. One of the first people I met hanging out with the star of my short Dorian Missick, and who will be the star my feature, I caught up with him and his cousin and his cousin's buddy. And it was Kenya Barris. So cut to 14 years later, he was the first person to offer me a job because unlike everyone else, he was actually aware of all these things I had been doing, you know, on the east coast for 1415 years.

Alex Ferrari 23:39
Wow, man, this is one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the show is because your journey is so indicative of, of a lot of filmmakers. And that just takes time. It's like, you know, I was in not to drop a name. But when Rick Linkletter was on the one of the greatest quotes he ever, ever heard about the film, and he was like, whatever you think it is going to take twice as long, it's going to be twice as hard as you thought it's going to be. Yeah. And it's so true, because, and I would argue would probably be 10 times as long as 10 times it's hard because, you know, when you're young man when you're in your 20s you're like any day now, I'm gonna get that call. Spielberg is gonna call me he's gonna bring me into his office. I'm gonna go to am universal. Get the call and drive on. Go into the ambulance. Go Mr. Spielberg. I love Raiders of the Lost Ark. You see anything in your mind you this is the this is the interaction. Hello, Steven. Hello, Pete. How are you? I saw Raiders of Lost Ark you didn't Did you see Raiders? What did you think? And that's that's that's how we all think that that situation? But it doesn't happen.

Pete Chatmon 24:42
Never played.

Alex Ferrari 24:46
I do know a couple people that that it actually did play out like that. But that's such a, again, these kind of lottery ticket anomalies in the business. Most of us and you're a success story. You're working in the business now. And for every one View there might be 10,000, who are still who's still grinding it out. They're trying to get trying to get made. So that's the reality I want people to understand. But it's not. It's not that I'm trying to kill dreams, it's for people to understand the realities of what they're getting into. Do you agree?

Pete Chatmon 25:16
I totally agree. Look here. I mean, here's something I say. And, and it's funny man, because like, I'm not trying to discourage anyone, you know, with this statement, but i There are several points in time where I could have just given up the dream, and I would not have been crazy, no one would have been like, Yo, he didn't try, you know what I mean? Like, like, like, from 1999, to 2017. And all the varying things that I did with a modicum of financial, you know, success, like barely, you know what I mean? Like, I could have quit many times along the way. And I would not have been a quitter for having done so, you know, but the fact of the matter is, I feel like, you've got to have that kind of like engine in your back that battery in your back, because you just don't know how it's gonna play out. And then if you do kind of pop off quick, you know, I kind of sometimes I feel for those folks that get there really quickly, because then, you know, they're in this position, they think, Oh, it's just like that. And then when you go from being hot to like, not you have yet you have no idea what it's like to, you know, have to navigate. You know, the perfect storm.

Alex Ferrari 26:39
And I've talked to some of those guys who did pop, legendary guys who have popped at that early time. And, man, a lot of times, you're just not ready, you know, when you imagine if you would have gotten your first TV gig at 24? Yeah. Can you imagine how the ego would have run wild with you and like you could have, I mean, I had met, I had an opportunity at 26 to almost make a $20 million movie with the mob. And that's a whole other book and story. But I saw the big movie stars, and I did all this whole thing. And I look back and go, Oh my God, if I would have actually gotten that gig and worked with the caliber of bars at that age, I would have absolutely self destructed, I would have, I was just not prepared to handle that.

Pete Chatmon 27:26
Right! I'll tell you, man, if I would have gotten my first episode of TV at 38 instead of 40. You know what I mean? Like, I don't know, if it pans out, like to the point where now. I mean, it's been what since 2017. Now I've done getting close to 60 episodes of TV like now, I'm attached to pilots, and I'm doing comedy and drama. And it's like, the amount of things that I had to have learned in my other pursuits, to recognize human nature and pitfalls and traps, that come with something that is as high stakes as television, you know, where people's jobs and livelihoods are on the line. And, you know, like, I don't think I would have, I don't think I would have navigated it as well. And so I'm actually, you know, thankful for, you know, how it's panned out, because now, it's just like, you start, it's like, when you get in the zone, I'm kind of, I beat the sports analogies to death. But like, when you get into that zone, and like you hear those athletes talking about, like, the game is moving slower, you know what I mean? Because, like, I see where people are gonna go, because I've been to so many scenarios that like, you know, on these shows where you don't get where you get a script late, or you get new pages, and I'm like, boom, boom, boom, okay, I've shot so many scenes that you give me give me a couple of minutes by myself, and I'll figure out a blockage and shoot it. You know, and that's just part of, you know, it's like what you pay a lawyer for, like you, you've gotten people out of jail for this before. You know, it takes you two minutes to do it for me, but it's all these years of what you've done before that allow you to keep me and maintain my freedom.

Alex Ferrari 29:19
I mean, I'll tell you what, and I agree with you 100%. Because as you get as you're growing and getting older, and you're going through the business, you're putting more tools in the toolbox. And it's not it's not a pleasant experience. Doing that stuff that at the time you're like, man, what am I doing? But only in hindsight as you get older you look back and go, man, thank God I didn't get on Project Greenlight. Big gotta didn't get on that reality show. I mean, I was there, man. I was, I was actually worst. I was at I was top 20 Brother I almost made a decision to so I get it and said like these kinds of things. You just at the time, you're like, my life is over. Oh my god. And then you look back I'm like, oh, man, I dodged a bullet. And it's in this essay. And that's life, though. You're like, Oh, thank God, I didn't think I didn't go on a date with that girl. She went crazy, or things. But that's life. And I think that's something that Film School doesn't teach you doesn't understand about as a director. It's a lot to do about lying about life experience, even more so than the technique and the craft, the craft and the technique you pick up along the way. It's a human nature thing that they don't talk about.

Pete Chatmon 30:30
Yes, right. Yeah. For people listening right now. I'm pointing at Alex.

Alex Ferrari 30:35
Absolutely man.

Pete Chatmon 30:37
I'm in complete agreement with that. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 30:39
So so let me let me ask you. So you got you obviously was shadowing through these programs on some of these shows. So you weren't new to set a television set. But when you walk

Pete Chatmon 30:50
I was I had never been on a TV set. The first time I shadow? I know the shadow.

Alex Ferrari 30:55
Yeah, I don't know. But after your shadowing, I'm talking about when you get your first paid gig. So yeah, when you're shadowing you're, you're on the set. And it's like you're learning and you're absorbing so much stuff. But then when you but when you got that first gig that blackish that and you're on set, and yeah, you've been there before, but now you You're the man. What is it like walking onto that set? Mentally? What are you dealing with mentally on that day?

Pete Chatmon 31:22
Right. What can I kind of give you a little story? Because I hear so I booked that episode first. And the way TV works is they booked well in advance. I think it might have been April of 2017 that I booked. So Season Three was still shooting. And I booked this episode that would shoot October into November of the same year for season, it would be the 12th episode of season four. So that's like at that point six months out. But what happens is you have three stakeholders that hire you, you've got obviously the showrunner, you know representing the show, you've got the the net, the studio, and then you got the network. And sometimes it might be the same company, but different departments like ABC Studios, and then there's ABC the network. But once I got that job now I'm kind of semi approved, right? Even though I hadn't done one yet. I'm semi approved. Then I had interviewed for an episode of insecure season two, and I was I had never done anything. So they were, you know, understandably, not looking to hire someone who had never done an episode of TV. And, but what but what they did offer was like, Look, we're thinking about doing this show within the show where like all the characters watch this show. And it becomes like a running thing. Like they comment on it and whatever. And if we do that, you know, we're thinking about hiring you for that. And so back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, and they ended up doing it. And so it was called do north and then season two, it's what all the characters were watching. It was like scandal antebellum, you know, times, right. And so it starts so this was my first this is what got me into the DGA. And it starred Regina King, Scott Foley. Michael J. White, right? So like, oh, and it was, it was a one day shoot. And it was 14 pages. Right? And so I was like, that's crazy. But, you know, figure it out. And I remember on and they had to build this whole set, you know, where it's in, like a barn on the plantation, all that stuff. And I'm like, wow, this is like crazy. Like, this is like money. You know what I mean? Even though it's just a little thing within the show. And I remember there, we were getting toward the end of the day. And I was in the last scene, which was like a big, like, dramatic, you know, you're lying. And I did this and I'm fucking her and this and that, right? And so I was like, I don't have enough time. And I was like, Alright, I know how to get this, but it feels crazy. And I was like, Alright, look, everybody. This is how we're going to block it. And I told the crew like we're going to spend time blocking it. But then when we shoot this, I'm going to call freeze. And I'm just going to move the cameras to where they need to go next. Because I don't have time to shoot all of this. And it was like a weird thing. So I was like, Man, I feel like I'm exposing myself but like at the same time this is a unrealistic amount of pages to shoot. And this is the only way to get it. And so I did that and we got it and it was it was dope because I think everybody rallied around this like super gorilla. Yeah. And so anyhow, I did that that got me into the DGA that shot may 31. I have a very good memory. And so when it's not COVID fault, and then because I was in the program and ABC knew me, I they hired me to do some interstitials because they knew I did branded content. I did For interstitials, with the blackish kids for Walmart for back to school. So that shot in July of 2017. So now I'm wanting to blackish set with the black kids. And I'm working with some of the crew, and then grown ish got greenlit, and because I was approved, and it was a new show. And I don't know if everybody was like, if they were I don't know, but they offered me one. So I directed that before I directed blackish, even though I booked that first. So I got to get the TV episode jitters out of the way with people who were more of my age, you know what I mean? And also that I had just worked with on the commercials. And so when I showed up in October to do blackish, I at least felt I had shot and edited an episode of TV. And so some of the jitters were out but like, you know, when Laurence Fishburne walks on set,

Alex Ferrari 36:00
Morpheus, Morpheus, just

Pete Chatmon 36:01
You know, Tracee Ellis Ross, Anthony Anderson, Jennifer Lewis, like, you know, it's, it's different than I think, you know, all the shadowing that I did, I tried to treat it as if I had been hired to direct the episode. But when you really are there, and you're getting questions that you can't even anticipate, you know, what I mean? Or you're getting like, you know, you're dealing with interpersonal dynamics that you didn't put into your shot list. You know, I'm saying, like, like, it's just,

Alex Ferrari 36:37
That's very nicely, by the way, very nicely.

Pete Chatmon 36:41
Yeah, it's an element, you have to you have to rise to the moment and I feel like, you know, my thing was always, you know, talk slowly, but think quickly. And, and sometimes, like, you might feel like you're being silent for a while, and it might only be two seconds, but it's it's exaggerated in your, in your moment of feeling, inept, but I just never wanted to say anything that I didn't. I didn't believe or that I couldn't back up.

Alex Ferrari 37:12
So basically, what you're telling me is that you got a date with a really pretty girl in in October, and then all the other girls were like, well, he sent me he's gonna date her eventually, so we can date him now. And that's kind of like how it worked for you, but it isn't. You need to you need to be, you need to be you need to be Donnie Brasco. In this business, you need to have somebody vouch for you to be able to go oh, well, they vouched for him. And obviously he's got the goods, then we could hire him. But before that, before that Donnie Brasco moment, it's it's hard. It's not impossible. Right.

Pete Chatmon 37:51
And, and, and look, I was super fortunate that that first job was within a family. You know what I mean? Because I eventually did six grown ish, six blackish, and an episode of mixed ish, you know, and I'd be remiss to say to like, you know, I had a podcast in 2009 to 2011, with my buddy Anthony artists called the double down film show. And our final guest was Issa Rae, right after she raised the money for Awkward Black Girl to do like the final a big final episode. And so even that, like, there was a little bit of in the same way that there's a full circle with, you know, meeting Kenya Barris in 2002, you know, in 2011, there is that, in my branded content days, you know, I filmed a couple of interviews with her a year in like 2014 in New Orleans, you know what I mean? So it's just like, you're just marching along? And you don't you have all these kind of flanks that are all moving in the same direction. And you don't know, you know, when you're going to arrive at the at the target.

Alex Ferrari 39:01
Now, you kind of hinted at this, but I have to ask you, how do you deal with the politics of a set, which is something they definitely don't teach you on in film school, like the politics of inner interpersonal politics have nothing to do with you politics, I do have something to do with you. Or even crew members or actors, who are problems like meaning that they don't, they don't want to work with you that they have attitude. And then tear in film is a little different. Because if you're the director of a feature, it's a little you have a little bit more juice, but if you're, uh, you know, basically a freelancer coming in for one episode, how do you deal with that brother?

Pete Chatmon 39:38
Right. I mean, that's a great question. I first I never take anything personally, because there's so much that is connected to each person's livelihood and creative experience that I have nothing. I have no awareness of that. You know, and then there's personal stuff that people have going on. I just kind of like say, okay, Like, unless it's some wildly offensive, like, you're coming at me type stuff, you know, it's like, whatever. I also, again, I'm really trying to get a sense of the lay of the land because, you know, sometimes, you know, like shows that have been long running like you show up and like, it seems like people are talking to each other crazy, but they just been doing this for so long that family is a family, you know what I mean? But, um, so I try and find a way to give grace to that. I also learned in my faculty days, at NYU, there's a great deal of politics there, right. And I would just be like, Okay, I'm just, I'm paying attention. I don't really need to get involved here. Until it really seems like this is going to affect what I'm trying to do. So because sometimes there's a, there's somebody who's performative in their, in their outburst, or whatever mean, but like, until it's like, you know, we're going to take that class away from you, or we're going to change the curriculum, I'm just going to sit back here and be like, I'm watching. And now I maybe know where you stand. So a lot of it is really kind of, like choosing your battles and picking your moments. I feel like for the most part, if you do that, you'll be able to find a way to collaborate with anybody. I have had folks where my best efforts fell flat. And sometimes it's just about we just got to get the work done. You know what I mean? But even still, I never take it personally. And, and in a weird way, man, like karma. Karma does its own duty for you, you know.

Alex Ferrari 41:48
As they say, some famous person once said, Karma is a bitch. It's interesting, too, because there's no place anywhere that it's written, that you're supposed to have fun doing this job. It's, it'd be nice. It should be it should be fun. We're making movies, we're telling stories we're playing, make believe it should be fun. But there's no way that it's written that your DP has to be a cool dude. Or your or your or your executive producer, or the writer that you're working with, or somebody is, it's just a pain in the ass because of their own personal stuff, or their own baggage that they're bringing along. And you've got to learn how to deal with that. That's why I always tell people.

Pete Chatmon 42:31
Hey, I was gonna say, I will say, though, like, part of, I think, part of that, you know, there's, I don't know, if you have to curb your enthusiasm. You know, there's a, there's an episode where there had a dinner party and Larry, David's like, you know, you're not a good middle. Right. And it was like the person who was sitting in the middle of the table. You know, he's like, that person has a responsibility to conduct the conversation and keep it going. Right. And I feel like directing is kind of being a good middle. Like, you might even be a guest in this house. But like, can you keep things moving? Can you can you like, keep people excited and energized? And like, you know, like, can I bring an energy to this that, hopefully, maybe brings an energy out of people that they didn't have on last week's episode? So how can I take it upon myself to impact that? And also then make my experience better?

Alex Ferrari 43:35
Now is it meant if you had the opportunity to go back in time, and talk to little P? Little P who got it a Super Eight camera? That guy and go, Man, Pete? Listen, I know it. I know. I just I'm from I'm from the future. Ignore that for a second.

Pete Chatmon 43:53
I know it's weird.

Alex Ferrari 43:54
I know. It's weird. Just bear with me how like LeBron commercially, it's the old LeBron in the in the abroad, that kind of scenario. What would you tell yourself? What's the one thing that he's like, Man, listen, this is what you really got to look out for.

Pete Chatmon 44:10
I would just say, before the specificity of your question, I'd be like, I would say you're doing everything right. You know, you don't know it yet. But you are, you know, but if you're gonna ask me, what is the one thing you would look out for?

Alex Ferrari 44:26
Or be aware of, or,

Pete Chatmon 44:27
I would say, look out for yourself. Right? Because, you know, the, your real opponent is the person in the mirror. It's how long you can stay in the game. You know what I mean? And, and if you are aware of that, and if you can constantly check yourself, right? Because like, and I don't and I'm not trying to say like, people shouldn't have emotions and shit like you should like if you have a bad day, have a bad day. But like that doesn't If you had a bad week, right doesn't mean you have to, like, you know, throw things down the toilet or pivot away from like your dreams, like acknowledge the emotions and feelings, but just know that like, in trying to be positive about it, I'll say, not everybody is out here to keep you down or get you, but they're not necessarily working actively to boost you up. And that's fine. So like, don't do their job to yourself. Your job should be to make sure that you wake up every day and say, What do I need to do to attack this thing that I want? And I say attack and I need attack? You know what I mean? Because like, this is an active thing. This is a this isn't a, I mean, it's not whatever sound it's an aggressive thing. Yeah, you have to hustle America dry muscle, and be committed to it. And yeah, like, like, just remember, like, it's on, you know, obviously, there's all kinds of institutional shit and like, there's all kinds of other challenges and, and to, and there are outside forces, but like, it is on you to like, be aware of the forces that are particular to you, and then see what you can do to get around them. Because, you know, my, my outside forces as as a as a black guy trying to get into TV are different from, you know, Latin X woman or different from a military vet, or you know what I mean? Like, but still, your only opponent isn't, is in the mirror.

Alex Ferrari 46:38
There's enough obstacles in this on this road without you throwing some more in front of yourself.

Pete Chatmon 46:42
Right, but I always know. It's like in movies. I always like when when somebody like gets mad, and they trash their room. I'm like, I would never trash my room.

Alex Ferrari 46:51
I felt like destroying stuff through my journey in life. I've never like I gotta clean this up.

Pete Chatmon 46:58
I'll never trash my stuff.

Alex Ferrari 46:59
Oh, Never I'm not gonna throw throw my my life size Yoda against the wall. That's that's just crazy. Exactly. That's insane. You know, one thing I always wonder about because I haven't I've directed some television, but not at the level that you've directed television with, like a cast, the TV shows I've done mostly starting out in their one off miniseries kind of things. But when you're working with actors who know their characters better than you, much better than you. How do you direct that? What's your advice on that?

Pete Chatmon 47:35
You know, like, I mean, I'm looking right here, right, like I have on I have a post it note right here on my, on my computer. I have several ones. Right. I have, I think this is from Mike Nichols. He said, All scenes are all good scenes are either fights, negotiations or seduction, you know, through which a character is either nurturing, using or damaging. And so that is helpful to me in drawing out, you know, the best thing I've seen if perhaps it's not on the page. You know, when I talk to directors, I mean, when I talk to actors, I have things here like, I feel, I feel versus I think, because we can argue with what I think, you know, I think you should do try this, I think you should do this, well, I feel you should do this, you can't shoot that down in the same way, is as as I as I, as I feel. What if we were to, you know, instead of, let's do this, right, like, I remember the first time I said, Let's get one like this, and somebody was like, why don't want to do that, you know, I felt like, slapped, you know, and so how can I not feel that way? Again, I can change my language, you know, and also I'd like you to try. So it's, it's less about me imposing something, and more about me offering a road towards something that we can collaboratively agree on, you know, I'm saying, and even even, it's the same with working with with a with a DP like, I don't, I know this stuff. I don't I don't say throw a 35 on. I say, Let's get wider and do this and do that. You know what I mean? Like, and if they if they throw a 45 on it, like, let's get a little wider, you know, I mean, I don't I don't need to prescribe the exact path, because then I'm taking them out of the process. And so a lot of it I think question driven directing is much more successful in a for me not having somebody tell me no, and get me mad inside, and then be like, I can find out where they're coming from. You know, that times I'll even ask like, well, what's your approach here? What are you thinking in this moment? Because they may answer that question in a way that would totally nullify the note. I was I'm about to get, and I just saved myself embarrassment from looking like I don't understand what they're doing. And I think that's you that's a little more unique to TV perhaps because there's a, there's a protection over the character that, you know is the word choice is important. There's a longer connection to the character, where I think more things have been affirmed, versus on a film, we're looking to explore and find it. And so, you know, I'm also reading the person and seeing whether or not they are open to options. Because sometimes, you know, folks want to do it one way and like, feel that you're pulling the strings out from what they want to do. If you go get one different, or nuanced option, and maybe that's because every time they do, they use the other one, and they fuck up the overall performance in the actor's mind. So, you know, it's like, there's so many things that you're trying to read, engage. But in a nutshell, that's kind of the approach.

Alex Ferrari 51:08
That's a fantastic answer to that question. Because I've always I'm always fascinated about how you approach that love the question approach instead of, because in features is like, we're going to do this. Let's try this, because it's a feature. And we're still we're all kind of developing this character and this story as we're going along. But when you walk on blackish on season four, I mean, Lawrence, Laurence Fishburne already knows what Laurence Fishburne is gonna do.

Pete Chatmon 51:35
This thing, I think, I think we're all kind of at least I mean, maybe I am. I don't know if new younger folks are. But, you know, we're coming up. It was the idea. Like, the director was like this kind of like military drill sergeant, presidents who kind of, you know, commanded all things by Fiat. You know, what I mean? And like, I think that, you know, a, that's just part of how society was, you know, what I mean? And I, I personally don't feel the need to have that kind of presence. You know, because I know, I know that I'm, you know, again, these words get so I'm gonna say, I know that I'm in charge. And I, you know, I don't know if that's the right word. But I know that I'm like, captaining this ship, at least for responsible and responsible, right? Yep. And that doesn't have to feel like, I have to make you know.

Alex Ferrari 52:38
But that's, but that's, but that's a quiet confidence of just doing this so long that you don't need to prove anybody, anything to anybody. Because when you're younger, you're trying to prove all the time that you're you're supposed to be in the room. But when you get to our age, and we're in the room, we're in the room for a reason, man, we've lived life, we've got shrapnel and you know, the last thing I need to do is to prove to you that I can direct. Like, I've been doing this for a while, you know, I don't need to prove, like I'm trying to prove to you that I can conduct the conversation for a podcast, like I've done a couple of these. So it's just kind of like this. It's kind of like this couple, goodbye, a few. But the point is that you just feel comfortable. And you feel confident without arrogance. And that takes

Pete Chatmon 53:24
Yeah, and even now, man, like this is one thing I've been doing, as of, you know, the last maybe 10 episodes or so like, I'm no I used to always like I'd have my my iPad and script tation. And I'd be like, looking at the script while we're flipping the acting. And like, I don't even do that anymore. I don't even like, look at the script into rehearsal. Obviously, I prep and prep and prep from the script. But now like I just watch, and the moment it feels like I'm not watching something that I can see other people watching. Like, that's just the antenna that I'm governed by. And so sometimes they'll be like, Oh, wait, what's the line? I'd be like, ask the script supervisor. I don't know. That's their job. Like, I'm not trying before I would want Oh, I don't want to see like I don't know where I am in a script. Like, I don't know where we are in the script. But pick it up from you know, pick it up from what's tell them where to best pick up line is, you know, like, because my job is to is to preserve and protect the audience's experience and audiences not reading the fucking script.

Alex Ferrari 54:29
Isn't it interesting, though, like, I don't know about you, but when like when you first started in your 20s Man, you had everything down to that like you prepped and prepped and prepped and like you had storyboards and shot list and you and you were like over prepped. But then when nowadays you just get on the set and you're just like, I see what we can do guys. Let's just kind of feel it out today. You know, like I made like, I shot a whole feature that way. I just literally shot a whole feature. Yeah, we just got on location. All right. Take care. over there, let's put let's go through this whole thing. Alright, let's do this. That didn't work. Let's try it over that. And it's just kind of like it's jazz, you start becoming a jazz player. Yeah. As opposed to someone who's constantly reading music. Does that make sense?

Pete Chatmon 55:14
Oh, it makes perfect sense. You know, but the amount of the amount of music you have to have read to do that, right is, is is the is the thing that can be discounted, you know, and like, when when folks see people at the height of their craft, you know, what they don't see is the height of the prep, you know? So it's a, it's a, it's an earned it's an it's an earned approach.

Alex Ferrari 55:40
You know, it's interesting, like someone like Ridley Scott, who made his first feature at 40. And everyone's like, Oh, he's making his first feature at 40. And like, he had shot I think, 2500 commercials. He'd gotten saved. He's way past the 10,000 hour mark. Right. By the time he got his first future mentor, can you imagine what it's like walking on a set with Ridley now? I mean, I can't even comprehend the 1000s of hours that he has, that man has been on set. It's like his brother to Tony, they both were like that. And it's just that just just geniuses, they could just riff and they could just kind of go, but it takes time. It's not only how much music you read, how much music you write, as well, along that path? Yes. Without question, yeah. Now, as directors meant we, there's always a day on set that you feel like the entire world's coming down around you. It could be on the feature, it could be on the television, or you tell me which one it is. I always like to say most most directors like you mean every day, like, you know, not every day, but there's that one crazy, crazy day that you feel like the entire world's coming down around you like, I don't know, I don't know how we're gonna make it. I don't know how we're gonna get past it. That freeze technique that you use was could have been answered this question. But is there any other day that that happened to you? And how did you overcome that day?

Pete Chatmon 56:54
Man, you know, in the prep that we're talking about, that no one sees. You know, for me, like, I always, I always prep, and block scenes, as if I were making my feature. You know, that's always like my first swing, obviously, within the vein of the show, but like, my first swing is always like, I look at it, like, they'll never do, we don't have time for this, you know, but there are like kernels of something that are that indicate the kind of entry point to the scene that I can simplify. And so sometimes I ended up blocking scenes, three or four different ways before I'm like, okay, boom, that's what we're, that's what we'll start. That's what I that will be my target, because actors have points of view, and sometimes it changes, but like, I can always keep the essence of it, or I can pivot totally. So when things go haywire, oftentimes, I can kind of simplified down to what I like to think of as, like, the most important moment in the scene. Right? So like, if it's, if it's just like, all right, I gotta go, I gotta get real simple. And we got to do a winner. But the most important moment in the scene is this. And so we're going to make sure that that one or ends in a close up that I can tilt down in tag, whatever detail and then come back up and pan for the reaction, because that's the scene right there. You know, and so it's, it's kind of just knowing what the, you know, what the bare minimum is, as far as the audience understanding what what is happening, and knowing that all the toys and all the things and all the sauce that we can put on it are great, but at the end of the day, like, like, what's the what's the nutrient? And so, I mean, that happened, that happens all the time. I feel a little less pressure, I would, I will honestly say on on TVs, because more often than not, it's not my fault. You know what I mean? Like, if it's like, you know, I just did something last week, and like, the generator didn't work. So they had to go get another generator and bottom line, like, Yes, I had to become even more efficient, but I'm like, That shit ain't on me. Like,

Alex Ferrari 59:22
I didn't I didn't bring that generator. That's not my agenda.

Pete Chatmon 59:25
So I'm still gonna make the day like, I pride myself on making the day and I can make the adjustments. But, you know, if for some reason we can't, I mean, if everybody's being honest, we're all going to know why it didn't happen.

Alex Ferrari 59:39
Right! It wasn't because you were doing a 15 minute a webinar on a show that it's going to take maybe out of that 15 minute one or one minute.

Pete Chatmon 59:47
Right. Exactly. Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 59:50
It's not your extravagance is that a goddess here? It's the Jedi that didn't work, or the actor didn't want to come out of the trailer.

Pete Chatmon 59:57
Yeah. And then keeping a cool head to man like people There's like that that's so much of the job like, keeping a cool head and like, you know, if you think about, and this is TV specific, but like, I always make this statement, I feel like I need to go and actually do the math on this. But let's just say a day of shooting, you look at dailies, and you've got probably 30 to 40 minutes of footage, right? But you were there for 13 hours, right? So what people are going to remember, is that 13 hour experience with you not that 30 to 40 minutes of dailies, or at the end result, the 44 or 22 or 60 minutes show, and so like the experience that you give people as a person is arguably more or if not equally important to your work as a creative person.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:00
The best advice I always give filmmakers coming up like what's the best advice? I don't don't be a dick. Exactly. Yeah, don't be it. Because then there's people who have less talent, and are less experience. And I'll hire them faster, then I'll hire dick, who's more experienced and more talented. That's when you want to be on set for 13 hours with.

Pete Chatmon 1:01:19
Right. Right. Nobody needs nobody needs that in their life and like,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:24
And as you get older, but you just put up with less and less crap.

Pete Chatmon 1:01:28
Yeah. And that's why people work with the same people over and over again. It's like, I know what I know everything that's going to know all the vibes here. Yeah, perfect. Let's go.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:36
Let's rock and roll. Now, let's talk about your book transitions, man, because, you know, this is a book that I wish I had. I'm sure you wish you had it when we were coming up. Yeah, man. So tell me tell me what how that book came about? And what's the purpose of the book for the for the for the filmmaking community.

Pete Chatmon 1:01:53
It's exactly what you said it was I in all the years and that, you know, 99 to 2017 period, you know, I this this was what fed me, Word Wise, Fast Company, magazine, wired, you know, man, any, I forget what book club I was in, but I was getting books like, you know, 50 directors talk about their first, you know, their first feature. And, you know, I'm like one anecdote from that. I remember Mike figures had done whatever his first movie was, and I think he had a scene, I hope I'm not messing this up. But a scene that maybe were like, Tommy Lee Jones, or Edward James almost or something. And he ended up having to reshoot because he was kind of hesitant to give him the real thing. Like, he didn't know how to communicate the direction that he needed. And he just never did it. And it needed to reach you. And, and it was so tense, because now he's reshooting. It was like, I just need you to I can do this or whatever he said. And then he was like, oh, okay, I'll do that. Yeah, and this thing that he had been so apprehensive to do is like, you just got to do it. You know. So like, I was soaking up anecdotes like that, you know, reading story, you know, the 48 Laws of Power, the hero's journey, making a movie by Sidney Lumet all a Spike Lee's books, and I was just like, you know, I, I feel like there's a book that mixes all of these things that that is missing. And so, you know, initially, my book was called, Thanks for nothing. And it was, it was going to be I was after I raised, you know, 520,000 to make my feature. And I chronicled everything. And I was, like, I want to talk about how, like, not having had resources was the best thing for me, and how it shouldn't be a limitation for you. And then never wrote that, but like, I always kept a little document. And I would, and as I did more things, you know, shot my first commercial, did a music video for you know, six figures or whatever, I would kind of update and keep, like bullet points of what the lessons were. And so, once I got into TV, I was like, well, what's the real thing here? And, to me, the thing is, look at all these pivots. You know, I go from short filmmaker to feature filmmaker feature filmmaker to running my production company, you know, faculty member to you know, branded content guy, you know what I mean? And like, and now here, I'm at he Rhianna TV, and there have been principles along the way. So it's chronicling that journey. In a three act Hero's Journey structure with like the setup, the conflict, the resolution being getting that first episode, and then each chapter has a key word. That's kind of like the principles that guide you through this moment or this stage wherever it happens for you. And then lastly, it's like a mixture of like, how to inspiration and self help. And so that kinda like, I recognize that that was what I was always looking for in the things that I was reading. And so I wanted to merge everything into one. And, and then I have my own podcast, let's shoot with Pete Chapman. And so I took, I took 10 of the director conversations and have them in the back. So if you feel like, Oh, you're just hearing me talk about this stuff like, Well, no, you can listen to Oscar winning Matthew cherry, or, you know, Rob McElhenney, or Michael spiller or Millicent Shelton like and really get kind of, kind of hear the principles over and over again, that all these creative folks have had to subscribe to on their journey. And so yeah, that's the long winded kind of full, full throated, like genesis of the book. But like, it's been great, because I've found like, a lot of the responses and reviews have been that it's done exactly. For people what I don't,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:58
That's awesome, man. And I'm so glad that this book exists, and it's out there for people. As you know, I this is what I do all the time trying to help filmmakers along the along the path and, and let them know that they're gonna get slapped in the face and prepare for that slap. Just understand where you're going, and how, and get ready, get ready, and how you're gonna have to how long it's gonna take to get to where you are, man. But I'm glad that you put something together that as tools that people can really use and demystify a little bit of, like I always say Hollywood's real good at the sizzle, but subset the steak. And it's so damn true, right? It's so damn,

Pete Chatmon 1:06:38
Big fajita tray coming to your table.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:41
Basically eat a tray. But then it's like, oh, it's Taco Bell. Oh, man, what happened? Exactly. Now, one thing I wanted to ask you about because you've been able to do this, and you talk about it in your book, The the importance of pivoting and understand how to pivot. So many filmmakers and screenwriters for that matter, going through the business, they get stuck on one thing, and they can't see past it. So like, I'm only going to be a feature director, I'm only going to be a music video director, I'm only going to do commercials. And when other opportunities present themselves. They don't pivot. And you went from feature to television. I don't know if television was always the goal or not. But But you started off in shorts and features. So can you talk a little bit about that importance of being able to just kind of move and shake as things come at you?

Pete Chatmon 1:07:31
Yeah, yeah, man. I mean, look, I noticed in like the late aughts, I guess that's what people say, right? You know, oh, nine, like a friend of mine, seeth man, who's also in the anecdotes at the back of the book. He had done the disney abc program, and he ended up directing on Grey's Anatomy, and then the wire. And I was just watching like, Man, this is like, TV's kind of where the stories are, you know what I mean? Like, it was early in the shift. And it would only be cemented year after year as like, you know, the golden age of television revealed itself through new shows after new show. And so. And I also had the experience of six years to raise money for feature, which I paid myself $15,000 I'm like, this ain't sustainable. And so and if I'm a director, I want to direct I'll do anything that's, I want to go where the storytelling is, right. So that's why branded content commercials, music videos, TV film, like I'm trying to I have a feature script I have to finish in September, because I still want to direct films. And so yeah, man, it was just like, how do I get into that space? I looked at what was happening. I had I have my friend seat as like a kind of aspirational target look like Well, here's a guy that I know that did it. I know plenty of people who are going through these programs and aren't but like, here's somebody I literally can call and I know that did it. And so I just attacked it in the only way that I could which which was through these director programs, because it's such a either nepotistic or who you know, kind of dynamic of, well, how do I get into some category of being known? And so that was how that worked for me. And then even in that even in there, once I was kind of big toe in the door, I had to think about what what is the target? And you know, again, all these boring sports analogies, but like, what's the target? And it's like, well, I want to continue to be able to do like everything. So we made with my team, and at their suggestion to, you know, we made a concerted effort to go after half our single camera comedies. So it was and like, Oh, I'm just saying I want to do TV, it's like, I want to do half hour single camera comedies. Because both in front of the camera like Jamie Foxx are behind the camera like Adam McKay, you know, you've seen people go from comedy to drama, but not really the other. And so while I was trying to break in on comedy, I was also where I could having meetings with drama folks, you know, and shadowing on drama shows where I could, so I could someday get, you know, both of those feathers in my cap. And that was, I mean, it was a very concerted effort. And so like, the last year, or two of like, doing things like the flight attendant, and you, and then you know, even like, this kind of like genre blending things like love life, you know, like, that's been something that I've that I was trying to pivot toward from the beginning of ever getting an episode. And so, you know, I think it's important to kind of remain open, I think being platform agnostic is is a good idea. Because, you know, one thing I haven't ever done is a multicam. And I want to, and I need to because A, there are great multicam shows, but B for all we know, half our single camera comedies could could lose their their luster, it's cheaper to make a multi cameras. So anyway, and they might studios and networks might decide we're only doing that for the next three years. And then what are you going to say, Oh, I don't want to work.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:41
And that's the thing. The business for so many years, the business stayed the way it was for, you know, like 70 years. No films or films, you know, at here's the whole process from the filmmaking process to how I got out in the television was that then the cable companies came in and started messing things up, then VHS started to come in with streaming situations showed up, it changed the game completely again. So if you aren't, and now things are moving so quickly, and so differently, and so fast, things that were true a year ago are not true now. And then the pandemic happened, and then everything went out the window now. And then everything everyone started. So if you don't have the skill of pivoting, you won't make it long term. You won't make it long term, and you have to have that skill. And I love that. Yeah, it's rare to find a director who does blackish and Grey's Anatomy, you know, like, it's not that's not a television. Well, that's not normal. Normally, right

Pete Chatmon 1:12:37
No, there's not I mean, I, I mean, I know who I know, that kind of do or does about comedy and drama, but it's not. It's not 10 people, you know, and then also to man, like, you know, I feel very fortunate because I do I do networks, like I just wrapped Grey's Anatomy on Monday, and my next show will be the reboot of fatal attraction for Paramount plus with Joshua Jackson and Lizzie Kaplan. So that's a that's the streaming thing it's going to be it's like eight episodes, it's going to be doing all eight are you? I'm doing I'm doing the second the last episode, okay, you know, and then after that, I'm gonna go through the show Minx, which is HBO Max, and it's a period piece. It's a woman who kind of starts at playboy. playgirl asked magazine in the 70s. And it deals with a lot. It's a commentary on a lot of issues that affect women. And then after that, I'm going to do American auto, you know what I mean? And it's like, it's like, I love to kind of hop back and forth between these different things. And each show or each genre requires a different, like, approach, because some you tell the story with the camera, others, you have to find how to let the joke happen on screen in an interesting way. And yeah, man, it's a it's a, it's a concerted effort to be able to, to find opportunities and all of those.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:04
Now, brother, I'm gonna ask you a few questions, ask all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Pete Chatmon 1:14:13
So as a filmmaker trying to break into the business today, I would say first, to start positive, you know, you're breaking into it at a time where it's easier than ever to break into it. And you probably have more access to education than anyone ever before, even if you don't go to a film school. So go ahead and make something I would, I would challenge them, though, to think about what is important to them, what kind of it what kind of stories they would have responded to in the books or films that they've watched or read, and try and hone in as quickly as possible on the things that they'd like to be involved with saying that And then once they figure that out, try everything, try every position, you know, need as many people as you can, and just, you know, make a project every quarter. Every year you come out with four things.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:17
And that IMDb gets fatter and fatter All right, what is the what is what did you learn from your biggest failure?

Pete Chatmon 1:15:29
This is an interesting question, man. Because it's funny, man, I, I don't like, I don't look at things as failure. So I'm trying to, I'm trying to like, change that perspective to answer the question.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:47
Something that didn't go the way you'd like it to go, sir.

Pete Chatmon 1:15:49
Yeah. I guess that you know, I would say that, collectively, my, my failures would be moments where I failed to read the room. And so like, I'm thinking back to a project that, you know, it was early in my career, it was not a TV show. It was a web series. And like, people were asking me for, like, a shot list. And I was like, No. Like, no, I got this, like, you're good. Trust me, you know, and like, I it was like, 10 Page day that I was always making the day, and you locations were fluctuating. And so I was just kind of, like, it's a, I only got so much time in the day, to produce a shot list that I'm not necessarily going to like, adhere to feels like not the best use of my time. And so I was leading with that as an example. But on their end, it's a big project for them, you know, they don't know me, like, I know me. And they can't eat a bagel at craft service, with the same level of comfort. Of like, Pete's got it as they would have if they had some shot list that I wrote and say, here's what we're doing today. You know, and, and I could think of a variety of examples where a little misreading of the room, left people with a feeling that they didn't need to have, and I could have easily taken care of that. Now, at that moment in time, my process wasn't as sharp as it is today. So it was still harder to do but like, you know, you have to be able to look at something and say, Well, what was my involvement in that? And maybe, you know, instead of a no in that situation, I could have explained what I just explained to you which is like we don't have time proud you know, but how about we talk it out every morning? Whatever, you know what I mean? Like something give him some general bone give him something. So I would think I think listeners viewers extrapolate that as you want but I think failure to read the room is the Doom which is always what you can point back to for anything that doesn't go as well. Is it good?

Alex Ferrari 1:18:36
I have a challenge for you sir. Next Next job you go on, I want you to wear a t shirt and the backer says Pete's got it and just walk on the set. With a T in the back front on the front assess director on the back assist Pete's got it.

Pete Chatmon 1:18:49
Yeah, I like that. I like that. I'll report back let you know.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:55
I mean, and let me know how hard it is to get the next job after that. Sure. So Alex, I was fired off that. And now my agents will return my calls.

Pete Chatmon 1:19:04
Now I'm now I'm doing radio.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:07
Now I'm doing podcast I mean, seriously. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Pete Chatmon 1:19:17
I would say the lesson that it took me the longest to learn was work smarter, not harder. Because you part of your fuel. It's like, it's like going back to like that, that thing we were talking about earlier, the quote that I can't attribute to the person. You know, like, we're guided by our tastes until our talent can match it more or less. Like the other the flip side of that is, are they also included in that as like, we're guided by our hustle. And also being from New York. There's just something about like, I'm not working you you know, I mean, like I'm up earlier than you. laid it in you, you know, you eat lunch. I Don't you know, I mean, like, it's stuff like that. And so, but that that's not a, something you can do forever and be, you know, particularly particularly with the birth of our daughter, like, I can't I can't prep all weekend now. You know, that's not that's not what what I want to do you know what I mean? So it means that I have to be very, like strategic and methodical and deliberate about how I prep and take incoming matters and prioritize them. So that I'm dealing with what I need to deal with now for whatever is my next immediate milestone. And, you know, that takes a little while because it's like, well, that's not my process. I like to do this, I did that I was like, Well, you got a concept meeting today at noon. So skim through the script, and what you got to talk about, you can't highlight shit, you don't have time for it, you got to script it's more. So like, it's not my process. That's not my process. So you just have to, you just have to, you have to be nimble and flexible. And trust that. Now that you been hustling for so long, you've got the experience level to pivot from what made you comfortable before and find new, you know, new footing to land on and you'll still be just as, as great.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:34
I'm gonna just tell you a quick story that illustrates exactly what you said, when I was a kid. I was 20 something playing tennis like a madman. And one day I went to play tennis and there was like, this older dude, probably like in his at the time late 50s was older dude. Now we look at it like that's a young man, what are you talking about? But when you're your 20s, it was like this old dude. He's like, you want to play like, Yeah, let's play. And I was just 20 year old like, like that young that and this guy just sat in one fell on the tennis court and just went, and I'm running to this run. He just knew where to hit the ball. And I was working harder. smarter, and I never forgot that lesson. I was like, Man, how would you do that? It goes, I just put the ball where you weren't?

Pete Chatmon 1:22:26
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, just simple as that. Meanwhile, you're trying to blaze a forehand down the line where he's standing and he's like,

Alex Ferrari 1:22:34
Nno, no, I'm trying to reinvent the forehand in your own mind to hit the forehand, like no one has ever hit before. That's that's what you want.

Pete Chatmon 1:22:44
With topspin and slice?

Alex Ferrari 1:22:48
Which smoke that comes off. Last question, sir. three of your favorite films of all time.

Pete Chatmon 1:22:56
Oh, boy. Okay. Okay. Okay. So in No, man, that's fucking Okay. In no particular order. And I'll give a little reason with each. I will say Casablanca. Just just the perfect film, a film about the war made during the war. That it's about a little bit of a musical love story. Drama. Can't tell me it's not funny. It's funny as hell telling me it's not funny. You know, like, that's a good ass movie. I'm such a big fan of Spike. I love do the right thing. But I'm thinking I'm gonna say x, Malcolm X.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:42
That's a tough choice between the two men because x is a masterpiece. But yeah, but do the right thing did that. It's not only a masterpiece, but it just exploded on the scene. Like he was already spike. Yeah. Next. But men do the right thing, man when it came out. I was working at the video store. Yeah, I was working at the video store. Man. I was like, you gotta watch do the right thing. Like, it just exploded. There's few movies.

Pete Chatmon 1:24:11
It was visceral filmmaking. And, you know, but but x is like, it's like, it's like working at it's like, like all the films you've done before. Have like, prepared you for this film. And then just the performances is phenomenal from Denzel so that I'd say those two and then this might be weird, but maybe not. I'll say seven.

Alex Ferrari 1:24:38
Oh, it's one of my top five. Yeah, I'm a feature fanatic. Essentially. Yeah.

Pete Chatmon 1:24:43
It's that's, that's also I think, a perfect film in many ways. And I think for when it came out, it was one of the earliest representations of genre blending to a new degree, which is like it's like it's a buddy cop car. Ready to some degree. It's a thriller. It's a horror film. It's, you know, all of these things, and it leans on the right tone, and the right filmmaking tools in the right moments. And I think that's kind of what today's television does. There's genre blending. That gives you a little bit of what you know. But you know, a percentage of what you don't. But because you're able to anchor it in these genres you're familiar with, I think people going to ride with you.

Alex Ferrari 1:25:39
Right, and Yellowstone, and Breaking Bad and those kinds of things. Yeah, like, you can't tell me those aren't funny shows. But yeah, yeah. Now, I Brother, I appreciate your work. By the way, where can people buy your book? Where can people find out more about you and what you're doing my friend?

Pete Chatmon 1:25:57
Oh, yeah. So you can buy the book on Amazon or Goodreads. It's called transitions, directors journey and motivational handbook. I hope you buy it. I hope you review it. Let people know that you like it. I've also got a podcast called Let's shoot with Pete Chatmon, which is available everywhere. Spotify, Apple, all that good stuff. And then I'm at Pete Chatmon on Instagram and Twitter. And, yeah, I'm more active on Instagram. I find I'm not witty enough on Twitter. You know, don't have time to be witty. I got time to post this picture. But um, yeah, I love to share behind the scenes content and kind of go on some rants here and there about about the industry and filmmaking and directing. And yeah, man, this has been awesome to chat with you, Alex. I love what you're doing. I think it's a it's a fuel for for creative souls out there. So please keep doing it. And yeah, man, it's been it's been great to wrap it up, man. I really appreciate it.

Alex Ferrari 1:27:06
And I appreciate you for writing the book and for everything you do and being an inspiration to young young filmmakers around the world. And just I thank you, man. Thank you for your hard work as well, brother. Thank you, man.

Pete Chatmon 1:27:18
Appreciate you sir!

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IFH 622: The REAL State of Indie Film with Alrik Bursell

Alrik Bursell is a filmmaker, producer, cinematographer, editor and director. His been working in video production for over 10 years and worked on everything from feature films, to broadcast commercials to DVD instructional videos, if those even exist any more.

Alrik’s first feature film The Alternate was shot in the winter of 2019, did it’s film festival run playing over 20 film festivals and winning 15 awards worldwide, and have secured worldwide distribution for the film, which is coming out in the USA/Canada in September 2022.

The Alternate follows Jake, a videographer who discovers a portal to another dimension in which he has everything he has always wanted: the perfect version of his wife Kris, the filmmaking career of his dreams, and the daughter he never had.

Jake quickly starts traveling back and forth between these two worlds – spying on his other self, falling in love with the alternate Kris, and getting to know his daughter. Jake soon sees that his alternate is not as perfect as he seems and decides to change places with the alternate Jake and take the good life for himself.

Please enjoy my conversation with Alrik Bursell.

Alrik Bursell 0:00
As a filmmaker, you should just be aware of what you're up against and that like, these fantastical fantasy outcomes are like so so unlikely that they should not at all be embedded in your your your hopes and dreams for the success of your movie.

Alex Ferrari 0:17
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 back to the show returning champion. Alrik Bursell, How you doing Alrik?

Alrik Bursell 0:34
Doing good! Thanks for having me, Alex. I'm like so stoked to be back, man.

Alex Ferrari 0:38
Yeah, man. Thanks for coming back on the show. Man. I'm excited to talk about your new film The alternate, which is I know a long gestating project. I think

Alrik Bursell 0:50
The last time I was on the show, I was like in crowdfunding, like super sweaty, super nervous, just like please help me make people.

Alex Ferrari 1:00
Please help me please. Oh, sir. Can I have another cup of porridge?

Alrik Bursell 1:04
It happened though. So thank you, everyone.

Alex Ferrari 1:08
So now I wanted to have you on the show. Not to only talk about your new film, but I think it's a great opportunity to talk about the state of independent film, because it changes so rapidly so often in our business. I mean, yeah, God, I mean, it's from from basically from the 90s on it's been so 80s on basically, but the 90s on, it's really just changed so much. And it seems to be changing faster and faster. Every every month, there's something new showing up some new service coming up some new way to make money some way some new way, we're getting screwed by somebody, or some company or something. So there's always something so I'd love to hear your opinion on from your point of view. And from you know, obviously you do the interviews on Making movies is hard. And with Liz and and you guys are kind of on the pulse as well as I am on what's happening in the indie world. So in your opinion, what do you think? Where do you think the state of independent film is, sir?

Alrik Bursell 2:05
Well, I guess let's like try to define it a little bit better. Like do you mean, like indie film with like anybody? Like including, like known well known filmmakers? Like, you know, the Darren Aronofsky is of the world and people who are like making indie film, quote, unquote, on their own, but like you have budgets and things are you talking about, like the little, you know, people I'm talking about?

Alex Ferrari 2:29
Let's just put it this way. How many Darren Aronofsky is are listening to us right now? All right. So that so I don't Sure.

Alrik Bursell 2:37
It just frustrates me because like, you look at fucking indie wire or whatever, or some of these places, and they're like, indie film, and then they just start quoting all these like 5 million $10 million movies. And you're like, that's not really what indie film is, like, indie film to me is like million or under, you know, and people who are just scraping their budgets together, like don't don't necessarily have any massive talent, no one would know who they are. You know, like, that's kind of where I see like, indie film, it's like, the movies that like, you know, XYZ is picking up, you know, and like, you know, companies like that, like the smaller and

Alex Ferrari 3:11
A24, you know, the A24's of the world.

Alrik Bursell 3:13
Yeah, barely all the A24's is like, if you get to A24 toilet you kinda already.

Alex Ferrari 3:19
I mean, I'm seeing I'm seeing a bunch of the A24 films lately, and there's some that I have no idea other than the director who the hell they are. So there are those, but then there's the of course, they're everything everywhere all at once. Crowd as well. But yeah, but no.

Alrik Bursell 3:34
Yeah. But that's movies and stuff. saphenous is like, you know, booksmart Yeah, etc. It's like, you know, come on. I mean, like, I feel like A24. Like, maybe they are picking up some stuff that's like, you know, from these unknown, like struggling filmmakers, but I think for the most part, like if you get on their radar, it's like, you've kind of ascended to like another scope, then, you know, the majority of indie filmmakers?

Alex Ferrari 3:57
Yeah, exactly. Yeah,

Alrik Bursell 3:59
I should say.

Alex Ferrari 3:59
So no, I think so. To answer your question. I do think that like the the whale and the, you know, Darren Aronofsky is film that's coming out and a bunch of other films that you know, everything everywhere all at once is, quote, unquote, an indie film. And I would say it is because I talked to the boys. And it was it wasn't a $500 million movie though. Or it was basically the craft service budget of Dr. Strange. And they both match the multiverse in a very different way. So I think the state of independent film I think the artistic state, at that level is going strong. There's still a place for it. It's harder now I think to even be seen than it was five years ago, 10 years ago. But I'm talking more about the state of independence. What like, like the alternate like that kind of film?

Alrik Bursell 4:47
Well, yeah, I mean, I felt like you know, the what I'm seeing is, you know, you really Yeah, shoot your ass off to make your movie. You know, and then like, if you're lucky you get into like some some really great film festivals, you know? And then if you're a spike will the 1% you get into like, you know, South by Southwest, or these game changing film festivals that like, you know, agents and managers are suddenly paying attention to you, and you're getting those kinds of offers, and then your career is like, whatever, you know, but that's like such a small percentage of filmmakers, it's like, yeah, like, like, literally the 1%, you know, and then everyone else, it's like, you're basically get get you get into this film festivals, you're trying to get the best absolute distribution deal you possibly can. And then, you know, you get pumped out into until the digital marketplace, most likely, maybe you get on the streamer, maybe you'll get on the stream, or eventually later down the line in your in the life of your movie, but it's kind of like you're just out in the ether. And that's sort of up to you to do the promotion, and to get people to watch your movie. And then in that case, when you go with a distributor, is you gotta like split the profits and everything. But I think, you know, with going with a distributor, you get like, a lot of other bonuses, you know, like,

Alex Ferrari 5:58
Yeah, like not getting paid, like not getting paid. And, and no rewards, like access to a good depends, depends depends on,

Alrik Bursell 6:05
You could probably hire the same PR team, that your distributors hiring, you know, whatever, and do it on your own, and pay that money upfront, but like having that kind of support in the infrastructure can be helpful, like, we did get a lot of access, you know, to different outlets through them. And our, you know, our trailer ended up picking up like, you know, 160,000 plus hits, you know, on YouTube, kind of through, like, the work that that team did have, like, you know, hitting up all these different channels, and like getting the word out on the movie. So I think like, to some extent, like unless you want to be like, you know, managing a PR firm yourself, and then paying that cost up front, which is like, you know, you already spent all this money making the movie, like, do you really have another $5,000 to pay a PR team out of your own pocket, you know, when when you're going to distribute, maybe maybe you do, you know, if you want to do self distribution, but I basically feel like, I guess the state of what I'm saying is that, you know, even at the highest, like, even I had, like a level of success that is like, it's like really exciting and acceptable, we're kind of all on the same playing field still, you know, and like, it's like, kind of up to the filmmaker to to get the word out and their movie, and to, you know, have it, you know, recoup its investment hopefully. And then if not, like, you know, at least get you on to your next project. So I feel like that's sort of what the first feature I really feel like is useful for is like, you know, using that as like, you know, what your short film used to be like, your mom used to be your calling card. Now, I feel like your first feature is your calling card, getting those reviews, like you know, on Rotten Tomatoes, and like getting a rotten tomatoes rating, or, you know, at least just getting some positive reviews from some sort of critic, it's like, that's all ammunition you can use to make your next movie, like when you're approaching investors and protein production companies, you can point to your, your successes, and then that can be like, Okay, well here, let Now trust me to you know, take a little bit more money and go make my next movie, you know,

Alex Ferrari 8:00
So is the is the first feature, in your opinion, a loss leader? Or is there is there so

Alrik Bursell 8:07
I mean, I mean, I feel like there is like some potential but I think especially as a filmmaker, like you're definitely not expecting to get any any kind of payment on the first feature, you know, if you're lucky to get your investors money back, but like you as yourself, like, you're not gonna get any kind of pain.

Alex Ferrari 8:23
But isn't that but isn't that I mean, look, you know, I know we look at things from the artistic filmmaker and sanity Kearney world that we live in, it is insane, right? Here's the delusion that we have ingrained in us at a DNA level to be even in this business. But on a business standpoint, you look at it and like, it makes our business is so insane, that you spotted spend $100,000 on on a product and have no idea truly how to make that money back. Or, or million dollar hopeful hopefully, if you're at the million dollar stage, you've got a few things in place to guarantee it.

Alrik Bursell 9:05
But it seems like a lot of people even at the million dollar range are kind of in the same boat as $100,000 range. It's like I think when you get to the for the presale deal and you're like making a deal with a distributor, you're before you make the movie, and they're given you an MG before you even you know, go out and shoot anything. I think that's kind of where, like, it actually makes a little bit more sense business wise, where you're like, not just like, you know, hemorrhaging money into a project. But, you know, getting those deals isn't easy, you know, and passable set up and everything. I mean, I've seen it done a lot, you know, and like have people on the show and like talk to other people who like this is what they do. But it's it's definitely not like as easy as it sounds, you know, it's pretty hard to get that kind of, you know, that magic little deal to happen.

Alex Ferrari 9:50
Right! Exactly. And it is all those kinds of deals are all star based. They're not. They're not they're not artistic based. They're not like oh you

Alrik Bursell 9:58
It almost doesn't even matter.

Alex Ferrari 9:59
If it means, obviously because we've seen a lot of Nick Cage movies Bruce Willis movie,

Alrik Bursell 10:06
It just has to be like in the right genre. It has to have like the right no member of thrills it has to feature the star enough. And it's like it's got to hit some some beats. But besides that, like, yeah, it can be whatever.

Alex Ferrari 10:17
Yeah. And it's, I mean, I mean, I'm going to AFM this year. Are you going to him this year?

Alrik Bursell 10:23
Going to be out there, though, with multibillionaire. So if anyone's looking for cyber filler and international market. Yeah, we'll be out there on the booth, you know.

Alex Ferrari 10:36
So, you know, Bob, I'm going to be out there at AFM this year. And, and every time I go to AFM, it's just it's a it's an absolute education for people to go out there. Because yeah, even if they have no movie just to walk around to see how movies are sold. It is you have been there, right?

Alrik Bursell 10:52
Yeah, I went once and I tried, I was foolish enough to think that I could try to raise money for the alternate before it was made at AFM. And I did like 20 pitches to all these different companies and everything. And they told me all told me the same thing. It's like, oh, well, either if you have the budget, or you have the cast, or cast and half the budget, then we can talk. But if you don't have at least half the budget, or cast, or cast, you know, then we're not we don't care.

Alex Ferrari 11:18
There's not even a conversation. It's not even a conversation.

Alrik Bursell 11:21
And at that point, it's like, well, if I had cast in money, why would I even need you? I would just make

Alex Ferrari 11:26
Exactly, exactly. But you know, I was talking to a client the other day, who made a movie at the sub $100,000 range. And they they made them and they came to me and they're like, What do you think? And I'm like, You're not gonna make a dime. And then they're like, Well, what do I do and like, recast one of the spot one of your parts with a name actor, go out and get somebody for a day for like 10 or 10, or 15, grand, and Shoot it, shoot them out in a day, pepper them out for the entire movie, make sure there's enough of him in the movie or her in the movie. And now you've got someone on the thumbnail. And now you've got an opportunity to maybe make your money back. But without that person, you're you're dead in the water. And I just know, it's not a made. It's an absolute fact, because of the

Alrik Bursell 12:19
Oh, the kind of movie. Okay,

Alex Ferrari 12:21
That's the thing. It depends on the genre. So the genre of the film was not action. It wasn't, it wasn't one of those jobs. And it wasn't like, our house backyard film. So it wasn't like, it didn't, it didn't have a place to be. So I'm like, Dude, the only way you're gonna even try even remotely have a shot is getting a face on on the thumbnail. And he's exactly what he did. We worked and got a name actor, we worked with a distributor. And we went to the distributor and said, Hey, give me a list of 10 people who you would be interested in this bill, if they were in it. We went through the list and we just started knocking them off and making offers until finally one said yes. And we got him shot him out in the day peppered him throughout the entire movie. He's like, Oh, my God, the movie so much better. I'm like, yes, because you've got a real, like an actor who has real credits, who's a real professionals been doing this for years. And now we're going to go into the marketplace, but there's a fighting chance at that it's sub 100,000. It's sub 100,000. So that's it's a good, it's a good kind of place to be as a filmmaker is a sub 100,000. Because you start going to 5300 every every 10 grand that you go up, you better just know your shit better.

Alrik Bursell 13:34
Yeah, no, it's totally like keeping keeping your costs low. It definitely helps the chance of recruitment for sure. You know, and I think like, if you're self distributing, like if you can make $50,000 That's, you know, a genre film, you know, like an Action, Thriller, Horror, sci fi, whatever. I think the chances of recouping on 50k You know, especially if you're cutting out all the middle people is really high. But you know, then you have to ask yourself, like, what do you want to do with your life? Like, do you want to be you know, promoting a movie and selling a movie for like, two years? Like, it's kind of, you know, some people are really into that. And some people like me, like, don't really want to be like I can, I can spend, you know, like, a couple of months promoting a movie, but like, I can't do it for a year. That's just too much.

Alex Ferrari 14:18
Right! And that's the end. That's another that's another thing that's really interesting, because before you know, when you go to film school, they teach you how to make, you know, $100 million movie. And that's what they teach you to that like, and they tell you, you could do this, you could be the next Chris Nolan. And that's fine. And you might be but chances are, you're not going to be because there's only so many Chris Nolan's in the world. But I think that before there was a problem getting into the business because things are so expensive to make movies were expensive to make good high quality was expensive to make. But now that the bed the barrier to entry is so minimal. You could make I mean, I made my last two features for sub 10,000 and got one of them I got one of them on Hulu, the other one was sold and both of them were sold internationally, and I made my money back fairly quickly. But yeah, but the

Alrik Bursell 15:02
10,000 or less, that's, you know, you know, I mean, you got a chance,

Alex Ferrari 15:08
You gotta, you have a much better chance with with, you know, one had more faces in it than the other one didn't the other one had no stars in it. But it was basically experiments for me, it was just kind of like, let's see what happens. And I was expressing myself as an artist and all that kind of good stuff. But I think the problem we have now it's not that we can't make a movie, it's we can't get our movie seen. So if the filmmaker moving forward doesn't have some plan in place to get the movie in front of eyeballs to get into. And that's why I wrote my book about, you know, finding a niche, focusing on that niche and trying to build product or build films for that niche to get in front of that audience. Either you do it yourself, which I agree with you not everybody's got that, that thing in them that they can sell. So I get that, but they need to have something in place, whether that be working with a PR firm, having a producer who's really good partner with someone who's really good at it. And I think the end is that maybe have a distributor and distributors that I know. And in my experience, they're trying to figure shit out to

Alrik Bursell 16:09
No that and they're kind of in the same boat as we are, you know,

Alex Ferrari 16:14
They don't know what to do either. And they're trying to figure it all out. And I mean, I went to meetings at AFM during the whole distributor debacle, when that went down. And I got on my Yeah, and when I broke that story, I you know, my face was all over the place. So all these distributors were bringing me in to like, try to, you know, whoo, my apparent like two or 3000 filmmakers, I pulled together in a Facebook group that were pissed off a distributor. And they're like, Oh, give us those films. And I'm like, okay, yeah, I'll take the meeting. And I would ask them, and they would just tell me their shtick. And I'm like, let me ask you, what do you do this, he doesn't have any idea how you're going to make money back on these films, he does not. Now we just throw as many, we throw as much shit against the wall as we can, and something usually sticks. And that was really eye opening to me when they said that, because it's just before there was a plan that before there was like, you went to a distributor, they had this, this, this, this, this, this, this, I can go through this, I get money from this than this. And that still does exist at the 5 million and above the Nic Cage films, the, you know, 20 million and below that kind of genre stuff that still exists. But for the 100,000 and below 500,000, or below million and below, unless there's talent involved. It's it's very, very difficult for them to try to find a place in the marketplace. And then also, for when your movie is done. There's about 3000 other films sitting waiting to come in. So yeah, they don't spend as much time on your films. Is that Is that a fair statement?

Alrik Bursell 17:44
I think so. Yeah. I mean, like, when I was talking to my distributor for the alternate, like, you know, he definitely had a little bit more care into his thoughts about it, you know, like, he was like, you know, this, this is similar to a movie that we had a few years ago, we did really well with it, we think that this has a lot of potential to do the same kind of business, you know, and, you know, he kind of like went in it with that way, and that they were very strategic, or the way they were creating the art, I loved my art that I made, I thought it was beautiful. I have it on my, you know, framed poster over there. But like, you know, they're like, all the distributors like my, my international in the US were like, this is just not gonna work, you know, this just is not going to sell. And so then they made one and then like, suddenly that that's the one that everyone likes, it's their own the trailer, that distributor made the US distributor, then international distributors using that same poster, and I guess they're having a lot more success with it. But that poster, so it's just really interesting, the way it all works, and the whole the way the whole business works, and like what is eye catching? What makes people click, you know, and the theories behind it. But again, in the end, like you said, no one really knows. We won't know if it worked until we see the first quarter numbers,

Alex Ferrari 18:50
I'd argue second or third quarter numbers. Because it's, you know, AFM is coming up, and then hopefully, Ken will come up after that. And those would be the two big markets that they go to sell your film at. But it's, you just don't know. And that's the other thing you said very, you said something that's really important for people listening to understand, won't the poster that made them click? That is something that needs to be in the head of filmmakers because there's still this magical dreamlike thing with theatrical and yeah, all that and that's wonderful. And we all you know, many of us grew up with the theatrical experience and I want my movie in a movie everything every filmmaker wants their movie in a theater, because it's it's the ultimate experience of it. But unfortunately, unless you're Chris Nolan, you don't have the juice to do that all the time. So you're gonna live on a thumbnail? Yeah, and

Alrik Bursell 19:53
That is not even the best assignment the best thing for your movie, you know, exactly. Make a movie under a million dollars like you probably don't want To put the movie into theaters, because you're just gonna lose all this money paying for that and like the, the, like the the last you're gonna get from the from the theater owners or whatever. And then, you know, in the end, it's like you're taking taking away juice, as you'd like to say from the, you know, the online sales, because that's where you're really gonna get your money. But if it's like split between theatrical, and you know, the online, like, then you're not going to make as much money online. And, you know, like, that's where your real money I think is going to come in. So I feel like the theatrical is like a really beautiful thing. And if the distributor wants to do it, and they can make it work or whatever, like totally great, like, let's do it, but like, you know, I wouldn't push it filmmaker, I would let the people know what makes money and what doesn't make money, make those decisions, you know, if they think that the actual runs good for your movie, and you're actually gonna see some, some extra revenue from it, then great, but I just don't think that's 90% of, you know, movies at this budget level, you know,

Alex Ferrari 20:56
And isn't it interesting though, that you know, in the 80s, in the 90s, our films had a, a movie, you would be able to either buy it for 20 bucks on DVD, or VHS, or you would get someone would have bought it and other people rent it. Then when TVOD showed up, iTunes showed up, then you got 399 for your movie and 999 for your movie, that was your value of your movie per customer is that before obviously before that theatrical, you know, there was a ticket sale, and you would get a split of the ticket sales. And that was the value of your movie, where in today's world, the Netflix thing, the Netflix effect, and the Amazon Prime effect has now brought our our product down to less than a penny for review. And that's what the value in the marketplace is for our films without a major star or something that loves, like, brings it up or niche or, you know, word of mouth or festival that maybe gives it some sort of juice. But what do you think of that?

Alrik Bursell 21:59
I think that's why behooves you to keep your movie on for sale or rent or as long as possible and like not go to prime not go to these other, you know, avenues until you've really exhausted your sales, through rentals. And in, you know, digital sales, you know, or if you have a DVD or your DVD sales, you know, but I feel like a lot of people I see this even with people who are doing self distribution, they just want the movie to be out so people can see it. So they can like say, Oh, just click on Prime video, just click so they just upload the prime and they get it out quickly. And it's like, oh, no, no, no, if you made a movie for even $1,000 Like, don't just put it on prime, like make your friends and family or your network, rent it or buy it. And then suddenly, you're gonna get that $1,000 back, you know, but if you just put on an app, like you said, you're never gonna get not even $1,000. So you're never gonna get $1,000 back on Amazon Prime. I mean, maybe after like five years.

Alex Ferrari 22:53
Not even not even. I mean, it's literally it's literally they're trying to get fractions of a penny now, like they gotten down to a penny. And they're figuring out and in fractions of a penny for for certain for certain films. But the place that I've seen and I've I've been talking about for a while now is a VOD, a VOD seems to be the place where there is money still to be made. And even more so the next level of a VOD in something that people the filmmakers are really like, their egos get really twisted into not because of this is YouTube. If you can get on these YouTube movie channels that have 1,000,002 million, 5 million subscribers, and get a piece of that ad revenue, which is do YouTube as a VOD, you know, it's not just to be included in and freebie these are. These are real places. I see the numbers from from distributors. And I'm like, wow, this is the Avon is the place where I still make the most money off of my movies. And I think it's kind of where we're the it's the hopefully the place where we can make the most money because at that point is like someone clicks. And if your movie is good enough, and keeps them playing and watching, you're gonna get ad revenue. So it really is about how good your movie is. Have you heard the same thing and your world? Pretty much?

Alrik Bursell 24:16
Yeah, I feel like a VOD is becoming like a real crown jewel for returns for films at our level, you know, and some people even recommend, like just go straight to a bar and like don't even spend time on you know, the rental and the sales but like I feel like you know, for certain movies or just I guess certain distributors like they still feel that that's a role, you know, great place to make, you know, a big chunk of revenue. So they still want the six months or whatever a year, however long it is like doing you know those sales and then go to Avon afterwards.

Alex Ferrari 24:48
You know, it's really interesting with the whole TiVo thing, because everybody I talked to everybody I talked to you. Nobody makes money on TV unless you can drive traffic unless you can drive traffic and most distributors don't understand how to drive traffic, sit to hold it for six months. And T VOD is I feel I mean, unless the numbers are coming in, you're like, oh shit. But T VOD is just because it's up on iTunes and up on Amazon Prime Amazon to purchase or rent unless you can.

Alrik Bursell 25:17
Although Yeah, this is in YouTube and whatnot.

Alex Ferrari 25:19
Fandango. We know that stuff. You get five cents from Fandango. And you'd be amazed. But it's I talked to so many distributors now who are just like, I just want to go to Avon in the filmmakers are freaking out. And they go, they just don't understand that that's where the money is. And if you could drive all the traffic from the beginning to a VOD, you'll make more money than you will letting it sit on T VOD, because, unless you can drive traffic look, I had I had a success story of entrepreneurs successful Mark Toya who made a million dollar robot, you know, action movie in this, which sounds horrible in the in the jungle?

Alrik Bursell 25:57
To me, I love rice kinds of movies.

Alex Ferrari 25:59
What that movie, but the reason why that works is because the visual effects were on par with anything that the Marvel did Marvel Studios has ever put out. It's so good. I can't express to you how good it is. So he's gotta hear it. He had a over a million dollar deal with a distributor. And he just looked at the contract. He's like, I'm never gonna get my money. upfront, by the way, it was it was a million something upfront. And he's like, I'm never gonna make my money with the way this contracts laid out. Screw it. I'm just going to self distribute. And he self distributed the whole thing. And he's made I think it's six, six or $7 million. At this point. He made all his money. He made all the money back of the budget in three months on T VOD. But he ran Facebook ads. He ran YouTube ads here and just he was that PR firm that you're talking about? Right? Because he comes from a commercial background and he enjoyed it. And it worked fine for him. But it is possible in today's world, and he's still making money still making money. He's like, Yeah, I'm going to release another one. I'm going to I'm going to put another TV ad campaign out and I'm just and he's still got while is it? I don't think he's gone. I don't think he's gone to a VOD yet. I think he's he might have gone to it. Yeah, he did go to Avon prime. Yeah, he did to prime. And he put he's like Alex, I was making. I think he said like 30,000 a month on a VOD. And he was a billion minutes stream. And he's like, this is ridiculous. Why am I getting such little money? For so much? Amazon is getting so it's just like, but this world that we live in? It's crazy. Yeah.

Alrik Bursell 27:34
I wonder if he because I was on Prime right. Getting that which one of the one where it's like, you know, he was getting billions of images viewed and then getting 30,000 hours back. That was Amazon Prime.

Alex Ferrari 27:44
Yeah. But then he took by the way, he took it off Amazon Prime. He's like, screw this. And I'll just he's done. So he won't he's not doing any AVOD anymore. Right now. He might go into the two b's.

Alrik Bursell 27:54
I was wondering like what is to retail? It must be way better than that. You know, like if he was getting an early minutes viewed on TV, he probably getting lots and lots of money back?

Alex Ferrari 28:02
I'm not sure. And I have to remember. I'm not sure if he's on TV already. He hasn't been on TV yet. But that film will be top 10. On TV. It was called monsters of man. Okay, how to look at Monster monsters of man. Yeah, I have two interviews with them. The first one was us discussing him going on this adventure to do a million dollar self distribution experiment because he didn't give a care. He didn't care about the money. And he's like, Screw it. I don't care. And then two and a half years later, he comes back and he's like, Yeah, made about six $7 million at this. And I'm still going. Thank you. Thank you for your book, Alex. I'm like, Oh, Jesus. All right. So. So there is that was a wonderful case. That's a lot. That's like a turn. But it is a huge return. But he even told me he's like, I go he's gonna be a sequel. Because probably not because this is not a real business. He because he comes from the commercial world. So he's been doing commercials for 30 years. And he goes, That's yeah, he goes, Alex, I make more money on my stock footage than I do doing this stuff. Because it's that's a real business. And I was like, wow, and he's a businessman, and he's, you know, owns real estate and other things like that. So it's really interesting to see. And he and by the way he's been offered. He's been talking to all the big I mean, he won't say who but we all know, there's probably a superhero company or two that's talked to him already. And he's, and he's because what he was able to do, he was top I think when he went on to on iTunes, he was like number two. I think I think endgame was the only thing ahead of him. Like he just he just and people were like, Who the hell is this guy? Where did he come from? Why is this look so good? He did this for how much shadow Shadow Ball on reds. He's like had three or four reds with them and shattered all up in the jungles of the Philippines and stuff like that. Never never built a set, never built a set everything location.

Alrik Bursell 29:53
Wow. Wow, amazing.

Alex Ferrari 29:55
These are all great. These are great stories. But that's an anomaly. You're talking about it. Yeah,

Alrik Bursell 30:01
I mean, it kind of brings me to like, my overall point about independent filmmaking is like you're not, you're not really doing it for the money, right? You're doing it because you want to make movies. And because you have stories to tell, and you this is, this is the thing that you want to do with your life. And I don't think you even think you're doing it to like, necessarily start this career, that's going to be your main thing forever. I mean, we all hope that's what it ends up being. And we all hope that we get to that level. But I think if you're going out to make an independent film, like you should be just thinking about it as like, you're creating this piece of art that you need to create, because you are an artist, and you're a filmmaker, and you have the story that you have to tell and share with the world and that you want people to see. But like putting any more weight behind this than that, I think you're just gonna be let down. Because like, if you're, if you're going into it, like trying to make a bunch of money, or even getting a return on your investment, or, you know, getting an agent or a manager or starting your career, or you're gonna like start directing television, or I'm gonna get offers from Marvel or whatever, like all those kinds of things, like, you know, that's all pipe dream stuff. And I think like if you go into making your movie with those sort of pipe dreams, and that's like your expectation, there's nowhere that you can go but down, like, you're only going to be let down from experience. But if you go into it thinking like I have this movie I want to make, I'm really excited about it, I love the story. Like I really want to get this out to show people I want my movie to, you know, hopefully inspire someone else to make their movie or like, inspire them to think about like characters or my story, or whatever it is, if you go into it with that, like, you're more than likely going to enjoy the experience, because you're probably going to hear from at least one or two people who connected with your movie once you finally finish it and release it, you know. And so I think those are the kinds of reasons we should be going into making a movie like we should be focusing on the art itself, like not the outcomes of the art, which are completely out of our control. You know,

Alex Ferrari 31:51
That's what I do with my first two movies, I did the exact same thing. I finally because most of my career, I was under that delusion, of like this short film is going to blow me up or this thing is the thing that's going to take me to

Alrik Bursell 32:04
Have that right,

Alex Ferrari 32:05
Right. Right. So then I finally just I went, I'm like, I'm just gonna go make a movie. 3030 days later, I was shooting my movie after the moment, I said, I'm gonna go make a movie. And then that's the one that gets sold to Hulu. And that's the one that gets sold internationally. And then I shoot that other one at Sundance for four days. And, you know, and just go and just make a movie. I'm like, I don't know what's gonna happen with it. I as I was flying home, I was like, I don't know if I have a movie. Like, I didn't have time to see if I shot all the footage I needed. I don't know, I think I did. You know, things like that. So it's kind of like this. I when I let go of the outcome, man became much easier, much more fun to make movies. But let me ask you this, then why, and I know you've met a lot of filmmakers. And I know you are one as well as I, why is there so much delusion? In this profession? I mean, Cookie makers don't have this delusion, like I'm gonna make the greatest cookie ever. Generally doesn't. It doesn't work in other architects like, I don't want to make the biggest figures ever think of Frank Lloyd who? I'm the one like you don't say I'm sure they don't those people.

Alrik Bursell 33:10
Architects maybe a little bit closer that cookie makers but

Alex Ferrari 33:14
But but generally speaking, it's not. It's not that the infestation in the entire populace of that, that that group of artists is not as delusional as filmmakers and screenwriters for that matter, because what is it about this art form? Painters aren't that musicians? Maybe? But again, there's no, there's not that it's just I find such a delusion in what we do with so many people. So why do you think that?

Alrik Bursell 33:44
I can, I feel like it's embedded in the art form in a lot of ways. You know, like, if you look at, like, just think of like, the classic phrase, like, I'm gonna make you a star kid, you know, it's like, this has been going on since the beginning of cinema, like this whole idea that like, you can be a star on the stage of the screen, you know, and so I think you're going into making your movie, it's kind of natural to think like, yes, like, I could be the next Robert Rodriguez. Like, he did it. He scrapped his movie together as $7,000 or whatever. And like, now, he's a big star, like, I could be like Robert Rodriguez or Quentin Tarantino, or, like, you know, all these, like, complete, like, outliers in the industry. And it's like, you just, you know, you fall in love with these movies in with these artists, and then you kind of like, you know, start to see, like, Oh, I could be like that, like, that could be me, you know, you sort of see your idea of your movie and your art getting to that level. And so I think it's just sort of a natural progression. But I think, you know, it's obviously completely misguided. And I think it's into some way it's almost sold to us, you know, like, like, oh, well, what are the filmmakers by the Hollywood selves behind Hollywood? It's like this, like really enticing, like, yeah, come out to Hollywood and make your fortune, you know, it's like, you know, it's like this whole like, sort of thing and I think You know, you gotta look at and like maybe back, you know, in the 80s in the 90s, like it was much more likely that that could work out for you in that way.

Alex Ferrari 35:08
But less competition, less competition different marketplace. Absolutely. I know every month marketplace Yeah, every every in the 90s. Every month there was a Richard Linklater, a Spike Lee, John Singleton, Robert Rodriguez Tarantino and Kevin Smith. I mean, I could just keep the list keeps going on and on. Of every almost every month, it was one of these magical stories, Napoleon Dynamite, Joe Carnahan. I mean, it was just constant in the 90s

Alrik Bursell 35:32
More lucrative back then to like, AHS marketplace, you know, D Mark, in the marketplace, like, I think those two kind of lead into each other. And like, it was a way that people could, you could make a movie for zero money, and you could make a big profit, you know, like, and, obviously, movies cost a lot more back then. So it couldn't be zero. But like, you could make a movie for like, whatever, half a million dollars, a million dollars or something. And then like, you know, get a big profit back. But, but yeah, it's just not the same anymore. Like, you know, like, like, it's like the whole Napster effect of everything. It's affected films, it's affected everything, you know, all art form is suffering for it. And I think like now, you basically, you can't get that big of return on a movie so easily. It's like it's much, much more difficult. And I think going into it, like, as a filmmaker, you should just be aware of what you're up against. And that like, these fantastical fantasy outcomes are like so so unlikely that they should not at all be embedded in your your, your hopes and dreams for the success of your movie. Like you should definitely try to like, like, it's good to have dreams. It's good to have fantasies, but it's good to separate rate them from the art you're creating. Because like you don't want it to be entangled, because then you're just going to think that your art sucks if you're not famous after you make it.

Alex Ferrari 36:51
Right. And then you go into a depression, and then you just figuring it out, and all this kind of stuff. But isn't it fascinating that I know a lot of people listening to us right now are saying that's for everybody else. That's not going to be me. Yeah. Am I wrong? Am I wrong? Am I wrong? How many people listening right now have that thought in their head? Like, that's for other people? That doesn't? That's not me. And

Alrik Bursell 37:15
The other one that's different.

Alex Ferrari 37:17
But dude, I'd say the same thing. You said the same thing. We all we all go through this process. And only after years of being battle hardened by the business. And by the way, all of those stories that we're talking about the Roberts and the and the Clintons and the Kevin Smith's and all of that stuff. I've had a lot of those guys on the show. And I've talked to them about their struggles at the beginning. And they knew it was real for them at the beginning to hear they had success. But there was no guarantee for that success. And by the way, the one common The one common thing that I've gotten from all of those kind of like those 90s filmmakers I've had a pleasure of talking to is none of them had an outcome that they had in mind. None of them none of Robert wanted to go to the straight video market. That was a that's all he cared about.

Alrik Bursell 38:08
Business he saw that business opportunity. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 38:11
Right that was it. He wasn't expecting to get signed by Sony and and get it and he didn't even want a mariachi to be released. He's like, no, no, no, no, that was just I was gonna go straight to video. I didn't know that's not my first movie. He was freaking out about it. And like it's something like what Ed Burns did with Brothers McMullen where he was working as a PA at E.T. Entertainment Tonight. And they had Robert Redford showed up to do press for quiz show. And in the elevator as the doors are closing, Edward comes in hands him a VHS copy of brothers like Bolton's rough night. Here. This is my movie, Robert, please take a look at it. Three months later gets a call from Sundance. Yeah, Robert gave us a VHS how's that movie coming along? It's an almost done how can you plan that? That's what that was. Then saying like you hear these kinds of stories, you're just like, but that's the stuff that feeds the delusion. I think it just it's we all like how many people listening right now have put together a business plan? Probably not a lot but the people who have put together a business plan to raise money are using these as references of how movies are made. Blair Witch Project. Paranormal Activity, Napoleon Dynamite. Like did you think that

Alrik Bursell 39:27
You're gonna take the outliers off your

Alex Ferrari 39:32
You can't do it but that's every time I've read a business proposal. If it's a horror movie, absolutely. Blair Witch and, and paranormal activity are they and saw and saw

Alrik Bursell 39:41
Yeah, you got to take those out. You got to like look at the movies that are like, you know, not the ones that you know, completely exceeded expectations and blew up and were special movies of the moment or whatever, you know, like, like looking at like I don't know, like when I when I was making my deck for the altar and I looked at this movie called Spring I don't know if you've seen spring but um It's like a sci fi thriller that was made for, you know, right around the same budget as my movie. It did get to Sunday. And that Sunday in South by Southwest, I believe and you know, it did really well, I think was an XYZ movie. But like, those are the kinds of movies I was looking at, like ones that were made around for the same budget as mine, you know, didn't have stars, like, mine was gonna have stars and like, try to find those movies that look like your movie. But like, don't put a movie in there that doesn't look like your movie, because then you're instantly gonna do you know displeased and in mislead even your investors to, you know, thinking that, you know, you're gonna get something that you you can never deliver, you know,

Alex Ferrari 40:37
Now let's talk about your new movie, the alternate how, how long did this film get? Just was just getting started, get made?

Alrik Bursell 40:45
Well, so yeah, I wrote the first draft and like, I believe it was March of 2014. So what's that, like, over eight years, until like, this,

Alex Ferrari 40:55
This is insanity. This is the insanity that we live in. As artists,

Alrik Bursell 40:58
It takes a long time takes a long time. I mean, you know, and I went to AFM to try to sell it or to raise money for it in 2017. And so basically, from 2017, till we shot in 20, the end of 2019. That was like when I was like, actively working on it, and like trying to get it made, you know, I mean, I was still working out that whole other time. But it was more like just trying to figure things out. And, you know, rewriting and rewriting and rewriting and, you know, failing at raising money over and over again. But then 2017 is when I raised my first amount of money, and then like, met my producer, you know, raise more money, and then eventually, you know, got it made a couple of years later. So yeah, it's been a while. It's been a while.

Alex Ferrari 41:40
It's been it's been a while, right? I always love asking this question of filmmakers. What was the, you know, as a director, there's always that day that the entire world comes crashing down around you. And that's generally everyday but what was the worst one on this day? What was the worst like moment in the production? And how did you overcome it?

Alrik Bursell 42:00
Yeah, I think it was the second day maybe of the shoot. And we were setting up the basement office set up for Jake, he's got this, you know, really cruddy office that he does his editing. And he's a filmmaker, sort of, like autobiographical in some way.

Alex Ferrari 42:15
I was, I was about to say, I was about to say,

Alrik Bursell 42:18
He's got a big beard, you know, come on, like, whatever. So, yeah, it was, I was in charge of the office, because I was I had all I was using my own computers, as Jake's computers in the office scene. So I was the one who was, you know, entrusted to, you know, make sure the computers were working and make sure that everything on the screen that needed to be, you know, on the screen was on the screen, and I was having all these issues, just trying to get set up, we were like, way behind, like, three hours behind on the second day in the office. And I had to like go and like, at lunch, I had to, like buy a hard drive, and like go pay like, like, get some money to pay somebody, like because I'm a producer too. So I had to like go to the bank get like a large amount of money. And like buy a hard drive. And like get back that was like during lunch and then get back and a half hour, 45 minutes or whatever to like, you know, direct and then somehow eat at some point. And I was just so upset man, oh, my God, and I recorded audio logs while I was making the movie. So like on on my podcast making movies, it's hard, you can actually hear the log of me like on my lunch break, like talking into the phone and just like freaking out about how everything is going wrong. And how we ever came in, I think I got back to the set after after getting those things. I just talked to my DP, I talked to my production designer. And we're just like, look, we're just going to do, we're just gonna, these are the scenes that we're going to be able to do today. This is what we're going to do, we're going to revise a schedule, I talked to my ad, obviously, and we just like, sort of broke down how you're going to solve it we got through the day. I don't think we went over if we did wasn't much. And then you know, we kind of had had to replan the rest of the week to make it work. And I think that was when we added another day to production because we were supposed to be out of the office in three days. And I think we ended up shooting in the office seating for four because we just had too much we had to do in there. But yeah, I think the way I overcame it was just like having these conversations with my team. Breathing slowing down, and then just you know, looking at the schedule, and then just like going, just checking off things that we don't have time to do moving them to another day and and making the movie man and you know, it ended up working out.

Alex Ferrari 44:24
Now, going with the theme of what the alternate is about which is kind of like alternate universes in the multiverse and that kind of thing. What would you if you had an opportunity to go back and talk to your younger self? And just for one thing, you could tell him and go okay, dude, this is going to be the trip about your filmmaking career. What is that one thing you wish you would have known at the beginning of your career that was really difficult for you to learn along the way?

Alrik Bursell 44:57
That you really just like you don't need anything Special, like, you don't need any, like special person or special chip or is this, there's nothing that you can learn, that's going to open up the doors and like, you know, make you able to make your movie, like, you just have to make your movie, you know, and I think like, once I made the feature, it was sort of like, this is just like making a short, but like, you know, 100 times harder, you know, it's just like, you know, and it's not like, you know, shorts, 10 minutes in the movies, 100 minutes, it's not like 10 times, it's literally 100 times harder to make a feature. But I think if I just had known that, you just have to do it yourself. And the same thing that I did to make my short is the same, it's the same exact process I'd have to do to make my feature, but I just knew that and I knew that I didn't need any special, you know, sign of approval or, you know, manager or agent or big production company or like big check from an investor or whatever if I if I knew that it wasn't about that and it was just about doing the same thing I've been doing. I think I might have been able to make the feature a little bit sooner if I had that kind of that kind of knowledge and confirmation that it's just like you just need to do it you know?

Alex Ferrari 46:08
Amen brother preach baby preach. I think so many of us always wait for permission to thy permission for somebody Yeah, from somebody didn't make it and I think I got caught up in that same thing. That's why I was like, I was waiting for permission for 40 years. And I just said screw it. I'm just gonna go make my movie the way I want to go make it I'm just gonna grab a camera and grab some friends and make a movie. And employ worked out. You know, thank God it worked out. But yeah, we are. I think that's also built into the system is like, Hey, you could be a star kid. But you need my permission first. Exactly. And that's kind of in the in the DNA of us as well. We're now we're trying to just like, No, you can go and do it yourself. And you can get out.

Alrik Bursell 46:52
There's nothing stopping you. You know, like, no matter who you are, where you are, like, you have the ability to go make your movie, you just need to buckle down and do it. You know,

Alex Ferrari 47:01
And to be smart and to be smart about it. Don't go and make a you know, 100 100,000 or $500,000 period drama piece with no stars in it. Expect to make your money back.

Alrik Bursell 47:12
Please don't do that. Movie. I mean, I just haven't I love genre movies. And that's all I make, you know. So like, that's what I do. But yeah, I'd say like, for your first feature, if you make it a genre movie, you're gonna have way better chance at success. And if you go with any other genre like John drama or even comedy comedies are hard, man, you know,

Alex Ferrari 47:32
Comedies and dramas are are just, we just walk around AFM and tell me how many comedies and dramas not family films, not faith

Alrik Bursell 47:44
Flintstones. Flintstones based on family

Alex Ferrari 47:47
Different different conversation. Why? Because you're focused on a niche, you know, throw Dean Cain in and have a puppy save Christmas, and you've got a movie that's going to sell.

Alrik Bursell 48:00
You gotta made man.

Alex Ferrari 48:01
I mean, is it the dog that saves Christmas movie? I've said it so many times on the show. Make a dog the same as Christmas movie? You'll sell it?

Alrik Bursell 48:08
Yeah, no kidding. I feel like I haven't a couple of filmmakers on who do faith based and family films. And yeah, they're doing good. Just to say that I don't really good.

Alex Ferrari 48:18
They do? Well, because it's an it's an audience that not a lot of filmmakers focus on and they need content. That's one area that doesn't have a lot of content. Family Films, believe it or not, not a lot of content, even romance, like romantic comedies. Hallmark has that kind of covered. But um, yeah, it's just tough, man. It is tough. So the Go twos are always action thrillers, and sci fi. And on a lesser extent, horror, obviously. But there's so much yeah, it's whole it because it's so easy to do a horror movie like that's, I mean, in the sense of production, not making a good horror movie, but just in the sense of production. Anybody can go get a monster mask, go in the forest kill a bunch of teenagers and then you got a horror movie, or scary movie in the house or something like that. And believe me, I've seen that movie too many times. Yes.

Alrik Bursell 49:13
Rather, the thing that's so funny is is a really good version of that movie that everybody's gonna want to watch a billion times, but there's also like, 1000 bad versions.

Alex Ferrari 49:25
Exact look, there's jaws and there's Sharknado and I don't know how many times I'm gonna watch Sharknado I've never seen it. I think I've seen clips of it.

Alrik Bursell 49:35
But just think of the money man Sharknado Boy, that was a success, but on success,

Alex Ferrari 49:41
But it was in by the way launched an entire genre of like, you know, the alligator you hurricane and like, you know, Velociraptor preacher or whatever that movie was and they just, they just started combining crazy things after Sharknado but when you hear Sharknado you're like, Oh, yeah. understand what that means. Yeah, it's just yeah, I get it. Tornadoes with sharks. Yeah, got it. Got it done. Done. But if you're gonna watch a killer shark movie, which is the one you're gonna watch again and again, it's jobs. Yeah. No Holds still holds to this day. Even with the fake shark. It's still wonder,

Alrik Bursell 50:14
I wonder what our children will be saying about jobs in 1020 years. If they'll be like, yeah, JAWS is so fantastic or Jaws is gonna die out with our generation.

Alex Ferrari 50:23
I don't. I don't, man. Jaws is a masterpiece in the sense that it's just, I think, because we don't see the shark so often. And because that's the reason if we saw a lot of shark, he would have it'd be dated. Yeah, but that's one of those movies that you like it was in the 70s There's a handful of 70s films that hold there's a lot but there's, but like the ones that stick out, like in the especially in this genre range. There's not a lot of genre. 70s films, there's great dramas, there's, you know, but like genre, JAWS obviously Star Wars movie like Rocky. Yeah, rocky holes.

Alrik Bursell 51:05
It's so good. So good. Yeah, these are the requirements. And these are like my favorite movies. Like, we I mean, alien.

Alex Ferrari 51:14
Alien is, I mean, alien is alien. I mean, but But again, it was, it was done at such a high level at that time. So Jaws is is a masterpiece. It is an absolute masterpiece, and in horror, and in thriller. And what Steven was able to do in that film is will never be redone. It's just you think about like,

Alrik Bursell 51:33
What he went through to get made and like how many days they shot and like the whole month, the whole shark thing? And it's like, it's crazy, man. It's crazy. No, it

Alex Ferrari 51:43
was it was insane. Insane. One day, I'll have Steven on the show. And I'll ask

Alrik Bursell 51:47
Please, can I can I sit in the corner when you have Steven on the show and listen in I would love.

Alex Ferrari 51:53
I'm sure everybody's gonna want to. I'm gonna want to sit in the corner. One day. So this is where I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Alrik Bursell 52:11
Yeah, just just make your movie. And if it's a short, if you haven't made a short yet make make a couple of shorts. If you've made a couple of shorts and you want to make a feature, go make a feature. Even if your heart is telling you I need to make a feature. I haven't never made anything before in my life. Make the feature just go out and make whatever you your heart is learn you know make because that's what's going to be good. And then that's what you'll learn from

Alex Ferrari 52:35
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Alrik Bursell 52:41
Yeah, I think that like, you know, you basically you don't need permission. You know, like we were talking about before that you just need to go do do it with your team, create your network, create your family to go help you make your movies because like you're not going to be able to do it on your own. So find those those those collaborators and stick with them because they make all the difference.

Alex Ferrari 53:01
And three of your favorite films of all time.

Alrik Bursell 53:04
Good fellas. Alien Terminator.

Alex Ferrari 53:08
Solid, solid lists or solid solid list. I throw Alien and Aliens in there both because yeah, extra pieces.

Alrik Bursell 53:16
I was gonna say Alien and Aliens. I was like, That's too late. I gotta throw another one in there that I love to it's a terminator. First Terminator.

Alex Ferrari 53:24
Yeah, and Terminator two is also another masterpiece as well. But and where can people see the alternate and and also to find out what you're doing and the good work that you're doing.

Alrik Bursell 53:35
So if you go to my website, www.alrikbursell.com You can find links to the alternate and all the places and everything. It's, it's on Amazon, it's on Apple TV, iTunes, it's on Vudu. Pretty much any place that you can rent and buy a digital movie, you'll be able to find the alternate so go look for it and you know, buy it rent it and rate it, rate it wherever you can, you know, Rotten Tomatoes, you know, whatever IMDb letterbox or any of the places ratings would be great and be honest that you know and love good one. But you know, I want your honesty too.

Alex Ferrari 54:10
No honestly, just only good ones, please. I don't care about honestly.

Alrik Bursell 54:16
Oh, yeah. And I also have a podcast called Making Moves as hard. You can find us at making movies as hard.com we are only released one episode a week. I'm like Alex who can manage to release like 1000 episodes every week. But yeah, if you if you love these kinds of podcasts, you might like ours too.

Alex Ferrari 54:33
It's very I highly recommend their podcasts it is I've been I've been a guest on it a few I think a couple times if I'm not mistaken. Yeah, twice. I'm we're do we're due for another one soon. I think we're gonna might be doing one.

Alrik Bursell 54:46
We might be doing something very special. We can't announce it yet.

Alex Ferrari 54:48
I can't say anything. Maybe something's happening maybe. But, but listen, I mean, thank you so much for coming on the show and in talking shop with me and congrats. After this epic long, almost 10 years, almost like what eight years

Alrik Bursell 55:05
Almost nine years, nine now

Alex Ferrari 55:08
Almost nine years getting this me you finally you finally gave birth to this baby indeed yours. But Congratulations, brother and thank you for all the hard work you do and helping filmmakers out there as well my friend.

Alrik Bursell 55:22
Thanks, Alex. Thanks to you too. And yeah, I love your show and I love all the things you do and yeah, keep it going, man because if you're not around, I don't know what we would do.

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IFH 621: The Art of Directing Horror Comedies with Damon Thomas

Damon Thomas is well known for making documentaries. He’s documentaries includes Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and David Beckham: A Footballer’s Story. He also directed the hit shows Killing Eve (2018), Beethoven (2005) and Dracula (2020).

His latest film “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” is a 2022 American supernatural comedy horror film from a screenplay by Jenna Lamia, based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Grady Hendrix. In 1988 best friends Abby and Gretchen navigate boys, pop culture and a paranormal force clinging to Gretchen. With help from a mall exorcist, Abby is determined to compel the demon back to the pits of hell — if it doesn’t kill Gretchen first.

The film stars Elsie Fisher, Amiah Miller, Cathy Ang and Rachel Ogechi Kanu. The film was released on Prime Video on September 30, 2022.

Enjoy my conversation with Damon Thomas.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Damon Thomas 0:00
It's not It's that thing again. I'm not overreaching. Does this feel right? It's just sitting right? You know, you have to constantly be your own worst critic guy, or is this crap?

Alex Ferrari 0:10
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, Damon Thomas. How you doing Damon?

Damon Thomas 0:26
Great, great bit tired. We had the screening last night the premiere, it was like 300 people at the Art fest. So it was a big night. Live Reactions like talking about it was a great night. I'm really pleased to be here.

Alex Ferrari 0:40
Great, my friend. Congratulations on your new film my best friend's actress exorcism, which is as insane as it sounds. Right. It's one of those titles like Sharknado like you know what you're gonna get?

Damon Thomas 0:56
I 100% agree with it. Like, as soon as I got sent that in my inbox, like in 2019. And it was like my best friend's exorcism. I thought this brilliant or, you know, you just can't wait to read it. And every moment since I got signed up to do it, where people say to me, Hey, what you're up to and I go, I'm doing my best friend's exorcism. People always smile. It's just, I mean, they go wow, really? And they go Yeah. I said, Well, you know, what is about

Alex Ferrari 1:26
It's about my best friend's exorcism. I mean, it's, it's, it's perfect. I mean, it's like jaw is like, you know what you're gonna get?

Damon Thomas 1:34
Wait. And yeah, so then you say is certainly at is great.

Alex Ferrari 1:42
You had me at hello. Hello. That's the brilliant part about it, too, as I was watching him just going. I love the 80s. I mean, everyone's doing 80s stuff now and Stranger Things is brought it back and made it cool. But for my generation, and I'm assuming yours as well, the 80s You know, is awesome.

Damon Thomas 2:03
So my first question is simpler times, right?

Alex Ferrari 2:06
Oh my gosh, can you America, simpler times when there was no Internet, there was no social media. I mean, there was you barely had remote controls on the television.

Damon Thomas 2:14
Right? I mean, I mean, when you think about you had to if you are going to meet someone you phoned, and if you had a dial up phone, you would

Alex Ferrari 2:24
Tatatatatata

Damon Thomas 2:24
He would slip on like the seven digit you go put the phone down, go start that whole thing again. And then you call your friend and say like, I meet you there, put the phone down, you go to that place. And if they weren't there, you were like, where are they? And then you'd have to find a phone box, call their house and go, do you know where they are? And they go where they left? 20 minutes?

Alex Ferrari 2:45
No, no, it's like yours last.

Damon Thomas 2:51
Oh, so you know, slight sort of off topic. But the feeling of boredom was something to behold back in the 80s. You know, what, if you have nothing to do, there wasn't that instant, kind of like dopamine hit off something new from you're like, oh, let's go down a rabbit hole down the internet now. And you would just use a stare and feel so bored. It was untrue. It was like a sort of sport. It was like, profound, bored.

Alex Ferrari 3:19
On you had three channels. And if nothing was on that you liked. You were pretty much done. Until you had a friend who had cable. Yeah, then you would go over and maybe get three more channels. And then you'd be if there's nothing there. You have to go outside and actually interact with other human beings. Scary territory.

Damon Thomas 3:35
Exactly. Or you had to like think of something to do didn't you had to go read a book? I get ya read. I mean, God read a book. I mean, wow. Anyway, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 3:47
it's just a bunch of now we just sound like two old farts talk

Damon Thomas 3:52
Said it

Alex Ferrari 3:54
Just two old farts talking about the old. Exactly, exactly. So my first question, sir, is how and why did you want to get into this insanity? That is the film business?

Damon Thomas 4:07
Oh, yeah. For me, it started when I watched Blade Runner in the cinema. Now, I just went, I need to be in that somewhere I need to be in that. I mean, even back then there was so little information about what that was working in the film industry. There was like we used to have this program that was just called film or whatever the year it was that Barry Norman used to present it was going to film 1985 or database two. And then you would just watch that and that was the only information and occasion you'd have an answer documentary. And that was nothing else. And then you might look up films in in encyclopedias, and now,

Alex Ferrari 4:46
We're dating ourselves so badly.

Damon Thomas 4:52
But the funny thing is my daughter that who's like 15 or takes me it was really interesting in that movie, they were like broke the fourth wall and you No, she's got her whole sorts of like terms of reference about filmmaking and everything is so amazing that you kind of got I just feeling we were just in the darkness in the wilderness. And so, so that I kind of got into documentaries. And then I kind of came, you know, I took me a long while to sort of find my roots into drama and started directing drama. But then, of course, I just always wanted to make the movie,

Alex Ferrari 5:29
Isn't it? Isn't it interesting, though, that I have kids as well, and they are, but you know, much more educated then. Because it's just so much more information about everything. Yeah. I mean, the you would get the occasional Star Wars making up or the Indiana Jones making and that was pretty much it. I mean, you didn't see anything else until in the later 80s. When, you know, then it started to become a little bit better than nine DVD commentaries and laser discs. Now really old commentaries on the laser, the criteria, laser distance, stuff like that,

Damon Thomas 5:58
Didn't you want it to hear like how he did stuff you? It was like, you know, behind the curtain, the The Wizard of Oz, it's like, how are they doing this stuff? How is it being made? How'd you do this? And whereas now they were, you can just go on YouTube and go, like, how do you do that, I'll just put it in, you know, and I'll find someone telling me how it's done. Or if someone would have made a film about it, it's, that is sort of great, because it opens it up to everybody in a way.

Alex Ferrari 6:24
But then then the bad thing is it opens it up to everybody. So now before you didn't have as much competition, like I always tell people like in the 80s, if you finished a film on 35, it was sold. Like you just good, bad. I mean, Toxic Avenger got theatrical release, like, it doesn't really matter. But now everybody's making a movie. And now it's about getting seen and all of that kind of stuff. But you were saying about your daughter knowing had the reference from references about that. The generation that's, that's now it is so educated in story. It is so difficult for the for us as filmmakers and storytellers. Because make something that's interesting that doesn't hasn't been done before. And every year that goes by, it's getting harder, and harder and harder to because, you know, things that worked in the 70s and 80s. Just don't they can't work and like I was showing, I think it was some kids were watching Rocky the other day, Rocky, Rocky, and they're like, because every because they've just seen every buddy rip off rocky. Yeah, for the last 4050 years. So it doesn't have the same umph to it as it used to. So it's how do you as a storyteller, kind of kind of deal with that? Because it is something very, very difficult things that Hitchcock never had to deal with weed.

Damon Thomas 7:47
I mean, I suppose every genre has tropes. So and the you know, the horror genre is a very broad church from slasher movies, to psychological horror, to sci fi horror, you know, to alien aliens knows amazing movies to kind of comedy horror. And so you either the, The Exorcist is sort of like the benchmark of like the hand. So Handbook of cartoons, you know, do you? Are you going to do the vault net? Are you going to do the, you know, are you going to do and, and how are you going to do it? And it's sort of interesting, because you're always going to disappoint someone, you're always going to someone's gonna go up. I wasn't scary. But the thing about it is I did it, what want the film to have this sort of tone that felt like an 80s movie. And then it kind of went into a completely new realm of like, oh, wait, you know, where did that come from? I wanted to stay within the same thing. So the exorcism for me was a great, I thought, can we pull off this thing where it's kind of scary and quite disturbing, but then it's funny. It's like, relieved by this real character of Christian lemma. And the thing is, because once you he's sort of desperate, but and, you know, when I when I first met Chris, we were talking about it rehearsing. I said, he's sort of a loser, but he's kind of a bit cocky. But he cocky or cocky loser? Yeah. And he does want this. He does want it really bad. So that when the demon shows himself and he just goes like, yes. Even a high five, she's totally chocolate sized. And for me, and it was great watching it last night, because people really enjoyed that moment, and really enjoyed Christian lemon. And I think actually, it's it showed me that there's kind of quite a nice group dynamic when you think you could really watch this movie with a group of friends. Oh, yeah. It's not like I don't think it's a sort of, well, you know, people will watch obviously watch your mobile device devices all the time, but it actually made me really think about that group experience of watching movies. You know, I went to the cinema As I see Thor and my son, you know, a week ago and now it's it is great being in the cinema, isn't it? There's something that is said. That's why I thought last night I thought it actually really helps when everyone's going through because like when, when the when there is she burns him address them. They all cheered last night. It was fantastic. Thank you not expecting it.

Alex Ferrari 10:27
But it's primal, theatrical experiences. It's a primal experience. And we're all around the fire. Yeah, it's a primal thing and group experiences of a story, where, you know, the core of all stories is basically to teach us not to be eaten by the tiger down the street. Yeah, you know, around around the corner. That was the point of stories around the campfire as they were, and then they evolved into morals and lessons and things. And now it's entertainment. Because we get a lot of the meat and potatoes from other other kinds of media. But it is, yeah, you're absolutely right, without question now.

Damon Thomas 10:58
But just also just to pick up on that point is, I think that even if you have never made a movie TV, and you know, but you've people sort of absorbed so much about, you sort of watch something you go, they're gonna get together, he's gonna die. He won't, you know, you just feel it right? If you feel that, you know it, because you know how these things work, you sort of said that when you get like, you know, say a series of severance or station 11, you're on TV, you let you go, I've got no idea where this is going. And they feel quite refreshing. And I wanted to do some things where you sort of felt I thought, it'd be funny if this felt like a movie that somebody thought they hadn't seen from the 80s. So have a bit of an 80s vibe. And but also, if you had an exorcist, it was just so unlike any excess, you've seen before, and, and to really get to make him so we I really set him up so that when he comes to the exorcism, you really enjoyed him. So that was the high fives that he's always doing. Up top, you know that stuff. But you know, he's cheesy, but you know, there were weightlifting, Christian evangelist, if you put it on YouTube, you can see these guys pumping iron for Jesus, and they exist that they were real, they were real people. So it's not far fetched. And he is a real person, he is like, totally believes that, you know, his purity. I mean, I even realized that he can't remember Gretchen's name. Yeah, it comes out in the middle of it. It goes, You know what, such a, it's so true. Because it's all about him.

Alex Ferrari 12:42
Obviously, obviously, you know, it's, it's brilliant. And you're right, it's so because we've just seen it so much. And we've seen it and we've seen it done well. And we've seen it some bad, you know, so like, if you're gonna see a shark, if you're gonna see a shark movie, and you've seen Jaws, it's gonna be tough for you to figure out a new way to do a sharp move, because it was done pretty much unanimously. The first exam the DHS is, it's the same thing. It's flawless.

Damon Thomas 13:10
I know some people then get disappointed if you don't do the things that have been done before. Because you're like, Well, what happened to that? Where's that? You know, and they go, but you're like, you were saying, how do you do different you're trying to find ways to either, like, reinvent the wheel, if it's already been filmed and done, like 1000 times. So you are, you're in kind of familiar territory, but you know, I did want to Yeah, as best as I best cuts just get that tone. Right. And, you know, if people you know, you can only do what you can do, you know, there's always

Alex Ferrari 13:44
Yeah, yeah, it Listen, it's we're in, we're in the world of everyone has an opinion. And everyone can express that opinion on Rotten Tomatoes, or on you know, mats and things like that, and social media. But at the end of the day, as a filmmaker, you just got to do what you got to do. One thing I love about about the movie is that you are able to balance humor and horror, which is not easy. It is not easy to do that as a filmmaker, as a storyteller, because I've seen really bad because if the balance is off, I've seen bad horror comedies, where if the balance is off, you know, like Evil Dead to an Army of Darkness. Like they'll those movies. You know what, Sam? Sam general, could do no harm. No wrong in my eyes. But yeah, but he's able to balance that and you were able to balance the horror and the comedy beautifully in this film. Oh, because it's not it's not easy. It's not easy.

Damon Thomas 14:35
Yeah, I mean, I think it comes from truce, I think. If your characters feel like the real article, even if they are heightened, I mean, we all we all know people that feel quite heightened type. So you're gonna meet people who are strong flavors, and they're real people. And Christian lemon is a strong flavor. And yeah, but as long as he's being truthful to that character in that sort of set of circumstances. And it's sort of balanced with, you know, Abby's kind of like sheer like, Oh my God. You know, it was one of the things I put in because he just sort of say actually is an exorcism. And it originally she, she went, Well, how do I do that? I just sort of I kind of said she would really go, well, it's not a normal thing. You know, generally, it's been fun but because it's an exorcism movie doesn't mean that everyone knows that, you know, an exorcism is something that is actually real. So so he talks about really patulous way, but he gets the job as an excellence as demon inside it, these these really patronizing to her. And I thought that's exactly what he would say, like, are you stupid?

Alex Ferrari 15:52
Come on, of course, it's just the team. Yeah.

Damon Thomas 15:55
So to your point is that if you have, it's like in killing Eve, I did a scene where Eve kills a guy with an axe, like being spurred on by Villanelle. But that's that scene is quite funny. Because the axe gets stuck in his back and says she can't pull it out. And so she's being shouted that, like, hits him again. She's saying I can't have access. And the guys go, Ah, it sounds kind of really disturbing. But it's funny because I think those things can sit right next to each other like, because the Coen brothers do it all the time. They kind of, you know, they put like, weight. And I think that it's it's a bit like when you go to a funeral that they're you feel like sometimes doing the other thing that you're not meant to like laughing, because it's the relief intention that you need, because of the emotional expectation. You're

Alex Ferrari 16:50
I'm sorry, I don't mean to trump your budget. Do you when you sell a funeral? Do you? I don't know if you saw this online somewhere, but some guy died. Okay, he died. And at his funeral, he put a speaker he had his family put a speaker inside of the inside of the casket. And as their as their this is part of his wishes, as it's being laid down. Like, hey, hey, no, no, no, no, no, I'm alive. I'm alive. And he's hitting and knocking and, and it's and people are pissing themselves. I mean, everyone's crying. But then everyone starts laughing because they know it's, what'd he do? I'm like, Oh, my God, that is so brilliant.

Damon Thomas 17:29
He's brilliant. He's fantastic. Isn't it as well for planning?

Alex Ferrari 17:34
That's, yeah, he I think he was sick and he was gonna die. I'm gonna do this. I'm going to do this, right. And my favorite tombstone ever is like I told you, I was ill.

Damon Thomas 17:44
That's brilliant. Very, very good.

Alex Ferrari 17:47
Now. So when you started your career, Damon, I'm assuming that the second you said, I'm going to be a director, that the trucks of money came in, all the doors came wide open and said, whatever you want to do, all you have is time and money.

Damon Thomas 18:01
Oh, my God, if only Yeah, I know. I've had it's a long journey. I did a degree at physics and I, of course,

Alex Ferrari 18:10
Prerequisite to be a filmmaker. Yeah,

Damon Thomas 18:13
I mean, I just got a job in, you know, I got a job in BBC News. And then I gave her up to go and work on an arts program and then gradually just did more and more documentaries that did drama documentaries with about Beethoven and other things. And then I got, yeah, just got a break. You know, someone actually approached me to do a drama documentary. And I said, why don't we just do a drama, and it was set in the Antarctic, and we had like 120,000 pounds. To make it said that I were filmed inside and out as an ice fridge. It was all set on one of Scott's Antarctic missions. So that said that their breath was all sort of

Alex Ferrari 18:54
Because there's no budget for VFX no budget for VFX.

Damon Thomas 18:57
Yeah. And we went we snowed up a studio. That was tiny. And yeah, it was. Yeah. So it started back then in 2006. So yeah, it's been a long road. You know, there's been a lot of us a lot of Miles.

Alex Ferrari 19:11
Miles on the tires, as they say. Yeah. So the question is, though, because a lot of filmmakers listening are going through these stages. And again, even in Oh, six. It was a different world than we are today. Like, you know, it's so much more difficult to get in now than it was in the early 2000s. How did you keep going? Is there any advice you can give to filmmakers? Right?

Damon Thomas 19:35
I mean, obviously, back then, it was a bit like if you wanted to make a record, you know, you you'd like you could you just couldn't afford to go into a recording studio, so they seemed very out touch beyond reach. I think the good thing about today is you can make a movie on your iPhone. And I think the thing what you learn by just doing it is sort of you know, How'd you make something that just kind of engages people? You know, and I think that that's the thing, if just start making stuff, even if it's you, you know, you and a friend do something about your life, suddenly, there's kind of like, you could be filming your own house when your garden or down the park or things that you kept. So they don't need huge production. So it sets something contemporary, and just start sort of just putting something together. Because the thing is, that's what people judge you about. They kind of look at you and see how do you well voice every last story? Can you do something funny? Can you make something? And, you know, it's amazing how you can engage people with something very small. It's like, Don't overreach. That's always the thing about filmmaking is, you know, don't just spend all your money on one shot and the rest of the film feels like it's no money.

Alex Ferrari 20:50
But Kubrick and Scorsese did it. Why can't I?

Damon Thomas 20:54
But, you know, I was reading gonna take because I love the shining.

Alex Ferrari 20:58
My favorite, one of my favorites,

Damon Thomas 21:00
Right! It's such an amazing film. And, you know, Jack Nicklaus axed 60 doors to get his Johnny. That's three. mean,

Alex Ferrari 21:14
I mean, you imagine, can you imagine taking one of the biggest movie stars in the world today? And you're not Stanley Kubrick and going, Yeah, or David Fincher at this point. And yeah, and just 66

Damon Thomas 21:29
Number 14. I like exhausted, like, axing costs,

Alex Ferrari 21:33
I think. I think I'm sorry, but I think Fincher on social network. When when I think Andrew Garfield had to smash the the, the laptop. Yeah. And they did like 40 of them had he had literally 40 laptops sitting down, because he knew it was good it because that's David Fincher.

Damon Thomas 21:54
Yeah, I mean, yeah, it's weird. We don't all have that. I mean, you know, his tutor, you could say he's right, because he turns out brilliant film, right? It his process network is, you know, that shining is a masterpiece. And they change, they change filmmaking daily, they change sorts of that, you know, when I, when I was doing killing Eve that I was quite influenced by, you know, Jack Torrance when he's sitting there, and the whole dance is going on behind it this whole I know, it's so like, at the edge of the world sort of madness. And so when I do killing him, I suggested that we do this, this kind of like afternoon tea dance. So you go into this environment and villain I was waiting there. And this is old fashioned music playing all these people just dancing. And it's like the edge of time. And I just, you get really influenced by, you know, but sorry, I was sort of digressing. I mean, in terms of filmmaking, you just have to do if the more you do, the more you sort of learn, because you sort of realize no sound is quite important, a good sound, you know, and it gets forgotten, you know, sound cooked, you know, to get great sound that you can actually use it because a lot of times we have to do re recording a lot of dialogue was it's like planes and all sorts of fridges on in the background. And, you know, someone just decides to sort of, you go to the quietest place in the world. And on that day, there's a guy getting his tree cut out. And there's like, you go over, you get like, people come over, go, can you not cut your trees? And he goes, No, I've paid for it. You know, you're like, oh, my gosh. But you know, it's all those. And you learn how I mean, you know, working as I started as a trainee news additive, you start realizing, Oh, you can cut that picture that picture, they sort of come together. Oh, yeah. How do you cut those? Oh, we actually need a cutaway on that, again, a detail shot because it's how it helps me tell that story. And you realize that sort of objects. If you see objects in someone's room, you can actually tell exactly who they are very quickly. And so art direction and all the bits you need, it's like a messy desk. It's interesting how some people do a messy desk, but it's sort of looks like a sort of presentation. It looks messy desks actually have smears on them and bits of crumbs. And it's all that kind of thing that you start to you become, you know, over the you just become super observant about things in a kind of really all the time, things that you sort of that make all the difference. Now, you may be watching it as a kind of year ago, like it doesn't feel right doesn't feel like a real thing. But you can't put your finger on why it doesn't feel real. It's a bit like doorframes. In a real house, they tend to have quite a lot of scuffs lower down. Because all the things have gone through them over time. If they look pristine, it looks like a new build. You know, it's sort of it's all those details that you start to get quite attuned to as a director when you start doing stuff. But you know, story is key, you know, what's the story? And is it engaging? It's sort of like you can dress things up with you can spend millions on effects, but they don't engage you about the human condition, then you ended up going, I don't care. You know, if you're going to see a film that was 100 million dollars, you saw that. Because we've seen everything go away.

Alex Ferrari 25:18
I mean, if Jurassic Park was just a bunch of dinosaurs walking around and be like, it'd be a documentary, you needed a story you needed to connect to those characters, you needed the magic that Spielberg brings in. Do you know On a sidenote, since you such as a Kubrick fan, do you know I'm sure you do though this but he, I think it was four Eyes Wide Shut, right. Had his assistant runner up for a year run around? Oh, no, not theaters? No, no, the the side tables of couples in a bed, and he just go into people's houses. It is take hundreds, hundreds of pictures of just how people kept the side tables at night. And he just used them as reference to build out his side tables for

Damon Thomas 26:05
And us who are things that

Alex Ferrari 26:09
You just get a bit but you're talking about someone who spent seven years prepping that movie. And it was great that he did but it was horrible that he did because we didn't get more Stanley Kubrick films, I wouldn't die. I would love to see what Stanley would do with today's technology. Can you imagine? Imagine?

Damon Thomas 26:25
I mean, you know, 2000 a while it's just it's so clever. And so, so interesting, you know, there was sort of being made in the late 60s. And it's kind of amazing, you sort of they are different times. And he was a particular, you know, very particular director. You know, I'm I'm also a big fan of like, really, Scott, you know, I think people people are still trying to make alien and Blade Runner. Yeah, they're still trying to make the air those are the benchmarks in the way that, you know, it's, you know, that sort of dirty future, like rain soaks, sort of the clash of kind of, like different cultures around the world, you know, that whole feeling? I, you know, it's it. Of course, they were, they were slightly you can feel it from the effects point of view, but they there's so the characters are so great. And they're stylization, mixed together, that kind of, you know, realization of is, you know, they had such an impact on me. And, yeah, it's why these, you know, you can still go back to this, but that's what I think about how many films you actually revisit, and we watch Apocalypse Now, you know, blew my mind when I watched it, I can still rewatch that film every single time because it's, you still see something new in it, and you just think it's so incredible. And, you know, and the conversation, you know, another amazing, amazing film, but also great, you know, surveillance, you know, I like I really liked that movie, the lives of others, which is another surveillance movie, you know, another brilliant film, because they're all about the human condition, but they just tell great stories really well told. And I think that that's what you're always trying to do. Whether we succeed.

Alex Ferrari 28:22
It's not easy. This is not easy, telling a good movie telling a good story. I mean, if you're a good storyteller, and even the best storytellers that we have in the film industry, they don't get it every time. There's very few that have impeccable photography, it's something else times,

Damon Thomas 28:39
Essentially. And the thing is, you know, nobody sets out to make a big pile of crap. You know, you've never noticed that says, you know, this year.

Alex Ferrari 28:48
I'm gonna, I'm gonna call me cat, I'm gonna make cat let's go make cat

Damon Thomas 28:52
40 million and then move on with me. Good. I read. It's just like, everyone he knows. It's it kind of, you know, it's a lot of people's lives, you know, spent dedicated to doing something. And that's why, of course, you know, I think it just takes a huge I think the thing about it is just not it's that thing. Again, I'm not overreaching? Does it feel right? It's just sitting right? You know, you have to constantly be your own worst critic guy, or is this crap? What is this, you know, you have to, and also you have to be able to work with people that you trust their opinion, so that when they go, that's why, you know, Robert Evans was such a great producer, because he was able to tell us some trouble if you become, you know, a celebrated director. You know, can you take criticism, because someone's hate give you a no go is any good, you know, and you go, right, actually, I think that's, and that's what I think sometimes does happen. I mean, look, you know, if if someone you know, you can make one shining in your life, you'd be happy with it.

Alex Ferrari 30:00
Oh my god. I wouldn't take any almost any movie out of out of Stanley's filmography and go. I'll take that one. You know, I'll take it all.

Damon Thomas 30:14
I mean, if and that's why these guys are amazing. And you just keep kind of going back on thing. Yeah, there's, there's no and that's why I kind of judge the film when I rewatch it. Right. It's it's like really disturbing. I don't want to rewatch it was definitely disturbing. But you know, it's funny how you can, if Jaws is on the show, watch a bit of Jaws, you know, when you just see it on a streaming platform you go, I'm gonna watch that tonight. We'll get back to it. Right you and kind of we, you know, because also these actors that are in there, you know, Dreyfus is so, so good, aren't they? There's such, the way that they inhabit those characters is,

Alex Ferrari 30:52
Is, is remarkable. Now, let me ask you, you know, as directors we there's always that day on set that we feel the entire world is coming down crashing around us. Generally, it's every day, that's everyday generally. But there's always the one

Damon Thomas 31:05
Offs in device device slowly.

Alex Ferrari 31:09
So so there's that one day, that's really bad. And you know, camera doesn't work last the location that guys cut into tree next door? What Yeah, what was that day for you on my best friend's exorcism? And how did you overcome it?

Damon Thomas 31:23
Ah, gosh, let me I'm trying to think of those days. Mistake 10. If we had like, a true chakra of a day on that, that's good. Yeah. Because the thing about it is doing it so long that you literally, it's like this sort of thing. When it comes, you just, you just let it, you sort of have to absorb it. And like I say filmmaking is like the same, but always different. Because of the actors and the team that you have. There's always that combination. And there's always something that will just go wrong. And you just have to, I think doing documentaries for years that allowed me to sort of pivot in a way of just going because I used to always turn up places like I've never been before. And they meet people film them, and they're going to film some shots. And you were just making up on literally, if you didn't get to Reki, because you couldn't sort of fly to America and meet the guy and go home again and go back and do you would just go and film them. And so you sort of so it's kind of like taught me that don't get too rigid. Apart from like, action sequences when you have to really plan on storyboards, and then pickoff shots, which takes a very, very long time. It's why like bond has like the main unit, and then it has the the action unit. They're running for like six months next to each other because of this so many shots. But I think that sort of doing documentary for so long. I just kind of if things sort of go wrong, I can just go well, let's try and do something else. It doesn't. For me, I kind of go, you know, and things just happen all the time, you know. And the classic one is you've got a driving sequence and you just go to the right just drive the car of them they go, I don't drive.

Alex Ferrari 33:22
I had fun on your headshot. But on your headshot, you say you ride horses, you play the guitar and you drive. That's when your special skills.

Damon Thomas 33:30
I always remember one guy said no, I spent the money on of dance lessons. I was you know, I literally just drive the car over here. It was like a really small oversight. And so we had to put him in the seat behind in the backseat and fill in such a way and just mine the steering wheel, but someone just drove in front of him but we got away with just that. It's just you just choose the camera angle. And just see just like that you just kind of go like, course no one's asked him if he arrives.

Alex Ferrari 34:04
But it's basically directing his compromise in so many ways. It's constantly compromising and pivoting and shifting. Because I don't know about you, I love to walk on set with and scare the hell out of my ad with like 150 shots on my shot list every day. And they're like, You are Yeah, we have eight hours. And I'm like I they're there in case things go well, I know I'm gonna shoot 20 of them. But

Damon Thomas 34:31
Exactly. And I think that is a sort of career of patience of just, I mean when you think about it as you're now it's that most of the day is spent lighting. Lighting is you know, lighting is key and makes everything look great. And you just so you know your block, size of your shots. You sit and then you start lighting. I mean They just spent a lot of time, right? And so it's like riding that wave of, oh, you know, waiting for last. But that's not the denigrating the director of photography, it's just like that is the life isn't it? So life off just kind of finding that in

Alex Ferrari 35:15
That it is then that inner Zen of place, you're like, Okay, we're ready, okay, three to how many two hours to 90 minutes, but it's gonna be two hours.

Damon Thomas 35:24
I mean, I'm the other interesting thing, I think, is that people who don't work in the industry often say, you know, when you work with actors, they go the other direction, they just do what you say, you can go. It doesn't quite work that way. Doesn't you know, that's not how it works. And they just don't understand that it's a very inexact. Science is really unique and special. And it's such a exposing amazing thing, that it's not just about you that you do that over there. It's not that it's a kind of proper creative relationship that you sort of embark on.

Alex Ferrari 36:01
Isn't it interesting that when when normies I call them normies people outside of the Carnival business that is our world, come on set. And they've only seen like, behind the scenes. Everything's edited. So like on set seems like it's, you're going fast. And they're sitting there like three hours later, they're sitting in the chair with with the headphones on for sound, and they're like, this is boring is crap. And like, is it like, on a mark on a Marvel movie? They'll spend, what, eight hours lighting for one shot? Yeah, because that's they have all the money.

Damon Thomas 36:37
In Bad Boy, just shoot two shots in a day. And just spend the whole morning just rehearsing, rehearsing a big shot that has a lot of moving parts. And that's what you do, you have to, if you're gonna shoot a shot, you got to shoot it well, or don't shoot it. This is the crazy thing sometimes about shooting is, don't shoot. That's another thing. That's another thing. I'd always say don't shoot. I'll say crap. But you know, don't shoot rubbish and shoots stuff. Because you're always going to look at later Oh, why didn't I just I knew, you know, I knew I

Alex Ferrari 37:14
I know.

Damon Thomas 37:17
And the thing about it is that's what you have to do as a director you have to go. It's not right, we need to, you know, it doesn't feel right. That's sometimes you set for a shot, and you have to have the competence. And it might have taken quite a long time to put the camera out there and the rigging or the guys the grips. And then you start looking at it. It's not right, we just actually need to be over here. And you have to have the confidence go strip it all out and have people around you that kind of out. Yes, you're making it. Yeah, we see it. And also don't get sort of that it also meant that you're doing something wrong sometimes like this, actually, you know.

Alex Ferrari 37:53
But that takes time to build up. Because when you're when you're first onset, you just don't want to look like you don't know what you're doing, of course, but as you get older and you've got more more shrapnel in you, you just go, guys, I made a mistake. Let's let's go over here. This is just not working. Let's say yeah, it's gonna take two hours. I'm sorry. Let's go.

Damon Thomas 38:12
Yeah. And you you're, you'll never regret it. Because you're, as you know, or just the footage that you get will be like you think thank God, thank God because you might as well choose something great. That took twice as long. I mean, it depends about obviously jeopardizing a location whenever you have to. That's why it's a sort of system of moving parts. You're always going, oh my god, can we, you know, we're only in here for one day, like the interior of the weird house, you know, there where it happens was actually there like the upstairs corridor. And this other building is sort of outside You'd never believe that we were that was the inside of the house. But we got real freedom to like smash it up inside. But we have such limited time in that.

Alex Ferrari 38:57
But is it but isn't it true, though, that you have to sit once in the edit room and go Why didn't I move the camera? Why did I accept that shot when I knew somebody was telling me? No, you've got to but you didn't have the balls or the confidence to change? Or? Yeah, you're in the edit and you're edit and you're in the edit room and you're like God I need either a guy God I gotta get saved somehow with this. Yeah, these are lessons you learn along the way and then eventually you just like I know I'll get the shots that I need. I gotta shoot that they ashtray why cuz I need a frickin cutaway?

Damon Thomas 39:35
Yeah. And it's just, yeah, yeah. That you have to rely on people around. You just have to rely a lot. But yeah, you. You sort of over the years, you're ill so you sort of see the problems coming. I think that's what happens. That's what I sort of say you sort of go, I know that we do this. That's not going to work probably because you've so been there like 10 times for sure. Thank you Get those of that and that kind of that. And that's why experience hadn't counts for a lot of question. I especially when you when you move and do different genres, occasionally you sort of come over here, you sort of think, well, I've done a shot like that I did a shot with someone underwater, I did that crash, I did someone leading over, you know, they just did it by putting your green spirit. And it's also knowing sometimes people can't, like, I just, I just did a thing about the Black Panthers in the early 70s. And we just needed someone that was on our Holland, I just saw sort of shape and a park with a pathway. I thought I'd be great. As soon as you put the car here, just put a green screen around, and everyone's sort of going, like, are you mad, you know, but we did it. Because I just knew it would work the shape. And I guess it felt like sort of lookout point that you could put a car on the head, you know, you just use like we did sort of, we had had to recreate the Mexican border. And we literally did it in like an Ikea car park. So you go on the tape record, you go. And it's just as concrete. And it was literally going I don't get it, I just don't see it. And you have to say, well, we put the all the crosses here, put the fence there, all the trucks here, we've put a lot of blocking load of big trucks on that size. And then it just sort of it's sort of you have to visualize it. I think that that becomes a thing as well that you start to visualize things within spaces. And I think that that is another thing you start to see. Because you start thinking, I do think and it's not all it depends what your life is directly about you. But I liked photography. So I liked it. Yeah, so you sort of like I like photographing, you know, you get quite into composition. And it's a bit like taking photos that people just, you know, when you think about it, like you always take a photo as sort of a shoulder highlight this is where you sort of get on the floor and you're like, oh, let's do that, you know, you're gonna lay on the floor, you're never gonna put the camera down there. But you have to start thinking about that when you start shooting as directors, you sort of think Well, where can the camera? Uh, how does it make me feel about what I'm looking at putting the camera in different positions, and that's another thing you start freeing ourselves up, about not just going here we are. But sometimes the symptoms sometimes the simplest things are just just as effective. That's the other thing. They just aren't just making things really flashy because in the end is the performance and the writing that are going to set it off.

Alex Ferrari 42:40
I mean you could look at some John Ford shots and you're just like well that's a masterpiece and they just have to just lock the camera off.

Damon Thomas 42:45
Yeah, and you know just lock it off look at just you know Yeah, and you know, that's a lot to do with location is that again just sort of going we've got to go all the way to this remote place will do that shot

Alex Ferrari 43:01
No no no IKEA IKEA and a green screen you got Lawrence of Arabia What are you talking about? If he would have had IKEA green screen we wouldn't even desert that's crazy.

Damon Thomas 43:17
He wouldn't be on Santa so much.

Alex Ferrari 43:19
It's so my last question to you sir is if you were able to go back in time and talk to your younger self is there one piece of advice you would give? Give him one piece of advice about your filmmaking journey like dude, you know, you really need to look out for this

Damon Thomas 43:34
I think is to do as much of it as you can sort of don't kind of just be waiting for the one moment that you feel is coming at a certain point in time just start shooting things just make a small film even when it's like you know drama set in your own house with your family you know, if you're just think of a story and also if it comes from you your own experience then it will be true Won't it so that if you if something has happened to you do you could do it and you'll be surprised at who can act sometimes as well you know you're and then by shooting sub two and keep it very small because do some of your very limited and just see if we can make narrative lasts for like two minutes or three minutes and put some music right then yeah, I think I think I obviously but then there was a source of it. We didn't have for you this technology whereas now you could just do it and I think that in a way we have too many tools. You know and

Alex Ferrari 44:38
And not enough story

Damon Thomas 44:40
Is true, though, isn't it? And so so kind of you you know what's the everything everywhere all at once that movie? Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 44:48
Great.

Damon Thomas 44:49
Ah, what amazing what an amazing kind of, but also very, very interesting about the human condition. Isn't it's all about what people beaten to each other. And what it's it's, I mean, people with Frankfurter fingers. I mean, it's

Alex Ferrari 45:08
When I had them on the show. I'm like, Dude hotdog fingers, guys seriously? And they're like, Yeah, we were we were high. So I said something. Because like, this is insane guys, this

Damon Thomas 45:22
That's what I love about that film is like, it's like we learn to express ourselves with our feet. And I think Jamie Jamie Lee Curtis is there and then this little foot just cut this out to her face. And so that's, I just thought, I think it's, it's not but it's true to them. It's very true. It's perfect as perfect. I thought that's really clever. And it's just funny, very funny and touching. And those guys go,

Alex Ferrari 45:49
Damon, I can keep talking to you for about another five, six hours about geeking out over. I mean, we could just start talking about Kubrick for an hour alone. There's can people where can people see your new film My best friend's exorcism?

Damon Thomas 46:00
It's on Amazon Prime video now. It's it's released today the 30th of September and yeah, so

Alex Ferrari 46:08
Perfect Halloween film. Perfect Halloween.

Damon Thomas 46:10
Yeah, well watch it. We're friends. Yes. Like my first ad Steve Hall. Fantastic guy. He's doing a party tonight. They're re re enacting one of the lemon brands steeds tonight with his friends. I just Yeah, fantastic. Yeah. Watch it with a group.

Alex Ferrari 46:30
My friend. Congratulations on the film and continued success with with I can't wait to see your next films coming out my friend. So I appreciate you my friend. Thank you again.

Damon Thomas 46:39
Thank you Alex. Thank you!

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IFH 618: How I Adapted a Best Selling Novel and Made My Film with Aitch Alberto

Aitch Alberto is a writer/director born and raised in Miami, Florida. She is a Sundance Episodic Lab fellow, recipient of a Skowhegan Artist Residency, a Yaddo fellowship, a Latino Screenwriting Project Fellowship, and an alumnus of the Outfest Screenwriting Lab. Aitch has written on DUSTER, a 1970s-set crime drama series from J.J. Abrams and LaToya Morgan for HBO Max and WBTV.

She also served as a writer on AppleTV+’s BAFTA and Film Independent Nominated anthology series LITTLE AMERICA from Alan Yang, Kumail Nanjiani, and Emily V. Gordon. Most recently, Aitch has adapted and directed the award-winning young adult novel ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE with Lin-Manuel Miranda and Eugenio Debrez producing, from Limelight.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a 2022 coming-of-age romantic film that is an adaptation of the 2012 novel of the same name by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Aristotle and Dante had it premiere at the 47th Toronto Film Festival on September 9, 2022.

She has been included on The Black List’s inaugural Latinx List, as well as the Tracking Board’s Hit List and Young & Hungry List, and NALIP’s list of “Latinx Directors You Should Know”. Aitch has most recently been featured on Variety’s 10 Directors To Watch for 2022 and Indiewire’s 22 Rising Female Filmmakers to watch in 2022.

Enjoy my conversation with Aitch Alberto.

Aitch Alberto 0:00
Like, how do you go through the journey of trying to be who your parents want you to be? And who your soul calls you to be? And how is their trauma affecting your sort of the way you navigate the world? Right. So it was, I think the subtlety was necessary and sort of like presenting that in a in a naturalistic way that slowly like evolves.

Alex Ferrari 0:20
This episode is brought to you by Bulletproof Script Coverage, Where screenwriters go to get their scripts read by Top Hollywood Professionals. Learn more at covermyscreenplay.com I'd like to welcome to the show Aitch Alberto. How you doin Aitch?

Aitch Alberto 0:36
Hi, how are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:38
I'm good. We were having a good laugh before we got started because it's not there's few of us Cuban filmmakers. In the business. There's there's there are Cuban filmmakers without question. But every time I every time I find another Cuban filmmaker, I get very excited. And we start talking and we started like, Adela and it didn't of course, you're from Miami and

Aitch Alberto 1:01
The lalalalala No, I mean, I love it. It is like a rarity. We are out here and we are doing the thing but there's not many of us. So especially like a Cuban from Miami because there's Cubans everywhere, but like a que cippic And being from Miami is very specific to

Alex Ferrari 1:22
I think filmmakers from Miami is like a whole other conversation. It's

Aitch Alberto 1:26
I heard your name from like, years down the line. And I refuse to age myself. But like, you were in the like the sphere of like Dave Rodriguez and like Caroline

Alex Ferrari 1:36
Ohh stop it. Stop it. Why are you going back that far?

Aitch Alberto 1:40
Yes, I know. But like Dave directed my first short Oh, no, no. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:46
You were in that short.

Aitch Alberto 1:48
It was. Yeah. And I also wrote that story. Oh, my God, what do you rest in peace?

Alex Ferrari 1:55
May David. I did I did push for him. I was I did all I did push for him. And then during that, that was when I released my first short film Broken back in the day,

Aitch Alberto 2:05
I've seen broken back into the movie, because I he did push and then like, while push was in post, he fit in my short. And I found him off like Craigslist. I had written the script, it was all like shift left on like a Word doc. I was really young. And it was a really beautiful experience. But I remember your name from then, because I have a sick memory.

Alex Ferrari 2:29
That is, so this would be this the first lesson that will teach in this conversation. It is a small, small world.

Aitch Alberto 2:37
Absolutely. Even smaller industry. I say that. LA's like the biggest, smallest town in the world.

Alex Ferrari 2:45
I mean, that you're like, Oh, my God, I can't believe like I just You took me way back. This is good talking about early 2000s When you don't need a date. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Sorry. I mean, last year, but so. So my first question to you, ah, is how did you get into and why did you want to get into this business?

Aitch Alberto 3:09
That's a very loaded question. I have a very interesting upbringing, being from Miami. And growing up when I grew up, my father was in the drug trade. And was a fugitive for a really long time. And I it was eight years and we lived on the run with him. And movies were always my state. So it was like the thing that brought me comfort and like I never asked for toys. I wasn't like big on anything else. I was obsessed with movies. I just didn't know that you could have a career on all facets and all sides of the film industry. So I acted for a really, really long time.

Alex Ferrari 3:47
Wow, that's so when is the movie coming out of when you were on the run? I mean, there's a movie there. I have to believe

Aitch Alberto 3:54
It's a TV show. And we are yes, it's somewhere that it's being developed right now. And it's written and it's like the thing that it's probably the most honest piece of writing that I ever did. It heals me in so many ways. It was archaic. It like sent me on my journey of my transition. It was it just like unlocked so much to revisit, like a version of myself that always existed, but sort of like life happens and you don't know how to sort of embrace that and be everything that you could be. But that scripts got me to the Sundance episodic lab, it got me my first TV writing job, my second TV writing job and sort of like helped me get me where I am right now to be able to make the film that we're about to talk about.

Alex Ferrari 4:35
That's That's amazing. That's I mean, well, I'm looking forward to seeing that series because I mean, being from Miami. I just I did just see Cocaine Cowboys again. That's just

Aitch Alberto 4:44
So it's very that it's like that was my life.

Alex Ferrari 4:47
So and you were on the run with him with Japan. Yeah,

Aitch Alberto 4:50
I mean, for the year it was a very like interesting experience. And I thought it was completely normal until you like grow up and you're like, Wait, you didn't have that experience.

Alex Ferrari 5:00
Do you mean you weren't running away from the cops and the FBI? And

Aitch Alberto 5:03
It's also a deep trauma, which, you know, thank God right there.

Alex Ferrari 5:07
Right! I can only imagine I can only imagine. Well, that's. So that's that makes sense, I guess. So in other words, movies were your refuge. And you were able to kind of go in into that world and very cinema para DCLs.

Aitch Alberto 5:22
I love that film. It's such a great film,

Alex Ferrari 5:25
Just to kind of escape into movies, I always used to say that movie theaters were like a church. For me, I would go into it. And by myself, I would just go to a movie and just in the middle of Tuesday at one o'clock or something, and just sit there and watch a movie and, and by the time I was done watching that movie, my life has been better for whatever reason, I would have forgotten the problems I was dealing with,

Aitch Alberto 5:46
So one thing that I like Miss during the pandemic, as a writer, it's, I'm great at isolating and like quarantine didn't scare me. But I missed the escape of going to a theater in the middle of the day. And it was always one of my favorite things. My grandmother would take me when I was really young. And she would like skip movies with me and like, she fall asleep and all of them but like she was my like Road Dog and going to see all these movies that I did often see movies that I shouldn't have been seeing at the age that I was like Leaving Las Vegas I saw when I was 10 years old. I went home and wrote my first script online paper.

Alex Ferrari 6:28
That's that is amazing. Wow. I mean, I saw Beverly Hills Cop when I was like seven or eight and I thought that was a little rough. But Leaving Las Vegas it's it's rough for an adult, let alone a 10 year old for God's sakes

Aitch Alberto 6:41
When you're on the run and you're slightly traumatized and growing up faster than you need to.

Alex Ferrari 6:47
I mean, what love Leaving Las Vegas what a drunk killing himself. That's fine. Sorry for spoiler alert, if you haven't seen it, it's on you guys. Sorry. So, um, so you mentioned that you got into Sundance, how was that experience because I've spoken to many people who've gone through that lab and through that process, and I'd love to just kind of get the inside feeling of what it was like being in there and going through that process.

Aitch Alberto 7:10
I loved it. It was one of the most nurturing experiences that I've had as a writer and a filmmaker thus far in my career. And it just like, I was introduced to so many people, it was affirming in so many ways. It was such a goal of mine to like, be validated by Sundance, because I didn't go to film school. I don't have any formal training. Like I taught myself by reading scripts and watching movies at the same time. So like, but I knew that I knew what I was doing, right? Because I loved it so much. And like I worked so hard at it, that like having that validation through that program was really invaluable. And there I met like Lee Eisenberg, who gave me my first writing job on Middle America, season two, and Latoya Morgan, who I just wrote on a show with her for HBO Max called duster, which is also created by JJ Abrams as well.

Alex Ferrari 8:02
That's, that's, that's not a bad that's not bad. Since it's not bad. It's not bad if you could get if it's a good work if you can get it.

Aitch Alberto 8:10
And I think that like who I am, what my perspective is, there's room for me now. So I think a lot of like hard work and timing is what worked in my favor.

Alex Ferrari 8:23
So timing, timing is big with everything, especially in the film industry. Like you know, when I when I talked to some of these guys who were coming up in the 90s, who are the legendary the Robert Rodriguez is and the Richard Linklater and these kinds of people. You know, you know, Rick was the first one to tell me, he's like, I mean, slacker wouldn't make it today. Like, there's just no place for a movie like that today. It'd be difficult. It'd be an art movie. It'd be a back it was he calls him backyard movies. And he was like, that's literally his backyard. Austin was his backyard back then. And, and then I watched it recently, and now that I'm living in Austin, shaped a bit. The city has changed just slightly since then.

Aitch Alberto 9:02
But my lead actor in my film is from Austin and I went to visit I've been a couple of times and absolutely love it. So good for you, Miami.

Alex Ferrari 9:11
Yes, absolutely. No, it's wonderful here. We absolutely love it here. Now, you also directed and wrote a lot of short films I saw on your filmography. What was that? How did that help you develop as a filmmaker because a lot of people like as shorts you shouldn't do it. This or That? How did it work for you and your path?

Aitch Alberto 9:30
Well, I had the foundation of acting, which I think was also invaluable to you know, not only directing actors but understanding story in a way that was very specific. But the shorts were sort of my like, I could do this it was giving myself permission and not waiting for permission from anybody to, to just boots on the ground do it and like I didn't know what I was doing. But I knew that the only way I was going to learn and get better was actually like making something. So that's how that happened. And then it really He became you often when you're in those positions you think you need to like, scale up or have like the ambitions of working or collaborating with people that are further ahead in your career. But what I found to be most useful is that I was collaborating with people that were right next to me that were my contemporaries that have come up with me. So we were learning in so many ways together, luckily, like those films got seen at film festivals and stuff, but like, had they not? That would have been okay too. Because like, I again, not going to film school. That was my film school.

Alex Ferrari 10:31
And like, like Robert Rodriguez, he had 25 I think shorts that no one ever saw before he made mariachi

Aitch Alberto 10:38
Crazy. I wasn't about to make 25

Alex Ferrari 10:42
But you did a lot though. Yeah. I mean, you did what? Like 10 or 12, at least

Aitch Alberto 10:46
In variations. Yeah, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 10:49
But it was an experience even just being on a set, especially when you're coming up is just go much

Aitch Alberto 10:55
100% So that I'm I'm grateful for those experiences, and I think everybody should make it short.

Alex Ferrari 11:01
Absolutely. I mean, I started my career off with shorts and it's it's done it did well for me without question. Now your first film, Harry Kerry, how rock carry are heavy carry IT'S HARD CARRY Hard Carry? Yeah, I was watching it and

Aitch Alberto 11:16
I'm like cringing because it's like one of those buildings that I like, I can't believe that in the world. Sorry. Yeah, like that.

Alex Ferrari 11:22
Listen, no, listen, look, I look at the thing that I like about it. It has a very mumble core vibe to it. It's very Duplass Swanberg, Lynn Shelton kind of vibe to it. So how did it come about? And how and how did you even get that film off the ground? Because it's it's shot, very naturalistic. It looks like it's available lighting. But there's a really great story behind it. And it's, you could see the image you could start seeing through through the cracks, like oh, oh, I see.

Aitch Alberto 11:54
Yeah, there's a point somewhere in there. I call that film an experiment. It premiered at the New Orleans Film Festival and we're seeing distribution through breaking glass. grippy to me that it even saw the light of day, obviously, that's like, in hindsight, I thought I was like groundbreaking Well, obviously,

Alex Ferrari 12:15
No, no, no, this is Hollywood, Hollywood. Now see my genius.

Aitch Alberto 12:19
Like, this is it, I'm doing it on my own. That was I wanted to make a dog one film, like a large dog 1090 95 movie, which is impossible to make, especially like now. So it was an idea that I had. And I just had an outline. And I found really good actors, often friends that were game to play at a camera and a boom mic. And we were out on the road. And just we shot that in two days for like, $2,000.

Alex Ferrari 12:49
Amazing, amazing. And that was that wasn't that far. That wasn't that long ago was like because the mumble core movement and I use the mumble Chroma piano with dogs, obviously dog many fathers, but the mumblecore movement was in the early 2000s. And this film was within like, within seven or eight years ago, if I'm not mistaken.

Aitch Alberto 13:09
I don't even remember

Alex Ferrari 13:12
25th I mean, at least that's why I thought the 2012

Aitch Alberto 13:14
Yeah, that sounds right.

Alex Ferrari 13:16
2015. Exactly. So it wasn't like it was that far back ago. And you were doing that kind of filmmaking. Look, my my first film was mumblecore ask, which I did the exact same thing on my first these last two features I did were completely outlined shot like it one was eight days. One was four days. You just roll and you're like, let's see what happens. You make it?

Aitch Alberto 13:38
Yeah, you just do it. And it's like at the end of the day, it's playing right. And so it's probably one of those films that I could have kept for myself.

Alex Ferrari 13:46
But you distributed worldwide.

Aitch Alberto 13:50
I mean, it was

Alex Ferrari 13:52
Did you do? What did you do? Well, by the way on it? I mean, I mean it cost $2,000 So did you make any money on it?

Aitch Alberto 13:58
I mean money on it. Look at your success.

Alex Ferrari 14:02
You're successful, you're successful filmmaker.

Aitch Alberto 14:05
With it. This is the beginning and it was like huge in Germany. It had like a theatrical screening and everything in Germany. It was like you

Alex Ferrari 14:12
Can you can't walk the streets in Germany, Kenya. Oh,

Aitch Alberto 14:15
I mean, I've changed genders since so maybe I'll get away. Um, but like that. It's interesting because the DVD of the German version of the movie is very graphic. So I think that has a lot to do with why it was a success. I'm telling you way too much. The Cuban from Miami thing really works for you.

Alex Ferrari 14:36
I've done I've done a few of these. So on that film, though, I have to ask you, since it was your first film, and it was an experiment, what was the biggest lesson you learned in that entire process?

Aitch Alberto 14:47
That you need a crew?

Alex Ferrari 14:49
You need money, a crew and a script.

Aitch Alberto 14:52
Money you'll never have enough money but you definitely need a crew and people that are really good at their job because they they make you look good.

Alex Ferrari 15:02
That's very, very true without question. Now, you mentioned that you're working on that on the show duster. With JJ. I mean, I'm assuming you've met JJ. And are you working with Jim? Like, what's it like working with someone like JJ? Because he's such a, I mean, he's such a legend in our business. And he's been doing it at a high level for so long and doing television. I mean, I mean, I could just list off the shows. I've watched the video. So in the television space, what's it like working on a JJ Abrams creative show?

Aitch Alberto 15:35
JJ Abrams is a legend as a human as well, I, we work together often he was in the room. Often he before we went into production, we had like an hour long conversation about the film as well. He's, I consider him like a mentor, in so many ways, a very short amount of time. But what I learned the most from him, was his kindness. He's so capable of listening and being present and actually caring, despite his creative genius. And that, to me, was something that I hope to emulate as my career goes on. And if it ever comes here with JJ is just the fact that he is so successful. And he's worked on such strong and like popular IPs, and was able to maintain this humanity. That to me was very impressive. And I mean, like, he's all over the place. And he's doing too, too much. But it's also like, what fuels him? Brian, I was just in awe of him. From like a real, I also wasn't impressed by him. And that's why we became friends.

Alex Ferrari 16:39
Right! You didn't You didn't geek out, but you are internally impressed by him. But you weren't like, Oh my God. It's JJ. Like you weren't completely fan. You know, fan girl.

Aitch Alberto 16:48
I think like, I was like, if he's a regular dude, who is really good at what he does, and has a real passion for it. Like, I think that's how everybody should approach these people. You know what I mean? Like, I could be JJ, you could be JJ. Like anybody could be JJ. It just takes like a certain level of tenacity, and perseverance, and passion to sort of, like want that.

Alex Ferrari 17:10
Right. Without question. I mean, it's I saw him coming up. And he started off in television, and he wanted to do features and, and he loves Spielberg. And then he get to work with Steven on things. And, you know, he's, and then he gets to do Star Wars. And you know, he's, he's done. Okay, he's done. Okay, he's done. Okay.

Aitch Alberto 17:27
I really, like I really fuck with JJ in a real way. So and

Alex Ferrari 17:30
And that Ted, that TED talk he did with the box. I don't know if I've ever seen Oh, you have to watch that. It's a TED talk he did about a box. It's just like creative muse in so many ways. It's a box that he was given as a child, and he's never opened it. And it's like this. And it's like, what's inside, it's like this magic box. And it's fascinating. It's like a 10 minute Converse them to lecture he does about creativity, but he uses the box, and he brought the box out, and everything is great.

Aitch Alberto 18:02
So I was a lot of that on a daily basis. And he talks about all these toys and like, you know, a listening device when he was a kid. And it's just like, super ate. Every time he talked like, I would have visions of that film, because it was so autobiographical, and so real to his experience, that I was, it's really sweet.

Alex Ferrari 18:21
He's you can you can see the tenderness and the humanity in his work, just like you, just like you see it in Spielberg's work. Like you can see it in et you can see it in Schindler's List, you can see the humanity that comes through their work, and it's something you can't fake.

Aitch Alberto 18:38
No, you can't. And that was something that was really important to me to also implement in making this film. Because I think it was like a redefinition of Latino, Latina, Latin a Latin neck stories, I just want to make sure everybody is included. Right? Yeah. But yeah, like, it's that was, it's a redefining of that, because so often, like our films about our experience, or are violent, or just stereotypical and playing into tropes, and even about the queer experience, as well. So I wanted to make something that felt all American and accessible to everyone. This was just at least from my experience, like the duality of being like, growing up Cuban, but also being American was something that really inspired me because it's like, you feel both, but you are one, right. So and that's some, it was risky for people to sort of understand what I was trying to do, because I don't think they have any, like sort of relatable movies or comps that have done that before because it's just so about the immigrant experience, or about this, just one narrative. And so like, I'm hoping that this unlocks an understanding to that which is rooted in humanity and compassion,

Alex Ferrari 19:51
Without questions. So we're talking about your new film, Aristotle, and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which is

Aitch Alberto 19:58
I've done this before, too. Did you see Hi, segway for you.

Alex Ferrari 20:02
Did you see Did you see how that worked? It was very, it's very professional. It's very, they're very slick, have you? No, no, of course. And then I just watched it. And it's beautifully done. It is hypnotic in certain scenes. It's extremely touching. And there's a humanity that we're talking about in it. And, I mean, the cast is finished and henio and, and Yvonne and everybody else the leads. So beautifully done. But it's done with such a subtle hand, is what I noticed in your in your work in this film, because it's not heavy handed. And it's not preachy. It's human in it. Does that make sense?

Aitch Alberto 20:42
Yes, that's exactly I'm just letting you talk. Because that's exactly what I want someone to say about the film. Right? Like, sure. It's about this, like kids coming of age who's like grappling with his identity and his sexuality and all of these things. But it's so much more than that, right? It's like, how does your family and your experience and your circumstances influenced that experience? Right? Like, how do you go through the journey of trying to be who your parents want you to be? And who your soul calls you to be? And how is their trauma affecting your sort of the way you navigate the world? Right. So it was, I think the subtlety was necessary and sort of like presenting that in a in a naturalistic way that's slowly like evolved throughout it.

Alex Ferrari 21:26
Yeah, it was beautifully done. And I have to give you props for working with a new young and upcoming unknown producer by the name of Lin Manuel Miranda. I've never heard of him. Is I've never anything cool. Doing anything good.

Aitch Alberto 21:38
No, I mean, like he begged me to. So it was a Yeah, I can't get rid of him. Now.

Alex Ferrari 21:46
Bow is like he's on my he's text. He's blown up my phone on a daily basis, like, hey, what do you think Hamilton to? Should I do it?

Aitch Alberto 21:54
We zoomed yesterday. No, I think yo, like he is a force. And he had done I read the book in 2014. I read it in one sitting on locked something inside of me that as a storyteller that I really wanted to tell. And it became my life's work. I didn't know that this book was like a thing. And kids have tattoos. And it was like sold in all these languages. So I had before I found that out, I had a producer friend find out if the rights were available. They were I couldn't believe they were because it was so undeniably great. But it's sometimes when you find those things, it's because they're undeniably great for you. So I was this is serendipitous, I'm going to keep riding this wave. So I wrote the script on spec. Couple of I sat on it for a couple of months. And then I wrote to the author, because there wasn't enough traction for me like the traditional route. So it was like, Yo, I did this thing can I like, come visit El Paso and meet you. So I spent four days there, we became really great friends. And at the end of that, he said, These boys were mine. And now I give them to you. And I was like, crying and like, we were both crying. I was like, fuck, what do I do now? Like, like, now I have this thing that's obviously valuable, and like people love it. How do I make it happen? And so I knew that's where I discovered that Lynn had done the audiobook to REM Dante. And I was like, We need to get him involved in some capacity. I met a producer through a film festival, who helped me develop the script. So that took about a year and then 20 End of 2017 We sent the script to Lynn didn't hear anything back through managers, agents. And that was like, my whole career and anything that I've done has happened because I've made it happen. So I was like, it was New Year's Day 2018 And I was like, hey, Lynn read my script. I tweeted at him no 20 minutes later he replied. And then three months later he was in LA and agreed to produce it I just knew the relationship to the property there like I knew

Alex Ferrari 24:12
I just had to get to him you had to get

Aitch Alberto 24:15
I had and now I can get rid of up no I don't want

Alex Ferrari 24:19
Now what the yappity Yap all the time it's

Aitch Alberto 24:21
A great ideas and the great notes and ya know, it's been really cool and he's been it's not just like someone throwing their name on it like he's been a part of the process since then. In like a real way. He I met Yvonne a pitch and we really connected but he like, she's so wonderful. She, of course. You've interviewed her before.

Alex Ferrari 24:42
Yeah, I don't know. If it's fantastic.

Aitch Alberto 24:46
I was like, Oh, I get why you're such a star and you're unstoppable.

Alex Ferrari 24:52
So no, no without question. And with Eva specifically. Like when you get to meet these people, sometimes you meet them only on zoom but sometimes You get to meet them in person. And you go, okay, I get it. I truly get what everybody sees. And these people, and even I can't wait to see flaming Cheetos.

Aitch Alberto 25:10
That's why I pitched on that. That's where we met. And it's really good. I've seen like snippets of it that she showed me on set. I'm really excited. And I think people are gonna love it.

Alex Ferrari 25:23
And I can't wait for that movie as well. And it's so it's really interesting what you're working with Lynn? And was there any big lesson you learned from him and his process? And the notes in the storytelling? How we approach a story, or producing what did you learn?

Aitch Alberto 25:39
We, I learned so much. And it's hard to distill that because it's like, pieces of information, right. But when we finished because we were editing while we were in production, and I hadn't stepped away from the film at all. And I was literally killing myself to like, get it done for what was supposed to be a festival premiere back then. And he got on the phone with me and just told me you need to step away from the movie. And he was in, post for Tick Tick Boom, at the same time. So he was going through like the same first minute filmmaker vibes that I was going through. And that really hit me once he said that, and that's what I did, I stepped away from the movie. And then we went back into posts and everything started to like, unlock them. So it was invaluable advice.

Alex Ferrari 26:34
It is something that for people listening should really understand is that sometimes as artists, we get a little too close to the project. Yeah. And we're inside the book, and you can't read the book, when you're inside the book, you got to pull back and give time to do now,

Aitch Alberto 26:47
It was seven years, it was a seven year journey from finding the book to like getting to production. So I was entrenched in it. And I just like, I will die without this, you know, but it's like he gave me perspective on that. And I just, I was able to come back to it with fresh eyes with an open heart, because it was like production editing, like, all at the same time. And so the experience of production, the experience of editing something is completely different. And if you're not stepping away to sort of separate those things, you're a, you're not doing your best work.

Alex Ferrari 27:21
Yeah, without question. Now, let me ask you, do you when you're on set? And you know, did you have it? Well, first of all, did you have any problems with the whole first time director even though you didn't make a feature? But you're this is a big jump up from that first two day experiment? With, you know, major actors, I'm assuming the budget was, you know, more than what you did in the first movie? Sure. So did you run into a lot of ocean energy as a first time filmmaker? I don't know if we try. Like, I don't know, what did you think?

Aitch Alberto 27:54
Before what because we there was the other directors attached to, you know, make this before we got to the point, but I always knew, I always knew was my story to tell. So whenever those things would turn out all those false starts happened. I was just like, yeah, because it's supposed to be mine. Through that process, my profile sort of started elevating through the JJs of the world, and lens validation and all of that. So no, I wish there was a bit more trust in me when it was time to go to set. And I also had a very clear vision of what I wanted. So I didn't second guess myself too much. But what I did want to do is find partners and collaborators that were more experienced than me, and were better at what I do. And that was my director of photography, my production designer, my caught all, all the people around me that showed up was so much love is something that I will never forget. And I hoped to have on every film. And that was the same thing with the actors. I think people really believed in the story, they believed in me, and they showed up with that with such a willingness. And, you know, I've been told that I ran a firm, but warm set, which to me is like a big compliment, because we didn't have a lot of time. But like a lot of the work was done in pre production where everybody knew what we were doing. And I'm always super open to hearing someone's idea in the hopes that it elevates what my thought was. And that's what happened throughout this process.

Alex Ferrari 29:31
Did you by any? I know a lot of times when we were, you know, young directors or starting out directors, we get pushback from other people on set, let's say, you know, a grip or, or a DP or anything like that the politics of the set, and I had it you know, I had it meant when I started out like people were like, What do you know, kid? You know, I'm gonna shoot it my way. Did you I imagine you didn't have that because you had so many heavy hitters behind you, supporting you, but did anything Did you have to deal with anything

Aitch Alberto 30:04
You want to all the gossip all the gossip?

Alex Ferrari 30:06
The reason I'm asking you the reason I'm asking you is this and it doesn't have to be on this project on any project, because filmmakers don't know that that's going to happen on a set. And they're not prepared for it, it could destroy a shoot. So I always ask that question of, of every, almost every director, I talked to you, I asked that question, especially when they're starting out, because it's something that is not taught in film school, and it's not really talked about too much. So without giving names, I don't want to call anybody out. But just if you how did you deal with it? If it did happen to you?

Aitch Alberto 30:33
It did happen. It did happen. It did happen from departments that I didn't think it would happen from? And I think it's it's twofold, right? It's not just because I'm a first time director, it was because I was also a woman on a set. And to top that off, I was a trans woman on a set. So I think a lot of men have often gotten away with certain behavior on sets that are rooted sodomy. So there was a dismissive sort of tone, where questions were being asked, and I was asking for things. And they were directed to say, like, my director of photography, who was male, and it was like, I think it took a certain level level of assertiveness. And being from where I'm from, I definitely have. So there was a need for that. And it wasn't something that I needed it or wanted to access or have to, like, move with. But it was there. And I'm happy it was there. Because I wasn't gonna let anybody sort of like walk all over me or walk all over my dream. And I also have, and had the most amazing producer by my side, who just had my back in a real way and was with me every day on set right next to me, and that her name is Valerie Stadler, and she was boots on the ground. And she was with me from the very beginning. After I felt so her partnership, and her having my back throughout, it was just, it was very much necessary because I was able to focus on the work while she dealt with some, you know, drugs?

Alex Ferrari 32:15
Yeah, no. And again, this is these kinds of conversations are important to have in a public forum, because it really does help other filmmakers coming up. I know, just just, they just don't know, it's coming, I had to deal with it. Being the young guy, the young Latino kid, on a set where I might have been the only Latino on the set. And, you know, I had, I had a first ad just a first ad, giving me crap. And I'm like, It's my production company, I hired you, hey, I'm personally writing your check, get on board or get the hell off my set. These are the kinds of things that they're not taught, not talked about.

Aitch Alberto 32:53
So yeah, that department was one of them. And you landed on one of the most amazing human beings that I've gotten the pleasure to work with, his name is montanhas. And he will be with me on every picture. And it was the first time in the last week of shooting, that I was able to walk away from set and know that everything was being taken care of like walk and sit down and do my job. And that I didn't have to sort of like be aware of every aspect of it. Because the person that was supposed to like, ride with me wasn't doing their job. And that often leads to like people seeing your difficult or but it's, it's not that I'm like I I pride myself on being a really good collaborator, and a really good listener, because I think that's what me, Director, but sometimes you do have to put your foot down. And it's like, you do have to assert what your role is in those situations. And that is definitely one of them.

Alex Ferrari 33:56
Listen, when you're coming up, it happens for everybody, every gender, everything. It just happens when Ridley Scott walks on a set, this doesn't happen now. Now, now,

Aitch Alberto 34:07
But I think like for now, because he's earned his respect. And like that's, and I've heard story from other directors. My DP like walked all over me and like, they're, I'm disappointed. I was convinced to do this, my this did this. And it's just like, No, if I'm going to make a mistake, and there's going to be a horrible review, I want it to be my fault. Do you know what I mean? And not be like, I knew that my instinct was this, you know, and that's also something that I like, I advise people who are listening is follow your instinct. They are always right.

Alex Ferrari 34:36
Yeah. And I did the exact same thing. I had DPS walk all over me and convinced me to do things and then I'm in post, I'm going, why didn't I get the shot that I wanted? Why didn't I fight harder? And these are just things that as directors we have to go through. And I think every I think every director goes through that as a one way Scorsese Spielberg all the greats all the Masters they all went through it at one point or another in their careers because it's it's part of the of the process. So becoming,

Aitch Alberto 35:00
I will say production was magic. And if I could have lived in production for the entire time I would have done it

Alex Ferrari 35:08
I was going to ask you about production. It's generally speaking, there's always a day that the entire world's coming down crashing around us as a director, the camera breaks, we lose a location, an accurate doesn't come out of whatever. Was there a day like that? And what was that? And how did you overcome it on any of your projects, by the way, doesn't have to be this one.

Aitch Alberto 35:29
I think every day was like that on this project, because there was such a timing around it. And like I've been told not to say it was but it was not enough time. And it was it made it really hard to sort of like not have room for those situations. But again, everybody really showed up, showed up in a real way passionate, they were so invested in the story. It was it was really lovely to see but yeah, there was always fires to put out and I equate or I give the credit to my producer Val for like putting those out before they really got to me.

Alex Ferrari 36:09
You hear about the the damage later, but you're like the fires that hit me.

Aitch Alberto 36:13
That almost happened on a daily basis. And a lot of those fires there, for example. They're the truck. There's a truck in the movie, which is the like quintessential textbook. Yeah. It's supposed to be this fire red truck, I was pushed into getting this other truck off Craigslist, that I knew was the wrong color. And they're like, it's just the photo. It's just the photo. I'm like, It's not the truck that's there. Um, right. And so like everybody's scrambling to now paint this truck, the right color, and distress it. They painted the same color it was but distressed. This I don't know, while it's happening. It's day one, I get to set. And my production designer is literally painting and distressing. The the truck that I wanted and I would have never known because it was perfect. It's exactly what I had envisioned. But the rigamarole before then, and they wrapped it there was like three steps that should have just been one. It was so funny, but also scary.

Alex Ferrari 37:17
And it's stressful.

Aitch Alberto 37:20
This is why I thought it was like It looks great. And they're like I'm so happy you think so because this in this

Alex Ferrari 37:26
This is day one. This is day one

Aitch Alberto 37:28
Literally we haven't even like shut up. Shut up. Like yes, we hadn't started yet.

Alex Ferrari 37:34
That's That's it. These are the kinds of stories of things I just love bringing out because man even if it's you know you think a lot of filmmakers coming up will look at your story and look at your movie and they're like oh it's got you know Eva and and him yo and Lin Manuel's producing it must you must have had caviar every day and sushi and and just limo brought you like that's not the reality on these shows. It's it's indie filmmaking, no question

Aitch Alberto 38:01
Dawns in Pomona and I stayed in Pomona, like a Motel Six the entire time. Because I'm notoriously late to things that's like my pandemic trauma. So it's like, there's no way I could be late to set so I like had to stay close. Um, but yeah, there was. We lost an actor the day before shooting the horse. It was all it was all the classic stuff.

Alex Ferrari 38:24
You know, it it happens it does happen

Aitch Alberto 38:27
during COVID to like Adam and Jed, we just we had to stop production for we went dark for two days because my lead actor got sick. Meanwhile, I was sick the entire time he was but I was like, I can't be the reason that we shut down. So it was like barreling through and I remember getting set. He's like massive fever. He's really young. This is big, first major role. And he's like, Ah, I can't, I can't do it. And it was like, done. Val got on it. We luckily shut down. We didn't spend too much money in doing that. And we were back up and running again. But everybody was really scared that it was COVID because that would have like, ruined everything. But it was just some sort of flu.

Alex Ferrari 39:11
Oh, that's a whole other level of crap that we have to deal with to make movies in today's world. It's It's insane. Now you your film is going to premiere at TIFF, the Toronto Film Festival. I always love asking this question. What was it like getting the phone call?

Aitch Alberto 39:31
It's it's really emotional. It's like every emotional moment because it was postproduction was so hard. We had been invited to another film festival where we pulled the movie. And so it was a lot of it was painful. As an artist it was a painful sort of decision to make and have to make, but knowing it was the best thing for me in the film. So when this one came, that's also like such a reputable Film Festival that I haven't been to and I'm so excited to be included. It was just it was an exhale, it was like I had been waiting seven years to exhale. And it hadn't happened. Because it felt really real for the first time.

Alex Ferrari 40:10
It's a beautiful fest. I've been there, I was there once. And it's a beautiful festival. And Toronto is a great, great city. It's not Sundance, like Sundance is a whole other experience. Because I love Sundance, but it's different. And it's beautiful. And it's such a they love their filmmakers, they really, really do. And it's one of the, arguably the top five, if not the top three, one of the top three festivals in the world. So it's, you know, when you're coming up as a filmmaker, you have to imagine that you'd have the same dreams that all of us do, is like I want to get into Sundance, I want to get into Toronto, I want to, I want people to look at my work and tell me that I've done a good job, you want to feel that as, as a creative as an artist, and to be accepted into a festival like Toronto, is just monumental, especially at the beginning of your career. You just like, Oh, my God, like I just I, and it doesn't seem like and you've been in being so young, obviously. But you've been you've done a few things in your life that I feel that you it's not going to go to your head, it's not going to be like I'm the great that was in the first movie, like my genius Hollywood come and get

Aitch Alberto 41:22
I mean, that's something that I reflect on. Often, it's like, there was so much desperation and sort of anxiety when I was younger, of having that break. That never came. And I think I think he was, I think it was for many reasons, I think like I had to like unlock something in me to sort of like be ready to exist in the world authentically, and allow good things to happen to me. And once I did that that happened. And I think that that's true for this as well. It's just like, I'm happy, it didn't happen when it was supposed to happen in my head and that it's happening now. Because I'm far more present for it. I'm aware when I'm not. And I bring myself back to it because it is it's like a dream for so many people and I'm living it. And I just really want to enjoy it and have fun with it as much as I can

Alex Ferrari 42:10
Enjoy it because it goes quick. exam was really quick. So enjoy every second of it. Now I have to also ask you the question, you got to work with an henio and Eva. And this is your first big movie and you're working with these veteran actors, some of them legendary actors. How did you approach collaborating with them? You know, I mean, because they're both forces of nature. Both of those specifically, are they? They are forces of nature.

Aitch Alberto 42:39
Alone as well who yes, it mom like I'm all three of them. And Kevin Alejandra as well, all four of them are have such great careers on television and film. It's an interesting question, because it felt so seamless to work with these people. And I joked that the Latinx mafia had to show up in order for this movie to get made. Because we live Huck is going to finance and film about like two brown boys directed by a trans woman. But it was them who again validated my script, it was Lynn, who Haniel and Eva are stepping up and being like, this story is important. And I want to be a part of it. So that validation sort of came in at the beginning of the process. And then working with them was just like a very natural unfolding. And especially with a cameo who was like, so nervous to step into this role, because it was so different from how people know him. And he was so game and trusted me so much. And it was a lot of conversation and a lot of like, just, you know, support and being him being there for him to make choices. That felt scary, but we're right. And it's just like, I think his performance in the film is a revelation and something I'm most proud of.

Alex Ferrari 43:56
Yeah, is I mean and white hair. He looked amazing.

Aitch Alberto 44:00
And that was that was all him up the hair like he was so committed, and so impassioned. And you see it on screen. And like that some Yeah, I am reflecting back and smiling because it was so lovely. And Eva was just a lot of these people were just the roles. They were who people that I wrote with in mine, Eva specifically. So she just stepped into it. Because that's her. She's motherly and she's nurturing and she's like, incredible that it was just like, easy to sort of like hold their hand and guide them through the problem. They're also veterans.

Alex Ferrari 44:36
Yeah. Isn't it nice working with real actors? Yeah, professional, like

Aitch Alberto 44:42
Veronica Falcone as well, and Kevin as well. They're like actors from the theater and they like do the work in the preparation. I've met with both of them and I knew it was them and I didn't want to see anybody else. And it was just like, it's a thing. It's following your instincts and I'm really proud of those decisions.

Alex Ferrari 44:59
You Yeah, because I mean, coming up with you work with non actors or actors who are just starting out, and there's egos and there's this and that. And then the moment I got to work with, unlike an Oscar nominated actor I had to work with and he walked on set, and I was like, Oh, so this is what it's really like

Aitch Alberto 45:17
And everyone's also on their best game, like, everybody's just like, shit, like real.

Alex Ferrari 45:25
Rather, when I make you messing around anymore, these are real actors, we gotta

Aitch Alberto 45:28
Real actors, this people are gonna see this and that there is an energy shift, you know, but those, those two people that are like super massively famous, don't carry that around with them. So that also made it easier.

Alex Ferrari 45:41
Fantastic. 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?

Aitch Alberto 45:50
Don't wait for permission and delusional confidence.

Alex Ferrari 45:55
I'd love that answer. Delusional confidence.

Aitch Alberto 45:58
Yeah, no one's gonna tell you, you're great. And it's often going to feel like you're not great. So you have to delusionally tell yourself, you're the best. And your voice matters. And it needs to be heard. And that's like, even if you like, shoot for the stars, and like, you land somewhere in the middle. It's worth it.

Alex Ferrari 46:16
Now, what did you learn from your biggest failure?

Aitch Alberto 46:21
I have failures every day. But my biggest failure was not being true to myself. Because in order to be true to who you are, you unlock great or, and like, once you that that's where like the real sort of, you know, your your alignment, and your ability to welcome abundance SNESs and, and have your mind sort of unencumbered by the thought of failure is where like the real magic starts to happen.

Alex Ferrari 46:51
Well, I mean, the delusional confidence of tweeting Lin Manuel, is is genius. It's just a brilliant story. By the way, I think it's I haven't heard that one before, though, to be honest with you how people always like, ask me, how did you get Oliver Stone on your show? I go, I tweeted him. 10 hours later, he's like, I'll be on your show in two days. I'm like, Okay. And it just

Aitch Alberto 47:15
Kept forgetting that right. Like, I want to be able to like as I progressed to give that back to somebody and like even people who are my assistants and stuff, I make sure that I'm bringing a way to like, elevate, you know, I don't want to forever Asst.

Alex Ferrari 47:28
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Aitch Alberto 47:35
It's the same one that we've just spoken about. It's just like, the truth of who you are, is so essential to happiness, and existing in a way I was, I tried to make it for so long. And again, it was like this energetic thing of like, desperation. And people feel that they don't necessarily want to be around that. But once I transitioned, I was able to, I had walked through the thing that was scariest for me since the day I was born. Nothing was ever going to be as scary as that. So it was just like, I'm here, like, I'm in this room, because you think my writing is good, because you've seen my work. Like, I've let you know, like, that's the most I can offer you like, everything else is just like, I don't need you. You know,

Alex Ferrari 48:22
It's kind of like I always tell people, when I was coming up, it was like, I had a cologne called depression, the not not depression, but desperation and desperation, depression, and desperation by Calvin Klein. It was it was like, Jakar, it's stuck. It's, it's, and I used to, like, I'd be on a set and you'd like run up to the producer, like, Hey, I've got this idea. Hey, can you help me? Like it's this kind of like, Help me, help me? Help me, help me help me? And you're like, No, build a relationship be awesome. How can I help you? Is there anything I can do for you? And that's what people connect to much more than I need you to help me. I know, you don't know who I am. But you're famous and big. And you have connections? Generally, people call me all the time. Like, can you connect me to this guest that you had? No,

Aitch Alberto 49:12
No, it doesn't work like that. It just doesn't work like that. And I know that's hard to hear. Because you think we often mystify the film industry as this like thing that's like away from us. And in order to access it, you, you need to go through all these steps, right? Because that's what feels right. But everybody's journey is different. There's nothing everybody's a human, and everybody's showing up and trying the best that they can, if you approach it like that, and exist as a human of people just I'm looking for great collaborators, and everybody usually is right. So if you're like approaching it with that sort of energy, you're going to, you're gonna see the fruits of your labor sort of like come to you a lot easier than if you're just chasing it.

Alex Ferrari 49:54
When you sit back and wait for things, and uh huh, I know it's hard for people listening But it's something I've learned in my older age. I don't like to date myself. But we don't talk about older young, we don't talk about older, but the gray, I actually dye my hair gray on my beard. But the thing I've learned is that when I was chasing and wanting and going after, there is a level of that you need to be able to get up in the morning and hustle. I mean, the whole brand of like do is hustle. But you also have to be ready to receive when it's time is right.

Aitch Alberto 50:33
I love that. And it's trust and surrender. That's my motto. Trust and surrender, trust and surrender, you're doing the work as long as you're showing up, you're writing as long as you're like always looking for ideas and not waiting for it to happen. There's a difference between that hustle versus the chase of it.

Alex Ferrari 50:48
Right! You read a book that touched you, you wrote a spec script, you reached out to the author tackling connected to that author and then after that, then the journey started.

Aitch Alberto 51:00
Yes, that's it. And I mean, that's like distilled in that right so it's just like there was inspired action, but I was not I would there was a sureness to this project that like I just knew was mine. And also like a piece of like advice that I've recently discovered is that there's no arrival that anything you often think when I get into this write writers room everything's gonna like fix itself when I like make this movie like No, like the work keeps going. You want more after that you aspire for bigger because you were able to accomplish and if you just like take it as it comes. It's very freeing in a way that allows the desperation to take a backseat

Alex Ferrari 51:40
Without question And my last question my dear three of your favorite films of all time.

Aitch Alberto 51:49
The professional oh my god, so good. Leon I have a tattoo.

Alex Ferrari 51:53
Oh my god, you Oh, okay. First of all, we refer to it as Leon because that's the proper the on the professional. Well, yeah, I saw it in the theater. When a yo buddy a little bit. I saw it in the theater walked in. And I just like this this French director like lupus. Who the hell's that? And I walked in I was like, oh my god, it's one of the most beautiful films ever made in my opinion.

Aitch Alberto 52:17
Beautiful it's such a tender relationship and onscreen duel. It's soft, like in a way that I don't know I I saw myself in it. I love Paper Moon beautiful. It's such a beautiful film again. It's like father daughter relationship. And I'm I love Badlands as well.

Alex Ferrari 52:39
Oh my god. Yes. Yes,

Aitch Alberto 52:43
Badlands, Virgin Suicides and stand by me were three inspirations for this film.

Alex Ferrari 52:48
I could see that I really truly could see that the influences of that in the film without question. Listen, thank you for being on the show. And congratulations on your success. Congratulations on getting into tiff with this amazing film. And I look forward to seeing what else you come up with. You know as Cubans a Cuban filmmakers, we got to keep keep it going. We got to keep present. We got to represent so I appreciate you.

Aitch Alberto 53:11
Thank you I appreciate to a bunch of us are about a bunch of Cubans from the 305 or descending on Toronto. So I'm very excited. Thank you for making this fun.

IFH 617: The Story of the Most INSANE Film Ever Released! with Sacha Gervasi

This is one of the most insane stories I’ve ever had on the show, and I have a small part in making it happen. In 2008, Sacha Gervasi made his documentary directorial debut and executive produced Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Anvil! The Story of Anvil is a 2008 Canadian rockumentary film about the Canadian heavy metal band Anvil. The film is directed by screenwriter Sacha Gervasi, in his directorial debut, and features interviews with other musicians who have been influenced by the band, including Slash, Tom Araya, Lemmy, Scott Ian, and Lars Ulrich.

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.

I was invite to a screening at Sacha’s house to watch Anvil in 35mm. After the film I told Sacha you should rerelease it to the world because the planet needs this film right now. Well he did just that and man did he ever.

Anvil! The Story of Anvil! LA Premiere & Live Anvil show hosted by Steve-O!

The World premiere of the new Anvil! The Story of Anvil! film restoration in LA at The Saban on September 22nd followed by a LIVE performance from ANVIL with special guests and host Steve-O!

For FREE Tickets click here and send a video testimonial on how IFH or BPS has changed your filmmaking journey: [email protected]

Enjoy my entertaining conversation with Sacha Gervasi.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Sacha Gervasi 0:00
I've had this experience you probably had something similar, you know and it's that sense of connection of not being completely isolated and alone, which I think was certainly I seek You know, that's why you you get into film is because, you know the first time for example, I saw Advil play at sunset and sunset at Sundance, you know, we will enter no one really had seen the film, apart from Sundance Sundance programmers.

Alex Ferrari 0:24
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 back to the show, returning champion Sacha Gervasi.

Sacha Gervasi 0:42
I have no idea what's going on this morning, Alex, but we've just been talking for 10 minutes. We're just laughing. So hopefully people will forgive us. But just being somewhat ridiculous in without question.

Alex Ferrari 0:51
This conversation is going to be somewhat ridiculous that I can promise you.

Sacha Gervasi 0:56
What's new Alex?

Alex Ferrari 0:59
So my friends, so for people who don't I mean, you can come on a while ago on an indie film hustle and on bulletproof screenwriting. And we talked about your you know, your career writing the terminal and writing directing. I dinner with aurvey And Hitchcock and many other films. But we're here today to talk about, honestly, what you will be remembered for. Let's just Let's just put it out there. I mean, on your gravestone.

Sacha Gervasi 1:23
I'm hoping if I die on this podcast so that

Alex Ferrari 1:27
I mean, that's going to boost the ratings. I'll give you that.

Sacha Gervasi 1:29
That'd be good for you. No, there is no doubt that anvil. Yeah, anvil will be on my tombstone with I told you I was ill.

Alex Ferrari 1:43
That's fantast I told you I was ill. No. So tell everybody the story of anvil because when we first spoke, you had such a so many other highlights of your career that I wanted to kind of dig into that I didn't realize there was like an eight foot poster behind you as we were speaking of the story of anvil, and I think

Sacha Gervasi 2:05
As we've been carrying out this release, people just want to talk wherever it's like. You know, I'm working on the crown right now. No one's interested. They want to focus on anvil and lips and Rob and, you know, there's the story is very simple. I was a fan of this band anvil at 15. I met them at the marquee in London. I showed them around London, and they invited me to come on tour with them as a drum roadie, and so I was a 15 16 year old kid running around doing a Canadian hockey arena tour in like the summer of 1985. And that was the time of sort of Live Aid. And so I was, you know, there set up Rob Reiner's drums at metal aid in Albany, New York, not quite as glamorous, but it was pretty funny. Notable for the fact that the lead guitar player of the scorpions came into the dressing room and said, Who is Africa, he thought it was a benefit show for a person called Africa and someone had to point out actually, MIT says it's a continent. Anyway, so you know, this was the kind of shit that was that was going on regularly. And I was just around for this all this kind of like 80s metal stuff, but I was a kid you know, and I was so in love with anvil and particularly the drummer Rob Reiner. His real name is Rob Reiner people think that that's one of the reasons that movies Spinal Tap is the director of spinal tap and the drummer band will have the same name. But the reality is that's really his name. And so this it began this journey for me that obviously continues now you know, 45 You know, 50 years later or whatever it is. And it's just extraordinary with the film is about to come out again into theaters nationwide, which which we're gonna get into that story.

Alex Ferrari 3:42
So that's the basis of the story so it's so for everybody listening anvil is this amazing story of how not to follow I'm not how how to follow your dreams, but also how not to follow your dreams and never give up because there has to be a persistence and since this is a you know, podcast about, you know, artists and filmmakers and things like that, you know, being an artist is not easy. Being a creative is not easy in any field you get into this film is one of those films that touches your heart for anybody who's ever tried to do something and have been told no 1000 times. And but they should have stopped.

Sacha Gervasi 4:21
Yeah, well, years ago. I mean, this is about two guys who when they were 14, they made a pact to rock together for air ever. Here we are more than 50 years later in the bands still doing it and they haven't sold millions of records and, you know, played Wembley and done all this stuff that one associates with a successful rock band, but what they have done is recorded 19 albums kept on and kept working. given up their day jobs, their full time gig is being an anvil. And it is, as you said about persistence. It's this extraordinary story about what happens when you refuse to give up on your dreams. You know, you just refuse you're like I don't care, I'm not getting the results, I'm not getting the money, but I'm just going to keep doing it. And somehow, if you just hang on, you know, some young fan from 30 years ago comes into your life and makes a movie about the struggle. And that movie in itself, you know, has completely propelled the band as well has really helped the band. Because people have identified with, as you said, what it means to be an artist, what it really means to be an artist for most artists, right? It's, it's, it's very, very hard. And so I think this was sort of one of the movies, the intention of that movie was for people to really appreciate the kind of not just the dedication and commitment of not having the money and the success and the fame and all that stuff. But what what it's about for them, but also the dedication and the support required from their families. A big part of the movies, in the wives is talking to the sister who plays a big role in the film is, is what is the impact? What is the cost of refusing to give up your dreams, that's what the film was essentially about. And I think in a strange way, it's resonated, because for most artists, this is some version of their life, you know, in other words, it's really hard, maybe you have a moment of great success, maybe it passes, maybe you have another one. But you know, for most artists, they do it because they love doing the thing. It's, and they do it for reasons of passion, and because they have to because that's who they are. And, you know, sometimes you get the fame and the money, you know, sometimes you get it briefly, in the case of Advil, you know, but the point being that everyone can relate to this film and I think the really shocking thing to me because it's so you know, agile is not you know, heavy metal music is not something that most people listen to, it's certainly not in the mainstream anymore. And and it's sort of the film seems to have resonated beyond the heavy metal and rock community to any creative artists. So we've over the years, I've had letters from long distance cyclists and Potter's and, you know, our friend Rich role is one of the biggest advocates of the film, just people who really just recognize that universal story of of struggling to do something you believe in, and it not working, and being so committed and so passionate about it that you just don't don't care, you don't you just go like, Screw it. I'm just going to keep going. And I think that's a it's about the human spirit and film, ultimately. And it comes served up in a really quite unexpected package with lips. And Rob, you know, and at the beginning of the movie, you're kind of laughing at them going, Oh, my God, these Canadian headbangers. They're just so weird and crazy. And but by the end, I think, you know, the movie works for you, you feel a sense of empathy and compassion, and you feel a sense of admiration. Because these guys are really doing it for the real reasons. They're not doing it. Oh, yeah. You know, and I, and, and ironically, of course, that this story, which is essentially about giving, not giving up and about, in one sense, failure, some might say, but it has a happy ending, and that happy ending continues because they've been rewarded somehow, you know, it's just been it's been, you can ask me anything. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 8:06
I mean, it's really fascinating, because that's what I was, when I when I saw the film, for the first time, in this in the most ideal way, you can watch that film, at your house, in your screening room on a 35 millimeter print for the first time. And you're telling us stories about what happened on you know, on the set, and things like that after the movie, that was the first time I got to see it. And I was crying at the end, I was tear, I was literally tearing up because it connected with me at a at a really almost spiritual level. Because of like, because all of us have gone through that struggle of trying to make it. So two questions. One, how did you deal with your own rejections coming up in the business? Because I know, the road wasn't paved with gold for you, as it isn't for most artists who've made any sort of significant career, you know, made a career of themselves. And to after that, can you tell the story of how anvil was birthed the original phone call, like why you even got the idea to do anvil in the first place. And, like, that whole story is fascinating. But first, first, you know, how do you deal with and then I'm assuming you still get notes, we all still get? No.

Sacha Gervasi 9:21
Here's the reality man, you can have to have some success and have made films that have been popular or work with, you know, incredible people or whatever, you know, you're still gonna get failure or rejection. That's the thing people don't realize, I think people on the outside of the business thing, you know, once I get my first movie made or sell my first script, you know, frankly, that's, that's just making it to the battlefield. That's where the battle begins. It's an absolute miracle. It's a great thing to sell a script and to you know, have a movie made but you know, it's there's so many, just the war continues, the pitfalls, the potholes, the unexpected. Ups and downs, the kind of Someone in route decides to market the movie wrong or release it on the wrong date. Or, you know, the act is not right. Or you know what I mean? Like the most brilliant spec script in the world that, you know, if it's cast wrong and made wrong, it doesn't work as a movie. You know, it's like, there's so many things that need to go right. So you continue to encounter those. I think in my own experience, you continue to kind of that all the time, you know, so but the thing is that I think when you have sort of have pulled off a few things, you get some sense of confidence that even if you get a rejection, or it doesn't work out, you're like, Okay, we'll figure out another way. You just have a you have the faith that perhaps you don't have, if you haven't had anything go right, you know what I mean? Like, if you've had some things go right, then you're like, Okay, so, there will be

Alex Ferrari 10:44
And then your your origin story of how you got the terminal event, essentially, you got the terminal, how it was based, purely on a short film, a short film script.

Sacha Gervasi 10:58
Well, you mean Herve, Herve

Alex Ferrari 11:01
Yeah, but that whole story is, but before you tell the story, the thing I love about that is that you wrote down something that was so authentic to you, you put it all out on the table there. And even the power of that little short clip is what kind of launched your career.

Sacha Gervasi 11:20
I mean, I have been a journalist, and I really did not like the very cynical 90s sort of newspaper culture in Britain, which I mean, still, to a degree, it continues today. But it was extremely cynical. And you could just see a whole bunch of kind of, you know, people who found it much easier to sit on the sidelines being kind of shitty to other people and judging than actually, you know, have the balls to take any kind of risk on their own. And I just was part of that culture. I was a young kid, I was sent on assignment. And I was sent to interview have a villa shares, who at the time was a faded star, but had been the star of one of the biggest shows on American TV, and in fact, around the world in the early 80s, called Fantasy Island. And so I was sent on this, you know, interview, which was kind of like, a side dish to the much more important things I was supposedly doing in LA, this was like, go and make fun of a dwarf and come back. And, you know, there's that kind of thing. And I went in, frankly, filled with kind of judgment, I'd already written the story before I'd got there. And it was just like, take a few photos, you know, hahaha Habibollah shares. And, you know, there's actually a vulture article about the real story she could about my dinner with Harvey, is it real, you can look it up on voxer.com, which tells my first person narrative of what that experience was like. And then obviously, it was adapted to a film. And the first time I met him, he actually pulled a knife on me.

Alex Ferrari 12:39
As one does

Sacha Gervasi 12:40
As one does, because I'd written the story and I was rushing to get somewhere else. And it's all in the film, you'll see. And he kind of said, you know, you're, you're basically you're pathetic, you're not a reporter, you're not interested in the truth, you're just interested in trotting out the same old stereotypes, and kind of screw you. So pull this knife to kind of like, get my attention. And you know what he was right. In the end, I spent three nights within three days, three nights, I can't remember over five days between all my other interviews. And at the end, you know, I just had a such a completely different idea about who this person was versus who I'd thought they were. And I looked at them as you know, a three foot 10 kind of French dwarf with this funny voice. Hello, how are you? You know what's up. And I just thought it was just surreal being with him. But when I got to know who that person actually was, as a human being what had gone on with his parents, how, you know, he'd been such an extraordinary artist, the youngest ever painter to have his work hung in the Museum of Paris, as an 18 year old, you know, he was just a he was very well educated, extremely sharp, urbane, Cosmopolitan, very funny, and also completely screwed up by the multiple rejections that are, you know, happened throughout his life and the primal rejection at a certain point of his mother. And, and I just felt such empathy for him. I was like, I really love this. But at the end, you know, so we really connected and he opened my eyes to my own kind of cynicism and judgment, which, which was really, I needed. And so at the end, when we saw each other and universal share it in the scene is actually in the movie, and we shot it in the place where it happened. You know, he leant down and his eyes were filled with this incredibly tragic defiance and tears. And he was, and he said, Tell them I regret nothing. You know, it's actually in the movie, and Peter Dinklage does that scene so beautifully. And it was this thing of I had his story. And when I went back to the newspaper that no one was really interested in that story. They were interested in, you know, all the other stuff. But what was really sad was five minutes after I left him in that lobby, I got a call from Kathy, his girlfriend who in the movie is played by Maria Menounos and just say that Herbie had committed suicide that morning. And so I had this 11 or 12 recorded hours of interview with this kind of face. Did Forgotten Star who people thought was a joke and I just thought, you know what I'm I'm, I'm gonna do something where I'm going to try and honor this person and I wrote this piece. And I went into the newspaper. And literally, they said, and the line is in the film, one of the editors said, Well, Jeff Aziz top two midget, where do we send him next? And they all started laughing. And I was just like, I get it. But actually, you have no idea who this person is read this article, and they will, and they cut it down. And they just basically watered it down. And I realized that I had to tell this guy's story. I mean, basically five days before he died, I promised him that I would tell the story one way or another. And so I wrote my first script was a short screenplay called my dinner with Herve, which was about this unexpected encounter with this sort of, quote unquote, joke celebrity, as they called him in the office. And you know, that script was written from a place of the magazines kind of ruined, you know, cut it down, and it just didn't feel right. And I just have to tell his story, so that it took me 25 years to make the film, which I did, eventually, with Peter Dinklage starring as Herve and Jamie Dornan in an amazing breakthrough performance, actually, which led to Belfast, and Andy Garcia and Harriet Walter. And so I mean, it was a data strip. And of course, so you know, it was an extraordinary epic journey to get it made. But it was that story, that fairly full page short script was the one that eventually ended up finding Spielberg found it and hired me to do the terminal with Tom Hanks. After that, so it was, yeah, it was an incredibly important moment in my life to just and it was all about just standing up and going, I'm going to tell the story properly in a way that is more personal and, and talk about how much this experience in this person actually affected me. And so that was my dinner with Harvey so yeah, it was the purity of it was the, the just the refusal to just kowtow to the prevailing culture of kind of cynicism, and frankly, and stupidity. And, and, you know, just people want to put, you know, like, all the time, and we go through life, you know, life is fast, there's so much going on, we have to put people in a pigeonhole or put a situation there's so much judge, and, and so the point is, like, what if I just removed my judgment? What if I didn't have such a strong opinion about everything? You know, people use that in a way as a defense when they don't want to have to deal with something that's uncomfortable or unpleasant, which is fine. But that but that so I kind of it was how everything began, for me, it was that short script, and it was coming from a place of I have to tell the story.

Alex Ferrari 17:39
And, and the thing that's fascinating about that store, and it's such a great example of what I've talked about all the time, people always ask me, how do you make it? How do you make it? What do you know, you've talked to so many, you know, screenwriters and filmmakers who've made it like, what's the secret? And I'm like, the secret is you. It's your secret sauce. It's the thing that nobody else on the planet has other than you. And if you're brave enough to show it, that's what brings success. And in your example, there is literally no one else on the planet that could tell that story.

Sacha Gervasi 18:11
Yeah, I have to I think everything you say is exactly correct. It's like, what is the thing that's singular or unique to you the experience you've had maybe in a family maybe in a work situation, maybe as an artist, whatever it is, what is that story whose perspective only you are able to provide and tell and explore and that's apps there was no one else who could have told that story. And the frankly, I didn't we'd have a an anvil the story of anvil are two examples of extremely personal stories and actually both end both movies end with a photo of me and the subject is because, you know, I think part of doing these movies is is not to be successful, whatever that even means it's to make sense of your own life. You say why? What was all that about? You know, anvil is partially I was 15 Your fat fan who kind of ran away from home and joined the circus or went on the road with a heavy metal band, which my mother was not happy about, obviously. And it was like What was all that about? In that case? It was the music it was escape. It was growing up it was being becoming an individual. It was kind of going screw you you know, it was like the normal teenage stuff. And with Herve it was about something putting something right in myself. Forget the culture of the newspapers, it was like, oh, okay, so I was putting him in a pigeonhole and rushing to judge them being cynical. You know, I don't want to be like that. I don't want to be a cynical person who's not open to other people just because he happened to be three foot 10 Anyway, so my point is that you are sometimes you do a project, you write a script, you make a movie, you only realize after you've made it, why you did it. And so but you just have to follow that instinct and as you say, do the thing that only you specifically can do and I chose to photograph films as I call them because they ended that photo one of me at the lips of anvil would have been Herve, there's a third one coming in, which will be there'll be there'll be three films, eventually, after I do this other film, but those are the personal films, man. And those are the ones that resonate mostly with me. And I think also with other people, you know, so that's just my own impression, but, you know, you've got it, and I do them because I love I have something to express, I think it's important that I think other people are going to recognize we've all been cynical, we've all been wild and carefree and young and wanting to kind of go out into the world, which was the end of it, you know, we will, it's like that those universal things are, are the reason I do stuff because I want to connect with other people. Because I want to say, you know, I've had this experience, you probably had something similar, you know, and it's that sense of connection of not being completely isolated and alone, which I think certainly I seek, you know, that's why you get into film is because, you know, the first time for example, I saw Advil play at sunset and sunset, at Sundance, you know, we were in a, no one really had seen the film, apart from Sundance Sundance programmers. And they seem to like it. But you know, you never know until you put it in front of an audience. And we, you know, we premiered it in the library, and that sense of the response afterwards, and when lips and Rob came out, and there was incredible, you know, overwhelming applause for them and just a momentous reaction to the, to the film. You know, it's like, Oh, okay. Okay. So all of that the years of work and financing this movie myself and going through all the, the ups and downs of trying to pull the film together, it was all worth it. Someone heard you someone related, it meant something to someone. And I think I told this story to you, I don't know if I did. But after the premiere vandal, like 660, people came out of the library and adults sitting with a little van selling T shirts and CDs in the snow. And like 600 people were like, lining up to it. And there was this really nice, old lady, elderly lady, and she went up to anvil and she was posing for photos and, and she bought three copies of their CD. This is 13. And as she was leaving, I went up to her with my producer, Rebecca. And I said, Excuse me, madam. Just out of interest. Why did you buy three anvil CDs? I mean, it doesn't seem like you're a heavy metal fan. You know, she hauled them up, and she said, I will never listen to these, but I just want to help. 70 something year old, you know, school teacher in Park City, she was a school teacher who went to her local film festival, Sundance. And, and that's when we knew we had something that's when we knew, Okay, this movie is reaching people just as human beings, you know, and that's what you can't buy that kind of sense of excitement and relief and satisfaction, where the story you're trying to tell the themes in the story resonate with people, you know, who you would never expect them to resonate with. That's a beautiful thing, because then me and that lady are connected, and we probably have nothing else in common. But somehow this movie created a connection. So I know it sounds hippy, like but you know, I like I like that. Of course, to reach people, you know?

Alex Ferrari 23:17
Yeah, it's not it's not hippie at all. I mean, look, the thing that's so beautiful about anvil is that even if you just watch the trailer, there's a level of that these guys are pathetic, that you're like, This is never going to happen. Like you guys should stop their families like they should stop it's over. It was over years ago. They had their moment. They're in the movie, they're like 50 something at that point,

Sacha Gervasi 23:41
But just so you know, the guys now lips is 66.

Alex Ferrari 23:47
Right and rockin.

Sacha Gervasi 23:49
They still going and he'll go until he dies

Alex Ferrari 23:52
Till he dies on stage until it just there's no question. But that's the thing that's so beautiful about this because as a director, and as a as a storyteller, you brought us in, and really showed us the life of a failed artist of two failed artists who won't let go. Even though everything around them is saying you're just not it's not gonna work, man. It's not going to happen for you. Yeah. And that's so difficult because I think every artist at one point or another comes to that come to Jesus moment. Yeah, of course, where you look in the mirror and you go, am I good enough to make a go with this? And then if the answer is no, they either get out and go get a real job, or they go, I'm gonna give it five years I'm gonna give it and if it doesn't work, these guys gave it 20 odd 30 years and they still would like

Sacha Gervasi 24:52
What I think is beautiful is like, if you're willing to really commit if you're really, really willing to never give up that's what It looks like and but if you never give up, it allows for the possibility of some kind of miracle to happen some way. And this movie was what happened to those guys. I didn't know what I was doing when I was making it. I think they have less clue. But you know, and when it came out the first time, you know, I remember standing AC DC up past anvil to open some of their stadium shows. And I remember standing on the stage and giant stadium, and 50,000 people were screaming anvil and lamb, you know, and you could never predicted that, you know? And so it's just magic happens, you know, when it's over

Alex Ferrari 25:39
So that so that's so let's talk about that magic because you literally I mean, so everyone understands. A 15 year old roadie goes off the Hollywood makes makes a go of it. He's doing all right hanging out with Steven and Tom and, you know, and do it. And he's got he's building a career for himself. And then he goes, You know what, I'm wondering whatever happened to anvil? Yeah, that's, please pick up the story from there. Because the making

Sacha Gervasi 26:11
I've had my first we've made the Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, or, you know, there's obviously, you know, good, amazing,

Alex Ferrari 26:18
if you could get that kind of work. It's fantastic. And that was amazing.

Sacha Gervasi 26:21
No, and Tom and Steven were fantastic and hit, you know, they were taking some young kid from London and, you know, giving them a chance to make a movie with them, which was, you know, seemed extremely rare and exceptional. I'll never forget that because it created my career. And it gave me choices and options to go off and do things. And, you know, what an amazing gift. And I, you know, I remember stepping onto the set of the terminal for the first time. And I was just like, because I've made a little movie at Warner Brothers called the big TVs, which was my first film. And remember, waterparks, the producer took me onto the set of terminal and he was holding my eyes. And he like said, okay, and I opened and I just and I looked and I it was like a fully functioning airport. And it was like, you know, the set of the terminal had cost $16 million dollars, I think at the time was like four times the budget of the my entire first movie, I was just like, you know, this was me sitting in a room, you know, trying to get some story together, based on this true story of Alfred mosseri at Paris airport, and shoulder ball. And it was magic, you know, when you realize that it's so hard to be a writer, it's so hard to be creative. But if you just hang out long enough, and you keep going then you know, and hundreds of people ended up going to work, you know, that's a good feeling to feel like your creativity has employed a lot of people when you're on a set, and you think this came from me sitting there on my own, you know, so that was a lovely two. And it was a great experience for me. And Hanks was extraordinary. And I love topics. So and Steven too. They weren't they were and remain Wonderful. So you know, and then I had choices about what I wanted to do. And ironically, from that situation, I really thought you know, I want to be a director, you know, and no one was gonna give me a job to direct. But that was going on in my mind. And then also going on my mind was, here I am I've made a movie with Spielberg and Hanks, you know, making a living doing sort of sitting in some Malibu beach house or whatever, you know. And I was just thinking about life. And then I was like God, whatever happened to handle, but went online. And I discovered, you know, that band who I'd been on the road with, and I've known so well over those sort of night from 1982. I first met them to about 86. For those four or five years, I'd really known them very well and been out on three tours and you know, so I looked them up and I discovered that they were still going and that they done like 10 albums I'd never heard of and they were playing a pub in Quebec. And they're all these photos from their last show at this pub. And anyway, I wrote to the website, and I said, you know, dear website manager for anvil, I'm an old friend. But anyway, an hour later, I got an email back directly from lips. There wasn't a website manager. I mean, this website did not need to manage. And the email was like teabag, which is my animal name. We thought you died or became a lawyer. And I was like, well, both sort of happened. I went to law school and nearly died for another reason. But let's, so he flew out to LA lips, and I picked him up at LAX. I got him a ticket to come the following weekend. And he was like, Hey, man, how you doing? And it was like as he is in the movie, it was like so filled with enthusiasm. And he's like, Yeah, we're doing the songs for this new record. And I mean, he was wearing the same scorpions t shirt that I had last seen him in 24 years before he was literally won't say it was an exaggeration.

Alex Ferrari 29:33
It's not an exaggeration.

Sacha Gervasi 29:36
It was like nothing had changed. I was like what the, what is going on? I took him to my my good friend, Steve Steve Zaillian, the screenwriter, who would actually been the one that introduced me to Steven Spielberg and began my career. So I took lips this crazy Canadian head back over to my friend Steve's place and, you know, lips I remember, I was making coffee with Steve and looking through the window. his kind of kitchen out into the garden just by the ocean and lips was there with Steve's wife, Elizabeth. And he was saying, Yeah, we can do this record and you know, this is anvil and she was like looking at slightly frightened. But you know, he was so enthusiastic and sweet. And Steve said, you know, tell me who this guy is that you brought to my house. I told him the story. I was at Brody. And you know, he said, My God, and these guys are still going for it. And I'm like, yes, they're still going for it. He said, You know, he's a very interesting character. Maybe, maybe there's a film there. And I was like, yeah, what are you talking about? So anyway, that germinated that idea, where Steve just thought he noticed there was something about this guy, and about the themes of this story about never giving up when basically you should have as he said, it was it was it was just something something like that happened. And it took me a couple of months, and I went to the Toronto Film Festival. And I was with Rebecca Yelder, my producer who came in to produce the movie who had done Motorcycle Diaries and The Kite Runner. And you know, she'd also been a programmer at Sundance, brilliant, brilliant producer. She was the head of film that I think I can't remember. But so she went to me anvil with me. She said, Well, I don't I hate heavy metal. But let me meet these guys. Let's just see what happens. So she was like, they're incredible. She just thought they were so larger than life, such extraordinary characters. And we, she took us to this restaurant, and then lips started crying when he got the menu records like, are you okay? And lips was like, Yeah, well, I delivered fish to this restaurant for nine years. And this is the first time I've ever had a meal upstairs. And Rebecca was like, Oh my god. So she was like, okay, okay, I got it. Okay. Okay. And so that began the adventure of, okay, let's just go make this movie. We'll put a crew together. I put an amazing crew. I had Chris Sue's as the DP. I have Matt Dennis. I had incredible editors, Jeff Renfro and Andrew decla, who really became my creative partner is absolutely brilliant. He also cut Palm Springs, by the way, like a brilliant, he came in, did a fantastic job. And we just made this movie at my kitchen table. And we for two years, we traveled around the world. And, you know, no one was going to give me the money to I remember going to my agents at the time. And they were like, so you don't want to do that Jim Carrey rewrite, you want to do a self financed documentary about an unknown Heavy Metal, Canadian heavy metal band? And I was like, yeah. And they're like, Okay, I was, but they didn't get it. You know, the so important that if you have an artistic instinct, expect that no one is going to support it. Expect that everyone's going to think you're crazy. But I kind of knew in myself, I had to make the movie. And it was a huge risk. There was no one I wasn't there's no way I can go into a room in Hollywood and pitch that story. No one's going to. Yeah, because I didn't even know it. Was there an ending? What is it? You know, it's like, I think one of my favorite movies of all time. If I was to go and pitch in a room, it's to unemployed actors go to Wales for the weekend. That's with nail and I it's one of the greatest British films ever made. Right? It doesn't. It's, it's who those people are, in those circumstances, that comedy is the pathos, it's, you know, that the story of male bonding, it's a story of ultimately success and failure in a certain kind of way, once one, one moves on the other is stuck, you know? So it's just all about the specifics of what that is. And there was no way so I had to finance the movie myself. So I did. And I got these rewrite jobs. And I was just like, for the two years just editing at my house and trying to put it together. And then even when we went to Sundance, right, you know, it was 2008 was the bottom of the documentary market was basically the bottom of the market was a bad time, as everyone remembers 2008 to be people love the movie, no one wanted to buy it. So we had one offer from the UK, they were absolutely mad for it as they still are, to this day. This crazy company called the works, they and they offered us they bought the movie for the UK for a big enough sum that we were able to kind of get some of the money back. And then I you know, I got offered this big DVD deal for the states. And I was like, I'm not going to do it. Man. I've seen this movie play now at Sundance or hot dogs, all these festivals and the audience loves it. I've got to get it in front of them somehow. So in the end, I was like, I had this brilliant guy called Richard Abramovitz who's actually also involved in the rerelease, Abram Abram aroma, and sort of put it together. And we released I just took out a mortgage on my house, too, which is, by the way insane, and I would absolutely advise not to do this no one else to do this because it was completely mad because me and the band were at the same thing, you know, that we were all on the edge. I had this everything I've ever earned was in this movie, ever. Because I was that crazy about it. But it wasn't just delusion. It was like I'd seen the movie play. And I knew how audiences reacted. So I was just kind of trusting that I just like somehow, someway, we've got to get it to the audience. So we released the movie into 10 cities. is, and it's, you know, it's in the last 13 years since it's released. It's just gone on and on to the point where Alex and you're right at the epicenter of this, the movies being released into theaters again. So on September 27, of 2022, which is two, three weeks from now, the movie goes out into 250 in theaters, which is six times the size of the original release.

Alex Ferrari 35:27
I'm laughing, because it's insanity, it's insane.

Sacha Gervasi 35:32
I mean, it's, it's just crazy.

Alex Ferrari 35:35
Okay, alright, so before we get to the release, which mean, like, ridicu, which is ridiculous. Alright, so that's, that's another story so much, because it really does truly show. And you both were basically at the same place. Yeah, you had some success. But you were putting it all on the line, you're like turning

Sacha Gervasi 35:56
Everything on the line. And that's another thing is that, if you want to progress in life, I think in general, and you'll know this too, you know, you've got to take some risks. And you've got to know what that risk is, and what moment to take that risk, right? And it was like, I put everything on 20 to black. And if it hadn't come up, I don't know where I'd be. Because, honestly, you know, I, I just knew I just had this instinct. I just knew I just had to trust what I saw with my own eyes and ears with the audiences who were responding. And you when you came to that first screening, I mean, what did you think the response was from the audience?

Alex Ferrari 36:32
I mean, it was it was insane. Everybody, like most of the people there hadn't seen it. Yeah. And everybody was, you know, crying and laughing. And, you know, when you first watched that movie, the first part, you're just like, you're just kind of laughing. You're like, these guys. These guys are like they act clownish. They're, they're doing their, their kind of ridiculous, if not fully ridiculous. But then as the movie progresses, you start to connect with them at a deeper level. So at first, there's the spectacle, the oh, look, ha ha, ha, look at these losers. They're not going anywhere. But then when you when you start going in the arc of the hero's journey, if you will, that arc, you start going like but they're not stopping. This is not funny anymore. Because they because they're serious. They're not morons, they're not idiots. They're not people who they're just passionate, might be misplaced passion. But passion nevertheless.

Sacha Gervasi 37:39
Well, you're exactly that's exactly the journey of the movie. And I explained this to the band. At the beginning, I said, look for this movie to work, you know, I'm gonna be I'm gonna have to be 100% honest with you. And you're gonna have to trust me a bit. But the reality is, I'm going to encourage the audience to laugh at you at the beginning. Yes, number one, you're fucking hilarious. Let's, let's just face that. Number two, I think the audience will go from a place of laughing at you to recognizing underneath the passion and the perseverance that you were talking about. By the end, they're going to really admire you. And I said, to make that journey in a tonally, it's so complex from step to step. Because this is literally a movie that has a guy playing a red flying V with a dildo in a bondage harness, right? That's Yes. And also, the Holocaust is in the movie, because Rob Reiner is the survivor is the son of a survivor of Auschwitz. So when you've got such crazy extremity in the film, you have to build that tunnel journey little by little, and I explained that to them. And I think they really appreciated it. Because after that, they really trusted me because, and I said to them, if there's anything in the film that you really, really objective, I'll take it out. I'm not going to, I don't want to put you in a situation where you feel uncomfortable. And it was because I'd been their fan and their roadie that they knew that and they knew I was telling the truth that they trusted me. And I think that's a big thing. The reason the movie works is it's so intimate, because it's about me with my friends in the most sort of intimate, private moments that go on behind the scenes, as it turns out with many bands. And actually, when Metallica saw the the movie, last called me up, and said, and he's in the movie La Zurich, and he said, you know, me and the boys watched anvil on the jet drinking champagne, and we were all in tears, because that could have been us. And, you know, it's a very truthful, intimate film.

Alex Ferrari 39:33
It's in, by the way, what Laura says is absolutely true, because it's not that they didn't have the talent to do what they're doing is that the chips fall where they fall for certain people in certain groups. And sometimes there's that one thing that happens, that they're like, Oh, you opened up for this one band and that one person was in this in the audience that then booked you out of? It just goes up. There's so much luck. That's involve.

Sacha Gervasi 40:00
And I think any artist knows that if they're successful, they have some luck. It's about so many things. But you can't have the luck if you don't persevere if you don't keep Absolutely. But that said, you know, we all know this. I mean, look around at the world right now, Life is not fair. And life makes no sense. Why is it we have, you know, a war in the Ukraine, you know, why is it that people who have pandemic, yeah, pandemic impacted by the energy crisis, so desperately unfair? Why is it that, you know, the lower income households are having to pay more, you know, that just the world is so unfair. So you have to factor in the fact that so many factors are involved in why someone has a successful artistic career and why someone doesn't, and that you can't control all the elements, and you just have to do your best and give everything you can. But one thing I do know is that if you don't give up something, there's a possibility that something happens. And that's exactly what happens at the end of the anvil movie. So it's important. It's like, if you're doing everything you can, you're doing everything you can, but just trust the universe, that if you're doing the right thing for the right reason, somehow, someway, you get rewarded somehow.

Alex Ferrari 41:14
And people always ask me to and this is just I'll throw my journey in here for a second is that when I started podcasting in 2015, I just showed up every day. And I did two episodes a week like nobody else. And there was no mommy there was no nothing. It was just kind of like, I'm just going to show up and pound the stone pound the stone, cut wood carry water, pound the stone cut wood carry water. That's all I did. And then people like we're like, oh, well, you know, you got Oliver Stone. Oliver Stone was episode 425. Yeah, exactly. I'm just just so you understand, like, Yeah, before then I was like, and then after Oliver showed up, then a lot of doors opened up. And then people like yourself and other guests started coming up. And then it became what it's become now. But that was episode 425 425 other episodes without any major Oscar winners or you know, any, any major, you know, people other than filmmakers just grinding it in and out.

Sacha Gervasi 42:16
But you know, it's like the same example. In my case, you know, with the terminal. It wasn't the first screenplay I ever wrote, it was probably 30th. And it all came down to when I was at, or the 25th or whatever. It all came down to when I was at film school, I could not finish the script. At the end of my first year at UCLA at the MFA screenwriting program, the head of the program came to me and he said, Look, you got to finish the script. And I was like, I can't it's not good enough, though. He said, if you don't finish this script, I'm sorry. But I'm going to have to ask you to consider leaving the program because that's what we're here to do. And I was like, but it's going to be terrible, it's horrible. And he said, it doesn't matter. You just have to finish it. And so I finished this script. And it was indeed, absolutely unreasonably awful, was terrible. But, you know, he congratulated me said, You finished it. And he said, You've got to allow yourself to be bad before you even have the possibility of being good. So many of us are like, I've got this idea. And I've got to protect myself legally. Because this first idea I've had is good, you know, it's not doesn't, it's a process, it's like, you've got to write a lot of scripts before you start to get the hang of it. It's like riding a bike, you don't just get on it. And you're, you know, you win the Tour de France, you know, you've got to get on and work and be in a process, you've got to go to the gym, you've got to write some terrible scripts, you've got to have some heartache, you've got to not be able to finish the script, you've got, you know, those is such a part of earning that success, you know, is failure is such a critical component, I think. You have to be able to embrace it, to learn from it, to be willing to go through the experience of what it feels like to be a failure. I've done that a lot. And I will do it again. That's just life. And I think, you know, people just imagine, I remember at film school at UCLA, it was all gonna get an agent, like getting an agent was like this magical solution. It's irrelevant. You know, someone said to me, there's a reason why you're 90%. And they're 10%. It's just a connected little piece of connector, a sort of connective tissue that helps you get into the industry or whatever, but it's the script. It's not work, it's the thing you're doing, that is going to get you the agent, the agent doesn't have any power to make a screenplay well written, or to make a story well told, you know, they've just servants of, of the business, right? So I just think it's interesting. It's important for people to bear in mind that it's a long journey to get anywhere at anything, whether it's screenwriting or violin or become or doing pottery or being a heavy metal band, or being in a heavy metal band or designing maps or you know, whatever it is that you do, you know, the people who are good at it, did not get good at it by snapping their fingers. It's a real commitment

Alex Ferrari 44:59
For people listening to like, oh, because now we're in a different generation now a different time in history where YouTubers and everybody wants to be famous, and everybody wants to do this. And then everyone looks at someone like Mr. beast who has 100 million subscribers. And he said he's like the first 10 years. Yeah, the first 10 years. I barely made it. Yeah, totally. Because it's takes a long time. So, and that's what that's what film schools don't want to teach you. They don't want us they don't want that. Who's gonna buy that product? Hey, we're gonna teach you something that's gonna take you about 10 years to make a living at it. Like it's horrible marketing. Without question, okay, so,

Sacha Gervasi 45:39
Yes, but anyway, so now you want to go to the present moment, Alex.

Alex Ferrari 45:42
So let's go. So let's go to the president of anvil so I go over, I'm gonna tell him I'm gonna tell you the story from

Sacha Gervasi 45:50
Remind me of the madness that ensued I'm having oatmeal please forgive me.

Alex Ferrari 45:54
So we are. So I go over see the movie for the first time. And the audience is fantastic in the in your screening room, which is a whole other your screening room as it was in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. It's Al Pacino screening room. And once upon a time in Hollywood.

Sacha Gervasi 46:12
Quentin Tarantino came to the house, he said, I need to use this room for my movie. My wife was like, Absolutely not. I'm not we make movies. We're not having a film crew. Anyway, this out anyway. So I made this deal with Quentin, which is like if you if we let you use this room, because it's a real 35 room that he wanted. I need a 35 print of Once Upon a Time America, or Holloway was at a time in Hollywood. And he gave me one he was amazing.

Alex Ferrari 46:39
And I remember the day you got it, you called me up and like, do you want to come see,

Sacha Gervasi 46:43
You want to come see. And it can only be shown in that room. And you know, it's like the but but the point being that he was so cool about it. And I was like, Okay, if he wants this room, then I want I want to print the finished movie. And he was he was amazing about it. But when it came to getting the print, this is a side story. There so kind of, you know, these, these prints are like gold, you know, like we keep it in a vault because you have to keep it under, you know, under security. And you know, all the paperwork will so many people and Mike Rothman Tom Rothman, head of Sony had to like approve, this print was given and Roth was like, is why is this guy getting? We agree. That's the only way I got the print. But it was like, it was like getting something out of Fort Knox. It was unbelievable.

Alex Ferrari 47:28
I didn't know it was that big of a deal. But I guess it doesn't make sense.

Sacha Gervasi 47:31
Yeah, like made so few of them. And they struck a print and they gave me this print. And anyway, so thank you, Quentin, if you happen to be listening. So

Alex Ferrari 47:40
So anyway, so we gotta go see that movie. And by the way, for people when I'm in the room, there's a bunch of very cool looking older gentlemen in the room. Like, older gentleman, that should not look as cool as they looked.

Sacha Gervasi 47:56
Like who were they

Alex Ferrari 47:58
Walking in there and you're like, oh, that's Culture Club. Oh, yeah. It's no boy, George. Boy, George. Wasn't that with you? But But it was called your club? Oh, yeah. He works for Rod Stewart. And I'm like, this makes more sense.

Sacha Gervasi 48:09
David Palmer, the drummer of Rod Stewart. And we had Jim James, who was the lead singer of my morning jacket and all these kind of Muses wanted to see the movie,

Alex Ferrari 48:16
Right! So we see it then. And then like a few weeks later, you call me up like, Hey, we're having another screening of anvil. Do you want to come over? I'm like, Well, yeah, I mean, I mean, I got to see anvil. Again, I'd have no problem. So let's go back over. And we watched the movie, again, with a new audience inside the inside the screening room. And then at the end of the screening room, I pulled you aside, and I said, you know, I want you to come back on the show just to talk about anvil, because I feel it's a movie that needs to be talked about in today's world, because it's such a great message. And I think so many people need to hear the message of anvil. And I go, Oh, by the way, I'm working with this distribution company who's a friend of mine, and we're trying to put some stuff together, would you be interested in re releasing this? And that's how the conversations, that was the germ of the idea, and then you went off and you're like, a 15 year old? Yeah, we'll do like a 15 year release party, like we'll do, you know, we'll do a small thing, and this and that, and then we and then that's how the whole idea started. And then and then that rep that that, that that germ of an idea revved up very quickly, here.

Sacha Gervasi 49:21
And now. And then in the end. I mean, it was just crazy. And I mean, the whole thing, the screenings began, really, with my godson, Rio, who's 17 and his mother produced Rebecca produced the movie. And so Rebecca, and I had made this film and Rio was, you know, 678 years old. So last summer, he said to me, Look, because I'm his godfather. He said, I'd love to see that movie you and mom made, you know, all those years ago because I was a kid. So I said, sure. I'll show it. I invited him. And he brought all these friends from high school. Yeah, and this whole thing began because he brought all these kids to see this movie, none of them had heard of, obviously, apart from Rio, and they went nuts for the film. And we were like, what is going on. This is like a 13 year old documentary. And these kids have never heard of it. And they're vibing with it. And it was post COVID. And it was just landing the story about two best friends never giving up on a dream. It just really resonated with them. So that's where you and I started talking. And then I started talking with these guys that utopia. And it was astonishing. You know, that this screening that began, let me show my god godson, this movie that I made with his mum, that ended with offers from two separate distributors to bring it back out.

Alex Ferrari 50:38
To restore the film to bring it back out. And the thing that's so fascinating to me, and we keep joking about this, because utopia is run by a friend of the show, Rob. Yeah, Rob, who was on the show before. And I keep telling you, every time I talk to him, like, Rob knows this movie was released 1513 years ago, like he, he understands this movie.

Sacha Gervasi 51:02
Well, this is the thing because they've, they've really gone for it. And we have two large billboards on Sunset. And so sorry, this movie was released before but the great thing is they're acting like it hasn't been because they want to get, they've never even heard of this film, a lot of them. So now they've just gone through it. And it's, as I said, Richard Abramovitz, who released the movie, the first time around, Utopia has brought him in. And it goes to I think the current count is like 2 15 or 17 screams at the end of this month. I mean, it's, I mean, yeah. And so we're doing this big event la on the 22nd, at the sebamed Theatre, where we're showing the restored movie on a giant screen in front of 1200 people. And then the band is going to come out and play at the end. And we have Scott Ian from anthrax, and many other luminaries coming out to jam with them. It's gonna be complete madness. And then New York next Tuesday. We've we've, you know, we've sold out the angelica with Peter Dinklage as the host. And you know, it's crazy. It's all happening again, around this movie, that it's just a weird, it's got this magical energy this film, you know, and

Alex Ferrari 52:15
This is unprecedented

Sacha Gervasi 52:16
This has ever been like, it's never been done. Yeah, trickle rerelease of a documentary from I think because since anvil came out, you've had all these incredible movies like searching for sugar man and Ami and 20 feet from stardom. In fact, one of the things that happened with anvil was, you know, it didn't get long listed for an Academy Award. Due to the voting machine, they changed the voting rules actually in the academy in the in the doc branch, as regards music documentaries because of anger, because so many people were upset that it didn't get it got some amazing recognition. But as a result, when searching for sugar man won the Academy Award, you know, two years or three years after anvil came out, Simon Chu and the producer who's a good friend called me up and said thank you to anvil because he had the rules not changed, we never would have been in the situation to even win it in the first place. So Apple came ahead of this sort of the AMI sugar man 20 feet from stardom. Thing, and it was considered, I guess, you know, reasonably influential. So I think that it's one of those movies, which changed the paradigm a little and so I think that's one of the other reasons why it's being re released again, because it was sort of before all this kind of this recent kind of rise of documentaries, particularly particularly music documentaries.

Alex Ferrari 53:29
I'm fascinated to see how it does. I am absolutely fascinated to see to the numbers are going to be wouldn't it be crazy if this like starts to turn into something? Like?

Sacha Gervasi 53:40
I mean, as far as I'm concerned, it already has,

Alex Ferrari 53:43
You won no you've won Sacha

Sacha Gervasi 53:46
I mean, you know, I'm, it can't wait, I'm going to the Grove to do a q&a in LA, which is a pretty big theater. And we're you know, we're a premiere is twice the size of the original premiere. So I can't even we had an amazing premiere at the Egyptian. Yeah, we did that. But this place is with the band too. And it's twice the size. So

Alex Ferrari 54:08
And there's going to be there's going to be a few fans that. And that's the thing that's too is like you have fans of this film, like some of the biggest movie stars in the world, some of the biggest rock bands in the world. They're huge Star fans.

Sacha Gervasi 54:20
I mean, they relate to it. I mean, I was an artist as I was at a screening in London. It's really interesting. I was a screening in London a year and a half ago and it was like Julian Anderson from the X Files, you know, obviously many other things. Margot Robbie, Olivia Coleman. Boy, George, I mean, Lulu is a famous singer from the 60s in England who's brilliant to sew with love. They all went nuts for this movie. So I don't really know how to explain it if there's just something about it where people recognize something.

Alex Ferrari 54:53
So so I have to ask you, Robin and Lipson Rob, who are the two the two stars of this I have this opus what what did they think about this? Because I was there I did live. There was lips that popped on one of our original zoom meetings. We got I got to see lips. When you call them back up and go, Hey boys, we're doing a massive release of anvil theatrically around around America,

Sacha Gervasi 55:23
Around the world, by the way, Britain is bringing it back to altitude who released searching for Sugarman? Actually, I'll be releasing into theaters in the UK. It's we've just done a deal with Australia. It's going back around the world again, in this new restored version.

Alex Ferrari 55:37
What did they say when you call them about this?

Sacha Gervasi 55:39
They were just like, What the fuck are you talking about? I'm like, I don't really know.

Alex Ferrari 55:44
Like, this is the end. We had our run through. We're good. Thank you.

Sacha Gervasi 55:48
Correct! Yeah, exactly. I didn't think it took them quite some time to believe it. until we, until actually recently and this is another thing going on right now. They started talking in the UK about anvil the film of the band playing the Royal Albert Hall together. Wow. So that I think that was what really went lips was like, oh, oh, we're gonna maybe do the Royal Albert Hall. Okay. He started freaking out about that. I think it was just a bit like, it's very unusual. But it's like, it's like Top Gun. You know, I mean, Top Gun Maverick. Over the years of Top Gun. I mean, this is obviously not on the same scale. I'm not that deluded.

Alex Ferrari 56:30
But imagine,

Sacha Gervasi 56:34
I want to talk about Maverick and animal story Rambo double bill, the feelgood hits of the but the point being that over the years, like everyone loves Top Gun. And so I think what's happened with anvil is that people have found the film over the obviously, point 1% of the scale of Top Gun, but there is a fondness and a love for that film, which is seems to have grown. And so it's exciting because you just never know what's going to happen. Like, I would never have predicted that 13 years after the original release, there'd be a release, you know, four or five to five times that size. And the band is still here. They're still doing it. They've done six albums. Since you know it's

Alex Ferrari 57:13
And look at and look at all of the elements the universe put together for this to happen. You I invited you on a podcast.

Sacha Gervasi 57:22
That's right.

Alex Ferrari 57:22
We became friends. Yeah, we then I go to a screening. We talk. The kids had to come and you saw that reaction. We have this. There's so many parts that had to fall into place for this to be released. And then you have utopia, who's insane. And I still say they're insane. I wish them all the best. But they're absolutely you just showed me pictures of of the billboards.

Sacha Gervasi 57:52
Yeah, yeah, no building a building covered in anvil. And then we have above Gil Turner's on Sunset for those who don't know, LA, I mean, it's like one of the prime spots at the intersection of sunset and bahini. For the entire month, we have an annual billboard standing alone, every and he's like, calling up but they're laughing because they're like, like, it's making people laugh. I love that. But it's just we are the underdog story. Like you've got the anvil billboard. And then you've got like, you know, you forget season two, or, you know, Lord of the Rings, the power of the ring sequel or whatever. I mean, just people are laughing is because it's ridiculous. But that's sort of part of what Advil is, is the absurdity, the the, you know, The Little Engine That Could madness that this film was always had. And so I kind of love the fact that Robert and, and Utopia acting as if it hasn't been released before.

Alex Ferrari 58:42
God bless America, God bless. And we and you've been kind enough to give two free tickets to the big premiere in LA, it's gonna be the big premiere in LA, which I'm going to if you guys are interested in I'm gonna be there. I'm flying out from Austin to dope, just specifically to go see him again, and to hang with you guys. But we're gonna

Sacha Gervasi 59:07
Alex will be you and me and the ticket winners in the 1500s or 1200 seat auditorium, with anvil. The great thing is, they'll be a show of their lives. If there's four of us, it won't matter. They'll play a stadium

Alex Ferrari 59:20
in that as the movie has showed, because we saw some of those with like, all in the pub in the tree if you if you guys just watched the trailer in the show notes, you just see like they're in a pub. And there's just like the one dude in a chair, like right next to rob because it's such a small venue that Rob is like literally bumping into the guy in the chair.

Sacha Gervasi 59:41
I mean,

Alex Ferrari 59:43
But they're going hard,

Sacha Gervasi 59:44
They're going hard,. Because that's the point is that doesn't matter if there's one person or a million people in the audience, they go for it, they still get the same.

Alex Ferrari 59:51
And the lessons that this film can teach all of us as filmmakers and screenwriters as artists as people in general of what we're trying to do in life. It's so valuable. That's what I saw in the film. That's why I brought that idea up to you. And like, we got to get this out, as are people to know about this story. Because God, it's just such a, it's just such a ridiculous, wonderful, touching, insane story that will uplift and make you laugh. It'll make you cry. I mean, it's Tapcon. Let's just call it it's Top Gun Maverick.

Sacha Gervasi 1:00:24
I'll send you I actually got Alex, I'm gonna send this to you. I actually got a mic when when I was on the road with anvil at the time, right? I actually took a break in one of the tours in 86 to go to a family Bar Mitzvah. And so there's this film that my cousin on Earth, which has been digitized, which is, I really want to send you because I wish you would do if your notes. But usually, if I can find it, hold on, I'll find my guys

Alex Ferrari 1:00:52
Send it to me. I'll put I'll put it on the

Sacha Gervasi 1:00:54
Complete madness, dude. It's just a hole. Hold on one second. But anyway, so I'm feeling like really quite encouraged by the response so far. And, you know, who knows, whatever happens, it's great gravy, you know? I mean, it's just like, does it matter?

Alex Ferrari 1:01:10
It doesn't matter. But the thing is, look, I'm just happy to be a very, very small part. You had a big part of it, dude. I'm just glad to be any part of this release. And that, I mean, my God, I hope it can make 1% of 1% of what Top Gun did

Sacha Gervasi 1:01:29
I show you? So I show you this thing. So my cousin, when I was cool with anvil shot this video in 1986. And it's gonna go on to tick tock, I'm just gonna play this in your screen Hold on. If you don't buy the new album,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:48
Holy cow, is that who I think it is?

Sacha Gervasi 1:01:52
It's me. So I'm gonna send this to you.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:55
I'll put it up, I'll post it on social media, that's gonna be great.

Sacha Gervasi 1:01:59
I was like 17, or 16, or whatever. So I'm gonna send this to Alex. And it's one of the Tiktok things we're doing. Again, it's all being marketed in a completely different way. Right?

Alex Ferrari 1:02:10
This is this is a case that, listen, if it makes a billion dollars, hell, if it makes $100 million. Next $100, you're going to come back on the show, I need you to come back on the show. And we have to talk about what happened after that easily ever ending story.

Sacha Gervasi 1:02:29
Even if it makes enough money for you and I to have dinner at soup plantation, I'll be thrilled. You can have anything on the left side of the menu. I have a coupon it's going to be great.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:39
So man, so I'm going to ask you a few questions. I ask all my guests because I think it for this episode, I think it really makes sense. What is what advice would you give a filmmaker or screenwriter or anybody trying to follow their dreams trying to get to where they want to go,

Sacha Gervasi 1:02:56
I think the thing to do for me is to try and find a way to filter out other people's opinions. Because a parent will have an opinion or a friend or that will never work. You know, people can throw kind of wet blankets on what may be great ideas. So I think it's just being quite determined to just be true to what you know to be true. Like I said, you know, with the anvil, everyone was like, this will never work. Literally people would say this will never work itself. Finance, you're being crazy, who's gonna watch this movie, you know, and here we are 13 years later with the second release of the film. So it's just you got to trust your own instinct. Just know what you know, and and expect that other people will not support it, or frankly, even understand it, because only you know what you need to do. So that's, I think one big aspect of it. Because there's no trick, there's no secret, it all comes down to the movie or the script, it all comes down to the quality of the work. And that comes from your own authenticity with yourself. You know your own kind of like, okay, this makes me laugh or this makes me cry, or I feel something around the story. Just trust your own feelings around your story. I mean, I knew with anvil, you know, I just knew there was something good about it. Like you can't tell me that it's not commercial. You can't tell me you may be right. I don't give a shit what you're saying. What I'm focused on is I know this is there's something special here. And just you know, and don't doubt your instinct. So that's the thing I would say is do not doubt your own private instinct about what it is.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:26
Now, what did you learn from your biggest failure?

Sacha Gervasi 1:04:29
I've learned not to make a movie if the circumstance is not right. I was forced into making a movie or forced. I chose to make a movie where I knew it was super risky for various different reasons because of the producers and finances that were involved. And I loved the material and I was just like, Okay, I'm gonna go make this movie and screw it and everything will be okay. If you know at the beginning of a process. If you see red flags, and you ignore them, which I did. Ignore that You're parallel because things only ever get worse. And the other thing was like with with a crew member on a movie, it's like I knew I had a problem with a particular crew member, I didn't fire them, because I thought, Oh, this will be too much, you know, I really regretted that decision. As Alexander Payne always says, you know, fire quick fire early, you know, as soon as you see a problem, that problem is not going to go away, it will magnify and amplify. So, I guess my piece of advice is, do not ignore red flags. And, and also, you know, having failures, though is is how you learn the lessons, you learn the lessons through having the faith. So even if you do have a failure, it's okay. It's all about, you know, the old thing is, like, if you've got, if you get knocked down six times, the most important thing is you get up the seventh time, it doesn't really matter, you know, you've just got to keep getting up. So that that sort of refusal to refusal to give in, you got to train yourself, because often you're going to be on your own, you know, I mean, I look at you mentioned Oliver Stone, I mean, the stuff that that man has been through his films made the determination, the kind of hard core stuff full force, like people telling him like, this is a crazy movie, and you're anti American, and but you know, but he knew that he knew what he needed to do. And he just did it. And there's a certain relentlessness that I think is required, like, just don't get caught up in other people's opinions, because everyone is not going to see what you see. And everyone's not necessarily going to believe in you. So I'm quite sensitive person, I think most creative artists are, but you've got to have a sensitive side, where as it regards the work, but you've got to develop this warrior side. And I needed to develop that. And thankfully, I have had failures. And that helped me to develop those things, to be able to look failure in the face and go, Okay, I'm gonna avoid that now. So I'm not going to avoid that red, red flag. So when a crew members doing this kind of shit early, get rid of them, just deal with it, just pull the band aid now, and deal with the pain, don't put off dealing with situations, that was a big lesson that I needed to learn. And I learned it, but I learned it the hard way. And I think most people will learn their lessons the hard way. Right? You know, it's, it's very, what is it? Like, what is that great thing. The wise man learns, what is it a wise man learns mistakes from others, a genius lens them from himself or something I can't remember, but whatever it is, right, it's like, you have to earn it yourself, you know, all the wisdoms out there. And we know all the facts we need to know, but you got to, you know, Track down your road on your own and just learn and, you know, being a creative artist or filmmaker, you know, it's, it's a wonderful business, it's also a lonely business, you got to realize that, and, you know, family members of people that are just not necessarily going to understand, and you have to be cool with that. But anyway, it is what it is, it's also the most wonderful thing in the world, where if you do get through the battlefield, and you do make a film, and you do feel good about it, and you sit in an audience, you know, with people and you watch people listen and hear and respond to the ideas that you were trying to put into that movie, there, it's just so beautiful, because you feel connected with complete strangers. You know, it's it's extraordinary, you know, it's like, I was able to get an amazing print of ET, and play it, you know, and I got this fantastic print, and I was playing it, you know, at my house with some filmmaker friends. And, you know, we were all in tears at the end, you know, it's like, the ability that Spielberg has to reach people's hearts, you know, when he's working at his best, which is quite often to be able to reach people's hearts and, and connect everyone around this notion, in that case of sort of family and home and, you know, that's a powerful spiritual skill, to possess and to be able to deploy to bring people closer together. That's the whole idea of for me the stories and films is to bring people closer together.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:02
I have to ask you, did Steven ever see anvil?

Sacha Gervasi 1:09:06
I think he has. I didn't I actually have to invite him to the premiere, I think. But I know that lots of people, I mean, some incredible people already coming from quite famous actors, actually. But yes, I think he may have I think

Alex Ferrari 1:09:24
From what I understand from us is talking to so many people who've worked with him. He's that kind of guy. He will ask

Sacha Gervasi 1:09:31
He has everything Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:09:32
Everything and you know, write you a little note. It'll go

Sacha Gervasi 1:09:35
I got from, actually from Tom Hanks. I got one incredible note about anvil. So

Alex Ferrari 1:09:39
Did you? That's amazing. And last question, sir. three of your favorite films of all time.

Sacha Gervasi 1:09:46
Oh my god. Okay, sweet smell of success. Alexander mackendrick. 1957 James Wong how brilliant photography, but Lancaster Tony Curtis. Ben Hecht Clifford Odette screenplay unbel believable the greatest of the New York movies there's something so raw and visceral and Burt Lancaster was JJ Hunsaker is one of the great onscreen performances opposite Tony Curtis. And I love that movie. It's about power and moral corruption and desperation. And you know, New York and this is just such a great film. So I'd recommend that with Neyland I, you know, recommended before which is my great Bruce Robinson, you know, who was Academy Award nominated for killing fields, Written Directed with with Matt and I absolutely brilliant writer, brilliant filmmaker. I love that. And Chinatown. Which is one of my favorite films of all time, extraordinary. Robert Towne script Polanski at his best Nicholson at his best, just a brilliant film in a you can go back. And those are movies that you can go back and watch multiple times. And each time you watch it, you discover something new, or have a different experience, or you see it through the prism of whatever is going on in your life at that moment. That those are the great films are the ones that you can watch when you're 1020 3050. And they still work. And there's still something interesting, new and exciting about them. And those are the classic films. So those are like off the top of my head. Sweet Smell with nail and Chinatown are probably three of my favorite films. Also, I have to say I love remains to the day. And it's a beautiful memory. Yeah, most of which actually was written by Harold Pinter though he refused to take credit for the screenplay. Emma Thompson at her best Hopkins, I think in his best performance, and James IRA is the best Merchant Ivory film to me. So I would recommend people watch Remains of the Day. It's just the script is structured in such a truly extraordinary, simple, brilliant and effective way. It's such an emotional film because it's about unfulfilled yearning. Yearning is one of I think one of the most powerful human emotions. For me, it's like, particularly when it's unfulfilled in the case of a man, Stephens played by Hopkins who cannot express himself, he cannot say, I love you. And there's something there's such pathos in that and power because love is there. If only you'll have the courage to reach out and grab it. You know, I love that film. So that's one of my favorites. I have a printer that I actually have two principal remains of the day which I watch pretty regularly.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:16
And that is also a theme of anvil. Are you brave enough to go out and grab what you want in life and and if they don't give it to you right away? Are you willing to spend the next 30 years working in dive bars trying to figure it out until that 15 year old roadie calls you up who made it in Hollywood and said, Hey, you want to make a documentary? And then 15 years later, call him up?

Hey, we're gonna re release.

Sacha Gervasi 1:12:40
I would also urge anyone who's interested in the anvil story to look at one of the album's they did since the movie, the album is called anvil is anvil and Rob Reiner, the drummer who's also a painter, as you'll see in the film, he actually do drew an oil painting of an anvil, staring at itself in a mirror. And the album's called anvil is anvil I, when I saw this cover, I called up Rob Reiner said, Dude, how flipping high, were you? And he said, pretty high. He said, Don't you think it's great? And I said, Actually, I do. It doesn't get any deeper than that.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:11
By the way, you if you guys get a chance, the album covers for that 19 albums that they've done. But really art piece

Sacha Gervasi 1:13:21
Anvil and all the titles are, you know, sort of the illiterate metal on metal forged in fire strength of steel, pound for pound, you know, whatever is madness, go go and Seattle. But most importantly, can I can I can I suggest that if people want to see the movie, they should see the restored movie on the big screen. There's an interview afterwards and some bonus footage. And it's nationwide, September the 27th. Go to anvil the film.com to get tickets. And you'll see it's across the country and Canada. And I really hope that people go and see it and take their friends because I think what you will have is a really good time.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:57
There's no There's no and I don't even like it I don't even like heavy metal and I love this film without without question.

Sacha Gervasi 1:14:05
And it's also like Helen Mirren loves this movie. It's one of our favorite movies.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:09
Of course it is.

Sacha Gervasi 1:14:11
You know she's in the rock and roll I really the reason I got the job directing Tony Hopkins in the Hitchcock was because he loved to handle He and three times he loves and I think it just reaches you so check it out. We really hate the movie you write to Alex he'll send him I will give you a money back guarantee. If you really hate this movie, that's what you deserve to have your money back. I will send

Alex Ferrari 1:14:42
I appreciate I appreciate that. And I'll put put information about the giveaway for those two free tickets for the la premiere. On what date is it again September 22.

Sacha Gervasi 1:14:53
And then nationwide in theaters the 27. Five days later,

Alex Ferrari 1:14:56
My friend it is a joy having you on the show. You're all He's Welcome back whenever you want. It's just such a wonderful, I'm so glad that we're able to put this out into the world.

Sacha Gervasi 1:15:06
Thank you, I should say for your audience. Thank you Alex Ferrari because you were like the little seed that planted the whole idea. When you said you should bring this out into theaters again. I was like, What the hell are you talking about?

Alex Ferrari 1:15:18
Are you high Alex?

Sacha Gervasi 1:15:21
You suggested it man, so

Alex Ferrari 1:15:23
It's all my fault. So if it's if it's if it wins, it's my fault if it's a lose.

Sacha Gervasi 1:15:28
By the way, if you don't like the movie right to Alex, he'll give you your money back.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:34
So we're breaking up this is a very bad connection now all of a sudden Sasha, my friend it is a pleasure as always good luck to you and please come back and let us know how it goes.

Sacha Gervasi 1:15:43
I will let you know I'll see you the premiere just be me you and anvil in a giant auditorium, but we'll have the time of our lives.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:50
A pleasure, brother.

Sacha Gervasi 1:15:51
Okay, see you soon guys.

IFH 616: Becoming a Jack of All Trades Writer/Director with Greg Mottola

After earning an MFA in film at Columbia University, he began his career as the writerdirector of the independent film The Daytripperswhich would earn him a Golden Camera nomination at the Cannes Film Festival for best first feature film. He then went on to direct the Judd Apatow-produced hit comedy Superbad, and then followed it up with critically praised Adventureland, which he also wrote and received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Screenplay. The film starred an ensemble cast who would go on to become some of today’s most sought-after actors, including Kristen Stewart, Jess Eisenberg, Bill Hader, Ryan Reynolds, and Kristen Wiig.

Other film projects include Paul, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Clear History, starring Larry David, and Keeping Up With The Joneses, starring Jon Hamm, Zach Galifianakis, and Isla Fisher.

For television, Mottola directed the pilot of FX’s DAVE and is an executive producer on the show. He also directed the pilot of HBO’s The Newsroom, which earned him a DGA Award nomination.  His other TV directorial credits include episodes of the The ComebackArrested DevelopmentUndeclared, and The Dangerous Book For Boys.

His new film is Confess, Fletch.

In this delightful comedy romp, Jon Hamm stars as the roguishly charming and endlessly troublesome Fletch, who becomes the prime suspect in a murder case while searching for a stolen art collection. The only way to prove his innocence? Find out which of the long list of suspects is the culprit – from the eccentric art dealer and a missing playboy to a crazy neighbor and Fletch’s Italian girlfriend. Crime, in fact, has never been this disorganized.

Starring: Jon Hamm, Roy Wood Jr., Annie Mumolo, Ayden Mayeri, Lorenzo Izzo, Kyle MacLachlan, Marcia Gay Harden, John Slattery

Please enjoy my conversation with Greg Mottola.

Greg Mottola 0:00
It can take a really long time to make a movie if that allows you to get all the coverage you want. You just have to have people in the movie who love you enough.

Alex Ferrari 0:07
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 Greg Mottola. How you doin Greg?

Greg Mottola 0:22
I'm very good. Nice to meet you, Alex.

Alex Ferrari 0:24
A pleasure to meet you as well, my friend. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Man. I like I was telling you earlier I've been a big fan of yours for quite some time. Back from the days of day trippers all the way through Superbad and keeping up with the Joneses and Paul, which was a genius, electric lovely, fun, fun film and your new film, confess Fletch, which I had the the pleasure of seeing early and fantastic. And we'll talk all about that. But my very first question to you, sir, why in God's green earth did you want to get into this business? And how did you get into this business?

Greg Mottola 0:56
You know, like, like, all of us grew up loving movies. I had a pretty sheltered childhood on Long Island, you know, middle class, not my parents weren't like foreign film goers. But I would discover things my dad loved older movies. So he pointed me in the direction of things to watch Saturday afternoon, black and white films, on channel 11, and stuff like that. And so I already started to get a love of old films and, and would see everything that came out and had some teachers in high school turned me on to like, you know, one teacher showed us Citizen Kane and, and that kind of blew my mind. And, and then I went to art school, I drew a lot. I, you know, like many kids read comic books I taught, I drew pretty well. And I did a lot of other kind of art stuff in high school. And I thought, you know, this skill, let's see if it'll take me somewhere. I got to art school and realized I don't want to be an artist. This is way too hard. There's no money in it. Fine Art is is I have respect for it. But I don't, I don't, I don't see myself as a great painter. But I was a painting major at Carnegie Mellon University. And at the same time going to every single movie they showed on campus, like the first time I saw Clockwork Orange was on campus at Carnegie Mellon. And, you know, I'd go to once again go to everything, so a lot of foreign films for the first time. So my first Fellini film, my first Bergman film, first Corolla, and and I was like, this is the best possible thing a human being can make as a movie. And I really wanted to do at the end, and I really wanted to learn to be a writer. school didn't have any film classes, they had a video class that was that was a conceptual art class, I once made the mistake of showing my teacher a short film I had made and he gave me a C for the semester, because Because narrative movies were the devil to him. You know, just wanted it all to be non nonlinear art. So I found a space called Pittsburgh filmmakers, which is a little was a little group of basically, documentary filmmakers and experimental filmmakers. And they would teach you how to film a stick of bollocks in your hand and say, Go shoot it, cut it on this little thing that you just your hand rolled the reels, not even a Steenbeck not even a machine. And then you're going to you're going to cut the negative and get it printed in a lab in Pittsburgh. And I made I started making short films, which were not great, but exciting to me, because because, you know, I was seeing how lenses worked. And I was loading cameras, and I was cutting negative and one of my teachers, Tony Booba, great documentary filmmaker, kind of in the style of the Maysles brothers, he he would make these kind of personality movies about funny people, weirdos who lived in his town, which is called Braddock, which was a big steel mill town where that was very economically depressed because the mills were all closing and he would make these sort of social commentary, short documentaries, focusing on on big, big personalities in his area, and they were great. And Tony's brother was George Romero's editor. Tony got me a job working for two weeks in the art department of Day of the Dead. The third Romero zombie film, I was making zombie vomit out of glue, Elmers glue, paint and Rice Krispies and whipping it against a wall with a rag as one does to simulate. And I don't know if you've ever seen Day of the Dead.

Alex Ferrari 4:58
Oh, it's yeah, it's a fantastic film.

Greg Mottola 5:00
It's great. It's great. And so yeah, but we were as I was putting out a vomited, Bubs like little cell. And then I was helping with the r&d of the there's the shock moment where all the zombie hands come through a cinderblock wall. Yeah, I was there when they were trying to figure out how do you score Styrofoam, make it look like cinderblock. Like you know, all the little experiments and so they'd say, Okay, go over there and score 400 pieces of Styrofoam that was you know, because I was unpaid intern.

Alex Ferrari 5:27
So what was that? Let me ask you, though. What was it like working on the set with George Romero? I mean, at that point in your career, he must have essentially been almost godlike to you as a hero.

Greg Mottola 5:37
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I, he. This was probably the year after creep show. Certainly, it seemed on I mean, night, living dead Dawn of the Dead bunch of times. I loved his movie, Martin. I tracked that down and we saw it at a theater. Somehow in Pittsburgh, maybe there was a great rep theatre near my college. I remember seeing doing that. And when it opened, it was very exciting. Even though people kind of trashed it. I was like, I don't know, this is sort of awesome and terrible, same time. And, and so so yeah, I you know, I was too shy to talk to him. I didn't, I wasn't a precocious. And still I'm not a terribly precocious person. So I just watched him and I watched him and Tom Savini talk a lot. And, and was just excited to see how they were going around making decisions. I was my work, my work there, whatever it was, was done before they started shooting. So I just got to see them prepping. It was there shooting in this cave, deep in a cave, we'd have to take golf carts and their bats flying all over the place. It was, I was so happy. To me. It was like I was missing all my classes and getting more C's and I was on a movie set. And you know, and I have a great affection for independent filmmakers. Here's a guy who worked and lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, making movies his whole life. Not exactly. Beverly Hills or, or Universal Studios. And the only other time I was on a movie set, I got a day as an extra and gung ho, the Ron Howard the Ron Howard.

Alex Ferrari 7:21
Yeah, I love that movie back in the day is great.

Greg Mottola 7:25
Yeah, I watched it not that long ago. It holds up really well. It's it's, I thought like it's this I kind of like it is yeah, it's great. And so, so you know, I and then I was making, I was taking the video equipment from a video class and shooting short films and they just wised up and stopped showing them to my teacher. I just made them for my own learning purposes. But the minute I finished film, school, I mean, art school, I I went straight to Columbia University for film school, I thought okay, now I need to, there's a lot of skills they need to learn. Now, during straight to grad school,

Alex Ferrari 8:04
Now so during that time, if I'm not mistaken, you were starting to come up in the 90s where it's, you know, I look at it as the kind of golden age of independent film as we know it. The Sundance movement is many have coined it because from basically from 89 to early 2000s. I mean, Sundance was just popping out. Amazing film after amazing filmmaker after amazing filmmaker, as a filmmaker, what did that impact that because I know daytrippers came out in 96. So you were kind of like in the middle of that Renaissance, you know, but you know, Robert had already come out. I think you came out at around the same time as Ed Burns did with Brothers McMullen. Yeah, that around that time as well. So this was just like, I anytime I haven't any, any of you guys on the show that we came up in the 90s. I always say it didn't feel like that every month. There was a new Kevin Smith's story, or Robert Rodriguez story or Spike Lee's story or Rick Linkletter story isn't wasn't at a crazy time for filmmakers.

Greg Mottola 9:01
Yeah, it was kind of amazing. I mean, I graduated from film school I had no I had no real connections to the business. I wrote a script. I thought it was pretty good. Campbell Scott read it. I had a mutual friend and he wanted to do it, but we couldn't raise the money. It was a little too expensive as a first movie. So I sat down and wrote daytrippers in about a month because I just wrote it thinking okay, I could set a scene in an apartment and get someone's apartment for free. I can set the scene on the streets and get permits and like anything that could be free. We shot on my parents house, we shot you know, everything was a favor. And during that time, I'd also met Steven Soderbergh. I met Steven right before sex lives came out. I made a student film that was kind of making like the student film rounds. Someone showed it to Steven. We met I went on one of my first trips to LA I went to meet Steve and he was prepping or starting, I think to prep Kafka. But sex lives had been like a Sundance. This phenomenon and there was a big article about him in Rolling Stone but it hadn't opened yet. And so, you know, we got along really great and Steven and I stayed friends and a couple years later when I wrote daytrippers, I showed it to him and he said, let me help you make this he put in some money he got some friends to put in some money, you know, we shot it, we got it in the can for like $60,000 but it you know, Steven called in favors he got Kodak to give us a huge discount on film stock and, and and, you know, I the same time was meeting people like HAL Hartley, one of my best friends from Colombia, she was dating Rick Linklater, I was hanging out with him. So I was meeting all these people I met. I met no Abom back. Yeah, it was it was, it was a great time. I mean, they're like, people were just saying, fuck it, we're gonna go around the system and make our ship for very little money. And yeah, well, like when daytrippers came out. It played in our houses, there were a handful of prints that would travel around the country, and it took, you know, months for it to get to every city. But to me, that was a dream come true, because it got to every little art house theater in America. And we were able to sell at some other countries and pay back everyone who worked on it. And it's my first paycheck ever as a filmmaker. And yeah, it really felt like a time like I remember, you know, going to a bar with some of those people and like, no, or how and just like, complaining about Hollywood and saying fuck those people, and they're slick movies and, and they don't have any soul. And we can pretend to be rebels and yeah, artists, they don't get it. And you know, and Soderbergh and I have stayed friends this whole time. In fact, I just worked on he did a bunch of short, humorous black comedy shorts that I was like quasi producer, you know, essentially just a friend helping out on that were shot like you would shoot a student film, even Steven, you know, has wounds. He's, he's, he can do every job. And he was shooting these on iPhones and, and he certainly didn't need my help. It was really fun to be there and watch him work and, and I helped, you know, bring some actors into it. I like got Michael Cera to be in it. And Liev Schreiber and you know, it felt very, very full circle. That, you know, we're still here and we're still there. We're still doing it. But the 90s were, it was it was it was it was a unique, Kathy, I kind of feel like I knew everyone because there's so many of them were in New York, Mary Heron was a friend, Nicole Harlow center I went to film school with she and I are still friends. It was it was cool. It was I mean, it's, you know, because of technology. It's become easier to make movies on a low budget and have them look good. Look professional because of digital technology in both shooting and post production. But and there's a lot of great stuff. And you know, it was very heartwarming to me to hear from sort of the next generation of indie filmmakers the what were they called? The mobile mumblecore Yeah, they do philosophy. Yeah, like Mark Duplass told me so like daytrippers was a was a big inspiration to him, because he's like, Oh, you can make a film for nothing. And it's okay, if it looks like it was made for nothing. I think that's a compliment. But it was true. It was absolutely true. And, you know, I

I, at that point had absorbed many different genres of film and whether it's low budget American films from the Corman years or in like films from Europe that were made on a shoestring and and I still believe and I still, I still feel half indie and everything I do. Maybe that's because I have a really hard time getting enough of a budget for anything, but I've been very lucky. I've been very, very lucky. I I've no complaints.

Alex Ferrari 14:31
No, it's really interesting. When you brought up Steven because I knew that Stephen worked on day trippers, and he's been quietly behind the scenes, helping filmmakers make their movies open doors. It wasn't at him that help Nolan get on inside. Yeah, without without without Soderbergh like going. I always call it the Donnie Brasco effect. He's a good fellow and he's alright. And it's kind of someone shouting about you. And he, he does that a lot. Very quiet. Yeah. Spielberg does it too and he does it as Well, I've heard so many filmmakers and screenwriters who've come on the show who just like, yes, even opened this door for me. And so it's really fascinating to see these kind of guys do that.

Greg Mottola 15:10
He's very, it's very unselfish. And it's, it's, I mean, it's totally authentic. He just, he, if he thinks, you know, your hearts in the right place, and you could do something interesting, he wants to help you, and He will, and now he's the greatest guy. I also had an interesting, this is a daytripper story, which, which is sort of another corner of the filmmaking business, which is that two days before we're gonna start shooting the film, I got a call in my shitty little tenement apartment on Thompson street. So from James L. Brooks, who I'd never met, and don't have, we had my number. It turns out, I had given us a copy of my script to a friend who had a friend at the New Yorker who was good friends with James L. Brooks. And James likes to you know, he likes he told his friend at The New Yorker, have you ever read a script you think is interesting, you hear about a young filmmaker, I want to, you know, I want to know who's out there. I want to try and help people. So somehow, my script for daytrippers got into got onto James Brooks, his desk and, and, and months had passed. And unbeknownst to him, I was about to make it on a shoestring. And he called me up and said, I really love the script. What's going on with it? I'd like to help you make it and I said, Well, we're shooting in two days. And he said, what's the budget? And I say, Well, we have $60,000 It was like a long silence who's like, No, I said, What's the budget?

Alex Ferrari 16:40
Craft services for the first week.

Greg Mottola 16:42
Yeah, exactly. And so and so I told him how we were making in who was in and he said, Well, you know, obviously, I don't want to stop you. If I were to get involved, I do have some notes. And I would do it on a different scale and and it would be a different kind of cast and I don't want to screw you up, just know that I like this enough that I would help you make it if you wanted to make it a bigger budget. And, and I was credibly flattered. I think that guy is great. And, and I slept on it the next day I called the bank. So I just, you know, I feel like I have to follow through. You know, all these people are ready to go. And as tempting as it is, I'm gonna go ahead and make it and and being a huge man. She said, Well, you know, $60,000 is a little ridiculous. I'm just gonna send you a check for $10,000 Just make me a silent partner, whatever other investors are getting, give me you know, the same proportionate amount. And the day we started shooting, I got a DHL package that had a check for $10,000 from James L. Brooks. I mean, not knowing me whatsoever. Just never done anything before except for a student film. Just based on the script, that guy sent me your 10,000 bucks. Which, which, when, when you're working on $60,000, that's huge. That's a huge addition to your budget. And yeah, it was 95, the end of 94 when we were starting shooting, and you know, that's, that was a big deal. And I'm forever grateful. And I've, you know, since hung out with him a bit, and we tried to make a movie together. It didn't all come together. But you know, I will, I will always love that man. And, you know, it's like people say to me, young people say how do you get started? And I say, get really lucky, and hope that people like Steve. James Brooks, take pity on you. I don't know what to tell you. I got super fucking lucky.

Alex Ferrari 18:46
It's my favorite. I asked that question all the time on the show. And I heard Quinton once, say, at a panel somewhere, I think at ComiCon. I heard him years ago, years ago for like 15 years ago. And some kids like how do you make it into the film business? He's like, right, Reservoir Dogs. He goes, I don't know any other way to break into the business. Right? Reservoir Dogs, direct Reservoir Dogs. That's how I did it.

Greg Mottola 19:13
Yeah, I mean, you know, daytrippers got my foot in the door. And almost, I almost got a second film made that was set up at Sony. That was real labor of love. And unfortunately, even we were in greenlit, we were in pre production, and the studio got cold feet and thought it was a little too indie a little too depressing. And I was like, yeah, it's depressing. That's what I did. They put it in turnaround, so that one didn't get made. And then eventually, I said, Well, let's go to LA and direct a lot of TV and then once again, I was super lucky. But yeah, I mean, what I tell the one thing I try to tell other, like when I go to Columbia film or something and speak with students there is there are different ways to skin a cat. The way I chose was get a real The great cast of actors who are working professional actors who are taking, we're taking, you know, shity shity, sag special low budget salary. And don't use that much of their time, shoot it as fast as possible. That was that was how I did it. I shot daytrippers in about 15 days, and, and was thus able to get people like Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott and Parker Posey, and, and, and Mira, and, and, you know, I couldn't ask them to do that for, you know, meet me every weekend for the next seven months, and we'll make this film. But you can't ask your friends to meet you every weekend for the next seven months. And if you've got some really charismatic, interesting people, you know, who are patient, and who will say, okay, when you call me and say the lights really good. Let's go shoot the scene. Now it's gonna look really pretty. Or, you know, I got this location for the next two hours, come meet me. You know, that is a way to do it. I mean, you can take a really long time to make a movie, if that allows you to get all the coverage you want. You just have to have people in the movie who love you enough to put up with your bullshit.

Alex Ferrari 21:14
Which, which, yeah, I mean, look, it's an insanity. What we do is a general statement, and the independent filmmaker as a creature is one of the most insane of the bunch, without question because, I mean, unlike you, at this point in your career, you have success in your career, you've built a career for yourself. And when you're starting a project, there's, you know, there's risk and things like that. But when you're starting out, you're doing the work without ever knowing if it's gonna pay off, and so many filmmakers in today's world, because there's so many. I mean, when you were coming up in the 90s, it costs still cost money to make a movie, even $60,000. If there still needed to be a technical amount of knowledge to make it look presentable, you shooting film, you needed a real DP. Now everybody in their mother can make a feature film look good. But now who can know how you're going to get seen?

Greg Mottola 22:06
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly. I mean, there's, you know, as we all know, there, it's hard to get on a screen and in great indie films do get on screens. Even more, so we can get to this later then sort of mid tier entertainments, like confess flash, actually, I have a very hard time getting on screen, because because Hollywood puts most of those kinds of movies straight to streaming. But even for an indie film to get on streaming, you know, it's, it's you have to you kind of have to hit that home run and make something like Coda or, or everything everywhere, all at once, something that's going to, that's really going to land with an audience, but someone will get behind it in some way. And there are there are, thank God still art house theaters, places that will show that are dedicated to showing new new foreign films and new American Indies. But yeah, because a lot of people can make a film. There are a lot of films.

Alex Ferrari 23:19
It's a gluttony in the marketplace. Without question, there's just so many. I mean, I think Sundance got 40 or 50,080 1000s of submissions last year or something. Oh, my God, like something insane. And there's like 125 films, including shorts, picked. So like the, the level of you even, you know, that wasn't the case when you guys were in the 90s. There were there were still a lot, but it wasn't the competition wasn't as fierce. And I always I always love asking this question of, you know, guys, and filmmakers of that time, because like, Do you like it? When I had burns on the show? I go, Ed, do you think brothers with Mala would make it today? And he's like, Absolutely not. would have would have been lost in I had no stars in and nobody you know, so I'll ask you the same question. Do you think day trippers if it showed up today, I mean, with this cast, obviously, because now there are big stars but generally speaking, what do you think the chances of it actually finding an audience's today?

Greg Mottola 24:15
Hey, look, we got rejected from Sundance back then. So we wouldn't even Yeah, that was I took some pride in that. That was the year they rejected us and swingers so it's like, okay, well, you're in good company rejected by another with another good movie. Yeah, no, I think absolutely not. It would be it you know, it was so modest. The, you know, it's comedic. Comedy is less serious.

Alex Ferrari 24:44
It's not real filmmaking. Comedy. Yeah. Right.

Greg Mottola 24:47
Yeah. Even though like in the history of American film, if you if you went through the list of what people actually remember so many of them are comedies, or silent movies. You remember, like 90% of them are comedies?

Alex Ferrari 25:03
Because it was easy to translate back then. Yeah, Chaplin, and Keaton and all those guys. Yeah.

Greg Mottola 25:08
But still not to get on the comedy versus drama. Thanks to them both. It's yeah, I think it would be I don't, I have no idea how I could one could break through. I mean, I mean, there's a lot of movies with political conscience consciousness that, I think is great. But I'm sure now there's tons of them too. I mean, you know, it's, it's, it's, it's gonna be, it's gonna be really hard for people coming up to figure out how to get their foot in the door. I, you know, I was very stubborn at the beginning, I thought I was just going to write and direct my own stuff. I'm going to be an auteur. And then, and then I started after my second film didn't get made, I started to try and write a third one and had writer's block. And I've ever, you know, slight propensity towards depression and writing became basically napping. And I was in New York, and running out of money quickly and thinking shit, I'm gonna have to go back to the job I hated that paid my way through film school. And then I got a call from Judd Apatow, who said, Do you want to come to LA and do undeclared? And I think before I hung up the phone, I was in his office. He's like, I didn't, I didn't offer you the job yet. I just saw

Alex Ferrari 26:32
Like a smoke outline of you was in the front like a cartoon. Like yeah, exactly. So you saw it. So is that how you got involved in Superbad?

Greg Mottola 26:42
Yes, I went doing undeclared. Which was a weird process only in that it was only in one season, but it was done in three different groupings. Because they'd say, okay, you can we'll let you do seven. And then they start to air and it's like, okay, people seem to like it enough. We'll let you do a couple more. And then they let's do a couple more, and then they canceled it. So I was back and forth. But I did like five or six of those. So I was around Judd, and you know, it was a great writing staff. It was Rodney Rothman, Nick Stoller, Jenny Connor, all these people. Jake Kasdan was one of the directors, I became friends with all these people. It was like a really fun group. And of course, Rogen and and so, one day toward the end of the final batch of undeclared. I was told there's gonna be a reading of Seth's script that he wrote with his buddy Evan, of Superbad that they were trying to get made with Seth and Jason steagle is the needs. And it was pretty much the funniest script I've ever heard. And it had a great authenticity to it. Because, you know, Seth and Evan Goldberg were writing about their lives. They started a version of this when they were kids. They wrote The only joke that survived the kid version was the name Nick lovin, which only I think a 13 year old could think of. I mean, nothing, you could never top it. And so So and but it was amazing. And it at the end of it just said, Would you consider directing it if we can get it set up? And I was like, Fuck, yeah. I you know, even even I was still a bit of a recovering snob, and I thought, well, teen movies. I was like, Fuck, yeah. What am I an idiot?

Alex Ferrari 28:33
I mean, Orson Welles never did a teen movie, how?

Greg Mottola 28:38
Exactly. I remembered, you know, Bergman, and Fellini did teen movie, so that's okay.

Alex Ferrari 28:46
You know what's interesting? When I was moving to LA from Florida, I was 2007 2008. And I remember the marketing blitz for that movie, which was arguably at the time one of the most brilliant marketing pushes for a small film. It wasn't a massive tentpole stretch. It became a tentpole film afterwards, but it was just I mean, I was I was I was taking meetings, I was doing the water bottle tour on some of my projects around town. And we were like, people were like, Yeah, we need something like super bad before it even came out before it even came out. They were like, Yeah, we need something like a super bad thing. Like that's lightning in a bottle. I was like, What the hell is like when it's super bad. I saw the trailer like that looks freaking hilarious. And then it came out and it exploded. I mean, in a massive way even culturally in the zeitgeist MC Levin is still MC Levin like I know

Greg Mottola 29:41
I still see kids with the McClellan ID T shirt.

Alex Ferrari 29:46
It's it's, it's it was insane. So I have to ask you, like you were the kind of thrust into you know, being the belle of the ball in Hollywood for a moment. There's always that moment that if you're lucky, you have a big hit, and then everybody wants to work with you. What was that kind of hurricane? That MC lovin super bad hurricane like being in the center of it?

Greg Mottola 30:06
Well, you know, I, the first time we screened it, we did a test screening. And it went incredibly well. And I was sitting with Bill Hader and build nudged me and sort of look at the girls behind us. And they were like holding each other and crying at the end of the film. I was like, Wait, I didn't expect that. But, but I didn't like when I first heard it, I thought the way in to this movie is that is the ending, which is that hovering behind everything is the fact that they're gonna get separated soon. And that's going to be the first big test of them. The first big loss in their lives like this, this is the scariest thing that's ever happened to them is losing this, this best friend who helps you go through adolescence not knowing anything really about women and how to get how to score. Talk to a girl. And the fact that they're both really scared that underneath it all they're really scared that like even though Jonah Hill's character says the most horrible things, Jonah intuitively got it, he's the only actor who came in and play that character, as you could tell under the bluster was terror. And that made it acceptable that he said such terrible things because he's, he's not toxic masculinity. He's living in a world of toxic masculinity. And he's trying to survive it. And he's trying to, he's trying it on because that's what he thinks you're supposed to do. And what he learns over the course of the movie is that's not him. And that's not how it works. If you want any if we want a woman to respect you, and get to actually know her, and then that's okay, that's what everything's leading up to. So we have to just keep that simmering underneath the movie. So anyway, I thought, you know, that'll give it a humanity. That'll make it feel real. Plus, we get this great luck of that nobody was making our rated teen movies anymore. Right? Yeah, it was, like PG 13. Kind of glossy, you know, fine movies, but they they they didn't have that. That chaotic, irreverent, but it was really on your nose and adults thing.

Alex Ferrari 32:23
Yeah, it was it was the it was, I think that was the overcorrection of the 80s of the revenge of the nerds and the poor keys. And, you know, and all of those kinds of, you know, classic teen movies that were all hard ours, I mean, hard, hard hours in the 80s. But then it was they overcorrected. And then like, hey, it's been a while. And then America American Pie was probably one of the I think it wasn't that that wasn't 90s. Wasn't that the American Pie? Yeah. Yeah. But had been a while since American Pie when Superbad showed up. Yeah, exactly.

Greg Mottola 32:52
And in fact, when I went to that reading, it took three years for Judd to get the film greenlit. I mean, everyone was saying, we don't want to do an R rated comedy. Yeah, the script is good, but R rated comedies. Like why would we make a movie with the people with the audience? It's for can't come see it? And it's like, of course, they're gonna come see it, they're gonna find a way into the theater. I mean, I wasn't 17 When I saw Animal House, but I thought so so anyway, so the film, you know, we knew that people liked it. We showed it at Comic Con, which was like a rock concert, vibe. It was amazing. And so it's like, I can't believe like how well, but still, no one knows these actors really, will this translate in a bigger way, but Sony was selling the hell out of it, they were doing a great job. And the first day when I got a call, saying, we these are the projected numbers for the weekend, and it was like late August, mid, late August, and it was a time when like, it was like a dumping ground for moving. There's not considered a time you're going to open a movie that's going to open it millions of dollars, whatever, whatever was considered good back in that year, I forget. But anyway, we opened at a number that was considered very good. That times, especially for an August movie, and and it was so bizarre. I mean, I'd go on the street, and I'd hear people talking about it. I hear people talking about on the subway. And and it was, it was crazy. I mean, it was it. I you know, I have to be honest, it was super fun to be attached to something like that. And I loved everyone involved. I loved, you know, all the people who made it with me. And it was great to share that with this group of people that I had such affection for some of whom I know, you know, Judd and Sapphira, already known for quite a while, and I'd work with Michael Cera on Arrested Development. And yeah, it was a thrill. I have to say it's a thrill. At the time, I thought I may never experienced this thrill again and that All, that's remains true. But that's fine. That's fine.

Alex Ferrari 35:06
It was literally lightning in a bottle. I mean, look, I mean, those are skis hit the matrix, you know, you know, they'd never really hit the matrix again. You know, it's like, it's okay. You know, and you still, you still have a fantastic career. But you're right. There are those moments in time that you're, I've, again, when I've spoken to some other directors have had these kinds of kind of just rocket launchers. A lot of them said, Man, I wish I would have enjoyed it more. I didn't know that this was not this, this situation was really Right Place Right Time. Right, right film. And it will never be like this again, even if it may be I have another hit later on. It's never going to be the first one. It's never going to be this again.

Greg Mottola 35:51
I think I think I had some sense of telling myself you better appreciate this. I mean, this may may be the stupidest person alive. But shortly after Superbad came out, Judd asked me if I wanted to possibly direct bridesmaids, and I was trying to get Adventure Land set up. And because I am an indie at heart, I decided to pursue Adventure Land and pursue one of the other most loved successful comedies of all time.

Alex Ferrari 36:26
I've never heard of that, sir what movies that I've never heard.

Greg Mottola 36:29
And and, you know, on paper, everything about bridesmaid sounded fantastic and and, and I loved Kristen Wiig, and I ended up begging her to be an Adventure Land and you know, so I I may be frittered away a chance to build on a kind of more mainstream success. But I am I am a half indie guy. I really am. I mean, I don't Yeah, I don't regret making Adventure Land, you know, wasn't big box office movie, but I have to say like, it's for certain people. Like, I have more people come up to me and talk to me about that movie than Superbad, possibly because they think Judd Apatow Patrick Superbad. Now. Although I do remember one review of adventure that was really cruel, it said, Well, this proves that it was Judd Apatow was hand that needs Superbad as fun oh, oh, dude, it's a different movie.

Alex Ferrari 37:27
A movie? Oh, come on. And you still remember it? And you still remember it?

Greg Mottola 37:33
Oh, yeah. I don't remember any of the good reviews.

Alex Ferrari 37:35
I was gonna say there must have been 10s of 1000s of good reviews.

Greg Mottola 37:39
Very well reviewed. Yes.

Alex Ferrari 37:40
There's the one that you like, son of a bitch. That dude.

Greg Mottola 37:44
The thing of thing about indie filmmaking and making something personal that you know, some people are, it's just not going to be for them is that it's that feeling of like seeing a movie and saying, I know this is for me. And it's not for everyone, but it is really speaks to me. Right? And that's, you know, that's another kind of very satisfying thing to pursue. There are certain Fellini films that I love, and I know like, a lot of people are gonna get bored and a Fellini movie, but a movie like nights of Cabiria moves me in a way that I will never get from a certain kind of mainstream movie. It's just, it's a different experience. And I want to, I always want to try to be able to do both. And I thought, that'd be cool to get to do both. So So you know, yeah. So I, I've gone back and forth. Now, of course, I'm one of those people out there clamoring to get an indie filmmaker. So I wrote a script that I've been working on for years in between projects that I love, and I feel it's the best thing I've ever written. I've only shown it to a few possible financiers. And the basic line is like, well, this is more drama than comedy. And unless you come back with some really huge stars, I don't I don't see you getting as financed.

Alex Ferrari 38:56
You know it I want and I want to just hold on that for a second because so many people listening to this show think that, Oh, it's great Matala. You know, he's had he made these big hits, and he's had a great career and he's worked so much. He can get anything done. The more I talk to people on the show, the more I understood long time ago, that it doesn't matter who you are. Even Spielberg couldn't get Lincoln financed. Yeah, I mean, it's a struggle all the time. Almost all

Greg Mottola 39:29
Yeah, I mean, I'm basically like, I do want to do another indie soonish. And I'm thinking if I can't do this one the way I see it, because I don't want to do it the wrong way. It's a movie that does require it would be like an eight to $12 million film. I don't see a version of it. That's $3 million. But I could write something that I could do for $3 million dollars. I mean, the call Hall of center, wonderful filmmaker, wonderful writer and she designs her movies that that could be made for a number that that's that works in the marketplace and people's minds and she That's very true that way. And she keeps making really great movies. And so maybe I need to think about that, as I'm trying to attach the right cast to the one that's a little more expensive, and see if somebody, you know, find the right or the right or maybe the right moment in my career where I can cash in, uh, you know, it helped me get eventually made because Superbad was about to come out. And there's enough buzz about it, that I eventually got set up before Superbad even came out. But it was, you know, I got a lot of passes. And and a lot of people telling me, yeah, well, we'd like the funny side characters, but who, you know, the central story is just kind of like a love story.

Alex Ferrari 40:42
How, this is another thing that so many filmmakers and screenwriters have to deal with on a daily basis. And I think people in general in the creative industry, is, how do you deal with the nose? Because this business is all about knows and no, and the doors closing on you? All the time? So especially when you're coming up? How do you keep going, what is that thing that keeps driving you to keep going, when everyone's just telling you no kid, you're not, it's not going to happen.

Greg Mottola 41:08
You just die inside, and then you're fine.

Alex Ferrari 41:12
I yours years.

Greg Mottola 41:17
You know, it's still it's still a struggle to this day, but you just take the attitude of, it's a real waste of time, too, to lick your wounds for too long, I feel sorry for yourself. And I made that mistake, when my second film almost got made, and didn't I spent years trying to set it up elsewhere. And, and it I couldn't, and it was just it was, you know, the writing was kind of on the wall that it wasn't the right time to try and get that movie made. Ironically, people have come to me and tried to make that script, but there is a legal problem with someone who I was in business with at the time that I've never been able to solve. And that person has never let me free. So ironically, I could have made that movie, but I can't. But you know, that attitude of like, put it in a drawer, maybe the day will come is actually not impossible. And, and just, you know, fuck it. If I'm doing a pass on this grip, because it's a New York City story, I was going to go out with it a little bit wider to try and finance it, then the pandemic hit New York City changed a lot. And I thought, it's not going to seem viable to people. The way New York City is now during the pandemic now that New York City's pandemic is never going to end it appears but it's more itself. I'm doing a rewrite kind of address New York City at this very moment. It's a real sort of, you know, Hannah and Her Sisters multi character in this case, it's three stories that are being told simultaneously that are all connected. But it's kind of like three main characters and you're following them and an inter cuts between their stories. And it's ambitious, and it's it's, it's, uh, you know, I'll, I'll do my Polish, I'll send it around. I'll try and attach a few more actors. And if and if it seems like it's not the right time, I'll put it down and do something else. I won't. I won't waste time in this

Alex Ferrari 43:25
Seems like a film that would have been financed easily in the 90s. Because those are the kinds of movies that were being made and

Greg Mottola 43:30
Yeah, yeah. Exactly. God dammit.

Alex Ferrari 43:35
It was a big super battle chi teen damn comedy. So I always always like to ask this about of directors because we all you know, when we're on set, there's a day that the entire world's coming crashing down around us. You've lost your camera, you lost your actor, you lost your location, the sun's going down. You can't make your day. What was that moment for you on any of your projects, including the new one, we're going to talk about to talk about fledge that you felt that the entire thing was coming crashing down around you, and how did you overcome it? And yes, I know every day is like that, but there's that one day that is just like, I don't know if I'm gonna make it.

Greg Mottola 44:15
Well, for me, luckily, it was the very first day of my very first movie, we loaded out all of our equipment in our production office on daytrippers in New York City. Took our super 16 camera we at one and our small package of lights in a truck to a location on Long Island where we're going to shoot the first set of scenes with hope Davison Stanley Tucci, and I get to the location, we start to rehearse and my ad who's one of my good friends from film schools named Brian Lindstrom. He's talking sort of nervously or worry has a word expression on his face and I'm I'm sensing this behind me and I'm thinking what the hell could be happening. And he's like, just just keep rehearsing, doing a deal. And so finally, we work out the first scene, now we're ready to set up the camera, he said, If here's the camera has been stolen, and we trace it back to the loading of the truck in New York the day before, it somehow got taken off the sidewalk or something, and nobody noticed. And that's, you know, low budget film, and a lot of people working on the film, were first timers. And, and, you know, mistakes happen. So, you know, we don't have the budget to really absorb this problem. To come back and pay for locate this is one of the few locations we're paying for. And we had all these things locked down for the next few days, which, you know, going to lose actors, because they had lives and careers. So they scrambled and found another camera in Manhattan by the time they got it to set we had about two hours. And I shot, like three scenes and two hours

Alex Ferrari 46:16
I'm assuming and a lot of oners,

Greg Mottola 46:18
A lot of oners or a lot of one one takes and and you know, like various you know, man, what's the you make plans and God laughs at them. Like a lot of my my shot was went out the window and and you know, we shot in and we got something and it works. Okay. And we put it in the movie. You know, I remember the next day we're shooting in my parents house on Long Island in this town called Dix hills. And a bunch of us slept on the floor of my parent's den. Because we didn't have hotel rooms. And people didn't feel like doing the drive back and forth all crashed and sleeping bags on the floor. And I remember waking up surrounded by other crew members, thinking this is it. I'm done. I'll never you know that whatever we got yesterday had to be terrible. I can't do this. I don't know what I'm doing. I've never been to film before. This, I just felt a complete crisis. And then people started to show up, we started to set up and I'm like, I'm is there Can I run? I know the neighborhood. Well, I grew up here. I know. I know hiding spots. And you know, and then yeah, then I add mirror looking and be like, Well, where do you want me to stand where you want me to do and I'm like, Buck and mirror will kill me if I try to run she's going to Tufts. So I was like, Okay, I have to pretend I know what I'm doing. And I don't I'm not freaking out. And and luckily because I'm I'm an introvert and pretty poker faced I could I most of my anxiety goes straight to ulcers so I I think my way through it, and and then watching them act started to get exciting. And the actors would have suggestions that were making the scene better and started to get more and more exciting. And, and I started you know, Okay, should I freak out and say like, my parents are here do they realize I have hired two actors to play them? That's, that's a little weird. But my mom made a big tray of baked ziti for us to eat. And obviously, and and I started to really enjoy it and I realized I like being on set it's terrifying. And it's you feel so alive and I love actors. And I am so grateful to anyone on the crew that they're willing to help me make something I got over it pretty quickly. I'm always I always get a little anxious right at the end of prep before shooting. It creeps back in this feeling of oh fuck What if I fuck this up? Or there's so much to think about there's so many variables can you control them so I'm gonna steal my goddamn camera again.

Alex Ferrari 49:07
You still wake up in a cold sweat over that even on the

Greg Mottola 49:10
I'm still trying to crack that case? I'm still investigating in my spare time. Who the hell in that camera call and the cold case?

Alex Ferrari 49:18
And that cameras worth what 15 $15 Now $20

Greg Mottola 49:21
Exactly. The bastard only got that on eBay.

Alex Ferrari 49:26
Listen, I tell you what I mean I have to had a full blown panic attack on my first shoot day. Like I had a full blown panic attack. Like I had to you should. I literally was the biggest thing was shooting an action sequence for the short film I was doing. And I go guys, can you give me five I gotta go to the restroom. I went to the bathroom and I literally had a full blown panic attack for 1015 minutes, had to like meditate. And I didn't even meditate at the time. I was just like, I just need to calm myself like water on the face and then just like okay, there's like 20 people out there and we've got an action sequence to shoot and I just No He went out and did it. But it's it's something that they don't teach you in film school. They don't talk about this in film school. But this is the reality of what it's like being a director on set at any level, whether it's on a $200 million movie or a $60,000 movie like daytrippers, like you know, shit happens to your camera getting stolen on day one is a pretty rough.

Greg Mottola 50:18
Yeah, and that's

Alex Ferrari 50:22
But, but I'm flush you didn't have that problem. No one stole a camera, Fletch?

Greg Mottola 50:25
No one stolen camera we yeah, we've managed to hold on to all of our equipment.

Alex Ferrari 50:32
Tell me, tell me about so let's go into this new film, confess flach which is, you know, for a for a certain demographic of my audience who is has a little gray in their beard like I do. will remember the original Fletch, which is a legendary movie series by the the great Chevy Chase. And when I was when I was pitched this for you to come on the show was like, Oh, they made a movie called Fletch. Did they know that there was like I couldn't. Because it was like it was Jon Hamm starring in it. And I was like, and I was watching that. I was watching Jerry Taylor. I was like, man, and then I saw the logo. I was like, Oh, it is flat. Okay, they're remaking it. Okay, fine. Okay, because it was just so different because it didn't feel like the original. It didn't have the kookiness of the original. It's a completely different approach to it, which is wonderful. And I did get to see and I loved it. So tell me how you got involved with Fletch and how you approached dealing with a movie that for a certain generation has a shadow over which is chevy chase this kind of shadow over it.

Greg Mottola 51:32
In fact that the second movie I was going to direct the got set up at Sony was gonna start with John CUSEC. Steve's on and Chevy Chase, and I met with Chevy a bunch of times, and he did table read. And I was so excited. I was I've always been a huge fan and I grew up you know, watching SNL from the first season, I was Braden, eight or nine years old. And, and that was when it fell apart. One of the things I was most sad about is not getting a chance to work with Chevy. So cut too many years later, Jon Hamm, who I'd worked with twice before, and has a friend now. We were hanging out, he said, What did you think of doing a Flash movie, Miramax owns all the books except the first one. And then he told me when he saw the first movie, he loved it and then discovered there were books and read them and saw that the books have a slightly different tone in the movie that Chevy brought his own style of comedy and really influenced the Flash movie. And that there was another way to go with it. And he loved it. He claims he was so broke. As a teenager, he stole the books from Rome, a Walden books store, the various fudge books that are published and thanks. So I think they're probably not I think they're out of business. So they're not going to come after him. We should be okay. Okay. So so I had always heard the books are great. And I love detective stories, but I'd never gotten around to them. So I went off. And I love the first movie, for sure. And really enjoyed the second one. So I went off and read a bunch of them. The one John was thinking would make the most sense, was confessed flach. That book starts with him already having retired from being an investigative reporter, but he can't keep out of the business of investigating mysteries. And it gets sucked into not one, but two. And I thought it was fantastic. And I also saw where you could go a different way with it. And I felt as much as I love Chevy. I felt like I'd seen a lot of sort of 80s Reboot nostalgia fest movies that some are great, some are less great. And I just thought that doesn't interest me as much as a filmmaker. It's you know, I did the movie, Paul, which has an enormous amount of paying homage to Spielberg and Lucas and 80s science fiction, fantasy movies, and I love doing it. And that was really fun. That was baked into it. And that was, to me, that made sense. But in this case, I thought, you know, there's a new generation, I think that might not know this character, and they're between TV and movies, there have been 15, Philip Marlowe's, the famous Raymond Chandler detective character was played by Humphrey Bogart and Elliott Gould, and James Garner, and a whole lot of people. And I thought, you know, people have tried to revive it, and I can understand why it's been hard and it's in the shadow of Chevy's performance, which is unique. He's a unique, brilliant comic of our time. I thought the only way to go really is to go a different way because trying to impersonate Chevy, I thought would be a disaster and John didn't want to do that either. So um,

Before I was involved, this ReadySet borrow was working on an adaptation and and I'd read some of his outlines and we consulted he was letting me read pages and My gut feeling was like this is very funny. It's really funny stuff. It feels a little too much like a Chevy version. But I wanted to let ZEV finish his script. And he turned it in and John first words were like this is a great movie for chevy chase but not for me. And so I said let me take a crack at it and I went back to the book Zedd hadn't used as much of the book as I ended up using I went took more characters from the book, we're translating it from 70s to 2020s. So I had to kind of find 2020 is equivalent to some of these characters. But I really I took more stuff from the book I underlined lines I really liked from the book and put them in the script and and thought this is a comedy of manners this is this is you know, this character flechas has a lot of bait in his DNA is baked in a lot of similarities to what Chevy does. But in the books he doesn't have disguises and funny names and isn't quite doesn't quite. And one things I love about the Chevy movies is he just comes into a room and just confuses everybody with this deadpan acting absurd like almost like the Marx Brothers just complete a completely absurd no one knows what's going on. Right? And in that movie, everyone's kind of a straight man to Chevy and I thought, well, there's funny interesting characters. Maybe if we cast this right, we can let them be funny too, and not just be reacting to John. Let him interact and something I felt in this series of flesh books is Fletcher's a character likes weirdos and loners and outsiders, people who are authentic and he hates phonies. So he any any talks with people will lie to anyone anytime, but he has sort of a good heart he does. He does wrong things to make the world a little more, right. He doesn't believe in the cops and the justice system getting there. He does it his own way. And I thought well, that's great. And I think John is being both a comedic and dramatic actor he could really kill this and I saw the style little maybe a little more old fashioned dialogue driven talky comedy, less slapstick, and broad more behavioral comedy with hopefully, you know, still a bunch of good lines and I stole a bunch of ZEVs really good lines in his script. And I took a lot from the book. And and this being a genre hadn't quite worked in there wasn't like a semi autobiographical thing. I did what I've watched people like Judd do which is get some of your really smart comedy friends to read it and pitch you some some ideas which really helped me unlock some things that I could write to. Bill Hader gave us great ideas. John's really good friends with Robert Carlock 30 Rock he gave us great ideas he gave the script to Neil Gaiman, who Shawn knows from Good Omens Neil Gaiman loves the flesh books and, and I was so thrilled because he liked the script. And he gave me he gave me a cup of like two notes that I absolutely did the made things much better. So, you know, I thought, Well, why not take advantage of all these great people? I know that's something take advantage of the great cast that I think we can get. And that's where we began

Alex Ferrari 58:21
I mean, look, if you've got to deal game and on top I mean, if you're gonna Yeah, I mean, I'll take advantage of that. You know, what kind of idiot we're not. Shit. That's, that's amazing. Like, yeah, Neil, do you what do you think so yeah, here's a couple notes. Like, sure. It's great if you could get that access. But that's me. That's, that's remarkable. No, it was a really fun movie. And the way you approached it was really an A John's performance is I've been a fan of John's. One of my favorite things John ever did was the SNL sketch with Michael Buble. A Hammond bubbly, one of the I mean, my wife and I watched that, like every every, like six months, like you remember it, let's, let's bring that back. It's just his performance. It's a John is such a great great, great comedic actor. And he has such great timing. Um, he's a fantastic dramatic actor, but in this movie gets to play both really, really, really well.

Greg Mottola 59:13
Well, that's what I was excited about for to get to put John in the middle of you know, these weirdos and let him do both and let him Yeah, and let him really lean into his timing and, and, you know, ya have a real sustained comedic performance with be a very specific guy who's unconventional who looks you know, like there's a lot of sending up rich people in the movie and he looks like he could walk into a yacht club or a really upscale art dealers gallery or rich person's apartment or whatever, and, and they all let him in and they'd all open up to him. They think he's one of them. And I really believe Fletch has a different value system and all these people, he just happens to look like, you know, handsome loss. And so and so he can, he can go around taking advantage of that to to get the information he wants and to trick people. And so I thought he's kind of perfect. If you go back to the character from Book Three, he is a character in the book is younger than than John is so but what kind of worked about confess Fletcher's? He's a retired investigative reporter. So that made some sense that he's, he's been away from this world, and he's kind of getting sucked back into a version of it. And you know, some people have reacted to like, you can't make Fletch with someone who wasn't like Chevy Chase. And I think I think I can see that. That's what that's what they want. They want, you know, they want more movies with Chevy doing the part

Alex Ferrari 1:00:51
98 Chevy from 1980 Something which he is now and I

Greg Mottola 1:00:55
And then I would have loved that too. I wish I wish they had I mean, maybe they made a mistake by making the second movie not based on one of the books, maybe they should have tried to stay a little more faithful to the books, who knows. It's not for me to decide. But But I would have loved to have seen Chevy do all the books. But at the same time, you know, the long goodbye by Raymond Chandler has been adapted probably three or four times.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:21
Stars but for God's sakes, yeah,

Greg Mottola 1:01:24
I thought I thought you know, for people some people say this is sacred, you cannot touch it was like now you know, it's it's an adaptation. You know, if it doesn't float your boat, you have to watch. Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:36
Like I was I was there at the premiere of Footloose when they made the remake with Craig Brewer, who made the remake of it. And you know, the remake was the remake was fine, but it's not the it's not the Kevin Bacon one. It's just, it's never gonna be the Kevin Bacon. It's a moment in time. Just like Fletch in the 80s was a moment in time that can never be reproduced no matter what you tried to do now?

Greg Mottola 1:01:57
Yeah, exactly. So that's why I thought we'll use a different book. And we'll have a different tone. And we'll you know, we never really talked much about making it a period piece, that's probably wouldn't have been too expensive. Anyway, we had to, you know, part of the way we broke the flesh curse was that we were willing to work really fast and work but within, you know, felt a little more like do daytrippers than I expected. But that's the kind of the way the world now is like, certain they give a billion dollars to Lord of the Rings, and then the rest of us have to have to work on the catering budget from Lord of the Rings.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:36
I mean, but if you were to put a John in a cape, I mean, you would have gotten at least another 50 million.

Greg Mottola 1:02:42
Yeah, yeah. If you can we make Fletch

Alex Ferrari 1:02:45
I can imagine in the studio, get flush superpowers, can we? Can he be like a mutant that dissolves Croc?

Greg Mottola 1:02:54
Yeah, just you know, people who love the books won't have a problem with that.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:00
Which is millions of people. Now when is it coming out? And when people can where can people see it?

Greg Mottola 1:03:05
It's what's getting kind of this hybrid really is because we live in a brave new world where where, you know, the pandemic screwed with movie distribution. And this kind of medium mesh comedy is adult skewing to a bit. I mean, it doesn't really, you know, it's not a lot of pop culture references and and, and dirty shit like and super bad. I apologize. They can't do it every time. And and so you know, it's not perceived as necessarily a big theatrical moneymaker, which I get, especially as moment time is everything all bets are off. People are scrambling trying to figure out what are movies now. Anyway. So we're getting this limited released in theaters starting this Friday the 16th It'll be in about 450 theaters around the country in the main major markets. You know, it's not getting a Top Gun level promotion. But I didn't expect it to I'm actually quite honestly, I always thought this will go straight to streaming in this moment in time, the kind of size of movie it is and the style of it being not super broad. And how many movies how many comedies have even been on screens lately? It's I feel a lot.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:27
I can't fit in the theater system right now.

Greg Mottola 1:04:31
Come from studios.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:34
No, no, not not in a big not big releases. No.

Greg Mottola 1:04:38
I mean, like you know, these big Yeah, all these you know, like, Kevin Hart. Movies go to netflix. I mean, he was he suffered any BS Yeah, yeah, definitely tons of movie. He's his movies made tons of money in the box office and now they're all going to Netflix and

Alex Ferrari 1:04:54
I mean, the rock is going to Netflix for God's sakes. I mean, yeah, black Adam coming out soon, but But yeah, I mean, when you got someone like one of the biggest movie stars in the world going straight to streaming whatnot going straight it started in streaming. But yeah, I mean, could read notice could read notice if it was released? Because that's an action comedy. Could that have made a couple 100 million dollars in the box office?

Greg Mottola 1:05:15
Yeah. You think, but you know, but the pandemic changed things and yeah, and and, and you know, people are strapped for money and I get it. But so I'm glad that it's getting kind of theatrical, I see it as kind of an indie release. It's sort of like getting the thing that's, that has changed. But it's interesting is that even maybe a year ago or two years ago, the major chains, AMC Regal, so forth, would not take a movie that's also opening on demand the same day, and we are opening on demand the same day. And they're, the major chains are willing to show Fletch, so so

Alex Ferrari 1:05:57
They don't have a choice. Now,

Greg Mottola 1:05:58
I mean, they're negotiating. Exactly the you know, the whole, like, we won't take anything with less than a 90 day window has all gone away. And, and which is good for me, because now some people can see it in a theater. And I think, I think you know, because a lot of the jokes are not pointed out, they're a little more dry, or just happened without, without elbowing the audience in the ribs. I think it I've seen it with, with an audience a few times. And it, it plays nicely. I think people actually laugh and focus in a slightly different way. But I'll be happy if you watch it on any form. If you watch it on your Apple Watch, I'll be grateful. And then I was just gonna say, at the end of October, it's going to be it's going to move to showtime.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:47
Okay, so perfect, perfect. I tell everybody, they have to go watch it. It's a really, really fun film, whether you like the Chevy one or not. It's just a good film stand alone. It's, it's a really nice approach to that material without question. Now, I do have to ask you one question, because you worked on one of my favorite shows of the last, you know, 1015 years. newsroom is it was a masterpiece of television. It's one of those it's up there for me up there with the sopranos and Breaking Bad. It's just such a well written show and such a well done show. And you were obviously a co executive producer on it. You worked with Aaron, I just have to ask you, what was it? What did you how did you approach working with Aaron Sorkin and how was that collaboration on the newsroom?

Greg Mottola 1:07:32
Well, it's I mean, yeah, Aaron's brilliant, there's no question of that. And I, you know, for better or worse, I thought, well, let's up approach the pilot slightly differently than his other shows, which are very sort of classical, beautifully directed often by Tommy Shlomi, who's a fantastic director. But I thought I don't want to ape his style. What if we give it a slightly edgier more? You know? All green grass handhelds? Yeah. So dirty or five? Or you know, and I actually ended up getting I've terrible memory the DP who shoots who shot like United?

Alex Ferrari 1:08:23
Oh, yeah. 93 93 Paul's Paul's DP?

Greg Mottola 1:08:27
Yeah, and I can't believe I'm forgetting space and just my terrible I'm getting old. Great guy, great DP who operates himself shoots off Ken loach's movies. And, and we shot everything with three cameras going at all times. I kind of wanted to shoot 35 HPSI Well, that'll, you know, get a little expensive and the cameras are heavy. What about 16? So we shot the pilot on 16 then moved over to digital. And, you know, 16 has its drawbacks, because it is it is Granier and maybe maybe a bit too grainy, but I feel like it was an interesting experiment for the pilot. And the cool thing about pilots is you can change a lot in episode two and people tend not to notice. Like all the offices we built this amazing set for for the pilot which was like the bullpen and the and the control room and the little stage where he does his broadcasts will roll McAvoy sets and it was all live and wired. You could have one camera in the control room with Emily Mortimer another camera with Jeff Daniels and me shooting live. And it was fantastic. It was so much fun and it was exciting. And I think it gave it a it gave it a very special feel. But they didn't want to spend all the money to then build all the offices so we shot on location for the offices and of course they all changed in the second episode. No one's ever no one's ever asked about it. And I'm sure I wouldn't have noticed if I was the fear. So so? Yeah, so we took that approach but with with Aaron's writing, actors need to be fully prepared. The way every scene would start was Aaron would come down to set. We just read it sitting in chairs, and the actors would read it. And Aaron would give notes on performance and and lions and sometimes on punctuation. Aaron's the kind of guy who says, like, No, that's a double dash. You need to clip it at the end, or you need to cut her off exactly at the beginning of this syllable. I mean, here's a musical imposes it in his head. And he wants to he wants it to be acted the way he heard it. Because it's not like he wrote it and said, this is perfect. No, he wrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it until the music sounded right to him. So there is there is a real mastery to how he's writing. And some of the actors are used to that some of the actors are in love theater, people are used to it. And so the actors like what the hell and then once they start to do it, they see why he wants it that way. And so often, we would start shooting the scene and slowly speed it up. As we go along. We get the beats down. So the psychology and the behavior all felt right. The moments all felt right. And then I'd say, Okay, now do it a little bit faster, and a little bit faster. So then it starts to feel like an Sorkin which is that incredibly bright people. Yeah, who with, with neurons firing way faster than mine do. And, and, and it's great. It's great. And he's also a lover of, you know, I watched, I watched His Girl Friday a bunch of times before starting because because I was saying this to someone the other day, those are Hollywood movies. The scripts are like 150 pages, because people talk so fucking fast. And that's the way that's the way Aaron writes. And it's so pleasurable when you've got great actors doing it. And that cast cast was amazing.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:10
Oh, my God. And Jeff, I mean, Jeff, well, that whole opening monologue on on about America. Oh, my God. I mean, I've seen that on YouTube. 1000 times of like, you know, how America is not great and all that stuff. But the way he did it was so loving, so beautiful, so truthful, so raw, and it's just like, the cadence of a Sorkin script. And it's like, you're right. There's people firing on all cylinders, like everybody is. So like, even the intern in the scene, is smart as a whip and had some amazing luck. That's just the case. So that's a simple that's a circuit with kind of like a Tarantino script. Like Tarantino has his own air vibe of that. And yeah, people don't talk like that. Human beings don't talk like that. But that's what's beautiful about watching. And listening to that.

Greg Mottola 1:12:56
Yeah, that's his. That's his. That's his style. That's his artistic choice. And it comes from theater. And he tends to write scenes that have movements in them. You know, some writers write for the visual medium that something happens and butts up against something else in another scene and butts up against something else and the story unfolds. Aaron writes, like a playwright, and he writes things that happen and unfold in front of the audience. And I think it's totally valid and quite exciting when it's done by a master. Because it is a different experience, watching things change, watching the actors, attitudes change, watching watching them affect each other, in real time in the scene, as opposed to seeing the change happening over a series of you know, over the course of an episode. You're seeing the drama happening in front of you, which sometimes I think people forget is a tool of storytelling. Because they you know, look, I'd love things being cinematic. But there there are a lot of ways to do it. And his way is a really interesting one. Endlessly watchable Thank you.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:11
Thank you for making helping make that show what it is, man. I like literally just love, love love. So sad. When that didn't come back. I wanted more and more

Greg Mottola 1:14:18
I was there's five seconds where they thought they really would revive it in the Trump age. And I think probably the end of the day, they were just like, what, how, how would you even take this on?

Alex Ferrari 1:14:28
Oh, like, I mean, how can you make it? Yeah, you can't like Yeah, I can't even go down that road. No, Greg, I just have a couple questions. Ask all my guests really kind of rapid fire questions. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Greg Mottola 1:14:43
Um, listen to me the longest learn was probably that I shouldn't have touched on this earlier. I insist that I have to be an auteur who writes and directs is on movies. I really thought it was still had cheating to direct other people's words. Uh, that it had to be personal because those are the films that affected me the most. And I realized I'm a slow writer, I'm sometimes a neurotic not terribly confident writer. You know, I have to I have to be doing it for a while to get back into it and believe I can do it. And I also like being on set I really love being on set and in Soderbergh is when the first people said to me, like, it's okay, if you direct someone else's screen screenplay. It's it's fine it's like those take really long time to write spend more time on a set and you'll get better and better at making movies and TV and and it was great advice and and I was so lucky that when I moved to LA I got to work on on declared Arrested Development the comeback? I mean, I worked on only fucking kick ass shows. So so like, you know it with great writing. And then and then later the newsroom and got to work with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost who I absolutely adore. So, yeah, so but then I thought you know, I have done more writing in the last decade. Some things that haven't gotten made in addition to my little indie film, but you know, I take the attitude like I said earlier the lesson is, is it's okay I'm gonna I'm gonna direct everything that I write everything I drag that's okay. And and I'm much happier for it and it's okay to take time to write and and wait till it's ready and but not waste time feeling you know feeling sorry for myself if things fall apart.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:41
And last question, sir, three of your favorite films of all time.

Greg Mottola 1:16:48
This is fun. You know, it's hard not to pick movies that are giant classics. I know like if I were to be honest 2001 is one of my favorite films of all time. To me it it takes the spectacle movie and turns it into something completely different in our house. Yeah into it it takes a spectacle movie in terms of our house film and yet stills also like a cat and mouse thriller for the whole house section. And is brilliant and gives you so much to to think about and and wonder about, no matter how many times I see it. And when my parents took me to see it when I was nine they fell asleep. And it stuck in my head like a crazy dream for my entire life. So there's that the movie I'd probably if the world was exploding and I was told I can save one movie would probably be eight and a half. I love Fellini deeply. And I love everything about that movie. That movie to me is the most entertaining. Exploration of self that I've ever seen. And, and I love every detail in it. I love how it's shot. I love the music. I love the performances. I just it's another film I can watch a million times now picking a third. It's gonna be a little tricky. Um There was a time where I might have picked a Woody Allen movie, but I'm not going to touch that right now. I mean, to be honest, I can't I can't lie about my experience when I saw those movies. I know what I felt.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:42
Hey, look, all I gotta say is I had someone say the other day is like, can I say any Hall make any halls a great movie? I'm sorry. It's a great movie. It's you know, it's, it's really good. But I understand where you're coming from.

Greg Mottola 1:18:56
I would probably say I probably say Goodfellas. Goodfellas is, you know, being a New Yorker, being I'm half Italian American being a lifelong Scorsese, lover. Of course fascinated with that world, and just the explosion of cinema that movie is but everything is there for a reason. There's there's just it's not it's you know, endlessly inventive. cinematically, but it's not somehow it's not. It doesn't feel show offI it doesn't feel like hey, look at me I can do this. This looks this is cool. It's like it is cool. But it's better than just being cool. It's fucking telling the story and and in immersing you in the emotions, and expressing everything about that world. What's exciting and dangerous and compelling, and just horrifying and awful and vicious and inhuman about that world.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:06
You know that in so many filmmakers, especially when we're starting out, we all want to do the Scorsese shots. We don't want to do the Kubrick shots we don't want to. Yeah, we all want those like, you know, long crane shots, the whiners that this kind of stuff, right? Yeah, but even in Goodfellas, the wonder that everybody wants to try to do which is that bat that going through the kitchen, Steadicam shot, it's not there to show off, it's literally there to tell the story. And is truly don't under like, as a director looking at that scene. I'm like, how do you tell that story without the one? Or like, how do you tell that bit of information about Henry Hill without that one? And I wonder is so economical? In has all this so beautifully done?

Greg Mottola 1:20:47
Yeah, you could tell it in shots, you could break it up into shots, and you can you can show his walking through all those places. But it wouldn't have the emotion of the passing through the kitchen and all the other life going on and ending up at that table on the table being plopped down in front of them. And ending on fucking any young men.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:11
What do you do again, how it construction.

Greg Mottola 1:21:15
I mean, ya know, and it's, it's, and it is, it is incredible mastery of the form. But it isn't just there to show look on the master, it's there because that is the best way to tell that, that that part of the story, and it's yeah, it's amazing. And I can watch that movie. Again and again and again and again. And again, come away from a second boy on mediocre computer.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:40
And how and by the way, and this is the last thing I want to say how many of us growing up look at the masters the Kubrick's the Scorsese's The, the wells, the you know, all Spielberg's, and you look at their films, and you're like, I can't get out of bed because it's just an insane filmmaker. Like, I'll never be Kubrick. I can't get out of why should I even try? It's kind of like, I'll never paint I'll never be Picasso. Of course not. There's only a handful of those masters in the world. But you can do something. I hate to say look, Kubrick would have made an interesting super bad, but but probably not as good as your super bad in my opinion, though, would have been a very into Scorsese could have done an interesting, super bad, no question. But also in I think, as Denzel Washington says, like, you know what scores it's Spielberg could have been an interesting Goodfellas. And Marty could have made an interesting Schindler's List. No question. But those films were built for those filmmakers from their perspective. Yeah. Life. And, and, you know, everyone has that, that that path they walk and that everyone's going to be did actually there's going to be no one that's going to be a Nolan. There's no one that's going to be a Fincher or Soderbergh or Spielberg because they've already taken that mantle. Yeah.

Greg Mottola 1:22:53
Well, there's a great Albert Brooks story. He became friendly with Kubrick because Kubrick really liked comedy. He loved Woody Allen. He loved Albert. Yes. And he talked to strain he, yeah. And he wrote, he became like a kind of a phone friend with Albert Brooks. And at one point, he Albert Brooks was writing last in America. And Kubrick said, let me read it. I'll give you some notes. And so he's like, Oh, my God, Stanley Kubrick is going to read my fucking script. This is amazing. And then the notes came back. He's like, they were terrible. It was really cool. Still, it's like, but they weren't funny. It's like Stanley Kubrick's lost in America would be very, very different. And Albert Brooks, I think, is brilliant. And he's one of my favorite comedy filmmakers of all time. But yeah, it's like, yeah, to your point. Yeah, you just have to try to be the best version of yourself. I, I try to approach them and say like, Well, what do I think I could do here that the other guy wouldn't do? That might actually be good. So that's how I go in.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:51
Greg, man, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, my friend. Thank you so much for being here.

Greg Mottola 1:23:56
Alex. This was much fun, man.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:58
Thank you for all the years of amazing entertainment and and continue to do what you do and continue doing what you do, sir, even though you're mediocre, as you said, but no, seriously, my friend, thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate you, man.

Greg Mottola 1:24:12
Thank you. Thank you so much, Alex. I hope to do it again some day.

Unreal Engine: How I Made a 10-Minute Animated Short with Virtually No Budget

On June 1st, 2020, freshly unemployed due to the sudden widespread closure of just about every movie and TV production in the world – I’m a film visualisation (previs and postvis) supervisor, more about that shortly – I decided to use my newfound abundance of time and finally take the plunge into Unreal Engine and use it to try to make a little film. 

Nothing too ambitious. Three minutes, a couple of characters, no dialogue, one set. Keep it simple, you know the way.

Two years later I finished it. It was ten minutes long with five speaking characters and three settings. 

This is the story of how I made PRAZINBURK RIDGE

Writing

I’ll be honest, I fancy myself as a writer. Always did. My brother’s one, so it might run in the family. I’ve been writing screenplays for well over a decade, I’ve had a couple of 8s on The Black List and a couple of decent competition results, and an expired option on a script.

So, on June 1st 2020, having resolved to make a film, I was exploring in my head the potential settings and scenarios that would suit a film in Unreal. I would need a setting for which there would be plenty of assets (3D models, essentially) available online – a setting that would be familiar territory for a computer game, since I was going to be using a game engine.

Sci-fi’s the obvious one, another is Fantasy. There’s countless assets like this available, and you can make it up as you go along, not worrying about things being correct to a particular period – which is handy when you’re on a budget.

But I had no story for a sci-fi film, I’d just be making something up for the sake of it – which  I’m not above, don’t get me wrong. I just wanted to make something. But I didn’t have a story at all yet, so unless anything else came to mind, I figured I’d just do a short sci-fi action piece.

A war film, on the other hand… now there was an interesting idea. Not only was 1917 very fresh in my head (and on my resumé, as I was postvis supervisor on it for a little while), but there would be lots of assets on the Marketplace as it’s well-worn ground for games.

By chance, my aforementioned brother, Steve, had just written his second book that was soon to be published – a biography of Douglas Clark, a British rugby star who enlisted in World War I and ended up getting a Military Medal for bravery. I’d proof-read the book for him and remembered a couple of very exciting war sequences. I had a quick chat with him to get the nod of approval and then dug out my dog-eared A4 print of his first draft, scouring it for something that would make a good short film. And there it was, right in the middle of his book – the incident at Prazinburk Ridge, Duggy Clark’s last battle, in 1917.

Suddenly, I didn’t just have a film I could make, I had a film I knew I should make.

Previs

This can’t be a guide on how to do exactly what I did – we’d be here a long time, and I probably didn’t do it all correctly anyway. (There’s lots of guides on learn.unrealengine.com for those looking to get a taste for how it all works. I can’t promise it’s an easy thing to do if you’ve no background in 3D graphics but I can promise you that it is by far the easiest of all 3D graphics programs to get into from scratch.)

No, I want to talk more broadly about creative choices that would apply for someone making a film in any medium, and how the process of making this film fundamentally changed my life.

On early script pages you can see dialogue changes, thumbnail sketches, shot numbers, camera positions being planned…

Outside of loose thumbnails sketched on the script pages, I didn’t want to storyboard anything. I just wanted to get in there and start making shots and sequences, that’s the part of my job as a previs supervisor I love the most. 

Before we go further, you may be asking, “what’s previs?”

Good question. Previs is a part of film pre-production where we basically animate and plan action sequences ahead of time, trying to nail the sequence before a penny is spent on the shoot (which gets very expensive very quickly). Here’s my reel from my 11-month stint on JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM to demonstrate.

The raptor on the roof shot is still my favourite thing I’ve ever done in previs…

So anyway, I downloaded Unreal Engine, and got to work. Now, given my background (I made my first computer animation when I was 11, I’ve got a degree in Visualisation, 15 years in CGI, including 5 years as an animator and the last 5 in previs), Unreal came fairly naturally to me, and after a week or two I’d got some temp characters, a rough level, a drivable WW1 truck, and had a pretty exciting sequence coming together…

I should point out that I’ve been using Maya for 15 years and I can’t make something like this, this quickly, in Maya. That’s the power of Unreal. I’d barely started using it.

It’s worth noting that this footage, while still looking better than anything I can do in Maya, still doesn’t look as good as I wanted it to. In my head, this film should look like an almost-photoreal video game cinematic. I wanted it to look like Battlefield One, but already I knew that was unattainable by myself. I’d need help. 

So I applied for a MegaGrant, which is money Epic (who make UE) give out to select creators and developers, including filmmakers, who are pushing the envelope in the engine. This would pay me for some of my time, bridging the gap in finances until the pandemic ended, and would give me a budget to hire some additional help to raise the quality. And in my naïve optimism, I assumed I’d get it. They said a decision would take 3 months. And so I got on with making previs for the entire film in the meantime.

The first edit in Adobe Premiere, July 3rd, 2020.

The first version didn’t take long, a few weeks, and I screened it for my parents and then-fiancée (now wife) once lockdown ended. They entertained it gamely, but it was a dull old affair in the first half, full of expository dialogue and with an overall lack of energy. To be fair to myself, the second half was largely the same as it is now, just without any polish. 

I also showed it to a fellow previs supervisor, who said he got ‘lost’ in the first half, so I knew there was an issue there.

In my head it was obvious – the truck is here, the ammo dump is there, and the lads are moving munitions between the two. But I was learning a valuable lesson, that even when you’re working alone, filmmaking must be a collaborative effort to some degree! Somebody needs to be able to see the work at its infant stages and say, “I don’t get that bit.” 

And that’s the beauty of previs. More than storyboards, where everything is static, being able to see the action play through, even rough and ugly, can really help shape decisions. I re-worked this section a few times over to make sure the story and action were crystal clear.

Another friend (a film editor) saw it and was very enthusiastic about the parts where it transitions to the rugby pitch. In this early version, the film started at the artillery battery, with the “we need more ammo!” line, and the first time we were on the pitch was after Duggy gets hit by shrapnel. My friend suggested this would carry more weight if we knew Duggy was previously a rugby star, and maybe it was worth adding a scene earlier to give the audience that information.

I loved the idea, and went about crafting a new opening with Duggy in his war uniform, saying a silent goodbye to the hallowed sports ground. But the thing that was still missing at this stage was the speech that Duggy recalls. That idea hadn’t come to me yet.

Dressed in his war uniform, Duggy says goodbye to Fartown, the rugby pitch where he played for Huddersfield…

The summer was coming to an end, TV and film productions were starting back up. My free time working on this was almost over. I’d bashed the previs into a pretty decent shape, there was a good film in there, it just needed lifting from its primordial state into something altogether more polished. And to do that, I still needed help, and a budget.

And then I got an e-mail from Epic’s MegaGrants team – they hadn’t made a decision and needed more time. They didn’t specify how long.

With work about to start back up, I decided I’d have to put the project down for a while. But I needed something to show for three months of work, so I edited together a quick trailer. Then I dressed up the shots that were in the trailer – I only picked shots that didn’t show character faces much, as they were all still intended to be temporary. I gave the characters stand-in outfits that would pass for World War I uniforms to the untrained eye, and I added rain, effects and other eye candy.

I went back to work, and in doing so I was able to ask my VFX supervisor to take a look at the whole film – the previs for it anyway. “It’s really great,” he said. “Just get it voice-overed and put it out.”

That suggestion rattled around my brain as the following year rolled on. If only it was that simple! I wanted it to look better… like a Battlefield One cinematic!

Research

Autumn 2020 was getting close, and with it came a brief window to travel. My brothers-in-law (the husbands of my wife’s two sisters) were planning a trip to Ypres, near Passchendaele, it turned out, to look at war sites. I had no idea they were war history buffs.

I hadn’t been such a buff, when all this started. There seemed to be something altogether morbid about it, and I’m a pacifist, as was Duggy – I’d always thought an interest in war suggested an interest in going to war.

At the behest of a friend, I listened to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History series about WW1, and was completely enthralled. I consumed any WW1 movies I could find, and picked up books about it. Pretty soon that also expanded to WW2 as well.

In Ypres, we stood at the Menin Gate while the Last Post was played each night. We looked at graves of our fellow Irish, Scottish and Yorkshire men (as we are each in turn) who never went home. We walked through craters and old trenches that still remain, and looked at rusting shell cases that still lay on the ground, over a hundred years after they fell there. It was very moving.

And, doing some detective work, I found Prazinburk Ridge, (Frezenberg Ridge, actually – the name was miscommunicated by the British soldiers and recorded incorrectly in Duggy’s diary) and the site of Duggy’s last stand.   

I learned new things that affected the film in some ways. For example, the shot of a German soldier in his trench spotting Duggy’s truck through binoculars, I soon realised, was impossible – he would have been in a spotting balloon, high above the battlefield. Gas masks weren’t as I’d imagined. They had a satchel associated with them, and a pipe that fed into it.

A German spotting balloon. I bought this 3D model from Turbosquid. I hoped to rig it and simulate its ropes shaking in the wind and the rain, but ran out of time so it remained a static object.

In my spare time, here and there, I added these bits and pieces to the film. That’s actually pretty common in previs – as other departments do their work, things are re-designed, and we feed the updates into our work, and adjust as we go to accommodate them.

I’d also had the idea about the stirring rugby speech – a real speech that was given to Duggy’s British rugby team before a big game – to the opening scenes, and have him recall it later. I updated the script and felt that this new addition would really make the film sing.

But as time wore on, with no sign of any budget, I began to think that the film would never be finished. I stopped even the sporadic work I had been doing on it and left the project where it was, like an empty shell on a battlefield long after the war has ended, left to rust.  

I made other, less ambitious projects, in Unreal. I worked on more films as a previs supervisor, wrote more scripts, and Prazinburk Ridge slipped from my mind, another unfinished project destined to go on the pile.

Just before Christmas 2021, I got the inevitable email from Epic to inform me that my application for funding was being turned down. By this point I had lost all hope anyway, and my finances had recovered from loss of work during the pandemic. It was the last nail in the coffin for Prazinburk. 

That was that, then.

Polish

By Spring 2022, I was frustrated. After all these years of trying, I still hadn’t been able to complete a proper short film. I found myself in the same place I was back in June 2020 – trying to think of a project I could make in Unreal that would constitute a proper short film. Something that could get into festivals. Like Prazinburk Ridge could have, if it could only be finished.

Then I saw the trailer for Richard Linklater’s latest film, Apollo 101⁄2, which is actually rotoscoped, not animated, for the most part. But the effect is the same – it looks like a type of traditional animation. And a thought hit me –

Unreal can do that.

In CG terms, the process is called cel-shading. I’ve never been a huge fan of it, but Unreal can do it, and then it wouldn’t matter that half of my assets, including my characters, aren’t up to the standard of game cinematics. Everything would be cel-shaded, like a great equaliser. And if I did the film on “2s” (an old animation term meaning each frame is repeated twice, so there’s 12 drawings per second and not 24) then my motion-captured animation would be much easier to edit.

Applying cel-shading to everything seemed a bit overkill, though. There was already a slightly stylised feel to the project, the sky seemed painterly, in a way. Maybe I could lean into that. I applied a kuwahara filter to everything, which gave it that nice painterly look, and then I applied cel-shading to only specific things in each shot, exactly like in a classic cartoon where everything that moves is animated on a cel, placed upon a painted background.

Shot comparisons between first pass of previs (left) and finished film (right).

It worked. It even looked quite… nice.

I set myself a deadline. My wedding was approaching in July, and it would be great to have the film done and dusted by then.

Every spare moment I had, I spent on the film now. I got the train to Yorkshire to record a voice-over artist I wanted, and on the journey I edited audio from another actor I recorded over Zoom. I enlisted my old bandmate, Mike Payne, to compose an original score. While on my stag (bachelor party) weekend I took my laptop and worked, only stopping to party when it was appropriate. Assets I needed previously that I couldn’t find had become available to buy, including a crowd system for my rugby stadium, and a nicely accurate WW1 uniform. I ingested them hungrily, and let them proliferate through the shots. I threw out parts of the latest script that were going to take too long, including another return to the rugby ground right at the end of the film. I decided against spending time doing things that weren’t going to add to the story, like simulating the truck blowing apart at the end.

On the morning of the day I’d set as a release date, I was still tweaking shots where I could.

After the wedding, on holiday in Spain, I got my first festival decision. The film was selected for the Wigan & Leigh Film Festival, not far from where Duggy was born in Cumberland. I was over the moon.

In the end, the extra gestation time, and lack of budget, helped the film. If Epic had given me the grant in 2020, the film wouldn’t have been as good. If they’d given it to me in 2021, it wouldn’t have covered everything it needed to, as the project had grown in scope so much, so it would have probably looked like a second-rate game cinematic, and not something unique – which it is now, I think.

But mostly, that extra 18 months gave me the time to mature as a filmmaker, as both a writer and director. And it gave me the experience and knowledge in Unreal to actually execute a vision. 

The moral of the story, I guess, is that everyone gets told “no” when they’re starting out. But, think about what Duggy would do: “It’s my truck, sir,” he says in the film. “I’ll bring it back.”

Go do it anyway.

Written by Martin Bell
Official Site: yescommissioner.com