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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy my entertaining conversation with Sacha Gervasi.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 23:26
mixer mixer.

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 26:03
Oh, my

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

Alex Ferrari 26:07
living screenwriters

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

Alex Ferrari 26:37
because he's 16

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

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

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

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

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

And I said,

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

Alex Ferrari 28:31
as you know. Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 35:53
Amen, brother,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 41:48
why wouldn't you?

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

what, what are we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 52:13
the story of anthem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 57:18
Oh my god,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 1:15:01
was not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 1:20:57
Yeah. Yeah.

Sasha Gervasi 1:20:59
Fantastic British film.

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

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

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

Sasha Gervasi 1:21:25
Project snacks.



  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
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IFH 661: How to Make Money in TODAY’s Indie Film with Jon Erwin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy my conversation with Jon Erwin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 25:03
100 times more 540 million.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jon Erwin 33:47
Yeah, but

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 1:09:01
I appreciate you!



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IFH 660: What Talent Agencies Look for in a Screenplay with Christopher Lockhart

Today on the show we have award-winning producer, film executive, educator, and industry story analyst Christopher Lockhart. Christopher is renowned for his script editing acumen. He has read over 60,000 screenplays.  He is also an award-winning filmmaker and member of the WGA, PGA, and the Television Academy.

Chris got his start at International Creative Management (ICM), where he worked as script consultant to legendary talent agent Ed Limato, who represented industry giants such as Mel Gibson, Richard Gere, Michelle Pfeiffer, Liam Neeson, and Robert Downey, Jr.

He later moved to the venerable William Morris Agency, which merged with Endeavor to form WME.  At WME Chris has worked on award-winning projects for A-list clients like Denzel Washington, Russel Crowe, and Rachel McAdams among others.

Chris branched off into film producing with the cult horror hit The Collector and its sequel The Collection, which opened in the top ten American box-office.   He wrote and produced the award winning documentary Most Valuable Players, which was acquired by Oprah Winfrey for her network.  Chris has set up several other projects, including A Rhinestone Alibi at Paramount, and Crooked Creek, a modern noir thriller.

As an educator, Lockhart shares his talent and 30+ years of industry experience as an adjunct professor at Screenwriting program and at UCLA. His writing workshop The Inside Pitch was filmed for Los Angeles television and earned him an Emmy Award nomination.

Chris and I also teamed up for a new webinar from IFH Academy called How to Become a Hollywood Script Reader from Industry Insiders

HOW TO BE A HOLLYWOOD READER is a webinar focusing on the secrets of one of Hollywood’s most vital and mysterious jobs. A reader evaluates screenplays and stories, practicing quality control through “coverage” – a written report that judges creative success. The reader wields huge influence that empowers Hollywood chiefs to greenlight film, television, and new media.

This webinar examines the core components of coverage, how to write it, and provides tools and pro tips to navigate the reading profession – led by two preeminent Hollywood readers. By pulling back the curtain on this creative process, the webinar also gives writers, directors, actors, and producers a rare look inside the mind of those who decide the fate of their material. To access the webinar Click Here

Chris prioritizes emotionality and his client’s character role and development ahead of the overall story solidity. He shared some tips for new writers, some lessons learned from bad scripts, what goes on behind the agency curtain and the blessing of untapping a story’s best version from re-writes.

Enjoy my conversation with Christopher Lockhart.

Alex Ferrari 2:24
I'd like to welcome to the show Christopher Lockhart thank you for so much for being on the show Christopher.

Christopher Lockhart 4:27
Thank you. It's great to be able to talk to somebody

Alex Ferrari 4:32
Exactly as we're we're all locked up in our in our little quarantine caves here in LA. Well, I was gonna ask you though, like, you know, you being on the agency side, I've been hearing from a lot of agents and managers to say that the world has changed. They're never going to jump into a car for an hour and a half again, to go take a 30 minute meeting and then come back to their office. What are you hearing on your end?

Christopher Lockhart 4:54
Well, you know, my policy has always been that I try to get people to come to me for my meetings, generally speaking. But yeah, you know, I think that that we have been forced out of our comfort zone, believe it or not our comfort zone was driving an hour and a half to go to a meeting. And now, we realized that this technology works, it's equally as efficient, and perhaps more efficient, because now we can utilize our time more wisely. Let's face it less time in an automobile makes a very big difference. And I think we're gonna see this ripple through a lot of industries. I think, for example, the commercial real estate industries, you know, you're going to end up with a lot of vacant buildings, because I think a lot of a lot of companies might actually have people just work from home in the future. It's cheaper, it's easier, right, you know, less rent. It's less wear and tear, I think that there are a lot of people who would be open to that.

I haven't been in my office in many months. I look forward to getting back to it. Just you know, just because, you know, you never know what you have until it's gone.

And so I hope that a lot of us just generally speaking, not even with work, but just with life that we realize, I think sort of how lucky we are generally speaking, and then there are some pluses to this, perhaps some people spending more time with their families than they might have or maybe want to, but I think that there are some definite pluses to to, to this, need to cling to those at least otherwise.

Alex Ferrari 6:43
There's some sort of silver lining in this ridiculousness that is 2020. But yeah, you're right. I think it's going to up end the commercial real estate business without question, because there's going to be a lot less people renting, because they don't need to, like, you know, I know, attorneys and things like that. They're like, I'm shutting down my office because I don't need it anymore.

So, before we get started, how did you get into the business?

Christopher Lockhart 7:10
Ah you know, it's always just who you know, you know, who, you know, is very important. And I've been out here for a while, working as a writer, and, and and then, you know, I sort of had some crossroads and, and some things happened in my life. And an opportunity was presented to me to go and meet with this Uber agent named Ed llamado, who was the CO -resident at ICM and agent to the stars Mel Gibson, Denzel Washington, Richard Gere, Michelle Pfeiffer. Robert Downey, Jr, Liam Neeson, you know, go on and on. And he basically needed a script consultant, he needed somebody who could go through all of these projects that were coming to his office for his clients. And, you know, make a long story short, I took the job, and 25 years later

Alex Ferrari 8:15
And Big Bang, boom, we're here. Now, and did you when you were working with? Well, you've been you've been working with, you know, big actors and big, big agencies, because you move from ICM to over to WMA? WME? Excuse me?

Christopher Lockhart 8:31
Both, actually. Yeah. Because in 2007, we left ICM, we went to William Morris. And then in 2009, William Morris merged with endeavour and then it became WME.

Alex Ferrari 8:44
Right. And you've been working with clients, high end clients ever since then doing the same thing, just basically vetting their projects. So you've, you, you, you have a very inside inside information in regards to what big movie stars are looking for, in their movie in their projects, generally speaking.

Christopher Lockhart 9:02
Yeah. And believe it or not, it's, it's not always it's not really rocket science. You know, they're really just looking for good projects. And and I think the, the smartest actors are the ones who don't pigeonhole themselves. So very rarely do I get marching orders. You know, rarely do I get a client who says, Listen, I only want a script that does a, b and c, that that order comes down sometimes, but not often. And I think that's how actors really succeed because they are open minded to all different kinds of projects. And hopefully, the ones that I'm sending their way are, are good. They can't do all of the projects that are sent their way they can only do some. But, but yeah, my job is to it. is to be be a taster, you know, so to speak.

Sometimes I liken myself to a little, like a real estate agent, you know, where I'm trying to find a piece of property for a client. And the job involves other things as well. Yeah, there's a lot of reading. But I'm a little bit of a development executive, because I'll work with some of our writer, director clients, on their projects from the very beginning. Sometimes I'm called in in like a hail mary pass to go into the editing room and consult there. So I basically work with story anywhere from the very earliest of the development process, right through post, I even go on to sets, you know, and sort of work from there also. So, so so it the job entails a lot of elements that make it interesting, because each day is different. Maybe not right now. Right now, every day is exactly

Alex Ferrari 11:09
it's groundhogs day.

Christopher Lockhart 11:10
It's Groundhog's Day. But typically, it's it's, it is varied, but there's a lot of reading, there's no doubt about that.

Alex Ferrari 11:20
Lots and lots of homework to do. Now, obviously COVID has up ended the entire world, let alone our small little corner of the world that is Hollywood. How do you see COVID affecting not only Hollywood, as we're currently seeing it, what you're seeing currently, right now, because it's changing pretty much on a weekly, weekly, or monthly basis. At this point,

Christopher Lockhart 11:43
Warner Brothers just broke the news about how they're going to start to release their projects for 2021. And it's pretty shattering. Actually, it's really changing the game. Oh,

Alex Ferrari 11:56
God, how are they doing it? I haven't read that.

Christopher Lockhart 11:58
Well, there. I've only skimmed through it because it literally just came out. But they are going to do a day and date with HBO max with a 31 day license. And so it's it's it looks pretty complicated. I'm sure it'll be complicated from the agency end. As these deals of course have to be brokered. So ya know, not exactly sure yet, how it's going to ripple out, or what the other studios are going to do. But let's face it, everybody, everybody's improvising. And people always ask, oh, you know, what's the business going to be? Like, in six months? I don't know. I know, I know, just as much as you do. If you would ask me yesterday about Warner Brothers release plan for 2021. I wouldn't have told you that this is what they were gonna do. So maybe the writing was on the wall for other people who are more intuitive or pay more attention to that. But I don't, I don't have a clue. I'm literally riding the surf like everybody else.

Alex Ferrari 13:11
So I No wonder woman is being released. I think Christmas Day or something like that. Day in and day is where they're going to release in the theater. And they're going to do so it's a similar thing, but they're only going to allow it on the platform for 31 days, and then that's when it gets pulled off.

Christopher Lockhart 13:25
That's right, that's exactly what they are doing for all of their 2021 releases.

Alex Ferrari 13:30
Wow, that is a huge, that's really upside down. Yeah, because 2021 even with the vaccine with everything, we're not going to get back to where we were in 2019 for at least a couple years.

Christopher Lockhart 13:42
Well, what what might this news even do, let's say to the stockholders of AMC, you know, I mean, is this going to send complete panic through the ranks there. So, I, you know, this is just this has been a crazy year, and people who say, Oh, I can't wait until 2020 ends, like, there's just gonna be a hell of a lot more than 2021.

Alex Ferrari 14:08
I keep telling people that 2020 can make 2020 is when you want to make 20 look like 2019?

Christopher Lockhart 14:14
Very well might, I hope not,

Alex Ferrari 14:16
I hope not to trust me, because like, I don't know how much more I personally could take. I don't think any of us.

Christopher Lockhart 14:22
I just I it's like I'm on a 12 step program. I just I, I take this day, you know, one day at a time, I really think that's, that's just the best way to do it. Because things are changing so rapidly. You know, there were a lot of layoffs throughout the industry. And, you know, who knows, you know, who knows if anybody will even have a job in six months. So it's just, it's too much to think about. So I just sort of do what it is that I need to do day in and day out, and I just don't think about or try to control those things that are in the future.

Alex Ferrari 15:00
And how do you think all of this is affecting screenwriters? Because, you know, and how can they kind of adjust themselves to this new, this new world that's changing by the minute,

Christopher Lockhart 15:13
What's new about isolation for screening?

Alex Ferrari 15:16
Well, there's that

Christopher Lockhart 15:17
This this is, you know, this is, if there's anybody in the industry who can thrive during this time, it is the writer, because the writer should be writing. That's exactly what they should be doing. Now, it's hard for director to go out and direct or producer to produce. But a writer can be writing at this very moment, by the end of COVID, every writer in town should have two to three new scripts that they've written. And there are still deals, you know, so there are still still writing deals going on, and writers are working. So I think if, if anything, they have the the, they're able to make the best out of this.

Alex Ferrari 16:08
Now there was, there's I think one misconception that I hear a lot of screenwriters that I talk to all the time, is that they look very much like independent filmmakers. They think they're making films today, like it was 1992. So they like thinking of like, Oh, just go to Sundance, and I'll get this and that and they have this kind of magical world that was then I think screenwriters have the same thing with the spec market, which in the 90s. I mean, the Shane blacks and the Joe Ester houses. I mean,

Christopher Lockhart 16:35

Alex Ferrari 16:35
Can you talk a little bit about the spec market? And what is if there is a spec market? is it happening? What's the deal?

Christopher Lockhart 16:43
Yeah, there's not really all that much of a spec market right now, a few scripts have sold clearly this is this is not a banner year for selling a screenplay on spec, which is why screenwriter should be writing because there is a possibility that when this drought is over, that people will be looking for content much like after, you know, any WGA strike. You know, we've often seen remember a lot of that that spec boom of the early 90s was fueled by the writers strike in the late 80s. So, so there is a great possibility that that will be hungry for content once the industry is up and running again, which is why people should be writing now worry less about the business at this moment and concentrate more on the creative, because then I think you will be prepared for the business when it is reanimated.

Alex Ferrari 17:53
Now, what is some? What is one of the biggest misconceptions that screenwriters have about the industry about Hollywood in general?

Christopher Lockhart 18:01
Oh, boy, I don't know probably 1000s.

A few. I think I Well, I don't know, I think that, that maybe some more naive writers might think that they literally just sort of can write a screenplay, and then the doors sort of open for them. I don't really understand that. That process as to how the doors would just automatically open. But that's, but that's what they think. Or they feel like because they've written a screenplay that the industry owes them the respect the time to read their script, when that is definitely not the case, by any means. I'm not saying that they don't deserve the respect and time. Sure they do. But nobody's going to give it to me. So. So I think that's a really big misconception. I think another big misconception, of course, is that they're going to make millions and millions and millions of dollars. Write screenplays, when, like anybody in this business, it's a lot of struggle. And one reason of course, that writers at least in the WGA get paid what they get paid is because that might be all that they get paid for three or four years. And, and so they need that money to hold them over. Right. You know, this is why actors get residuals and etc, etc. Because the work is often far and few between. So so there's a lot of struggle. There are, I think, misconceptions that a writer sells a script and their career is made. I would say probably the majority of writers who sell scripts never, never go on to a career.

It's a you know, it's like a one hit wonder. You're always working, it never gets easy. It never gets easy. And I really think that a lot of writers who haven't been out here they think Yeah, I just I just need to sell that one script with no, you know, listen if, if you sell it in it, and it and it rocks the town, that's one thing. But that's not most, that's not most scripts sales. You know, most script sales are for load and no money. And they go under the radar, the movies never made. Or if the movie is made, nobody sees it.

Alex Ferrari 20:26

Christopher Lockhart 20:27
So there's just so there's so many ways for your career not to get started after it's got started.

Alex Ferrari 20:36
It's funny because I always tell people about Kauffman and Sorkin like the you know, they have scripts that they can't they can't produce, like they they can't, that they're amazing. But no one's willing to give the money. And I was telling if Charlie Kaufman and Aaron Sorkin are having problems, what do you think you could have? right to be? It'd be as realistic as possible about this.

Christopher Lockhart 20:59
That's well, and, and, and not every script that an A list writer writes, hits it out of the ballpark. So you know, I've read a lot of scripts by writers that I love. And unlike Yeah, this just doesn't work. This just doesn't work. And this probably wasn't a great project.

You know, that happens all the time. And for new writers. I think that they're often under the impression that because they wrote a screenplay that they've written a screenplay, and yeah, often when you read it, yeah, sure. It starts with fade, and it's got fade out. It's got slug lines. It's in proper format. It's got 120 pages, but it isn't a screenplay. Right? And, and so it often takes a lot, a lot of trial and error, to be able to get to that screenplay that eventually can help you break through. So impatience is certainly an issue with new writers thinking that they don't necessarily have to put in their time.

Alex Ferrari 22:09
So like, you know, a 12 month plan is not long enough, is what you're telling me to start my career as a screenwriter?

Christopher Lockhart 22:15
Yeah, I'd say 12 years. Probably would be more realistic.

Alex Ferrari 22:21
Right? I have a long Yeah. I have a one year plan, like you haven't had a 10 year plan.

Christopher Lockhart 22:25
And then you're just starting. And listen, there are always exceptions to the rule. I had always,

Alex Ferrari 22:31
of course,

Christopher Lockhart 22:32
I had a student many years ago named Josh Schwartz, who's a, you know, this phenomenal show runner. He created the the OC and, you know, Bob, lots and lots of other shows the runaways which is on Disney Plus, I think, yeah, and just, you know, right, on and on and on. Amazing kid. And, you know, he sold his first spec script for like, $1.75 million, or something like that.

Alex Ferrari 22:59

Christopher Lockhart 23:00
You know, yeah. And so, people look to that. And they're like, you know, I'm gonna do that. But that's the Powerball.

Alex Ferrari 23:08
No, it's a lottery, lottery ticket, I call it the lottery,

you know, somebody wins the Powerball lottery every week.

Christopher Lockhart 23:14
But that doesn't mean that you should quit your job, and wait for your numbers to come in. So, you know, that, that That to me is, is, is something that people really need to consider is, is the long term plan. And just having patience,

Alex Ferrari 23:36
Right? And that's that every time I was people always ask me, What do you What's your biggest piece of advice I could patients? It took me a long time. I mean, I was just, I just was talking to James v. Hart, who was on the show the other day, and after doing some research on him, he he got hook, when he was in his 40s. And he and he was, he was bumping around Hollywood for 1015 years, had a couple of things produced and he was writing and getting paid to write but nothing was getting produced. And it was, you know, then, Mr. Spielberg called and life changed.

Christopher Lockhart 24:08
Right? But and that can happen, but he really had to put in the mileage

Alex Ferrari 24:14
Correct. He had to get to that time. Now you said something about residuals earlier and I wanted to see what your take was on this. Because the game of residuals and, and those those kind of deals like the friends have and and Seinfeld and you know, all these residuals, Netflix has changed the game in regards to buyouts or and now I think even Disney is trying to do like maybe a two year season run or something like that, and then it's done. What what is what are your feelings on like that? Or is it you know, is that too touchy of a tough topic to talk about?

Christopher Lockhart 24:47
Well, you know, I'm not going to pretend that that I'm an expert on that. Thankfully, I don't have to negotiate deals. I'm not an agent. So you know, I get too strict. really stick with the creative. But all I can tell you is this that a lot of big talent is more than willing to work for the streamers. So and you see that, you know, so that isn't a secret. You know, we have a lot of big names, good names in series. And a lot of big names. Look at somebody like you know, Sandra Bullock and birdbox for Netflix. We've got George Clooney coming up in

Alex Ferrari 25:35
Can't wait for that movie.

Christopher Lockhart 25:37
Yeah, I can I read the script. It was called Good. Good morning. Something.

Alex Ferrari 25:43
I forgot the name of it.

Christopher Lockhart 25:45
But it changed the title now. And and

Alex Ferrari 25:50
Fincher Fincher, too, he's, I mean,

Christopher Lockhart 25:53
yeah, you know, and so we can go on and on. This is I remember, you know, 10 years ago, if your movie went to Netflix, you didn't tell people it was embarrassing.

Alex Ferrari 26:08
Right, right. Right. You're right.

Christopher Lockhart 26:10
It was it was, you know, it was like, a, it was like The Scarlet Letter. And, and now, you'd be lucky if you could get your movie on Netflix.

Alex Ferrari 26:23

Christopher Lockhart 26:24
So it's, it is amazing how it has evolved. And, and talent wants to work with the streamers very much. So. So there's clearly a big future in the streamers provided that the that their business model can be sustained. You know, I still ask myself all the time, how is Netflix going to sustain its business model when it spends so much money on content? Now, I did notice that they raised my monthly rate, like $1, or something, you know, eventually Netflix is going to be $25 a month. You know, like, I feel certain for that of that. Because that's going to be the only way to hold up that model. Because they have to they they must have content in order to compete.

Alex Ferrari 27:19
And to me, that's it, you got to feed the beast, it's like a constant feeding of the beast. And it's, I mean, I have a I have a streaming service and it's small. I mean, obviously it's like a miniscule thing. And I feel like I have to constantly be putting new content up obviously my my projects don't cost $200 million to to, to put them up, but it's just it's not never ending and also by the way, Netflix set that priority that that standard up to release 15,000 things every week. And I

Christopher Lockhart 27:50
Listen, I'm glad they do.

Alex Ferrari 27:51

Christopher Lockhart 27:52
Right. And when did they when they raised my rate $1 I was like, give me something like I appreciate Netflix. I appreciate the content I don't love everything but there's always something there that I can find to watch and and I suspect that it will only get better but again they you know they they are they are shelling out a lot of money for content a lot of money yeah and and that and that's why you see big talent flocking, there

Alex Ferrari 28:27
It is it's kind of like a gold rush. But I agree with you i just don't know how how long this can sustain itself because they are an obscene amounts of debt. They earn an obscene amounts of dead right now.

Christopher Lockhart 28:37
Well, we have to hope that they that they can figure it out. Because if we lose the streamers after having lost the movie theaters, you're then then we're screwed.

Alex Ferrari 28:49
There's no there's no, there's no because we lost DVD. We lost VHS. We lost DVD, which was so much money. And and then, yeah, you're absolutely right. Because if Netflix goes down, it's it shatters a lot of things.

Christopher Lockhart 29:02
Right? So they can't go down. And, you know, people will often say, Oh, you know, how does Hollywood feel about Netflix? And I'm like, Netflix is Hollywood. You know, we just it's just Hollywood is evolving. You know, there was a time when movies had no sound, you know? So

Alex Ferrari 29:22
no color.

Christopher Lockhart 29:24
No, no color. So it's evolving. You know, you got you got to go with the flow. So yeah, you know, I wish any venture the very best, because that means opportunities for my clients, which in turn keeps me employed.

Alex Ferrari 29:46
And then there you go. Now what when you're looking at scripts for your clients, what are you looking for, but I mean, is it just basically I just need a good story, but there's there anything specific in the scripts that maybe give some tips to screenwriters

Christopher Lockhart 30:09
You know, I think generally speaking, I do not have a checklist. I always say that I look at scripts holistically, I'll read any script that is given to me, I will read it from beginning to end, even if I know by page 12, that the script is terrible. Because actually, sometimes I'm wrong. Sometimes on page 12, and 15, and even 30. I'm like, Oh, my God, this script is so boring. And then a little bit later on something happens, A Beautiful Mind. For example, I remember reading that for Russell Crowe and and just wanting to toss it aside. Because I was like, Oh, my God, this is just like a perfunctory spy thriller. And I was like, This is so boring. And then you get to that twist, you have the rug pulled out from under you, if I had tossed that script aside by page 30. And listen, I still think that that twist should have been moved up a little bit earlier in the script. But regardless, if I had tossed it aside, you know, things might have been a little different for Russell Crowe. So. So I've learned my lessons over the years to stick with scripts I I also learn a lot from bad writing, actually learn more from bad writing than I do good writing, but an answer to your question. Because of looking for talent, my eye is always drawn, most importantly, to the protagonist of the story, the role that might client might play. So for me, I'm looking at that. And how does that character evolve? What is the character's journey through the story? how active is the character? How does the character change?

Alex Ferrari 31:59
How does conflict inform the character? These are things that I look at. So often, I'll read a script, where sort of the stuff on the periphery, I don't think is very good. But I'll say this is a terrific role. And not all that long ago. And I'll make this a blind item. But there was a screenplay that I read for a client. And I thought the role was amazing. But I really felt like the story went off the tracks at about midpoint. And then for the second half of the script, I didn't really have a clue what it was about, but I was like, Man, this is a good role. And that client made that film and won an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.


Christopher Lockhart 32:50
So you know, so my eye is always drawn first and foremost, to the character. And, and, and how I see the client in that role. So that's first and foremost for me. So that's what's really important to me.

Alex Ferrari 33:11
I mean, in a lot of times, I find this I've been speaking to so many different people in the industry and writers and screenwriters. I've come to realize that character I mean, plot is very important. But you don't generate remember plots of movies you remember characters of movies like I can I remember Indiana Jones? Do I remember the plot of Raiders of Lost Ark? Yes, because I've seen it 1000 times. But if you put my my feet to the fire on Temple of Doom, kind of remember the plot, but I remember, I remember the characters I remember all of those characters. so clear.

Christopher Lockhart 33:43
And most importantly, at least from my experience is that we remember the the emotionality

Alex Ferrari 33:50

Christopher Lockhart 33:51
Attached to the character. Because ultimately, you know, movies, screenplays, any art form, at least in my opinion, is is an emotional experience.

Right You know, if you if you go back to Aristotle, it's all about catharsis. So it so it is, it is about emotion. And for me, when I read a screenplay, I want to be moved. For me a screenplay is never should never be an intellectual exercise. That doesn't mean that it can't be smart. It doesn't mean that it can explore intellectual subjects. But ultimately, it has to be emotional. And, and so if I read a screenplay, and I feel the same way at the end, as I did at the beginning, it's probably a pass.

Alex Ferrari 34:49
Now, you said something earlier about you learn more from bad writing that you do for good writing. Can you tell us tell us a little bit about what you learn when you read a bad script?

Christopher Lockhart 34:58
Well, you know, you often learn and sort of what you shouldn't do, and more importantly, why. But I also think that, because I've read so many scripts, I've read over 60,000 scripts in 30 plus years. So I, like I have so many stories in my head. So let's say that you write a screenplay, and I read the screenplay, and I don't think it works. Now, I can guarantee you that I have read at least a dozen screenplays, very similar to your story. Because you know, you're all using the same archetypes and, and tropes and motifs. And I can then think, on those other dozen screenplays and how they were able to make work. What you weren't able to make work, just and then I can sort of compare and contrast. And so often, I can sort of figure things out or even through rewrites because I have, I have to read a lot of rewrites, you know, I can remember, you know, a script like, like man on fire with Denzel, I must have read 17 or 18 different drafts of that script as it came in. But I can remember very specific scripts that I had read, that didn't work. And, and, and I couldn't figure out why it didn't work. I could articulate that it wasn't working. And I might even be able to say why it wasn't working, but couldn't tell you how to fix it. And then you get a rewrite that comes in. And whatever it was, that I was feeling has been altered, the rewrite is much more successful. And then I'm able to look at what they did, and compare it to what it was before. And then have a learning experience. through that. I always bring up Matchstick men. As an example. That was the Ridley Scott Nicolas Cage movie.

I don't want to screw this up. But in the film, he he Nicolas Cage is a con man who meets his a strange daughter. And then they go out and do a con together. And then spoiler alert, we find out that she has content, she is not his daughter. Right? So really clever. The first draft that I read, she was his daughter. She was his daughter. And so then you get so then you get to this third act, it never has a really interesting climax. And it really felt like something was missing. And I couldn't figure it out. And then seven months later, a rewrite comes in. And I read that I'm like, Ah, that's it. Of course, it makes total sense. This is a movie about cons. This is a movie about confidence men. So you need a great con, you need a twist in the third act. I love the sting.

Alex Ferrari 38:09

Christopher Lockhart 38:10
And, you know, this has been all sort of part of my learning experience through reading so much. And and you know, I studied dramaturgy as a graduate student at NYU, I've been MFA. But really, so much of my education has come through reading scripts, and of course, being forced to read scripts. So my education has been at gunpoint, so to speak. But a lot I've learned a lot as a result.

Alex Ferrari 38:45
So you're like a database of of stories and screenplays because of just just sitting around reading very much like I'm very much like, Bill Murray and Groundhog's Day, so I'll bring it back to that. He's like, maybe there is no God, maybe he's just been around so long that he knows everything. So I'm not saying you're a god, sir. But, but but you but you, but you do have a database of all these stories in your head that helps you, you know, has I mean, it's like a computer almost. So you could just kind of go in and dive into things. That's really where

Christopher Lockhart 39:15
You know, a lot. A lot of what I do is somebody saying, Hey, you know, we're looking for romantic comedies for this actor. Can you you know, come up with a list. And, and so yeah, you know, so I go into my database, which is not just here, but is also on my computer, although I have a very antediluvian kind of system. So it's, it's very tough. Sometimes I it's it's really weird how I have to find projects that can often remember the stories but titles now for me, because there's so many titles, I can't recall titles. Sometimes I'll have a co worker who will call me say hey listened. You know, last week you read the ABC script. And I'll say, Wait, wait, wait. I remember that script at all, what was the logline? Because you know, that was like 30 scripts to go from me already. So it's like I read it, I move on to the next. But once I get a prompt, everything opens up in my head, and then I can really remember the story.

Alex Ferrari 40:24
So can you talk about what a screen when a screenwriter is ready for an agent or manager? Because so many times I hear screenwriters say, All I need is that agent or manager, I just need that that champion to just get me that deal. When are they actually ready for an agent or manager to take them on?

Christopher Lockhart 40:42
Well, my glib answer to that is always they're ready when the agent or manager knocks on their door. Because ultimately, when, when they're coming to you, you're ready. And people might say, Oh, well, how do they come to you? Well, they come to you because you want the nickel fellowship?

Alex Ferrari 41:04

Christopher Lockhart 41:05
You know, or maybe you wrote some low budget film that you thought nobody would see. But you know it, it was Sundance on fire. So but ultimately, it's a one thing that any writer can do is turn to his network to get feedback on his screenplays to see what's working and what isn't working. Because sometimes the writer isn't the best judge, especially when you've been working on a script for so long. And right. Yeah, absolutely. So So having that network of people that you trust, who can read your script, I give you notes. And then eventually, I think you can get the feeling when the notes go from from this to this, that maybe your screenplay is ready to share with representation. But that still may not mean you're ready, because in some cases, a rep might read your script and say, Wow, this is great. You're a great writer. I can't sell this, though. There's no market for this. What else do you have? And then you don't have anything? Right? So maybe having that follow up script, I used to work with an agent named Brian Cher, who's a manager now.

He's a he was a real wonder kantipur he was selling spec scripts at William Morris when he was in the mailroom. True story,

Alex Ferrari 42:39
That's amazing.

Christopher Lockhart 42:40
Yeah, so I have a lot of respect for him. And he always used to say, you know, something, a writer only needs one script, that's all I need. I just need if a writer's has only written one script, and I can sell that script, that's all that matters. But the truth is, is that often you're not writing that one script that's gonna sell, it just might be enough to sort of get the door open a jar. So having more than one project. And then of course, helping a rep, a representative see you and understand who you are. So if you do have more than one script, and there's a little bit of controversy here, but I suggest that writers brand themselves and that and that they stay with one genre, because if an agent or manager reads your action script, and they love it, but they can't sell it, but they love it, and they want to see what you have next. And it is a historical romance. Oh, that's gonna be a big letdown. So it kind of sucks, I think because writers hate the thought of having to be pigeonholed. But I think branding yourself is wiser. And then eventually, when you break through, and you want to do other things, then your reps job will be to help you cross over and do other things. But branding yourself, so you become that guy. I also, I also think there's just some common sense in it. So it's like if you write action scripts, and you write one action script, and on a scale from one to 10, it's a five, then you write a second action script, this time, that's a six, then you write your third one, it's a seven, you write your fourth one, it's an eight. And then by the time you have your fifth one, it's a nine. Now you're now you've got a really great action script that you can share with the town that the town will be excited about. But if you started with your first action script you wrote that was a five and then your second script is a romance. That's a five, and then you write a mystery, and that's a five. You're not, you're not necessarily growing. And the truth is, is that every time you write a script, you're a new writer Anyway, you know, and but so it helps to carry over some of those tools and get really, really good at doing one thing, and then a rep can sell you because if you have all different genres, a rep doesn't know how to sell you.

Alex Ferrari 45:14
So thinking along those lines help, and just getting your work out there again, you know, sharing your work with people entering it into contests that are reputable, like the nickel fellowship, for example.


Christopher Lockhart 45:29
yeah, yeah, I, you know, like, really the, in my opinion, the only contest that that matters industry wide is the nickel.

Alex Ferrari 45:40

Christopher Lockhart 45:41
And the and the studio fellowships, which are these TV writers, fellowships, they're just good. Because often if you are, if you are accepted, and you do the fellowship, you are transitioned to a staff, TV job at any of those studios. And so clearly, that's a really beneficial program, but screenwriting contests like Austin or scripta, Palooza, or even final draft, I wouldn't say that they are accepted universally through the industry, I would say that a lot of them have fans. But they don't have the kinds of brand that the Nickel fellowship does.

Alex Ferrari 46:32
Got it,

Christopher Lockhart 46:32
for whatever reason.

Alex Ferrari 46:33
Fair enough. Now, you said something earlier in regards to a low budget, low wonder like a kind of like a hit low budget hit? Do you recommend that screenwriters write a low budget independent film that can actually get produced so they actually have something out in the world as opposed to just a screenplay in hand with a cup in hand?

Christopher Lockhart 46:56
Right. You know, I think if a screenwriter has access to filmmakers, and money, even if she's not going to direct or even produce the movie, then it would behoove her to do that. But trying to sort of second guess the industry. I don't always know if that's wise, sometimes I just think the best thing riders should do is write the best fucking crazy ass memorable script that they can write, whether it's a gazillion dollar budget, or a low budget, because the odds of it selling are slim to none anyway, right. And what you want to do is make a splash. You want people to read your script and go, Wow, I want to meet this guy. That's what you want. First and foremost, the idea of trying to sell a script is I'm not saying that you shouldn't think that way. But, but again, the odds are that you're not going to sell a script, what you want to do you want to get representation, what you want to do is get a job. You know, you want somebody to say, Hey, I'm not going to make your movie, but we have a project that is similar to this. And maybe we can bring you on to do a rewrite.

Let's face it most. The majority of writers in the business, their bread and butter is through assignments. It's not spec selling.

Alex Ferrari 48:24
Right. Yeah, exactly. The spec selling thing is that lottery tickets that Powerball. That's right, that and so

Christopher Lockhart 48:31
So I say right, what you're good at, right? What you want to write, and write the hell out of it. You know, we're doing a logline contest right now. On my writers group, my Facebook writers group, and, you know, so we got about 400 log lines. And you know, a lot of them it's like, you look at these and I'm like, Yeah, like, Man, this this just doesn't feel like a movie in me.

Alex Ferrari 49:03

Christopher Lockhart 49:03
You know, maybe the screenplay is different. Maybe the screenplay is gonna take me in some, you know, other direction. Surprise me. But like, Yeah, I don't know about this that just doesn't feel like a movie. It's not it's not very exciting. Doesn't really smack with with conflict, which is something that I always look for in a logline. You know, I want to know what the conflict is. And does it sound like it's compelling? Does it sound like it could, you know, hold up a script for 120 pages? And and so I just, you know, I think that that writers should just just really think about what they're writing, you know, the process starts at the beginning, when they're hatching an idea and come up with something that's really compelling, because you have to stand out, you know, if you're just going to write that's that relationship script.

Alex Ferrari 50:08

Christopher Lockhart 50:08
About You know, you and your dad and you know your estrangement, and you come together under some sort of circumstance. And like I've read a million of those look, it doesn't mean that your writing may not be brilliant to could be brilliant look at Juno, right, like, read a script like Juno. And the writing is really fresh. But if you heard the logline You know, it would sound like an after school special from the 80s

Alex Ferrari 50:36
You're right

Christopher Lockhart 50:36
It does, but the writing is amazing. The problem is that it The problem is that you have to get people to read your writing. You know, Diablo Cody was she had a very popular blog. You know, I believe she'd already written a novel I think she'd even been on like the David Letterman show. And, and Mason Novick, who was a manager, he he approached her and said, you know, have you thought about writing a screenplay? And and so she was already juiced in. It's like, if you're somebody from Iowa, and you have no connections, and nobody's banging on your door, and you write Juno, how, how are you going to get it out there, especially when the logline is an after school special from? Well, hopefully, you entered into the nickel and they recognize the writing, and you win, or place very, very high, which perhaps opens some doors for you, as we said earlier, but but I just think that writers need to think about what they're writing, and, and just light it on fire, you know, light it on fire, because I read a lot of scripts, as do many other people in this town. And a lot of them feel the same. They're just sort of homogenized is when you're reading a screenplay, and you come across a character who's making compelling and unique choices, in pursuit of whatever it is that he or she is pursuing. Right? And these choices result in very unique and compelling conflicts. Then you say, Wow, I'm going to remember this. And then also, as I said, earlier, we remember the emotion.

And, and so it's like, you know, if you can write just one amazing scene that is moving and that doesn't mean moving somebody to tears, it means you could move them to laughter moves into fear. Again, out of all screenplays that I've read, I could I could tell you moments in screenplays like oh, yeah, there was this one script. I don't remember what it's called. And it really remembered the story. But there's this amazing beat, where ABCD happens. I might even remember where I was when I read it.

Alex Ferrari 53:13
Because it hit you emotionally.

Christopher Lockhart 53:14
Yes, exactly. Right. So you know, those are the things that you need to be going for, you know, so, so think so think, original, think, think emotionally, write a screenplay that is going to grab the reader by the throat, even if it is on producible. That wouldn't matter.

Alex Ferrari 53:39
Yeah. Which brings me to the next question I had, do you should screenwriters that are trying to break into the business. Think about budget when writing? Do they write the $200 million original story that more than likely will never get produced? Because that's just not the way the system is working right now? Or do they make that they write something that could be done for $20 million for Netflix? What should it should that even be a consideration?

Christopher Lockhart 54:07
You know, I have there's obviously two schools on that. I am a pragmatist. I and I'm very realistic about things. And so yeah, I would say Listen, don't write a $500 million script. But at the same time, I just said before, nobody's gonna buy your script anyway. So go ahead and write an amazing $500 million script. The thing is, this is it's not about budget. It's it's it really comes down to whether the script is good or not. This is I wish this is what people would worry about. But this is what writers don't concentrate on. They concentrate on all these things that they can control. Like, oh, I shouldn't use we see in my screenplay. That's a no no. Or I can't write it. big budget, screenplay or you know all of these things that are in their control. The one thing that they don't think about is writing an amazing screenplay. because believe it or not, that is out of the control of most of most new writers. Because, look, to be honest, most new writers shouldn't be writing, they shouldn't be writing screenplays, they probably shouldn't be writing emails. And so, you know, it's worry about your craft worried about the quality of what you're writing, don't think about the business. Because Great, so you write a script that Netflix can produce, but the script sucks. And as a result, Netflix isn't going to produce it. So what does it matter?

Right, exactly. Now, if you if there's a writer who wants to break into television today, what should should they write a spec script on an existing show? Or should they write an original piece?

They should be writing original pilots.

Alex Ferrari 56:01

Christopher Lockhart 56:02
Yeah. However, I would say that a lot of the studio TV fellowships that I mentioned earlier, like Warner Brothers, for example. They I believe, also want to see an existing a spec from an existing show. So it wouldn't hurt a TV writer to have both. But definitely, original pilot.

Alex Ferrari 56:32
Now, what is the biggest mistake you see screenwriters make in writing screenplays? Because I'm you have a few written if you've read a few. So I'm sure you've read a few bad ones. What are these constant mistakes, story wise, structural wise, character wise, that you see that you just like, Oh, God, I wish they would just stop this.

Christopher Lockhart 56:51
Yeah, the number my number one on that list. And I don't really make lists. But this would be my number one is that they create a protagonist, who has nothing to do through the story

Alex Ferrari 57:06
Who's just like a just an observer, or just hanging out

Christopher Lockhart 57:10
in an active protagonist. So, you know, ultimately, in drama. And again, you know, this is, this is the way I look at material, this is not the way everybody looks at material. You know, I definitely when I, you know, first started writing and studying, you know, like, Aristotle was definitely my guy. So, you know, I believe that, that you have to give your protagonist something to do. And in a film needs to be something that that is active. And that can be filmed. So when somebody says, Yeah, so I have this really exciting story. It's, it's about a character who wants to feel safe in a world where she's lost. And I'm like, Yeah, I don't know what that means.

Alex Ferrari 58:23
Because I was watching a movie The other day, and I can't remember it because it was bad. But the character didn't, the main character was just along for the ride. They didn't, they didn't generate the story. They didn't because of their actions, nothing that they did affected the story, the story was going in the direction it was going to go regardless if they weren't, and they were the protagonist, which was just a weird thing, as opposed to someone that is constantly moving the foot moving the story forward in one way, shape, or form.

Christopher Lockhart 58:52
Right, it's it's it. So I will meet writers who will say, well, the character doesn't have a lot to do, because this is a character piece. And like, yeah, that doesn't make any sense to me. Because in drama, a character is defined by the choices that she makes. Yes, you will create little idiosyncrasies for your character that texturizers the character, but that is not what creates a dramatic character. So in a screenplay, you give a character something to do something important, like in Erin Brockovich, she spearheads a legal case. Right? So she, she sets out to win a legal case. She's even a lawyer, and she sets out to win a case for these cancer stricken people who have been screwed over by some utility company, right. And so that's her goal, right? Her goal is to win this lawsuit. That's her goal. And now through the movie, she sets out to achieve that goal, scene after scene after scene. And there are choices that she has to make things that she has to do. And these choices reveal who she is. So for example, she goes to some place and she needs copies. And so she lifts up her boobs, and, you know, she, she playfully seduces the nerdy clerk, that gives us an inkling of who she is. So the choices that characters make, let me just give you a very broad example, if I may. So let's say you have your your characters walking down the street, and he looks down at the sidewalk, and he sees a wallet, somebody had dropped their wallet, and it's filled with cash. And what your character does with that wallet, will help to define who the character is. If the character just leaves the wallet on the ground, and walks away. That's one character. If the character takes the money and leaves the wall behind, that's another character. If he takes the whole wallet, that's somebody else. If he takes half the money and leaves the other half, that's a different character. If he takes the wallet to the police station, to return it. That's another character if the owner of the wallet comes to the police station and offers the character a reward, if the character takes it or doesn't take it also reveals character, this is what reveals character in movies, it is the choices your character makes, it's not the novelistic details that people get caught up in, like these idiosyncrasies of well, this character drinks Coca Cola out of a bottle, Pan, it looks that's interesting. Like it that's, that is a fine piece of texture for a character. It's not dramatic, it's not speaking in the language of which you are trying to tell your story.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:21

Christopher Lockhart 1:02:22
So So and of course, you want these choices to be made within a dramatic framework. So Erin Brockovich is making these choices in this framework of her having to win a case, right, or Hamlet sets out to avenge the murder of his father. That's, that's Hamlet's journey through that five act play, or Sheriff protein, jaws has to kill the shark, you must give your character something to do, you must give your character a goal, because that keeps the character active. And it also keeps the audience engaged because we want to know what will happen. We asked ourselves, gee, will Aaron win the case? And we stick around for two hours to see if she will, will Hamlet avenge the death of his father, we stick around through five acts to see if he will, will Sheriff Brodie kill the shark? We stick around for two hours to see if he will. If you don't ask that question. There's no reason for the audience to stick around.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:31
Right. And we won't and you think it's that's story one on one, but a lot of a lot of writers don't get that

Christopher Lockhart 1:03:39
not a lot. Not a lot. Most.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:42

Christopher Lockhart 1:03:43
I'm saying for because I do read a lot of amateur scripts. You know, I also teach so I read a lot of students scripts. That is, it is it's like the COVID-19 of screenwriting, is not giving your protagonist something to do that is the virus. It is a pandemic. And no matter how many times I can say this, it doesn't matter. Like sometimes I'm at these events where people pitch. So they'll come up and they'll pitch and they'll you know, spend two minutes and then I'll say, Well, I'm not sure what is it that your character is doing in your story? And they don't have an answer. And I say, Okay, look, you know, let me hear a pitch where your character is active, where there is a goal and your character is, is traveling through the story to reach this goal. Let me hear and then somebody comes up and does the pitch. And there's no goal. Like Okay, I guess you didn't understand me. And so I explained it to get who has a story where the protagonist is active and has something to do. Every hand goes up and it doesn't matter you literally can go one after the other after the other after the other. So they seem to understand it but then it gets lost in translation somewhere. Listen screenwriting is an easy it's the reason why not a lot of people do it. It's really hard. It's really hard work. And and also, I think a lot of writers come in writing from from a perspective that they're writing. You know, I always say that screenwriters are not really writers. They're really not write screenplays are constructed, they're built.

The writing the the, the writing spirits, like you're committing mellifluous prose to the page is not what screenwriting is about, because nobody will see that.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:55

Christopher Lockhart 1:05:56
Nobody wants you to describe a sunrise in 1000 words, in a screenplay, like you wouldn't have novel, you have to describe that same sunrise in five words, in a screenplay,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:06
but get the same emotion but get the same emotion to say

Christopher Lockhart 1:06:08
of course. So screenwriting isn't about writing. I mean, you know, look at the word playwright, right. Like if if, if you actually look at the word play, right, it's w ri ght? Er, right? Like a ship, right? Right, a builder of so you're building, you're building, a screenplay, it's all about, it's all about structure. It's all about how it is constructed. The way one scene is juxtaposed to another, the ebb and flow, the cause and effect, the setup and the payoff. It's all about construction. And so a lot of people come at screenplays as writers, rather than builders. And I think it's the builders who are successful. First and foremost, look, that doesn't mean that you can't, you know, have beautiful writing in your screenplay. Sure, you know, but ultimately, that doesn't translate to the audience experience.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:08
No, I mean, you read a Shane Black script, or a Tarantino script and Tarantino's dialogue snaps, and you will hear it. But if you look at the Shane Black script, I still I still love Shane's descriptions. His descriptions are amazing, but no one loves it.

Christopher Lockhart 1:07:22
And, but he's also not trying to be literary.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:26
Right? He is.

Christopher Lockhart 1:07:27
He is sort of he is a storyteller. And he's telling a story as if he were in the room almost.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:34

Christopher Lockhart 1:07:35
And and you know, he has that very sort of specific where he's winking at the reader all along. And, but it's not Faulkner,

Alex Ferrari 1:07:44
you know, it's by any stretch. Now, I'm gonna ask you the last few questions I asked all my guests. What are three screenplays every screenwriter should read?

Christopher Lockhart 1:07:55

Alex Ferrari 1:07:57
I read the pop into your head. I hear the questions.

Christopher Lockhart 1:08:01
I say this, you know, because I use it in my classes. insomnia. Yeah.Hilary Seitz wrote a screenplay that was adapted from a foreign film. Which country I don't recall.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:17
Swedish, Swedish Swedish perhaps? Yeah.

Christopher Lockhart 1:08:19
And I'm not saying the movie. Mind. Your screenplay is much better than the film. The script. I believe the screenplay for insomnia is the actual reading experience is interesting. I would say that is The Very Best Screenplay that I have ever read.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:40
And the Nolan remake the Nolan remake one not the original script of the remake the Hollywood

Christopher Lockhart 1:08:47
IMAX. Correct. But again, I'm not talking about the movie. So don't go out and watch the movie. I'm talking about reading the screenplay, because that was your question. And and yeah, I think that script was was an is brilliant. And and because it just does everything that a screenplay should do. And does it so well and in an in a fairly complicated way. So So I love that script. Andwhat do you want me to say Chinatown? You know,

Alex Ferrari 1:09:26
Godfather, Shawshank Redemption.

Christopher Lockhart 1:09:30
You know something? i? I honestly think that in some ways, once you've seen the movie, the the screenplay experience is ruined for you. I feel like I'm lucky in the sense that I read all of these movies before their movies.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:49
Do you think you read meant you were you were involved with a man on fire, which is I love man on fire but on the page. Please tell me that Tony Scott translation that he did for the film, that kinetic energy that vibe, the thing was that on the page was even close to being on the page, or was it just a completely different experience?

Christopher Lockhart 1:10:13
The, the, the thing that's in the screenplay is the emotionality right there, the relationship between creasy and the girl. And, and that's, that's, that's what sells the script. Tony Scott is Tony Scott. And then he brings what he brings. Of course, I knew that Tony Scott was I but I'm pretty sure that I knew that Tony Scott was attached to direct when I read the script, so I could probably imagine the way certain things would go. But ultimately, reading a screenplay before it's a movie, in my opinion, is the most beneficial thing for a screenwriter, that doesn't mean that they shouldn't also read screenplays of films they love. But I say this, because once you see the movie, when you read the screenplay, you are now interpreting that screenplay, through the director, through the cinematographer, through the performances, through the music, it's all been done for you. When you read a script, before, it's a film, none of that is done for you, you have to bring all of that to the page, I have read a lot of mediocre screenplays, that have been great films, because you end up with a really good director and a really good actor, and you have a good film. And, but if you're just reading that screenplay, you you can you can see the flaws. So, so I'm definitely an advocate of of that. So I'm gonna tell people that if they read in the trades, that screenplay just sold for a million dollars, try to get your hands on that script. You know, this is why you got to have a network of people, by the way. But you know, try to try to get your hands on that's good to read that script and try to understand why somebody would invest that kind of money into this project. Sometimes you just scratch your head

Alex Ferrari 1:12:27

Christopher Lockhart 1:12:28
And sometimes you don't, sometimes you're like, wow, like, I totally get this,

Alex Ferrari 1:12:32
Or have sold a bunch of scripts that never got produced, and he got paid handsomely for them back in the day

Christopher Lockhart 1:12:37
absolut, absolutly will, let's face it, again, the majority of scripts that sell never get made. So so that is not that is not unusual. I have read many scripts over the years, that I still feel sad that they have not been made. and and, and and I continue to promote those scripts. So I will always continue to promote those scripts. So when somebody asks me for a list, and there's that script that I love from 15 years ago, but it's perfect for this actor, that title goes on that list. And that's how movies get made.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:20
Yeah, I mean, I remember seeing an interview with john Cusack who said, he wants to his agents, he's like, give me the script that you can't, no one is ever going to produce. And then they ended up being john malkovich. Because you mean john, being john malkovich is not a commercial film. But it was, it was brilliant. And then you give it to spike Jones, and then you put that cast together. And it all it all worked. Now, what advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Christopher Lockhart 1:13:47

Alex Ferrari 1:13:49

Christopher Lockhart 1:13:51
That is paramount, and create a network. So you start to create a network. And again, you can do that. If you live outside of the industry here in town. You can follow people on Twitter, and on Instagram. There's all kinds of Facebook groups. Again, I invite anybody to come to my Facebook group, it's called the inside pitch. And it is a place where you can meet people and have friends and exchange screenplays with them. And creating that network is really important. Those are the things that screenwriters need to be doing all the time. And in my opinion, it should almost be 5050 it should be you know your writing 50% of the time and your networking 50% of the time, because one without the other is fairly useless. It's great to have an amazing script but if you do not have a network in which to share it, then you're at a loss and yet at the same time if you if you have a network, but no work to share with it, then you're also at a loss. So those are those the things and those are things that you can do. Those are the easy, simple things. And then of course, you should be educating yourself. So watch movies and read screenplays. I mean, it's kind of just all basic stuff.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:17
And what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life? I'd love your reactions. By the way, everybody who's not watching this, his faces are amazing.

Christopher Lockhart 1:15:33
Why don't you just ask me what kind of tree? I would be? What was the question again?

Alex Ferrari 1:15:38
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Christopher Lockhart 1:15:43
Oh, that's easy, because I actually just learned it very recently. You have to vacuum every day.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:51
The best answer to that question?

Christopher Lockhart 1:15:53
No, but it's absolutely true. You have to vacuum every single day. And then you don't get a lot of dust in your apartment. You know, I mean, I just, it has just just just come to me. You know, I'm like, because I'm always dusting all the time. It's a pain in the ass. And I just realized through COVID every day I vacuum, and I'm not hardly dusting. So my advice, vacuum every day.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:21
That should be the title of a book. Vacuum every day.

Christopher Lockhart 1:16:26
See? Maybe you and I will write it. Yes.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:29
Christopher, I truly appreciate you being on the show. And if people want to reach out to you, I guess the inside pitch Facebook group is the best place. That's the best place. Thank you again, so much for being on the show. And and just your wealth of information has been very beneficial to my tribe. So I appreciate it my friend.

Christopher Lockhart 1:16:45
Right. Thank your tribe, and you'd be well.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please enjoy my conversation with Kevin Goetz.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Goetz 51:11
Were you in LA?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 59:26
Great title.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Above the Line vs. Below the Line

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

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

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

Above-the-Line Crew

Film Director

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

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

Film Producer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Executive Producer

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

Below the Line Crew – Production

Line Producer

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

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

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

Unit Production Manager (UPM)

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

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

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

Production Coordinator

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

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

Assistant Production Coordinator

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

Set Accountant

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

Office Production Assistant

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

Assistant Directors

1st Assistant Director

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

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

2nd Assistant Director

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

2nd 2nd Assistant Director

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

Key Production Assistant

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

Production Assistants

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

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

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

Having qualified technicians handle equipment helps keep everyone safe.


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Location Manager

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

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

Location Scouts

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

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


Transportation Captain

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

Transportation Coordinator

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

Picture Car Coordinator

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

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


Production Sound Mixer

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

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

Boom Operator

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

Sound Utility

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

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


Script Supervisor

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

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

Camera Department

Director of Photography

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

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

Camera Operator

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

1st Assistant Camera (aka Focus Puller)

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

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

2nd Assistant Camera

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

Steadicam Operator

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

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

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

They answer directly to the director of photography.

Drone Operator

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

DIT/Media Management

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

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

Still Photographer

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


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Grip Department

Key Grip

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

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

Best Boy Grip

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

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

Dolly Grip

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

Rigging Grip

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

Electrical Department


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

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

Best Boy Electric

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

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

Rigging Electricians

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

Set Electricians

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

Shop Electricians

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

Basecamp Electricians

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

Generator Operator

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

Art Department

Production Designer

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

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

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


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

Art Director

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

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

Art Department Coordinator

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

Construction Coordinator

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


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

Key Scenic

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

Scenic Artists

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

Set Decorator

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

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


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

Set Dressers

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


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

Art Department Production Assistants

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

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


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Property Master

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

Assistant Property Master

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

Prop Maker

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

Prop Assistants

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

Food Stylists

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

Animal Wranglers

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

Costume and Wardrobe

Costume Designer

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

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

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

Assistant Costume Designer

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

Key Costumers

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

Set Costumers

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

Wardrobe Supervisor

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


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

Agers and Dyers

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


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

Hair and Makeup

Hair Department Head

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

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

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

Makeup Department Head

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

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

Special Makeup Effects

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

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


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Stunt Coordinator

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

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

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

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

Stunt Performer

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

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

Stunt Rigger

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

Visual Effects

Visual Effects Supervisor

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

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

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

VFX Coordinator

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

Special Effects (Practical Effects)

Special Effects Coordinator

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

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

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

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

Special Effects Foreman

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

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

Special Effects Technicians

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


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


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

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

Catering and Food Services

Production Caterer

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

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

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

Key Craft Services

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

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Set Medic

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

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

Intimacy Coordinator

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

Covid Compliance Officer (CCO)

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

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

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

Honey Wagon Operator

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Safety First

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

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

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

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


Need Sound Effects for your short or feature film project?

Download 2000+ sound effects designed for indie filmmakers & their projects for free.

Where to Find the Guns?

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

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

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

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

Airsoft Green Gas (Fuel for Blow Back)

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

Airsoft Prop Gun – Shotguns:

Airsoft Prop Gun – Rifles:

Airsoft Prop Gun – Grenade Launcher:

Airsoft Prop Gun – Sniper Rifle:

BONUS: Realistic Prop Knives & Prop Weapons

If I may quote one of my favorite Christmas films:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please enjoy my conversation with Alan Ball.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 16:29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 31:30
Very much so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alan Ball 50:07

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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IFH 648: From Indies to Producing Oscar® Winners with Cassian Elwes

Cassian Elwes began his producing career with 1984’s Oxford Blues, starring Rob Lowe and Ally Sheedy, and has enjoyed continuing success in film. His earlier roles include Men at Work with Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen, The Chase with Charlie Sheen, Kristy Swanson, and Henry Rollins, and The Dark Backward with Judd Nelson, Bill Paxton, and Rob Lowe. In 1989 he produced the independent film Never on Tuesday, which featured a cast of cameos including Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Nicolas Cage, and Cary Elwes.

The Hollywood Reporter has said that Elwes was “involved in a virtual who’s who of every great independent film of the last ten years.” with films such as Thank You for Smoking, Half Nelson, and Frozen River (the last two of which garnered Oscar nominations for Ryan Gosling and Melissa Leo, respectively).

“What people lose sight of,” Elwes said to Screen International, “is that these films cost a tenth of the films that they competed against at the Academy Awards.

The privilege was the recognition.”[citation needed] Elwes is an expert in the field of arranging financing and distribution for independent films, having done so for 283 films during his tenure at William Morris Independent.

Since leaving William Morris Independent, Elwes has been involved in arranging financing and distribution for 23 films, including Lawless, directed by John Hillcoat (The Road), starring Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy, and the thriller The Paperboy, directed by Lee Daniels (Precious), starring Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron.

Elwes produced the period drama The Butler, which was directed by Lee Daniels and featured an ensemble cast, including Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, John Cusack, Jane Fonda, Terrence Howard, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Rickman, Liev Schreiber, Robin Williams, among others.

He also produced Dallas Buyers Club starring Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints starring Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, and Hateship, Loveship starring Kristen Wiig, Guy Pearce, Hailee Steinfeld, and Nick Nolte.

On 29 October 2013, Elwes launched the Cassian Elwes Independent Screenwriter Fellowship, in conjunction with The Black List, to award one writer an all-expenses-paid trip to the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and mentorship from Elwes. Elwes and The Black List plan to award the fellowship annually. – Wikipedia

Please enjoy my conversation with Cassian Elwes.

Cassian Elwes 0:00
Some projects will come from people that you didn't know or never heard heard of. But somehow rather they got that script in front of somebody. Now they maybe they met somebody in a bar or restaurant

Alex Ferrari 0:12
This episode is brought to you by the best selling book, Rise of the Filmtrepreneur how to turn your independent film into a money making business. Learn more at filmbizbook.com. I'd like to welcome to the show, Cassian Elwes. How you doing Cassian?

Cassian Elwes 0:26
I'm doing great, Alex, thank you.

Alex Ferrari 0:28
Thank you so much for coming on the show. My friend. I know you're in the middle of producing 75 movies this year alone?

Cassian Elwes 0:34
Yeah, you know, I keep I keep myself busy, which is getting you know, I literally wrapped a movie about eight days ago on Saturday, and Kentucky and then started shooting another one. Three days later on Tuesday here in Los Angeles. So you did I do I really do. You gotta keep hustling. You gotta keep trying, you know, you can't give up. It's a very difficult thing to make a movie happen. But I you know, I'm very driven.

Alex Ferrari 1:04
No doubt I saw your filmography for God's sakes. I mean, you've been doing it for a while and, and, you know, before you get started, thank you for making some amazing films in the 80s and 90s, while I was working in the video store, so I appreciate that. I was like, Oh, I remember that one.

Cassian Elwes 1:20
I remember that was the days of blockbuster, you know, where you go down there and go go over the racks and look at all the ones that that had multiple copies, and a bunch of them were at, you can tell the success or failure of each one. They were stocking and how many that were at rent at that particular moment. It was a different time, you know, the video stores will pretty much buying almost anything, and you can just make a movie, you know, three or $400,000 and which I you know, dead exploitation movies and sell them off to cut two companies here that in America that were looking to try to stop those video shows and and it was a great business.

Alex Ferrari 2:01
Well, yeah, and those VHS is were like, retail was like, 79.99 That's crazy. It was insane. It was I mean, I always tell people, You have no idea how much money you could have was being made in the 80s in the night,

Cassian Elwes 2:16
You know, it was interesting, you know, I got I got one of the first Betamax machines. So you know, because I decided that that it was easier to get the Betamax tapes, because you know, the video stores, they would suck some Betamax and some very few people that had Betamax machines. But I thought I'd get one because the quality was slightly better. At the beginning anyway. And then. And then I you know, wouldn't have a problem, being able to read whatever I wanted to see. And then just the sheer ease of it, being able to take a movie home and watch it happen. People don't realize how incredible that experience was. Because now of course, you can go online read anything you want to see and see it and you know, three seconds later is up on your screen. But that wasn't the case in the in the 80s. You know, the you really had to go see movies in the movie theater. And then occasionally they would play on network television. But you you the advent of the film rental business, you know, the getting getting VHS, getting VHS tapes, and Betamax as of movies was incredible. So I mean, they were literally companies like restaurants, that were just putting out hundreds and hundreds of titles. And people.

Alex Ferrari 3:21
Yeah, Canon canon trauma, fullmoon all of them.

Cassian Elwes 3:24
Yeah, they just were making money hand over fist on these things and making you know, trauma. Love, you know, the the Lloyds the greatest, you know, I'm always I've always been a big admirer of his. But you know, those films were horrific. And but people rented them. And he's the first one to say it, too. was doing.

Alex Ferrari 3:45
And I was and he's, by the way, he's one of the most intelligent people I've ever had on the show.

Cassian Elwes 3:49
And it's really was the New York Film Commissioner, you know, he's He's a lovely, lovely guy. You know, I always would love when I can, you know, we'd have an office on a quiz that with a window looking down on the present and see the Toxic Avenger and the whole kind of parade of, of his characters going down the street, you know, you look at Oh, my God, I'm surprised that no one's actually made the toxin venger yet, and to kind of studio level kind of action franchise

Alex Ferrari 4:15
Like a real like a real

Cassian Elwes 4:18
Marvely version that talks

Alex Ferrari 4:20
You know, it's so fascinating. I always tell people that in the 80s You literally if you finished a movie, you made money if you just if you were able to finish it. And then that

Cassian Elwes 4:31
One picture called the invisible maniac. And I did it with with a friend of mine cool Adam Rifkin. And we're like talking to each other. And we were both completely broke. And I said, Dude, we just need to go and make a movie. And we just need to make something really cheap. And I'll get the money quickly for it. And then we'll just turn it around. We'll make a bunch of money out of it. If we can shoot it fast. He goes, Well, I've got a great idea. I go, what's that he goes, and he was using the pseudonym riff Coogan because he didn't you know, wanted to have you know, we want to real careers Movie Maker. And we did some films together doc backward and, and the chase you for example but um, you know, he he he said I got this great idea for a movie it's called the invisible maniac and it's it's kind of a homage to the visible man. And but you know it's like a guy who's janitor in high school go invisible seal, the ghosting that close up in the, in the in the locker rooms. And and the beauty of it is we only need the star for a day because he's invisible for the rest of the picture. I was like, Oh my God, that's brilliant. We were shooting it 11 days later. And, and we shot the whole movie in 12 days. And I was joking around with him the other digs, we're still friends. And I said, Nina, do you remember the last day of shooting we were shooting in this place that was like it was at the bottom of Laurel Canyon Adventure and it's now some kind of Korean university but at the time, it was like a it was it was like a university campus, small one. And it was being used by some foreign university as a staging point in Los Angeles for for, you know, students that were taking the year off. So they had it looked like classrooms in there. And on the last night day of shooting, we shot for 18 hours straight, which, you know, if you make films, you know, that's pretty gnarly, to be going for 18 hours, you know, the as each hour winds past the 12 hour mark, you're doing less and less because everybody's just exhausted and they can't even like function anymore. And it's diminishing return because you're not getting that many shots and the six hours later that you've been shooting, and it was our last night late. Well, it's you've got to keep going and get these shots. And I said to him, do you remember that the last thing I just remember you standing in the hallway and there's like the scene where they they pulled the fire alarm? And you would like, okay, was that shot in focus? They were the guide camera was like, yes. Because was it in English? He goes, yes. All right, fine. That's good. We're moving on. And that was literally it. You know, it was, it was hilarious. But yeah, it was a different kind of filmmaking in those days. You know, really, I learned how to make films, actually in that period of time.

Alex Ferrari 7:08
So I don't mean shorter. But is that where you got your start? How did you actually get started in this in this business?

Cassian Elwes 7:15
Well, you know, it sounds kind of privileged but I when I was about 10 years old, my mother met an American movie producer was in London making a film with Warren Beatty, called Kaleidoscope his name was Ali Kassar, and they fell madly in love and moved in together. And two more children. I had two brothers already. And then they had two more, my little brother sister, and and the so from from 10 years old, we were suddenly thrown from a very normal sorry about that, for a very normal existence into this movie existence. We come to California and we would see movie stars and movie stars go to film sets. And you know, he was making films with me Missouri Breaks with Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando. He did harbor with Paul Newman, multiple films with with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. So you know, they, we met all these mega movie stars, you know, as kids. And, and so from, from the time I was 15, I was desperate to do it. I really wanted to do what he was doing, you know that one day, I'm gonna be like, Elliot, I'm gonna wake up at two o'clock in the morning and yell at people in California, on the phone from London. And, but I don't yell, I'm not that person. He was he was he was quite a yeller. And, but he he made like 60 movies or something like that, which I just thought was credible number of movies. And you know, I've actually finally made almost twice as many. Right, he made some really good movies, he made some really good movies. And so I would watch, you know, he knew by the time I was 15, or 16, that I was really interested in what he was doing. And I'm not sure that I would do this, but he would let me go to meetings with him. He was saying, shut up and sit in the corner. And you can listen to what I'm saying. I listened to him hustling people for money. And so I kind of, you know, understood what the what the game was. And then, and then, you know, during my vacations, he'd make me go work, you know, very early age, on sets, basically getting tea and making copies of scripts and things like that, like really menial jobs. But it was good, because it was, you know, got exposure to have problems with being made and see the directors working with the actors. And, you know, that was that was an incredible thing. And then, you know, went to college, but I dropped that the parents were furious in California after I worked on a movie called The Dogs of War and had a bit of money and said I'll stay in California to like get a job, got a job worked for a company called film ways, which was you know, had success with a with a movie called dressed to kill the brand department movie. And, and then they all went belly up, ended up being sold to Orion pitches, but by that point, by the time I was 22, or 23, my my stepfather and I had had a refreshment and he said, Listen, why don't you come up with an idea for a movie and we'll do it together? And I said, I've got a great idea. I saw this movie called Fast Times at Ridgemont High and I think the idea of taking the characters Nikoli, the, you know, the Sean Penn thing of the guy with a pizza, and taking that kind of separate dude, kind of crazy thing, and putting him into Oxford University would be a funny fish out of water story. He said, I love that, let's do it. And we develop a script with a guy called Robert Boris by bars. And then we made it school awesome blues with Rob Lowe. And it wasn't quite what I had in mind. But you know, it was more romantic version of the story than I thought it was going to be kind of more kind of wacky, funny comedy, but it was it was a charming movie. And he sold it for a lot of money. And I didn't make any money out of it, which said it. But if you make a lot of money at this, at this point in your life, you'll never have any appreciation of it later. And it was a great lesson life lesson.

Alex Ferrari 10:48
But so, yeah, so you made you made a lot of film. I mean, it sounds like you were born into this, and you were just ready to rock and roll.

Cassian Elwes 10:55
I was a child of an athlete, you know, I was ready to do it.

Alex Ferrari 10:59
So then what is it? Because this is the biggest question I get from producers. How do you get money? How does it change the difference between raising money in the 80s and 90s, versus today's marketplace, which is so vastly different.

Cassian Elwes 11:16
Here's the crazy part of it, you know, it's like, it never changes. And it's the same, it's the same thing is the faces change, but the, the but the, you know, the posture of the studios remain, the face has changed. You know, there's different buyers, different people, different names, different companies, different whatever, but the same basic tenant is still true, which is that you got to have the package, you got to have the script, you got to have the idea, you got to have the director, you got to have some of the actors and, and the money. You know, I'm always a great believer that if you, you know, I I'm crazy, you know, I'm a I'm a complete gambler, I find things I want to do. And I just set the start date. So I just said about it and say okay, I'm gonna make the movie and somehow or other, you know, when the chips are down, I somehow or other theory that and also a great believer making movies for what I can raise, meaning that, you know, I can say to myself, Okay, this is a $5 million budget, but all I can do is raise $3 million for it. That's the best offers that I've got on the table and then got attached, but it for, you know, half a million dollars, I gotta figure out if I can make this actual movie for three and a half million dollars instead of $5 million. So I'm a great believer in making films. I know, there's a lot of people in our business, they get caught up in the idea of like, I gotta have my 7.3 to $3 million,

Alex Ferrari 12:38
Can't make it for a penny less.

Cassian Elwes 12:40
And the like, you know, come on, that's a joke. And you know that that was that was a skill set. Because I have, I had a whole career in the middle at William Morris, when when ran out there independent film division, just out of the blue, they hired me to come and run it for them for 15 years. And that's why I was so successful with them is because my mindset as a producer, which I brought to the agent, and part of that was totally different from anybody else inside the agency, you know, they, they would go well, I says he's got this budget for $5.3 million, and he has to have $5.3 million, or the phone's not going to be made. And I'm like, I'm in touch with me, let's meet, let's go over this, let's trigger that. And we would go over it together. And we ended up making some of the greatest independent films ever made. Because we weren't worried about budgets, we were worried about, you know, the quality, of course, you want to make sure that you're not compromising the quality of the sounds, but you know, the cost of a movie is relative. And, you know, I've seen films that cost $30 million dollars that look like absolute garbage and symbols that mean that were made for $3 million, that look incredible. So it's like, you know, the relative costs of films, to their quality is not necessarily the perfect ratio.

Alex Ferrari 13:51
So let me ask you the whole, the whole chicken and egg thing, which is like you need the package, but will you need the money to get the package and can you can't get the package without the money unless you are someone like yourself who has relationships, and you have a track record. And you might be able to put the, you know, you call up somebody like oh, it's costly. And this is gonna go, this is a serious dude. But for young producers coming up who might not have 120 films on their belt? How would you go about trying to package a film to raise money and vice versa?

Cassian Elwes 14:21
Well, you know, I always tell people that, you know, if you partner up with somebody who doesn't know what they're doing, because, you know, the business is about relationships, it's about how you meet people, how you get to know people, how you meet the agents, how you meet the people that are making decisions, how you get to, you know, somehow or other actors. You know, I've always tried to be very friendly towards the actors that I'm working with hope that I'll get to work with them again. Good example is Garrett Hedlund to I just finished a movie with I met him while we were doing my band and just hit it off with him right away. He's such a great actor. He really is incredible. And, and we tried for three and have yours for years, quite another patient that we want to do together and finally found one desperation road wishes shot, as I said, we wrapped in about eight days ago. But, you know, it's keep those relationships intact with the people that you're working with. You know, if you look through through my, my bio, you'll see that I've worked with lots of people multiple times, you know, the trick is, is to, is to keep those relationships going. And then as far as the financing is concerned, you know, there is keep your ear to the ground, as I said, find somebody who actually doesn't know what they're doing partner out with them, because only 50% of a film that is actually going to go is a lot better than 100% of something that's nothing. And you know, so people go, I don't want to give away a piece of my movie to somebody else. And they all they did was make an introduction to that. But you know what, honestly, if that was the thing that triggered the movie, then it's worth it. And then at least you have a movie under your belt. So when you call up an agent and go, I produce blah, blah, movie, you actually have a movie you've produced, as opposed to saying, Look, I've never made a movie before. But I've got this great script, and I want to make this film and agents are like, oh, yeah, please. Alright, everyone's got a great script. You know, I can't tell you how many times people call me up and said, I got this fantastic script, it's going to win a bunch of Oscars, everyone says that the movie is gonna win us. That's how many films actually do. And there's very few, you know, certainly not the ones that there's only really a few that came to me, the people patient that way, and they ended up winning or being nominated for Oscars. And so you know, but that is the dream, that's what everybody's looking for is, is that golden ticket, somehow or other the film that they make is going to be the one that scores, the the, what you have to do is keep at it, keep making movies, keep, keep doing it, because each film that you make, is another incredible learning curve. And I'm still learning and it's, you know, many, many, many movies later. And things continue to happen to me that I wasn't expecting to be hit with. And but I'm very calm. You know, that's the other thing for me is I'm very sad about it all. And you know,

Alex Ferrari 16:58
I can tell I can sense your energy already, just by talking to you just you are a chilled producer. I've talked, I've worked in the business for 30 years, I've worked as a director, and I've worked with many producers, and I've spoken to many producers. And you could tell pretty quickly that you're not the guy who's going to be on set, yelling, I'm sure there's moments. But generally speaking, that's not the thing. And that's the good sign of a good producer. But I have to ask you, though, agents, that's one of the the these not roadblocks. Gatekeepers, the gatekeepers of, of actors, so many young producers have problems, just getting through any tips on how to approach an agent of an actor or a director or even a writer when you're young producer? Well, interesting thing.

Cassian Elwes 17:41
As I said, I was an agent, I went to William Morris for 13 years. So I got to work and see the inner workings of the agency very closely, because I was, you know, as the head of a department, you know, I'd be in the department head meetings, I would be involved in a lot of the decision making in terms of what was going on inside the agency. I was, and I was working on, you know, 25 movies a year, a lot of films, anything that was not a studio 100% A studio movie was something that I would work on, meaning that if there was a studio film, but it was partially financed by independent film financing by some big company that was going to co financed with the studio, they would bring me in to help to help figure out how to make those deals, I really did watch the whole way that agencies operated inside the studio filmmaking business, and also inside the independent film making business and I, I hope, actually that I've influenced quite a bit, the way the agencies now operate inside the independent film space, because they are basically copied the formula that I came up with, of how to do it. But you know, some projects will come from people that you didn't know or never heard heard of. But somehow rather they got that script in front of somebody. Now they maybe they met somebody in a bar or restaurant and they've given the script to an actor, an actor read it. So it's pretty good. I'd like to do this. And then the first thing they do is call their agent say like, I don't know, this agent is this Matt, this producer for madam. But the script was actually pretty good. I'd like to do it, or I'd be interested in doing it. So there was there were lots of different ways that people would get into the game. Another one was that they would make friends at parties with agents assistants, and, and the agents assistant would read the script and say to their boss, I read the script, and it's really good, you know, like, all the agents really want is to make great movies. Now that doesn't always happen in our business has changed so much now that it's fact it's, it's rare that great movies are being made. They're mostly studio battery pitches that are some copy of another picture that's already been done, or a sequel or prequel or another comic book that they bought the rights to using the metaverse of that or the universe of that character to spin off a bunch of garbage that looks the same as the one that you just saw. But you know, the great and great movies that are being made are being made within the independent film sector and in the international, independent film sector. And, and so the, you know, the again, that was trying to get the scripts in front of directors, directors would would meet people in the most random ways, read the script and go Yeah, like that. So I would say don't, don't give up again, try to find somebody who does know people that is that you are sympathetic with and that or some particle within that you guys, women team up together to make something come together, it all comes down to the same thing always spin the spin the golden rule from the day I started, it's about the screenplay, if you've got a great piece of material, I'm a great believer that that movie will, that script will somehow rather find its way into the hands of the right people to be made. And because there's so few, so few scripts that are out there that are really fantastic. And if your script, your friend who wrote it, you have a fantastic piece of material, then you know, then you've got a chance you got a chance to read or read of the interest, you got a chance to act or be interested, you got a chance to other producers would read it and say we'd like to be involved in the financing company, we'd like to be involved. You know, there's many, when you have something that feels like it's a movie, and it's a real movie, a lot of people will appear out of the woodwork that will help you get this on me.

Alex Ferrari 21:22
Now, I'd love to hear your point of view on this because the film independent film space specifically and cinema in general has been devalued, so dramatically by the streamers. We're now on Amazon, you're getting fractions of a penny for an hour long play and, and you know, in the beat and we were talking about the video store days, there was a value there, there was a value went to the theater, then you would maybe you know rent it or it was a 79.99 product that you would give to video stores then sell through, there's still a $20 value there than a rental was. So there was and then it just kept getting diminished, diminished diminish, even when TVOD showed up on iTunes, it was still kind of the model of rentals. But now films are, you know, almost almost doesn't have the value. The same thing happened in music before it was an album than it was a single. And now, you know, Beyonce is not making a whole lot of money on Spotify. Not that I'm she's hurting. But you know, the the idea is it's the devaluation of art. How can a producer in today's world, you know, without the connections, like maybe you have with output deals, and maybe pre sales and things like that, that are automatic make money with an independent film, especially in this in the genre you'd like to play in dramas?

Cassian Elwes 22:34
Well, that's a very good question. And I you know, I struggled through it every day, because you see the market changing constantly, you know, part of the problem with the streaming companies is that they're making all these series, there's just so much material that's appearing, this new material that's appearing every week or every month, on their platforms that are endless, you know, is eight hours of this 10 hours of that or six hours, you know, so and also with recognizable movie stars, because, you know, during that COVID period, when when a lot of films weren't being made, there was a lot of streaming platforms that were making television shows, and they were hiring. bonafide movie stars, you know, the mayor of East East way or whatever it was the one with with with Kate Winslet was like a movie, but it was fantastic was six hours or eight hours of the movie. Really good. So you know, that they they are making and competing in the independent film circuit, because they're making films, they're making television shows that look like independent movies. And so yeah, it's getting harder. But again, I don't want to give up because I believe in what I'm doing. I don't want to give up and just say okay, it's all over the streaming companies and just making you know, independent movies that look like independent movies or eight hours long. That's okay, you know, you know, you just gotta get keep making something that turns out to be really good. And I just made a picture called robots. That is a comedy futuristic, romantic comedy with with a wonderful British comedian called Jack Whitehall, and a fabulous American actress Shailene Woodley. It was directed by Anne Hines and Casper Christiansen he's Casper is the sort of Larry David Denmark. He is long running show called clown and that he writes directs and stars and there's kind of a Larry David Danish, Larry David. And Heinz is Sacha Baron Cohen's guy. He's been running with him, Sally G. He's written everything and was nominated for Academy Awards for four out one and two. And the movie is fantastic. And I think it has a chance to really work that has been acquired by one of the one of the top independent film distribution companies I can't say who yet because they haven't made and that's why, but that movie has a shot. That movie has a real shot, and it has a shot to continue to have sequels and prequels for it because the funny funny idea And so, you know, you gotta you gotta keep keep plugging away and

Alex Ferrari 25:06
There's no easy answer is there?

Cassian Elwes 25:08
No, there isn't, you know, I, I just made a pitch with desperation rope. As I said, I wanted to work with Garrett had, I been very involved in gender politics over the last few, you know, several years on my programs that promote female directors and female writers one with a blacklist one one that I set up myself with Christina shadow, Lynette Howell and my partners in color rising what, and we bring directors, female directors that come out of colleges across the country to some instrumental ships. So this picture desperation road is directed by a woman, I've worked on one movie with her that was tiny, $600,000 movie that was incredible. And I put her into this or wanted her to direct it. And we assembled a great cast for it, you know, how do we make money from that? I'm not sure because we haven't really made any money from it yet any of us, but we will. Because it's going to turn out to be good movie. And, you know, we all work for low money upfront, but we will gambled on it. So, you know, that's the other part of it is that, you know, if you're coming into this business, because you got to make some huge score, don't chase the money, and money ain't gonna be there, you got to chase a great product. And if you grit make a product that hate to use that word, it's not a product, that's how the studio's view movies. But if you make great movies, the money will come to you somehow or other, I really do believe that, and, you know, may not be on that movie, but it'll come on the next one. And you know, you got to try to keep making something great. Because, you know, if you're just coming to like, make some huge score, that's not going to happen, then it might get lucky. But it's not it certainly on the independent film business, not gonna make some huge score up front, you'll make a big score at the back end if it works out if it turns out to be good for them.

Alex Ferrari 26:50
So you're speaking of the back end, which is, you know, that's the long running joke. Like, you know, have you ever made any money off of a point and

Cassian Elwes 26:57
That's true, you know.

Alex Ferrari 26:59
It's one of those. It's one of those things, but I wanted to ask you, though,

Cassian Elwes 27:03
The studio's most creative part of the studios is their accounting departments.

Alex Ferrari 27:07
Oh, brilliant. Which brings me to my next question. I'm assuming that every movie that you've ever made, has been sold to a reputable distributor who get your payments and reports on time, every time and you've been paid all he's choking ladies and gentlemen. So how do you deal with that?

Cassian Elwes 27:31
Yeah, I don't I don't I'm not trying to work with the back ends although on some films I have gotten big backhand like gone on the butler we you know, is so huge that it but that was a bit that was a studio film, though, wasn't it? It was Weinstein's? Yeah. So it was released that was released. But now it's bankruptcy. And I don't know what's gonna happen with that. But but, you know, the movies really good movie and there was was so successful, there was hard to hide it all. Although they did their best. And they it was it was made as an independent movie. So when we made the deal with them, it was a very aggressive deal for us. I like to take some credit for that, because I know what I'm doing in that area. And we made extremely aggressive deal on that. So I'm for were the people that invested in it. And they all made a lot of money out of it, which I'm very happy about. But, you know, I'm not in the game of like waiting for the back ends, I hope that they'll come. But that's not necessarily the way that I think about making films, I think about making a film for X and selling it for y, which is more than what it costs. Hopefully that the way we try to make more money from the films that we're making, independent films that we're making. So it's not, it's not about the back end, necessarily. Or that sometimes it comes to that you can sell the movie for anything, you know, close to what you really wanted. So you make some deal where you make aggressive back end, and you hope that the movie performs. But, you know, as you said, the business is constantly evolving is changing, you know, the day and date, which was one point is unknown, you know, was never wasn't being used at all, it's now become the norm. You know, one of the first one of the first movies that ever was a success on the day and date release was movie entaco magical, and wonderful picture at the time. We were so depressing, like, oh my god, it's not gonna be great for the movie, because we've got to come out day and date on it. And and then, you know, we got very lucky because two weeks before the film was got released that way, Wall Street, you know, the whole kind of Wall Street, whatever that thing was cool, though, is that? Yeah, they were all like, you know, if you want to know what, what that whole thing is about, you got to see this movie because it explains it very well. And, and so yeah, it was a huge success. And then after that, a lot of people started using it, they platform now it's the norm for independent films, because, you know, they realize that if you're gonna spend a bunch of advertising on a film, you might as well get it into as many different ads to the consumer in as many different ways as you can imagine, while you're spending the advertising And, and so and so that that's become the norm because in the past, we're in the old days, old days, you know, the 80s and 90s and early 2000s, you know, you'd release movie independently replayed for six weeks, then you release it on DVD and then you spent a bunch more money promote the DVD release, and then you would you know, do the pay television and then Sony, you know, it's showtime or HBO or ever bought that window would do a bunch of advertising for the film on their platform. So, you know, that's, that's all changed. People realize that, you know, why are we spending all this money three different buckets of spending money on promoting a film, we might as well just spend it all in one go and put it into every single hand that we can find whether it's on a movie screen, and home on that computer or a television screen or in the DVDs at Redbox and the supermarket might as well get it all out at the same time and get people buying as many copies of that movie as you possibly can all in one go.

Alex Ferrari 30:56
So you mentioned the butler that year wasn't a bad year for you because that's the another year another movie came out that your Dallas Buyers Club, which on paper seems like a very successful wildly well known like, it doesn't is a pitch. You know, it's not a feel good movie. But it's a fantastic film. I know. I heard the script had been bumping around for what a decade or something like that?

Cassian Elwes 31:20
Yeah, you know, I was a movie I was desperately I loved. I thought it was when I first read it, I was an agent at that time, I'd worked on a tiny film called everything put together with a guy called Mark Forster. And then Forster and I had gotten to be friends, even though I didn't represent Him. And we worked on the second picture, Monsters Ball, and which then became a huge success. And it was a little budget movie, low budget movie, but it became Yeah. Halle Berry won the Oscar for it. And then I said tomorrow, we'll come on, what's the next one? And he goes, Well, I just read the script. That's incredible. It's called dad spies. But, and I read it. I was like, what, this is a really good script, but it's very risky, risky, because it was and that 10 years, you know, it's now 15 years ago, 20 years ago, it was still very, you know, Ace was still very much a risky subject matter. And, and so we we, I said, Listen, you need to get a real movie star for this because like who I go, I don't know, like Brad Pitt two weeks later becomes vaccines. Brad Pitt's going to do it. And, and this is a long story, but I won't go into it because I tell this story a few times. But basically, Brad Pitt and his team sold a script to universal, they developed it for 10 years, nothing happened. And then there's a rule came into place at Universal that, that if a film isn't made for 10 years, the writer has the right to get the script back for a year and see if they could set it up elsewhere because they don't want the writers to never have a shot to get that movie made. And so the script came back to the original writers. And I was making a movie called The Paperboy with Matthew McConaughey. And I didn't know him. So I was chatting him up. And I was like, if you find your next pitch, he goes, Yeah, I have I go, what is it? Now? This is 10 years later, he goes the phone call the Dallas Buyers Club. And I'm like, fuck, and I called the producer. Sorry, my bad. I was rubbing Brenner. She was a friend. I'm checked in with her over the years. And she's like, Yeah, I was gonna now we're gonna do it. Right. Because like, I think it's gonna be the guy did, you know, this director that he wants to do it with and never happened, you know, and universal developed, like five different versions of the script. 1.8 we're just developing it as the cops who are chasing them, which is ridiculous. And and I said, I said, Robbie, what's happening? But she said, Well, I've got this great director called Sean McVeigh out there, and he's gonna do it. And we're shooting a cannon. We raised all the money and $78 million film and you know, we're going to do it. And as I said, bombax I really wanted to do that script. I loved it. And then as luck would have it, about three months later, the agent who'd worked with me on the butler called me opposite he can't believe this I go what she said that the Dallas Buyers Club just fell apart the people in Canada with financing it can't finance it. You know? And sometimes this is also famous stories out of the rap I've written this stories and you got the rap to deep dive you can find it how I raised the money in five days. They basically told me I have five days to come up with the money or forget it. And I did the money and five days for the phone which was insane. But I you know, I got I was making a movie called Ain't Them Bodies Saints with David Lowry. And I got that crew that was there out in Louisiana to stay on and go go to straight to New Orleans. And, you know, we set that we we shot that whole picture in New Orleans even though it's also in Texas tonight. You know, it's a fabulous Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto are fabulous. You know, interestingly enough on that picture, the John Mark, you know, who's who tragically died last year. He wanted to use the sky Ezra Miller to play the part that Jared ended up playing and I was nervous because I didn't really know who I was. I said please let slip use yard lead. I've worked on a picture with him before and I was a huge fan of his. And and I and the director said, not only why there was a lot of hemming and hawing, but in the end, I set up a zoom because Jared was touring. We couldn't do it meet face to face with Shama. So he came onto the zoom in full costume at the end. Shot and Mike Sharma. And at the end Shama is like, Yeah, fine. Okay. And he won the Oscar, which is, you know, incredible.

Alex Ferrari 35:33
Yeah. So the Matthew.

Cassian Elwes 35:35
Yeah, that movie was something that's very near and dear to me. And I, you know, I got to to work with Jim Seamus brand focus at that time. And, you know, it was it was a, a, who I'm a big admirer of, because, you know, produce some of the greatest films, independent films ever, in the prior 10 years. And he was running focus at that point, he got movie and, you know, it was, it was it worked. That's the beauty of that patient work.

Alex Ferrari 36:05
So, after doing so many projects, I mean, as a filmmaker, I think, no matter what you do, there's always that day on set, that the entire world is coming crashing down around you. And you feel like Oh, my God, I don't think we're gonna be able to make it through today. What was that day for you on any of your projects? And how did you overcome it?

Cassian Elwes 36:22
Every habit every day, every single moment? Of course, every day, every single day that I'm shooting, it's like, how are we going to make this day? How are we gonna make the state you know, we've got the entire movie in 16 days. Now that that was kind of a record for me. Insane, that means a shooting six pages a day. And, you know, was the only way that we can figure out how to actually get the movie made. With the money that we had, you know, each day is like a nightmare. And then you're worrying the whole time, it's anybody gonna get COVID It's gonna get shut down on a movie, two summers ago, with Aaron Eckhart for 18 months ago, called rumbles through the dark, turned out to be a fabulous movie with these two young directors, brothers who wrote it and directed it co directed it. But on the fourth day of shooting, this was at the height of COVID, they had 22 cases on the set, the movie got shut down. For two weeks, everybody's split. You know, it was quite hairy, trying to get everybody come back. You know, that took a lot of negotiation with all the various different parties, including the actors. When we didn't start shooting again, until about six weeks later, in the end, which was you know, nightmarish and movie turned out to be fantastic. The story behind the making of it was very difficult. So yeah, every single movie, there's some kind of story, everyone's got the war stories of what they went through making multiple war stories from all of them, but I I'm a sucker for film. So I keep doing, keep I keep this, I want to do it. And I kind of, you know, my family, my two daughters both want to be in the movie business. Now, the oldest one, and I just produced a movie together called Bella Thorne. This summer, these they tell people that I actually thrive on the disasters, that I look forward to the disastrous results, because that's where I really come into my own. And I don't know if that's necessarily true. But I am very, very good in those disastrous situations in terms of trying to stay calm, figure out what the what the what we should actually do. And since I'm extremely experienced, I've seen a lot of that, you know, think touch one, I've never actually killed anybody on a set. You know, that's the worst case scenario. But people have been injured. You know, it's the filmmaking can be dangerous sometimes. But it's what they recovered fine. You know, it's it's not easy making films, and it's not easy making films.

Alex Ferrari 38:59
But how do you deal with the stress, man, I mean, this, it's so stressful. You've made so many?

Cassian Elwes 39:04
Well, like I said, I, you know, I don't know if I'm allowed to say this. In the early part of my career before I became an agent, I spent a lot of weeks. Sure I was making,

Alex Ferrari 39:13
I mean, it's 2022 you can say that,

Cassian Elwes 39:16
You know, I was get very, you know, get stoned whenever there was a disaster, which I realized later on probably wasn't a good idea, because it wasn't necessarily like, Oh, I got a great idea. Let's do this. You know, I'm like, No, I it is very, very stressful. Very stressful. As I've gotten older, I've realized that, that there is going to be enormous amounts of stress all the time. And, you know, the film I did with, with Bella Thorne that was mentioning that my daughter produced we were three weeks out I was prepping the movie with with my own money. And we still didn't have the male star for the film and the distribution company that was by the thumb said low I think we're out of my tears of people. put in this movie. So I went back to one of the ideas that they had had prior who said no to me, rank really big. And I called him up. And I said, and I know him really well. And I said, right, you have to do this for me, I'm gonna pay a lot of money for five days, I gotta come and do this. And I know you want to direct this other film, I'm aware of the horror picture that you're interested in directing, I will make that movie, you just got to come into this movie with me. And he came saying the film. So you know that that was a very stressful situation.

Alex Ferrari 40:28
Yeah, and it's, it's, they don't tell you that in film school. I mean, this the amount of stress that you do on one movie, but you are doing, you've met, you continuously made four or five, six,

Cassian Elwes 40:42
Between four and six a year, which I'm literally shooting a movie every two months, and then the stress levels are very high. And then

Alex Ferrari 40:50
I mean you got a system, you got a system, I'm assuming

Cassian Elwes 40:53
It's kind of you know, then you're, you know, while you're shooting the films, you're actually delivering the ones that you've already just made, right, polishing one's editing, the ones you just made, delivering the ones that you made, like six months before, you know, it's a constant stream. You know, I had one friend who said that it's like an assembly line for you. And, you know, that might be doing to that, too.

Alex Ferrari 41:12
Do you have a core group of collaborators that you've been using? Post houses, and yeah,

Cassian Elwes 41:19
I, you know, work with everybody. So I figured out which ones are the good guys, and the bad guys, you know, I, I have I do have a support system, they don't work for me, but they will work with me if I find the right things to work with them on. And so each film is like Mission Impossible. It's like picking the right people for each thing. You know, what, if you accept that if you choose to accept this mission, you have to come with me. And I have great libraries that I've worked with, I'm now working with the best line producer I've ever worked with Italian women. And I've never worked with somebody so good. And she is hilarious to me because she's a chain smoker. And I feel like I'm in an Italian 70s movie, when I'm around her all the time, like Fellini is gonna pop out. And he's like, oh, yeah, so I feel like I'm in the in a spaghetti western, you know, and which I love, you know, because making independent films is there's, there's a history to it, you know, there is a real history. And I was it makes me think about the history of what we're doing. You know, there were some incredible filmmakers that have been behind me, and there'll be some incredible filmmakers in front of me. You know, I want to make films, people say, Well, what do you want to do? And it's hard to say I want to do this kind of movie, I want to do something that I haven't done before. I want to do something that I feel like, will actually outlive me later, you know, like, Butler and Dallas will be films that will be talked about a long time after I'm gone. And that makes me excited, because that means that somehow that did something that actually become more became part of the Zeitgeist as opposed to just being another title. You can switch on your pay per view, which I'm sure you do, and a lot of people do. And you scroll down, the films are available, the new titles are at this week and click on the one that you want to see, you know, you want to you don't want to just be part of the cannon fodder. You want to be the one that people like, Man, I'd like to watch that movie again. You know, 10 years later, or five years later, and those are the films you want to be making. You know, you don't do it every time. It's very rare that you do do it. I mean, that year that you're talking about, was incredible. Because they worked on cat when Kevin Costner and worked on their body sights, you know, it was like, it was like the Year of Living Dangerously for me. I literally kept throwing sevens. It was incredible. It was, you know, fabulous. Fabulous. Yeah, they don't come along that often. But when they do, you got to enjoy the ride. And, you know, my band was there kind of hear from you, too. When we made Medan, you know, got nominated for three Academy Awards. Netflix bought, it was one of the first acquisitions. Awards were the pitcher for them. They were willing to spend a lot of money on it, because they never heard of them that they wanted to move to the Oscars before they treated us like I've never been treated in my entire life. I mean, that by limos every night taken to the screening and first class flights to London and like, it was it was fabulous. Because it's an independent filmmaker, I go coach, you know.

Alex Ferrari 44:08
We give me to tell me that independent filmmakers aren't just loaded with cash all the time?

Cassian Elwes 44:12
No, you kidding? Listen, if I really want to make some real money, I'd be doing something else.

Alex Ferrari 44:17
Do you know what I always tell people like how was that the old joke? How do you become a millionaire in the film business? Start with a billion.

Cassian Elwes 44:27
That's that that's not you don't go into it for the money. You go for the love. And you hope that the money will come along during the way during now when you're prepared.

Alex Ferrari 44:38
So another question. I'd love to hear your perspective on. What do you look for in a film director? When you're packaging a project? What are the elements?

Cassian Elwes 44:46
Okay, well, first of all, you got to have seen that films that they've already made. You got to understand what it is that they're there, their vision, you know, what, what are they capable of? And then you got to listen very closely. I listen. Really closely when they come to tell me what they're gonna do, because, you know, I can tell in five minutes, they have no idea what they're doing, I can tell them five minutes, if they're going to make something great. If I liked the material, like the way they're talking about it, and I like the way that they're, you know, they're thinking about it and the actors that they kind of want to work with. And, you know, the way that they want to make it where they want to shoot, and all of those things, those are all kind of secondary on some level, it's, it's got to be about understanding their passion, and understanding their ability to deliver what they're saying that they're going to deliver it by watching what they've done already. So I think that's, that's what I'm looking for in directors all the time. It's not necessarily that, of course, there are directors that that I hear about, or like to work with multiple films, when they hear something negative, something because I don't really care about any of that stuff. My my own experiences with people are totally different from other people's experiences with them, I run a very different kind of ship from a lot of other producers. And I think that's why some of these filmmakers gravitate towards me that as I've gotten older, I tend to find that there's a lot of young directors coming back, because, you know, they, they're the ones that want to work with me, you know, the guys that are big star directors have a career, they don't, you know, they can pick up the phone and say, I'm gonna make this and Quentin Tarantino, they don't need me to make pictures with that producer movie. So the film directors that I mainly have been working with over the last few years are the ones that are coming up that really need me, or the older ones who can, who are struggling, and in need some energy behind them to figure out how to change their careers and start over. So that tends to be the types of directors and I work with. As I said, I work with any level of director, I just got to make sure that I understand what it is that they're going to do and that we're on the same page.

Alex Ferrari 46:49
Now, if you could go back to your younger self, at the beginning of this journey as a film producer,

Cassian Elwes 46:57
By the way, this is a good one I can feel.

Alex Ferrari 46:59
What what would you what's the one thing you would say, hey, you know, What, did you want to go for a hell of a ride, but this just watch out for this one thing?

Cassian Elwes 47:11
Really good question.

Alex Ferrari 47:12
Thank you.

Cassian Elwes 47:13
Not sure I, you know, not sure what the answer is to that. Because, you know, I don't think that I would want to alter the way that I approached any of the films that I worked on, by having some hindsight to what I what I learned later on, I think that each firm, this might sound like a pat answer, but it's really not. Each film, I learned something new about myself, I learned something about my own abilities. I learned something about my persistence, I learned something about my, my, my, my tastes level. Each firm was really something that pushed me into thinking a different way. And I you know, so I don't think I would have necessarily want to go back and say, Hey, watch after this. Don't do that. You know, I, I think that, um, you know, maybe I maybe, you know, I people say, Well, you know, you made psycho cop and invisible maniac and some of these other small pitches when you were starting at, I don't regret them, you know, honestly, kind of embarrassing on my, on my resume, but I don't regret them at all. Because, you know, what, I learned how to make films that way, then was incredible learning curve, you know, make a film for $300,000 is insane, actually. But I learned how to do it. And it taught me much. And it was such a great learning curve for me later, when I became an agent to be able to talk to filmmakers about how to make their films as opposed to just being an agent saying, Okay, here's the script, here's the budget, or whatever, try to set it up. As you get into it. You know, one of the filmmakers that I got to work with quite a bit at William Morris was Gus Van Sant. And he taught me how to talk to directors, talk to artists. You know, I talked to a lot of directors, I mean, a lot of movies, but he actually taught me how to how to deal with an artist, which was incredible. And one of the greatest going back to school ever, and I was being paid to do it, which was incredible. But we worked on worked on elephant which won the Palme d'Or. Last days we worked on Paradise Park worked on Jerry, which I love, people think I'm insane, but I love that movie. It's it's like a zen experience. You know, melt he's, he's a brilliant dude. And one of the best directors out there. And I got to spend five movies worth with him. Which was a longer period of time obviously than we buy movies of baby. And I really learned how to how to talk to him and learn how to gain his confidence and, and be able to to understand where his mind was coming from. valuable lesson for me later on with other directors. Valuable

Alex Ferrari 49:53
No, no, I'm going to ask you a few questions ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Cassian Elwes 50:01
Don't give up, you know, look, if you really want to do it don't give up. I mean, that's, that's the, that's the best advice I can give you, you know, it seems daunting, it's a lot of these things seem insurmountable and go, I got a script I really want to make, but nobody wants to deal with me. I mean, any movie can be made for any amount of money, you know, it's a question of how much you're going to compromise on it. You know, you can make films for $50,000. I mean, tangerine is incredible movie that was made for $25,000, you know, on an iPad, you can, you know, that guy Schonbek is brilliant. And, you know, you don't have to, you don't have to be limit, the way you think if you really are an artist, you can do anything. And you can create anything as a piece of art, you know, whether people appreciate the movie on the other end, you know, that's, that's, that remains to be seen. But you shouldn't be limited by the, somebody told me you have to get $3 million to make this film, to get the star to be in it today, you know, that that should be the all those filmmakers that we all love and admire, they all started somewhere, they all had to break into the business, somehow or other, they all wrote a script, mainly wrote scripts, or developed scripts that they attach themselves to, that somehow or other that some producer somewhere introduced him some other producer somehow or other got the money to make those vows, you know, you know, they can't give up, if you've got something great, it's probably going to happen. And, and so I wouldn't, I wouldn't be, you know, you can't give up your day job, obviously. But you got to keep your eye on the prize, which is get my movie made, even if you make a little short, and that ends up playing in a film festival somewhere that you made for $5,000 that might find you an agent that might get so get you get people interested in your work. I mean, i i There are great agents and sign directors that I mean that I know they'd sign off from shorts, and, and turned out to have incredible careers. So you know, there's so many routes and you can't be limited by your, your fear of that you gotta be you gotta be very aggressive about yourself in front of figure out how you're going to make it and, and that means just making stuff. Because you know, you're not really a filmmaker, unless you're making films, and you've got to get out there and make stuff and show people what you can do, because one thing will lead to another and promising.

Alex Ferrari 52:18
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Cassian Elwes 52:24
I don't know, I'm constantly still learning. So I don't know if I've learned any particular lessons other than I guess that? That's a good question, too. I don't know where you come up with these things.

Alex Ferrari 52:35
I've been doing this for a few years, brother.

Cassian Elwes 52:39
One of the things that I that I'm constantly surprises me, honestly, is that the lack of loyalty in our business, you know, and that's, that's the sad part of it, you know, they're people that I've helped get their careers going, who like, Cassie, you know, but I, you know, it's, it's, it's a long business, and sometimes I'd get back with them, you know, when they need me again. But I, you know, that was that was that was a good lesson early in my career. Some of the people I was working with and ended up having like, huge careers outside of me, you know, ratty, Harrington, did Jack's back with got to meet Roadhouse. John McTernan, who I didn't know events with his first pitch of these were both of those movies, ended up going straight from my film to predator and then to die hard. And it was like Cassie knew that they did come back into my life later, because I was in a position what could actually help them? But, but you know, that that's the thing as I did think you can sit there and go, Well, if I discover all these people, they're all gonna stick with me, they're probably not you know, that everyone, everyone's some type of stepping stone to each other. You know that that was a hard lesson that I've learned, but I accept it now that that's part of the game and that, that not I'm not sitting there going. Why don't they come back? Make the next movie with me? You know, I gotta get on to the next one.

Alex Ferrari 54:02
What did you learn from your biggest failure?

Cassian Elwes 54:07
To Dust yourself off? You know, I mean, that's, that that is the real thing. You know, I funnily enough, we had such high expectations for the chase, you know, we, we sold that pitcher to 20th century box. I remember. Charlie Sheen was a huge star at that time, Chris theta, Kristy Swanson, who I knew because my brother dated her, Carrie. And we thought that issue was going to be hit and and then we went, you know, the head of the studio, or the head of distribution at the studio. Lovely man invited us over to, to sit there on Friday night and listen to the first returns coming in from all the different offices around the country. And it wasn't working. And he he told us he knew it wasn't going to, but he said I wanted to be here with you guys. You know that my other young partner We were both in our late 20s, at that point was a big deal for us because we finally made a studio level film. And he said, I wanted to be here with you. And I wanted to tell you that, you know, it's just about getting up to the bat, you got to keep swinging, because one day, you're going to just hit it out of the park. And I'm tearing up thinking about it now. Because he, you know, he really, really, really, really helped me at that moment, because it could have been just down in the dumps for months afterwards. And I wasn't, I was like, he's right, I'm gonna get back up.

Alex Ferrari 55:32
He was me. He was a human being, he was a human being, which is not what you don't get often in this business.

Cassian Elwes 55:39
And, you know, he that was, that was good, like, less than two feet in he was, you know, I'm trying to remember his name. I'm totally blanking. This is what happens when you get older. But he was he was a lovely man, and very good at his job. And he, you know, he told us, took us down the corridor and goes, boys. Not all movies work out, most of them don't. But you just got to keep swinging. And you know, what's crazy about it is that movie has continued to have a big life. And whenever I mentioned people like a lot that the chase, I remember the day, of course, you know, I had a crazy idea on that picture, which is the, you know, the Red Hot Chili, chili peppers were huge at that point. And as they finally get the Red Hot Chili Peppers, you know, we'd have like crazy out of body experiences in our chili peppers. And I called their managers and we weren't Anthony and flew to be in our movie. And they're like, Sure, great. What is it that we tell them? And they're like, great, they're in, they're coming over. And they came and they were on the set? I got to meet these guys. It was fantastic. You know, you're only limited by your dreams.

Alex Ferrari 56:39
And last question, three of your favorite films of all time.

Cassian Elwes 56:43
Okay, well, the they're they're really, you know, there's a number of films that I have, obviously, my favorite movie of all time is 2001 A Space Odyssey because, you know, Kubrick was a friend of my families. When I was a kid, we went to the zoo shooting that picture.

Alex Ferrari 57:00
No! you were on the set of 2001?

Cassian Elwes 57:05

Alex Ferrari 57:06
Oh my, you mean, you saw the wheel and the whole

Cassian Elwes 57:08
Oh, yeah, we saw the whole thing. Hollywood shooting it. They were, you know, the camera was on, it was on a kind of a man with gimbal spin around and made it feel like that they were inside. And that was sad. Kubrick was a genius. absolute genius. And we were too young to appreciate it, actually. And then when I saw the film, I didn't understand it at all. But now, as an adult much later on, I was like, That is a total work of genius. And the man was an absolute genius. So when you think about it, like when the woman in the spaceship comes in, and whatever the kind of pan app, which doesn't exist that thing and but he's on it, he's on the, the spaceship that's taking him to the middle planet before they go on to whether they've discovered the the talking, right? The she comes in, and then she she walks in a circle. And then she comes back that comes into like the pod where they're they're sitting in there and kind of airplane seats, you know, but it's really on a spaceship. And his pan is like, do you remember this is floating off the course and puts it back into his pocket? Right? All done on wires. But you know, all the all the things that were in that dump, I don't think you can look at it and go, that's any worse than a lot of the big visual effects films. And much later on, you know, like the one with George was the name that was stuck in space and George Clooney was in it. Yeah, there you can't say that the visual effects of gravity were like 1000 times better than 2001 because they're not he he came up with all those credible imagery that Doug Trumbull and, and then you know, the production design light, and they were they would throw the paint into a huge pool with other types of paint and it would just explode like that. And then that's what it would look like on screen. You know, he was so ahead of his time. And that film is an absolute work of genius. Later on in the early 70s. I was at the Cannes Film Festival because as I said, my staff on the producer, we would go to the Cannes Film Festival every year. He says, Hey, I got I got a couple of tickets to this movie. I heard it's a total piece of shit. I don't want to see it. Why don't you go ticket? You go see the film. And I was like, what is it? You said? It's called Apocalypse Now. Can I have this awful. And so I went to see it. I literally sat there with my mouth hanging open for two hours. It's one of the greatest films ever made in greatest war pitches ever made. And I literally came out of that movie theater guy. Holy shit. That is one of the greatest films I've ever seen. And it still is to this day, I watched that film ever or never. I mean, I've seen the elongated version. When it gets to the French chateau along the river. It's not as good. The final version of his original version is the best version of that movie. And it's incredible. And you know, I know what I know because I'm such a movie buff about viruses how that picture was made. We you know, I I, you know, it was it was insane what they went through, they went there for three months to make this movie, they ended up staying there for 16 months, the making of that film. Oh, I started to a bar to darkness. Yeah. My my friend George Hickenlooper, who sadly died later on. But we worked on a number of films together when I was an agent, and I loved him.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:21
But that documentary is a must

Cassian Elwes 1:00:23
Greatest single greatest line of any movie of any film documentary feature, whatever ever, in any movie whatsoever, which is then when he finds that he's in a tent in the middle of absolutely jungle where there's no no connection to the outside world whatsoever, etc. He's got a satellite phone machine has had a major heart attack, and has been helicoptered out of the out of the camp. And nobody knows if he's alive or dead. He's, he's on his way. And he had a major heart attack, you know, the, because Amelia and Charlie are good friends of mine. And they were there as kids you know, watching their dad making their movie. They it was very touch and go they didn't know if he was going to survive. And you know, Joe, their uncle. Their the uncle came in, and they shot over his shoulder because he had the same kind of body type as, as Marty. So they use Joe to do a lot of this, you know, over the shoulders and do some scenes just keep shooting while they were waiting to see if Marty was going to recover. But as I said in the documentary, he's on a satellite phone to his office in California. And he says to them, and motherfuckers he's not fucking dead until I say he's dead. That's the greatest line I've ever heard of anybody ever say that's so brilliant. Oh, my God. That's Francis. Francis that I love that line. And he's like, I don't see it. I mean, that was not a fun experience.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:52
That was that. And going back to that 2001 gag with a pen. From what I remember, you know, studying that film, he did that on tape. It was clear tape that he they stuck the pen on a piece of tape, and you couldn't see it in the film. And she just plucked it right off. And did that. To think that way? Is, is brilliant. So that's to Apocalypse Now. 2001? What's the last one?

Cassian Elwes 1:02:18
There's so many other films that I just look back at and go. I love that picture. I love that picture. You know, the I can't say those are the two main ones for me. You know, they, they they're so different from each other. But they really kind of resonated with me in a very special way. That's different. You know, there's a ton of other movies. I love Eastwood pictures. I love the Westerns. I love the spaghetti westerns. I like the you know, I love the love of those movies from the 70s Taxi driver, you know. And then later on as Spielberg pitches, the close encounters, whatever, but I met films that are that really sit with me as an adult later on. I mean, those are really good movies. They're just solid, solid, good, original pictures.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:01
Yeah, I really appreciate you taking the time. I know you're in the middle of 5000 movies, producing them right now. So I do appreciate you taking the time to share your stories. But thank you, my friend and continue fighting the good fight and getting us these great movies. And keep keep keep swinging the bat. Brother, I appreciate you.

Cassian Elwes 1:03:18
You keep swinging to man. It's the as I say, as I'm looking at this thing behind you. It is hustling you know you are a hustler on some level of your app raising money. You know, that's what hustlers do. They try to raise money now. It comes up with a negative connotation because people go you know, if you're hustling, that means you're trying to get money out to somebody and you know, it's not they're not going to get their money back. That's not true. I think every time I go out to try to raise money, my assumption is that it's a risk. But if I play if I do it, right, and if I make the right movie at the right budget level, I am going to get these people their money back. So my my mindset is different. I'm constantly thinking, How do I get money back to them?

Alex Ferrari 1:04:00
You keep doing your thing, my friend, I appreciate you.

Cassian Elwes 1:04:03
Thank you!



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Film Production Books You Need to Read – Top 11 List 2023

1) Rise of the Filmtrepreneur: How to Turn Your Independent Film into a Profitable Business

It’s harder today than ever before for independent filmmakers to make money with their films. From predatory film distributors ripping them off to huckster film aggregators who prey upon them, the odds are stacked against the indie filmmaker. The old distribution model for making money with indie film is broken and there needs to be a change. The future of independent filmmaking is the entrepreneurial filmmaker or the Filmtrepreneur.

In Rise of the Filmtrepreneur author and filmmaker Alex Ferrari breaks down how to actually make money with independent film projects and shows filmmakers how to turn their indie films into profitable businesses. This is not all theory, Alex uses multiple real-world case studies to illustrate each part of his method. This book shows you the step by step way to turn your filmmaking passion into a profitable career. If you are making a feature film, series or any kind of video content, The Filmtrepreneur Method will set you up for success. (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)

2) Indie Film Production: The Craft of Low Budget Filmmaking

Indie Film Production explains the simple, basic, clear cut role of the independent film producer. Raising funds to do your dream project, producing award-winning films with a low budget, putting name actors on your indie film-it’s all doable, and this book guides you through the entire process of being a successful producer with bonus tips on how to effortlessly maneuver through the sphere of social media marketing and fundraising tactics. One of the best film production books I’ve read. Also check out: Suzanne Lyon’s Film Producing – Podcast Interview

3) The Reel Truth: Everything You Didn’t Know You Need to Know About Making an Independent Film

The Reel Truth details the pitfalls, snares, and roadblocks that aspiring filmmakers encounter. Reed Martin interviewed more than one hundred luminaries from the independent film world to discuss the near misses that almost derailed their first and second films and identify the close shaves that could have cut their careers short. Other books may tell you the best way to make your independent film or online short, but no other book describes so candidly how to spot and avoid such issues and obstacles as equipment problems, shooting-day snafus, and dozens of other commonly made missteps, including the top fifty mistakes every filmmaker makes. (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)

4) So You Want to Be a Producer

Few jobs in Hollywood are as shrouded in mystery as the role of the producer. What goes into film producing, how does one get started, and what on earth does one actually do? In So You Want to Be a Producer Lawrence Turman, the producer of more than forty films, including The GraduateThe River WildShort Circuit, and American History X, and Endowed Chair of the famed Peter Stark Producing Program at the University of Southern California, answers these questions and many more. (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)

5) Produce Your Own Damn Movie by Lloyd Kaufman

When it comes to producing, no one speaks with more authority than Lloyd Kaufman, founder of the longest-running independent film studio, Troma Entertainment. He reveals the best ways to seek out investors, scout locations, hire the film crew and cast talent, navigate legalities, and stay within your budget. One of the most entertaining film production books out there.

Also check out: Lloyd Kaufman’s Interview Podcast

6) Independent Film Producing: How to Produce a Low-Budget Feature Film

The number of independent films produced each year has almost doubled in the past decade, yet only a fraction will succeed. If, like many filmmakers, you have no industry connections, little to no experience, and a low or ultra-low budget, this outsider’s guide will teach you what you need to know to produce a standout, high-quality film and get it into the right hands. Written by an entertainment lawyer and experienced director and producer, this handbook covers all the most essential business, legal, and practical aspects of indie film production. One of the best film production books on the market. (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)


7) The Producer’s Business Handbook: The Roadmap for the Balanced Film Producer

With The Producer’s Business Handbook as a film production guide, you’ll learn to create the relationships that the most successful producers have with the various participants in the motion picture industry-this guide provides a global view of how producers direct their relationships with domestic and foreign studios, agencies, attorneys, talent, completion guarantors, banks, and private investors. You’ll also become familiar with the team roles needed to operate these companies and learn how to attach and direct them. For those outside the US, also included is information on how to produce successful films without government funding. (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)

8) Producing for Profit: A Practical Guide to Making Independent and Studio Films

In Producing for Profit: A Practical Guide to Making Independent and Studio Films, Andrew Stevens provides real-world examples and his own proven techniques for success that can turn passion into profit. Far more than just theory, the book outlines practical applications that filmmakers of all levels can use to succeed in today’s ever-changing marketplace. Readers will learn how to develop screenplays that are commercial, and how to negotiate, finance, cast, produce, sell, distribute, and market a film that will make a profit. (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)

9) The Declaration of Independent Filmmaking by Michael Polish

Less than a decade since they began working in the movies, Mark and Michael Polish have established themselves as critically acclaimed, award-winning independent filmmakers. Their innovative approach to art direction, use of digital photography, and ability to attract stellar talent to their modestly budgeted films sprang from necessity; now these aesthetics have become admired trademarks of their work.  Also check out: Michael Polish’s Podcast Interview

10) The Complete Film Production Handbook

This book is for working film/TV professionals and students alike. If you’re a line producer, production manager, production supervisor, assistant director or production coordinator–the book has everything you’ll need (including all the forms, contracts, releases and checklists) to set up and run a production–from finding a production office to turning over delivery elements. Even if you know what you’re doing, you will be thrilled to find everything you need in one place. If you’re not already working in film production, but think you’d like to be, read the book — and then decide. One of the best film production books out there.

11) Producer to Producer: A Step-By-Step Guide to Low Budgets Independent Film Production

Maureen Ryan’s Producer to Producer is a clear, concise, and complete guide to independent film production, full of excellent practical advice for both newcomers and experienced producers. I have produced ten independent features, and have often been asked to recommend a book to teach people about what I do. This book will now be my immediate first choice. So many how-to guides to producing get far more details wrong than right– Producer to Producer is as accurate a guide to the current independent producing process as I have seen to date. (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)

IFH 641: The Art of Being a Military Advisor on Set with Jariko Denman

Jariko Denman was born in Washington DC and, as a military brat, grew up all over the world. In 1997 he enlisted in the US Army. After basic training and Airborne School, he completed the assessment and selection process for the 75th Ranger Regiment and was assigned to the 2nd Ranger Battalion at Ft Lewis, Washington. Jariko went on to serve in the Ranger Regiment for 15 and a half years. Jariko deployed to combat 15 times in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2002-2012 as a Weapons Squad Leader, Rifle Platoon Sergeant, and Ranger Company First Sergeant, amounting to 54 months of total combat experience as part of a Joint Special Operations Task Force.

Jariko Retired from active duty in 2017 after four years as the Senior Military Science Instructor at St. John’s University in New York City and now lives in Los Angeles. Since Retiring he has advised on several major motion pictures, national ad campaigns, and television series’ as well as continuing to train and work within government and tactical industries.

Enjoy my conversation with Jariko Denman.

Jariko Denman 0:00
You know, I retired as a master sergeant, I am a master of this craft. How do I take all that knowledge and use it? You know, I don't want that to be a waste there are there are these intangible things of work ethic and leadership and you know these things that I've learned but the actual skill set the things that I am an absolute master of, how do I use those and not carry a gun anymore right?

Alex Ferrari 0:26
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 Jariko Denman. How you doing Jariko?

Jariko Denman 0:40
I am great. Thanks for having me on.

Alex Ferrari 0:42
Hey, man, thanks for coming on brother you you are a unique guest to the show because I've never had a a filmmakers last soldier slash media slash Ayahuasca taker and so many other things. You know, when the when you're when our mutual friend connected us. I just felt fascinated by your story in general man and I have all sorts of questions for you. So. And by the way, the best quote, I think that pretty much sums you up. If I may be so bold is one of your quotes, sir. I don't want to be rich or famous. I just want to be a fucking storyteller. pretty much sums it all up.

Jariko Denman 1:27
Yeah. Well, I've told some stories. And I'm pretty far from being rich or famous.

Alex Ferrari 1:30
So is it then you're right on tracks? Are you right on your mission? You're on a mission. So So first question, how did you get involved in the military? How did you become an Army Ranger, all that kind of stuff?

Jariko Denman 1:45
Yeah, I got it. All I was I was an Army brat. So I grew up in a military household, my dad served over 20 years, he's a Vietnam vet. Desert Storm grenades and a few wars. So I just, you know, for me, it was kind of normal. He did want me to join the Air Force. So I got treated better than an army guy. But I, I pulled a fast one on when I joined the Army, just like just like he was in. So yeah, you know, growing up in a military family, it was kind of a natural pacing for me. I was you know, as a kid, though, I was pretty artistic, I drew a lot painted and stuff like that my dad really wanted me to go to art school. So I always did, I was always very creative. But I also wanted to go into military, I want to do get some adventure, I wanted to get out of my parents house, I hated school. So it was just a natural progression. It was either, you know, be a be Jeremiah Johnson living in the mountains or join the military. So I chose the military. And then my brother also joined the military, and we both you know, kind of went down the Ranger track, just a I'm not sure how familiar you are, but you know, not the number. The Ranger community, the Ranger Regiment is basically the only special operations unit. At that time, you know, I joined in the late 90s, it was the only special operations unit you could go to work or assess and select for off the street. So back then, at least when I went to the Navy recruiter, you couldn't get a buds or a seal contract, right, you had to join the Navy with some other job that they had assigned you. And then just hope that you were able to get to buds or assess for the SEAL teams. Same with the Air Force. Same with the Marine Corps. All those other branches basically said, Hey, you can come and be a cool guy. But you have to sign up for this and hope that we accept you into the selection process. Whereas to become a ranger, you walk in off the street and say, hey, I want to Ranger contract, which doesn't guarantee you're going to become a ranger. But it does guarantee that you will be given the opportunity to assess and select or assess and be selected. So that was the reason that basically the whole reason I became an Army Ranger is because it was the only one you could sign up to go directly to the selection.

Alex Ferrari 4:04
So what I mean, I've heard I mean, obviously the seals is the legendary selection process. It's been talked about a lot, but I don't know a lot about the Rangers, which I hear. It's no joke.

Jariko Denman 4:16
Yeah, it's, you know, all all those selections are, you know, they're similar. They just, they choose different things by which to torture you with and they, you know, every selection process in the military or in the Special Operations community, it's just a series of gates through which you have to pass before you you know, you can call yourself whatever that may be. And, you know, in in buds, they use a lot of like maritime stuff swimming and, you know, Zodiac rafts and all these all these things, physical things, but most of them having to do with the water. Whereas, you know, the the selection pipeline for the Ranger Regiment is you know, it's very ground based it's it's a, the Ranger Regiment is known as most elite light infantry in the world. So every gate we pass through is an assessment in your skills in that in that environment, right? So you go through so when I went in you, you go to you join the army, you go through basic training as an infantry man. You go to Airborne School jump school where you learn how to jump out of a plane, which is, it's like a little break, honestly. Not not a hard school. And then you go to a thing that is now called rasp, the Ranger assessment selection program. It's an eight week course. And it's just physical and, you know, academic tests that test your mettle in, you know, doing ground combat, right. So, patrolling in the woods, doing raids, recon ambush. And then just like physical things, ruck, marches, runs, you know, PT events. And one of the big differences in being a ranger and being in a couple of these other units is in the regiment we have, I'll refer to it as the regiment because you know, it is, and, but at the end of that process, you basically you're assigned to a Ranger Battalion. But a difference with us is, once you're assigned to the Ranger Battalion, that's when we say, Okay, you're three raste. Now the hard part starts, right. So you get placed in kind of a, an unofficial probationary status. Much like a, you know, a probationary firefighter, their first year on the job, they do anything wrong, they're gone, right? So you have that same kind of environment as a new guy in the Ranger Regiment. And then there's kind of a confusing thing for a lot of people you go to, you then go to Ranger School, right? Which is a school run by the training detachment of the US Army. It's a it's an army school. It isn't necessarily a special operations course. It's it's very old school, but it's another gate, right? And in order to become a leader, or really to survive past a year in the Ranger Regiment, you have to complete Ranger School. So all in you know, your pipeline is around a year and a half. From off the street to then getting there and being like, Okay, I am a an established Ranger. So, you know, Ranger School is it's mainly it's a leadership course. That's what they say. But they basically don't let you sleep and they don't let you eat and they have you patrol for, you know, two and a half months. Constant raid recon ambush patrols throughout carrying about 100 pound rucksack in three different phases, you do your first phase in Fort Benning, Georgia, she's just kind of like, run of the mill woods. And then you go to mountain phase, which is in Salonika, Georgia, North Georgia, which is the base of the Appalachian Trail. So pretty, pretty legit mountains there, you do patrols there, and then you go to Florida, and you do what's called, like, Florida phase or swamp phase, and you're in the swamps for the last last little bit there. And then hopefully, you graduate and you know, you can get recycled, dropped all those things. So it lasts anywhere from about two and a half months to if you're just not a lucky fella, you can be there for you know, a long time.

Alex Ferrari 8:31
So it's it's just like filmmaking, but different. Yeah,

Jariko Denman 8:34
yeah. You know, it's, I found a lot of parallels in the in the film community. I think you're making a joke, but

Alex Ferrari 8:41
I know, I know. I know. There isn't. I mean, I've been a director for almost 30 years. i It's always I always looked at it as very much like a, like a military unit even though I'd never been in the military. But from from watching and understanding and just studying what that's like, you know, seeing just movies, you just go oh, this seems like a group of guys or group of people trying to make something happen. Different departments, central leadership, and and then there's sub leadership's all around and you just got to keep going. And it's and it's, you just move into an area that wasn't there before. Generally speaking, occupied by force. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. I always say we're carnies. You just put up tents, we should do a show. And then the car he pulled the tents down, and then you're off? Because I don't know about you. If, if you've met any people in the industry that are very corny, like,

Jariko Denman 9:28
yeah, it's I mean, that's one of the things that attracted me to the film history too, is it's a very kind of nomadic lifestyle. Like you're not nomadic in the sense that you don't have a home but like, you get to go all over the place. You get to go see, you know, I don't know a lot of other things being like, Oh, I'm gonna go live in New Orleans for three months. You know, it's great. I think it's

Alex Ferrari 9:46
going to New Zealand for six months or a year so I'm like, they had some things like that is Yeah, it is a very, it's a sexy business. On the outside, and the inside Isn't that so much. So one thing I you know, there's a lot of misconception Since about military and soldiers and you know, especially in the world that we live in today, what's the biggest misconception that you you feel that people have of military of soldiers of, you know, people, you know, going out there and doing their job? Yeah, I think

Jariko Denman 10:20
that's a really good question. The biggest misconceptions, I'd say, is just it's kind of like how society in general is right now. Right? Like, as a veteran, I find myself either completely lionized, like, oh, man, you're you. If you fart, it doesn't stink to two being completely demonized, like, oh, man, that guy's probably got PTSD. He's probably crazy, you know, that type of thing. So it's just that I'd say that the biggest, you know, misconception is like, we're not Jason Bourne, you know, but we're also not Travis Bickle. You know? Like, they. We live in the middle there somewhere. Right.

Alex Ferrari 11:01
Basically, exactly. Because movies have not helped us the stereotype. They used to they go to the extreme, most movies. Exactly. I mean, other than full metal jacket.

Jariko Denman 11:12
Right? Yeah. I think within my community, the thing I often battle with is like I volunteered, I really enjoyed my time in the military. I loved it. I liked deploying, I liked doing missions. I liked I liked it. So was there was there some degree of sacrifice? Absolutely. But they're, they're ones that I chose, you know, like, yeah, I missed a bunch of birthdays. And I didn't do this and that, but I also got to do some really, really, really cool stuff that not a lot of good people get to do.

Alex Ferrari 11:42
And you get to play with some pretty pretty gnarly toys.

Jariko Denman 11:46
Yeah, yeah, that too. Um, I've never really been a gun guy or a gear guy or whatever. I just like kind of like whatever they give me out of the armory, I'll take it and use it and, but there are a lot of there are a lot of people in the military that they're really into that. So like, every day they come to work. They're like, Oh, this is awesome. I get this, you know, widget or this rocket or this, whatever. And I was like, Whatever, man, it's just Wednesday to me, you know?

Alex Ferrari 12:10
Now, you, you said you enjoyed your time in the military? Apparently you did? Because you had is it 54 months? of

Jariko Denman 12:17
combat? Yeah, that's correct. That's it was the

Alex Ferrari 12:21
15. Tours.

Jariko Denman 12:23
Yeah, 15 tours. So in, in in the regiment, you know, we were part of the Special Operations community. So our deployments weren't as long. So a conventional army unit usually deployed 12 to 15 months for deployment. But just because of our op tempo, or operational tempo, we were like, hit it so hard, and did so much. Our deployments were generally shorter. So my, you know, deployments, those of those 15, those were anywhere from like, 60 to 180 days each, they weren't years long. But when you add them all up, it's yeah, they're about four and a half years, or however long that is difficult.

Alex Ferrari 13:02
So, you know, being in the military, as long as you haven't seen as much combat as you have, what do you think, is the mentality that you need to have in order to survive, that kind of, you know, that kind of nut trauma, but just that whole, the whole thing? I mean, there's a special kind of human that goes into that, like, I can't comprehend going into that, even though I'm a filmmaker, I can pretend it. But like, it's, there's a certain mindset, there's a certain mentality that that you need to have, what do you what's your experience? And what do you think it

Jariko Denman 13:32
is? So another good question. So I'm almost like you do this for a living?

Alex Ferrari 13:39
It's not my first rodeo, sir.

Jariko Denman 13:43
No, yeah. I think I think it's finding whatever your motivation is, and it's different for everyone. You know, for me, as corny as it sounds, for me, it was it was service. Not so much a grandiose service to our nation. While that did come in, you know, as a youngster, but for me, it was in and these are all cliches, but cliches come from somewhere. It was service to the people with me, I, I never wanted to, you know, punch out and then, you know, find out on the next appointment, one of my friends got hurt or killed. So it was it was kind of a, you know, almost a selfish act. It's like a FOMO kind of thing. You know, you get on these deployments, you start, you know, stacking up accolades, you start to develop a reputation and you just, you just want to keep, you know, feeding the beast. It can also be a bit of an addiction. Yeah, so, while I was well, I would love to say it was like, oh, man, I really I it was it was 50% motivation to do it again and 50% fear of missing out on the next one.

Alex Ferrari 14:58
That's that's a really interesting because I've heard that from from, you know, other military people, I've seen that it's just kind of like, it's an adrenaline rush, like you're on, on like a high adrenaline high all the time. Like, you can't rest when you're on deployment almost to a certain extent, if I'm not if I'm not mistaken.

Jariko Denman 15:18
Yeah, yeah. And, you know, now we're finding, there's like, a lot of physiological effects of that. We're in, you know, like, just the hyper vigilance and, you know, a lot of hormonal things that have that have happened to guys just because it takes, you know, it takes a long time to unpack that and, like, reverse the effects of that. But absolutely, you're, you're, you're in that environment all the time. And you're just like, you kind of need it. After a while.

Alex Ferrari 15:43
It's yeah, it's almost like yeah, it's it's from what I hear and from what I've heard, that a lot of soldiers have been out into deployment, they say, Look, I'm I'm not fighting for my country. I'm fighting for the my brother next to me. Absolutely. Yeah. That's, that's basically because, you know, there's the macro. And then there's the micro of what you're fighting for. And you're like, right now, I can't think of the macro. I'm thinking about these guys next to me, this this my unit?

Jariko Denman 16:08
Yeah, yeah. And, you know, you, you also really don't have time to think about like, the macro, you know, kind of the tactical level, like, Okay, we're gonna go out and raid this house or raid this place. Like, you're like, oh, actually, should we like are? You don't have time for that. So it does you you really circle the wagons with the group you're with, and do the best job you can and hope that it's all chipping away at the Great, the greater good. But it doesn't So

Alex Ferrari 16:42
fair enough. Now, you know, from from my research on you, I did hear that you, you took Ayahuasca now I, I've been fascinated with that, that stuff. I haven't taken any, nor do I plan on taking it. But I'm always I always love asking people what they saw. Because from what I understand, it is not only trippy, but it's like and I've gotten deep into the psilocybin and all of that stuff that it's kind of in the similar BLT, and all that stuff. It opens up doorways in your mind that you can't even comprehend. I love to hear straight from the horse's mouth, no pun intended, sorry.

Jariko Denman 17:21
Absolutely, yeah, if I were to describe it, say indescribable. But you know, I've had a few years now to sit with it. And I do, I do a lot of work with plant medicine and with with psychedelics, in general, I think they're really, really good. When done intentionally, I think there are a lot of people that are running from their problems with them. But when done with intention, you know, not only the the spiritual changes in myself, but also the physiological changes that can be proven through science. You can't argue with it. But as far as things I saw, like the big takeaway for me, and the thing that I think, I will say openly the like, I think I want to save my life. Not in that I was gonna go kill myself. But I was just miserable. I was just a miserable person. I couldn't experience happiness. I couldn't, I couldn't. I couldn't meaning I couldn't connect with people in a meaningful way. But I can now and I credit Ayahuasca with fat and what it really did for me, the thing that I can like, really take out of it is that it put me into such amazingly dark places like fear and terror and, and just bad stuff. indescribably bad, like, really feeling that, and then being able to pull myself out of it, in my own mind, gave me back the power to feel how I want to feel, if that makes sense. Oh,

Alex Ferrari 18:55
it makes it makes all the sense in the world. It seems like it's from what I've heard it just like it does open up, different consciousness opens up. Like if your consciousness is normally this way, you have a window of opportunity of maybe a few if it's like a few hours, if I'm not mistaken, like this. And that's a lot that comes in and it's all personalized. It's not like everyone, we're all going to McDonald's. Now everyone has their own own experience in that time period.

Jariko Denman 19:22
Yeah. Yeah. And it's, I mean, like, when you when you talk about it being indescribable, it's like, you know, there was no sense of time no sense of space, absolute. Just being in not even being it is it's very hard to explain, but again, once you once you're in there and your mind can kind of like navigate your way out. It gives you this power again to you know, I still I still get in bad moods. I'm still sad. I'm still angry, but now I'm like, Okay, I'm feeling angry. Is this like a? Is this a, a logical response to what's going on right now? Yes, it is. Okay. Okay, good. You know, whereas before, you know, I would put myself in a loop of like anger and depression and anger and depression. And I'm able to kind of pull myself out of that.

Alex Ferrari 20:19
So it's kind of like it almost simulates the darkest parts of your soul in many ways, and allows you to figure your way back out of that. So it's almost a training in, in a virtual environment. It's almost like virtual VR training of the soul. And then you come back out, you're like, is that good? Good? It's

Jariko Denman 20:39
a very good way of putting it. Yeah, yeah. And, you know, one of the kind of physiological ways of how to explain to me because it's a very spiritual experience, but I'm also like, I like to figure things out, you know. So the way it's kind of been explained to me is, you know, when, when our, when our brains experience trauma, when we experience trauma, whether it's childhood, or adult trauma, our brain is a is a living being that figures out, okay, I'm going through this, I'm just going to like, you know, if there's a pathway between here and here, my brain just says, Okay, I don't like it here, I'm gonna go around this spot. Right. So then we will have these coping mechanisms for our traumas, whether it's, you know, not feeling safe as a kid or experiencing, you know, a blunt trauma of seeing something really bad, our brain shuts off certain pathways. Those pathways, however, are very necessary for our brains to work and for us to be at our true top for himself. So what I Alaska does, or a lot of psychedelics do is they go back in, and they turn those pathways back on. But in doing so, we have to re experience whatever level of trauma there was, that made that turn off. Like the brain remembers, and it puts us back through it. But then we come out and they're turned back on and we have a better brain for it.

Alex Ferrari 21:57
Sure, it basically goes in and rewires you, in many ways. It's kind of like the the groove in the in the record, there was a scratch, they went in and made that right out and made that connection again.

Jariko Denman 22:08
Exactly. Yeah. And, you know, I'm not a scientist or anything, but I like that way.

Alex Ferrari 22:13
It's very scientific. That's, that's proven science or the record theory. So you mentioned something a few times in our conversation, the spirituality aspect of it. And I've heard that as well. What did you when you walked in? Were you a very spiritual person? Or when you walked out? Did you become more spiritual? Did you see something in there that just made sense to you? Because I've heard many different scenarios.

Jariko Denman 22:41
I wouldn't call myself spiritual I do. A there's somebody up there pulling the strings on something, right? But I can't put my finger on it. I'm not a religious person never have been I wasn't raised that way. You know, I do feel I do feel a really strong bond to the earth, you know, like with nature, with animals, but as far as I wouldn't describe myself as a spiritual person. And I think if anything coming out of it, I feel a stronger bond at the Mac, like talking macro level, like to the universe, like I, I absolutely think that we are a speck in, in in something. So, you know, I feel like coming out of that I was in some places, whether it was in my mind only or not that or, you know, I recognize that there's a lot bigger of a there's an indescribably big something out there. And I can't ignore that anymore. So it just kind of universal rather than spiritual. Maybe

Alex Ferrari 23:46
you've been either you mean you could say either one really because it means spiritual has a connotation to it. And understanding that there's your greater part of a larger universe is in many ways a spiritual, a spiritual thing. It just all depends on how you look at it. And it sounds to me that it also kind of humbled you and humbled the ego a bit because when you say we are a speck, that is diminishing the ego. Dramatically.

Jariko Denman 24:12
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there is yeah, no ego left coming out of coming.

Alex Ferrari 24:19
I mean, the hell out of Yeah. Oh,

Jariko Denman 24:21
yeah. The first ceremony you know, you call them ceremonies. I did four

Alex Ferrari 24:25
did four ceremonies.

Yes, you did. Because that's who you are.

Jariko Denman 24:31
I'm telling you that after coming out of that first one, I was like, I mean, just like bug eyes like I don't know how I'm gonna do that again. Like I was

Alex Ferrari 24:40
you how long of time did you have between?

Jariko Denman 24:43
I did. So did four ceremonies. I did one one night one the next night, took a day off and then did two more. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 24:54
You are a soldier brother. That's me. That's a mental that's that's a military mentality. to this thing, like you're like, I don't care. It's it almost killed me the first time. Screw it.

Jariko Denman 25:04
I'm going back in. Yeah, yeah. And, you know, I've I've talked to you know, I get a lot of questions from people in the in the veteran community about ayahuasca and I kind of tell people, the best time to go into it as if you've got nowhere else to go, it's best to do it when you kind of feel like you are out of options. Because I was able to, you know, with a lot of a lot of turbulence, obviously given to it, and just say, hey, like, Here I am, like, you can kill me if you want to do whatever, but I am at your mercy. Basically,

Alex Ferrari 25:39
you You surrendered, which is not in your nature is a general statement, which is fascinating because you as a soldier, you're not built to surrender. But in that environment in the iOS basket, it pushes you to a place where you like, I'm done. I have and that's basically spirituality. If you give up you'd be like, fine, I just go, take me. And then then you come back from that, and it even changes you forever. And I understand that. So many PTSD and traumas are being saved or being like with one or two doses of psilocybin or peyote or ayahuasca, these kinds of psychedelics are doing some really amazing things politically, like they're doing it clinically, too.

Jariko Denman 26:25
Yeah, there's, there's people out there doing really, really amazing work with it. There's a couple of, you know, veteran, nonprofits out there that are setting veterans up with, with ceremonies, like very responsible ceremonies, you know, there's, there's a lot of there's a lot of weirdos out there. You know, like, Ayahuasca in the basement in West Hollywood. Like, that's not where you want to go. But

Alex Ferrari 26:48
I used to live in elixir. I understand exactly what you're talking about. I've I've heard of these. Hey, man, we're gonna go do Ayahuasca in West Hollywood. I'm like, you let me know how that works out for you. Yes, I don't want to go to Iowa, Tosca and walk out into West Hollywood. Oh, man, that would be that'd be much rather be in the jungle. With a panther someone?

Jariko Denman 27:08
Yeah. Yeah. That's funny.

Alex Ferrari 27:11
So speaking of Hollywood, you go, you've gone you've lived a fairly exciting life. And then Hollywood comes a calling. And you get you get caught up in this insanity. That is Hollywood. As a as a military specialist, right? As a consultant, right? Yeah. At Tech advisor, so tell me why. And how did you get in.

Jariko Denman 27:35
Um, so I think the how became came before the Y, which was I was, you know, I was getting ready to retire. I was working, teaching college ROTC in New York City. And a friend of a friend who was a Navy guy, Seal Team guy, which seals kind of have Hollywood debt market corner right now. Advising thing it's, it's, it's very seal heavy. So friend of a friend got called for a job tech advising on a limited series by NatGeo called The Long Road Home. That series was about army guys in Sadr City Iraq. And just one major battle they had so this Navy guy got the job call for the job. And he's like, I don't know anything about the army and I'm not gonna be a shithead and take a job that I really am not qualified for. So he called another guy was like, hey, you know, he, this other guy had worked in the in the industry a little bit in like stunts and things like that, and helped out on set, you know, being a PA here and there. So he know the business a little bit, but he was also not necessarily a very experienced army guy. So he, he called me and said, hey, they allowed him to have a second guide just for pre Pro, just for you know, the table reads and the getting getting wardrobe and props and all that stuff together. So he called me because he knew I was getting ready tires. Like, Hey, you wanna come check this out? I know, you were in solder city, you really experienced guy you can help out. I'll handle the movie stuff. You just handle the army stuff. I was like, okay, so I went and did it. The pre pro thing and they they liked my work. So they say you can stay on for the run of the show. So I stayed on for the run the show doing tech advisor stuff. And you know, at this point, I was retiring. I knew that I didn't know what I was going to do when I grew up. So I was like, alright, I'll kind of pursue this. So you know that Navy guy, his name is Raymond Doza. He's tech advised and produced on a lot of thing. He just got done doing the run a show for terminal lists. He's got a great, you know, list of credits in that world. So he's like, yeah, man, I'll kind of champion you into the into the industry. Um, anytime I got a job, I'll bring you along, and we'll be a team. So, him and I just, you know, we worked several things kind of we had a deal like he called you eat what you kill. So we all went out and tried to, you know, you know, you know it is trying to get jobs, hustle, you, hustle, you hustle, yeah, you're on that hustle. So getting jobs, and then you'd get a job and be like, initial entry on the job like, Hey, I can't do this alone. And you bring another guy. And if they're, you know, if the penny pincher say, well, we only got room for one or like, all right, and it is what it is. So, you know, I did that for a long time, like, four years with Ray, you know, both of us on a project him doing a project alone, me doing a project alone. And, you know, once I was into it, I guess the Y comes is like, I really enjoyed it. It was like a really, because something I struggled with, in my, you know, transition out of the military in the civilian world is how do I take all this knowledge I have, I'm like, you know, I retired as a master sergeant, I am a master of this craft. How do I take all that knowledge and use it? You know, I don't want that to be a waste. There are there are these intangible things of work ethic and leadership, and you know, these things that I've learned, but the actual skill set the things that I am an absolute master of how do I use those and not carry a gun anymore, right? This was it, it was alright, I can be, I can be creative, I can be engaged. And I can use these skills to like, make art and to help people, you know, bring their visions to life, and I loved it. And I loved how, you know, a set, it works like a military unit, there are people who do XYZ, they do those things they perform, or they don't work, you know, reputation carries you along way in the industry. There were there were a lot of different things that once I did it, I was like, I really liked this. And that that was that was kind of my why it wasn't. I had to get into it to see it. But once I was there, I was like, Oh, this is this is what I want to do with my

Alex Ferrari 32:16
life. That's awesome. And it's, and you've worked on some pretty cool shows along the way. Without question I have to ask, though, because I've been in the business for few years. And you know, Hollywood actors, they tend to be a little flaky, sometimes a little bit soft. But they feel like they they pretend they forget that they're pretending to be a tough guy until they run into a tough guy. So off the record, you don't have to say names. You don't have to say a show. Have you ever had to check somebody? Have you ever had to say, Dude, you're gonna hurt somebody shut the EFF up.

Jariko Denman 32:56
Oh, yeah, I mean. Yeah. And that's a lot. That's one thing that's really good about Ray and I's relationship. I will tell her like, Hey, man, I don't fucking care if I get fired. Like, you're not gonna make me fucking look bad. You know? I don't like it is if you do take ownership of these projects, like, you know, one. One a thing that I'm on comes out. I'm I'm nervous, because my friends are gonna watch it and be like, would you let this do do that? Peer pressure? Yeah, yeah. But I will say and I get I get this question a lot from people from the military. They're like, Oh, man, Mark work with actors, all those primadonnas, like the most. I've had, I would say, 95% positive experiences. Because at the end of the day, they're actors, they want to look good, you know, and if you present yourself as a professional that can make them look good. They'll listen to you. There is one, there's one time when I would say like, I had to check someone and be like, Hey, shut the fuck up. And listen to me. You don't know what the fuck you're talking about? It happened? Yeah, and yeah, I won't name names.

Alex Ferrari 34:08
Off the record will when the camera stops recording will will turn I will say

Jariko Denman 34:11
he took very, like, he took this feedback very gracefully, and was like, You are absolutely right. I'm sorry. But he did have to get checked.

Alex Ferrari 34:22
Yes. Like the stories I hear of stunt coordinators and people who like, you know, play kung fu guys on screen. And they, they try to test the stunt guy who happens to be like a martial arts expert. And

Jariko Denman 34:33
yeah, you know, well, I will say to, you know, in doing what I do in the tech advisor world, some of my biggest issues are usually with stunt guys. Yeah, it's,

Alex Ferrari 34:46
you know what I think because I've had, I've had a lot of big stunt guys on the show, and I've worked with stunt guys. They're all nuts. I'm not sure it's nuts as you guys are, but it's nevertheless and I can imagine those two Hitting on a set must be interesting. Well, it's,

Jariko Denman 35:03
it's, I get it, it's, for me, I don't I don't have ego, I just want the movie to look good. You know, and I think what it is, is a lot of times, you know, when you're a stunt guy, if you're on an action movie, there's not usually a tech advisor on like an action movie, right? And I've done some action stuff that's like, sci fi centric, like, but I still want the people shooting to look right, you know, for their character or whatever. And they'll be like, oh, man, I was in such and such and I was in so and so. And it's like, Alright, great, man. I don't care that look. Yeah, watch that you looked fucking stupid when you're shooting a rifle. So listen to me. But, you know, for for the most part. stunt guys are great. There's and stunt coordinators are always awesome. They all I always have a very good working relationship with the coordinators. It's it's usually like the guys who have been steady for, you know, a year or two. And they're like, oh, man, I know. It's the egos. Yeah, I have a friend who was in Special Forces. I'm like, okay, cool. Like, I don't care.

Alex Ferrari 36:06
He's not here now. And I am.

Jariko Denman 36:09
I am. You're the guy that you're saying. Like I told you something like, I'm the same as them. So like, shut the fuck up and listen to me.

Alex Ferrari 36:17
Yeah, no stunt coordinators always because they have to be there. They're the leaders there. They're the majors. They're the masters of that of that craft. And if they screw up someone could get hurt or, or die. Yeah, so every stunt coordinator I've ever met, they're like, they're right on the money all the time. No messing around. But the stunt guys are the Hey, man, can I jump off that roof? I only need you on the fifth floor. But I want to do it off the 20th floor. I could do it off the 20th floor like the camera it I don't need it. But let me try it for my real. I'm like, No, fifth, fifth floor is fine.

Jariko Denman 36:46
That's definitely a guy. That's definitely a stunt guy that's been in the business for like less than five years. Right, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 36:51
And then there's the old guy who's been around 20 years, he's like, Dude off the third floor, and just move the camera over here like that. Throw the light over there. It's gonna look like it's on the seventh floor. And let's go. Now, during all of your, your tech advising, what was the most difficult day you've ever had to overcome? And how did you overcome it? either mentally or either just the day because you know how it is on a set, things don't go right things go off things, you know, the guns didn't show up that day, because they get stuck in traffic, something like that. What was that thing for you? I know, it's not. It's not like a director who's like the entire world's gonna come crashing down around you. But was there something really difficult that you were able to overcome? And how did you overcome it?

Jariko Denman 37:36
Yeah, I'd say, you know, when I, when I take advice for the outpost, there were just a lot of a lot of challenges in that I wouldn't put it to a day but like the pre production, you know, it was all Bulgarian crew, you know, doing it in Bulgaria a lot, a lot of like, additionally, doing it with a studio that wasn't used to doing kind of semi documentary style, like war movie, they're used to doing action, they're not used to doing war, totally different genre, which was kind of hard to explain to them at times. But, you know, there were there were producers and even, you know, studio guys who really understood that. But sometimes things would happen, you know, you'd get just the wrong guns, you know, or you know, one of the things that happened with that was like, the, it kind of worked differently over there with the crew and the, you know, the, the prop master was kind of handling a lot of stuff that like an armor would handle here. So he was just kind of out of control, like kind of an egomaniac and just didn't order me any ammo for training for the boot camp that the actors had to do. So just getting really creative in in because I had to produce you know, a good in product of these, these cast members being able to portray professional soldiers and you know, every step along the way during that process, I was just thrown you know, thrown resistance because and I'm not done at the end of the day I know that that guy was probably getting told some by some line producer somewhere like you don't need ammo for training let's just save it until the movie it's going to save us you know X number of dollars or whatever so yeah, it was it was getting through the pre production in that in that movie in a way that still accomplish the directors intent for what he wanted these these guys to step on set for day one. A