IFH 668: Creating the Ultra-Violent World of John Wick with Derek Kolstad

Today we have a special CROSSOVER episode of the IFH Podcast. Our guest is Derek Kolstad, the genius behind the extremely successful John Wick franchise. An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him. With New York City as his bullet-riddled playground, JOHN WICK (Keanu Reeves) is a fresh and stylized take on the “assassin genre”.

He is also the screenwriter of One in the Chamber, The Package (starring Steve Austin & Dolph Lundgren)This episode is from the archives of The Make Your Movie Podcast with Dave Bullis available from the IFH Podcast Network. Dave chats with Derek about bad movies, screenwriting, the film business, and working with Keanu Reeves.

Read the original John Wick Screenplay:

I wanted to bring this amazing episode to the IFH Tribe. Get ready to dive into the ultra-violent world of Derek Kolstad.

Alex Ferrari 0:05
Now guys, today we have a special cross over edition of the bulletproof screenwriting podcast I have today on the show, Derek Kolstad, who is the creator and screenwriter of the amazing john wick. Now this episode originally aired on the make your movie podcast hosted by Dave Bullis, which is part of the indie film hustle Podcast Network. And I had to bring this episode to the bulletproof screenwriting tribe because it is pretty remarkable. If you want to know how Derek was able to create this insanely wonderful world that john wick lives in, and how he was able to get the project up off the ground and how Keanu got involved in the whole ball of wax. This episode is for you. So enjoy this special cross over episode. Without any further ado, here is Derek Kolstad.

Dave Bullis 2:51
Joining me today is Derek Kolstad. Derek is a screenwriter of john wick, and the upcoming john wick to Derek, how are you doing today, sir?

Derek Kolstad 2:59
Doing well, man tired, I can't remember the last time I had a weekend. But those are good problems to have.

Dave Bullis 3:04
So, so just to get started, could you give us a little bit about your background?

Derek Kolstad 3:08
Yeah, I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. You know, I'm 41 this year. And when I was a little kid in the early 80s, that's when the VHS boom happened. And, you know, people ask me how I got into this. And, you know, a lot of people don't remember but like in line at shopko, or wherever you shop, you'd have a bargain bin of VHS tapes. And my mom would would purchase them and we don't have cable, we could afford it on Sundays, especially Sunday nights PBS would actually show like the conversation of the Godfather, that kind of stuff. And so it's not downstairs, and my love of movies, you know, just began there. And what's really interesting though, is, you know, growing up Madison, Wisconsin, you have a very red family, very conservative, very supportive, like an ally coming home from sneaking into the theater, and they asked me what I had seen, and I'd seen Robocop which any other kid would have gotten into some serious trouble about. But in reality, they they looked at each other after I told them and just said, Hey, you know, we should probably support them in this. And so, you know, being a Midwestern kid though the idea of getting into film was a dream. And so when I went to college, it was for business, but I kept writing and became I worked for Dale Carnegie in Chicago. And what got me out here is my little brother called, and he's asked me how is doing like, broke down and started crying. And I'm not an emotional guy. And the realization was, I had to come out here to see if I was going to fail. It wasn't a matter of success, you know. And so I had my little golf PDI and half the backseat was taken out by a large fucking Dell computer and a CRT monitor and drove out here. You know, I was 15 years ago and apparently 15 years is an overnight success. So that's a little bit of a background man.

Dave Bullis 5:00
It was a great movie to pick By the way, Robocop.

Derek Kolstad 5:03
Oh, dude, dude. Yeah, you know the other favorite story I tell almost everyone I meet I was allowed to see, you know, raise last arc but Temple of Doom was to demon, you know? So my parents went saw it and they got back and I'm so excited to have I had my dad Sit down. Tell me that the movie right from beginning and it was awesome. So three years later realize my dad is falling asleep in the movie and just make up a story. It's still my favorite man.

Dave Bullis 5:32
That's absolute. Did you actually when you saw the movie? When you finally saw the whole movie? Did you go Wait a minute, this is nothing like what my dad said.

Derek Kolstad 5:39
Well, I could it was funny because I could tell the point where he fell asleep. You know, it was the opening sequence in Japan, which is you know, just legendary. And then you have that kind of slow jaunt between the first and second act. And my dad, my dad's notorious for falling asleep in movies, most notably animated ones. And so I mean, some of the stories we all share, is we the mood start, and I'd hear from the end of the hour. Oh, it's animated. 30 seconds later, you heard him snoring. So good guy, but still.

Dave Bullis 6:11
Yeah, my, my dad fell asleep at Star Wars Episode One. And he had like, afterward somebody asked him about the movie. And he was like, I had no idea. I don't even remember anything. So you know. So Derek, when you say, you know, you were you were in college for business? Did you actually graduate with a degree in business?

Derek Kolstad 6:32
I did. I did. And I went, got Business Administration, and then a minor in English. Well, a lot of minors, because let's be honest, it's pretty easy a bunch of minors. And then I went and worked for the family company back in Mesa, Maine, Wisconsin, which is WIC homes, which was a construction company. And then I moved to Chicago. And during this time, I was still writing, but I wasn't. I was writing short stories and screenplays I wasn't really sending them off. I was reading books about screenwriting is just in college, I suffered from insomnia. And the only thing that could actually get me to sleep is putting my dreams down on page, you know, and it wasn't until that phone call from my brother where it's like, fucking, I gotta try, you know.

Dave Bullis 7:15
So when we were writing, were you focusing on screenplays? Or do you actually, you'll focus on just writing like, you know, short stories, long stories or anything in particular,

Derek Kolstad 7:23
you know, I have huge respect for people who write novels, simply because, you know, the screenplay. It's like feigning exterior interior. It's one sentence and you read a great novel, and it's like, holy crap, they're spending time to just craft the world. And what I'm trying to do is, tell a good story that fits in 90 minutes, you know? And so what I loved about screenwriting, what I still love, love screenwriting is, I'm a tourist and fast, but more importantly, I can move from one story to the next. And that's why I like short stories as well. In fact, you know, when I was a kid, I was the guy who was teased at sleepovers because everything scared me. And so as a, you know, as a temperament to that I got into reading Stephen King and Stephen King short stories to this day, you know, are are a massive influence, and I still have them all. Behind me on my bookshelf. I mean, that, that's glory, dude, I can't I want to do what he can do in the short form, but he's the master.

Dave Bullis 8:19
Oh, absolutely. Did you have his book on writing?

Derek Kolstad 8:23
I do. It's one of the few books on writing that I I've read.

Dave Bullis 8:27
So I just what other books on writing? Do you do you recommend? You know?

Derek Kolstad 8:34
Not many. My thing is, like, just write, you know, I remember someone, I don't know what the book was, again, I'm a more of a writer nowadays and a reader. But someone told me once about the 10,000 hour rule. I don't prefer that. Yeah. In reality, like, I look at the stuff that I wrote even like four years ago. And it pales in comparison how I'm writing now simply because I've been doing it for so long, that it's not writing and rewriting especially that's where the skill comes in, it becomes like an algorithm like, it becomes something outside of the English language like you. If you make one change on page three, you know, the ripple effect, you know, to look for and to get to that stage. You just need to do it. So you know, people always like get the bad screenplay out of you in reality is that you first screenplay is terrible. And then you keep writing and writing and writing, rewriting. And at a certain point, you find your stride, not saying that everyone will become a writer, but you get better over time. And the other thing too, is, especially when I talk to college kids nowadays, I watch the films of my grandparents and my my parents. A lot of people haven't watched the films of their parents nowadays, like I'm very fluent in film, but a lot of people nowadays when you hear they haven't seen Casa Blanca are the godfathers if you name them, like you look around my office like Butch Cassidy or frickin Pulp Fiction or Miller's Crossing which is arguably my my Best Film my best. My favorite film. Watching right man? Listen.

Dave Bullis 10:06
What's that movie called? castle? What? fucker was funny? I heard Robert McKee whenever he does one of his seminars. You know, I don't know if you've read story by him, but he always shows Casablanca, like day two, or three or whatever. And he says, has anybody in here truly never seen this before? Or more people are raising their hands. And, you know, he's like, well, well, we're gonna spend the next 10 hours on this movie. So, you know, get conference funny, too.

Derek Kolstad 10:35
Because, you know, you hear when people do their top 10 lists of films, and you find yourself almost rolling your eyes like, of course, Citizen Kane. But then you put it in, and you watch it at minute 30 minute, five, you're like, God dammit. That's good. You know, and even if you're, you know, I know a lot of people who won't watch black and white films, which astounds me, you know, and yet you watch, like, for instance, it's a wonderful life. Everyone's like, Oh, that's a smarmy piece of Hollywood crap. It's an incredibly dark drama. I mean, he's killing himself. I mean, stuff like that. And when I encourage people to watch film, it's like, dude, ask your grandfather, ask your mom and dad, like, what their favorite movie movies was. Because even though, you know, the timing of movies has changed. You look at the Blue House horror movies compared to those in the 60s and 70s. They're sprinting, you know, Rosemary's Baby is really extremely slow. It's genius. But it's slow. But you have to watch at least once to respect what was going on, like, Lawrence of Arabia, you have to see once, I'm not gonna watch it again, it's long, but you have to see it once you know, just to know that everything on screen is real. They really shot that into respect that and learn from it.

Dave Bullis 11:53
Yeah, and very true. I remember in one of my film studies class in college, by the way, I have a degree in business administration, too. And I right, so you and I are very similar already. So

Derek Kolstad 12:03
I gotta admit, though, the BA degree is kind of bullshit. But you know, we got it.

Dave Bullis 12:08
Every day of my life, I tell everyone how it's bullshit. I sit here and go, like, what I still want to pay my student loan payments. I'm like, What the hell did I learned?

Derek Kolstad 12:18
Yeah, I think the big thing about college though, is it really doesn't matter. Like you know, what your degree is, you learn to learn. And I think you know, when people don't go to college and Come on, you're great. If you do to go to college, come on, you're great. But having a college degree gets you into the mailroom, you know, unless you know someone you still need to have that sadly.

Dave Bullis 12:40
And a true a lot of the positions that I see too for like anything if you want to work at the studio, or you know, like for instance Comedy Central, I just filled out an application to work there. And they all want a bachelor's degree, like that's a minimum requirement. You have to have a bachelor's in something.

Derek Kolstad 12:57
You look at guys like you know, Kevin Smith and Tarantino, br our flat men not flashing pants wrong saying they mean they're one a billion mean, these guys are incredibly talented forces nature, and yet, they're one of a kind, you know, not very few of us are, you need to actually have that degree in your belt to get into the industry. Even when it comes to, but when it comes to like screenwriting or acting, they don't care. Yeah, good is good.

Dave Bullis 13:25
Yeah, very true. And especially to cuz, you know, Tarantino, he just took a I mean, from what I've heard, he just got like a two day film course, to get an understanding and when he wrote Reservoir Dogs, that's where he met Terry Gilliam and Terry Gilliam really set him you know, this is what you have to do. And then when he finally got around to making Reservoir Dogs, he was like, prime and ready. I mean, having Terry Gilliam sort of mentor you. I mean, that was just like, you know, one genius showing another genius the way

Derek Kolstad 13:52
Oh, yeah, yeah. Well, and I remember reading an article with Django about Django and changed. And he said, the line that only Tarantino can say, and it was I had to teach myself how to make a Western. No one else can say that. I mean, Tarantino is a guy who devours film devours movies and has a respect for the shitty ones as well which you should I mean, you can you can pile shit on. Roger Corman flex, and the stuff that you know, a lot of these trauma is done and yet you watch you like to kind of get it I kind of get it and yet tanti loves it and he applies it, which is huge respect there.

Dave Bullis 14:28
I always heard Orson Welles too loved. I don't know if it's true or not, but he loved to have film parties at his house and he would show like these odd movies and I will be like, What the hell are you watching Orson? And he was like, No, this is this is just something unique and they didn't know if he was like, you know, making a joke of everybody or uses as this you know, playing is this practical joke everybody or he was dead serious.

Derek Kolstad 14:51
Well, that's what I love, though about where we are technical. Technologically. You know, when you think back that when I was in college, you know, 2020 years ago. I didn't have email yet. And there's no cell phone. And the only foreign movies that the video plays had with the douchey ones, like, of course, it's good, we want to get more that kind of stuff. But then as time progresses, and I remember being living in Chicago, and the video placed on the way had a large Asian section, as suddenly you're introduced to chalian, fat and gently and you're like, holy shit, well, how could I not know about this crap, you know? And now, you know, with Amazon and everything else, like, I can see movies like The Man from nowhere, I can see movies like I saw the devil, these ones that back in the day, I might have stumbled across on cable but now you're like, Okay, I get it.

Dave Bullis 15:43
Yeah, and it's very, it's very true to cuz I remember going to the video stores. And you know, just having like, look at different covers and stuff like that. I remember the some of the first time I discovered it. And it's like, you know, holy crap. This is freakin awesome, man.

Derek Kolstad 15:57
Yeah. Well, it's kind of funny when you think back in the day. Everything in Madison was the video station and you'd go in. And I still have a couple of horror titles just kind of emblazoned on my brain because of the whole how horrific. The VHS box looked. And you and I finally seen the movie like, Oh,

Dave Bullis 16:18
my friends. And I used to have this like little game we used to play where whoever could find the weirdest box art. That's what we did. They would have different deals like I think it was it was five movies for five nights or whatever. Yeah. And for $5. And what we do is we find like the, the craziest, like box art and whoever can find the craziest. That's one of the ones who definitely rent and stuff like that.

Derek Kolstad 16:41
What is funny about that is we used to do the whole, like, who can pick out the worst movie, right? So you get two or three movies. The problem with worst movies is they're boring. You know? You've never I mean, the worst movies that are fun to watch are actually fun to watch. When you do that. Let's find the worst you're gonna be going usually looking at your watch going, Oh, god, it's still going.

Dave Bullis 17:02
What was the worst movie I've ever seen by doing that?

Derek Kolstad 17:07
Let's see. I would argue that man skeeto is up there.

Dave Bullis 17:12

Derek Kolstad 17:14
they're kind of I think the worst movies I've seen tend to be the Friday night premieres on sci fi. And yet, what sci fi did is they embraced it. You know, like shark NATO. I get it. You know, you're totally making fun of the shit you're trying to, you know, give us years ago. I'll say this, that I've only walked out of two movies. The first one was the road to Melville, which was with Dana Carvey and a slew of characters back in the day. Do you read that one?

Dave Bullis 17:44
Yeah, Matthew McConaughey was in it. And a few of the I forget who the person was. But yeah, I remember wrote Well,

Derek Kolstad 17:50
it was just it was all and then the second one was sliver with Sharon Stone. Because it was like this psychosexual thriller that nothing happened. And every time we had sex, she like cried, and after about 20 minutes, I'm like, Yeah, I kind of miss the sunshine right now.

Dave Bullis 18:08
Anthony Hopkins, he was in Roseville. That's right. That's right. You know, you know, that movie was actually based off of Kellogg.

Derek Kolstad 18:15
Yeah, I know that guy. I mean, the movie is crazy. But that life story is even crazier. Still. I was really close to walk out of frickin episode one though.

Dave Bullis 18:26
Yeah, I remember episode one didn't leave much of an impression on me either.

Derek Kolstad 18:29
And I and part of the reason I stayed is, you know, everyone I was with was a massive Star Wars fan. So they had like the rose tinted spectacles on, but I was just kind of like going this whole thing's a cutscene of the PlayStation game.

Dave Bullis 18:46
When I was when I first saw it, I you know, I forget how old I was. I was like, you know, something's missing here. I I didn't mind at that point in time. I my my brain I didn't have I didn't wasn't into film like I am now you know. But something was was inside was telling me because I never felt this way about the original three, like the original three, like, I'll just watch and like I'm entertained from beginning to end. Episode One. I was kind of like, what's going on? Who's doing Who's this guy? And

Derek Kolstad 19:15
also, it's like, the plot is the is like a political Trade Organization treaty thing. You're like, wait, this is what we're after. But you know that everyone becomes a cynic at some point because I remember seeing Return of the Jedi in the theater, with my family, a bunch of friends and I was the guy I was one of those guys who was a growing number leaving going I think I hate he walks

Dave Bullis 19:41
Yeah, I don't really I haven't got that point yet where I hate the he walks but you

Derek Kolstad 19:45
will love it. Ah, I don't know why it just happens.

Dave Bullis 19:49
Well, Harrison Ford hated him right away. He called him the teddy bear picnic. You're at college. Where were you got your degree. You should writing your writing in your in your spare time. And you know, so where is it that you started to say like, you know, should I write screenplays was before your brother call to call you? Where's the answer your brother college

Derek Kolstad 20:11
I was actually in high school we went my family one on a Alaska cruise we know we saved up for this thing. And I wrote my first screenplay because I love movies on in longhand on a yellow notepad and came back and at a time, you know, we have WordPerfect and I built up a template. And I wrote it and gave it to my mom, who she gave me back my first notes, and they were brutal. And yeah, looking back and reading that first screenplay and senior notes, she was actually being very kind. I think it was just, I was I wanted to emulate what I loved, you know, and I love and I still love movies, you know, and short stories and movies were what I do, but I just want one show anybody you know, in fact, for a couple of years, the cousins, you know, I come from a large extended family. When I got someone's name, like, for Christmas, I would write them four or five stories and kind of bind it together. And that was my gift. I just enjoyed doing it. You know, it was never, it was never work. And even now, like, I would argue that your first draft of anything isn't work. That's fun. Work is the reracked and making 15 people happy and keeping it afloat, you know. But to answer your question, man, I just, I watched so many movies, and it gave me so much joy. I wanted to emulate that.

Dave Bullis 21:39
So, you know, a little feedback. So I moved to LA and then you you start writing again. So like what was your first, you know, professional screenplay that you would call it, you know, that you actually were using, as soon as I get your foot in the door, so to speak. And as far as

Derek Kolstad 21:59
the first one to get my foot in the door, I was called the wayfair. And it was a it was a sci fi thriller in the vein of matrix by way of the shining what's called and my two leads were African American. And I got a bunch of movies. I mean, got a bunch of meetings. And they were surprised because I'm a six foot two white dude with red hair. You know, they thought it was something else. But I was wanting to see Denzel Washington and who's Murtaugh? I can't remember his name right now. From

Dave Bullis 22:30
Danny Glover.

Derek Kolstad 22:31
Yeah, I wanted them. I wanted them paired up, you know. So got a lot of meetings. And, you know, what happens is, I was used to the, you know, the professional world, but you move out here and you get involved in the industry. It was different. And it was hard. And I just kind of I stepped away for a bit. And then I stepped back and I did a couple of you know, what would you call them direct to DVD or VOD movies was the package and one was one of the chamber. And they were hard, simply because you look at you look at the package. They had like 12 days to shoot. And you have very little money. And you have people who don't care because they pocketed their paycheck and other people who did care. Because it was a movie we known as movie they were part of. And so after, after those two, I was close to quitting again, because to pay the bills. Even with those I was doing a lot of nonprofit stuff like doing videos and websites for NGOs and like, and it wasn't until I wrote this wrote the screenplay called acolyte, aka simple man, that Sonia, who's we lovingly refer to as a script pitch, because she's the first line of defense for quality. She read it, and she said, I think you should try again. And a buddy of mine, Mike Callahan, who was a producer on those two titles I mentioned, introduced me to Mike Goldberg and Josh Adler were a new wave at the time. And they saved me, you know, everyone in their life at some point has individuals who saved them professionally, and those two saves me and they brought me to where I am today.

Dave Bullis 24:17
So, you know, just to dig a little deeper into the script, Eric, when you were writing out You You You told me you don't you didn't see a lot of screenwriting books. I don't know if you if you had read them at that point. But do you did you subscribe to any sort of of you know template, whether it's you know, enter if you read solipsistic Syd field screenplay, or save the cat by Blake Snyder,

Derek Kolstad 24:39
which I did. The cat I didn't say the cat that was great. I haven't read anything by Sinfield. But uh, I think my big thing is, when I was a kid, I was a my whole family were ravenous readers. You know, I would probably read when I was in grade school, I read a book a day, just because you know, I love I loved reading. And I've always been imaginative. But when you read and see where other people's stories go, it's awesome. And my favorite authors at the time were Alistair MacLean. You know, and Dashiell Hammett, and Tom Clancy, and then when I was in high school, it was shipped CIT who wrote the firm.

Dave Bullis 25:21
That was

Derek Kolstad 25:24
crap. JOHN Grisham.

Dave Bullis 25:26
Yeah, it's very, it's on my bookshelf behind me, I could just turn around.

Derek Kolstad 25:29
But a lot of like, especially when we play, you know, hearing of guns of navarone. And what I loved about his stuff is if you look at, for instance, what's the movie? Ronin did it best is? You know, at one point, Max says, ask the question, Do I know you by way of the germ or something like that? It's never addressed again. But by just by having that one line, the world kind of expands a little, like a little bit bigger, and asked him a claim. And Hitchcock especially, they would have these lines that made their their movies seem bigger and more complex than they were, when in reality, they were very simple. You know, you take john wick, I mean, it's a revenge story, but he's not. You know, I'll let people argue about it. But it's more than just the dog. You know. And I think the best movies are that it's more than just the sled, you know, Rose, but it's more than just the ring. It's more than it's it just, it hints at a larger purpose. And I think by not answering what that larger purpose is. That's where the movies I love come into play.

Dave Bullis 26:39
Yeah, and I know exactly what you mean. You know, in in john wick, you know, it is more than when they, when they do whatever happens, the dog. I don't know, if anyone who hasn't watched it yet. I probably should stop now and watch it, and then come back. So I am going to be talking about I do want to delve in deeper to the movie. But be at your I agree with you wholeheartedly. And you know, it isn't I always am fascinated when I ever, you know, talk to an accomplished screenwriter, like yourself, Derek, who, what they've read, and what method methodology they subscribe to. Cuz some people swear by, say the cat, and I've had others here on the podcast who say, Don't ever even read it, keep it away from you at all costs?

Derek Kolstad 27:17
Well, you know, everyone functions differently. everyone learns differently. I don't know, like, people ask me, like, where did these ideas come from? To be honest, I don't know, a lot of it is, you know, what I've read, and who you are and where you are, and where you see and how you see it suddenly comes into play. But what I tell everyone is, as soon as you've finished a screenplay, write the first page and the next one. Because it's kind of like, you have to keep that flame stoked, or else a lot. For me, personally, I've talked to other writers is, when I finished a screenplay, it's kind of depressing. You know, because you've been with this story. And now it's done. You're like, shit, you know, you you are crafting this world. I mean, they hand it off, you have to start the next one, or else you know, for some of us, you know, you know this, when you talk to writers, I understand a great deal why people turn to the bottle, or turn to the needle or turn elsewhere. Because when you get to the end of that novel, bring you the end of that screenplay, or even a short story, you feel very alone. But if you keep it going, you feel very alive.

Dave Bullis 28:26
So Derek, I want to ask you, are you? Are you a part of a writer's group of any kind? I mean, mean? Like, do you have like a group of that you meet with me once a month just to exchange, you know, whatever you're working on?

Derek Kolstad 28:36
I actually I don't, you know, Sonia, is very key. She comes from a house of readers as well. And so between her and Josh and Mike, they tend to be my readers. And but what I am a part of is, you know, a guy named screenwriter named Matt altman invited me to his screenwriter forum on Facebook. I can't remember what it was Josh invited me anyway. And what's really cool about that is the first thing I want to do until I, until after the first week, I realize it's just a bunch of people encouraging each other. And I think that's incredibly important. You know, to have that group of people that when you have a question to ask, they're excited to answer because you were excited to answer them. And I love it.

Dave Bullis 29:25
Yeah, I'm a part of a writer's group right now. We we started about two years ago, when it was a will. A friend of mine got inspired. Because we were watching the Oscars, and Tarantino gave a speech about Django, and it just sort of hit me like a lightning bolt. And I was like, holy crap, why don't I just that story of writers group with some of the people that I know in the area who I trust, and just see what goes from there, you know? Yeah,

Derek Kolstad 29:49
right. And that's the thing though, is like you I'd argue almost in every capacity, you can't be a solitary person. Even though I'm happiest alone. I'm happiest alone with my computer. No music on and just I love that. And yet I know if I stay within that bell jar, I'll get worse because I have to have those outward influences to make what I do better. And, you know, those who writes, I'd argue, you know, seek out even on Facebook or any other site or even locally, people who think like you, because a lot of things that you worry about, they do too. And that's important to actually connect on.

Dave Bullis 30:28
It's a very good point. And so, you know, as we know, we talked about writers groups and everything like that, you know, a little later, I wanted to ask you another question. Sorry, sorry, for the bad segue. But I, I have a note in front of me, I want to ask you say after, afterwards, but you know, as we're writing, you know, I, you, you, you had the May fers, you, and then you I assume now, once you were done that you started your next project. So what was your next project to that?

Derek Kolstad 30:58
I don't know. He's, here's the thing is I write, I write a lot, and I write fast, you know, and, but a lot of times too, and you might have been the same place, like a lot of times write the story to get it on my head. It might not be good, you know, but at the same time, like, it's haunting me that it's still in there. I think I think of stories as people in line at the bank, you know, if it's 15, deep, you're pissed. But if it's 3d be fine, you know, so I try to get those 12 out of the way. But I would argue that acolyte, which is, you know, making the rounds again, that one got me on the radar, and it was john wick. That made me may be able to say that I'm a professional screenwriter now. And you know, what's really fun about the john wick process was, I'd written it, and it was originally entitled scorn. And the character was in his early 70s, because, again, I loved the movie, Ron, and I thought, how cool would it be to grab like a comedy Jones or a, you know, a, you know, just an older actor, and do an action piece that made sense, because, you know, I just wanted to see that the dog was like 15 years old, the wife had passed two years ago. So my, my agent at the time, Charlie Ferraro, well, you know, but over UTA, he called me after the screenplay and went out and he's like, we've got like, three or four offers. And I'm not going to tell you the numbers, but I really think we should take the lowest one because they want to make it now. And you know, you got a great agent who is looking at the long game, you know, it's more important for me to get an okay payday and a made movie than a million dollars and no man movie, you know. And so, they set it up with basil monic, over at Thunder Road. And, you know, we developed a back and forth for a while, and then he went out to directors. And on a Friday afternoon at like, one o'clock, Keanu Reeves called basil. And he's like, Hey, man, I heard about this screenplay. I really liked to read it out. Can you send it over? So they couriered it over? And at 430 Keanu Reeves called back and he said, I want to do it. Now basil called me again. And I grew up with a guy. And I was I was, I was excited. No, because this is a very violent movie. And I'd love to see him do this again. And the first time I went over his house, I walked past his den. In his desk, I shoot, you know, like 200 screenplays. This guy's hobby is reading screenplays. And in that moment, it was probably the most humbling I've ever known going. Holy shit. I was one of those who picked it, you know? So that's how I want Canada and honestly, the title came about because Canada would not refer to it as scorn. You'd always refer to the project as john wick and it stuck.

Dave Bullis 33:44
You know, I, by the way, did you actually get to meet Canada? Oh, yeah.

Derek Kolstad 33:49
Yeah, I mean, Canada is a incredibly bright cat. I mean, you sit down with anyone and their first two notes. You're like, man, oh, shit. He got to his third note. I was like, damn it, that's better than what I had in mind, you know? And so he was. We spent a ton of time together on every character in every scene outside of his own. And he is equally responsible for what's up on that screen. I mean, Chad, Dave, basil, Erica, and I mean, this is an awesome production crew. But at its heart and soul, it's Canada because Canada loves the character. And I can't you know, honestly, I'm not pandering. You can ask around. You've probably heard stories, but he's a genuine dude. And he's, you know, for instance, when we shot in New York, he got to know all the guys at the coffee shop, because he would join them for their smoke breaks. And I was last day it was like saying goodbye to your best friends at camp. And you don't see that a lot with especially guys of his caliber.

Dave Bullis 34:50
Yeah, I've always heard that he is an absolutely awesome guy.

Derek Kolstad 34:53
Oh, yeah. In fact, you know, my, my most surreal story like something like that. Nice guy, but I, I like being alone. He everyone knows his address out here. You know the

Dave Bullis 35:06
little little

Derek Kolstad 35:08
buses that go by with tourists. They stopped by his house and you know all that kind of stuff. My favorite was one day we're working on john wick. His doorbell rang and he's got a little you know, you know, it's like Who's there? And this woman says, Hi, my name is so and so from Boise, Idaho or something. Huge fan of yours or just wondering the the picture and he's like, okay, she goes outside and hangs out with this teenage girl in her family for like five minutes taking pictures then comes back in. Like who does that? That's, it's unbelievable. It's awesome. But that's the kind of guy he is.

Dave Bullis 35:44
Yeah, that is absolutely hilarious. I mean, I don't know if this is true or not. But I saw that apparently, he gave his matrix two and three money away to the special effects guys. I don't know if that's true or not, but it is

Derek Kolstad 35:55
true. And the other thing that I thought was really cool is because you know, Chad was his stunt double in the matrix. He can Oh hired who's the guy who makes the custom bikes motorcycles that Jesse didn't know. I'm talking about?

Dave Bullis 36:12
Yeah, it was Jesse James for a while it wasn't it

Derek Kolstad 36:14
was I think, I think it's Jesse James. But like, Kanno as not only do they give away his bonus money he had everyone on the stunt team made customized motorcycles that were delivered by Jesse James. and stuff like that, where you know, you don't have to do that. And yeah, you could argue that he's a multi millionaire, whatever. But again, he's just he's a unique and genuine, you know, generous man.

Dave Bullis 36:41
And it's no, it's absolutely awesome. And, you know, for him to get into the john wick character, you know, when you finally saw the movie, and you finally you know, saw everything playing out, you know, what, what were your initial thoughts when you finally saw his finished product?

Derek Kolstad 36:54
That's a great question. Because we, when we saw the friends and family, you know, that like the first cut in the movie with I had no idea I because when you get to a point and rewriting, you're not seeing words anymore, you're just seeing kind of numbers, if that makes sense. And so when we saw it, I remember looking over it, it's Sonia, first join. Was it good? Like, I didn't hate it? I didn't I didn't know. And she was and she by her expression. I know, it was, you know. And the moment that hit home for me is we when we did our initial screening at the dome out here at the arclight. We're doing a q&a afterwards and said I don't it's 700 seats, and it is a pretty big forum. But I you know, I showed up and I didn't watch the movie, because at that point, you'd seen it so many times. But I scan the audience to find the people who don't want to be there. And at about minute 20 everyone would have this huge grin. And you know, my favorite movie going experience in my life. And I tell almost everyone I meet is when the raid came out. Have you seen the ride? Oh, yeah, absolutely. Okay, When the rain came out, I love the trailer. And I love to Meranti which are think that's mainly when the movie made before that. We walked into the theater with the arclight here in Pasadena and it's a smaller theater like 130 seats, or even maybe even less. And if you look at the audience, it was every sex every age, every color, every creed. It was weird. It was like a serial killers Daydream. It was bizarre. Like, if you ask people what are they here to see, you know, but we sat down it was sold out. And when the reverse door guillotine happened, I leaned forward and my seat and looked around like you did when you're 12 years old. At the end of the I was a 17 year old Korean man who's doing the same thing. And he pointed at me and mouth.

Dave Bullis 38:44
Did you see that?

Derek Kolstad 38:46
Oh, and when I watched people watching john wick, especially during that house invasion, and to see a guy who's 68 years old lean for as chairman around that may my MA my life man, you know, cuz that's, that's what that's what I wanted to bring out of people. And so I want to bring on people now, you know?

Dave Bullis 39:05
Yeah, it is phenomenal with that, you know, movies can bring people together like that.

Derek Kolstad 39:11
Especially what I loved about a john wick process or even release was the number of older people or, you know, again, yes, action movie, but it's got a huge female fan base. Just because, you know, a lot of people will say, you hear the term grounded, which means deep, elevated, which means good. You know, it's like I want to make an elevated horror, like we you know, we want to make a good horror or good action piece. And what I loved about the john wick process is from this, the original spec of the bones and the muscle mass remained the same. It was just the skin and the hair that was massaged in by everyone involved. And again, Thunder Road and the directors and Kiana about Lions Gate. They just, you know, at any point, any production, everyone hates everybody because you're just tired and yet when we do That q&a following that you just saw the joy in gone. You know, it's, it's a major miracle to have a movie made. It's even more so to have it be anything good or let alone critical and financial success. So I use the term a lot like I'm humbled and I am, you know, because, you know, you look at all the other stuff I have on my platter, it's It's horrifying, because you're like, Can I can I can I do what I just did? We'll see.

Dave Bullis 40:27
And speaking of that, you know, I saw john wick, too, was just announced.

Derek Kolstad 40:30
Yeah, yeah, in fact, I mean, he has got the latest draft his script, and we're going to be talking about this Sunday. He loves it. I mean, the body count is probably three times bigger. And that what I love about piano too, is you look at a guy who is he 5051. I don't remember. But he wants to do. He hates when people refer to what he does his stunts because it's not it's him. He's really doing this stuff. And when you look at that movie, and try to copy what he does, I can't 12 years younger than him, it's like, I can't do that. And yet he beat the shit out of himself. And he did it with a grid. And he is kind of like, you know, he sees that, like, I I love that man's workout.

Dave Bullis 41:16
And that, you know that that's awesome. And that's indicative. Everything I've always heard about Kiana was that he is, you know, a guy that's willing to go the extra mile, you know, and so when so I want to ask you is Derek is? How, from what point did you start working on john wick? Two? Did you know that? I mean, did they did they immediately greenlight it and say, Get to work on it, Derek, or did you start working on it already?

Derek Kolstad 41:39
No. I mean, I, I hadn't started working on it. Because when you start when you get a movie in production, your life is rewrite hell, and it's just, it's continual. And what I learned too, is when I was out in New York, on the shoot, it was hard for me to do anything else. Because every 10 minutes, even though you're doing very minimal labor, you have someone coming in asking, Hey, what's the nurses name? You know, the hospital, like I, who gives a shit, but, you know, they came to me for that. I spent I spent about five weeks just playing civilization five on my laptop, because I couldn't, I couldn't work on anything else, you know. And yet, you know, for a couple of days, every week, Kiana would come back, we'd have lunch, and we'd lunch with a buddy of mine named Todd, who, you know, he does all the, the, we call it all the artwork, you know, all that kind of stuff. And canowindra asked me is like, so you know, where do you see john going next, you know, how many have you seen in your head? And I liked him. I was like, I got seven. I got seven of them. And he laughed, and I pitched him two and three and four. And you could see him kind of not grow pale. But go Okay, let's just focus on the next one. All right. So I didn't start it. And to be honest, it's even in you know, even with the greenlight, we've we've chaotically gone between different storylines. And yet, what we've remained true to is, I don't want to look at it at it as a sequel, I want to look at it as you know, john wick chapter two, because what the Fast and Furious did so well is after the third one is they weren't sequels anymore. They were chapters, and I think those are the best. Those are the best franchises to have, you know, I would you know, Empire Strikes Back is not a sequel is a chapter, you know, most sequels or remakes are the first one. And with this one, you want it to be unique, but familiar, you know?

Dave Bullis 43:38
Yeah. And that's a great way to put it to different chapters.

Derek Kolstad 43:42
Yeah, I mean, and that's why you can't help but respect about the Fast and Furious movies, even if you don't like them. Each one got better, you know, at a certain point. And, you know, people ask me what I watch and like, I gotta be honest, I haven't seen it yet. But you know, I'm gonna love Mad Max. I mean, I've been watching that trailer every day on a deafening TV screen with my arms out wide grinning, because that's what I want to do, you know?

Dave Bullis 44:08
Yeah, everyone I know who was seen as not that. I haven't seen it yet, either. Yeah, did you see fast, furious seven.

Derek Kolstad 44:16
I'm really behind on everything. And you know, what I've learned too is when you when you write like this, or you get to this, you know, degree of success, I would argue, I don't, I don't like going to the theater. Simply because I'm alone most of the time. And when you sit down with a bunch of strangers, it's a bit of anxiety. And you're watching a movie and when you find yourself not liking it, you're suddenly reminded that people don't like what you do. It's weird. You know, I like it. It's It's weird. I mean, I love movies, man, but I like him now in the privacy of my own home.

Dave Bullis 44:50
Did he teach his own you know, and and sometimes I I totally get what you're saying because I sometimes just like to watch movies in my own home too. That's why like when it follows was coming out and they were like, oh, by the way, we're gonna do VOD the same day as theater. I was like, go good. I can just stay home now order a pizza, and I go watch it follows at home and they pulled out the VOD. So I ended up, you know, because it did better in theaters than they expected it was going to do. Yeah. So now I, I've pulled up Netflix and watch or watching something else.

Derek Kolstad 45:19
Well, it's like the event movies. I, you know, I go see in the theater. And to be honest, my favorite movies to see in the theater are the ones that are aimed directly at kids. Because, you know, the cynicism really hasn't sunk in, and to go watch, like, you know, anything by Pixar, you know, are a lot of Disney stuff, and to look across, and, you know, when we saw the movie, Frozen, it was a couple of weeks out, and the little kids in front of us were singing along to every song And in that moment, like, you could be irritated, oh, man, or you can go like, that's movie magic. You know, these little kids love the movie so much. They're singing along and you know, in this day, that was all that's love that memory.

Dave Bullis 46:00
And, you know, that's what movies do. They help me give those memories. Yeah.

Derek Kolstad 46:04
And I mean, you think of the movies that make you cry. I was a little kid. I mean, I wept a frickin Fox in the hound. You know, I wept when he came back to life, you know, then as you get older and older, it's always it changes like what affects you. I think the last movie I cried in was big fish of all movies. Like I was dating Sony at the time. And it's, you know, any kind of father son by any story gets me. And when he tells his father, the ministers breaking down, I was a blubbering mess. And it's like, you got me, man. Congratulations.

Dave Bullis 46:40
Yeah, man, what's

Derek Kolstad 46:41
the last movie that made you cry?

Dave Bullis 46:43
That made me cry? Yeah. I'm not even sure.

Derek Kolstad 46:48

Dave Bullis 46:51
That's a good question. I have to think about that. Derrick.

Derek Kolstad 46:54
My favorite was I went to go see Wally. And I would argue the beginning of Wally's one of the best in cinema, because it just showed you true loneliness. And as a writer, you'll know that you tap into loneliness. And at the end of the island, my buddy JC it's, there's a quiet moment. I just hear I hear quite tears from his eyes like goddamnit Pixar, you got me again.

Dave Bullis 47:21
They are phenomenal at that.

Derek Kolstad 47:23
But they respect the process, man, they take their time.

Dave Bullis 47:26
Yes, they there's so many good points about Pixar that like of what they do with their stories and how they structure them. And the characters and the and everything you know, and it's just, that's why there's so many. I mean, if you go like speed of screenwriting books, if you go like, look online, there's so many screenwriting books now about like doing it the Pixar way, whatever, you know what I mean? Yes, because you know, they are the guys you want to emulate.

Derek Kolstad 47:51
But also, you know, I think the best filmmakers Love, love their characters, you know, in the Pixar movies, you can tell that they love their characters, even the bad guys, you know. And I think that's important. I mean, what's been great in developing john wick, too, is we love john wick, you know, I mean, he was the Baba Yaga. He was the devil. And there may be a bit of that still inside of him. But there's something about that you love, you know. And the best movies are either the ones where everyone hated each other on the set or loved.

Dave Bullis 48:24
Yeah, and I heard there's a lot of frictional madmax it so Oh,

Derek Kolstad 48:27
yeah. Well, did you read that article with Tom Hardy hardy said, as soon as he saw the movie, he apologized to George. Yeah,

Dave Bullis 48:35
that's that's what I saw. And then I saw apparently like it at the Cannes Film Festival. They were like, he apologized for some of his behavior or something, or apparently something. There was some friction about something.

Derek Kolstad 48:45
Well, you know, and that's the thing about the industry that a lot of people don't understand until you really hear is, you can we can bemoan the fact that stars can be odd people who are assholes from time to time, but I do not envy their position. I mean, especially when you see it firsthand how people treat them. And I wouldn't I can never live in that kind of world, you know?

Dave Bullis 49:12
Is it really? Do you ever see anyone ever like trying to treat Kanto bed?

Derek Kolstad 49:17
No, it's not a matter of treating them bad. But it's, it's a matter of going, Hey, I recognize you from all your movies. See, I say we're buddies now, you know. But like when he's having dinner and just having people come up, and, you know, continuously come up to them. I don't get that, you know, New York is different. And I'd argue various sections of Hollywood are different simply because they're used to it and it's a different culture. But when you have you know, people from the Midwest, where I come from, you have two kinds, the kind of comes up to Canada goes, Hey, I love your work and then move on. And then it's the or the Hey, I love your work. We're friends now. Right?

Dave Bullis 49:57
So do you have a lot of friends in the Midwest, calling you They'll be like, hey, Derek, you sold a screenplay. I have a screenplay idea. Do

Derek Kolstad 50:04
you know? Not really, because I, I'd argue one of the greatest things about the Midwest is you're instilled with a work ethic. But more importantly, it's like one of my best friends out here is Austin Bryan, he played a little kid in Last Action Hero, you know, his Lawnmower Man, and all that kind of stuff. And he's a very successful photographer now. And he was kind of stressed one day when he was going to meet my cousin, who was a big fan of his. And my cousin, Joanna, came to a party, she walked up to him, shook his hand said, Hey, I really love your movies. And I went to the kitchen to start cooking something I don't know. That's, that's what I grew up with. And I think that's awesome. But every now and then you have people come out of the woodwork, of course. And that's just kind of nice Facebook is you can ignore them. And yet at the same time, like, the reality is no one helped me, you know. And what I mean by that is, of course, people helped me. But when it came to this, to getting into the industry in the screenwriting, it was years of incredibly hard work and work for free to get to this point. And yet, I kind of wonder, would I be the same guy had the success happened at age 30? Then 40. Hope so. And so a lot of times when students reach out to me, or people reach out to me, those conversations tend to be very healthy, because they're grounded. You know, I'm, I'm a screenwriter, man, the crazies don't come to me.

Dave Bullis 51:30
And sometimes, Derek, do you have annoying people to ask to be on a podcast?

Derek Kolstad 51:34
You know, what I what I love about podcasts, though, is this medium has given so many people like yourselves an opportunity that didn't exist 10 years ago, you know, I love that. And I mean, who knows what the next generation is gonna, you know, face as well. But you have the opportunity to be and create and manage your own brand. And how cool is that?

Dave Bullis 51:56
Yeah, absolutely. Um, you know, and I think the next generation is gonna be robots are just gonna, are gonna call you and they're gonna interview you, and then, you know, just whoever's around, be listening to it.

Derek Kolstad 52:07
Let's see, that's what I like about podcasters though, is, you're not, you're not a cynical bunch. I mean, you're doing what you love. You know, it's one thing doing an interview for the international press. It's nothing doing this because we're, we're fanboys to a certain degree of films themselves. You know? I'm, I have not seen the most movies, any, any person I know. yet. When I see a fellow person who loves a certain movie, like, you know, I asked last night on Facebook, like what movies you watch when you're down or drunk, or, you know, alone. And my response was, like, I've seen cabin of the woods and Evil Dead to too many times to count. And yet, when people hear that, you can kind of see the Amen, brother.

Dave Bullis 52:49
Yeah, it's just so interesting. You know, I remember this, this this anecdote that Kane Hodder, I don't know if you can't hotter race, but he was Jason Friday 13th from seven on. And he wants they actually were talking to him once. And they said, who was the best actor you've ever worked with? And his response was, Charlie's Charlie's Theron. And he said she was just absolutely phenomenal monster. And he said that she just blew everyone away. And he's never worked. Someone you know, it's just it's it was she was just beyond, you know, what he was used to? You know, I mean,

Derek Kolstad 53:22
yeah, a friend of mine who saw Fury Road was just like, thrones, amazing, because she's looking in the rearview mirror. And acting. And you're kind of like, I can't do that. Like to have volumes of backstory in a look. It's huge, you know?

Dave Bullis 53:42
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that's why I think does work. I mean, I haven't seen it. I'm just here. works behind him as well. But, you know, I mean, you've got Tom Hardy, who's phenomenal. And you have her? who I think is absolutely phenomenal. I loved her. promethease I don't know if you saw previous.

Derek Kolstad 53:57
Yeah, I wasn't the biggest fan of that one, man. I loved her, though.

Dave Bullis 54:02
Yeah, she was I you know, I just have a big soft spot for that movie. I know it has for

Derek Kolstad 54:08
everyone has. That's the thing is everyone has those movies that connect to you on a certain capacity. So there are very there are very few movies I will refer to as horrendous or terrible, simply because you connected with them on a certain level. I mean, I have movies that are indefensible, but I love them. Because they they amuse me in a way that only that movie could, you know?

Dave Bullis 54:30
Yeah, I totally, totally understand. So, you know, they're talking about and an hour now, I know you have, you know, I don't want to have too much your time. So, you know, I have one question or actually two questions that came in from the fans if you don't mind. The first question I actually I briefly referred to earlier was about what the question is, I'm just gonna paraphrase this is, you know, with a lot of talk in the industry about script consultants. Where do you feel that they fit in to the whole screening process?

Derek Kolstad 55:04
You know, it's hard for me because I'm Sony is my script consultant, you know, and so, between her and Josh Adler's my manager. You know, that's, that's where I've gone. But I would argue that, you know, my dad used to say that phrase that when you bring in someone to do a job, and you're getting a quote, get five quotes, you throw out the biggest one, throw out the lowest one, and was screw consulting, is if you look at the numbers, if it makes sense for you, great. And a lot of times, especially nowadays, you can find some good ones that all you need is to hear back. Both that criticism and encouragement make you better, you know, I would argue that a lot of us have people who serve the script, consultation, capacity in some respect. But for the pros, they're reading tons of scripts, they know that they know, they know what's selling, they know what's not. And I think, even though I haven't done it before, I can see the value in it. Just don't spend, you know, an ungodly amount, you know.

Dave Bullis 56:11
So, in your opinion, you know, what's, like, do you think there should be like a cap of $100 $1,000 or something like that?

Derek Kolstad 56:16
But, you know, you can't really say a finger because Who is it? You know, you know, at a certain point, like, if you buy a luxury ice cream container for $8, you're like, Oh, sweet, would you buy it for 80? fuck knows ice cream at a certain point. What is it that you're buying, you know,

Dave Bullis 56:35
very true. Just as a funny side note, I actually just saw in, I think it was Abu Dhabi, or somewhere in the Middle East, they actually have ice cream. Now. That's like $1,000 an ounce.

Derek Kolstad 56:49
What's in it?

Dave Bullis 56:50
gold flakes, got diamonds, and caviar and something else. But it's, but it's like the way they make it is they it's all freeze dried. Right. So they make it literally, they make it right in front of you from scratch everything from scratch. Totally not not not the diamonds, of course, but like the ice cream. And then what they do is they put it into this, they mix it up with everything. And then they top it with gold flakes.

Derek Kolstad 57:13
I don't know who told me this years ago, but they're like, it was when the Trump hotel I think was serving up this $800 hamburger, you know? And he said, If I ever found myself wondering about that burger and ordering it, I should just give that money away. And I think that's the truth or most likely Well, if I find myself wanting to buy a Bentley, I should give that money away if I had it.

Dave Bullis 57:39
So yeah, I know what you mean. Although I would say I probably would buy a Bentley. You know, it's funny. Joe, Esther Haas once said that, there's a there's a great way, if you ever stuck on a screenplay, he has found the perfect way to get unstuck and cure writer's block. And he says what you do as you go down to find your local exotic car dealer, and you either get like a Lamborghini or Ferrari and you take it out for the weekend. And he said, What by the time you get back, you're going to do anything in your power to make sure you come by once you could drive out again.

Derek Kolstad 58:15
I like that.

Dave Bullis 58:17
Yeah, and I'm actually trying to get him on the podcast, by the way. Might be a little subtle. Is he

Derek Kolstad 58:23
still writing? He kind of had a big blow for the industry and kind of took took some time off.

Dave Bullis 58:29
Oh, he's the writing. Okay. And because he is he his last work was actually a book. It's an E book called heaven and mail. And it's all about working with Mel Gibson. Nice. And the other question that came in, Derek was how do I go about getting a screenplay mentor?

Derek Kolstad 58:49
Good question, man. If I look at my own life, find someone in your life who reads and reads voraciously, simply because when you read you, you know what's good, you know, what's, you know, what works. And, you know, the other thing too, is my thing about screenwriting, especially the industry, I said at the beginning is you have to be here. I know you can hate LA and hate New York even but you have to be here. You could honestly move to LA right now. jump online and find a group of people who will read your screenplay in 48 hours because they're trying to do the same thing. And it's kind of like the Brotherhood, the script. And you know, that's the bet if you really want to see if you can fail at this move here, you know, but if you don't and you want advice, seek out the people who love the medium. And it's amazing too. The other thing too is you'll know if you have a good script when you have your friends sit around and read it out loud. Because it's amazing, especially with comedy something that intimidates the shit out of me where It's funny to you. It's funny on a page when it's spoken out loud. It's just like gravel, you know? And that's what I'd say.

Dave Bullis 1:00:09
That's a very good point. Did By the way, directors that sort of add on to that, did you see the blacklist has its own podcast now? They're actually reading some like unproduced screenplays. Oh, really? Yeah. That's a really cool idea. Yeah, the the first one they did was a balls out.

Derek Kolstad 1:00:24
I've I haven't read that one. I've heard of it.

Dave Bullis 1:00:27
Somebody once told me about it. And then I heard Craig Mazin mentioned it again. Craig Mazin, you know, he is right. Yeah. Okay. So he mentioned it, and I looked it up. And I was like, Wow, it's easy to find. And apparently, it's been circling around Hollywood for years, but nobody actually wants to make it. But everyone's like, this is fucking hilarious. Haha. And they just pass it on. And and it's been like, why the hell so? Apparently, it does get like pretty outrageous and stuff. So I'm actually going to read it one of these days. But I've read the first 20 pages. I thought it was hilarious.

Derek Kolstad 1:00:59
Like, have you read the screenplay? passengers?

Dave Bullis 1:01:02
No, I haven't. Dude,

Derek Kolstad 1:01:03
that's that's one right now. I think. I think Chris Pratt attached? I don't know, do the female leaders right now. That's one that every exact I talked to us. Like, that's the best game plan read in five years. But we passed on it. And the realities of this business are it's like, let's say you read a screenplay, and it's your favorite ever. But you're like, that's $120 million. You know, pG 13 R rated sci fi thriller. That's unique. You know, it's not based on anything. You know, you've got shareholders, man, it's, it's a huge risk. So when people pass on certain stuff, like I've talked to a number of people passed on gravity. You're like, wow, and then you realize, Oh, yeah, if you hadn't seen the visuals, and read it, I get it, you know? And yet, every now and then, especially being an aspiring writer, like yourself. Oh, fuck that. You're a writer, you know, is when you go to the theater. You're like, you get 12 minutes into the movie, like, how is this made? And a lot of times, even the people involved like I don't happen.

Dave Bullis 1:02:09
Yeah, there's a there's another podcast too. called How did this get made? And? And I first I was like, What the hell? But But yeah, I know exactly what you mean. You know, they even mentioned you What the hell happened here. But you know, it's funny Derrick member landed the last one that came out with Will Ferrell. Yeah, that that studio, they they bought the book so much on that. And then what happened was when a failed, everyone got fired?

Derek Kolstad 1:02:35
Yeah. That's the kind of thing though, that you can you feel for certain people involved because I remember talking to the producers of Jonah hacks. And they, you know, this was after the fact they were like, Derek, the screenplay was fun. It was a blast. The table reads to great. Three weeks for shooting, they carved off like $15 million for a budget, we thought we do fine. And then when we started seeing dailies, we were like, what happened? It's just, again, it's a miracle, and you get a good movie. And it's simply because, you know, it's it begins and ends with a script, sure. But at certain points, people step in, and the script gets muddied. And things happen, you know, often a bad movie. That's only bad when it hits the second act, you know, that's more often than not.

Dave Bullis 1:03:27
Yeah, very true. Yeah. Something I've always heard is the the second act is where movies go to die.

Derek Kolstad 1:03:34
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I would argue that the movies I write the I love, just actually I love thrillers love sci fi. The work is an act to me an act one you come up with, when you're out for a walk, or you're having a meal. x three is just fun, because you can finish the fucker. But act two. That's where the writing comes in. And when you start receiving notes, all your notes are an act two, not one or three.

Dave Bullis 1:04:06
So you know, Derrick, in closing, uh, you know, I mean, we could talk all day, you and I could tell we have you know, we have we have the same taste in movies we've got

Derek Kolstad 1:04:14
we're both give a shout when the next film comes out, man.

Dave Bullis 1:04:18
Okay, definitely. Because you're both have degrees in business. We both do writing. We both have red hair.

Derek Kolstad 1:04:25
Losing my I shaved my head.

Dave Bullis 1:04:28
But thank you for that writer comment, by the way. Yeah.

Derek Kolstad 1:04:33
I have to stop myself because it's kind of like Kiana said about he doesn't do his he doesn't do stocks. He's really doing it. And so when I talk to people, it's like, you're not to say you're an aspiring screenwriter means you want to be a screenwriter. He's being paid, but to be writers to be a writer. And as soon as you have one person read it, you've affected their entire life. And I think it's it's a difficult career, and yet it's a it's a fun one. I'm not saying john wick is going to be out there changing people's lives but I want making movies that like predator diehard for instance, we are you're at a hotel one night. It's 11 o'clock you're tired. You turn on the TV halfway through predator like fuck gotta watch it. Those the movies I love.

Dave Bullis 1:05:16
I mean, I remember when I when I was beyond the commercials for john wick. I was on Facebook one day and a friend of mine who's kind of a hard guy to please movies actually was like john wick Anyway, you know, dot dot dot the ellipsis anyway, that was pretty fucking good.

Derek Kolstad 1:05:31
See that's the best. That's what I want, you know. And in fact, I had people on Facebook who were like, in their late 70s, early 80s friends of my grandmother, who hadn't seen an R rated movies since maybe the Godfather. They went to see it sparked me there just like that I really enjoyed that.

Dave Bullis 1:05:49
He gigs, I mean that there's a couple things in john wick. Like I said, people if you're listening to this troja job was gonna dig into it. But just you know, real quick, I know, you have to go. But when john wick he was going through the nightclub, and he's all action scene, and we're following the whole time. And it's just everything about that we're just all came together beautifully. And I was like, and I was like, Damn, that's a really good action scene right there.

Derek Kolstad 1:06:11
Yeah, it was fun is, you know, Chad and Dave, their background is, you know, his his stunt direction and that kind of stuff. But what I loved about working with them. And what I love about where he would have now is a lot of the action beats I wrote into the script are on the screen, like to see that john shoots the guy's foot aliens for and shoots his head. And like that was in the screenplay. And so I know for a lot of like the Marvel movies or the bigger properties. They say john wick fights 15 guys, like in the script, they gave me the opportunity to help them along the action, action wise. And what I love about their directing style is there's no quick cuts, they're doing all these moves, they're landing all of these blows. And it's it's kind of like an ode to the kung fu I grew up with, you know, and we had fun with it then and we're gonna have a blast with it when the next

Dave Bullis 1:07:05
is there a rough date for the release date for the next one? Not, not, not

Derek Kolstad 1:07:09
really. Lionsgate really wants one there. They're talking with various people in Cannes right now. So we could shoot in the fall, or we could shoot in the spring. The Lions Gate has been very, very generous. I mean, it's very rare to be in a place where you have a greenlit movie, you know, and it's greenlit, and they're like, the sooner the better. And yet they want to massage this into a franchise and Kanno who's, you know, implicit in all of this is very careful to do so as well.

Dave Bullis 1:07:40
And that's absolutely phenomenal. And you know, Derek, I want to say congratulations on all your success. He's you know, you've definitely earned it. And you know, I wish you nothing but the best with you know, john with two and hopefully john wick three and you know, all the other future products you have.

Derek Kolstad 1:07:54
Thanks a lot, man. I enjoyed talking to you.

Dave Bullis 1:07:56
Oh, my pleasure, man. Anytime we get talking about like movies like anyone who's seen man skeeto or were killed dozer or future or you see rubber. Yes, I did see rubber Yes.

Derek Kolstad 1:08:11
That you know,

Dave Bullis 1:08:11
if you ever really want to punish yourself, and this goes for finale, you Derek or anyone listening? If you want to see the worst film that I've ever seen, I know exactly what it is. And it's called Nuki. What Nuki it's NUK ie, it's a movie about two aliens that crash land in Africa. And it is it was supposed to be like a kid's movie like a ripoff of et. And it is so odd and bad and boring and dead. It's It's It's hailed as you know, they usually have the worst movies ever made. They usually put plan nine on but plan nine is actually entertaining. This is just bad. So so if you ever and I'll link to in the show notes too, if anybody actually wants to venture out to see Nuki but it is absolutely barn on the worst movie I've ever seen in my life.

Derek Kolstad 1:09:01
Obviously, martyrs, martyrs No, that is one of the most disturbing horror movies I've ever seen. So

Dave Bullis 1:09:07
okay, I'll make I'm making a note of that.

Derek Kolstad 1:09:09
That and three extremes is awesome.

Dave Bullis 1:09:12
Yeah, I've seen extreme extremes.

Derek Kolstad 1:09:14
Yeah. And go for hours, man.

Dave Bullis 1:09:17
Yeah, seriously. I mean, we could always be talking I mean, that's a that's what helped me fight you know, find somebody like yourself, who just says seen all these random movies that I've seen. And I'm gonna check out that movie Casablanca you mentioned I

Derek Kolstad 1:09:30
don't Hey, when you're out, man, give me a shout, dude.

Dave Bullis 1:09:35
We'll do Derek.

Derek Kolstad 1:09:42
I don't do Twitter anything.

Dave Bullis 1:09:44

Derek Kolstad 1:09:46
I just I just a private guy, man.

Dave Bullis 1:09:50
Cool. And, you know, everybody can find me at Dave bulls.com. You can you can find you can find me I'm a I try to be private but I got way too much social stuff going on. You don't even need channels. Um, but actually, Derek, I want to say thanks again for coming on. And please, anytime want to come back, just let me know.

Derek Kolstad 1:10:08
Sure. Thanks. Good luck, man!



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy my entertaining conversation with Sacha Gervasi.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 23:26
mixer mixer.

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 26:03
Oh, my

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

Alex Ferrari 26:07
living screenwriters

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

Alex Ferrari 26:37
because he's 16

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

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

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

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

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

And I said,

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

Alex Ferrari 28:31
as you know. Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 35:53
Amen, brother,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 41:48
why wouldn't you?

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

what, what are we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 52:13
the story of anthem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 57:18
Oh my god,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 1:15:01
was not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 1:20:57
Yeah. Yeah.

Sasha Gervasi 1:20:59
Fantastic British film.

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

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

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

Sasha Gervasi 1:21:25
Project snacks.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy my conversation with David F. Sandberg.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 11:57
that would have been interesting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David F. Sandberg 24:04
Oh, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 48:01
You know, darn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy this conversation with Boaz Yakin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 11:17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 17:49
It is Swingers were

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

Alex Ferrari 18:39

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boaz Yakin 23:49
mismatched features.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 28:21

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 33:42
a different vibe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boaz Yakin 42:41
Glad you did.

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

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

Alex Ferrari 43:14
Sure go ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boaz Yakin 55:25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 1:01:17
Did you interview that

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 1:01:30
There's that

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boaz Yakin 1:04:50
Which one?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boaz Yakin 1:10:34
Directed Lion Hart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
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IFH 664: How to Create a Viable & Profitable Story Idea with Erik Bork

Today on the show we have screenwriter and producer Erik Bork. Erik Bork is a screenwriter best known for his work on the HBO miniseries Band of BrothersFrom the Earth to the Moon, for which he wrote multiple episodes, and won two Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards as part of the producing team.

Erik has also sold series pitches (and written pilots) at NBC and FOX, worked on the writing staff for two primetime dramas, and written feature screenplays on assignment for companies like Universal, HBO, TNT, and Playtone. He teaches screenwriting for UCLA Extension, National University, and The Writers Store, and offers one-on-one consulting to writers.

Why don’t most scripts have the kind of success their writers’ dream of? Because of problems with the basic idea for their story. Which the writer is usually unaware of. While story structure and scene writing choices do need to be top-notch, writers tend to rush into those parts of the writing process too quickly, without vetting their basic concept.

This is a mistake professional rarely make because their agents and managers insist that ideas be run past them first. And this usually leads to serious notes and development before the outlining process even starts.

The Idea: The Seven Elements of a Viable Story for Screen, Stage or Fiction form an acronym for the word PROBLEM, since every story is really about one, at its core. Each chapter focuses on one of these seven deceptively simple-looking aspects of a strong story, which are anything but easy to master. Mr. Bork highlights his own struggles as a writer and his arrival at an understanding of how each of these elements works — and how to know if one’s idea really succeeds at each of them. A special section devoted to television writing (and its unique attributes) ends each chapter.

Whatever your education and background in writing or story, this book and its unique focus contribute foundationally useful information not covered elsewhere — which may be the missing piece that leads to greater results, both on the page and in the marketplace.

Enjoy my conversation with Erik Bork.

Alex Ferrari 0:06
I'd like to welcome the show Eric Bork. Man, thank you so much for being on the show, brother. I appreciate it.

Erik Bork 2:49
Thanks for having me. It's great to be here.

Alex Ferrari 2:52
Thank you, man. So you you've you've lived a very interesting career in Hollyweird. And your story is quite interesting from what I've been able to pick up online. So first off, how did you get into the business?

Erik Bork 3:07
Well, I moved to LA from Ohio, where I grown up and gone to film school got a bachelor's degree and motion picture production BFA right State University in Dayton, Ohio, moved out to LA started working as an assistant versus a temp worked around the fox lot for a couple of years, including a writer's assistant job on the show picket fences. Yeah, Kelly drama which won the Emmy for Best Drama that year, and the next year. And eventually I kind of had paid my dues in the temp pool at Fox, the in house temple where I'd be assigned to different sort of offices every day or every week or every month, whatever. And they assigned me to Tom Hanks, his production company. Tom had just moved on to the fox lot his deal a bit at Disney. He only had his his his like main assistant, and then me as the tamp helping get the office set up. I thought I'd be there a month at most, and then turn into a full time assistant position and eventually led to my you know, big break.

Alex Ferrari 4:03
Nice and that that must have been a fun, boss.

Erik Bork 4:08
It was amazing. Yeah, I mean, I you know, I idolized him, you know, big was one of my favorite movies. And when I started working for him the week I started temping for him was the week that Sleepless in Seattle premiered. Oh, wow. Philadelphia was already in the can and he was about to go shoot Forrest Gump. So during the during the two years that I worked as his like second assistant, he won the back to back Oscars. And it was like my job the day after the Oscars to take the statuette to the academy building and have his nameplate put on because they don't do that the night. At least they didn't then so I'm driving my beat up Toyota Celica to the academy building with Tom Hanks Oscar in the passenger seat because stuff I got to do. So it was cool being on the you know, on the in the Inner Inner sort of circle as a as an employee to him when he was at, you know, reached this incredible height. Oh, yeah, he's already Probably never, you know, never gone down from that height, because then it led to producing and all these other things which I got to be involved in.

Alex Ferrari 5:06
Yeah, I mean, that must have been a you were you were there at like a really fun part of his career. I mean, he was like, pow, pow, pow, pow, like, everything he touched was gold. And is it true that he is as nice as they say he is.

Erik Bork 5:19
Yeah, he's very nice. He's very funny. Can be cutting in his in his humor, but in a way that's entertaining. Like, he would always make me laugh. And he's extremely generous. The the opportunity he gives people is amazing, including me. And he sticks with people. And he's, he's just like a fun, easygoing guy for a big star like that, you know, you would think there'd be you know, tons of ego and insecurity and need to prove oneself or whatever kind of stuff we might think that big actors might have. He doesn't seem to have any of that. He's just like a happy go lucky guy that loves making things loves acting and, and producing and, you know, just just into it.

Alex Ferrari 6:06
That's awesome. Now, how did you get involved with Ben and brothers?

Erik Bork 6:10
Well, first there was from the Earth to the Moon, which was the miniseries that that Tom executive produced for HBO, in the late 90s. That's where my big break came in, which is that he gave me this promotion that enabled me to help him kind of ultimately write and produce that miniseries. There were steps along the way to that, but at the end of the day, I had a co producer credit, I'd been involved in every aspect of it, I had multiple writing credits on the scripts. So Banda brothers was kind of like a reteaming of a lot of the same people, plus adding Steven Spielberg as an executive producer. So so I was kind of already had done that sort of two to three year project with him before and so Band of Brothers was like, here's another one kind of, well, let's like

Alex Ferrari 6:55
so then let's go back to four from Earth to the Moon, which is one of my favorite miniseries. It was kind of like, I guess it was the beginning of miniseries. But it was kind of this kind of beginning, if I remember correctly, kind of the beginning of this, like HBO, high production value, kind of mini series. Is that Is that fair to say? Yeah,

Erik Bork 7:13
I think it was the first one. Yeah. And they spent like 70 million and it was way over the top amount of money for them to spend at that time right.

Alex Ferrari 7:21
Now. Now, that's an episode of Game of Thrones. I mean, I'm sure they weren't nervous, but that that turned out to be a huge monster hit for HBO.

Erik Bork 7:32
Well, you know, HBO it's not so much about ratings of course, it's about subscribers and how do you get subscribers if you win awards? And you have critics love it and have people think you got to have HBO in order to get this kind of programming and so we won the all the Emmys and the big awards for many series which I think was the most important thing at the end and enabled them to go okay, let's do more of these and advanta brothers was like the next one,

Alex Ferrari 7:55
and and then on from Earth to the Moon, you were a writer, and a producer just read it.

Erik Bork 8:01
My ultimate credit was co producer on all of it and writer on multiple episodes, some I didn't get credit on some I've shared credits when I have sole credit. So yeah, I was there at the beginning, you know, when it was just an idea and a book that we had the rights to that Tom had sold a pitch to HBO and I in the meantime, while working as his second assistant, I was writing all the time, and eventually turned from feature film writing to sitcom writing, believe it or not, and had written three spec episodes of sitcoms of that of that day. Three NBC shows actually, Frasier Mad About You and Friends. And eventually Tom ended up reading one or two of those because his first assistant kind of, I guess, knew I got an agent and was you know, I kind of became part of the inner circle by then and she suggested that he read one or that I give him one which I was never going to be my idea to do that had to be somebody else right? So he did and pronounced me talented and and and then a few months later said how would you like to stop being an assistant and like, have your own assistant and, you know, like this life changing thing, and helped me figure out this mini series. So that led to us. This is from the Earth to the Moon that led to us like kind of meeting for breakfasts over the course of weeks and going over ideas for each episode and me kind of helping draft this like 50 Page Bible for what the miniseries was going to be, which HBO approved, and then we use that to go get writers and, and it was also my job to help find writers like established writers to write episodes of this. And along the way of doing that, one of the other producers that I was working with suggested maybe I should write one of the episodes again, not gonna be me asking for it, but if someone else does, yes, please. So that was assigned or I chose one of the episodes that had not been signed anybody and wrote up a zillion drafts of that which were terrible for a long time because I was really in over my head and never tried to write historical drama. You know, I mean, trying to do justice To the real events and have everything be accurate, I was overly obsessed with the research and all that stuff, a lot of lessons I learned along the way. And, but eventually under the tutelage of Tony tau, who was our CO exec producer was like the day to day producer who kind of ran everything and oversaw the writers, the directors, everything hasn't like non writing producer, I found my way and my script became considered a decent one. And then I was asked to rewrite some of the other ones, which is how I have shared credit on some of the other ones. And also, I started working under Tony I became his kind of like apprentice producer like his, you know, Shadow everywhere he went. So I got to be in all the big meetings and I'll be on set in the editing room, be involved in every aspect and because I was also Tom's point person, or the first kind of like employee one in a way, not really, but close to that on the miniseries, I sort of had access and had to be dealt with to some extent. So I can be on on the set. whispering and Lily zanic or John turtle tab, or Sally Fields ear, saying, I don't know if Tom would like this really annoying, you know, inexperienced young jerk.

Alex Ferrari 11:10
I can imagine the ego might run away with you at that at that young young age, especially when given that sort of power or access. Now, then you went into BANA brothers after that. Right. Right. And now

Erik Bork 11:25
To your words, right, some other things. But then yeah,

Alex Ferrari 11:28
So Band of Brothers, which is another monster hit for HBO. That thing is a legendary miniseries on a band of brothers during World War Two. This is before Private Ryan or after Private Ryan. It was

Erik Bork 11:40
after you know, Tom, it kind of became a tradition for him. He made Apollo 13. And they decided to a miniseries about space program and he made Saving Private Ryan and he and Steven Steven Spielberg, I call them Steven, but

Alex Ferrari 11:51
to us. Yes, yes, Mr. Spielberg

Erik Bork 11:54
decided to make Band of Brothers. First they were going to do something with citizen soldiers, which is another Steven Ambrose book about World War Two. That was really just citizens who became soldiers from all over America. And then they widely decided, you know, Band of Brothers is a more one group. We're gonna stay with this one group and follow their whole story. So it's a more contained subject.

Alex Ferrari 12:14
And when working with Mr. Spielberg, how did you did you work with him? How was that process? And I imagine that that must have been overwhelming just meeting him or if you if you did meet with him and work with him on this it must have been it Steven Spielberg, you know, I mean it but you're the more you work with Tom Hanks, which is great. But now you're just like, this is a whole nother level of in different vit flavor of crazy.

Erik Bork 12:42
Yeah, and I don't think I ever fully got over the That's Tom Hanks right there. And we're in the same meeting. Like there's a certain like, thing that never fully goes away. So yeah, so Steven was, was like, there with Tom to kind of oversee, like, all the big decisions he was he didn't direct any episodes, he wasn't like on set every day or anything like that. He would strategically come and visit or be involved in certain meetings, you know, looking at all the cuts and giving notes on the cuts. So I was, you know, I had quite a few experiences where I was like a group of us in a meeting, including Steven. And, you know, he was just like this infectious kid with this love for filmmaking who couldn't wait to tell you how they got that shot inside Saving Private Ryan from like, the steeple or whatever, you know, like, here's what we did, you know, like it was he's just like, kind of similar Tom in a way kind of boyish. Just infectious enthusiasm. And love for love for the craft. But yeah, it's, it's, it's certainly certainly a little overwhelming to be, you know, to be in his presence as well.

Alex Ferrari 13:47
And you and you were many of those meetings, I'm assuming?

Erik Bork 13:50
Yeah. Yeah, there were quite a few. And I got to ride on a private jet once where it was just me and Tom and Steven, from London to LA, because we shot it all in in England. And, and that was pretty cool. Just the three of us the three bros.

Alex Ferrari 14:06
Just chillin, just hanging out. You know, talking about stuff. I would love to have been a fly in the wall on that. Now, so can you give a one tip that you would get what is the one tip that you would give a writer that wants to break into TV? And once it can't try to get a TV kick?

Erik Bork 14:25
Wow, that's a quite a big segue. The one tip well, you know, keep at it. I mean, it's a persistence thing that was a tip somebody gave me when I was first starting out some established greenware just like don't give up and keep doing it and keep learning as you go getting feedback, learning and growing and understanding it's a marathon. And it's, you know, it's rare to achieve something and to write something that would allow you to break in and, and there's usually a long learning curve So you got to see it as an education and ongoing. I mean, I still feel like every script I'm writing, I'm learning and I'm, I'm like a small child grappling in the dark with something that's beyond me. You know, it's always that way and have this sort of open mind of I'm learning and I'm and I'm, and I recognize that I am a kind of a neophyte, maybe always, every new project, I'm a neophyte again, and embrace that and just be about I'm going to learn and grow and improve.

Alex Ferrari 15:29
Now, let's, now let's talk about your book, the idea the seven elements of a viable story screens for screen stage and or fiction. That's a mouthful. Can you talk about the idea? And what made you write the book?

Erik Bork 15:43
Yeah. So I've been teaching screenwriting coaching and mentoring writers for the last 10 years, as well as writing my own stuff and doing my own projects. And, and what that's taught me is something I kind of already knew, but became even more clear, which is that it all lives or dies with the basic idea that so much of what makes a project viable is contained within the basic premise, you could pitch somebody in a paragraph or you know, 30 seconds or whatever. And that most of the time, we writers want to jump into the actual writing of the script, without really vetting the idea without spending enough time trying to arrive at an idea worth writing. And so when I give notes to a writer who sends me their scripts, like 90%, plus of the most important notes I have on their script, the modes that most determine whether it's going to succeed or not, are notes that would have had on that 32nd Pit, if only the idea before they wrote any of the scenes or even outlined it, or even did a sort of structure, you know, document. So and also, in my own career, like, there was a period where I was pitching ideas for series to the network's like drama series, and my agents would send me out to all these producers and studios and networks and, and, and I would have to get, you know, get an idea for a series pass them. First, I'd get past my agents, which was the hardest part almost, because they were very tough on, you know, we're not gonna send you out with some idea that we don't really believe in it. So I kind of had to learn for my own sort of making a living at that, what makes it viable ideas become this, like ongoing obsession. And so I kind of figured out based on as a writer, as, as a producer, and as a coach and teacher, what makes an idea worth writing, what are really the elements. So and I've been blogging about the craft for close to a decade now. And so some of this originated my blog was like, Well, I really figured I really kind of worked it out that there's this acronym of seven elements using the word problem as the acronym because every story is really about a problem that takes the whole story to solve, essentially. So the problem needs to have these seven characteristics. And each one gets a chapter where I go into great depth on the pitfalls and how to make that element really come out in your work, whether it's film TV, or you know, I think it applies to fiction and other kinds of stories as well.

Alex Ferrari 18:08
So what are this? Do you mind telling us the seven key elements?

Erik Bork 18:11
Yeah, so it's punishing, punishing the problem, says a punishing problem. Right, so PRL BLM, so punishing, relatable, and these things describe not just the story, but the problem at the heart of the story, because that's really what you're pitching. When you're pitching a story, you're pitching a problem that takes the whole story to solve. So what does that problem have to look like? It has to be punishing to the main character, which means just defies being solved. And even though they're actively trying to solve it throughout the story, mostly, they're failing, and they're losing. And it's just getting more complicated and difficult and important all the way through. I liken it to watching your favorite sports team and a championship game where they're the underdog, and they're behind. It's exciting to watch that. And hopefully, they'll come from behind at the end and win the game at the final moment. But prior to that, there's a lot of things going wrong and you're on the edge of your seat. So punishing. The second one is relatable, which has to do with caring about the main character or characters and whatever the outcome of the story is. That's that's in play. You want the audience to invest emotionally in that it's not as easy to earn that investment as it might seem investment and both the main character which most movies have a single main character. Most TV episodes have multiple characters that get stories, investing in them, and also investing in whatever it is they're trying to achieve or solve. The third is original. Before fourth is believable. I should say just original. It's like fresh twist on a familiar genre due to the way to go in my view, as opposed to I've got to do something totally different from how anyone's ever done anything before, which usually means you're not observing these other six elements, because you're all focused on being different. So it's really about building on the shoulders of things that have worked but with some intriguing fresh element your brain to it. believable, that's obvious, but so many scripts and even premise For scripts fail, when the audience is just like, I don't know that I buy this, right? I don't believe these people would do this or this situation, it's very complicated and arbitrary that you've set up and I'm not sure I'm with you. So believability is a bigger one than it seems that L is for life altering, which means the stakes of what's going on have to really matter. He is entertaining, which means don't forget your job, really bring your audience to some emotional state they've paid to be in because they want this kind of genre to do something for them, whether it's Action, Comedy, Romance, whatever. What is the entertainment? How do you achieve entertainment? How do you make sure that's part of what you're doing. And then the last one is meaningful, which has to do with theme, and making sure that what you're writing has some resonance beyond the surface events of your story. So people feel like, you know, you've kind of it sticks to their ribs in terms of what it's really about, and and the human condition and life issues and challenges that we can all identify with.

Alex Ferrari 21:03
So it says you've been teaching so long, and mentoring and you've obviously read a bunch of scripts over your course of your career. What is the biggest mistake you see first time screenwriters make?

Erik Bork 21:18
Well, when you're first time screenwriter, you know you're learning the craft. So there's a lot of things that you don't know how to do well yet. But if we just talk on the concept level, I mean, the biggest mistake really is the one I already said, which is trying to jump too quickly into writing without getting the concept. But if we put that one aside, one of the really most common ones is issues with point of view, and that's covered in the relatable chapter, which means not understanding that you have to tell the story subjectively, from the point of view of a character that the audience is meant to kind of become one with almost like it's happening to them. And that's not easy to achieve. And there are specific practices and things to avoid in the achievement of that. And writers tend to either not realize that or not do that effectively. And so the first goal I think, is you know, you want to suck the reader into caring. And you usually do it through a specific individual character by by not telling it objectively but telling it subjectively and it's not just first time screenwriters though, I mean, we all struggle with that making the audience care and, and, and making them feel like they're inside the story is, you know, always important and often difficult.

Alex Ferrari 22:27
Now, can you name a given example of a protagonist, an interesting protagonist, and why we connect with those that protagonist anywhere in cinema?

Erik Bork 22:39
Well, for some reason, Forrest Gump just you know, Michael Hague, in his book, writing screenplays itself is a great section on empathy and the different techniques for gaining empathy. And a lot of it when you really look at it is a manipulation on the part of the writer, a very conscious manipulation of giving a character certain elements that make you care about them save the cat talked about, they have to save a cat in the first pages, which is kind of a joke, but it's actually true. They have to do something that makes us sympathize, and feel like that's a good person. I like that person. You know, there's this real vote, invoke thing of unlikable main characters and anti heroes and people point to shows like Breaking Bad and say, Look what a dark figure he was. And I always say look at the pilot of Breaking Bad, and he was the most lovable, relatable average every man you could ever possibly meet, who had all of these undeserved misfortunes, which is a phrase Michael Haig uses when you give a character undeserved misfortune, like Forrest Gump didn't ask to be mentally handicapped and have those things on his legs and have people make fun of them. It's not fair. You immediately side with the poor, lovable nice kid who's got these unfair things about his life. He didn't ask to not have a father. You know, he didn't ask to be picked on and chased all these things that are just totally not fair. And in his simplicity, there's a goodness and a love ability that just makes you feel like he's your kid. Like you just want to protect them. So you know, the the Africa is gonna say about the undeserved misfortune, but another thing is when you put a character in jeopardy, so that so that we're worried about the character, which they do that with Forrest Gump, as well. And Michael has this whole list of things that are really genius that he's observed in movies over the years, but so much of the time you'll be reading a script and it's like, yeah, I don't have a strong pull to this person.

Alex Ferrari 24:35
I don't care.

Erik Bork 24:36
Oh, I was gonna say Breaking Bad there all these elements of undeserved misfortune. It's like he's a chemistry teacher who's passionate and good and his students couldn't care less. He doesn't make enough money siesta moonlight at a car wash where his students see him and make fun of them. Yep, he finds out he's dying. He doesn't have enough money to leave his family after his death. This poor schmuck, right so You need to do all that for the audience to then accept when you start cooking math that okay, this is only option and we get why he's doing it and we still love him and he's still in way over his head once he starts cooking math way over his head, you know, there's dangerous people everywhere and he's gonna get arrested and it's like are killed yeah are killed. It takes a very long time for him to become the kind of like, you know, heavy the kind of like, top of his Eisenberg scary guy of Heisenberg. Yeah. So I just think it's a mistake to just say, Oh, you can make your character really unlikable. And it's fine. I don't even worry about it. It's not you can't get away with that as easily as it might seem. So I've always explained to people well, here, this character that you think is unlikable. In this thing that really work. Let's look at all the things that actually make them likable. And usually, there's quite a few of them that people didn't even notice.

Alex Ferrari 25:51
So if you look at someone like Wolverine, or Logan, you know, who is an anti hero, quote, unquote, there's things in his backstory that, you know, it's unfortunate he didn't want he didn't end up he didn't want to become over and it was forced upon him. He lives in a constant cycle of always healing, not really aging, so he could live for hundreds of years and see people die. Like there's a lot of things that from luck, if you go back to like even the Vampire Lestat, you know, who's a very unlikable, he's a villain, he's a villain, but you kind of go with him a little bit. And you see his from his point of view what he has to go with. So even the most unlikable characters in history, and literature, they all have this kind of thing you're talking about, like Breaking Bad, I still say is one of the best series ever written, ever shot and ever created it. It's just it's perfection in my edit, from the beginning, from the best pilot I've ever seen to the one of the best endings I've ever seen. And how they took that one beautiful, lovable guy and turned him into Heisenberg, who was you know, was spoiler alert, a murder? Ego maniacal maniac he turned him into essentially, but there was always those little clips of, of the of the teacher of the chemistry teacher always sparkle in his eye every once in a while. Would you agree?

Erik Bork 27:11
Yeah, for sure. And I would say the other key with like, if somebody is unlikable, if you really pile the problems on top of them, big problems that makes a big difference, because the audience can't help but relate to the character with the big problems like Scarface, pretty unlikable character, but he's got he's facing death around every corner, essentially, right? And if the character gets really beaten up by the events of the story that helps you forgive unlikable qualities, but don't forget Life and Death type stuff.

Alex Ferrari 27:38
Right? And also, don't forget where you came from, though. He was you know, right. Refugee, your dog.

Erik Bork 27:43
Yeah, completely thought his body killed with a chainsaw in front of them, you know? And that one scene? I mean, it's like,

Alex Ferrari 27:50
yeah, it's insane. Now, on the other side of that, what is an amazing antagonist? And why do people like Because? Because a lot of people, right? I've read so many scripts, horrible villains, and in movies, horrible antagonists. And I always use my favorite antagonist, one of my favorite cinematic antagonists of all time is the Joker and Dark Knight, who's just as perfect of an antagonist, because he mirrored Batman in every way. He was the opposite. You know, and I love that what is your What, in your opinion, what makes a great antagonist and if you have an example of that,

Erik Bork 28:27
well, the three dimensionality, you know that they're the human being that we can understand why they are the way they are, and they're not. People. They're not the same as every bad guy we've ever seen. They're not a one dimensional mustache twirling villain read my mind. Yeah, but they're also not just the standard version of their villain who talks in a nice and cultured way like they're your friend, but they're really, you know, not one that comes to mind is you know, Christoph Waltz and Inglorious Basterds, right? I mean, he that opening sequence, oh, he's just, I mean, he is kind of he is on one level, he is that version of pure evil, pretending to be super friendly, and have a sense of humor and be cultured, and I'm working with you. And we're friends, which we've seen a million times, but this but this that's where the Oh, and the originality comes in the specific way he's written. And the way he performs it somehow transcends even that kind of that cliche

Alex Ferrari 29:26
terrifying. It was terrifying that that seven minutes scene is one of the Oscar I believe that's first seven minutes, just like well, that's just give it to him. Yeah. There's no There's no, look, no question. And someone like Hannibal Lecter, who is an amazing anti hero, like you are literally rooting for a serial killer who eats people?

Erik Bork 29:47
Well, and I would point out, he's not the antagonist in that movie, right? He's the helper of the protagonist. Right? And he's, yeah, he's super interesting. You understand what he wants and what gets in the way of that. So it kind of has his own story but both a Buffalo Bill shaped by Ted Levine, who was the star of the first thing I ever wrote professionally, which was an episode of from the Earth to the Moon. He played Alan Shepard. He's such

Alex Ferrari 30:11
a he's an amazing actor. He, to me

Erik Bork 30:15
Buffalo Bill is what makes that movies people never talk about him. But those few scenes of him being creepy alone are so real and feel so just like not like other serial killer things in movies where the because even Hannibal Lecter is kind of glamorized look at what a genius he is, or whatever she was find. I mean, Anthony Hopkins obviously transcended this, but I always find that I don't love it. When serial killers are portrayed as these like incredible geniuses, they're outsmarting everybody. Somehow Buffalo Bill. Yeah, he's outsmarting on one level, he knows how to like kidnap women and keep them hidden and all that stuff and not be found. But he's just this twisted, sick two days just to see that felt very real.

Alex Ferrari 31:01
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Erik Bork 31:12
And as a major threat feel very real. So whenever you cut to him, to me that you don't get to know him that well, but talk about an antagonist that just powers the whole movie, you just want to see that girl saved and, and you really believe in the reality of Buffalo Bill,

Alex Ferrari 31:28
she puts the lotion on the skin. Yeah, she gets the hose again. I mean, that was a brutal. I mean, it's such a brutal performance, wonderful performance. But then later on, as the series continued, then the hero is Hannibal Lecter, and Hannibal and oh, right, Red Dragon and these kind of films, which is kind of like what, like you're rooting for syrup, like you're rooting for Scarface, or you're rooting for Heisenberg. And you're like, does that say something about me as a viewer? Or does it say something about the writer who wrote that's

Erik Bork 32:03
the manipulation that the writer is doing to make you see things through the perspective of somebody that you otherwise would recoil from? And to give them problems that you want to see them solve, despite not liking certain things about what who they are?

Alex Ferrari 32:19
What is your feeling on the Joker? Like, if we could just dive in a little bit on that character? Because I know, I don't know what your feeling of that movie is. Or if him but I've always found them very interesting. And I think he's a great case study of what an antagonist should do for the protagonist.

Erik Bork 32:37
Yeah, I mean, Heath Ledger was amazing. I'm not a huge dark night person myself, which might be sacrilege to you and all

Alex Ferrari 32:45
viewers, it was a great interview. It's a fantastic interview, it's actually

Erik Bork 32:48
not my genre, I'm actually more of a like, romantic comedy type of guy to believe it or not, I mean, people see Band of Brothers, and they think, oh, high testosterone, guys with guns. He also writes about astronauts. So I was very much you know, after those two people were always trying to put me on cop shows and stuff like that, which was the antithesis of who I am as a writer what I aspire to be so. So a lot of my favorite stuff doesn't have a villain doesn't have that antagonist, because not every genre or every kind of movie has to have sure that's straight up evil person with life and death stakes. Most of my favorite movies don't have life and death stakes. They have important life stakes, but it's not someone's gonna kill me kind of stakes. Right? So I'm probably not the best person to analyze the Joker or the Dark Knight too deeply. So I'm trying to say it

Alex Ferrari 33:35
Fair enough. Fair enough. So okay, so then that's, that's a good segue, though. So then, let's pick one of your favorite romantic comedies, and see what is the the conflict? And how do we get to those? Those Eric, can we break that down? A little bit? Sure.

Erik Bork 33:51
Well, 40 Year Old Virgin is a great one. Yeah, it is. That, you know, I think people think is great writing and was, you know, successful on every level. So we could talk about that if you wanted. Yeah, sure. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, so um, doesn't have a villain, you know, just has a guy who you fall in love with, because he's got this really big problem.

Alex Ferrari 34:13
He's a 40 year old virgin.

Erik Bork 34:15
Well, the problem and now everybody knows, right, like the catalyst of that movie is that they find out the poker game that he's a virgin. And now, he already had a problem. But now he has a pressing crisis problem, which I think all the great main characters have that, you know, in the beginning of that movie, he hasn't necessarily experienced life as problematic prior to that moment, right. He's just going along living his compromised life without necessarily seeing it as compromised. You know, save the cat talks about the main character should have six things that need fixing that we need that we learn about the setup or the first 10 pages. So he's got all these things like you're sort of like looking at his life. going, Wow, this is like, huh, but he doesn't know it, right? No, he's happy. He's happy. Dealing with crisis happens. And then the whole rest of the movie is going to push him and force him and pressure him in the most uncomfortable under siege kind of way to fix those things that needed fixing that he didn't acknowledge. Which means overcome your virginity and figure out love and relationships and and move forward as an adult man who doesn't have life size Yoda is sitting behind him. And that's

Alex Ferrari 35:27
for everyone listening. I do have a life sized Yoda have small Yodas

Erik Bork 35:31
other action figures, they

Alex Ferrari 35:32
seem to be a Wolverine and some hawks in the background. I'm fine. I'm very, I'm very comfortable in my adulthood. And in my own manhood, sir. Thank you. I appreciate that. You know what, 3040 years ago, this would have been an issue but now I'm just one of the guys.

Erik Bork 35:50
Well, you see a Bill Maher's new rule thing about Stanley No, as you know, he got his big trouble because recently Yeah, so he taught us so he talked about on his show last week in his like, new rule that he does at the end. And he really went after it about how people are, you know, people that are obsessed with like, you know, fanboy culture need to grow up and all that kind of stuff. In his view. He was like, he's like, he said, I'm not I'm not happy, Stanley's dead. I'm upset that you're alive. Everybody who reveres comic books as as like high art and culture, whatever. That's his point of view. I'm not saying I agree with it. It was funny. It's

Alex Ferrari 36:30
Yoda up, I'm gonna have to defend Yoda for a second. I bought Yoda in 1999. The conversation would not be as clean today with my wife. I said, Hey, babe, I need to buy a $500 life size Yoda. Oh, I know the girls. I know my kids need, you know, summer school, or you know, or summer camp or after schools. But conversations that have been had today. Same thing goes for all the statues? Or different times of their artifacts of my earlier life. I can't get rid of just yet.

Erik Bork 37:04
To do that while you could because never again.

Alex Ferrari 37:07
No, no. Just note for everyone listening. If you're going to buy a life size Yoda or a giant I have a giant alien egg to if you're going to do things like that. Do it when you're single. Or do it before the kids come? Yeah, that the conversation changes. Yeah. Anyway, back to what you were talking about as to Virgin, but he finally did finally leave he did become a man and had sex and, you know, had a relationship and sold his toys and built up a you know, he said he just changed his life. But that's very interesting that so many writers and understand that is the that the protagonist should not know that he or she needs to change. And they are there.

Erik Bork 37:50
Yeah. Yeah. Michael Haig is great on this too. I sound like I'm promoting Michael,

Alex Ferrari 37:53
who's my friend Michael. I'm great friends with Michael too. And he's Michael actually wrote

Erik Bork 37:57
a blurb on the back of my book that said something like don't read any other screenwriting book, including mine, until you've read Eric Bork the idea so this guy is a match,

Alex Ferrari 38:06
you need to you need you owe him at least a royalty or two.

Erik Bork 38:09
And We team teach a class once in a while for this screenwriting program in Sweden that we're both kind of adjunct professors where we do it all in line from here. But anyway, he talks about his one of his big specialties is the whole character arc stuff. And he talks about how the main character most of the time in most movies is living in what he calls their his identity instead of his essence. And his identity is this compromised version of himself that is the result of like childhood experiences, and pain and issues that that caused the character to become something that's a sort of limited, protected version of themselves that they project to the world, not their full, best self and they don't believe that full best self as possible. They don't even try to access it. They just are comfortable, somewhat in that identity. He uses like the example of LA Confidential, Russell Crowe's character who saw his like, Mother beaten to death by his father while I was tied to radiate or something like that. He says in this like bedroom scene with Kim Basinger. And, you know, he always thought of himself as dumb, and just as muscle and that's how he's been treated. He's just a muscle guy. But he wants to be something more than that. And in the movie, thanks to the relationship with her, he starts to see the possibility of that because she believes in the essence, which is what a great love interest should do. They should see the essence. This is like just quoting Michael Haig, right and you might want him sitting here.

Alex Ferrari 39:33
He's been on the show too many times. I can't keep bringing them back.

Erik Bork 39:36
So they see beyond the he's probably said this already then he they see beyond the identity and they see the essence and they help you become the person that you want to be or you know, the as Jerry Maguire that line I love the man he wants to be in the man he almost is

Alex Ferrari 39:51
Oh, great. Oh, yeah. No, that's an amazing romantic comedy, but it's not. It's kind of a romantic comedy, but it has its own

Erik Bork 40:00
Well, lever. It's got two stories and one and one is the story of Jerry and his sports agent in problem his career. And the second is the love story. Right? So, I mean, those are my favorite kind of movies usually aren't just about, well, these two people be together, but there's something else one or both of them is trying to do that isn't going to affect their future life. And that's really important and entertaining to watch as well. So yeah, that's a great example of that. And the love story is kind of told more from her point of view, which is interesting, usually the main character, you know that they have an a story problem, which is I lost my career and I'm trying to get it back, then they have a BS story. Often it's a relationship conflict or challenge, which is I've met this person, but there's a problem and is it going to work out or not. And while he has some scenes, about his point of view of the relationship, there's more scenes of her point of view on the relationship and you see that she has more to lose and more to gain. She's the one who we're seeing really is in love with him and wants him whereas he's more like on the fence can't really commit while his careers in upheaval, like men often are. And so I just think that's an interesting lesson when you start looking at a story and B story and point of view that it flips how it's usually done, where it gives the B story love interest, kind of like a story from their point of view. So we're really telling two stories in one which is often the case in romantic movies where you're kind of following both people in the couple and their life problems and point of view and what this relationship means to them as opposed to movies that aren't about a romantic relationship primarily are usually we fall in one person and they might have a love interest as the B story but we're always just with them. You know, Chris Pratt and Guardians of the Galaxy he has this like minor B story love interest with you know, Zoe cell, Donna. But it's all from his point of view. It's never from her point of view,

Alex Ferrari 41:52
right? You never hear her how she feels about any of that. And on a Jerry Maguire note, did you know about Jerry Maguire? Did you ever visit the Jerry Maguire video store?

Erik Bork 42:05
In LA? What is that? No,

Alex Ferrari 42:07
there was a there was an installation done. This is these guys are insane. They're VHS heads like they just all they do is collect old VHS. And they collected they have the world record for collecting every Jerry Maguire VHS they could get their hands on and they built a video store out of Jerry Maguire VHS is and the only thing you could rent or buy is Jerry Maguire VHS. And then after the installation, they're like, Well, what are we going to do with all these Jerry Maguire? VHS? They're building a pyramid in the desert somewhere out of I'm not joking. I've seen this if they're trying to get like, the right like it's all being crowdfunded. So they're like getting the money and they're like having an actual architect how they're going to do it, how they're going to seal it. And they're going to build like this pyramid where you could walk into the, to the temple require all made out of Jerry Maguire. VHS is it's

Erik Bork 43:05
baffling. Now is this an irony thing? Are they true fans?

Alex Ferrari 43:09
No. I think it's an I think it's I think it's a well they're obviously they're fans that movie. I mean, who isn't if if you don't like Jerry Maguire you're dead inside. But I mean seriously. I agree. There's like Shawshank Redemption, you know, like Shawshank Redemption, you're dead inside. I'm sorry. I can't talk to you. But do you electronic redemption? Yeah. Okay, good. We could continue this conversation. No, but I think it's a little bit of both to try to do like an artistic irony to like, a commit message or statement. But they are like they've said very much we love Jerry Maguire. Not it's not like we live Jerry Maguire but we just thought wouldn't it be amazing to have a video store that was just built out of Jerry Maguire? VHS is our

Erik Bork 43:51
I got to look that up. I think I have it Jerry Maguire VHS. I also have

Alex Ferrari 43:55
people who send them. People when they put the word out and people would send them from everywhere around the world, they would just send boxes of German because there's only so many thrift shops in LA that you can get them from so he got them they come from internationally. It's it's an insane process project. But anyway, I just thought that would be a nice antidote.

Erik Bork 44:16
Yeah, I'm gonna look that up when we're done here. You see you learn something pictures, you learn something

Alex Ferrari 44:21
new every day. Now, what is one thing? And I know you probably get this question a lot. And since you are a screenwriter in Hollywood and and have had, you know success as a screenwriter, what does screenwriters do to stand out of the crowd? Because there's so much more competition even when you were doing from Earth to the Moon. It's a massive different business than it was then.

Erik Bork 44:46
Well, I mean, I'll say something that buyers will often say like producers, when you're pitching something or like executives at Studio or network or whatever, which is that they love it when a writer comes in with something that only They could have written, right? That's really their voice their personal obsession in some way. Now, not every script can be 100%, your personal obsession, how many personal questions do we all have, but your particular point of view on the world and on the story, and the characters that is different from how anyone else would have done it? I mean, it takes time to cultivate a voice. And that's really like at a mastery level when you have that kind of voice that people go wow, that's, you know, that's, that's Joey Lachman. That's Charlie Kaufman or, you know, Tarantino, parents, you know, Woody Allen, you know, I mean, sort of, yeah. Sorkin for sure. Yeah. It's so it's like cultivating who you uniquely are. So that what you're doing isn't trying to stand out. It's just being organically you as a unique individual that's unlike anyone else than any other writer. And you're applying that to whatever you're writing

Alex Ferrari 45:55
there. And that is a that is a rarity. If you start thinking about how many writers can we name off the top of our head that their writing style is so distinctive, just by like, you read a few lines, you're like, Oh, that's a Toronto script. Or that's a Sorkin script, or that's Shane Black script, or that's a cop Kaufman script, or Woody Allen script. Like, they're just so specific.

Erik Bork 46:17
I don't know that it needs to be so distinctive that anyone could tell right away. But it's just like, I mean, Vince Gilligan same. Yeah, you got a very particular voice he had on The X Files he had, he had on Breaking Bad. And, and so it doesn't have to be so crazy specific that you're like no other writer on Earth, it just has to be you, fully you. And if you're fully you, you're going to be unique. And if you fully can somehow follow what interests you, and what you think is good. I believe that's the path just standing out. Rather than trying to sort of like game the system and make yourself standing. Certainly, there's marketing tricks and people like, you know, get scripts to people in weird ways or whatever. But in terms of the work actually holding up and staying on its own. That's what I would say,

Alex Ferrari 47:03
Yeah, I always tell people that if you if you are yourself, there is no competition. Yeah, because you can't compete against you just can't, it's just this. I'll never be Kaufmann. I'll never write like Sorkin that that's that. And as much as you try to be them, you're never going to outsource and spark never

Erik Bork 47:24
to have them anyway. Exactly. One view.

Alex Ferrari 47:27
Exactly. No, real quick, what any advice on pitching? Because you've been in a couple pitches, I'm assuming in life?

Erik Bork 47:34
Quite a few. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 47:36
Any advice?

Erik Bork 47:37
Um, well, one of the things that are that you're always told when you're pitching this similar, what I just said is that you want to start with why you why this? What is your personal experience, and the more you have an anecdote, that's its own story from your own life that is engaging to people and gets them starting to be on your side, almost like you want them on your main character side, as the writer who came to this and want to do this for certain reasons, that's a great way to begin. And that's part of how you establish that only you could have written this the the way you're writing this and you have reasons for doing so that come from somewhere really genuine within you. So that's one thing. That's certainly one thing. But another thing I would say is like, what's really hard for writers often is to learn to look at their story and their basic idea for their story from kind of 30,000 feet zoomed way out just the concept level or like the logline level when you're pitching, unless you're really in a formal pitch setting where someone's going to sit there in an office and let you have 15 minutes. Any other situation, you're going to bore people to death and irritate them. If you try to explain your whole movie and go into great detail about everything that happens. And writers often make that mistake. Nobody wants to hear that. At most. They might want just the basic concept like a logline. And then if from the logline, they go, Oh, well, that's interesting, tell me more about whatever, then you're free to go further. But writers tend to bore and alienate people a lot. On the business side, it's like you're at a panel and you're talking to some producer manager. If you go up and say, Hi, I have this script, and it's about this and this happens. And this happens. There's evidence of that. And then this happened. And the reason they do this is because the person is just like someone shoot me in the head while they're listening to that they you know, it's uninvited sort of like pitch rape, you know, like

Alex Ferrari 49:26
I'm so gonna steal that my friend. I apologize. I'm telling you right now. Ah,

Erik Bork 49:31
I don't think it's very appropriate thing to say, but it is sort of like that. You're just Why are you hitting pitch violation, pitch violation and act interested in this thing that I have you you know, but I understand because writers are desperate and they want to like they just think if they talk about their story to the right person, they hear all the cool details, that person's gonna love it, but it doesn't really tend to work that way.

Alex Ferrari 49:53
Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Erik Bork 50:03
Good things that I haven't said already. You can review. We talked about TV a little bit, we talked about film I guess you know, don't expect a white knight who's going to make it all happen for you. And this probably fits your ethos,

Alex Ferrari 50:26
Calvary, the Calvary is not coming.

Erik Bork 50:30
Yeah. And just be be about, you know, be about. It's kind of counterintuitive in a way. But it's like writers who focus all on the marketing and the trying to get their stuff to the right people. It's, it's a frustrating truth that you're probably not going to ever find them, but they will find you when the work is ready. But when the work is ready, you're not desperate for them anymore. Because somehow, you've just gotten to a place where the whole gestalt of you and your writing has elevated to a level that it's the next logical step. Like everything that happened in my career was the next logical step from where I was just prior to that it wasn't like some, even though like Tom Hanks gave me that big promotion, which was a huge thing. But a lot of things happen on the way to that. And a lot of that was in my own kind of consciousness and my own building up of self belief, which came from doing a lot of work, getting a lot of feedback, doing all the things that you do as a writer, to you know, learn and grow and get your stuff out there. But mostly failing, you know, so understand that it's a failure process. Like you're mostly going to have rejection and failure and people that have no interest in you. And try not to get bitter, and blame those people, and have more of an attitude of I'm just going to be always learning and growing. And it's about the work. And what it's really about is the audience. The work I'm doing is supposed to delight an audience. So how do I serve them? As opposed to how do I get served by an industry that seems to not care about me? The more you focus on what you're giving, the more you're going to create stuff that actually people will then want like any business

Alex Ferrari 52:08
That's amazing and also in life the more you give the more you receive. Yeah, very very cool. Can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career

Erik Bork 52:22
probably The Catcher in the Rye

Alex Ferrari 52:23
it's been on the show many times what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life? Oh,

Erik Bork 52:33
good one well, probably the one that I just said because I feel like I'm still having tried to learn every day the whole idea of Don't Be about what you can get be about what you can give and be kind of sort of selfless in that way. It's like a daily challenge

Alex Ferrari 52:47
fair and especially in this business.

Erik Bork 52:51
And the War of Art is a great book all the way up before to hear about you know how to get the right mindset about you know, what you're doing and how to fight through resistance then the part of you that doesn't want to do the work and doesn't believe in it. I did

Alex Ferrari 53:05
an entire episode on The War of Art because it was such an amazing it's really an amazing book and Steven I couldn't get Stephen on the show but he sent me I think boxes of books to give away to my audience like insane amounts of books that he gave all of his books all of his books and he's that that one and then do the work which is another great one the sequel I think to war of art

Erik Bork 53:27
which was a turning pro turning pro and then do the work and then do the work okay, I haven't read do the work but I read turning

Alex Ferrari 53:33
pro Yeah, turning pro isn't a great one. And then the toughest question of all three of your favorite films of all

Erik Bork 53:38
time. The World According to Garp great movie um I think the one that I haven't said already well, the godfather and Austin Powers International Man of Mystery. It's great movie the top 20 For sure.

Alex Ferrari 54:00
It's awesome and and to go back to finish it off the book and the interview with with Tom again. I remember watching Tom Tom Hanks, talk about godfather and how all problems in life can be solved by watching the Godfather all the answers to life are in The Godfather. If you have a deep problem watch The Godfather The answer will appear.

Erik Bork 54:27
I don't know if I ever heard him say that. That's funny though. I thought he would say

Alex Ferrari 54:31
I saw it in the like one of the behind the scenes documentaries on the Godfather like the 13th and 14th anniversary, whatever it was. And then where can people find you and your book? The idea?

Erik Bork 54:41
Yeah, so the book is on Amazon. I have a website that has info about the book and all my coaching and consulting and a million blog posts that are that are helpful for writers. It's called Flying wrestler and why. So flying rescue dragon ball back to World According to Garp when I was looking for sort of like I don't know why I just wanted like so a catchy name for my blog that rather than just Eric Bork blog, or some kind of like screenwriting advice.com, or whatever. And that movie was a real inspiration to me as a teenager I saw in the theater and it kind of changed my trajectory in life in a way as far as wanting to be a writer and even a screenwriter. And it's about a wrestler who's, who's obsessed with flying. But I also thought that that was a kind of metaphor for writing, that you're, there's a transcendent quality that there can be where you're like flying, but there's also a wrestling with the material like a day to day sort of struggle and wrestle. So I like this sort of opposite peneus of that, and how they're both contained in one thing.

Alex Ferrari 55:44
It's a very, it's very deep, sir. It's very deep. Thank you. Eric, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to the tribe today. I truly appreciate it, man. Thanks again.

Erik Bork 55:54
Thank you for having me. Totally. My pleasure.



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IFH 663: No Bullscript – Screenwriting Advice from the Executive’s Perspective with Danny Manus

Today on the show we have an author, writer, and former studio development, Danny Manus. Danny parlayed his career as a development executive in Hollywood to becoming an in-demand script consultant and founder of No BullScript Consulting.

The author of No BS for Screenwriters: Advice from the Executive Perspective, which is now in its 2nd Edition, Danny was ranked in the Top 15 “Cream of the Crop” Script Consultants by Creative Screenwriting Magazine and was named one of Screencraft’s “25 People Screenwriters Should Follow on Twitter.”

Danny has taken over 3000 pitches, written almost 250 articles on screenwriting for numerous websites and publications including ScriptMag, for which he is a columnist, and has been a judge for the PAGE Awards four years running. In this episode, I wanted to see what the perspective is from the other side of the desk.

Enjoy my conversation with Danny Manus.

Alex Ferrari 1:43
I'd like to welcome the show. Danny Manus. Thank you so much for being on the show, brother.

Danny Manus 3:10
Thank you so much for having me. I'm really looking forward to this

Alex Ferrari 3:13
Awesome, man. Awesome. So before we get into it, I want to know how you got into the business?

Danny Manus 3:19
You know, it was kind of a boring story, but I'll make it fun. I I interned for a semester I went to Ithaca College in New York. They had a semester in LA program, which is half of the reason I went there. And so I interned at Columbia Tristar in TV development, and at Fox in feature casting. And I just, I loved it. I loved everything about LA I loved everything about the business. I was studying screenwriting, I came out here to write just after graduation. I you know, I had two big studio internships under my belt, I thought oh, I'll get a job no problem. And I stupidly which I kicked myself for one of the mistakes one of the many mistakes I've made you know, I didn't go into like the agency Trainee program or something like that, which I feel like I probably should have and I I tell people to do if they're moving out here young and hungry. But um you know, I looked for a assistant job and I you know, have the UTA job list when that used to be a thing you know, that you could really use and I got a job as the assistant at Sandstorm films, they had a first look deal with Sony Screen Gems. They had just had number one movie with them with the Forsaken, which was both there and Screen Gems first number one movie so they were very happy with them. And I was their assistant for about a year and I was awful. But you know, it was just like everybody else at that time in In the early 2000s, you interned, you're an assistant, you did your job. And if you were good at your job, you got promoted. And if you weren't good at your job, you floated around as an assistant for a little longer. Thankfully, I was useless as an assistant, but I gave great notes. And so they kept me. I had good ideas, and I gave great notes. And so they promoted me and we found a new assistant to help but it was, you know, as a small production company I had, it was for three heads. One person who was above me and me. And, and then when we brought in the assistant was one more, but we did a lot of movies. We did I think, in the three years I was there, we did seven films for watch, which is a lot. And most of them for Screen Gems. We did the covenant, which was a number one movie did the remake of prom night, which was a number one movie. And when we did a lot of movies that were not number one movies, back then you could make like straight to DVD movies and still make a lot of money. Right. So we did a lot of those too. And yeah, and I just kind of I love development. I really liked that world. I came out to write, like most development executives, and Joe Cardona, J. S. Cardona who was our principal, who's a writer, director. He's done 3040 films took me under his wing along with a couple of other writers that we were managing. That we worked with a lot. And so we kind of called ourselves their managers, we put them on projects, and they got paid. I mean, they were working writers getting paid and getting movies made. So you know, when he kind of took us all under his wing for a while, and it was really nice to have that person, you know, shepherding your, your career and then Sam storm ended. And I went over to Clifford rubber productions, to help had just done Cinderella story, which was a you know, $20 million grossing teen movie. And I love teen movies. And so I started there and was there for another few years. And I still work with Clifford, he's a great guy. And then during the writers strike, that ended we had things in, you know, that I had sold during the writer strike and, and it was still going and still going and still going, it was going at United Artists, which was at the time not to get too far into it. At the time, it was like, right after Tom Cruise did the jumping on the couch thing. Everyone was like, he's never gonna work again. And so he's like, I'm going to get into producing and really give my all into producing and so he loved the project that I had sold to UAE and things were go in and we were meeting with directors and we had a rewriter on and all this great stuff. And then all of a sudden Tropic Thunder came out. And everybody was like, Oh, wait, we still have Tom Cruise. Let's find another project for him. And then like everything got put on the backburner that was not Mission Impossible to turn around and blah, blah, blah. That's and that's Hollywood folk. But the breaking story was honestly just like everyone else's interned was an assistant, worked my way up to their director of development at Sam storm. And then went over to Clifford's as their director of development you know, got some things going and then decided half decided half writer strike, because there was kind of a hiring freeze, kind of, for like a year. I went on a lot of interviews, I did a short stint at eclectic pictures for lovely summer, for long for long summer. And, and while I was doing that, and working, you know, to other jobs, and trying to get my own stuff, you know, Project side already been attached to or that I was finding as a producer, as I was getting that going. I started an apple script and started consulting and, and it took off and so instead of looking for more exec jobs, I was like, You know what, I'm going to be my own boss for a little while, um, see what I can do and see what I can make of it.

Alex Ferrari 9:33
Good for you. So So you basically your your, you made your bones as a development executive, basically. Yeah. So, which is one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the show because I love to hear perspectives of development executive, someone who's been in the trenches, seeing these scripts come in, I'm sure you've heard a couple scripts in your day. And you've heard a couple pitches in your day. So

Danny Manus 9:55
Yes, so the about 360 current count 360 or so?

Alex Ferrari 10:01
So is that a dog ears are just normal counting

Danny Manus 10:04
That is it makes me feel like I'm living in dog ears. But yes, those are actual.

Alex Ferrari 10:10
Alright. So let me ask you, what is the worst pitch you ever took development executive because there has to be one that stands out.

Danny Manus 10:21
There is I mean, the worst worst pitchers are not the ones given by the professional writers who come in for regular pitch meetings. I've had pitches that aren't so great. But the ones that you talk about

Alex Ferrari 10:33
the ones that you would be on a podcast and someone would ask you, what's the worst and the one that you would say? That's the one we're talking about

Danny Manus 10:38
When you might put in your book, and

Alex Ferrari 10:42
what not to do of what not to do? Yes.

Danny Manus 10:47
They come from the pitch fests and the, you know, the out of the box, kind of pitching things and, and events like that. The best one, the best. The best one I used to tell. I was still a Clifford's. I don't remember what event it was, but it was here in Los Angeles. And, and it was about a year or two after Garden State had come out. And, and so I had this guy and he, he sat down, it's like, you know, I have kind of an indie dramedy, kind of like Garden State about this guy who, you know, is high and mighty high and powerful. But he goes back to his hometown, which is being like his beachfront property, which is being taken over by evil developers or something. And you know, he really hasn't connected with his home in a decade, or with his family, and he's taking a stroll down the beach to just kind of, you know, get back into the field of his hometown and a huge wave comes up and washes ashore, and it washes this great big seal up onto the shore that knocks him over and the seal rapes him

Alex Ferrari 12:07
so for everyone, for everyone not seeing this on the video podcast version of this Danny's face is dead straight. It's a complete that can delivery was was brilliant. It's just brilliant delivery. Oh, how he did it. And the re the seal rapes him. It just stood there stone faced it was. Wow,

Danny Manus 12:29
I practice that one. My former life I was Jonah Hill.

Alex Ferrari 12:33
I got it. I can't believe that's a real thing. Seriously.

Danny Manus 12:37
Yeah, that was a good one. I mean, I've had a couple of incest ones, which was

Alex Ferrari 12:43
and these people aren't completely the screenwriters are completely straight.

Danny Manus 12:49
totally serious. It was in Portland at an event I go to every year it's a wonderful event. So nothing you can see event this was just this guy. Now keep in mind my company at the time it Clifford's. We did Cinderella story we did Sydney while we were doing teen coming of age shows, sweet comedies. And this was right after Brokeback Mountain came out the year after. And the guy you know, even he went he wasn't even sitting pitching to me. He stopped me in the hallway because he couldn't get a session. And he was like, I think this is really for you. I couldn't get a session. I couldn't sign up. But I really want to tell you about as I'm sure tell me about it. Because like it's a coming of age love story between a dad and a daughter. And I gave him three outs. I went like a stepfather and a stepdaughter. And he was like, no, no. I was like, like two older people who didn't know until they were in their late 40s and 60s that they were related. They didn't No, no, no. It was like, like, like two people who didn't know that they were related in the team together. It's like no, no, like a father and his 16 year old daughter. Oh, my when you're just straight pitching me an instance. Cinderella story. He was like, I really think the best part was like, I've posted parts of it online. And it's gotten a great reaction

Alex Ferrari 14:16
from we're incest our os.org

Danny Manus 14:19
Yeah. And I was like, you know, I think that might be a Pass.

Alex Ferrari 14:25
Pass. It's a hard pass

Danny Manus 14:27
about it. But for now I'm gonna pass. Thank you, though. No, I'm good without the handshake.

Alex Ferrari 14:36
I love but I love that you gave them outs. And you were like, and actually your stories were more interesting. I'll be like, Okay, those are like more interesting concepts than just straight up incest.

Danny Manus 14:48
Yeah, I've had a few of those. I mean, I've had butthead police, you know, where people come in with gimmicks. I used to talk about you know, don't bring any gimmicks here.

Alex Ferrari 14:59
Oh, like Yeah, like like A stripper will show up or they'll bring drop

Danny Manus 15:02
costumes and props. And I had a guy with literally a foam, but on his head, you know, and and to be fair, at least it tied into the concept. I mean, it wasn't like a random prop for Batman or something was it? It was, it was but it was butthead police. It was it was an animated show. So you give it a little bit of leeway. You know, but you realize, you realize that for five minutes, you're literally pitching to an asshole. I mean, like there's there's one staring at you on his head, as he's pitching and all you can do is

Alex Ferrari 15:46
Oh, my God. Wow. Why haven't

Danny Manus 15:52
I fall asleep in a pitch? Which was amazing. No. Yeah, that that was a really good one that in his defense, it was the condition or is it? No, the condition was it was like 430 It was one of the last sessions it was eight hours of pitching. Everybody was exhausted. And but if if your own pitch puts you to sleep, just think about what it's doing to us. And if I didn't have my friend that day and sitting next to me, I mean, he nodded off for like, four seconds. You know? Like you could tell he was like telling the stories like it's a road trip about you know, two girls and they you know, they got to go save their um in those four seconds, I look over to my friend like,

Alex Ferrari 16:46
Is he is he sleeping? Sleeping? I was never mind. I was actually doing a consult once and I was at at a Starbucks and I had this moment screenwriter in front of me, we were talking. And he literally God bless him. He just had a rough night, because he had kids and everything. And while we were talking, he was just like, just yeah, just like, like completely go out while I'm talking. And, and you're not feeling when you're so exhausted. That you're trying to keep your eyes open. Yeah, but you can't. That's what I was for 30 minutes. I felt so I'm like, Dude, do you? Do you just want to go home? Yeah, if I could, man, I can't sleep I haven't slept on I

Danny Manus 17:28
Don't have kids writers don't have.

Alex Ferrari 17:31
So okay, so that's the worst of the bunch, which are amazing. By the way, some I have not laughed so hard in this in this show ever. So I appreciate that. For people watching the video version of this, you will see me lose my crap. It is hilarious. I can't I can't believe some of the stories. Now what is the best pitch you ever heard? One that you said, wow, this guy just not this girl just knocked it out of the park.

Danny Manus 17:57
You know, I had a couple of them. I had a pitching team that really had their stuff down. I will be honest, I don't remember the story. But I remembered them. And I didn't really like the story. I just liked how they pitch. They felt very sort of themselves. They had it down so they weren't talking over each other. They knew what you know, what beats to press and who was going to say them and in what order. So you know, they felt rehearse. They didn't feel amateurish. They were tight. They were tight. Yeah, it was a tight pitch. It was in five minutes of rambling. Because you don't need five minutes to pitch your story. You need three tops. And so yeah, they just had it down. And I mean, unfortunately, you don't remember the great ones. You really don't. I mean, you remember great pitch meetings and great people that you meet in pitch meetings. But you don't remember every story. That's good. You know, or that's great. You just remember the really

Alex Ferrari 19:06
bad one remember the incest Do you remember the but remember the ones

Danny Manus 19:09
that leave an impression? Yeah. Remember the ones that you call your mom about and be like, guess what happened today?

Alex Ferrari 19:15
Or you call your mom and go I don't know why I'm doing this and why am I in this business? What's going on? I need to reevaluate I'm making poor life choices.

Danny Manus 19:23
Look like last week was was uh, two weeks ago was my 16 year anniversary in this in this town and in this business, and I still call her every other day and say the same God.

Alex Ferrari 19:34
Just like I don't know why I'm here. I don't understand it.

Danny Manus 19:37
You should have made me go to business school. Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 19:41
Why did you support my dreams? How good you know what?

Danny Manus 19:49
A lawyer like all our other Jewish friends doing

Alex Ferrari 19:53
now Can you can you give some tips on how to do a good pitch like what are some of the keys that you need to have to have a pitch?

Danny Manus 20:01
Yeah, absolutely. You know, I've been teaching pitching is how I got into how I made the jump from executive to consultant, really, as I was speaking at a lot of these conferences across the country as a, as an executive, still taking all the pitches at the pitch fest, and I just keep seeing those same mistakes made time after time after time. And so I wanted to teach that class, which was called the no BS guide to pitching, which eventually kind of led to no postscript great and some great. I can't take full credit for it, I can only take half credit for it. My my first web developer, actually came up with it when she asked what do you you know, what do you want it to be a balance, like I wanted to really be my personality. And I teach a class called the no BS guide to pitching and the no BS Guide to Characters. And she was like, How about no bull script. And I went, Oh, trademark trademark trademark. So, but I started teaching that pitch in class, and over time, it has changed 100%. But for me, what I teach in pitching is the five C's and an H, especially when you have your short pitch, and you only have 235 10 minutes to do your pitch. It's all about concentrating on the five C's. The first one being context. where actually the first one is concept, you know, what is your idea? The second one is context, which is to me, you it's the template movies, you know, it's in the vein of this and that it's setting up the tone and the genre. It's setting up the context of why you're the person to write it, you know, what is your connection to the story or character? What is your connection or inspiration? You know, that's going to be somewhat anecdotal, maybe, but something personal, that's going to connect us to you, so that we know why you're the writer that was supposed to write this story. And, you know, and as well as anything about you that we need to know, you know, that's going to make you stand out if you've won prestigious contests, if you've been published or produced before, if you've been optioned before things that are gonna make you stand out against the pack. So the context to your project and the context to you. Next is character who we are going to follow. Why. And I always have my clients and writers say this is why this character why now, if you can't answer those two questions, you probably haven't figured out a strong enough character base to get your plot in moving or to make us invest in that character story. You know, what do they have to achieve? What do they have to overcome? Who's against them? You know, what is their goal, but also what is their deeper, you know, like emotional need and want. And just, and maybe a line of backstory, so we have some context to them, you know, what their baseline is. So we know once that inciting incident happens, like where their arc is going to take them. So the basics, you know, half a dozen basics about your main character. And, you know, I was a judge at Austin Film Festival, I taught their pitch prep class for their competition for a few years, and was judged for their pitch and calm for a few years. And you only get 90 seconds, and it's a tight 90 seconds. But every single pitch, if if writers spend 20 More seconds on character, their pitch would be 50% better. Because that is what's going to hook somebody. So that's character, concept, context, character conflict, what is the external conflict that's going to drive the story, we probably got a little bit of the internal conflicts in the character section. And then the fifth, C is confidence and just going in there, knowing that they want to hear from you, you have something to say, you know, and you are confident you know, your story backwards and forwards. You don't have to read off cue cards for three minutes. You know, like this is not your first time and if it is your first time you are faking it till you make it so we don't know it's your first time.

Just just go in there and own the table own the room so that you know, you're you're not cocky because we don't like cocky, but we do like confident in your story. You know, be collaborative. You know, if someone has a note, or someone makes a suggestion, don't be like No, that's an how it goes, I wrote this, you know, II open, but be confident in yourself and your ability. And the H which I tack on there is hook. Because we really have to know, once we know your concept, what is the hook that's making your concept different and taking it you know from a new angle, new, you know, direction, new thing that we haven't heard before. And if you can nail the five C's and the H in a 235 10 minute pitch, you will at least have the basis to bring somebody into that world and let them know you know what your story is about neither it's going to interest them or it's not.

Alex Ferrari 25:43
Excellent advice, sir. Excellent advice. And I'm assuming you go in much deeper detail on all of those in your lectures and courses and stuff.

Danny Manus 25:50
Yes, I do. Yeah, there's a there's tons of hours on it is one of my site it does go much more in depth as well as logline and forgotten context is where your logline would go as well. Okay, I mentioned that.

Alex Ferrari 26:07
Now, what is the biggest mistake you see first time screenwriters make?

Danny Manus 26:12
Um, you know, get this question a lot. And honestly, the biggest mistake is rushing it rushing the process, submitting before they're ready submitting before their scripts are ready. Not doing their research. And just the deadly combination of impatience, desperation, and ego.

Alex Ferrari 26:39
Horrible mix.

Danny Manus 26:41
If you get those trifecta, you are ft before you ever start, it's it's never going to happen. Because this this business takes four things. It takes luck. It takes timing, it takes

Alex Ferrari 27:05
your soul. It takes your soul. No,

Danny Manus 27:09
it does take your soul. It takes talent. It takes timing, it takes luck. And and it takes there was one other I always say talent, timing, luck. And persistence. Well, that too, and the right idea. And the right idea. And if you know, if the right writer doesn't have the right idea at the right time and have the right luck. It doesn't happen. Even if you have two or three out of those four. It's usually the force that becomes the X Factor. You know, there's so many projects I've worked on, or developed over the years that were just like, two years before it's time, you know, and if we hadn't, if we had just waited another year, everybody wanted that thing, you know, or there were writers who had the greatest idea I've ever heard. And it was the right time, but they weren't the right writer for that project. You know, and it's just when those four thing is, you know, the right idea, the right writer, the right time, and the right luck, all come together. That's when success happens. But too many writers are trying to force it. And their impatience and desperation will not only cost them sometimes 10s of 1000s of dollars, which, you know, as a consultant, I'm super wary of, because, you know, let's face it, it's not a secret. Some people don't like consultants, and there's some really shitty consultants out there who should not be charging for, for working with people. And, and they ruin it for everybody else. And the writers who are so desperate to get their first script out and made are the ones that are going to fall victim to that, and we hate seeing that happen. And so, you know, and executives, they can smell desperation, a mile? Bacon, you know, like, you it's the one thing you know, I know, a writer who's a good writer, prolific writer, hasn't quite broken through yet. But um, you know, he got a reputation as being a little too desperate. And people don't want to work with desperate writers. They want to work with people that that feel like they're already professional writers. They just, you know, don't have the, you know, the job's yet to prove it, but they feel like they are professional writers.

Alex Ferrari 29:54

Danny Manus 29:55
I mean, that really is.

Alex Ferrari 29:56
Yeah, nobody wants to you know, it's like a girl doesn't want to date a guy Like so desperate or vice versa. It's the same in this business. And I remember being on both sides of that equation, me being the desperate one. And then me being the one that seeing that smells the desperation on people, and it's such a turn off, you can have the best idea ever and it's such a turn off.

Danny Manus 30:18
To be fair, to be fair, I think I'm more desperate now.

Alex Ferrari 30:24
I smelled, I smelled it on you, sir.

Danny Manus 30:27
You're just you're just desperate for different things, you know, 15 years in, then then you were when you you know when you're in your 20s. But you just you learn how to keep it under, you know, you don't let the desperation bubble up in a conversation. You just you learn to stamp it down.

Alex Ferrari 30:48
You hide it? Well, sir, you hide it well. Now, another big thing that screenwriters have to deal with, and we kind of touched on this earlier, but notes and how to deal with notes. Because that's such an issue, especially for, you know, amateur writers or new writers. I've seen it I've seen it I've been there I've been I've done it myself early on in my career, where you get a note from a producer or director or an actor, and and you just get completely defensive over your baby is like, No, I am the one you are not How dare you. professionals don't do that. professionals understand that there is much bigger, it's show business.

Danny Manus 31:30
Yes, it I always say, you know, this is not they don't call it an art colony. They call it show business. However, I will say that I think professional writers get even more angry about notes

Alex Ferrari 31:45
depends on how, depending on how big they are, and how much experience you have.

Danny Manus 31:49
Yeah. But the thing is that a professional writer notes, it's not about the note, it's about the note behind the note. And they know how to they know, they know the code, you know, they figured out the code that backs us, to give you the note they're trying to give you without saying you wrote a bad character. You know, there, there's something else they're actually saying. And professional writers have figured out how to decode that, and how to address their note, while still getting across what they want to get across. Or, you know, new writers are so scared of losing that deal that they're scared of asking the question like, What exactly do you mean by that? Or, you know, would you, you know, do you think this might be a good solve? They're just, you know, they just solve everything, you know, they just try to, you know, if it's exes, you know, the character is not that likable. You know, a new writer, will go back to page two, when they're introduced, and say, you know, Bill 35. likable. You address that.

Alex Ferrari 33:03
That's great. That's great.

Danny Manus 33:05
But but, you know, a writer, you know, that's been doing this a while, is going to go back and look at okay, well, why is that character coming off as likable is, you know, is the goal that they have, you know, not relatable? Is the, you know, are the stakes not high enough for us to be engaged? You know, is the dialogue not quippy enough to show off their personality and make us care? Like, what is the reason for that disconnect? You know, there's a, there's a note behind that note that you have to find. You know, and, and that's the real difference. And that just comes with experience and, and time and the notes process. It's part of why I think new writers should get professional notes before they start submitting to producers, because it lets you in on that process, and gives you someone to discuss those notes with so that you understand the note and can address the note and get the options for the note before you're thrown into the lion's den. And you're like, he doesn't like my characters. What what do I do? Do I make a new character? You know, and you freak out over a note that is probably easy to address, if you know how to address it. So but you have to be collaborative, you have to be open to notes, even if it's the dumbest effing note you've ever heard in your life, and you will get that note? Your response in the room is yeah, you know what? That's interesting. Let me think about that. And then you immediately do not think about it because it is the dumbest note you've ever gotten. But you don't say that you play the game a little bit and stay vague. And you know, and that's how you win. But

Alex Ferrari 34:56
it's but it's politics. It's a game and that's what that's what screenwriters Even filmmakers, they don't understand when you're working in the Hollywood system, there is so much subtext in meetings, there's so much subtext and conversations, there's so many politics going on behind the scenes, and the higher you get up on that ladder. The harder is like I can't even imagine what was like for someone like Zack Schneider, dealing with a franchise like Justice League and Superman, and Batman how what you had to deal with. At that level? Well, you've got a bunch of scared executives, who all think they're gonna lose their jobs, because this whole thing is coming crashing down. And they got to bring in Joss Wheaton to do something for it.

Danny Manus 35:38
And by the way, every executive thinks they're about to lose their job at all times. At all times, and half of them will, you know, but on the flip side of that, I will say, and I always stand up for execs, because whenever I'm on a panel with writers or you know, they're always hating on executives, you know, who are these people who just want to slap their names on my creation and feel like they're part of the writing process? You know, I call I call bullshit on that. And I do, because the executive who's working with you, on your rewrites, who you've pitched this to who is pitching your idea to their boss, they're your biggest cheerleader in that room, they are putting their name and reputation on the line for you and your idea. So if they're making a suggestion, it's not 95% of the time. Yeah, there's 5% of douchebags who just want to take credit for stuff, but 95% of the time, it's because they know what their company or their boss is going to respond to, or not respond to in a pitch or in a script. And they want to help you make that good impression. Because your good impression is their good impression. And your success is their success. And so they have no reason to give you crappy notes on purpose. Unless you're a horrible person, and they're trying to get rid of you.

Alex Ferrari 37:06
Which there is that there is that there is that there's a tiny

Danny Manus 37:09
bit of that, but But you know, they are your cheerleader in the room, they are not there to destroy you or your project or turn it into something else they are by and large, very creative people. And I will point out a sad but not sad but interesting fact that there are more executives or former executives that have sold their scripts in the last five years than contest winners. Interest so more execs, like me, we came out to write we have a background in screenwriting we do, right? You know, and, and we're not there to screw people over, we're there to get stuff done and be part of the creative process and kind of guide you through that company's creative processor or development process. But you know, a lot of writers and the higher up they are, the more they feel this way. They feel that the you know, the too many executor their enemy and they're they're really truly not almost all of the time.

Alex Ferrari 38:17
That's, that's very true. Do you also find it and I think it's something extremely important for screenwriters, especially young screenwriters coming into the business to understand that, in Hollywood, Hollywood is run by fear and avoidance. I mean, it's simply, you and I both know that from being here, but the whole the whole

Danny Manus 38:37
Im scared shitless right now.

Alex Ferrari 38:40
I live in constant state of fear all of my life. No, but But seriously, though, like this, there, that's why there's so many noes, because there's so much fear of like, I'm going to lose my job, I can't put my you know, balls out there. I can't kind of take the risk. And that's why there's that's why the films that come out of the Hollywood system are what they are. And occasionally you'll get some really interesting stuff. But that's not their business, their business is to put out product that sells to the masses. And that's the way the game is played the days of the days of the experimental studio movie. They're there, but they're rare. They're rare. It's a few and far between. Would you agree?

Danny Manus 39:19
Yes. Yeah, absolutely. It's, it's a different business than it was even five years ago, you know, 10 years ago, 15 years ago. It's a completely different business. The stakes are higher, the budgets are higher. The audiences are pickier you know, they have to make such different decisions than they used to. You know, when there was a DVD market. You didn't have to get it completely right. Because you were still gonna make another 60 million, you know, on DVDs. And you know, we made a lot of programmers at my first job at Sandstorm and they made a lot of money. You know, we did the sniper Movies.

Alex Ferrari 40:00
There are those that that franchises made so much money.

Danny Manus 40:06
So much money we did, we did sniper two, three and four, you know, and we just kept going, it's kept going, they kept going, we did, we did not there, they kept going. But, you know, we did two, three and for we did them for about five, five and a half million dollars. Plus with the rebate that we got for shooting and you know, Thailand or Budapest, you know, it's like four and a half million dollars. And they it's gross, like $50 million, you know, on DVD and, you know, package sets and stuff like that. And so those days are gone. And the days of of developing, you know, it used to be when I started in development, it was like the 50% rule, if you could get a good idea 50% There, we'll take it the other 50% narrow, it's like you needed to be 90% done with a package before we're even going to read it. And think about making it, you know, and you know, somebody at Netflix already has to want it. You know, it's with it with LOI. It is a completely different business now than it was 10 years ago. The upside is there's more ways to break it in more places to in more platforms to get your stuff made and a wider array of stuff being made. Outside of the studio system, the downside is that the studio system all want exactly the same movie by exactly the same person for exactly the same budget. And, and it is hard to crack into that system much more so than it even was. And I think because of Hollywood's attempted rebranding itself and and diversifying itself and finding new voices and new talent and new things. execs are even more careful 100 times more careful than they were three years ago, you know, they are looking for very specific things now. Whereas before, it was like look, just have a great idea and have a great script. And now it's it's not just that, you know, and so writers have to do their due diligence, and not follow the trends because it never pays to follow the trends. But you have to know what the trends are so that you can try to get ahead of them. You know, I said years ago, that very soon there's going to be a major rom com a major LGBT rom com that, you know, that hits, and that's going to be a new big thing. You know, and then love Simon came out and that I mean, there's a bunch of things, you know, in development right now that that fits that bill, especially for Netflix. So it's trying to find that next thing while knowing what, what people want to read.

Alex Ferrari 43:07
I actually you know, I know a lot of screenwriters, professional screenwriters, and I've read some of their scripts, some of their specs, and I and I sometimes I'll get done reading it, I'm like, why is it dismayed? Yeah, like, this is amazing. Like, what, like, I see Meryl Streep in this. I see. You know, I like I mean, it's just so good. Because I've read bad scripts, I write bad. I've written bad scripts. So I've read but I've also read bad scripts as well. And when you read something of quality is just obviously, they know the craft, they know the thing. They're, you know, they have credits of movies that you and I would if I said out loud, you would go Oh, that guy. And they even have a star attached. And it's still no,

Danny Manus 43:52
You know, I read just as much great stuff from writers who aren't getting produced as I read crappy stuff from writers who are getting produced. And you know, that just happens it just happens it's a numbers game. It's a referrals game. It's a budget game. There's a million reasons why good scripts don't get made and some bad projects you know, get sold or or get made. It's almost it's not usually the writers fault every once in a while but that's that's just how it is. I've had plenty of projects over the years that I was like, This is my no brainer. If this doesn't get made, I will eat my shoe. And you know, and you know, shoo,

Alex Ferrari 44:38
Shoo, a one steak sauce on it, you know, little SriRacha

Danny Manus 44:44
Yeah, it goes down easy. And then there's other stuff is like this is the worst piece of crap I've ever read. How is this getting? You know, how is this going in to every major studio with major producers attached? It's not good. That's just something you have to accept. And you can only do so much and write the best script for you for your voice that's going to help you get ahead and stop worrying about, you know, can this sell? And just, you know, worry about can this get me to that next place in my career that I'm looking to go to? You know, can this Phil you know, can this achieve for me my next goal instead of like, Can this win me the Oscar? Know what your first script it's not winning you the Oscar, you know just like trying to get read by you know, anyone three will first Yeah. And then worry about your Oscar like 10 years from now.

Alex Ferrari 45:43
Ridiculous. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Me mean people's egos people's egos gets I mean, this, this town is so full of ego is dive and funny. And we've, I mean, I've dealt with it I've had, I still have one, but I try to keep it in check. And I keep it relative. But there's some people who just I've literally had filmmakers in my post sweet. Tell me straight faced. I'll see you at the Oscars next year. Like straight faced, like not the sun at Sundance. Nothing I back up, not ask her. Like, that's where this is going. And I'm like, Wow.

Danny Manus 46:29
You know, I will say the tagline for my company is hate me today. Love me. In your acceptance speech? I saw that. That's correct. So you know, it could happen. I'm waiting. I'm gonna wait.

Alex Ferrari 46:39
Could we also win the lottery? Sure. Sure, it can happen. It can rob them. Now I want to talk about something that writers filmmakers as well. They all think that this is the magic thing that you need an agent. The agent is your face. Just kind of your eyes rolled back for people not seeing this. His eyes rolled back. I think he lost consciousness for a second as I said that. But the you already had a little mini stroke. Because Because agents and managers, all I need is I need I need Ari from entourage. I don't like I need Ari from entourage. There is an

Danny Manus 47:22
Ari has been fired in the me to movement. So you're screwed. Actually.

Alex Ferrari 47:27
I know both both the real RA and the x or Jerry pivots. But you we need, we need a Baracuda we need a shark like that to be our agent and that they're going to go out there and they're going to hustle and get my scripts read. Give me the millions I deserved. Please, let's just talk about that. Let's let that out in the air. Please tell me your perspective.

Danny Manus 47:47
It is my least it's the least favorite question I get from writers. Which, because it's the number one question I get from writers is how do I get an agent? And for 90% of those writers, the answer is you don't you know, the agent will get you if you need an agent. But most writers don't. You know, unless you have three, at least three viable sellable pinchable commercial projects, and agents not going to pick you up yet go for a manager. If you really feel you need someone, but for those writers who only have one idea, or you know, they just have that they don't want to be screenwriters, as a professional as a long term career, they just have one great idea. One script they want to write, you know, one piece of legacy they want to leave because I think this is a great story. Don't waste your time with managers and agents and stuff like that they have no use for you. Right, you know, just try to make your script as great as possible. And then try to find a producer who will read it. And you have a very singular focus. And that's almost easier, a lot easier than a writer who wants to do this as a long term career. But if you want to do it as a long term career, there are plenty of ways to find representation. But know when you're ready. And most writers, again, are submitting far too soon. If you don't have, you know, a dozen ideas that you're developing, if you don't have at least two if not 3/5. Finish scripts, if you don't have, you know, if you've never pitched before, if you've never networked before, if you know if you've never done any of the homework and the research before, you're not ready for a manager yet. Keep working on your craft managers aren't going anywhere. You know, and it's not like if you don't get them in 2019 You'll never get one then they're always gonna be there. You have to wait until you're ready because you really do Want to get one shot most of the time. But between contests and events, and pitching and social media, and consultants like myself who have good contacts with those reps, and, you know, just friends and referrals, or whatever, there's a million ways to find a manager, and they can be super helpful in your career. But know when the right time is, and as far as agents go, I don't want to bad mouth agents,

Alex Ferrari 50:36
bad mouth agents, it's

Danny Manus 50:37
okay. But you have to know what you're offering them. Right? You know, they don't. I'm like a manager who's kind of there to guide your career, and they're in it for the long haul. And they're there to help you develop an agent is there to close that deal, and get you the best terms possible. And a great agent is there to make a great writer into a superstar. That's what great agents do. If you're barely on your first project, or you're on your second script, and you're just trying to get read, you are like two to five years away from needing an agent, you know, and if you do need an agent, your manager will help you get that agent, because they have those relationships. I always say look for a manager before you look for an agent, you know, unless you have something really specific. Or you have something in development with, like a client of that agent, you know, if you got to an actor, which by the way is way better than going to an agent? No, if you if you're looking for an actor, or you think you know, the actor that's right for your project, don't go to their agent unless you have an offer. Because the first words out of their mouth is hey, that's great. What is the offer. And so if you don't have financing, don't bother with the agent yet go to their production company, where they have assistants and executives who are in charge of finding and reading scripts for their talents to produce. And there is no no better silver bullet in this industry than having a great actor attached to produce your project opens every door. So if you're thinking that, you know, Shirley's theorem might be right for your project, to go to her agent, unless you have a $14 million offer to make her go to her Delilah, whatever it is, you know, films, you know, Banner, call and get in the system on the phone and tell them that you think this would be great for her to produce. And get in that way. And then if she likes it, and once the role great if she doesn't, you know, she'll get another actress of great caliber to read it. That's way better than ever calling an agent's. But that's something on the packaging side, if you're trying to get an agent yourself, go for a manager first, have a portfolio of work that is commercial and sellable and ready to go and know exactly who you are as a writer and who you want to be, which is something I work on with my clients and my mentees constantly. Because today, unlike 10 years ago, where you had to decide like, were you a TV writer, are you a film writer, and today everybody wants both, like you have to be both or want to do both. But you also have to know your voice. And you also have, what kind of writer you are and how you're going to be sold for the next two or three years. And you know, everyone's like, I don't want to be pigeonholed. I don't want to get into a box.

Alex Ferrari 53:42
Lucky to get into a box.

Danny Manus 53:44
Yeah, friggin pray for that box, jump into that box with both feet, like like my cat does. And just love that box. Because that box is making you money. That box is getting you scripts, that box is giving you a career that you're going to be able to jump out of that box and make an even bigger career two years from now. So I get real nice and cozy in that box for two years and stop effing complaining that you're being put into a box in the studio system. That's what you're being put into.

Alex Ferrari 54:19
It's insane when I hear that like I don't want to be boxed in like you you would be so blessed and lucky. If you could be boxed in I know what I know I used to my one of my good friends was West Cravens assistant years ago. And he would tell me stories of how upset Wes was about man. I'm stuck in this horror box. I can't do anything. And do you remember that there was a movie called Music of the heart? Yeah, with Meryl Streep. GLORIA And Gloria Estefan. That was a West Craven directed film. Absolutely. And you know why he got that? Because they wanted scream too. That's the only reason he got an expense. He wanted scream twos, like you want scream to give me it was called 500 violins originally and then then a music of the heart. And and I was like, but look at that the West Craven had one of the greatest horror, directing careers in the history of cinema. Honestly, he's his name is up there. But he was unhappy about being in the

Danny Manus 55:25
box. Look, I get it. I mean, you don't want to be in that box forever. Yeah, you know.

Alex Ferrari 55:31
So don't be too good, is what you're saying. Don't be too good in that box. Like if you're really good that you're stuck there. But just be good enough to get in a box. And then you could top out.

Danny Manus 55:40
Right? But that's the conversation to have with your rep saying, Look, I love doing horror. And that first script that got you a rap and got you 40 meetings around town was a horror script. So that's the the next two projects you're going to do our horror projects. But if you tell your rep upfront, like hey, I love doing the genre stuff. But I also want to do comedy. And I also want to do an action movie, then their job is to find that project, you know, to develop with you or for you to develop that is going to make that transition for you so that you're going from horror, to horror comedy, to comedy, you know, a horror, horror action to action comedy, to whatever, and so that they have a plan for your career. And I always tell you know, when when writers are trying to find their voice, find their box, but not get too stuck. I always tell my writers to look at the sub genres that you're writing to try and find a through line. That is your voice because it's not usually in that major genre, that first genre. But if you come to me and you say, Look, I have an action comedy, a horror comedy and a romantic comedy. I was like, Okay, well, you've got a through line there, that tells me what your voice is. You're just bringing that voice to different genres. But now we know what your voice, you know, what you want to do with that connective tissue is so that we can sell you as a type of writer, even though you're doing different genres, we know what your voice is bringing to that genre. And that's how you break out of that box is by using those sub genres and secondary genres, to bring out who you are, as a writer instead of just, you know, the genre of the premise you happen to come up with.

Alex Ferrari 57:34
That's awesome. Advice, actually, is really great, great advice. And I'm gonna ask a few questions. I ask all of my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Danny Manus 57:47
There's the funny answer,

Alex Ferrari 57:48
Run. Run,

Danny Manus 57:49
Just run.

Alex Ferrari 57:52
We both go to the same place.

Danny Manus 57:54
Run Forest. The, you know, the the real answer, there's two real answers I'll give. And one is a mistake that I made for many years in my career was, I thought I was going to be an Emmy winning writer. And so for the first few years, and before I was even in the business, I didn't pay attention to the other stuff. I didn't think I had to know about financing, or distribution, or, you know, or, or casting it. Well, I loved casting, but, you know, there were other things, the business side of it, that I didn't think I needed to know, because I was just going to be writing talents, you know, and that's, and that's it, I didn't know about the development process. Until you know, I was interning and started doing coverage. And you know, and then as an assistant, you know, doing scripts I didn't know about networking, like I just didn't know other stuff. Because I was so focused on my little corner of the world. And if you are a writer today, you have to multi hyphenate yourself. If you're a filmmaker today, you have to multi hyphenate yourself if you're an actor today you have to multi hyphenate yourself. So you need to do you need to treat it like a business and do the work and do the reading and be knowledgeable on way more than just your little corner of the office. That's that's one thing is have a bigger scope in terms of the information you're taking in so you really understand the business you're getting into from all sides. The second thing is right while you can because it's not going to get easier as you get older. I wish when I you know looking back when I was 24 and I had time oh god I ever those days, but I did. But I didn't write you know, because there was probably some party I was invited to you You know, and you're like, Ah, I had so much energy at 24 What the hell did I waste that for? If you are, if you are young enough, try to break in from the inside, come to Los Angeles, get a job in the industry, break in from the inside, it will cut yours out of your journey. If you can't do that. Then at least get out of your box, wherever that box is. If you are, you know, in the middle of Oklahoma and you are writing alone, find a group find a conference find people go online social media, use it to your advantage. You know, know when this business is a marathon, and when it's a sprint, no one to ask for help. Find a find a consultant or a mentor or a person that can help you. You know, there are no shortcuts. There's no shortcuts. And I wish I learned that. Earlier, I wish I learned that nobody owes you Jack. S. And it took me a little while to to learn that. I mean, look, I'm from Long Island. I mean, I've been working since I'm 14 I worked my ass off and in college, and since I'm 15 1415 years old, but um, you know, now they now they call it white privilege back then. And we were just assholes. Like, somebody owes you a little something just for getting through college just for doing the thing that you're supposed to be doing. You're like, where's my agent? And my million dollar career? Where's my Emmy? 30? Like I saw 30 year old Emmy winners, where's my Emmy? nobody owes you anything. And to keep working your ass off no matter how hard you work on that first script. Keep working on the second and the third?

Alex Ferrari 1:02:06
Absolutely. Now, you know Daniella, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact in your life or career?

Danny Manus 1:02:14
Like what screenwriting book or what

Alex Ferrari 1:02:16
Any book book book?

Danny Manus 1:02:18
Yeah, that's a good one. I'm running book works as well. I mean, I don't know that I loved their script. Okay, this is the probably the opposite version of what the answer you're looking for is, but there were screenwriting books that I read as an executive. And starting out that I disagreed with, so vehemently that I had to write my own and start teaching classes because I was like, if people are reading this shit, they're going to have the wrong impression of what executives really want. And so I need to write my own book, you know, and do my own thing to, you know, to tell them how it really is, you know, and tell them other, the other side of it, and so, I won't, I won't mean what, what books but their books on pitching and 62nd pitching and things like that, that you might be able to figure out that I just really disagreed with, you know, at the time 1010 plus years ago that inspired me to write my own articles on my own books and then do the consulting and, you know, bring something else that wasn't out there to writers in terms of like great literature come 1984 was always a huge, great favorite of mine. It's the one I remember in ninth or 10th Grade Reading and picturing as a movie and me saying in my head I really want to make the movie version of this one day. And so I you know, that was that was one that always stuck with me and then now we're living it

Alex Ferrari 1:04:08
We laugh because we're dying inside.

Danny Manus 1:04:11
Laugh because it makes us sad

Alex Ferrari 1:04:15
Now what is the what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Danny Manus 1:04:21
I think like I said, nobody owes you anything. And you're gonna make mistakes. I'm working on a new book and book proposal now about those mistakes. Who knows if it'll ever get done but

Alex Ferrari 1:04:41
Smoking like a true writer?

Danny Manus 1:04:44
Yeah. You know, a, you know, I hate to say it, but like, passion isn't enough. But if you don't have it, you'll never make it right. Um, you know, that's good. Like, if you don't absolutely love this industry and what it does and what you know, and what you can get to do in it, they get out because it's awful otherwise, like it is. It has its moments, don't get me wrong, it is. It's fun and stuff, but it's hard. I mean, if I knew then what I knew now or stuff, you know what I make different, I'd make a lot of different decisions. But if you don't absolutely love it, if you don't feel like you were trained for nothing else, I have no other viable workplace skills, I can't do math, I not created history. But there's very little else I can do,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:44
You've doubled down, maybe you've doubled down, you've doubled down, like you're in

Danny Manus 1:05:49
it until, until it's over, you know, but but that like, passion is great, but it's not enough. But if you don't have the passion to it, and you don't love it, get out because it will eat you alive and make you and make you a worse person. Instead of make you a better person.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:11
I always whenever I speak, I always say this to people in the room, like everybody here knows an angry filmmaker or a better filmmaker. Everybody here knows an angry screenwriter, a bitter screenwriter. And if you don't know one, you are the angry, bitter screenwriter, you are the angry, bitter filmmaker,

Danny Manus 1:06:28
you know, and we all go but if you haven't been bitter for a day, you know, you probably haven't been in this business long enough. Hey, man, no, no, no, no. I mean, look, I get dinged, I used to get things all the time for being cynical, and, you know, a little bit more of a pessimist and I try to balance it out. But you know, you are what you are, but you gotta you gotta look on, you gotta try to look on the bright side of things. And the hard part about Hollywood is that the carrot is always right. Yes, you know, and some times it's right here. And sometimes it's right here. And you're just constantly following that carrot. Because every once in a while, it just gets so close. And yeah. Ah, you know, and that just drives you crazy. But, but you keep going because as long as there's a carrot in front of you. You just got to keep following it. But that is the dangerous part of this business is you always feel like there's a carrot there.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:28
Isn't that carrot. So? Well, anyway,

Danny Manus 1:07:32
three of your favorite someone to help you help you reach that carrot. Oh, and then you can't do it alone. Right? That networking and friends in this business is important. And I made a horrible mistake. And I talked about this pretty openly in my classes. Like, you know, when I was starting out, I separated I had a lot of friends from school that came out here we were all you know, TV film students. But they were my friends. And then he were my business people. You know, here were my business acquaintances, or my colleagues, or the word that I like to use a friend and says, That's a great word. Yeah, that's what my coining friends is. But I never it was quite a few years until I really started to realize that you have to make those a friend and says and colleagues, friends, yes. Because you don't, you're always going to be on the outside a little bit. And we all feel like we're still on the I feel like that every single day my wife and and most people do. I know people who are very much on the inside who still feel like they're on the outside. But make friends and treat people like they could be friends and not just colleagues that can get you something or, or someone you can do something for, or some sort of favors this. Because even though Hollywood does work on a favorite system a lot of the time it doesn't feel like a favor when it's with your friends. And so, you know, networking is great and everybody talks about networking. But and I was okay at networking when I was younger, I hate it now, but I was okay at it when I was younger, but what I wasn't good at was turning those networking moments into friendships. Fair enough. That's great. And I try to do that especially as they're coming up because the people you come up with or who you're going to be in this business with for 2030 years.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:35
Now three of your favorite films of all time.

Danny Manus 1:09:39
I knew that you ask people this and I I tried to I came up with so many things of what you could ask me writer influences that I love and like, you know, underrated scripts and topics. I've been trying to figure it out. And of course they do change you know, every year Favorite Movies. The ones I always tend to go back to are a few good men, great American Beauty. And, and a comedy that I think is so underrated but every time I say it's I wouldn't say it's my favorite movie of all time, but the original Death at a funeral. Oh, it's such written by Dean Craig it's a British one, not the Chris Rock one. The the original one with Alan Tudyk. And, and, and a wonderful cast of characters is such an insanely hilarious underrated comedy. That when I read it as a script, I had to call the agents and just be like, Can I meet with him? This is the funniest thing I've ever read. I don't I don't think I ever actually did get that meeting. But, but I love the movie. My cousin Vinnie is up there. Love cousin Vinnie. In terms of comedy, you know, I can watch heat you know all day they The Nice Guys and sort of like newer movies that I think should be classics. Shane Black's The Nice Guys is right up there

Alex Ferrari 1:11:13
All good titles. They're all good titles, not where can put all the copper. Now where can people find you? And can you list off the books you've written and what you offer and all that kind of stuff and where they can find you?

Danny Manus 1:11:25
Yeah, people can find me on my website, which is nobullscript.net if you .com It'll take you there too. But no,

Alex Ferrari 1:11:35
I was gonna say is there another noble script that we're not aware of

Danny Manus 1:11:39
Funny enough, it was taken, you know, not 10 years ago, this this year 2019. This may as my 10 year anniversary, congrats, running this company. I don't know how that happened. But it happened. When I started the company, my hair was here. And so at the time when I got it somebody another consultant friends of mine, who I didn't know at the time, oh, noble script.com. And there was nothing there, but they owned it. Now I own it. But uh, yeah, noble script dotnet. You can find me on Twitter at Danny Maness. I put tons of screenwriting stuff and other comedy news ranting, you know things.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:24
And then you get a new offer a mentorship and you also offer consulting?

Danny Manus 1:12:29
Yes, absolutely. On noble script, you can find all my consulting services and packages from I mean, I've really worked soup to nuts from concept and brainstorming, through all the different drafts to polishing and rewriting query letters, pitch help. It really is pre managing, I like to call it pre managing, because I help my writers figure out what they should write, help them develop it and write it. And if it's great, and it's ready, and it's a recommend I try to get it out there, you know, to my context, so I think we'll respond. And a year ago, I started this mentor service, I only take 15 writers at a time, or somewhere around there. And it's a five month mentor service, it's much more in depth, we do calls every two weeks. So you're getting lots of notes calls, we're going through your ideas, we're developing them, and instead of just you know, paying for one set of notes, and then you know, maybe come back for a second set and which is great. This allows us to go through the process of however many drafts it takes to get it really polished upset. So by the end of the, you know, five months, you've got at least one if not two scripts that are really ready to go. And it includes career, you know, coaching and pitch coaching and query letters. It's very all inclusive. I'm about to start my third cycle of that. Now for the spring I still have slots, so I have a handful of slots open and I'm always always looking for more because I actually really enjoy being able to mentor writers it's not for first time writers I should say that this is not for first time writers writing their first script. This is for writers who have written a couple things and really want to take their you know their career and their scripts and their next projects to the next level. But you can reach out it's on my website or through Twitter you can email me always at Daniel at Noble script dotnet you can email me and and I'm happy to help and my book, no BS for screenwriters advice from the executive perspective. It used to be it's still on the writer store website but now that the writer store doesn't exist anymore.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:44
Is it gone gone?

Danny Manus 1:14:46
It's gone it's gone gone.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:48
Like I know it's gone in Burbank, but like is it's gone on the website too?

Danny Manus 1:14:52
No the websites still there. Okay. Still there. They do still sell some webinars and books and things that you can still get my book on. on there. You can also email me for an E version, they have a hardcopy version. I do have an E version that that you can always get from me. And yeah, and I'm always looking for new groups and conferences out there. So if you're listening and I know there are a ton of great people listening to this, you know, this pod cast if you've got a conference or a film festival or a panel and you want someone to you know, bring the fun

Alex Ferrari 1:15:32
Bring the spice,

Danny Manus 1:15:34
Bring the spice

Alex Ferrari 1:15:42
Remember the whole desperation thing we were talking about? It's starting to come off.

Danny Manus 1:15:45
Can you smell that?

Alex Ferrari 1:15:47
It's a good quaff could smell it to the air. Dan, it's been a pleasure talking to you, man. Thank you for dropping some great knowledge bombs on the tribe today, man.

Danny Manus 1:15:58
Thank you so much for having me. This is great.



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IFH 662: The Coffee Break Screenwriter with Pilar Alessandra

I’ve been trying to get today’s guest on the show for months. Pilar Alessandra is an author, podcaster, and script consultant. She’s the director of the popular writing program On The Page, author of The Coffee Break Screenwriter: Writing Your Script Ten Minutes at a Time, and host of the On the Page Podcast.

Pilar started her career as a Senior Story Analyst at DreamWorks SKG. In 2001, she opened the Los Angeles-based On the Page Writers’ Studio, dedicated to teaching and consulting with screenwriters and TV writers at all levels.

An in-demand speaker, she’s taught seminars at DreamWorks, Disney Animation, ABC, CBS, and the AFM and has traveled the world teaching in the UK, China, Poland, Vietnam, Colombia, Portugal, and South Africa.

Pilar’s greatest accomplishment is the success of her students, many of whom have won top competitions such as the Nicholl Fellowship, are working on TV shows such as “The 100,” “Silicon Valley” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” and have sold feature films to major studios. 

Enjoy my conversation with Pilar Alessandra.

Alex Ferrari 0:33
I like to welcome to the show Pilar Alessandra. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Pilar Alessandra 4:42
Thank you so much for having me.

Alex Ferrari 4:43
We have been going back and forth for months because you are a busy lady and I'm a busy guy. So it's amazing that we've been able to do this.

Pilar Alessandra 4:51
I know I know. Thank you for your patience.

Alex Ferrari 4:53
Oh no thank you for being on the show. I really appreciate it. I like I was saying before we started recording we I reached out to you back When I was a young screenwriter, looking for some advice in 2010, on my first I think was my first screenplay. And we went back and forth a little bit, but it never ended. Nothing materialized about it. But I've known about you for a long, long time. And you do some really great work out there for screenwriters. So thank you for all the work that you do.

Pilar Alessandra 5:17
Thank you. It's great work.

Alex Ferrari 5:20
And you are one of the original podcasts out there.

Pilar Alessandra 5:25
I sound so old I was making, I didn't

Alex Ferrari 5:27
want to, I didn't want to say oh, gee, but since you throw it out there, you know, you're one of the Oh, geez. of the podcasting screenwriting world up there with john August. And because you've been, what, 10 years, you were doing your on the page, a podcast.

Pilar Alessandra 5:42
You know, I didn't even realize I mean, at the time, I was too lazy to blog. And so I was like, I'll do this. And yeah, I guess I there just weren't that many screenwriting podcasts at the time. And, and so it caught on. And when I realized that people were actually listening, I was like, Oh, I have a responsibility here. I better start making it good. I better start making it about something. And and and you know, since then, yeah, I take the responsibility pretty seriously. Even the show, the show can be bumpy and silly. But the whole point of it every week is that somebody should leave with a nugget of information about the craft and business of screenwriting. So

Alex Ferrari 6:27
I know the feeling when I first started out, too, I just like I you know, and then when people started listening, you start taking this seriously, oh, crap, oh, crap. Someone's listening to this, we got to

Pilar Alessandra 6:34
know what's happening. Yeah, we

Alex Ferrari 6:36
gotta we gotta bring our a game. So let's, let's start at the very beginning, how did you get into this business? Um,

Pilar Alessandra 6:43
I was, you know, I was in my 20s. And I sort of accidentally fell into a script reading job, because I liked writing analytical papers in college about books. And somebody remember that they're like, wow, and you're lit and lit classes, you wrote these really great papers, that's kind of what we need, we need this book report called a coverage at our studio are a production company, would you do it like once a week. And then when I found out, I could actually make money at it, because I had no idea. I had samples. And I was able to get a job through amblin entertainment that way, as a script reader, and learn on the job as a reader, and then ended up sort of teaching people how to be a script reader as well. They were getting jobs. And then I found I really loved teaching. And I wanted to find tools that that actually could fix certain things that I was seeing sort of common mistakes, if you will, and scripts and hated just saying pass or consider. And I thought what can I develop some tools would they work? And they did work? And and so that's how the classes were born.

Alex Ferrari 7:57
And you also worked at DreamWorks for a little bit.

Pilar Alessandra 8:00
Right. So when amblin became DreamWorks, so to speak, was kind of there for a while. Yes. Yes,

Alex Ferrari 8:08
that was a hodgepodge of stuff, right? I'd

Pilar Alessandra 8:10
been at amblin for a while. And so I became sort of a senior story analyst position, so that I was also doing notes on existing projects. I also worked for a number of other companies as well. Always analyzing material doing notes on material. But I've found working directly with writers is more satisfying, because I can say, and here's a possibility of fixing it, rather than always saying, you know, pass or consider. That's no fun.

Alex Ferrari 8:41
And when you were working at DreamWorks, you were working at a time that was pretty cool. It was early 2000. So they were at the height of their powers, if I'm not mistaken. Right?

Pilar Alessandra 8:49
It was actually again, because let's just let's just go with aging me with every question.

Alex Ferrari 9:00
I'm trying to help. I'm trying Yeah.

Pilar Alessandra 9:02
Thanks, man. I appreciate it.

You know, like sort of the the, it was the age of the rock star writer,

Alex Ferrari 9:09
where Shane Black Joe Astor house, those guys.

Pilar Alessandra 9:12
Yeah. And the idea that you would get a script at even as late as 9pm have to make sure that coverage was in by 7am. because there'd be a bidding war at 8am. I mean, if people were throwing so much money in to get the next big shiny thing, which also is why they burned out a little bit, you know, and started sort of holding back and saying, okay, we're not taking any more specs. And when the writer strike happened when they had sort of an excuse to stop taking original material for quite a while. But yes, at the time, lots of scripts, lots of excitement and lots of learning for me.

Alex Ferrari 9:55
It must have been a wonderful time. I always tell people about that time, which I wasn't around, but I did study That I mean, it wasn't round. Of course you

Pilar Alessandra 10:01
weren't for him, right?

Alex Ferrari 10:02
No, yeah. I'm 22. I'm 22. Yes, I'm just worn really hard. But no, but I wasn't in the business at that time I was in college and those type of areas, but you would read these stories of like every week, Joe Lester house to $3 million, Shane Black and all these Rockstar screenwriters. And I feel sometimes when I seek to speak, I speak to screenwriters, they think that that's still going on. And to a certain extent, there are million dollar buys still. And they're still, there are some spec stuff that happens every once in a while. But it's nothing like it was like every week, every day, there was some new stuff coming out. And these guys were making just, I mean, extra house, I think what it is, I think Esther has like 20 $25 million. And most of them were never produced, that was the thing,

Pilar Alessandra 10:45
right, we could actually make, you know, sort of a sweet living and never have been produced, you know, there were a lot of people who got development deals and got, you know, their scripts bought, and, but also, you know, along those lines, they would take things on pitch a lot. And then they'd have to hire another writer, because the the draft that they got was only me. So half of my job at that time was reading writing samples to rewrite other things that they had bought on pitch or too quickly. So now there are doubling what they have to pay even in the development process. But again, for me to sort of distinguish between like, Okay, what is a project that really, really works, you know, in terms of idea, and another project that works in terms of execution, so you can have a write a great writing sample as well. And that all helps in the work that I do now.

Alex Ferrari 11:42
So what is the biggest mistake? Do you see in first time screenplays?

Pilar Alessandra 11:45
Oh, I don't think there is one biggest. It used to be overriding, you know, I could I could have sort of an easy answer to that question. But now, you know, gosh, there's so many resources out there. writers are so savvy, they're so well read, and they understand, you know, sort of how to be spare on the page. So that's not really it. Um, I think it's maybe sometimes not doubling down on their own good idea that they'll start something with a high concept, and then they'll think it's boring. So then they start to sort of snowball into another high concept, or they'll bring in this magical character here. And then suddenly, we're in a dream and backstory. And they just kind of think that by throwing in all these things, it gets more interesting when actually it's getting more convoluted. And you're not serving your own good idea. So I really like people when they when they just lead to wonderful logline. Best rewrite they can do.

Alex Ferrari 12:51
So in your opinion, what is the screenplay that you've read? That is just like, oh, man, this they got this, like, it's this is if everybody should read the screenplay, and use this as a, as a template of what to do? And how they did it. Of course not copy the screenplay, but just like, Man, that's just good writing.

Pilar Alessandra 13:10
You know, I, first of all, you probably not gonna believe me, but I'm always the most in love with whatever clients work I read that just worked. You know what I mean? I'm always like that script, that script. So I don't really have one script that I tell everybody to read. But I do say that, you know, in the in the age where you can just type in the script title, and then script PDF, and something will magically illegally download for you. You know, you can go to like your favorite movies, and then go to the section of the script, where that favorite moment was in that favorite movie, and look at how it was executed. Like, how did they make you feel that way? Whether it was it feeling romantic or surprised or horrified. And to me, that's the best thing you can do with scripts is find those moments in those great scripts with movies you love. So I'm kind of throwing it back not going like there's this one script? Because I think every script has has its moment. Yes, yeah, every every scripts work. You know, Oh, I love this part of it. But it also there there are dead moments and every great script.

Alex Ferrari 14:25

Pilar Alessandra 14:27
copy everything that your favorite writer does. every writer does is not perfect.

Alex Ferrari 14:32
It's like like in a john Ford film. The Indians take the fort like that. You know, that's one line but it took 20 minutes on screen. Now what what is your process structure do you do you suggest creating a beat sheet of some sort or how do you like do structure?

Pilar Alessandra 14:51
Well, though, in my classes, I do have them everybody create a beat sheet but not two beats that I think they should have. So I'm not sitting there going on page 12, there needs to be this. And on page one, there needs to be that. Instead, I first asked them to think big picture in terms of beginning, middle and end. And we usually take that middle and divided into two parts. So we've got beginning middle part one, middle part two, and and so you sort of have four equal parts that you can play with. Then I asked them to divide those up a little bit into beats of story. And I just asked them to think of every beat in terms of what somebody wants to do, what they actually do, and what gets in the way. And if you have those beats of story with the, you know, sort of fitting into those four equal parts, great look, you got to structure what story you want to tell, or how you want to tell it is completely up to you. But it helps people at least organize so that they can see the big picture, have some kind of map to follow and then start start writing.

Alex Ferrari 15:51
No. character building is always a very difficult situation. What What do you how do you build an interesting character? In your opinion? What are some, what's some advice that you can give for screenwriters to build interesting characters? Because I've read a lot of screenplays, and I've watched a lot of movies and the characters are just like, there's no depth. There's no, especially in a big studio movies, too. I always beat up on the DC Universe. But, you know, there's a reason why Marvel's done very well in DC has not because the characters, you really feel Iron Man, you really feel Spider Man, and you don't feel as much for the other side of the fence at times?

Pilar Alessandra 16:27
Well, I think I think if you look at the Marvel characters, they're always paying off their own particular character rules, so things that they always or never do, you know, you know, Tony Stark's philosophy of the world, you know, his flaw in the fact that he is always going to sort of try and grab the attention of the room, right, he's always going to try and alpha lead, right, um, you know, what his soft spot is. And they're constantly mining these things we already know about them and bringing them through the scenes. So he doesn't stop and talk about his past. Instead, his past is always shining through in the choices that he makes. So when going back to my classes, when we're talking about character development, I really love it when we are learning about characters on the job, who, how they were raised, who they are, comes through, and the choices they make and the behaviors that they exhibit. So it's what we see, rather than what they stop and talk about, I am not a big one on stopping and discussing things that happened before page one,

Alex Ferrari 17:39
you associate. So you meet. So you'd be basically you shouldn't have two characters goes, Hey, Tony, I know that you had a bad childhood. And that's why you're an alcoholic. Now, like, that's not what you do. And that's it. But a lot of screenwriters do that, unfortunately,

Pilar Alessandra 17:53
all the time. I read it all the time. There's always that, you know, stop and talk scene, you know, and it also comes from a battle of backstory, like you think you had a bad childhood, you know, did the character character

Unknown Speaker 18:06
you know, like,

Pilar Alessandra 18:09
why are you doing that, you know, but if I saw someone, you know, look at an object and start shaking, okay, know that there is some kind of traumatic incident connected with that object or that that object trigger something from the past. And I will find out more with with the choices that character makes. And if at a certain point, they've earned their cathartic moment of revealing the backstory, fine. You know, but at least you've shown it for a while. And now I'm getting just what I need to sort of fill in the blanks.

Alex Ferrari 18:45
It's kind of like Indiana Jones, where he he's afraid of snakes. And he didn't he does never says let me he does say he's afraid of snakes. But you never know why until the third movie, where he actually explains the backstory of it, which is such a great payoff for that character. And even that even that little cut that Harrison Ford has, is when he was a kid, and he whipped he tried to do the whip for the first time and he's hid himself, like those little nuggets are so it just adds like a tapestry, if you will, on the characters.

Pilar Alessandra 19:11
about all we cared about in the first one was, wow, this guy who isn't afraid of anything is afraid of this one thing. We all have fears. That's all we had to know. And then once that's in we can also see it pay off, you know, in a pit full of snakes. So it's, it's it works there. You know, you're right, as you build that build out these trilogies then you can find out more and more and it's it's what keeps us coming back to the movies.

Alex Ferrari 19:37
And that's why that the the payoff I mean, with endgame as of this recording endgame came out a few weeks ago, and it is just the crescendo of 22 films as it's no one's ever done anything like this. And, and again, I'm not I'm a Marvel guy, but I'm not like, oh, everything's great. They have bad movies, but this was such a wonderful way of just wrapping it up. And in payoffs of the characters over 20, over 10 years, it is amazing. I mean, when you I mean, I'm sure you've been watching these stories, as they've, you know, come out over the years. And to see this kind of crescendo of these characters. It's there's just nothing like it I've never seen.

Pilar Alessandra 20:17
It was so great. And you're just sitting there going, you know that that last moment if I say it, you know. And you know, and to be honest with you, there were moments in that battle when I thought, Oh, that's a great way to end it. And then they would bring into something like, Oh, no, that's a great way. Oh, of course, they have to, you know, they they finished off everything was still leaving room for whatever they're going to do with the next series of Marvel movies, Spider Man, etc.

Alex Ferrari 20:47
What I find? No, no, it's okay. What I what I found also fascinating, and I heard this from the directors and the writers is that they actually when they got to the battle scene of endgame, that was going to be a three act structure of that literally of the battle. It was such a mess, it was like 45 minutes. So it was such a massive part they were going to do a three act structure of the battle itself within a giant or strip because it was just so I mean, the screenwriters for that film and the directors how they were able to work in so many storylines, so many characters, so many like giving everybody because every single one of them literally is the star of their own franchise, right? And yet, they're giving everyone their moment they're giving Miss Marvel the moment they given the spider man that moment they give me an Iron Man and Thor and oh, how do you like with people who are writing very, you know, a lot of characters in a screenplay. And I know that there's not many films like endgame, but out there that have a lot of different characters that have like, like, let's say, a suicide squad or a Guardians of the Galaxy, that have a group of characters. Any advice on how to balance that? Because that is an art in itself?

Pilar Alessandra 21:53
Well, I think first of all, step back, Think big picture in terms your major act breaks, so that you know, at least where this is all landing, okay. And again, when we're talking about act breaks, it doesn't have to be prescribed, this must happen at this point, right. But if you imagine that you have at least three turning points in a project, okay. You know, what leads into that second act? And what feels like that midpoint? And what's the end of that second act before you're really going forward? And the third act, just knowing those things? Okay, that first, then look at your ensemble of characters, you know, what is driving tour, but they're all having sort of their mini stories along the way, see if you can now tell what tell each of those stories in three to four scenes. So again, thinking like what's the that beginning, that middle, part one, middle, part two, and just for that character, okay? Because sometimes when it's heavy, heavily populated, that's all you're you're going to get? Or even look into your favorite ensemble movies. And, you know, pluck out one character, and just think about the scenes that you're seeing them and you're gonna see, it's really not that many. So how are they telling that one story? And how do they sort of jump in, so that you're focusing on that major story beat even though it's only a scene? So I think that that would be my advice.

Alex Ferrari 23:24
I hope that makes sense. It makes perfect sense. Makes perfect sense. Now, do you have any advice on how to find the voice of a character because so many characters are so vanilla, and they just, they just don't have any flavor to them? Like, you know, let's bring back Indiana Jones. Boy, that man has a lot of flavor, and you pick up that character and within the first five minutes of the movie, you know, you know who that character is. And then you start developing the voice of that character. And like you were saying with like Tony Stark and these other characters that there's rules within what they do and their actions that they stay true to? What do you do to find the voice of a character?

Pilar Alessandra 24:00
Well, I have a couple of tips that I sort of have my, my my writers run through in class. Number one is what profession or stage of life are they in? And therefore what language do they speak? So we all speak English maybe right? But some of us speak surfer and some of us speak comic book geek and some of us speak lawyer, right? So that profession or stage of life, that becomes a language. So that's one way to find a unique voice. Another is a verbal rule. So this is not what they say but how they say it. So some people curse some people give one word answer some people ramble, right? So their verbal rule that's another thing to think about. A third is what region or country are they from what what phrases do they use? You know, so Thor is going to use you know, phrases From where, Where's he from? What? Well, he's

Alex Ferrari 25:04
from a magical land. But generally Norse is kind of like that kind of vibe.

Pilar Alessandra 25:09
And and he speaks the language of the gods, right? So he will say things that nobody else would say, right?

Unknown Speaker 25:15
and get away with it and get away with it. Absolutely. But

Pilar Alessandra 25:18
including those phrases like, that's just this is normal world, right? And then the fourth one is to actually magically cast in your head. Be Okay, about having the voice of Harrison Ford in your head? Okay, that will be a completely different voice on the page than say, Chris Pratt. Right, right. So, um, so so having it right will help you express the line, nobody has to know that that's living in your head. And if you were doing a spec of a TV show, you would have the advantage of characters that we already know that your chat channeling, so why not do that with original material. So those are my four ways of finding voices.

Alex Ferrari 26:05
I really love the stage of life idea. That is a I've never heard that that idea is a really great idea because it really sets you're there. You know, I'm a 45 year old comic book geek who lives in the basement of his mom's house, that pretty much gets the voice of that character pretty quickly. Now, is it a voice that we've seen 1000 times too? Yeah, that's another thing. So you could start tossing it around and start adding other things on there. Also an archaeologist? Oh, okay. Well, there you go. So they start adding like little flavors of things that, but the but that's a good starting point of how you can kind of brainstorm ideas. Have you?

Pilar Alessandra 26:40
Have you seen booksmart yet?

Alex Ferrari 26:42
I'm dying to I really looks fantastic.

Pilar Alessandra 26:45
So good, right. So if you said, Well, she speaks high school senior, well, we have these sort of stereotypes in our head, right? But if you say she speaks over achiever, okay, that's different. she happens to be a high school senior who speaks over achiever, right now she's got an interesting voice, you know, so that's interesting. Everything about that, that movie I just adored, because every time you thought it was going to make a certain choice, based on all these movies you've seen, it makes it a slightly different one, doesn't mean there has to be the opposite, but it's just different. And it works for the character. It's in keeping with the rules of the character that we've come to know very quickly. With the characters. It's, it's, it's lovely.

Alex Ferrari 27:34
A good example of that is like you just said high schools clueless, like it's either not just your general, they're Valley girls, basically, you know, Valley girls in that time period, not like valley girl, like when valley girl came out back in was in like the late 70s or early 80s. With Nicolas Cage, that that was the first time anyone had ever heard valley girl talk, like, Oh, for sure. And all that kind of stuff. And that was you, but it would they were all high school kids, or Fast Times at ridgemont High. And so how many different types of high schools that we've seen on screen. So fast time in Richmond high speaks very differently than Breakfast Club.

Pilar Alessandra 28:08
Right? Right. You know, if you go even dig deeper to you know, why did clueless not feel cool cookie cutter, right? You could go for you know, the lead is, you know, she speaks matchmaker in a way that that is everything, she looks at everything in terms of who to fix up who you know, who should be with whom, who's the projects, right? And it speaks to her control issues. So her voice matches what she needs to do. I have to be I have to make a confession, right? So I'm in my 20s reading. And I misread that script as just another valley girl script. And I passed on it, because I was always and I thought these girls are dumb. They're just Valley girls. And I really wasn't looking at No, wait a minute. They've got their own rules. They've got their own ways of looking at things. I was actually probably too much of a clueless valley girl myself at the time. To really have the perspective. It haunts me in Hotspur

Alex Ferrari 29:14
Yeah, it almost almost got you fired because he was like you passed on the script and it made a god gazillions amounts of money.

Pilar Alessandra 29:20
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 29:24
But the thing is to it was also a lot of perfect storms in that situation with Alicia Silverstone was perfectly cast and I was Penelope. Who's it? Not until on appeal Miller, who was the director of that.

Pilar Alessandra 29:36
It was oh my god. She's amazing.

Alex Ferrari 29:38
But not Beth. Miller.

Pilar Alessandra 29:41
were so bad.

Alex Ferrari 29:42
Oh my god. No, it's it's a female director. Okay, I forgot who she has everyone someone.

Pilar Alessandra 29:49
Thanks for thanks for making me feel better. I really appreciate it. It was just me being an idiot. So

Alex Ferrari 29:56
are there any other

Pilar Alessandra 29:57
anything else that I passed on? Sure. I mean, it was a long time ago. Yeah, but nothing

Alex Ferrari 30:04
has stood out like that.

Pilar Alessandra 30:06
But you know what one thing I have to say, I do think that, you know, it does say something about, you know, getting older, having some experience, we're also, you know, having a bigger picture view of the world, that, you know, if you're just reading scripts from your own little bubble, right, you're gonna miss some really valuable material. You know, a, you have to sort of think like an audience, for one thing, a really wide audience, and you have to kind of be open to characters and situations that may not necessarily be you or any choices you would make, you know, which is why I get like, prickly when people go into this unlikable note. Because it's like, well, that might be unlikable for you, right, you know, but it's, it's, it could be fascinating for someone else, you know, that doesn't mean we shouldn't sort of look at this life on screen. And, you know, and dig into that story

Alex Ferrari 31:02
was kind of like clueless for you, like you knew those girls, because you were probably close to you, you were too much of a valley girl yourself. So you're like, this is stupid.

Pilar Alessandra 31:10
I was judging them. Exactly. And it had nothing to do with me. You know?

Alex Ferrari 31:16
Do you have any other advice on developing a good protagonist? And what they need to do to kind of move that story forward? Are you Oh, by the way, are you more character driven? Or plot driven? Or is it a combination of two? Because I know I've spoken to a lot of people on the show, and some people like it's all about character, you need a good plot, you need a good structure, but it's all about character and other people like no, it's about plot, it's about structure and characters are in addition, where do you fall on that, that pendulum,

Pilar Alessandra 31:42
I'm gonna, I'm gonna say something wishy washy and say is what the project needs. So in, in the first, in my first day of the first draft class, I have my writers brainstorm in three different ways. Because they may be coming at their project in three different ways. And they have to see what's really going to work for them. So the first thing that we do is brainstorm around character, sort of throwing that character into uncomfortable situations and seeing what choices they make and seeing what structure emerges. The second thing I have them do is actually brainstorm around event. So if they have this one key scene in their head, what happens? Where is it on the timeline? Is it in the beginning, the middle that end and that that way? What comes before it, what springs after it? And the third way I have them brainstorm is just Okay, let's, if it's just your big high concept idea, let's make it the most killer logline possible and see if that really helps you brainstorm. So I really go with what's going to serve the writers intentions the most. I don't think there's one way to do it

Alex Ferrari 32:51
yet because there's certain movies like I was just thinking of Wayne's World, like that's a character based kind of film, The structure is in the plots. It's fine. But you're just going on the road with these guys to work crazy. Cheech and Chong. Let's put that out there. You know, it's like,

Pilar Alessandra 33:06
those book came out of sketches, right. So we have these guys, who we just laughed at the dynamic between them, you know, this one little world that they were in and then did a lot of one thing to find a story. So what if, you know, I think Wayne and Garth, are they trying to get to their ultimate cause I don't

Alex Ferrari 33:25
even remember, I don't even remember what the plot is. I remember Bohemian Rhapsody. I remember Bohemian Rhapsody. And that he had a crush on a girl and they like and then basically all this good stuff. That's basically what I remember from the movie.

Pilar Alessandra 33:39
You know, as long as they're, they have like one goal and they're making choices along the way that are specific to them. You know? Great. You got you got to film.

Alex Ferrari 33:50
It's like a Muppet Movie. I mean, it's like you're just all you're hanging out with the Muppets and then just they're all doing this one thing we got to get to the show. We got a we got a break in and steal that diamond. We got it. You know that kind of that kind of thing. It's it's fascinating now.

Pilar Alessandra 34:04
An emotional turn somewhere in a Muppet Movie at some point, right? They always Miss Piggy is is gonna break up with Kermit or Chrome is gonna break up with Miss Piggy or there's a misunderstanding between, you know? Yeah, there's always something that sort of reinvests you emotionally. So even though we're saying, Yeah, you take these characters put them in gold. There's always also that sort of emotional,

Alex Ferrari 34:27
even even with the Wayne Wayne and Garth that was at some sort of, you know, emotional thing doesn't make you cry. But there's something I just loved that this this this interview went to the Muppets, and now we're using the Muppets as a structural exam.

Pilar Alessandra 34:41
We can learn many things from the Muppets.

Alex Ferrari 34:43
Yes, amen. Amen. Sister, though. antagonist creating a good bad guy is so I mean, there's such a problem. I think it's a it's an epidemic of really bad foreign bad guys in action movies. Like it's always The guy who has the accent and all this stuff and then you, you look at some of you know, some of the greatest bad guys of all time and I'll go just at the action genre, you know, hands from diehard who also was a foreign dude and all that stuff was so wonderfully written so wonderfully directed and played, you know, and you you look at, like Mr. Joshua from Lethal Weapon who's so you know, amazing and of course like Darth Vader and and those kind of characters what do you what are some advice you have for creating a really great antagonist, the Joker, I just came to me with one of the greatest

Pilar Alessandra 35:35
one, it was the Joker from the Dark Knight you're talking about

Alex Ferrari 35:40
the 1969 Adam West version?

Pilar Alessandra 35:44
You never know. Right? So. So if there is, I wish I could quote it right now. But I actually show the logline of the Joker from the Dark Knight in one of my classes because his love line is that he's somebody who is who is trying to bring fun back to the city and stop this horrible masked men from from ruining all of that fun. He believes what he is doing is is a good thing. You know, if you have to kill people to do it, so be it. So every bad guy has his or her own logline. And the you know, my first my first piece of advice is what is their logline? What's their movie, right? So as they're looking in on the scenes, how do they feel they're the hero. And I'm certainly not the first person to say that. But it does it is worth it to actually go in and go, what is your antagonist logline. They don't think they're evil. They think they're right.

Alex Ferrari 36:55
Right, isn't it? But isn't that the truth for every bad guy in history? You know, every dictator, every mass murderer, and in one way, shape, or form. They're not they're twisting, twisting, twisting their mustache, they truly believe that they're doing something If not, you couldn't really go to sleep at night. So you truly believe in a psychotic break of some sort. Obviously, that breaks from societal norms, that you're doing good from your perspective, because I always tell people, the bad guy is always the hero of his own story. He's not the villain, you know?

Pilar Alessandra 37:26
Yes. So the writer, it's like, we can say this for days. But if the writer doesn't actually know what that story is, if they just go I'm, I believe you right? And still write them in this cookie cutter way. They haven't really gone into the the writers into the bad guys psyche, you know, why are they doing what they do? Now, that does not mean that you stop the script, and you go into a flashback of what made the guy evil. That's different. That's their backstory, and we don't need it. We just need to what is their point of view? Now, in this moment? Why do they think they're right? And it will humanize them in terms of how they express their lines, some of the choices that they make, things like that.

Alex Ferrari 38:13
So two great examples. I was just thinking off the top of my head was a Thanos, obviously, because it's an unmined is, you know, in his mind, he's just trying to it's the universe is overpopulated and it's just, there's just too many people so we're just gonna get rid of half of the universe. That's that's his point of view. He's like, I'm just I'm just trying to help. And then, right is that basically, that's basically kindness

Pilar Alessandra 38:35
to the actor's gentle voice that he uses, right? He doesn't know even though he's huge. He's always kind of explaining this like he's a philosophy professor.

Alex Ferrari 38:47
Yes. Yes. Just Brolin. Yeah,

Pilar Alessandra 38:49
right. And and so I think it goes with again, he the the point of view is very clear. So the actor is able to now interpret it with more depth than than usual.

Alex Ferrari 39:00
Yeah, and a lot of the Marvel movies is that's one of the weaknesses of those Marvel movies is that the antagonists always a lot of times wasn't as strong as the protagonist. The protagonist was so well developed, but the antagonists weren't. That nose is a good one, but the other one in black and black panther was wonderful because you just felt bad for him. You know, cuz he was so you remember Black Panther Black Panther. Manga got his name? warmonger. But it's warmonger thing. His name was but he was he's basically his. He's like a stepbrother or cousin. He's a cousin to Black Panther. And he never got raised in Wakanda. He was thrown out in the street and he was rejected.

Pilar Alessandra 39:42
And we do see a little of his backstory, right, Trey that triggers that.

Alex Ferrari 39:46
Yeah. And he just wants to come back and take what's hit me because it's obviously wrong what he's doing, but you get it like you like if I was put in that position, would I make those choices if I had that set, you know, and that's what really humanizes that character. Like you The main character feel bad about re spoiler alert when he doesn't win at the end. You know if he feels bad when he asked to, you know, finish the job, if you will, because he's like, I feel your pain. I do. And those that was what made I think that they that made that movie such a hit as well as all the other cool stuff that happened in it. But without that great antagonist. I mean, what a Star Wars without Darth Vader, like,

Pilar Alessandra 40:23
Hey, I'm looking I'm going to Devil Wears Prada, Miranda sight. So like, you know, what's fun is how beastly she is through most of it. And then we're starting to see her point of view. And this is a you know, a busy working mother like, this is like, sorry, you know, sometimes you need to get stuff done. Plus she has an expertise in fashion. So when she's cutting your protagonists down to size, she's not just saying you're stupid. She's saying you don't understand the industry you're in. And this is why, you know, and she's right. Yeah. So I you can't help but go. Oh, yeah. I wish you hadn't been so mean to the protagonists. But you were right. I get it.

Alex Ferrari 41:11
Yeah. And that's what makes that movie so wonderful. And Meryl Streep, of course, but, but that character is so so wonderfully played. Yeah, agreed. 110%. Now, do you have any techniques for brainstorming? brainstorming scenes, you know, sometimes you like you have a story. But like, I always find that the beginning of the end are very easy to write. It's that it's that middle stuff that gets a little, a little rough how they get to point A to point B, creating those scenes in a wonder in a good way, or in a entertaining way or in a way that we haven't seen 1000 times. I feel sometimes the screenwriters in the 50s and 60s and 70s had such a leg up because audiences weren't nearly as sophisticated. And they and a lot of stuff hadn't been done yet. You know, nowadays, how much content are we making? How many things how many things have we seen? I've seen 10s of 1000s of movies, probably in my lifetime, let alone TV show episodes and stuff. So I'm extremely literate. You're extremely literate on like, my wife is even going oh, this storyline on that one didn't work. The character arc didn't work. Like she's even pointing out green screen bad green screenshots. And she's not in the business. So we're so sophisticated. What do you do about coming up with some original ideas? And what kind of brainstorming techniques to suggest

Pilar Alessandra 42:27
a way, you know, you can flip what you just said and make it an advantage for the modern day screenwriter, because the audience does have so much context now, right? But you can drop into a scene at a specific point without setup, because the audience already knows the journey that led there because we've seen other versions of this story in other movies. That's the first thing I would say is drop it. Okay, maybe drop in at the least hand holding part and see what it looks like. Okay, another is if you do that, does that work within the context of the movie in terms of something that you set up earlier on? Another is having a fresh take on an old trope. So it's absolutely fine to have troops that we I mean, like with genres

Alex Ferrari 43:28
will scream, like scream, for example.

Pilar Alessandra 43:30
Yeah, yeah. But I mean, that was very self aware and sort of calling it out. But like, if you look at I always use an interrogation scene as an example because immediately you know what that looks like right?

Alex Ferrari 43:42
light bulb light bulbs flowing in. I mean, you got the two guys good cop bad cop. Yeah, the rooms dark. Yeah, we get it.

Pilar Alessandra 43:48
But change one thing, change up the setting, and go it's not an interrogation, there is an interrogation in a park. It's an interrogation in the ocean, it's interrogation at an amusement park. It's an interrogation in a kitchen, and suddenly there's a fresh take on it. So you can do one little thing, even just changing upsetting and that will give it a fresh take. So again, I'm going to book smart to have everybody like when you're watching it, look at the fresh take on certain things, certain scenes you thought you knew

Alex Ferrari 44:25
exactly in I was thinking of the and now of course my my juices start flowing interrogation seem like, well, what if one of the cops like always eating like constantly while he's while he's talking to somebody, he's just eating and it's disgusting. And you're focusing on what he's eating, but yet, he's tearing this guy apart? I don't know. I'm just throwing things out there. But right. It's just a new way of doing it.

Pilar Alessandra 44:45
Right. What is it one of the cops is a clown, instead

Alex Ferrari 44:49
dressed dressed as a clown because he was undercover somewhere. We're writing something together. We need a co writer credit on this on the scene. Now, tell me a little bit about Coffee Break screenwriter, which has been around for a couple years. Oh, that book? Yes. Yes. The coffee break screen writer, I want you to, I want you to tell me first of all, how can you write? How does a writer write a screenplay? 10 minutes at a time?

Pilar Alessandra 45:17
Well, kind of like, if you look at the answers to the questions you've asked me, right, if you actually applied all those things that we just talked about, you could you could make progress in 10 minutes on a character. For example, let's say you wanted to go back to voice, okay, I'm going to do a pass on 10 pages, making sure that my character is now speaking his or her stage of life or profession. Okay, so I've now rewritten 10 pages, just with that one technique that could take you 10 minutes of time that could take you your coffee break time. You know, I think we spend this much time on like, updating Facebook or tweeting something, or whatever, you know, you could just go like, I'm just gonna take, I'm going to do one thing to rewrite or make progress and the script and really can do it. And I know you can do it, because I do it in my classes I make make people like, I don't even give Kevin 10 minutes. Again,

Alex Ferrari 46:21
you know, isn't isn't I always tell people. This is one of the pieces of advice I always give people when they want to write screenplays, I'm like, just set up a goal of one page a day, you know, and in 90 days, you'll have a screenplay. If you if you're feeling Froggy, do two pages a day, and you'll be done in 45 days, do three pages a day, and you've done in a month and you've got a you got a first draft of a month, in a month. You know, it's and I've actually had people come back to me like, oh, Alex, thank God, you told me to do that. I'm doing that now. And I'm like, but it's, it sounds so simple, but yet, it's not. And it could be a 10 minute to do to do and you're done.

Pilar Alessandra 46:56
Now, now, what will kill your 10 minutes is when you go back in and you reread that page first. Because you're going to go in and rewrite it, you're going to struggle over it. And then just getting your second that I have to go back to work, you know, or back to my kid, you know, or school. So So yeah, try and do these things, knowing you will be able to go back in and make it all perfect. But don't try and get it perfect right away.

Alex Ferrari 47:26
What are some of your suggestions for the dreaded rewriting process,

Pilar Alessandra 47:30
dreaded rewriting process, it goes back to something that we talked about a little bit earlier, which is first lean into your own good idea. The first pass I have everybody do is making sure they're honoring their own logline. Because it is the common thing that I see with my own clients that they backed away from it. And I kind of give them certain tools to sort of check in on certain areas, make sure that they're honoring at least sort of the two main hooks that come through in their log line at certain stages. Another thing is being, you know, if you have these sort of behaviors that come through these character roles, right, turning up the dial, in certain key scenes, making sure that those behaviors are constantly paying off for entertainment value, or even breaking one of the rules to show change later on. So instead of going back in and sort of redoing all of your characters just turning up the dial on, on who they are. So So those are some tricks I would I would do for story and for character dialogue, you could do one of the things that we talked about. For your ending. This is where a lot of people have problems with the first draft is they, they thought they could cheat the ending. Okay, so, yes, somebody may have found the treasure, but how did they do that? Make sure that there's a trigger moment, like what was the event that triggered the solution to help you find the treasure, go back in if that scene is missing, that needs to be there, that's really important for your re re

Alex Ferrari 49:15
know, we've been talking a lot about craft, and this but I want to talk a little bit about business, about the business of screenwriting, because it's something that people don't talk about. And it's all wonderful when you have this perfect Oscar winning screenplay in your hand. But if you don't understand how to pitch it, how to get it into the system, how the system works, you know, that's so I see so many I mean, I've read screenplays that I'm just like, how is this not produced? Like how is this not made it? And and it also and I've read screenplays from you know, million dollar screenwriters. And they just like here, this is one of the 30 that I have in my drawer that I had never been able to get the bruise and I'm like, Oh my god, how is this not being produced? He's like, I just can't. So it's tough for even established screenwriters later. alone for screenwriters coming in. So what advice do you have on the business side of it? I know that's a very large, very large question. So you know, whatever, whatever areas you would like to discuss?

Pilar Alessandra 50:10
Well, you know, it's funny, because that's not my area of expertise. Mine is all sort of in the in the writing and development stages. But I'm from No, I'm going to, the first answer I'm going to give is going to be an eye roll answer, because it is also about having a lot of content and really good content. And the reason I say this is because on my podcast, got over 600 episodes, I try and have successful screenwriters and TV writers. And we're always going back to what was that moment that that triggered your big break? And it's completely random? It's all random. Like, there's never one answer. It could be, you know, I was at this party, and I'm a friend of a friend. And like, we ended up bonding over skateboards. And then we found out that I mean, it could just be rad, right? Or it could be that, you know, they tracked this one producer, and they were able to really like get in the room and sell them on something. But when it all came down to it, it was when they had the opportunity, it was the content. So I would be remiss if I didn't say it's all about the content first. But as far as what's going on in the industry right now. There's so many things that are happening, because this agent wda thing is actually creating new opportunities. You know, people always get creative when certain things are cut off. That's why like with a writer's strike, right, we started seeing other platforms develop or independent producers rise back up and things like that. So I would say right now, you know, get on Twitter, look at what's happening in the writers community, there are opportunities there that weren't there before. Another is, and don't be mad. But I do think that competitions have become the new vetting ground for managers and agents. They, if you if you place or win a prestigious contest, they'll go, Oh, I want to look at that material. But you as the writer have to vet some of these contests and make sure that you're not just throwing your competition money at willy nilly at things that are unproven, or don't have industry connections at the end of it. So those are that's some advice.

Unknown Speaker 52:42
I hope that

Alex Ferrari 52:43
hope that is helpful, but also, you know, speaking to so many screenwriters, I'm sure as you have as well in your life, you realize that screenwriter, a professional screenwriter is a one that's not six years on one screenplay. You know, that is the biggest problem I see with so many young screenwriters. I'm like, hey, how does that screen right, but yeah, I mean, what have you done? I'm like, Oh, I'm still on that script. I've almost got it, almost that almost cracked it. And it's five years later. And they're still on that one screenplay, where the professional screenwriter in that time has gotten 10 1520 screenplays done. And they're in their drawer. So when you do have that opportunity, like you were saying, that one script is not going to be they're gonna go up, they might take that one, or they might go, that's nice. It's a great example. But do you have anything else you should have three or four other samples? or other projects waiting to go? In a lot of ways? Would you agree with that?

Pilar Alessandra 53:31
Absolutely. Absolutely. And, and think of it this way. Um, if you sell your script to a large studio, you don't own it anymore. So why would you be married to that? No. scripts, but don't marry him, okay? Because somebody else is gonna is going to actually pay the money to marry that thing. You're gonna have to give that bride away. You know. Another thing is if you rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite and rewrite, rewrite, how open Are you going to be to notes? You can be exhausted by the time somebody actually takes it and gives you notes, and then it becomes your job to do the notes. So

Alex Ferrari 54:08
protective and protective of it, too.

Pilar Alessandra 54:10
Yes. So my, my advice is sorry, I'm

Alex Ferrari 54:17
notice a bird behind you. There's a bird behind you in the window. Don't worry. Yeah, I see her in the background. It's all good.

Unknown Speaker 54:22
So cute.

Pilar Alessandra 54:28
Is is read till it meets your own intention. Okay, if you've read written and go, you know what this is, this is what I kind of had in my mind when I started when it was just in my brain. And there it is on the page. You're done. Okay, time to send it out. If somebody wants to pay you to rewrite it. Awesome. You don't need to go around chasing notes. You've met your intention.

Alex Ferrari 54:55
That's awesome. And do you have some big do's and don'ts when writing a screenplay?

Unknown Speaker 55:03

Pilar Alessandra 55:05
do Don't chase the market? Oh,

Alex Ferrari 55:10
yes, I'm gonna start doing superhero movies because it's hot. Like,

Pilar Alessandra 55:14
and by the time you're done, it's not right. Oh, yeah. So so I don't chase the market. Do these days, try and think why you're the best writer to tell this story actually no, go the other way, find a story, where, really, you're the best writer for it. So this matches a little bit with your personal brand. You've probably heard other guests talk about this, the idea that that, you know, draw from something that's happened to you or some expertise you have don't turn up your nose at maybe even the job that you do. You know, um, like, for example, I had a client who was coming up with this courtroom thriller, and I was like, have you been in the courtroom? No, you know, are you uh, are you a woman? No. And you know, have you experienced sexism? No, it was like, all about like, sexism in the courtroom. And. And I was like, not that you're not allowed to write that. But the the, the project didn't feel authentic. And we thought to the fact that at one point, he was a lager in the 70s. Oh, yeah, he was a lot. He was in his 20s. He was a hippie who had to go into logging to support his family, and into that logging company came these ex cons that were hired from the local jail. Yeah, exactly. So he wrote an original pilot around that it was awesome. And guess what? It's, he's really the person to write that

Alex Ferrari 56:52
he's the only person to write that. Yeah,

Pilar Alessandra 56:54
yeah. No, did it have to match verbatim his own experience? No, it was inspired by his own experiences. So you don't have to find something that that is like, where you have to protect the rights of all the people around you. It's more the idea that you have some authority in this world, it feels authentic, and it pitches really well. That way you're connected to it.

Alex Ferrari 57:15
It's kind of like if Tarantino would do a Pixar movie, which I would go see. But that's truly not on brand, is it?

Pilar Alessandra 57:23
Well, but if he does, if he did a Pixar movie, you know, you know, he's, he's, you know, King of certain genres, right? So in a way, if you were going to animate a certain genre, he'd be the person to do it, you know, plus, you know, you know, what if he did something about, you know, a mouse, who worked in a video store and became an iconic film director?

Alex Ferrari 57:49
It's a bit on the nose? A BIT bit on the nose, bit on the nose, but yes.

Unknown Speaker 58:00
Do it, man.

Alex Ferrari 58:01
He'll do it. Um, and can you actually, you know, for everyone who's listening, because we have a lot of first time screenwriters who listen to this? Can you just describe what on the nose is because that's a note that a lot of people get, and they just don't get what that means. They just really quickly explain that.

Pilar Alessandra 58:14
Well, I think that you the way that you just sort of critique what I said was on the noses, I was being awfully literal, right? You know, it was like, well, that is definitely his story. And literally, it's not, it's not taking maybe an experience and nuancing it right. So that's one version of on the nose. But when we're talking about dialogue being on the nose, it's often when someone's speaking their thoughts or feelings out loud. So they're saying things like, Oh, I'm,

Unknown Speaker 58:43
I'm so angry right now.

Pilar Alessandra 58:45
But I'm experiencing this this mixture of entertainment and embarrassment right now. to Alex, right. Like that kind of thing.

Alex Ferrari 58:54
Yeah, there is. And that is an epidemic as well, a lot of times when with with first time writers as well, I did it when I started writing, I was writing right on the nose. I would that was the note I would get back from studios when they would see my scripts and they would say it's on the nose. It's on the nose. I'm like, What the hell is I got the look on the nose meant and I was like, Oh, it's called about nuances, subtext, you know, a look. You know, always show don't tell it whenever you can.

Pilar Alessandra 59:19
And it goes back to what you said about the audience has educated themselves in movies and TV, they're really smart, savvy audience, so they get the context. All they have to see is that visual clue, and they get it a whole story is told.

Alex Ferrari 59:36
And now you have a new book coming that just it just came out a little while ago, right?

Pilar Alessandra 59:41
It's it's a little thin. There you go. But I guess we could call it a book. It's called coffee breaks, screenwriter breaks the rules. And it's about you know, you know, those rules you all think you're supposed to follow because all those other books and stuff. It sort of goes like well You know what, you should break those rules. But if you break those rules, here's why the rules there to begin with, here's how to break it creatively to actually make your script a little more original. Right? But here's also how breaking that rule can break bad if you go too far with it. So it's it's looking at all those things that should be educational and fun. And gives you a Yeah, it gives you permission to to do something a little nuts.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:32
And when you said break bad, I just Walter White just flew into my head. It was such a good show.

Unknown Speaker 1:00:37
Everything around Walter White, obviously, obviously, What's my name? anyway?

Alex Ferrari 1:00:46
So I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all of my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Unknown Speaker 1:00:53

Pilar Alessandra 1:00:57
what advice would I give? Um, again, start with your own experiences. Look around you right now. Where are you? What can you mind from who you are and what you know? Okay,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:10
now, can you tell me a book that had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Unknown Speaker 1:01:14

Unknown Speaker 1:01:15

Unknown Speaker 1:01:18

Unknown Speaker 1:01:18

Pilar Alessandra 1:01:21
guide, I wasn't prepared for these.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:25
That's why I do that.

Pilar Alessandra 1:01:28
As far as I as far as Linda Aronson's a book god what was it screenwriting reconstructed or Oh my god,

Unknown Speaker 1:01:41
Okay, got it. We

Pilar Alessandra 1:01:42
look it up about nonlinear screenwriting, her first, her first screenwriting book, Linda Aronson, and I really respected the fact that she was trying to find patterns outside of conventional structure. Oh, screenwriting updated, sorry. As we establish the answers screenwriting updated, you know, I really, really admired the effort to really dig in and find out why. unconventional storytelling works.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:14
Got it. Now, what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life,

Pilar Alessandra 1:02:19
guy, guess I'm still learning it? You know, what lesson took me the longest to learn is that I'm always learning is that that you are always learning on the job that you never know, everything you are, every day, there is something new to learn, you know, and so be open to it. So that's what I'm learning is that I'm still learning.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:42
Now, what was the biggest fear you had to overcome to achieve one of the biggest goals of your life?

Pilar Alessandra 1:02:48
Oh, gosh, people think because I have a podcast. And

Unknown Speaker 1:02:54
I feel you.

Pilar Alessandra 1:02:56
I teach publicly, you know, they think I must be a very sort of public showy person. I really don't like social media. I don't Google myself. Every day is kind of some wrestling with the anxiety of how, how open everything is right now. advantages to it, there are disadvantages as well. And every day, I think you have to be a little bit brave if you want to communicate to a lot of people so that's, that's my, my daily fear is, is I don't know.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:38
It's social media. Basically.

Pilar Alessandra 1:03:40
I have a little bit of anxiety about it. I hate being on camera. I hate being on video. I hate it.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:46
But you know, fantastic. You've been fantastic. And I i've hope I've made it easy for you. But it's been fantastic having you on camera. You know, I think this is a this is a something that happens to podcasters because, you know, I've been podcasting for almost four years now. My two podcasts and you know, when you're a bass I do it basically alone in a room with a mic or I'm doing it like this over a Skype call with somebody. And you know, it's very different than being out like a YouTuber. Like you know, like getting out there and like Okay guys, we're gonna go do this like I'm not that dude either. I A lot of people think that I'm very, and I am to a certain extent but I I'm happy at home. I don't need to be out at a club somewhere. Those Those days are gone for me. I'm very happy.

Pilar Alessandra 1:04:36
introverted extrovert, right. I

Unknown Speaker 1:04:38
feel that introverted extrovert

Pilar Alessandra 1:04:40
those categories.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:41
Yes. It's the extrovert who enjoys being an introvert. Right?

Pilar Alessandra 1:04:46
Can't wait to go back to their introverted like, Oh, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:04:49
I'm just vege at home with my wife and watch Netflix tonight. I don't need to go out party anywhere. And now the toughest question of all three of your favorite films of all time.

Pilar Alessandra 1:05:00
Oh, I'm paper moon.

Unknown Speaker 1:05:03
I love it. Yeah, good movie.

Pilar Alessandra 1:05:06
It's one that I can watch over and over again. And you're gonna you're gonna laugh at me.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:13
I've heard it on the show.

Pilar Alessandra 1:05:14
It's such a script writing teacher thing to say. But Citizen Kane movie I really really love. You know, it's, it's different points of view. I was one of those people that was like, what that was.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:32
Shows spoiler alert. Hello. I thought you were gonna I thought you were gonna say Chinatown?

Pilar Alessandra 1:05:40
Yeah, no, I'm really. No, I'm not in love with Chinatown. Don't tell anybody you know. Um, and then, um, gosh, I again, I always go with sort of like that my latest boyfriend and my latest boyfriend. I keep going. That's fine. Yeah, I just really I was so happy about that movie for so many reasons. So, yeah, so I would say those three movies off the top of my head.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:12
Cool. Now where can people find you and your work?

Pilar Alessandra 1:06:16
I'm on the page.tv that is my website for classes. I love it when people show up in classes. And now I'm also doing online video classes again, try not to be afraid of the camera so that I can I actually teach in real time to people all over. So check that out in the books there and links the podcast and all that kind of stuff. Awesome. Pillai,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:39
It has been an absolute pleasure. I'm so glad we finally got to do this. It was great talking to you. Thank you so much for dropping some major, major knowledge bombs today on the tribe. I appreciate it.

Pilar Alessandra 1:06:48
I really appreciate you inviting me and for being so patient with the scheduling. Thank you so much, Alex.

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 659: RAW Confessions of a Hollywood Blockbuster Screenwriter with Ted Griffin

There’s no con more satisfying and lucrative than finding a way to make a living as a screenwriter. And Ted Griffin is a man who knows a good con.

Anyone who tried to follow the clever criminal head games he built into his screenplays for Ocean’s 11 and Ridley Scott’s Matchstick Men knows not to trust this guy – except when he talks about screenwriting, which he does with great humor and insight in this enlightening interview.

The conversation ranges from his early work on Ravenous and Ocean’s 11 through the unexpected pitfalls of trying to direct his first filmRumor Has It. He was scheduled to make his directorial debut with Rumor Has It…, for which he had written the original screenplay, but was replaced by Rob Reiner 12 days after principal filming began.

He did a rewrite of the Ashton Kutcher film Killers. He moved into television by creating Terriers for FX. Griffin played Agent Hughes in The Wolf of Wall Street.

The Dialogue: Learning From the Masters is a groundbreaking interview series that goes behind the scenes of the fascinating craft of screenwriting. In these 70-90 minute in-depth discussions, more than two dozen of today’s most successful screenwriters share their work habits, methods and inspirations, secrets of the trade, business advice, and eye-opening stories from life in the trenches of the film industry. Each screenwriter discusses his or her filmography in great detail and breaks down the mechanics of one favorite scene from their produced work.

Your Host: Producer Mike De Luca is responsible for some of the most groundbreaking films of the last 15 years. After enrolling in New York University’s film studies program at 17, De Luca dropped out four credits shy of graduation to take an unpaid internship at New Line Cinema. He advanced quickly there under the tutelage of founder Robert Shaye and eventually became president of production.

To watch Ted Griffin’s amazing episode go to The Dialog Series on IFHTV.

Alex Ferrari 1:40
I like to welcome Tisha

Ted Griffin 3:33
Oh, Fuck you! NO! All right, start over.

Alex Ferrari 3:36
No, sir. We were gonna get what keep rolling. We're gonna keep rolling. I expect nothing less from you, sir. Mr. Ted Griffin. How are you my friend?

Ted Griffin 3:47
I'm terrific. Very, very nice. Happy to be here. Happy to be alive. Thank you, man. I was in New York stories. Any any day above ground is a good day.

Alex Ferrari 3:57
Amen to that brother.

Ted Griffin 3:59
Tom Waits impression. I don't know.

Alex Ferrari 4:01
But I appreciate you coming up. Joe. Man. I've been a fan of yours for a while. And I saw your interview years ago on the dialogue which is one of the rare interviews I looked you don't do these very often. I noticed or if they don't,

Ted Griffin 4:13
Can't find ask really. Maybe because of that one. Maybe because I wore shorts. on a on a gone camera. Somebody said Jesus. Well, you can deal with the drooling, but shorter

Alex Ferrari 4:26
And the cursing and the drugs and alcohol Excuse me. Yeah. But anyway, so my friend, thank you so much for coming on the show. My first question to you is why in God's green earth did you want to get into this insane business called Holly doll?

Ted Griffin 4:43
It was it almost feels like it was never a choice. I interrupt me if I get too long winded with family history because any biography you ever read is like, oh god, he's talking about his grandfather. My grandfather and my grandmother came up to Hollywood in the 20s. And were a very prolific director on my grandfather's side and a fairly successful actress on my grandmother's side for a number of years. They show up on TCM a few times a year, sometimes in a sort of the graveyard shift. And they both have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which started around 1950. So there was a lot of sidewalk back then. So it's, they are those names you kind of pass by and go. Alright, that's a they were they were pioneers on the sidewalk, I'd say. Anyway, he directed a lot of movies with almost everybody famous from back then John Wayne, Shirley Temple, the Marx Brothers, Astaire and Rogers, his maybe not their best films, but you worked with them all. He did make a very celebrated Laurel and Hardy movie called sons of the desert, which is in the Library of Congress. So that's his sort of claim to fame. He was named his name was William a cider. And the only person I've ever met who actually knew who he was, was Martin Scorsese, because that's just smarting. And my grandmother's name was Marion Nixon and she was sort of a clinical bear type type worked with a young Spencer Tracy and a young Joel McCrea and Jimmy Cagney was in a couple of John Ford movies. And but retired when she married my grandfather and started a family. So I grew up with the lore of Hollywood, around me, my parents were not in the industry, but my father was, who was not involved, had no relation to the industry was a cinephile and took me to a revival theater at the Rialto Theatre in South Pass, which is where Griffin mill in the player goes and kills the screenwriter. Yes, yeah, is a harbinger of things to come for me. Anyway, so I was seeing movies very young. And then, luckily, two things I think happened at a special age. I think there's something about 1011 12, especially maybe for boys where they kind of get into story and movies. And when I was that age, Steven Spielberg got sort of coronated, meaning he was on the scene with jaws and close encounters. But that was like, that's the Raiders Lost Ark et poltergeist sort of hattrick that along with the proliferation of the VCR, so all of a sudden, I had access to movies besides revival theaters. And so from that point on, it was I was just moving nuts. And there was sometimes unfortunately, no looking back

Alex Ferrari 7:58
In other fields,

Ted Griffin 7:59
Hopefully the not too long winded answer to your question.

Alex Ferrari 8:04
So then, so I've so I think you and I come from the same similar vintage as far as age is concerned. And I grew up in a video store as well actually worked in a video store for so many years. So I mean, that opened my eyes was set to cinema, watch video source. So at what point did you say you know what, I think I want as much power as I can in Hollywood, I'm gonna become a screenwriter. And you start bumping around as a screenwriter, because I'm assuming you said you'd have no connections in the business at this point.

Ted Griffin 8:35
No, my last living connection was probably Ernst Lubitsch. It was that who was apparently a good friend of my grandfather's he had died by dance distance for I was born in 70. So everybody, I had nobody to call and and because at 1112 Let me turn off so that doesn't make that noise. I started emulating Spielberg and making backyard movies with on Super Eight and then and then beta, and then have VHS so so my so he was my role model. And then probably like a few years later, when I got snarky or Billy Wilder, and but there were always sort of writer directors, who were my heroes or who I aim to be. So I had absolutely no interest in being a screenwriter in the business and but I wanted to write my way into the chair so to speak, which I I kind of made the mistake of going to a liberal arts college college back east because it was it was off track, but I you know, I did it. It happened. It's my claim to fame from that is that I was a in the first incarnation of the comedy group broken lizard which has gone on Yes. So I was like a freshman when they were juniors and seniors.

Alex Ferrari 10:13
So Jay was on the show was on the show. I love Jay .

Ted Griffin 10:15
Yeah. So that so for like a year I was there Terry Gilliam I was like making the movies and, and then they went to New York and I ultimately went to LA and anyway, so what's my story? Oh, yeah, so I was gonna write myself my way into the chair. But I was also very poor and living in LA in a hand me down Mazda with pretty much all my clothes and possessions in the back of it going from couch to spare bedroom to sometimes sleeping in the car. And not really kind of refusing to take a job because I was just intent on writing my way in I mean, a permanent job I was a dry cleaner for a while and worked on a construction site for a little bit. And, and then three years of that, and I got lucky, somebody got a writer named Neil Tolkien read one of my scripts and gave it to his agent lawyer who became my agent lawyer. And there's one script called best laid plans that I thought this is my thing to direct like, this is the right size movie. And no it it's like a good first film. And then somebody. Then Mike Newell, sorry, I was like debating Okay, do I name names? Yeah. Mike Newell company read it. And Mike Newell, who was coming off move. Who had just made Al Pacino Johnny Depp gangster.

Alex Ferrari 11:46
Oh, Danny Braska

Ted Griffin 11:48
Thank you, God. Just making that said, oh, I want to direct this next and on this level with these people. And I said, well, she's, I guess I gotta say yes to that. So I sort of sold the script, and literally turned around Donnie Brasco, open big and he said, I can't do this movie. I need to do a bigger movie. But we'll we'll find a director and I was like, Whoa, he would river I want to, but I couldn't. I'd sort of taking the check. His next movie was pushing 10 So serves him fucking right. And, but I got I got bait and switch on the movie I should have directed first. The other movie that I'd written that sold was ravenous, which was not a good first movie because it's up in the mountains with snow and turned out to be a completely calamitous production.

Alex Ferrari 12:37
Is that Is that the one with Guy Pearce? Yes. Yeah. Guy was on the show. I think he I remember him saying, Yeah, ravenous. That was a rough situation.

Ted Griffin 12:44
Yeah, it was a rough situation. But strangely enough, a movie that has a lot of fans and like, oh, yeah, fun criterion channel and like, survives, in a way basically plans very, like, terrible movie. Lots of nice people involved very easy production. Lots of very good actors, all in the wrong roles. And after that, I was like, I took six months off, I was so bummed out about the industry.

Alex Ferrari 13:15
Well, let me ask, let me ask you this. So how many scripts did you write before you got the first one sold?

Ted Griffin 13:24
I'd written four or five.

Alex Ferrari 13:28
How did you? Did you take any courses? Or did you take any anything to like learn it? Or did you just pick up a book format

Ted Griffin 13:35
As a kid I was I was already so nuts about movies that I was reading Adventures in the screen trade. By the time I was 12, or 13. I was I think, at 14 Taking a Syd field class where he distributed the first 10 pages of body heat by Larry caston, which is how I learned not only about screenwriting, but about heterosexual sodomy. That's a joke I have with Larry. Oh, we can laugh about it now. Anyway. So I was I was already sort of reading scripts, which was a lot harder in the pre internet days. Like he really had to go find him. So I was sort of like, to some degree, self taught and college I talked to a professor into letting me take write a screenplay for credit one semester. So that was the first one I like, feature length one I had done and then and then those three years of sort of like living hand to mouth. I churned out three, three more, and I also tried my hand at a couple of t like half hour TV scripts, and which taught me that I should not write for friends or the Simpsons or Seinfeld, because I gave them to my friends. I had friends who are basically running Seinfeld. I thought, oh, they'll give me a job and they read them and said, You're feature guy, which was a nice way to say this. Good.

Alex Ferrari 15:07
But this is a your you were in a car basically, living basically, day to day. I just want people listening to understand like the kind of tenacity that takes for three years running around LA, did you just have a laptop and you were just trying to use squeezing in stuff at coffee shops or doing it in your car? Like how do you mentally deal with not knowing where your next meal is coming at? And then that and that maybe that that extreme, but still, like, really not having a place to live or jumping here and they're really struggling, and yet still be creative enough to write.

Ted Griffin 15:43
I'm trying to remember actually, like when laptops came on the scene because it may have been like lugging around a modern

Alex Ferrari 15:49
The typewriter.

Ted Griffin 15:50
Yeah. I mean, there were, there's a great injustice in Hollywood, which is I would say, from my experience, not systematically, systemically racist, but systemically favors those who have a trust fund or who can be in a mailroom, unpaid, or who can survive for a while. And while yes, I was working hand to mouth, like I had a, my mom was in Denver, and I could like escape and go and live in our basement and churn out a script. And so I had, I didn't have any money, but I did have a diploma from an overpriced University and sort of like, more of a safety net. Even in that existence, then, like, I knew I wasn't gonna be, like, aimless the homeless. So it's a good story, but it's also sort of like, and I'm glad I went through it, because there is something to pay, you're paying your dues, besides being able to go on a podcast 25 years later and say so. But that said, there is something that is there's there's a reason why kids from liberal arts colleges or reasonably well to do backgrounds, do well in Hollywood, because they can kind of survive those questionable years. Oh, what's my point? So yes, it was. Also, I mean, there's something about the you don't realize you're gonna miss about youth that is very, very known about music, meaning if you're in rock into rock and roll, and you're not kind of making traction by 25, like, you got to like your that energy is musically like you need that for rock and roll. It's not as true for movies, but it's kind of is meaning. They're novelists who probably start at 50. You cinema is like a little younger than that. And so and there's a certain energy that in which you, you're coming up a lot of stuff younger than you are older. Agreed. And so. So while I really wish, I'm really glad I'm not living in my car anymore, I really would love to sort of get back to that

Alex Ferrari 18:32
That guy, that guy, that guy,

Ted Griffin 18:34
And also the, the, you know, doing anything artistic is a leap of faith, you've got to have to have a dream and believe that dream could possibly come true. Well enough to pursue it, and you have enough experiences where things get completely rad Focht and you've sort of ate and it becomes a greater fight to have that, to keep that dream alive. And so it's like, oh, God, I gotta do this. I gotta, I gotta suffer the slings and arrows again. Geez,

Alex Ferrari 19:03
but yeah, but as you get older you eat I mean, I don't know about you. But you know, your level of what you put up with just goes down like things I put up with in my 20s I would never put up with in my 40s Yeah, just it's just you just, you will do so much more when you're younger, to get to where you want to be. But after two or three decades, you're tired and you're like numb. I just don't, I don't want to do that anymore. I won't. I just won't do it anymore. So I agree with you. Like there's things that I remember myself and the torrent might take my early, late teens, teens and 20s that I was just the things that would just be flying, the energy was different. You're not as beat down as much at that point by the business.

Ted Griffin 19:41
I guess I'm proud that at that time, I took all that energy and suffered and put it towards writing and trying to get things going as opposed like I I really had no very little social life. So And I'm sure there are people who can like juggle both and and maybe not happen but people who I know people who had more fun in their 20s than I did. But it's, it's sort of what you have to do you can either choose life or career at that point.

Alex Ferrari 20:28
So alright, so after ravenous, you know, and and that other script that you wrote, how did you get this job to writing Ocean's 11? Like it doesn't there doesn't seem a direct line to that.

Ted Griffin 20:44
Moving from a cannibal Western black comedy doesn't

Alex Ferrari 20:53
With with with the biggest movie stars in the world, and Steven Soderbergh, right.

Ted Griffin 20:57
Well, so as I said, after, after those first two experiences were bad, because I kind of broken in the fall of 96. And for about a year there, I was, like, the shiny new screenwriting boy in town, and, and I had two movies going, and it was like, very heady days, and then ran into the brick wall of those productions of the reality of the business, took six months, six months off, and had sold another idea and was so either bummed out. Or, also, I'd learned the lesson of like, I sold something because of the excitement of agents in the business to sell this thing. And I just didn't have any idea of how to tell the story or what the story was. And I learned a valuable lesson there, which, I guess I could maybe help out anybody out there, which is, there are a bunch of reasons to write scripts, the money, the who you can get to work with the cocktail value of saying, Oh, I'm working with this or on this. And those are all great. And if you don't know what you're writing, or you have no enthusiasm for that all those those three reasons will not help you out when the rubber hits the road, like you need to care, like, have some kind of excitement about what you're writing, or else you're in trouble, hopefully. Or you're just a sociopath, mercenary, and you can pump it out good for you. I've met I've met them as always, so I so I had given back like, a lot of money. And also realize these two movies were going to come out in the next year. And that wasn't going to do me any favors, presumably. And a friend of mine worked for Jerry Weintraub who had a deal at Warner's, his name was Chris Buchanan. And he sent me oceans that it had been one of those movies that they had been talking about, Oh, is there a way of bringing out the word reboot? Bring it back somehow. I think back then it was even still just remake and worry, having grown up cinephile and, and also a guy who really kind of knew old movies and classic Hollywood better than my contemporaries, and who was heavily influenced the Great Escape was a major movie for me growing up Magnum and seven this sort of John Sturgis number movies, slightly less so Dirty Dozen, the professionals I thought was terrific. I had somehow missed oceans just never seen it. Probably because it was never recommended to me. It's the Scorsese loves it I think, um, for personal reasons. And I actually we we never talked about it he's never seen the remake and and Marty's never seen it has never watched it. He I that's a story for either later in the podcast or another day, but I fell into Scorsese's life because he saw ravenous. Which kind of makes me wonder. But I've always thought it was more of an infamous movie. Like, watch these guys phone it in and snot for wearing sweaters. And so and when I finally watched it, I sort of thought Yeah, boy, that's a disappointment. Like it has the kind of the concept, generally for fun movie and that and it's the in the genre, but I really don't care about this movie. And I think I passed on it a couple of times. Basically, they developed a script by a guy named Steve Carpenter, who had written a directed movie called Soul Survivor with Casey Affleck, I think, and that script was pretty faithful to the original and that the it was it was a bunch of army buddies who thought hey, we should apply our military skills to this and they reassembled and There was a guy who is very close to Sinatra's character a dino a Sammy like that. And and I kind of read that and I said this is sort of feels like what I just saw updated and I can remember. Sorry, Tang long winded version. But so I passed it on a couple times. And I think I was I was driving around and I was either listening to the Touch of Evil soundtrack because I was a nerd by Henry man Seanie which is kind of a cool like, or David shires music from taking a Pelham, which is awesome also saw and I just sort of thought, oh, like, I get the vibe of what this movie could be like, it has that. Because there's something about music. That especially for me, but I think a lot of people like music can be an inspiration for movies, just because it's a feeling like you're gonna get this movie is going to give you this feeling this music is going to give you this feeling and that's, I think, sort of what compels us to go see things and to listen to things of like, I want to be scared right now. Or I want to be titillated, or what are its I'm all over the place. I'm gonna come back to Ocean's but there's a my one of my favorite things I've read about movies is Martin Amos wrote in appreciation of Spielberg in the early 80s. And he says that he kind of boiled it down to that Spielberg had a talent for streamlining and emotion to an audience, whether it's Jaws fear and adventure, Close Encounters our Raiders adventure again, and then et love and that and there's a brilliance in that. And I think that's still, to some degree, the secret of his of his success for whatever, along with craft and genius and some other stuff. So So I had the sense of like, oh, there's this feeling of cool that I think could be in this movie. And also secondarily, it struck me of like, the one of my comfort movies growing up on was my I have an older brother who's who's also movie crazy and also writer, and we would just watch the sting at nauseam vidro Hills film of David S Ward script. I try to include those names when I can because

Alex Ferrari 27:36
It doesn't get it doesn't happen very often.

Ted Griffin 27:38
Because the tour theory is such garbage and that all movies being identified by the director is calamitous, or even I'm sorry, I just like the sight and sound list that just came out where everybody like, obviously they've chosen things because to diversify the directors, but that doesn't mean that the movies they're choosing the like, the whole crews were different genders and stuff. Anyway, sorry, soapbox. Ocean's 11. So I hear that music. I love this thing. So I tell Buchanan, okay, I'll meet but I don't know about this. I don't know if I'm the right guy.

Alex Ferrari 28:16
Are you like working at this point? Did you have another job? Do you have another job? Or it's like, because it says,

Ted Griffin 28:20
No, I quit the other gig that I had given. You're looking for work, but you're still saying I don't know. And I'm also trying to get like, I feel like I got off track because I gave up my directorial debut. And so I'm trying to figure out okay, how do I get back to disillusions? But it's like, okay, I need to make some cash. Or, like, I have this potential do this. And I, and I don't want to, like, there's opportunity. And I know, I can't just piss it away. So I go in with Chris I meet weintrob, who's a character who is you know, I won't go through his whole history, but he's, he can be could be extraordinarily charming. And he came in, he said, you can go, I gotta play 7k bunk boy right next to President Bush. You're gonna live next to him. Again. Again, cook and UMaine you can work out in Maine. It'll be great. Which, by the way, an offer that never came through. I never heard another word about like, oh, yeah, you can have to Kennebunkport estate. So I sort of tap dance around like, like some ideas, but for some reason, like they think I'm right for this. And at the time, also, Brett Ratner was attached to direct this is our I'm certainly what else he had. sort of been, you know, he was a extraordinarily successful young director at the moment, and I met Brett and he was a full of enthusiasm. but nobody was saying this is this is what we want. which was actually great to hear, because I just, I, and I've since learned, it's very hard for me to say, to take somebody else's idea and say, Oh, let me execute that for you. And there are people who I've met who are really talented as a talent. But, but it's difficult for me. Anyway. So I went off, I got the job, I went off, and I sort of, I actually worked with my brother Nick a little bit on this and sort of thought, this whole army idea gives me no motivation for a highest like, it's just like, it's a reason for them to make money. Whereas I love the sting. And in the sting, or in the Magnum seven, or the professionals, they're sort of that code of this is what we do. Like it's it's a sort of professionalism. And I thought I'd rather make a movie about guys who do this, and this is the Mount Everest of that and be pretty unfaithful to the original. So wrote about 40 pages of that. I think I've told this somewhere else, but I'm just now I'm just, you can edit all this, right? I give the pages to Chris Buchanan, who's the VP at wind drops, one of two. Just to say, look, I'm working, like as proof of life, progress, and while he's enthusiastic, someone else at the weintrob company who's a little competitive with Chris steals the pages, reads them, takes them to Jerry and says, Griffin's completely off. roading. He's written this thing that hasn't that is not Ocean's 11. And you need to call him in so I get summoned to the woodshed by Jerry Weintraub, who says, This isn't this is all wrong. These guys. They got to be friends in making them thieves. Danny Ocean's coming out of prison. He's a loser. You got to start over. And I say, I understand now. At this point, Chris, God bless him has given the script to basil iguana, who's the warners executive on the project who's read it? And basil calls me and says, don't listen to Jerry. Just keep going. So I do. I'm I, I turned it in. And at that point, because of like this, all this nonsense, I'm sort of like, again, sort of sick of Hollywood and I moved to New York. I think this is like fall of 99. In the interim, oh, and what's happened in the interim is that Brett Ratner has got the movie family man going with Nick Cage and to Leone and is now is no longer available. So Jerry's pissed because he's lost his director because I didn't write the script overnight. And but What has also happened in the interim is that Warner's has made this deal with Soderbergh and Clooney, they've started a new production company there. And so when I do turn the script in, I think the first move is they offered it to Damon and Aflac to star which I think is a rotten idea because they're too young, like they're too green. It's the it's the young guns version of, of oceans. And, and very thankfully, Matt agrees with me. And they pass. So then they go to Soderbergh and Clooney, who sign on, which is like, January of 2000s,

Alex Ferrari 34:01
By the way, but George Clooney at that point, he had done, he had done out of sight

Ted Griffin 34:07
They'd make out of sight and 98 I think his Clooney movie movie was Peacemaker with

Alex Ferrari 34:14
No no movie movie was from dusk till dawn that was his first movie. That was the first time he made a feature of that as an action star. Then he did then he brought him in, but he's still not a megastar. He's He's a star, but he's not a megastar. At this point, Ocean's 11 cents into

Ted Griffin 34:32
In 2000 the perfect storm but all that's right. Yeah, he's that which is debatable because it's like, is he the star or is the wave?

Alex Ferrari 34:41
I would agree with you and mark that as well. Mark Wahlberg is in that and yeah,

Ted Griffin 34:46
But there's the perception of and three kings did well, but not mega well. So it's certainly the perception of like that he can lead a movie star in a movie but whether he's like a And I would say there are very few people who are movie stars. And just because they're in the movie, it's ahead and I'm not even sure if you could say George was ever got to that in the way that Julia Roberts was like, who came? I don't know what the title is. It's the movies called Julia Roberts. That way Nicholson was that way cruises that way. It's it's rarefied air. Anyway, so. So in the January 2000 days, sign on, I'm in New York, but Soderbergh just has Erin Brockovich coming out, which actually proves to be is like, the movie that really kind of restarts things outside got cred but flopped. Erin Brockovich, any wants to make traffic first. So in this irony of like, the Warner Brothers is in too much of a hurry to wait for Brett to do family man. But then when they give it to Steven, and he says, I need to wait a year they say okay. And so we're not going to start until 2001. And, but then, like, the I had, like some of those notions of casting. And for the rest of you, Ryan role I'd always had like, what I would say is like, the really terrific actor who isn't quite a movie star, whether it's the equivalent would be God. I don't know like, went to a movie star. At the time, like Jeff Goldblum, Kevin Spacey, there are certain people who are like that who are like, Oh, I would almost say that I've not seen Ocean's eight. But Ocean's eight sort of does this in that it's Sandra Bullock, and Cate Blanchett. Like Cate Blanchett is like a really interesting person to put in that, but she's not a movie you put in. She's not the star. She's on a movie star of that kind of movie. Anyway, so Brad Pitt comes aboard. That's a surprise to me. Like that's an elevation. The rest of the cast. I always knew it was going to be like, had it. And the one rule I did write for a specific actor was I wrote Saul for Ellen Ark and, and we do cast him. And he does a table read, which is one of the funniest two hours I've been in a room like he's so spectacularly funny. And then had to drop out two days later for because of a medical crisis, which happily 23 years later, was no big deal. So Karina replaced Why am I still here? Anyway? So I guess your original question was, how did a guy with two flop movies coming out? That's, that's an answer. Turned into that, which was like, step by step, meaning it was like, it was a, it was sort of a broken development thing. I barely squeezed by what? Like, I'm not sure maybe I didn't know enough just to say, Oh, I'm gonna throw out your concept and start over. And then also look, because lots of I mean, not just like family men could have not come together. It could have been Breton movie and he could have cast Charlie Sheen. Sucker, Christopher, and Christopher, which would have been a different thing. And who knows, Matt and Ben could have said, Yes. There's at some point. I asked if somebody at Warner's, who do you think is going to direct this movie as I turned it in? And they said, Brian Robins, and that's Brian Robins are running paramount. And this is where like, oh, you see, this is really broadly comic like, and, you know, to some degree, I'm jumping ahead of myself, but same thing happened. This is what on tower highest, which in some ways, there's a version of that which I like more than oceans. So all all the you know, it's the reverse decision meaning. Again, I like I don't think they cast it the way I would have cast it. Like I think it was the ultimately pursued who to comedically, got it. And if they had if they'd kept it real, I think and and not cast comedians. It would have been an hour or at least that's more of what I had my head.

Alex Ferrari 39:30
Alright, so now so Ocean's 11 gets made, you know, basically sets up George for the rest of his life as a not only a megastar, but a tequila magnate.

Ted Griffin 39:43
Without OSHA's original dream.

Alex Ferrari 39:45
Obviously, at the beginning, he's like, I'm gonna make this movie and then eventually sell that tequila company for obscene amounts of money.

Ted Griffin 39:52
But the whole representative,

Alex Ferrari 39:54
Exactly, exactly but to be fair, though, without the coolness of Ocean's 11 That pretty much sets up George for that cool vibe that he had. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. I mean, the Vegas vibe and the other movies that he made and everything is all set up off of ocean. So he owes you a check. I'm just throwing that out there. It's called Giorgio.

Ted Griffin 40:24
I saw him that he gave a million dollars to all his best friends. When I looked at my phone, waiting for it to ring

Alex Ferrari 40:32
Didn't happen. Alright, so after Ocean's 11 comes out, I mean, it's a mega hit. It's a massive, massive, massive hit worldwide. How does the town treat the guy who wrote ravenous and that other movie? After after the fact like, could you're in the middle of this hurricane, I always love asking screenwriters and filmmakers to get caught up in kind of this cyclone of a movie, how does the town cheat you? What lessons did you learn during your waterbottle? Tours? Because at this point, you have a golden ticket if I'm not mistaken, or is Am I wrong on that? Like, I mean, there's

Ted Griffin 41:07
A change not only in like, you know, certainly people are a little nicer to you. And then when you're in rooms, talking about something, you have a credibility that from success that you didn't have before as opposed to have credibility from doing a good piece of work, to different things. And jumping ahead again, I made 12 years ago, I made a TV series called terriers, which only lasted a season because it was commercially disastrous. Like it just didn't get washed by anybody. However, it was like got a lot of political love. And like there now a podcast or two about it. And for a one season show. Like it's, like ravenous, it's still like, it's a thing that won't die. And I talked to a lot of people say, who always volunteer, not always sorry, but who often volunteer how much they love it. I've never however, it didn't. Because it was good. In a lot of people's minds didn't make my phone ring. Like it would have been successful. I'd have a TV career now.

Alex Ferrari 42:21
Right, you can get a bad script that made $500 million, and the phone's gonna rank but if you write the best script ever, and it doesn't make any money, okay,

Ted Griffin 42:28
So it is better, in ways to be lucky than good. But but so Ocean's is is, is quite successful. And I sense it, and even before it's come out, I've been able to set up this project Matchstick Men at Warner's that is making oceans with my brother to write with me, sort of to get him because he had helped out considerably on oceans on sort of figuring out because they were the one of the challenges of oceans stepped backwards. The second is, is that there's just a lot of plumbing, there's a lot of structural work of you have 11 guys you have to take care of, and there's a balance, and you have to keep them all active. And

Alex Ferrari 43:17
It's a juggling act. It's a juggling major

Ted Griffin 43:19
So, so it's just sort of like, there's a lot of work that should be unseen, or reasonably seamless, if this movie is going to work. And that was just a little, like, little daunting. So So I write Matchstick Men with my brother, and which as its own, sort of, and I'm, I'm attaches producer as well, because coming off the experience of the first two movies, I didn't want to where I was left out of rooms about who's going to direct this, who's going to be in it. How do we promote this? And I was furious at times of like, the producers who had really never produced anything. Were were in rooms that I was not allowed into because of I was the writer, just the writer. I made that point and and haven't yet. And yet, the same thing happened in that Robert doesn't make us reads the script. And for those who haven't seen magic, man, I'm gonna spoil it because it's been. It's been 20 years, you've had

Alex Ferrari 44:30
Spoiler, spoiler alert, fast forward.

Ted Griffin 44:33
It's based on a book and in the book, there's a con man who finds out he has a daughter and he tries to start a relationship. And it all goes everything goes sideways. And at the end, he realizes that he's been conned that it's not his daughter and and the book ends with him being like, Oh, I got taken. And when I read that, I thought, Ah, there's a lot I liked this story. I just I actually kind of hate the twist for a guy who likes twist movies. I like it's unfulfilling, maybe I saw it coming. I don't know. So when I pitched to Warner's I say, I want to do this book but I want to actually take the twist out and just make it like an authentic emotional drama but it was with crime and the stuff in it, but it should be. Not a tear jerker, because that feels but going back to this billboard thing, it should deliver a motion machine. It's about a relationship. And we write that script, and we actually get Alfonso Koran is interested. Fortunately, this is Alfonso Kron coming off of great expectations for Warner's, which was not a success. So it's pretty easy to mama, Alfonso Crone. And so even though that's really enticing to me. We also get a call from Robert Zemeckis, saying, I love this, but I read the I heard about this twist, and I'd like to put that back in and Warner's is. Lorenz's bond matures, the head of Warner is the saying you should do is go as Americans and make the change. And so while I may be a hot, dry, hot writer, I'm a baby producer. And so I go to a meeting with Zemeckis, who by the way is about as smart and director was story as any I've met, like he does come from a writing background and he is like, all of the directors I've worked with in talk in script meetings, he's probably the sharpest because he

Alex Ferrari 46:39
That's saying a lot. You've worked with some amazing people.

Ted Griffin 46:42
Yeah, but he's really the, like the writer of the I mean, when you look at Back to the Future, that's a it's a perfect script. is incredible script. So So basically, he says, like, I'd like to make this twist work and I say okay, but if we put the twist in, I need an epilogue of with this, these two characters come together again, like something like briefing cat or something where you see like, oh, he may have been bullsh. He may have been taken. But there was, it wasn't all alive, meaning there was the religion. There was something there. So we write that script. Does it make us his great, I'm gonna send it to Tom Hanks right now he does Tom entry just goes. Let's do Polar Express instead. So the MC MC is off the movie. You want to make Polar Express? And just like Mike Newell, it's sort of like, okay, now he's gonna drag this thing.

Alex Ferrari 47:35
But you find you find that you find that young and up and coming, Director Director? Was his name Ridley something or other?

Ted Griffin 47:40
Right! Yes. He was a very exciting young guy I went to. And here's a lesson I learned. And I feel like I may have told this story again, too. But now I'm just pl