IFH 545: The Godfather of Ninja and Cannon Films with Sam Firstenberg

You are in for a treat today. We have legendary 80’s action director Sam Firstenberg.

At a young age Sam began to “create” movies to entertain his friends. Horrifying his mother, he would cut up books, stringing together the pictures and rolling them up. He would then put the roll into a box with a cut out window, shine a flashlight from behind, and manually pull the roll, revealing the pictures through the window in sequence.

Sometimes he would plan a special show in which his sister narrated the “film” based on a script Sam would concoct, and his father would accompany on the violin. As he grew up he found a hobby in photography and by high school had turned his bedroom into a darkroom where he would earn pocket money by developing pictures for his friends.

After serving three years in the Israeli army, Sam came to the US in 1971, began to study and work in films, and culminated his studies with “One More Chance,” the graduate film thesis which turned into a feature-length film.

“After Golan bailed us out, our film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1981, then went on to become the official US entry at the prestigious Locarno Film Festival   in Switzerland, and won a Silver Plaque at the 17th Annual Chicago Film Festival. This film became my calling card, and launched my career.” recalls Sam.

By then Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus had acquired Cannon Films. They hired Sam to direct “Revenge of the Ninja.” Sam knew nothing about martial arts, but learned quickly and the film, which starred Sho Kosugi, was shot in Salt Lake City, Utah. Distributed by MGM to a great box-office bonanza, it set the stage for Sam’s next directing assignment, “Ninja III – The Domination,” also starring Kosugi. The film was shot in Phoenix, Arizona and was also tremendously successful.

Both Ninja films directed by Sam were sequels to the highly successful “Enter the Ninja” directed by Golan. “Then came a pleasant opportunity,” Sam smiles.

“Golan wanted me to direct ‘ Breakin 2 – Electric Boogaloo,” another sequel, which then made me the king of sequels, but also gave me a break from directing Ninja action films.”

In fact, each of the sequels directed by Firstenberg resulted in better reviews and box office draws than the originals. “Breakin 2 – Electric Boogaloo ” was a musical that featured major dance production numbers, filmed in Los Angeles. Distributed by TRI-STAR it was critically acclaimed; and a box office success, one of the reviews hailed it as

“The most exuberant musical of the decade.”

Soon after the release of ” Breakin 2 – Electric Boogaloo ” Sam was on his way to the Philippines to direct “American Ninja” a major action picture starring Michael Dudikoff and Steve James, who would team up with Sam for two additional motion pictures, “Avenging Force,” shot in New Orleans and the swamps of Louisiana, and “American Ninja II”

’Avenging Force’ was one of the most physically grueling productions I ever worked on,”

comments Sam.

“We spent days and nights in water, mud up to our waists, with snakes crawling between our legs.”

The film opened to rave reviews. The LA Times called Firstenberg

“… a rockin’ young action director who’s pulled off a series of rave up pictures for Cannon including ‘ American Ninja ‘ and ‘ Electric Boogaloo,’ and now in ‘ Avenging Force ‘ shows off his savvy style, which combines a keen sense of pacing with brawny punch…it marks the emergence of a truly gifted movie talent.”

The next picture for Sam was “Riverbend”, a controversial drama with Steve James and Margaret Avery from “The Color Purple.” The picture explored race relations in 1966 Georgia, and was an opportunity for Firstenberg to work with strong dramatic material. In sharp contrast, Sam’s next picture was an all-out comedy, “The Day We Met,” which proved to him that his directorial talents were easily extended.

“Delta Force   III” came next, a military action picture with Nick Cassavettes, Eric Douglas, Mike Norris, and Matthew Penn, and was followed with a breakthrough approach to martial arts in “American Samurai” introducing hot young martial artists David Bradley and Marc Dacascos.  Firstenberg then got his first taste of TV work with a nighttime crime show for CBS, directing six episodes of “Sweating Bullets”

With the creation of Nu Image, principles Avi Lerner and Danny Dimbort recruited Firstenberg to direct their first production, “Cyborg Cop,” and then the sequel, “Cyborg Soldier,” both sci-fi action flicks with David Bradley. In addition, Firstenberg completed with Bradley and Frank Zagarino the action picture “Blood Warrior.” Next came “Operation Delta Force” a military style action / adventure with Ernie Hudson, Jeff Fahey, Joe Lara, Frank Zagarino, and Hall Halbrok.

1997 brought Firstenberg to explore new directorial areas; “McCinsey’s Island” is a comedy for children, a treasure hunt movie with Hulk Hogan, Robert Vaughn, and Grace Jones, and “Motel Blue” with Sean Young, Soleil Moon Frye, and Seymour Cassel, is a psychological thriller with two women in the lead.

Sam and I had an amazing conversation about all things Cannon Films, Ninjas, Break Dancing and 80’s action films. Enjoy!

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Alex Ferrari 0:00
I like to welcome to the show Sam Firstenberg. How're you doing Sam?

Sam Firstenberg 0:14
Excellent, thank you. I'm glad to be with you.

Alex Ferrari 0:17
Thank you so much for reaching out to me I was I was excited when I got your email. I'm like, oh my god, I gotta talk to Sam, I gotta I gotta get into the, into the the stories, I'm sure you have one or two stories about your time at Canon and all of your directing and filmmaking career throughout the 80s 90s. And even in the 70s, as well. But the but specifically, we're gonna focus on the 80s and 90s, and a lot of the cool stuff you did back in those days. But before we get started, how did you get started in this business?

Sam Firstenberg 0:49
I was one of those kids who love movies love cinema. And actually one of the, you know, there's always this one kid who goes and see the movies and comes back to the neighborhood and tells the movie to the other kids. So this was me. So that the answer I don't know that they love to cinema is I don't know where it comes in the love of storytelling. But I grew up in Israel and from Jerusalem. And I had no knowledge. We actually we didn't have television even then, when I was a kid in the 50s. And when I finished high school and the mandatory service in the military in Israel, so by the time I finished 21, I decided I'm going to Hollywood to study film, to learn how to make movies. So that that's basically it. I I traveled from Israel to Los Angeles and enrolled in film school. And I started to learn how how we make film, luckily, or accidentally or luckily, I met famous Israeli producer Menahem Golan did in Israel. He was very famous. And I met him here, here in Los Angeles in Hollywood. And, and I started working in, in in with him and other movies, all kinds of odd jobs. Assistant helper griep electric, anything in the beginning. So that's how I started into the business of movie.

Alex Ferrari 2:30
So you started with with with him and started just doing any little odd jobs and he was already was he? I'm for everyone listening. He started he was one of the cofounders of the legendary canon films.

Sam Firstenberg 2:45
Correct. But they were but that time was was still 1972 to 1973. They were there was no connection between him and Canon at the time. Okay. He was producing movies in Israel together with his cousin Euro Global's and they came here to Hollywood, they sold the movie, because I've learned and they they created the small company, the name of the company was America Europe picture. And they produced the movie he directed they produced a movie with Tony Curtis was called Lipkin a gangster movies. So in the 70s, you know, they had a company in Israel, no film, and they had this little company. America picture that produced lab care then produced another movie with Robert show diamonds, and few little movies. They only purchased the purchase cannot they did not establish canon canon was at a company in New York, a small distribution says company of movies in New York, and they purchased the company I believe in in the beginning of the 80s 1979 1980. The purchase they took over this company can all and then they took it. They took it and made it into a huge company.

Alex Ferrari 4:05
Right! So isn't so what but what was canon doing prior to them getting it? I mean, they were just just a normal small little distributor, right? They weren't doing genres stuff.

Sam Firstenberg 4:13
Correct. They were they were producers and distributors. They produce some movies. The base was in Israel in Tel Aviv. This was the base. And they produce a lot of Israeli movies. They made a lot of local Hebrew speaking movies. In conjunction with making this movie, let's say the dimension lab diamonds with Robert Shaw and was Assistant Director in the movie diamond. They produce the movie which is called the Passover plot. So a mixture of Israeli movies in some kind of international movies, English speaking international movies, but they were very good at sales. They used to go every year to confirm is divided into all the other film festivals and film market and sell those movies that they produce. And they became very knowledgeable. And with this process of selling movie internationally, up to this point, they always had the dream, both of them always had the dream to go to Hollywood one day to make it in Hollywood. And eventually they did. So the opportunity was they produced an Israel kind of successful movie operation tangible about that, and table operation. And they sold it to one of the major studios here. And I guess my guess is with the money of the sale, they bought this company, Cannon, they also had another hit. It was lemon PepsiCo, it was a Hebrew speaking movie that produced by the director they produce was directed by Bob Davidson, and also a movie that made a lot of money. So I guess that with the profits of both of those movies, they they were able to buy or to take over cannon.

Alex Ferrari 6:07
So how did they? How did they start? Since you were basically they're working with them. How did they make the decision to start going into genre? Because everything you're telling me right now is none of its really genre. Yeah, maybe a gangster movie here and there but not genre as we knew it.

Sam Firstenberg 6:25
Correct, correct. They, when they produced movies in Israel, there were mainly local comedy, that cater to the local audience. Very much like movies in Turkey or in Greece or in, in Egypt, those kinds of local comedies that deal with local subjects. And then they kind of always flirted with action a little bit. As I say, Operation Thunderbolt was a big action movie actually military action. But they had the SPN as movies they flirted with action when they came to when they took over. Ken on it was in the 80s 1980s 1981 What was very popular at the time here in in Hollywood for the low budget independent is to make low budget horror pictures. This was the standard there were many many of them done very low budget, you know, not much has changed not much has changed. Now much was my the source by the sorcerer but other movies by the excesses, sorry, influenced by the movie the excesses, but others, you know, there there were so many, and cannot, those two partners and cousins and 100 year old that was they decided to go this route of low budget, because it's really cheap to make a horror picture. But they were not very successful in terms of it was not part of their culture they in grew up in in America, that horror picture is a very American genre, it's very specific American genre, which is not definitely not that, at that time, was made in other countries around the world. And but they they it didn't really catch because they didn't understand the essence they then they didn't grow up with a horror picture. So they decided at some point to switch to action. And their first the first action movie they produced was called enter the Ninja.

Alex Ferrari 8:31
So they so where did the Where did the ninja come from? Because essentially, they popularized the concept of a ninja in America. I mean, I was I dressed as a ninja I went to ninja school. I was at throwing knives I mean, I didn't um Chuck's I mean yeah, there's Bruce Lee would not but the ninja was they brought it to America.

Sam Firstenberg 8:50
Definitely. So next you know next to the horror picture there was a an another genre floating around Of course you had from Hong Kong the martial art movie the Hong Kong the Chinese Hong Kong martial art movies, which we used to call them karate movies or kung fu movies. And but there was a beginning Chuck Norris, octagon. And then Enter the Dragon with Bruce Lee. So there was this other general martial art going parallel to the, to the horror pictures, but not as big you know, there were a few in one day. And I can go on used to, to hear ideas. People came to him with scrapes and idea. And the story is the legend is I did not witness it. There's one day Mike stone walked into the office and Mike stone one of it was one of the champions. You know, as well as Chuck Norris and Tadashi and Bruce Lee. And and he pitched to Menahem Golan this idea to make a movie about ninja And now ninja was a as you say was a novel idea was a different idea because we all knew about samurai movies we you know that scene Akira Kurosawa Seven Samurai you Jimbo and and we all knew about the Americans martial art movie entered the dragon was the big one and but ninja nobody ever heard he says a specific you know sub genre of the in Japan in the Japanese mythology of martial art in the Japanese culture and nobody ever thought later on I found out that here and there in Hong Kong movies there was some appearance of energy or energy here there's bad guys oh sure here and there very very few various spurs. But here Mike stone pitch to the idea. He probably had a story storyline I wasn't there and may not have gone I loved it and he said okay, this I understand actually, for the international market that's something that I understand and they produced and they went to the they did the filming in the Philippines they filmed it in the filament and they did it and came back editing and they sold it won pretty well much they sold it in a much better way that they sold that they did with the the horse right so I guess you know I'm trying to play to play to be in his brain so I guess they decided okay, we know what we don't want to do we understand we can do action and this new gimmick for them it was a gimmick ninja works people buy it you know the buyers buy it was Franco Nero was the star of enter the Ninja. And show Kosugi was the villain and Mike stone choreograph the fight and, and suddenly it was you know that the audiences around around the world not only here suddenly they saw this noble new idea and enjoy a nice gimmick tonight. As a nice look the the wardrobe. Yeah, it was it was very Oh my God, when you're a kid, at the beginning, when you're this is the legend. This is the story. Oh, Mike Stone, nothing to learn and how it was born.

Alex Ferrari 12:27
And now the funny thing is, is when you're a child, I mean, especially a kid growing up in the 80s and you see a ninja for the first time and you see the throwing star and the sword and it's like, oh, my it was just it was just a revelation. But I mean, nowadays there's so much when we you know nowadays they have 1000 things but back then there wasn't anything like that. Especially not thing on TV. No movies, it was a it was a thing. And I think what I mean and I think this is obvious cannons explosion in the in the world marketplace had to do also with the timing of the home video market, which that they fed off of each other and exploded Correct?

Sam Firstenberg 13:10
Definitely. So remember Ken on eventually, when we are looking in hindsight became the biggest of the independent company, but companies but it was not alone. There was a bunch of those companies, Shapiro Glickenhaus, am entertainment, corral call, and many, many more. And all of them were producing some of them specialized in horror only some of them specialize in in kind of comedies. Some of them specialize in what they used to call TNA movies,

Alex Ferrari 13:42
Right! Soft core, yes, soft core erotica.

Sam Firstenberg 13:47
There are many of them, and suddenly came in a new market, a new source of movie which was the home video market. The rental people went to the corner stores, they rented the movie. The major studios did not pay attention to this to this money, they're scarce. And but those little companies immediately they realized for them, it was a goldmine. And they started to produce movies, and they sold it so there was money there was no problem. The risk was very long. So this was the beginning of the 80s. They took very low risk. And worldwide not only here in the North America, not only in the United States, Canada, but worldwide those those this industry of renting cassettes to home was and you know the shops that had to buy those cassettes, they had to pay a lot of money.

Alex Ferrari 14:40
I worked at them. I worked at a video store. Oh yeah, we 10 to $20 Oh, I think wholesale we used to pay 75 60 to 75 bucks for wholesale retail was 100 books at least four copies of every movie business before blockbuster bought 1000 copies of everything.

Sam Firstenberg 15:02
It was a business so cannon thrive because of this, because of this money because of this market. And they started to, to produce more and more movies to the point that at some years, they made about 30 or 40 movies a year.

Alex Ferrari 15:18
Jesus, and it was it's so funny too, because I remember I worked in the video store 88 to 92. So I was right in the middle of the heyday of video stores, there were no DVDs, any of that stuff. But I remember because I was the manager. I will you know, we buy we buy, you know, four copies of American Ninja. Each one of those would make probably on on on return 400 bucks 500 bucks per and then sometimes you would get a movie like faces of death, which would which give you 2000 Because everybody wanted to read that one. But it was true. Our store was full of disk, Orion Pictures and canon and Kericho and then slowly the studio's figured out, they're like oh, maybe we should start throwing our movies up

Sam Firstenberg 16:11
Exactly what happened eventually the major switches he realized they say why are they making the money where we can make the money we have the power at the beginning of the 80s the mindset of the studios theater theatrical you know they make money in theaters then they sell it to television to networks they make a little bit more money they sell it to the airlines they make little bit more money with the airlines but then they realize this what's happening here making good money up over there with the with the cassette with the whole video let's let's move in and and and then you had predator then you have got these decided let's make those the same movies a little bit bigger budget bigger stars or quality and and then we will take over this.

Alex Ferrari 17:00
Right. That's when the diehards and the lethal weapons and all of the all those those were all essentially genre movies but with

Sam Firstenberg 17:06
Genre with a better budget with a bigger budget

Alex Ferrari 17:09
With bigger budgets. Exactly it I mean, it was I look back on those days very fondly working and everyone listening to the show knows how much I loved working in my video store. And I worked. I worked two video stores. I worked at a movie theater for two weeks, and I quit. Because I hated cleaning up the popcorn. The video store was a much better gig.

Sam Firstenberg 17:33
But But Alex the the studio is rigid, more or less. Right? So many departments. So when studio make a movie, it's rigid, independent companies at the time and the 80s they went crazy because there was so much money. There's so many Oh yeah. And basically they told the directors you guys go and do whatever you want. We don't have time to control you and to bother you. Right. Toby Hooper Joselito Sheldon is you guys weren't you basically had into the into the scene and they started doing Friday the 13th eventually also

Alex Ferrari 18:13
Got picked up Yeah,

Sam Firstenberg 18:14
Bigger movies came out of this big bigger idea.

Alex Ferrari 18:17
Right, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and all these kinds of stuff.

Sam Firstenberg 18:20
Chainsaw massacre, Terminator came out of this genre.

Alex Ferrari 18:23
Yeah, exactly. The Jim Cameron, it was it was really a fun, interesting time because it was just those always a time when when the studios are in trouble. And they can't figure out or they have to fill a lot of content. They give a lot of freedom and creativity to the creators that happened in the 70s with the Scorsese consumers, right and easy writer. But in the 80s, there was so much need for content. I remember we used to be only able to buy two to three movies a week. That's all that was all that was being released. Like that was it and then now I mean, it's there's three movies a minute being released. And that was the other thing too for people listening and like you were saying that the studios are rigid. It took them 12 years before they opened up a streaming service after Netflix launched same Exactly. So Netflix made all the money for a decade, got a huge head start on them. And now they have a major competitor that they're losing talent to creativity actors are all losing them to Netflix because Netflix was ahead

Sam Firstenberg 19:29
It really it's a it's a it's a tide that repeat itself. The only thing was really we were lucky there was there was good money at the time in the 80s. I was not the budget. The movies that we made are not we're not tremendous budget, but we're not bad when you talk about like a couple two, 3 million in that time. Yeah, because if you take American Ninja, for instance, yeah, we shot it nine weeks, six days a week with two units, some some Halo six unit Nine weeks, nine weeks, nine weeks of six day nine weeks of with two unit two full units. That's an additional unit. Full unit. The crew was huge, like 250 people, we had anything we wanted. So they were really medium budget, and the streaming don't have this, you know, unless unless they make a event movie or television series, they they don't give those budgets. And today, young filmmakers have to make movies in five weeks, four weeks,

Alex Ferrari 20:32
Five days. It's it's, it's remarkable. But I mean, also back then, the the barrier to entry was a technology, it was so expensive to own any of the technology to make it where now, it's not about technology. It's not now it's about distribution. It's about actually getting your stuff seen. I always tell people in the 80s if you finished a movie, good, bad or indifferent, you made money with it, you sold it. It was sold. If you figured if you flush out a 35 millimeter movie, finished it, it went into theaters. And then when the whole middle market hit it definitely what I mean I saw stuff that I'm like, how did this get produced?

Sam Firstenberg 21:13
So Golan is a very funny quality. I think in the movie electric booger the secret of Cannon, he said. And they quoted him, but it was quote from the 80s. He said, I don't if you make a movie and you don't make any money, you probably stupid I don't understand.

Alex Ferrari 21:33
But But he had it. So his business model was low budget, you know, so we're talking, I mean, 1 million to $3 million. Which, right? Yeah. And above a little bit, depending on how big it was even more Electric Boogaloo was, like $6 million. Oh, yeah. But that you had a huge hit with break in the first one. And then there was a circumstances. And then of course, he did Masters of the Universe, which was a whole other thing. That's a whole other conversation

Sam Firstenberg 21:59
Another level of Cannon on which it's not exactly what we are talking about. Sure. But that was like, I think that was their hayday. But they had this model of, you know, that, hayday, they invented I know, they invented the so called PRISM that really took them to the marketplace, took them to their distributors. And and offer them this poster, that poster this idea, even before they had the script, if they saw that the buyer, you know, kind of liked it. Here's a poster with Chuck Norris, you liked it, they came back to the office, they pre sold it. And then they came to the office, they roughly in a rush way they wrote the script. And he went and made the movie to fulfill the promise of the poster and sell concept. So they came up with a pre sale. They knew how much money to invest on in the movie according to the pre sales to the amount of money

Alex Ferrari 22:57
So they they're the ones that came up with pre sales. We had no idea that Cannon was the guy those guys were the ones because when I heard about the pre sales, I mean pre sales now are are rare. They're there but it does happen especially if you have a relationship with the buyers and you're long standing. But generally me because before you literally could go to AFM with a poster this will do to open up a shop and go do you want this new movie with with Michael Duda coffin it great $50,000 for your territory $100,000 for your territory $250,000 For Germany and and, and they would sell up so they came home they're like, Okay, we could invest. Let's invest a million dollars because we have 1,000,005 it pre sales. And then we also have other places we can make some more money off of it. I mean, it's a win win.

Sam Firstenberg 23:45
Right this will this was the model this was the system. Beside the Menahem Golan in your world was there was another partner Danny Dean Berg, he was the head of sales. And they kind of invented it. Everybody adapted the system all the independent companies have pre selling. But yes, there was so much need for product all over the world for the for this new emerging market of home video. It was revolutionary for young people. Today. It's hard to understand when you see the streaming, the idea that you can take a cassette, bring it home, start the movie or whatever you want. You can pause it go rewind it rewind it restart. It was revolutionary. It's hard today today's how to grasp.

Alex Ferrari 24:32
Nobody was right. I literally had to go see Ghostbusters 34 times in the theater when I when it came out as a kid because but when the VHS came out, I bought it. And I watched it a million times at home and I would stop it. We rewind it. I could play it back. I could play the scene I loved again again. It was something that you know kids today really don't understand because now they're like well, I just had opened up my phone and everything that's ever been made is accessible to my fingertips. i It was revolutionary and people love that idea and that you can go out and rent 2,3,4 movies a weekend.

Sam Firstenberg 25:06
And it was equal in, in Los Angeles. Yep. And in some small village in Africa. In Africa, Far East, a little hot around the cafe. The video had the video machine, you know, so the village and the machine or every home and the machines are not expensive. It was a cheap.

Alex Ferrari 25:28
It was. It was. And I try to explain to people to back and we're still only talking in the VHS days when DVD it it was even cheaper to make things and when it was cheaper to produce the DVDs than it was to create the VHS is you could you can make 1000 of them in a minute. And it used to take a lot longer to do VHS is and I tell people like That's why sniper 7,8,9 were pre made and released because they knew they were going to make five or $6 million in the DVD market. But then in 05 06 It started to dwindle. And then streaming came along and then it just it destroyed. It destroyed that market. And I think that everyone I think it was basically from 1982, early 2000s It was a goldmine. Everybody was making money

Sam Firstenberg 26:19
We call the type of movies that we are talking about Friday the 13 American Ninja we are calling them that genre, low budget independent movies of the 80s in the first half of the 90s Right. So this was the era 15 years and then the studio's realized it's not it was not the end of the this industry but the studio started to take over in the middle of the 90s and they said they came they started to come up with bigger budget predator etc. True lies a terminator they started to take over the market of course they have more power or more financial power better product etc. Eventually they took over and they created the relationship with Blockbuster and it was in a movie became a business have a bigger budget now pushed away pushed away the smaller companies

Alex Ferrari 27:20
Right that's why Orion went under that that time and Cannon eventually call it fair there everybody my guy but they were making care Kericho was making to Terminator two, Total Recall. You know, Orion was doing Robocop and won four or five Oscars in the course of a decade. I mean, it was an Kuroko and made some big big moves. Oh huge movies they made Yeah, absolutely. So American Ninja. So So American Ninja which I just I you know when I heard first of all the ninja came out and you did Revenge Of The Ninja came out and then the ninja started to come out. But then American Ninja you like wait a minute, an American Ninja and it was like a mind blowing thing. You're like holy cow and Michael Duda cough is up there and he's doing how did you how did how did American Ninja come up? Was that your idea? How did that come?

Sam Firstenberg 28:13
Not mine. So we so they made enter the Ninja. Let's just talk a little bit about the history of the company made enter the ninja and the movie did pretty well you know moderately well. And they immediately they wanted the sequel. They wanted to make Revenge Of The Ninja they like show Kosugi very much he was the villain in enter the Ninja. And but the Menahem Golan, which directed enter the ninja did not want you know the company was starting to take off and he was busy. He didn't want to do the secret. So he turned to me I just finished directing a movie that I sold to Cannon and this was the beginning of 1982. I just sold to the movie one more chance that I directed and produced and they turned to me said would you direct it? Of course we had relationship as I told you I was his assistant director. I was assistant director in the company for a while and and here they saw that I can make a movie. This was this one more chance movie with Kirstie Alley by the way. Yeah, he was there. And and they turned to me said would you direct the sequel? Okay, so we made Revenge Of The Ninja which show Kosugi he was the star. It was they liked it. It was kind of successful they wanted? No it wasn't for them. It was more than successful. It was the first movie that MGM picked up. It was the first movie from canon that the major company picked up for distribution Revenge Of The Ninja because it was distributed by MGM. Okay, theatrical

Alex Ferrari 29:51
I remember I remember the box. I remember the VHS box was the big

Sam Firstenberg 29:55
Kosugi flying in the sky with Yeah, and this was actually designed by MGM and now we are talking you know they really need the sequel to make money. So, you know because of some reason show Kosugi did not want did not feature he was in the third the ninja three the domination he was not the feature the feature character but Lucinda Dickey, it was a female ninja and and then suddenly there was the craze of breakdowns So, Cannon pose with, with ninjas in the braking and braking to Electric Boogaloo which I directed again a sequel to the sequel, but the interest of the buyer when I say the interest of the buyers around the world maybe the viewers with the with the break downs with the breaking was quite for favor of quickly and the buyers wanted more ninja maybe they weren't ninjas. By now everybody's making movies. And they call me back to the office Moran Colin Colin calls me to a meeting. And he says we need another ninja movie. But this time it's going to be American Ninja. So not my idea. The phrase came from him. I don't know how he came up with this. Now this is a revolution actually a revolutionary and crazy, really crazy idea. Because Ninja is really unique. We already mentioned Japan very unique to Japanese collector culture. You can have Brazilian martial art, but you don't have a Brazilian ninja. Capoeira which is a Brazilian sure there is a Chinese martial art there is Korean martial art but not ninja Ninja is specifically Japanese samurai and it's part of the Japanese mythology and curse of course. And as long as we made that the ninja at the first three ninja movies with some connection to Japanese culture it was fine okay, but here he comes with IDEA forget about the Japanese forget about the American Ninja no connection to Japan whatsoever and culture so it was his idea there was no script there was no nothing this was only this idea. And you know I was thrilled I like our American cinema I believe that American cinema is the most successful and this is as close as I will get to to a James Bond thing in western America ninja so now I mean that I'm about to do Western james Bond.

Alex Ferrari 32:31
Now so American Ninja did extremely well it blew it was it exploded didn't it and I know it killed it by at the video stores I mean just killed

Sam Firstenberg 32:41
We didn't know what's going to happen you know of course as I said for Cannon film for Cannon breaking was a major major moneymaker the first breaking and breaking through electrical are big,

Alex Ferrari 32:53
I mean massive you're talking about 10s of millions of dollars breaking

Sam Firstenberg 32:59
And both of them or I mean MGM the first breaking was distributed by MGM the second the one I directed was distributed by Tristar Columbia Tristar so being distribution

Alex Ferrari 33:10
So also canon at this point is getting major distribution from because I know they had an output deal with Warner Brothers. That's how they got a Bloodsport

Sam Firstenberg 33:18
You mentioned must serve the universe they were flirting little bit with the Spider Man No Spider Man Superman yeah okay yeah that's right they did they can and Superman Yeah, I think the already they they also already had the Chuck Norris under contract invasion USA missing in action. So they already had Chuck Norris working for them. And they had Charles Bronson working for them exclusively at this point. That was number two. That was number three. Number four. Yeah, so by then the company was being and we are and they send us to the Philippines to make it to Manila to make American Ninja. And you know, we chose microfluidic have to be the American Ninja the persona, the actor who personify American Ninja, and we are there and we start to make the movie and we kind of realize you never know you know, maybe while making a movie. Nobody knows if the movie will be a success will not be a success. The audience will like it will hate it. You don't know you're making. It's enigmatic. It's it's a question big question mark when you but there was a good feeling. We saw Michael on the screen, the charisma, the relationship between Michael Ludi Cove and Steve James. It was really the bond was working on screen. Even the love story Michael do the COVID through the air and so on and she came from Friday the 13. So this was working with and we put the movie together editing room and music. And actually they were so eager to continue the company that they send us to new before the movie was released. They send that to New Orleans Would Michael do the job and Steve James and myself to make the movie avenging force, which was really meant for Chuck Norris and he didn't want to do it. It was part of the invasion USA. franchise, but he didn't want to. So we are now in New Orleans shooting this movie filming this movie, avenging force. And then the American injure came out in theaters. And then we hear we kind of start to hear and read the explosion. Worldwide. I'm not talking about America that this is like the new terrorism. Or this is the new mini James Bond. Right now this week. Yep. Wow, this whole idea that the concept, the phrase, American Ninja, and it's exploding all over the world. And we are there in New Orleans. That truck just did not even participate in any promotion anything because we were like, it was just like, yeah, do you think it just really soy? It was it was huge. Immediately. Of course, there is a target audience as you yourself was the you're the target audience share the young people male boys teenager or up to the age 3540 This was the mainly then, of course there were also girls that like this. He was so handsome Michaels looks so good. And but but it was a target market. It hit the market. Right. Right on all over the world. Oh, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 36:33
What year was that? 8590. Right. So right when God VHS the video stores are exploding. There. I remember my first video store experience was 8182. And I rented for I think, no, it's actually later than that. By like 84. But I but I rented Flashdance. I never forgot it never forgot it. And we rented flash that's so around that time it was starting to it was starting to really take off blockbusters still years away. So the mom and pop stores are still running everything.

Sam Firstenberg 37:08
And, and in the case of American Ninja, it was theatrical all over the world. Yeah, it played theatrically in Africa, in Asia, or South America all over the world. Suddenly, it was if before there was some kind of, you know, the audience, I'm trying to terrorize here, though this has to relate to Japanese type of culture. Now, from this moment on, they didn't have to. It was a James Bond, American Ninja, you know, it was Hollywood movie the way they like, you know, the way most of the action movies in the world look like. And all American characters to the military in the military base, American military base, the story that happened? So I guess it was easy for the audiences around the world, the young people to identify. And this correction,

Alex Ferrari 38:02
Yeah, no, no question. And what I also always loved I absolutely love the chemistry between Michael and Steve. James. I mean, the late great Steve James. Well, I mean, he was so charismatic. On, on cam, I just never forgot him. You know, I looked him up a few years ago. And I heard that he had passed and I was very saddened by it. Because he was because I was looking at like, you know, maybe I could use him, I would love to have him in one of my movies. Just you know, to show respect to to a hero of mine when I was a child, his chemistry was amazing. Was all that like a lot of those lines in that stuff on set? Was that him and Michael just kind of, you know, riffing?

Sam Firstenberg 38:42
So yes, yes, you're right. When we cast when we when we were in the casting of American Ninja, and our main goal was to find this character American Ninja Johnstone, but also Jackson was already written the script, his body body sidekick, was written in the script. And we saw a lot of young people for both part, but and we had some hesitation with American Ninja with the jaw stone because everything is only shoulder. But let me tell you when Steve James walked in for the casting, and I spoke with him a little bit, and he was a martial artist and we read few lines. We didn't look anymore and he agreed when he agreed to do it. We didn't look anymore for this Jackson character. This was Steve James he will, you know, the Okay. big muscles, the shoulders that look like a Hercules.

Alex Ferrari 39:37
And he was funny. He was funny. He was smart and funny. He was smart and funny too.

Sam Firstenberg 39:42
So he had this, this, you know what you see eventually on the screen, and when we got to the Philippines, they they didn't have even chance to meet each other Michael Gove and Steve James up to the point because in the low budget, we don't have rehearsals. We don't have money for rehearsals. They don't give us any rehearsal time. So the first time you meet your fellow actor or the director many time with actor, it's on the set the first time, the first day of shooting, so they met on the set. And and they started, you know, as the scenes were developing, I don't remember exactly the order that we were shooting the scenes, but the chemistry, the chemistry between them or developing on and on. Now, Steve was a big fan of action movies. And and always I will say he's a historian of action movies, especially black action movies. You know, he had a big collection at home steam like 2000 movies, he was specializing in black cinema, sharing from the either black directors, black actors, silent from the silent era movies. But anyway, he was so this genre shaft, you know, he wanted to be the new chef. Basically, he could have been very familiar to. So back to your question many of the, of the one liners many of the mannerism he brought in. But now let me tell you something funny enough. Every time you know, I made you movies, it was teachings, I directed theater. But then at some point, he knew exactly in the series, some point he tears off his shirt, throws it away. To show his muscle ties it, Steve, you're not asking me. Every time in every movie, at some point, you take off your shirt and you continue. He said, What do you think you know how I'm working for this muscle? all this hard work I'm not going to show it off I have to show it off.

Alex Ferrari 41:49
Then how many and how many American ninjas were there. I think I remembered up to four was there more?

Sam Firstenberg 41:54
I directed only two of them. Okay. And then I directed with Michael and Steve the movie avenging for us. And I directed with Steve James another movie, which was completely different movie, which was called Riverbend. And this is not in the genre of the ninja. Not even martial art. It's kind of it's a racial tension movie in the south in the 60s.

Alex Ferrari 42:17
Oh, he must. That must have been awesome.

Sam Firstenberg 42:19
It's a very, and he was the lead. He was very happy. And then he took it was a little fight he took off his shirt.

Alex Ferrari 42:27
But obviously listen, if I looked like Steve James I would I would walk around without my shirt all the time.

Sam Firstenberg 42:31
I had the privilege to direct Steve James four times for movies.

Alex Ferrari 42:37
Like I said, if I look like Steve James, I would walk around without a shirt all the time. Did I mean absolutely. Absolutely. There would be no question anyone listening Google Steve James and you'll understand what I mean. Now was the biggest hit for for Cannon American Ninja. Oh, it was a Break in?

Sam Firstenberg 42:57
No, I I don't know exactly by number. Let's say they produced about 200 300 movies. She's the best, let's say the best. from a quality point of view. The best movie was runaway train. Oh, yeah. So people, most people agree that that's the best movie they made was runaway train with Eric Roberts, and Jon Voight. But a popularity they had few kind of franchises that were doing very well, the American Ninja, the Deathwish and the missing in action with Chuck Norris. So 111 franchise was Charles Bronson, which was doing very well one franchise with Chuck Norris, which was doing terrific and the third one was American engine. Now when the company the company ended up with bankruptcy and a lot of companies and people and creditors came after came to the court. They all they probably owe money to everybody to a lot of places and and the SS were divided. met everybody wanted American Ninja. It's a good title and eventually MGM won the entire American Ninja Series in and the breakdance series went to MGM so all the movies that either directors for Canon ended up with MGM but some movies ended up with Warner Brothers some ended up with Paramount and other creditor Charles Bronson was a creditor he gave us a lot of money Yes but this was the as the title American Ninja is the the you know as the title the title it the it is the thing that that came on headed as an essence not necessarily the movies but as a title. So yeah, the missing in action doesn't sound it sounds good but it's okay. Oh, that wish they did not originate as you know that wish was originated before Cannon

Alex Ferrari 45:00
Right, exactly. So then you did. So I remember when breakin came out because I was breakdancing as a kid back then and breakin was when it was big. It was breakin and Beat Street. Those were the two big breakdancing movies that came out that those years then came out break into the Electric Boogaloo with it, which I argue is probably the best title for a sequel ever. There's, I mean, it is Electric Boogaloo. Anytime you're trying to make a joke. I'm like, oh, yeah, we're gonna make lethal weapons three the Electric Boogaloo. Like you always throw Electric Boogaloo at the end of it. Who came up with Electric Boogaloo?

Sam Firstenberg 45:36
Okay, the phrase electric villa. There is a lot of discussion or disagreement about this. Now, there is an essay, somebody wrote an essay about this phrase electric Google, with the really research into history of America. Now, our two stars Shabba doo. Also, the late poor shabu also passed away this year. Shabba Doo and Michael shrimps, both of them kind of claim that they have invented it. But it has a deep root way back in the 50s. From what I read in the article, so either there was a Google was a type of dancing that goes all the way back to the 50s and 60s, and Shabba doo was very active in in the what was the television show The train the Soul Train? Yeah. And in the Soul Train, there were a lot of brigalow that there is a style of dancing that goes way back. How it was kind of combined and the shrimp and the name of the the street name of Michael chambers. So he's Michael Boogaloo shrimp chambers, Michael chambers. attached this, the word Bogota. But the combination of those two words and lectric boogle happened after the movie breaking and so sad probably in this because they already knew that they want to make a sequel. Even hookipa who did it though but who actually put it together for the movie? It was between men and Golan Shabba doo I had nothing to do with it when I was hired when I was asked to do the movie to directed the name braking to Electric Boogaloo was already on the script so I have nothing to do with it. So every every one of them in many discussions if you search the internet for interviews with the Shabba doo interviews with Sri with Michael Chang there or written interviews, you will find many different versions but but that to the best of my knowledge, the legend it It happened in Cannes Film Festival. When they were selling, breaking they took the three of them Lucinda and Shoba do and Michael took with them to can to promote the movie. And as they saw that the response of the buyer they immediately decided to do a sequel. And the legend the storytellers that right there in Cannes, it came together this breaking two Electric Boogaloo. I saw right about that it became a new meme of the 80s phrase of the 80s. And it was borrowed to many, many different purposes, including at some point somebody put a joke. We should write a Bible to Electric Boogaloo. Lately took a sinister turn, you know the it was adopted by the group. The Bigelow's that right, white supremacy grew Right, right believing in a sequel of the Civil War. Of course. The first they took the word he used to call it the second Civil War Electric Boogaloo. But then it was shortened to the Buggles the writers on a second in a second Civil War. Oh my god. I know. So the whole gamut from dancing to comedy to this to to a sinister

Alex Ferrari 49:10
Sinister doing white supremacy, you know, and it's, it's interesting also, because as artists, you just put things out there you don't know how it's going to be received and who's gonna take what and you just don't know as a as a, as a creator of these things. But, you know, I like to look at it. That term Electric Boogaloo is a very funny you know, a joke that a lot of people kind of throw out like the Bible to Electric Boogaloo and things like that that it's just so it's just one of those names that you you hear you never forget it. You hear bring it to the light you never forget it.

Sam Firstenberg 49:41
Right it has a good ring to it good sound and you know when they read the the sequel they when they make the when they made the documentary, right so immediately they took the title of the movie of this of the documentary is electric burger,

Alex Ferrari 49:57
Which exactly which summarizes everything Cannon did in two words. It was it's remarkable. And I do remember I never forgot this scene, and I know how you do it. But I'd love to I'd love to find out how you guys did it. How did turbo dance on the ceiling? You know, when he was dancing up on the wall? I know it's generally a big giant thing. I've seen Chris Nolan do it. It seemed Stanley Kubrick do it? But generally you don't have those kinds of budgets. So how the heck did you guys do it?

Sam Firstenberg 50:21
Okay. So this was not on the original script, this dance scene, this dance was not on the original screen, a script in one day, why even while I was shooting, we were shooting the movie in East LA more in the neighborhood, which is called Bowens height, which was the scene in the center of hip hop and breakdancing. I was called lunchtime and I was called back to the office office, the offices were in Hollywood. And man, I'm gonna say, come back. I had no idea why I'm coming back. Maybe he wants to fire me, maybe? I don't know. But anyway, he had this idea and said, Let's have shrimp dancing in the ceiling. Now, this is not a new idea. It was done by Fred Astaire. Yeah. Yeah, royal wedding, the name of the movie. So that's the first time it was done, then it was using Kubrick, right? In many horror pictures. And so basically, I knew what it is, it's, the mechanism is called gimbal. gimbal is kind of a simulator for flight simulator. You know, the, the, you know, the aerial photographers. So they actually, they practice in this gimbal, they put them on a set, and when it's too big, huge hoops, or rings, big one on rollers, and the chair is in the center, and then you can roll the dice big. So the cinematographer is upside down, or the pilot in training is upside down. Now, if you take this huge, huge gimbal, this huge of big rings, the Turing's on rollers, and and the set the room is built inside the camera is glued to the floor of the of the set, or kind of hooked not glued, necessarily here, you know, braced and if you turn the room around, the camera does not see the turning around because the camera goes around with the room. So for the camera, man, the room is always the straight, look straight. But dancer, you know, once you're 90 degree, let's say the camera man is to the right or to the left, the dancer is already on the wall, but the wall is horizontal to Earth. And when it is all the way up 180 degree the cover man is up on the way up, and the ceiling now is down. And he's dancing in the ceiling. But the camera doesn't see the difference. What you do need, everything has to be glued to the set. So all the for the pictures on the wall, everything all the books on the shelf, like behind you, you have books on the shelf, they have to be glued, because when it's up, they upside down, you know all the book to find. And if there is some scenery in the window, the scenery has to move in the window with the with the gimbal and all the lighting, you cannot have a change of light. So the lighting, everything moves together with this rotating and that's how it's done. And you know, it was done in a lot in horribly. This party I think that we got our particular gimbal from Elm Street.

Alex Ferrari 53:45
Oh, yeah. Well, yeah, I was I said what I was gonna say, Well, I West Craven because I know he did it for the blood, the blood coming out of the bed.

Sam Firstenberg 53:51
Okay, so he just read it was like it was somewhere around in the warehouse in Hollywood and

Alex Ferrari 53:56
They rented it. Okay, that makes sense.

Sam Firstenberg 53:59
It was built our our department builder said, Sure. And we hired the special cinematographer. You need the aerial cinematographer, because when they're upside down not to get confused. They are the aerial photo cinematographers the they they are used to this turning Iran upside down and

Alex Ferrari 54:18
I have to ask, I have to ask you, thank you for that. Because I mean, I always wonder like, they didn't have $10 million to build something like this. But I didn't think that they just had a couple of these lying around in LA because in LA there's everything I even shot. I shot I shot a television series.

Sam Firstenberg 54:34
Our operation Alex our operation was so cheap that it was turned by hand we didn't have multiple routes just kept pulling on this new drawing by hand manually.

Alex Ferrari 54:49
People always ask me like, should I move to LA I'm like, Look, you know, I just moved away from LA. I love LA but in LA you i mean i There's a standing spaceship set that I shot a whole series On that we just it's just a standing set that looks like aliens it's there you can't find that in Ohio

Sam Firstenberg 55:08
You know naturally the industry you know you you have to deal with cars you go to Detroit I mean, it's natural. The I worked all over the world I worked and filmed all over the world. And there is from a convenient point of view from a technical point of view and from personnel from people point of view. Expertise, there is no place in the world like Hollywood for me making film. I'm not talking maybe Hong Kong of course in Hong Kong in China, but London but there's nothing like all the get the generator goes down within 10 minutes you're another generator. Immediately easy. Somebody will find another generator in 10 minutes and it will be on the seven and working. You need this special lands crazy land on somewhere it is somewhere for rent within five or 10 minute drive is say it wardrobe. Obviously this is the center of this this type this industry it's the central point in the world for the for Western moviemaking is home. So everything is here you're right.

Alex Ferrari 56:12
Now what is the craziest story that you can say publicly from your times in cannon?

Sam Firstenberg 56:23
The truth is The truth is nothing extraordinary happened on the on any of the sets that I work not not a serious injury. Obviously nothing fatal. Nothing happened. No, no series we were so careful. And so methodic in working and in nothing crazy happened while filmmaking but let me tell you an interesting story that relates and does not realize and no, we were in the Philippines in Manila shooting Americans. And we stayed in a nice hotel Manila hotel in in Manila. This was the biggest hotel was beautiful. And Sunday we were not shooting they were not working. We are on the in the swimming pool most of the time in the swimming pool. So one of those Sundays, I am, you know, the crew is in the swimming pool. And next to me, Michael Rubicon. And we are kind of laying on those chairs in the sun and enjoying. And Michael is next to me. I'm here, Michael is suddenly I realize that something is wrong. There is a woman frantically running on the edge of the pool. And I look down and I see a girl that sees like a girl that like still like going up and down. She like she's drawn. And I look up and there was a lifeguard but he was completely busy. His attention was completely in another direction. Jesus. So I hit Michael right away. Michael was right next to me. Michael jumped with me into the pool. No question. So we both jumped into the pool and we dove all the way to by then the girl was all the way into one. And what we could see. So a nobody sees only this woman which apparently was the mother. And nobody else is it was just a moment that nobody was paying attention to what's happening in the water. And Michael and me were tagging all the way down to the bottom. We grew grew up the girl we bring there both of us put her on the edge by then she's not breathing anymore. So I'm trying or whatever crew to do whatever we do, but you know, I'm not the medic. I don't know what I'm doing and pushing and breath resuscitation. But then comes a young man. He says I'm a soldier. I'm a medic, we'll move over everybody let me I'm the only one in charge here right now. He was one of the soldiers American soldiers at the time. There are many many American soldiers in the Philippines. He took over as he knew what he was doing much better resuscitation push the on the chest. Water came out boom she came back and and that's it the girl came back back to life let's say and no we visited her that it was very exciting very emotional, you know to bring somebody from the dead back to life. She was her family was actually Chinese from Hong Kong they were visiting and vacationing over there. And later on I was in Hong Kong I visited visited with a family but there are a nice picture of Michael and me with a girl a day later this girl and and I consider it pretty crazy for that we were there shooting American Ninja at the right moment in the hotel in the day off to save some of his life. So I consider maybe The purpose of American the movie American Ninja was actually to save a girl.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:04
Right! So, so American Ninja actually saved, the American Ninja actually saved her.

Sam Firstenberg 1:00:13
Absolutely. Now, let me ask you, you didn't have that. You know, when we went to South Africa, we were talking about the explosion of American Ninja. And then we were shooting night hunter which became avenging force in New Orleans, all of us. And as we came back, and we finished editing, they already by then they needed a sequel to American Ninja badly because American Ninja was a huge need all over the world. They needed. And for some reason they had this time they had some money in South Africa. So apartheid South Africa, it was toward the end of apartheid, but still apartheid. And Steve was pretty worried. He said, Well, I'm a black person, I'm going out to South Africa. But he told me anyway, you're going ahead of the Euro pre production, call me and I want to go to hear from you every day. Tell me what it is in South Africa. Nobody knows. We went to South Africa. And this was really the the ending days of the apartheid. Actually, when I was there, there used to be three different identity identity identification card different ideas for different races, but by then they unified it to one car. There were no more different cards with different colors. So I um, you know, I told I called Steve I spoke with Steve you there there's still nothing to worry about. That is changing. The atmosphere is really changing. There is no more white beach Black Beach. It's it's changing, you know, really changing. Come up. So he came over in the first week, and in the weekend we went out in Johannesburg to the street. Now we didn't realize how big they became my political and Steve James became huge stars to the kids too. They were recognized everywhere. We couldn't walk in the street anymore. Because all the young African kids were running after them especially Steve that was tall and impressive. And in you know, probably for them they saw this hero black hero not only you know the African American hero or their it was something special. And they ran everywhere we went with Steve James it was impossible in the streets of Johannesburg.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:29
Wow. Amazing. Well, let me ask you so I asked I'm gonna ask you a few questions ask all my guests what is what advice would you give a filmmaker trying to to make it today's business?

Sam Firstenberg 1:02:42
What I see what I see today, let's say action more action because you know they're always placed for drama person on movies you can always make and take as you mentioned, technology is cheap all you need a computer camera, put the editing program in your computer and you can make them so all those person on movie like moonlight or what those movies will always be done. People will young people wants to tell story and express themselves, they will do it. The question comes down when you want to make a more expensive movie when you want to make action movie. It's not cheap, making actual movie is not cheap. And they're they're explosions, there are mechanical, there are cars chases, etc, etc. And what would happen from a business point of view that the movies went through transformation in the 2000, etc. They became paperback movies. It was expensive to make movies, you needed the lab, you need the camera, you needed to buy film, you need to print the film, everything was expensive. So you can make a very, very, very cheap movie. And you can make a movie you need at least to to be near a lab to develop the film, at least. And this have changed a lot. It's cheap now you don't need the lab. So the cost of production has strike. The buyer the potential buyer, television stations streaming services, whoever buys those small independent movie they got used now they can pay less money to buy the movies. You know, so now it movie they used to buy movie for $1 million. A young filmmaker that just finished a movie can you can have my movie for 80,000 I don't need 1 million. I will cover my costs if I sell it to you at and I sell it to some German television and cetera very quickly I will cover my costs. So the buyer got us to buy cheap movies. Now when it comes to make a action movie, and you need this eight weeks or nine weeks of shooting the 6 million today equivalent formula the buyers that we don't have don't make this action movie I don't care if you're not making Spider Man if you're not making superhero huge event movie, don't make this movie I will buy the small movie the cheap horror movie I will buy the the the cheap dramas. So the sources have dried the money have dried to make an action movie. And despite the fact that is it's it's cheaper, technologically cheaper, but still you need the money and and there is no money around. So producers who want young director to do action movies, they're asking them to do it for 1 million today money for weeks shooting and it's not really action movie. So this is a tough, tough, tough area. When you deal with action or sci fi stuff that needs special effects. This is one area the big the saving grace is the digital effects. Graphic digital effect we did not have it we had to or they were very very very expensive. So we had to physically produce everything every fight every Chase every card hit every head to really physically be done with to flip cars. Today, with some ingenuity and some knowledge you can flip a car on in your computer you can have a huge explosion for no money, etc. So those two forces which are really not working either working against each other or complementing each other, less money, much less money, but the technology of the CGI or the graphic. computerised graphic SpecialEffect help. So they have to navigate this area. They also the young filmmakers, again in action, they come up from a different background, we came from a background of as I say Western James Bond Tarzan's and the young filmmakers are coming from the background of video games. Sure, not home movies, they're back their visual background, the visual way they see thing is the way they saw it when they play video game to their kids.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:21
Right!

Sam Firstenberg 1:07:22
Fast pace, great special effect. Very grand stuff. So So those are the things that have changed, and but you can prove yourself by having a computer and camera people can buy a camera, they can buy a supercomputer, or they can just buy or this right Oh, the phone,

Alex Ferrari 1:07:45
The phone will do it. Then it shoots shoots 5k or 8k Now who knows? It's insane. Right? Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Sam Firstenberg 1:07:57
If you think the movie business is the analogy to life Okay, you I say I would say as it you know, Director Director is the chief guys, he's a top of the pyramid, he makes the decision. And he delegate the tasks to everybody. So he's at the top of the pyramid. So I've learned I think the most important is really, to be humble enough to humble yourself. There is nothing you do by yourself. This is the biggest bluff in the world. I mean, unless you're an animator and you sit at home for three years by yourself and you make the movie animation, you use a lot of talent, the director, the creator of any this type of movies, not It's not painting so you're not in your, in your studio by yourself painting, you need a lot of help and a lot of talent and and only with the help only with the with the harnessing all those different talents into your talent as the director is the storyteller, something the magic will happen. So, in my case, my success, you know, the movies that have been successful American Ninja Electric Boogaloo. They happen because many people contributed to the performers that are there. The cinematographer that and all of this together was channeled through my, my talent or my abilities or whatever you want to call it, to create what you've created. And I think it's also true in life. You don't go alone by yourself, are not alone. I can tell it now I'm 70 years old and look back you don't go alone by yourself if you don't have a support by friends and family, etc. Very true. Probably.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:49
Now and what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Sam Firstenberg 1:09:53
Films of all time?

Alex Ferrari 1:09:54
Three.

Sam Firstenberg 1:09:55
I'll tell you I am All it's hard to say there are so many features

Alex Ferrari 1:10:03
Three that comes to mind.

Sam Firstenberg 1:10:05
But the I love Akira Kurosawa's movies when I was introduced to this Japanese genre of action, Eugene Bo, 7 samurai I was struggling Oh, wow. Amazing. But, you know, I was influenced a lot when I was young by Hitchcock movies, you know, watching John Ford and etc. I'm not a great fan of horror pictures. So those are the type of movies let's say the most impressive are the movies of David Lee. I mean, Dr. Zhivago Lawrence of Arabia, big vast movie big big movies and and those are really the movies that I really like there is a big best Nestle, some action, great drama unfold within the movie, the story of the movie and etc.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:10
There's very few directors in today's world that gets to play on that kind of Canvas. You know, the James Cameron's that Steven Spielberg's the, you know, the Chris Nolan's of the world, they get to play in these giant giant canvases, because it's so darn expensive to play on those on those canvases. But, but it's remarkable but Sam, listen, I want to thank you for coming on the show. It has been an absolute honor and and pleasure talking to you and going back down the nostalgia lane talking about cannon and your amazing work you did back in the 80s and 90s. I appreciate you my friend and thank you for helping make my my childhood a little bit more interesting and entertaining. So I do I appreciate you my friend.

Sam Firstenberg 1:11:54
Yeah. First of all, you're very welcome. And I was happy to be in touch with you and I hope that the listeners will enjoy what we talked.

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IFH 544: Filmmaking Lessons: The Art of Adaptation with Joe Wright

Joe Wright, Cyrano, HANNA, THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, ATONEMENT, Anna Karenina, DARKEST HOUR,

Today on the show we have Oscar® nominated filmmaker Joe Wright.

Joe has established himself as one of Hollywood’s top directors with his rare ability to captivate global audiences through his extraordinary cinematic craft.

Most recently, Wright directed the psychological thriller THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, starring Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, and Gary Oldman. The film follows an agoraphobic psychologist whose life is turns upside down when a befriended neighbor suspiciously disappears. The film was released by Netflix in May 2021.

Previously, Wright directed the war drama the Academy Award winning film DARKEST HOUR. Written by Anthony McCarten and starring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, the film follows Churchill’s early days as the British Prime Minister during World War II. At the 90th Academy Awards, the film earned four nominations, including ‘Best Picture’ and won for ‘Best Actor’ and ‘Best Makeup and Hairstyling’. The film was also additionally nominated for nine BAFTA Awards including ‘Best Film’ and ‘Best British Film’, four Critics Choice awards, and a Golden Globe award.

Wright made his directorial debut in 2005 with the critically acclaimed film PRIDE & PREJUDICE. Starring Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen and Donald Sutherland, the film was adapted from the Jane Austen novel of the same name and garnered commercial and critical success.

Wright received the BAFTA Award for ‘Most Promising Newcomer’ and also won the ‘Best Director of the Year’ award from the London Film Critics Circle. The film also received an additional five BAFTA nominations including ‘Best Screenplay-Adapted’, four Academy Award nominations including ‘Best Actress’ for Knightley and ‘Best Original Score’ and two Golden Globe nominations including ‘Best Film’.

His sophomore directorial feature was an adaptation of Ian McEwan’s ATONEMENT, which was released in 2007 by Universal Pictures. Reuniting with Keira Knightly and also starring James McAvoy and Saoirse Ronan, the film opened the 64th Venice International Film Festival, making Wright the youngest director to ever open the event.

The film went on to receive thirteen BAFTA Award nominations in major categories including ‘Best Director’ for Wright and ultimately won for ‘Best Film’. At the 80th Academy Awards the film also picked up seven nominations including ‘Best Picture’ and won for ‘Best Original Score’ and earned seven nominations at the Golden Globes, winning ‘Best Motion Picture – Drama’ and ‘Best Original Score’.

In 2012, Wright released his film adaption of Leo Tolstoy’s historical romantic drama ANNA KARENINA, which first premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. Marking his third collaboration with Keira Knightley, the film depicts the tragedy of Russian aristocrat and socialite ‘Anna Karenina’, whose affair with ‘Officer Count Vronsky’ leads to her ultimate demise.

His adaptation earned four nominations at the 85th Academy Awards, six nominations at the BAFTA Awards including ‘Best British Film’, a Golden Globe nomination, and two Critics Choice Awards.

Additional filmmaking credits include the 2015 prequel PAN starring Hugh Jackman; the 2011 action thriller HANNA with Saoirse Ronan; and the 2009 drama THE SOLOIST starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr.

His new film is the magical Cyrano starring Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, and Kelvin Harrison Jr.

Too self-conscious to woo Roxanne himself, wordsmith Cyrano de Bergerac helps young Christian nab her heart through love letters.  This musical adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s classic play tells the story of Cyrano de Bergerac as he pines for the affections of the beautiful Roxanne, who has fallen in love with another man named Christian de Neuvillette. Though Cyrano understands that his social status and physical appearance will forever keep him apart from his lady love, he offers his skills as a gifted poet to Christian in an effort to bring the two lovers together once and for all.

Enjoy my enlightening conversation with Joe Wright.

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Alex Ferrari 0:00
I'd like to welcome to the show Joe Wright. How're you doing Joe?

Joe Wright 0:14
I am excellent. Thank you. I'm very well,

Alex Ferrari 0:17
Thank you so much for coming on the show. I've, I've been a fan of your work for quite some time. So I'm excited to kind of dive into the weeds with you on on on your career. So first and foremost, how did you and why did you want to get into this insane business?

Joe Wright 0:33
Um, I don't know. I mean, I think I'd like to be able to tell you a story that clearly illustrates a particular moment in my life, when I knew I was going to be a filmmaker. But it was more incremental than that. I knew I always knew that I wanted to be in drama. Somehow. My parents were puppeteers. And they did you know, puppet shows for for adults and kids. And so I grew up in this kind of fantasy world of fairy tales, which was no preparation at all for the harsh reality of contemporary life. I went to a drama club after school where you paid the equivalent of like, 10 cents a lesson and and you went and did improvisation workshops with other kids from the local area. That was an important kind of stepping stone. I, I hung around in a pub in Islington, in London. That was you know, a lot of actors went there and writers and people and there is a little theater upstairs where people put on shows. But running parallel to that was a was a passion for film from you know, the age of six, I remember asking my mum how films were made. And she happened weirdly to have a long strip of cartridge paper. And we we drew a picture or she drew a picture of a prince and a princess and then divided that to another square. And there was a dragon and the dragon came and stole the princess and, and told the story of George and the Dragon. And then we we cut a hole in the lid of a shoe box and wound this paper through this aperture. And she said that's, that's how you make films. It's it's storytelling with images, one after the other. And, and I guess that kind of set my whole imagination on fire in early age,

Alex Ferrari 2:53
Was there a film was there a film that lit your fire?

Joe Wright 2:56
There was an idea to be an actor, I thought I might be an actor, you see. And my plan was to be a very famous actor. Obviously, because you're not gonna plan to be a you know, out of work actor. And, and then through acting, I was gonna, I was gonna move into directing. However, I sat around in my house for, you know, a year waiting for the phone to ring and nothing much happened. And then my dad had a stroke. And I thought, Okay, I need to do something with my life. So I went to art school, and an art school I was, you know, I gave up acting, and I just started making short films. And to answer your question, there are many films that that influenced me along the way. I think David Lean's Great Expectations was one of those, especially the power of the, of the graveyard scene, and when Pitt runs into Magwitch. And then, you know, when I was about 15, in the same summer, I saw for the first time taxi driver and blue velvet. And, and, and I thought, you know, I thought Blue Velvet was a comedy actually. But I watched and rewatch those films over that summer. And I think they really had a huge impact on my understanding of what a director does, actually.

Alex Ferrari 4:31
That's, that's amazing. Now how you say you were doing shorts, there's a short called crocodile snap. How did you get that short off the ground, get the money, get the everything to kind of put that thing together?

Joe Wright 4:42
Um, well, I that was after I left college, and I'd made a short film at college, which had won a prize and the guy who gave out the prizes for fuji film The guy he was that his name is Jeremy Howe. And he wrote to me saying he liked my movie, you know, my short film. And he ran a BBC series called 10 by 10, which was 10 short films of 10 minutes. And I called his receptionist every day, bugging her. And I think I bugged her to the extent that in the end, she told me where he was having a meeting that day. And he just said, if you want to talk to him, just go down there and talk to him. And I turned up, and I hung around, it was the Royal Institute of British architects, and I hung around this very imposing institution for three or four hours until he finally came out. And I said, Jeremy, Sir, I need to talk to you about this film and, and he said, Well, I'm very late, but you've got between here and Googe Street, subway station to, to pitch and, and so that four or five minutes of that walk really changed my life, because I managed to persuade him to let me do this short film. And listen, I'm talking about $3,000 Probably, budget. But to me, that was an astronomical amount of money and inconceivable for me to to get hand my hands on. And he commissioned this short film, and, and then that got nominated for a BAFTA. And from there, I was kind of on the very early stages of some kind of ladder.

Alex Ferrari 6:52
Now, how did you make the jump from a $3,000 short to directing Pride and Prejudice? Which is a bit more than $3,000 if I'm not mistaken?

Joe Wright 7:02
Yeah. Well, I was, I was very lucky. I mean, I always tell sort of young filmmakers who are trying to figure out how to how to get into the business, how to gain experience. I always tell them to hang around actors. And basically to find if there's a if there's a little fringe theatre, if there's a actors workshop, if there's anything that involves actors, putting on shows, telling stories, that's your best bet. And as I mentioned before, there is this pub in Islington called The Old Red Lion. And drinking this pub was this incredibly important character called Kathy Burke, who is an actor and director and writer. She won the Palme d'Or for Gary Oldman is nil by mouth. And she was very influential. And every time I made a short film, I'd give her a VHS copy of my short film. And without telling me every time I did that, she would pass that on to this producer friend at the BBC. And so one day I got a call out of the blue saying, will you come in to the BBC to meet Catherine Waring? Who is this producer? And I went along and it was in the days where you could still smoke in offices, and I couldn't see her through the midst of tobacco smoke. Although it did smell a bit odd. And, and through the smoke, I heard this raspy voice say, so would you like to do a three part drama for the BBC? And I could have I jumped out of my mouth. And I tried to play it very cool and said yeah, well it depends on the script

Alex Ferrari 8:59
Lessons for everyone learning if you're in the room and they offer you something like this, you got to act cool. You can't just lose your your crap right there.

Joe Wright 9:09
So it depends on the script. And and you know, she she sent me the the first episode and I was actually bowled over by it was a really beautiful piece of writing called natureboy. And, and I was suddenly directing at the age of 26. I was directing three one hour episodes. So three hours of television, a budget of I think 3.4 million pounds. So that was a huge steep learning curve. And then I made about 14 hours of television. I did about Yeah, three or four TV projects, each one kind of bigger than the last. And, and then one day I was asked to go and meet working titled to talk about Pride and Prejudice.

Alex Ferrari 10:03
So yeah, so it wasn't like, Oh, I just made 1000 out of moving, they just give you Pride and Prejudice you, you built a career.

Joe Wright 10:12
Great, it was great because people say, wow, you're, you know, this is the first time film director. As if I was somehow, you know, blessed from, from heaven, with this kind of ability to make, you know, to know how to make movies at that level, at that level. At that level, it was very hard, hard won. And I didn't tell anyone that really I was quite, you know, reasonably experienced in TV. I let them believe the myth of of talent. But, but yeah, it was the teacher that that that improvisation workshop, I always used to say it's 99% in 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. And I think that was that was very, very true.

Alex Ferrari 11:07
Now, you've worked with some remarkable actors in your career, how do you approach or do you have any advice on directing actors because you've been able to, you know, pull or collaborate on some amazing performances?

Joe Wright 11:23
Yeah, I mean, I think, I think I think the fact that I used to act as a kid means that I, I never, I never shrouded the craft in this kind of mystic reverie. Gentlemen, people will think of actors as almost being like, witches or you know, warlock. This strange kind of alchemy happens and somehow they're able to do this thing shape shift. It's, it's it, it's certainly an art. Acting is certainly an art, but it's also a craft. And I approach actors, as crafts people as collaborators, I am completely open with them about the process. I don't I don't expose my fears too much to them. Because they need bolstering they need to believe that you believe even when you don't. But I but I share the process. I tell them exactly what the story is that we're trying to, you know, try to tell I make them a part of it. And I I don't bullshit them either. skews language. I don't I don't try and kind of, you know, I think they often get infantilized, alright. And if you treat actors like children, they'll behave like children. Where if you give them the respect of intelligence, then then they'll reciprocate intelligently. And yeah, and I think it's, it's really, it's really just talking straight to them. And not not kind of, you know, I remember I remember, you know, there are tricks, you know, but I remember talking to Keira Knightley on on Pride and Prejudice and, and saying, Listen, your head of department, right, there's that there's the camera department, there's the art department, there's the acting department. And it's an department like any other department in telling this story. And you as the lead actor, are the head of department. And therefore, as head of department, any new department member that comes in on a day to day or a couple of lines, your job is to make them feel welcome and ask them if they're okay. And support them, you know, and that was a trick that we really worked because it it grounded her and it meant that every supporting actor that came in therefore supported her because she had reached out as a you know, as the head of department

Alex Ferrari 14:22
That's a that's an amazing I've never heard that that technique before that's a really great technique to use.

Joe Wright 14:28
Oh Gary Oldman that but here it was it it also I mean, the other thing with actors is that generally they are all different around what makes them tick. And then you know, and then and then play to their specific

Alex Ferrari 14:53
Yeah, strengths and stuff. So So do you I always tell act I always tell filmmakers This is that as A director, you really need to create a safe space for the actor, if the actor doesn't feel that they're in a safe space where they can really go on out on a limb, you know, with their craft, if they feel they have to protect themselves. That's when the problems start. Is that is that your experience?

Joe Wright 15:16
I think that's a brilliant piece of advice. Absolutely. I think I think, you know, we're all exposed, we're all, you know, scared of being judged. Am I a good director? Am I a good boom operator, you know, am I doing okay? But for the actor, they're in front of the camera, and that's a whole nother level of vulnerability. And therefore, you have to support them. And, and, and create that safe space, which is one of the reasons why I do rehearsals, I do a lot rehearsals prior to shooting two or three weeks for a movie, and, and that is partly about learning each other's rhythms and so on. But it's also about just getting to know each other and getting to a point where they feel safe, looked after,

Alex Ferrari 16:09
And comfortable and comfortable with each other. Because if there's gonna be any issues, I'd rather be in rehearsal, then, as far as personality conflicts or techniques, ones, method ones not method, things like that. You've got to figure all that stuff out in a much cheaper environment, and a much cheaper.

Joe Wright 16:25
Yeah, your cheapest days or your rehearsal days. But also, you know, to other things, I think it's really important to like your actors. So when you're casting, you have to figure out whether you like this person, because you're gonna have to talk to them a lot. And I find it personally I find it difficult to talk to people I don't like one do I like them? And to do I respect their intelligence because there's a there's a kind of myth that goes around the, you know, the airhead actors. The the most successful actors I've ever met are the most intelligent people I've ever met. You know? Great be that, you know, Tom Cruise is incredibly smart, you know, and Nicole Kidman incredibly smart Gary Oldman, incredibly smart. These people are really, really smart. They're not, you know, and intelligence, as in, you know, as with music or science or politics plays an enormous part in the ability to act.

Alex Ferrari 17:30
Now, do you storyboard by any chance, because even you have you paint on such big canvases.

Joe Wright 17:37
I storyboard when the sequence involves very specific ideas of montage. When I'm interested in how one image cuts to another, I'll draw those two pictures and put them next to each other on a piece of paper and see how they work together. If it's a long developing shot, or a long steadycam shot, then I don't. Because I don't find it useful. But I storyboard everything I do. And often also, what I'll do is I'll get plans of the set. And then just mark out diagrams of the camera move the direction, the light direction in particular, so that my DP can pre light confidently knowing that that's the direction I'm going to be looking in. So I plan very, very carefully, but not always storyboarding.

Alex Ferrari 18:29
Very cool. Now, there's one film that you made that is one of my favorites. And when it came out, I saw the trailer and it blew me away, Hannah. I absolutely loved Hannah. And it was kind of like a revelation when it came out. It was obviously a big, very big success even spawned off a very successful television show. At this point, how did you get involved with Hannah and and how did you bring that, that energy that that movie has it's so so wonderful.

Joe Wright 18:59
Um, thank you. Hannah happened because Sasha Ronan called me up and said, I want to make this film Hannah and I want you to direct it. And I was like, great. Alright, then let's do that. It was was it I mean, I'd worked obviously with Hannah on atonement, Sherman. I had worked obviously with with Sasha on atonement. And she was 11 Yeah, she was a kid. Yeah. And then she was 16 when we made Hannah and it was something that you know, that focus features had sent her and I guess she liked working with me and and asked me to ask me to do it and I read the script. And it was interesting actually, that that that process because there is the script, I read it There was two credited writers, one of whom was a guy called Seth Lochhead. And this script was really uneven, it was really patchy, there are moments of kind of surreal flights of fantasy that I'd never encountered in a kind of certainly not in an action movie. The strange almost sort of hallucinatory experience. And then there were the, there are bits that were like purely procedural kind of actions by thriller. stuff. And so I kind of questioned what that was about and discovered that actually, the studio had been scared of set lock heads original original script, which was the kind of more hallucinatory thing and that they'd brought on another writer to write the more procedural stuff and kind of tame it down. So I basically went back to Seth and he and I worked on developing his flavor and his ideas more fully, but also kind of, practically so that it was actually shootable Yeah, and I bring you know, I work very closely with writers every film I make is extremely personal. And, and so there were elements that I was, you know, there was stuff I was angry at the world at the time, something had happened to a friend of mine a woman who had been Yeah, something bad had happened to her. And and so the film was a kind of innocent, outsider's view of this crazy world in which she was born into

Alex Ferrari 21:58
And I guess those that that horrible thing happen to your friend and this script at the same time, kind of came together at that moment where that energy and that anger you might have been perfectly fit that that film.

Joe Wright 22:13
I kind of, I don't know. I don't you know, I'm I think things seem to if you allow them to things seem to happen at the right moment. I'm not much you know, I'm not I don't really I'm not, I'm not really into the idea of an interventionist God, but I do believe that if you get into the flow of things, things happen as they should.

Alex Ferrari 22:41
Yeah, I've been given the advice is like don't push the river the river is going to the rivers flowing with or without you. You trying to push it, it's not it's only going to make you tired.

Joe Wright 22:51
Exactly right. It's really I've tried it. Oh, yeah. I've spent a lot of my career trying to get

Alex Ferrari 22:59
Like can we get this one little project pushed a little bit more can we get just a little bit more money just let it let it happen. Now um, as directors you know, we always find I'm sorry.

Joe Wright 23:12
As they say in Frozen just let it go

Alex Ferrari 23:14
Just let you read my mind know I have God think others over that phase. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Anyway, anyway, anyway. So as directors there's always a day that we have that the world we feel like the world is coming crashing down around us on a shoot day or in the middle of a movie and, and oh, my God, how are we going to get through this? Whether that be the camera fell into the lake, we're losing the light, the actor broke their leg, something happens, that you feel like, I don't know how to get through this. What was that day for you? And how did you overcome that day? Is there a day in your in your career that you can that you can say publicly?

Joe Wright 23:58
Usually, usually, right usually happens at about four o'clock

Alex Ferrari 24:06
Every day, every day,

Joe Wright 24:07
Every day you think you're going along fine. You know, you started the morning with confidence in your plan. And, and maybe you've taken a little bit too long over hurdles or setting up that shot or this shot and, and you've got, you know, three scenes to get through and then suddenly you go oh, God, it's lunchtime, and I've only done you know, half a scene or one scene. And then everyone's a bit slow coming back from lunch because they've had the apple pie and custard. And, and you're trying to get through and then at about four o'clock you go, Oh, you know, oh, no, I have, you know, two hours left. And I've still got to do this three page scene. How am I gonna ever get through the day um, and you get through by by economizing basically, you get through by figuring out what the essentials of that scene are, and shooting that. And, and often those end up being the most interesting scenes. Because you haven't had the luxury of, of, you know, over articulation. So, so I think often, you know, and in a way, I'm beginning to try and apply that, overall to the films I've made, you know, to just what are the essentials, what's important and, and stripping away the kind of the decoration if you like. And I'm really listening to to the story. So that's a kind of general answer for you. I mean, certainly the day that Mount Etna erupted whilst we were shooting the battle sequence of Syrah No, that was a fairly catastrophic day. I would say, the only solution that day was to pick up the camera case and run

Alex Ferrari 26:27
The hell with the day, the hell with your day.

Joe Wright 26:29
Yeah, I have no other advice for for young filmmakers who happened to be facing a volcano erupting other than to say run.

Alex Ferrari 26:41
Forget the shot. I mean, if you can get the shot, maybe let the camera run for five more seconds, but then run

Joe Wright 26:47
And then run and protect your head as well. Because the projectiles stones

Alex Ferrari 26:52
You were that close how you were really there.

Joe Wright 26:54
Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah, we shot a sequence. Well, I mean, Jesus, I laugh now, right. But I was literally crying. We had planned to shoot the the battle sequence at 16,000 feet at the near the summit of Mount Etna. And four days prior to shooting, there was a unprecedented snow storm. And our set got buried and two meters of snow, including the 100 foot techno that we read. And, and the whole thing was completely inaccessible. So with only, you know, four days, notice we had to, we conceive the whole very complicated sequence anyway, down to 8000 feet. And that was interesting to kind of go, Okay, I've got no set. I've got, you know, a bunch of guys dressed as soldiers. I've got no set, I've got a camera and a tripod. And that is literally it. I've got no tricks to hide behind, though, you know, I can't even move the camera, I've got no track. Because I'm working on a kind of vertiginous, volcanic slope, and to really kind of go Alright, what do I need to tell this story? What How can I tell this story with these very few basic tools at my disposal? And that was that was fascinating. But yeah, then then the volcanoes erupted.

Alex Ferrari 28:34
Because I remember watching that sequence. And Sarah No. And I was it was, I mean, it was beautiful. And I'm thinking to myself, because in today's world, you just don't know how much is visual effects? How much is you know, did he shoot this on a green screen? Like, how much of it was, and I'm like, when you said that, because I've been at 12,000 feet. And it's, I was having problems walking. I can only imagine trying to shoot at that level. It was brutal. It's absolutely brutal. It's like it's absolutely brutal. But those scenes that in sernova, specifically, they were, they were beautiful. There would be those that those war sequences without knowing the backstory behind it. I'm like, Okay, this makes sense. But that's but that's the thing is and I feel that as as filmmakers, if you're given to, if you're, if you're if you if you if I told you, Joe, all you got is time and money, which would be fun for a minute, but at a certain point, you just like, I need limitations. And those limitations are what help you chisel down the fat on a see.

Joe Wright 29:36
I've done it, I got time and money I got you know, they gave me they gave me $180 million to make pan right. I got you know, all the tools I could could possibly want. And it was the biggest disaster of my career. Whereas, you know on a film like atonement for an instance, I had one day to shoot a montage sequence of the beach at Dunkirk, I understood that there is no way I was going to be able to complete that sequence in a single day, given the tide coming in and out. My only solution therefore, which I thought was a pretty good greatest solution was to shoot the whole thing in a single steadycam shot. And that for a while was the was the the shot that defined my career, you know, so. So I do strongly, strongly believe in limitations, liberal liberating us creatively and using, you know, always having a kind of a positive solution based outlook. Because generally, what we're doing and you know, is to, is to find solutions, there are a series of problems over the course of a day. And our job as a as directors is to gather these people together and marshal them through the, through the problems by finding solutions collectively. And, and those of creative solutions as well as practical solutions. If you're living deeply deeply in the heart and head of the film, then those solutions will carry through the story and the themes that you're trying to express.

Alex Ferrari 31:28
So, you know, as when you're when you're on set, you know, especially at at the indie stage, there's 1000 questions, but I can only imagine at these 100 $80 million stages. How do you what advice would you give filmmakers dealing with that barrage as you know, young directors who are being asked every minute, what do you think of this? What do you want to do there? How do you do this? How do you move that? Because I mean, directing is essentially compromise, compromise, compromise. It's never what you want. But you know what I mean? So as far as answering and dealing with that kind of hurricane, because you're in the center of a little mini hurricane and every day as a director.

Joe Wright 32:06
Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 32:06
How would you approach that?

Joe Wright 32:07
I love that. I love that feeling. I love being on set.

Alex Ferrari 32:11
Oh, God. Yes.

Joe Wright 32:13
The two the two very kind of practical suggestions I would make. A, well, I get up two hours before having to leave for set and I spend those two hours reading the script. And writing a shortlist every morning. I've done I've already done, you know, first drafts of a shortlist and or storyboards with my DP earlier. But I spend those two hours kind of very quietly contemplating what's really necessary and and what the story is that I'm, I'm trying to tell. So that's one thing that grounds me and helps me keep focused. And the other thing is, when someone comes to you with a question, the first or an idea, which can be just as challenging sometimes is the first thing that comes out of your mouth is thank you. And that buys you a window of time to one bring your bring your panic and your ego down and just buys your little little window between their question or their suggestion and your answer. It just kind of is a magic word that breaks things down. And then you can approach the question or the or the suggestion with a kind of clear, clear of ego. Really? That's, but it kind of works. You should try. Try to work.

Alex Ferrari 33:59
Oh, no, it definitely it definitely does be I mean, I was the best advice I've ever gotten on set is don't be a dick. Best advice in the business best advice you could get in this business. Don't be a dick.

Joe Wright 34:13
Absolutely. That's a fundamental piece of advice.

Alex Ferrari 34:18
Now, you know, earlier in your career, or I'm assuming throughout your career, you've got to deal with rejection. How do you deal with rejection? I'm sure there's projects that you wanted to get off the ground that didn't, you know, a lot of people think that like, oh, once you get to a certain level, they just constantly you all you got to do is make a phone call and they give you $50 million, or $100 million, and just make whatever you want. And that's not the truth. You know, after talking to so many filmmakers over the years. I know that's not the truth. But there's a kind of lore in that of young filmmakers thinking that, you know, people have to they have that opportunity and they don't generally how do you deal with those rejections? How do you keep moving forward?

Joe Wright 34:57
Right, I think I think you're absolutely right. There is no final destination. You don't you know, there is no, there's no arrival, you don't get somewhere and go, Oh, great, I need it. I'm here. I'm here. And now people are gonna let me make my films. And that's certainly not my experience. I think I find I find rejection really hard, actually. And I haven't, and I haven't yet found a very healthy way of dealing with it. But I, you know, this is all I can do, right? is all I can do, I haven't got, you know, wealthy parents to lean back on, I haven't got any other source of income whatsoever. It's my job. It's my vocation, and it's my life. And it's my heart. And it's everything i i Love. It's also a spiritual practice, I believe, but it's, but it's a job, you know, I got put food on the table. And so therefore, I have to get up, dust myself down and go back to work. And that's all it is, you know? It's like, Okay, that didn't work. Let me try something else. Let me try something else. Let me try something else, you know. Because I don't have a choice. You know, I don't have the luxury of going well, that didn't work. And I'm really hurt. My feelings are really hurt. So I'm going to just go and take five years off and sit on my dad's yacht, you know, that is an option. So it's just about picking yourself up Dusting yourself off. And keeping on going. I mean, I had a, you know, I had a terrible crisis of confidence after pan. Sure, I shouldn't talk too much. But you know, I had a terrible crisis of confidence after that. I called up. Alfonso Khurana said, I'm having a terrible time. And we've talked about it, and he's someone who I thought never experienced crisis of confidence. You know, he's, he's great. He's Alfonso Corona, may, you know, gravity and Roma. He said, Man, I'm having exactly the same problem myself. You said, I'm going through the same thing. I said, Oh, you you know what, you go through that too. Because yes, a man I go through this too. You know, it's, it's hard. We all go through it. And we, you know, and and we went and, and watched a couple of early Italian, neorealist movies and felt much better. You know, I think, I think practically something you want to do is just go and watch the films that made you fall in love with filmmaking in the first place. Remind yourself of what you love about film. Which isn't careerist bullshit, it is the art form itself. And then put that into work. You know, it's no, it's no coincidence that having had that experience, I went and made Darkest Hour, which was essentially about this little guy who had a crisis of confidence. You know, his name was Winston Churchill. But fundamentally, for me, it was about a guy who had a crisis of confidence, who doubted himself as others doubted him, and, and so I was able to put all of that experience directly into that movie.

Alex Ferrari 38:54
And, you know, I think as as artists, we all have that moment, especially when you're on set. And I've and I've talked to so many different directors at so many different stages of their career. And it happens all the time that you have that kind of imposter syndrome. You could have won an Oscar, and you feel like oh my god, someone's gonna come in and go what are you doing here? You don't belong here security escort Joe out off the set. Is that

Joe Wright 39:18
We all have that. The only person that doesn't have that is in a written Yeah. doesn't have that.

Alex Ferrari 39:26
I don't think I don't think Cameron has it either.

Joe Wright 39:30
Maybe not Cameron. Okay. But apart from in a Ritter and Cameron. Everyone else is imposters they're the only true guests. You know, what are you gonna do? You're gonna go to the party and go, Oh, I'm not an imposter. I belong here. And then they're lonely because, you know, you think you're the only one that belongs, you know, it's it. We all share we all come and we you know We're humans similarities are far greater than our differences.

Alex Ferrari 40:05
Agreed 110% And that's why I try to do when I do these shows and I speak to people like yourself is I want to kind of break down the myths of so many because when I was coming up as a young filmmaker I you know, I looked up on on the on the mountain, Mount Hollywood where Spielberg and Cameron and Lucas and Coppola and Scorsese lived,

Joe Wright 40:24
Terrified, terrified.

Alex Ferrari 40:28
Of course,

Joe Wright 40:29
The man is worried he worries all the time.

Alex Ferrari 40:33
And he's Steven Spielberg.

Joe Wright 40:35
And he's Steven Spielberg. , exactly. It's like it. I mean, my God, and in a way, that's what the movie Sarah knows about her. So I did that. And yeah, it's about someone who, who feels like they're living in the wrong body who's an imposter. It's about a safe feeling like you're different from everyone else. It's what we, you know, it's what I'm trying to talk about in the movies is, how do I fit in? How do I how do I communicate with other people? Hannah is about a girl trying to go How do I fit into this world? How do I connect with other human beings? Why is it so difficult to connect? Why is it so difficult for me to get past my own feeling of lack of self worth? Why can't I allow people to see me really for who I am? All of those questions, that's drama. And that's why I love making drama, you know, and what I've discovered is that I have to make the movies that I love. I've tried making, you know, movies, big CG movies, I've tried making movies that, you know, twisted, dark thrillers, I've tried making movies that that aren't really expressive of who I am. But I'm messing around with genre and trying things. It was interesting, but the films that work are the films that speak of who I am as an individual.

Alex Ferrari 42:04
Right! And you could absolutely tell that and you know, I just happened I had the pleasure of watching Sarah No. Yesterday, in fact, so it's fresh in my mind. I absolutely adored the film. I think it's wonderful. It's one of the best films of the year without without question. The performances are wonderful. I, how did you how did you bring that story? What made you want to bring that story back? Because it has been told obviously, a million times before because Cyrano de Bergerac what, what made you want to come in and throw your your twist on it?

Joe Wright 42:38
I would always have wanted to tell that story. Because I feel it is I identify with with with Cerner, you know, I, as we've talked about, I feel like I don't fit in or unworthy of love, incapable of connecting with other people. My, my, my insecurities, my fear of intimacy, all expressed through that character. And the question was that, or the problem was that it had been done before. And so there wasn't, you know, an opening for me to to I couldn't remake the, the nose version. And then when I saw Peter Dinklage play Cyrano, and I think often creatively successful movie is about the right actor in the right role at the right time. Like, you know, Gary Oldman, and in darkest hour, or Kara in Pride and Prejudice, or indeed Sasha and atonement. And seeing Pete In that role, suddenly, the emotional weight of the story hit me in a way that I hadn't experienced before. Because, however, strong the suspension of disbelief might be, you're always aware that Jared Pedja is wearing a you know, big prosthetic on the end of his face, and at the end of the night, is going to take that off and go to the bar and get drunk. Whereas with P there's a amedia authenticity, you know, that P is is gonna be always been, he is he's always going to be P He's, he's he's lived with that experience, and he brings the weight of that experience to that performance. And then to see him opposite Haley Bennett, who is so extraordinarily womanly, feminine and feminine. And and, you know, she's not one of these kind of androgynous girls that kind of completely asexual she's kind of she's got this extraordinary femininity and, and sexuality and intelligence and, and so to see him opposite her seemed like the perfect, perfect coupling

Alex Ferrari 45:20
The casting was phenomenal enough. I mean, it was an absolutely phenomenal, I hope Peter gets nominated because he was it's a tour de force, it's an absolute tuna force performance on his part. Now I always wanted to ask because I've never spoken to a director who's worked on a musical before. So how do you approach directing these large set pieces and musical sequences, because it was just, I've just I've never directed a seek a musical sequence, I don't even consider how you would even go at that level with so many costumes in the locations and everything.

Joe Wright 46:00
Thank you like you would any other sequence you know. And the choreography is probably the biggest difference, dance. But that is really very much like fight choreography. You know? It all has to be very, very carefully worked out and rehearsed. endlessly for weeks on end, prior to shooting. All of the we made a choice to have all of the singing happen live on set. So that there was a level of intimacy and that there will be a fluidity between the speech and the singing.

Alex Ferrari 46:46
And you can't should you cut between performances like so if someone's singing here on set and someone's? Are you cutting those performances are you laying down like on an ADR track afterwards, have them live on set,

Joe Wright 46:57
No that they're singing live on set, and that's what we're cutting with. Okay, so they're wearing ear wigs, so they can hear the music backing track. And if they are singing in duet with another performer, we've got a temp recording of that other performer playing in their ear. And then when I go and shoot that other performer, I've got what we recorded on set from first performer playing in there. And sometimes we had live accompaniment because we wanted to kind of you know, we wanted to be off click as they say so so we could so they could be more kind of they could move the written the melody around and the rhythm around a little bit more. But but shooting the singing live like that enabled a much a much more tender, fragile, intimate experience. We're not seeing we're not hearing them through a glass panel. We're not, you know, we're not having them talking, talking and then suddenly needle drop and we're into it's a musical. It's as natural as singing along to the radio whilst you're doing the washing up.

Alex Ferrari 48:15
And I saw that right away. I was like, Oh, he's he's doing it that way. I was like, Oh, this is nice. And and when you see Peter just start singing, like, you know, in the middle of like he's having a conversation then just starts to sing naturally like you it was it was wonderfully done. It was really wonderfully executed.

Joe Wright 48:32
Well, thank you. I mean, that's also massive. You know, massively helped by the band, the National who wrote all the music and lyrics and then their music has a kind of contemplative emotionality, the yearning and and it's not kind of, you know, it's not I was about to say another film that it's not, it's not 80s musicals.

Alex Ferrari 49:01
Got it. Exactly. Fair enough. Fair enough. Fair enough. Now, when is when is your know are being released? And where can people see it?

Joe Wright 49:09
It is being released on it's been released on on January 21. In you know, selected theaters and then goes wide on February the fourth.

Alex Ferrari 49:22
Okay. And I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Joe Wright 49:29
Oh, God. I mean, I think we've covered that, haven't we? I think we might. I mean, you know, yeah, as I said earlier, find actors go to go to you know, there's a little room upstairs of a pub. Going put a show on.

Alex Ferrari 49:50
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Joe Wright 49:55
I'm enough.

Alex Ferrari 49:57
You know what, that is one of the most common answers it out of all everybody has a lot of people. That's a that's a lesson that a lot of people have learned. It's fascinating that and patience

Joe Wright 50:09
Yeah, I still haven't learned it. But yeah, that's the lesson I'm continuing to try and learn.

Alex Ferrari 50:15
It's always that and patience. Patience is the other big one that a lot of people have to learn.

Joe Wright 50:20
What? Yeah, maybe. Let me read the same self help book.

Alex Ferrari 50:26
And lastly, three of your favorite films of all time.

Joe Wright 50:29
Uh, well, I can't even begin to films into just three. So I'll just come with three off the top of my head. See, I can't even do that.

Alex Ferrari 50:44
I'll get to directors too if you'd like.

Joe Wright 50:47
I'm trying to be clever. I shouldn't be clever. I should just tell you what the films that are brief encounter by David Lean, okay. Fellini's ama code. And viscosities. The Leopard.

Alex Ferrari 51:06
Amazing lists are amazing lists. Joe, thank you so much for being on the show. It has been an absolute pleasure talking to you. It was so much fun. Please continue making movies. You you you are needed in the cinematic world. So I truly, truly appreciate you, my friend.

Joe Wright 51:23
Bless you. Thank you so much.

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IFH 543: Inside X-Men, Deadpool, Logan & The 355 with Oscar® Nominee Simon Kinberg

simon kinberg, the 355m Mr and Mrs Smith, Logan, X-men, Deadpool

Today on the show we have Oscar® and two-time Emmy® Nominee Simon Kinberg

He has established himself as one of Hollywood’s most prolific filmmakers, having written and produced projects for some of the most successful franchises in the modern era. His films have earned more than seven billion dollars worldwide.  

Kinberg graduated from Brown University and received his MFA from Columbia University Film School, where his thesis project was the original script, “Mr and Mrs Smith.” The film was released in 2005, starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. 

Upcoming, Kinberg will premiere his action spy film “The 355”, which will be released theatrically by Universal on January 7, 2022. Directed, co-written and produced by Kinberg, the film was one of the biggest deals out of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival and stars an ensemble of A-list actresses including Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Penelope Cruz, Diane Kruger and Fan Bingbing. 

A dream team of formidable female stars come together in a hard-driving original approach to the globe-trotting espionage genre in The 355.

When a top-secret weapon falls into mercenary hands, wild card CIA agent Mason “Mace” Brown (Oscar®-nominated actress Jessica Chastain) will need to join forces with rival badass German agent Marie (Diane Kruger, In the Fade), former MI6 ally and cutting-edge computer specialist Khadijah (Oscar® winner Lupita Nyong’o), and skilled Colombian psychologist Graciela (Oscar® winner Penélope Cruz) on a lethal, breakneck mission to retrieve it, while also staying one-step ahead of a mysterious woman, Lin Mi Sheng (Bingbing Fan, X-Men: Days of Future Past), who is tracking their every move.

As the action rockets around the globe from the cafes of Paris to the markets of Morocco to the opulent auction houses of Shanghai, the quartet of women will forge a tenuous loyalty that could protect the world—or get them killed. The film also stars Édgar Ramirez (The Girl on the Train) and Sebastian Stan (Avengers: Endgame).

The 355 is directed by genre-defying filmmaker Simon Kinberg (writer-director-producer of Dark Phoenix, producer of Deadpool and The Martian and writer-producer of the X-Men films). The screenplay is by Theresa Rebeck (NBC’s Smash, Trouble) and Kinberg, from a story by Rebeck.

The 355, presented by Universal Pictures in association with FilmNation Entertainment, is produced by Chastain and Kelly Carmichael for Chastain’s Freckle Films and by Kinberg for his Kinberg Genre Films. The film is executive produced by Richard Hewitt (Bohemian Rhapsody), Esmond Ren (Chinese Zodiac) and Wang Rui Huan.

His original series “Invasion” premiered on Apple TV+ on October 22nd. He co-created the show with David Weil, serves as Executive Producer, and wrote or co-wrote 9 of its first 10 episodes. It is considered one of Apple’s most ambitious series to date as it was filmed on 4 different continents. The show has already been renewed for a second season, which Kinberg is show running and Executive Producing again. He is also the Executive Producer of the upcoming show “Moonfall” for Amazon. 

Also upcoming, Kinberg produced the sequel to “Murder on the Orient Express,” “Death on The Nile,” directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Annette Bening and another all-star cast.

Additionally, he is producing several projects for Netflix including “Lift” starring Kevin Hart with director F. Gary Gray, his original script “Here Comes the Flood” with Jason Bateman directing, “Endurance” with Camille Griffin directing, and “Pyros” with Reese Witherspoon starring and producing. Kinberg’s latest spec “Wayland” will also begin production next year for Lionsgate, with Michael Showalter directing, and Jessica Chastain producing alongside Kinberg 

Kinberg will also be producing “The Running Man” at Paramount Pictures to be directed by Edgar Wright, “Artemis” to be directed by Oscar winners Chris Miller and Phil Lord and based on a book by the writer of “The Martian”, the remake of “The Dirty Dozen” at Warner Brothers with David Ayer writing and directing, “Starlight” at 20th Century Studios to be written and directed by Joe Cornish, “Death Notification Agency” at Amazon based on the novel of the same name, “Karma” at Sony Pictures, “Chairman Spaceman” at Fox Searchlight, to be directed by Oscar Winner Andrew Stanton, and an Untitled Action-Romance starring Idris Elba at Apple. 

Following almost a decade’s worth of Marvel films, Kinberg will also write and produce “Battlestar Galactica” for Universal which will be his latest franchise universe. 

In 2006, he wrote “X-Men: The Last Stand,” which opened on Memorial Day to box office records and began his ongoing relationship with the franchise. In 2008, Kinberg wrote and produced Doug Liman’s film “Jumper” for 20th Century Fox. In 2009, Kinberg co-wrote the film “Sherlock Holmes” starring Robert Downey Jr, directed by Guy Ritchie. The film received a Golden Globe for Best Actor and was nominated for two Academy Awards. 

In 2010, Kinberg established his production company Genre Films, with a first look deal at 20th Century Fox. Under this banner, he produced “X-Men: First Class,” executive produced “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” and wrote and produced “This Means War.” In 2013, Kinberg produced “Elysium,” which starred Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, directed by Neill Blomkamp. 

On Memorial Day of 2014, Fox released “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” which Kinberg wrote and produced. The film opened number one at the box office, received critical acclaim and went on to gross more than $740 million worldwide. 

In 2015, Kinberg had four films in release. He re-teamed with Neill Blomkamp to produce “Chappie,” starring Hugh Jackman and Sharlto Copley. Kinberg produced Disney’s Academy Award-nominated film “Cinderella,” starring Cate Blanchett and directed by Kenneth Branagh.

In addition, Kinberg was the co-writer and producer of “The Fantastic Four.” His final film of the year was “The Martian,” which he produced. The film, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon, grossed more than $630 million worldwide, won two Golden Globes (including Best Picture) and was nominated for seven Academy Awards (including Best Picture). 

In 2016, Kinberg produced “Deadpool,” starring Ryan Reynolds. The film broke international and domestic records for box office, including becoming the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time globally. It went on to win two Critics Choice Awards (including Best Picture – Comedy) and receive two Golden Globe nominations (including Best Picture), a WGA nomination and a PGA nomination for Best Picture. That year, Kinberg also wrote and produced “X-Men: Apocalypse.” 

In 2017, he produced “Logan,” the final installment of the Wolverine franchise with Hugh Jackman. It was selected as the closing film of the Berlin Film Festival and opened #1 at the box office. It was named one of the ten best films of the year from the National Board of Review, garnered three Critics Choice Nominations and an Academy Award Nomination.

Kinberg was also a producer on “Murder on the Orient Express,” directed by Kenneth Branagh, with Branagh starring alongside Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Daisy Ridley, Judi Dench, and others. 

In 2018, Kinberg produced “Deadpool 2,” which matched the success of the first film. It was Kinberg’s fourteenth film to open number one at the box office. 

In 2019, Kinberg made his directorial debut with “X-Men: Dark Phoenix,” which was released June 7. The film once again starred Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, with new addition Jessica Chastain. 

In television, he was the executive producer of “Designated Survivor,” starring Kiefer Sutherland on ABC and Netflix. He was also the executive producer of “Legion,” “Gifted,” and executive producer and co-creator with Jordan Peele of the remake of “The Twilight Zone” on CBS All Access.  

Kinberg has served as a consultant on “Star Wars: Episode VII” and “Rogue One,” and he was the creator and executive producer of the animated show “Star Wars: Rebels” on Disney networks. 

You can also watch Simon’s Screenwriting Masterclass on The Dialogue Series on Indie Film Hustle TV.

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.

Needless to say this is one heck of an episode. Enjoy my conversation with Simon Kinberg.

Right-click here to download the MP3

 

Alex Ferrari 0:00
First of all, how did you get started in the business in the film industry in general?

Simon Kinberg 0:17
I got started. I was in film school graduate film school at Columbia, in New York. And I wrote a script. In my first year of film school that a professor of mine named Ira Deutschmann, who was the creator of fine line features and produced a lot of movies he read, he liked the option for $1. Nice with the promise that he was sending out to Hollywood, to studio executives and agents and managers and the like, to start my career, and it did, I got my agent CA, where I remain represented, I got my lawyer who's still my lawyer, and a lot of relationships that are still some of the closest professional relationships in my life and those people. I was 23 at the time, and those people were maybe a little older than I am. And those people now run studios. Those people are Scott Stuber, and Donna Langley, and Emma watts. And those are, you know, we all started as kids together, and now we're no longer kids. Um, so that's how I started. And then I continued in film school, even though I was, you know, getting this traction and working in Hollywood. And then my, my thesis project in my second year of film school, was a script called Mr. Mrs. Smith. Um, and that obviously turned into a movie, starring Brad and Angelina. And, and from that point forward, my career really, really catapulted to a different level.

Alex Ferrari 1:45
So one of your first scripts gets picked up and is a big Hollywood, a big Hollywood production with two of the biggest movie stars of all time, out of out of film school, essentially.

Simon Kinberg 1:55
That is that is accurate. And, and was completely absurd, and surreal. And may you know, listen, making that movie would have been surreal. In any circumstance

Alex Ferrari 2:08
At any age, yeah, at any age.

Simon Kinberg 2:10
But when you're 20 something years old, and you're on your first film set, and you're showing up to work every day. And in the morning, you're working with Brad and Angelina onlines. And Vince Vaughn and Kerry Washington and Doug Liman who was about as hot as any director could be, because he'd gone from swingers to go to Bourne Identity to our film. It was a I wouldn't even say a dream come true. Because I wouldn't have dared to dream that big. It was a it was a completely like absurdist fantasy, it felt like I was in a Charlie Kaufman movie,

Alex Ferrari 2:44
Which is and obviously anyone listening. That's generally the way it works for screenwriters. This is the normal role that all screenwriters go through.

Simon Kinberg 2:51
They say what do you what advice do you have to sell a movie and get the biggest movie stars in the world act on it? And then you're golden, you're done?

Alex Ferrari 2:58
Then everything just just the doors opened magically? Of course, of course. Now, what is what is your writing process? Like? Do you do you sit down every day at a certain time? Do you wait for inspiration? The Muse to show up? Do you argue with the muse? Why aren't you here? Things like that.

Simon Kinberg 3:18
I'm the I love these questions. Um, the answer your question is, my writing process is everything you just described. But it starts with I have a set amount of hours each day that I'm going to write because if I don't have that kind of construct, or that kind of discipline, the Muse is never going to show up. I don't think the Muse is magically shows up. Sometimes it magically shows up while you're sleeping or you're in the shower or your subconscious is working, right. But But what it needs is some sort of container. And then within that container of however many hours I'm going to, I'm going to sit down and write per day and I have a goal of how many pages I'm going to get done or how many scenes I'm going to get done. But that goal sometimes surpass it, most times I come short of it. Then you just wrestle all day. The writing is the greatest torture in the world. And it is the greatest pleasure in the world when you get it right when the Muse shows up, and a line comes out of nowhere and you don't know where it came from. And if not for you it would not have existed. And it cracked something open. It's the greatest feeling in the world and the other 99.9% of the time, you are staring at a white page or a white wall and saying why they why did they take this job? Why do they choose this career I could have been a professor I would have been a happier person. That's my writing process. I mean, my my technical or specific writing process, I would not advocate for anyone including myself, but it just happens to be mine which is I write by hand and I write on blank white pieces of paper, front and back. And I don't know what page I'm on when I'm writing the script. I just know a sense of sort of flow and rhythm of storytelling. And what it helps me with is one, I'm just much looser, because it's not on a computer. And I don't feel like there's this sort of finality to what I'm writing. And it's got scribbles and scratches, and you'd never be able to read it anyway. Um, but it also, it keeps me from going backwards, it keeps me from looking at yesterday's work, because I can barely read yesterday's work. I just keep moving forward. And there's a satisfaction of that. If I were to show you a picture, by the time it's done, you know, it's, it's really a lot of pages. And so the satisfaction of building that pile, as I'm writing, and that's better than being able to scroll up and down a screen for me.

Alex Ferrari 5:44
Now, you know, as writers, you know, I know when I'm writing, I feel sometimes that like I'm typing, and then afterwards I read and I go, who wrote that? Like, I don't even remember writing that. Do you have that feeling of almost channeling some other worldly force that that thing that writers, if we're lucky enough to tap into? flows through you? Is that your experience?

Simon Kinberg 6:04
Yeah, I mean, that's the that is the that's the point. Oh, 1% of the time, that's the great. That's the undefeatable joy. You know, when people ask me, What's the what, what, what's my favorite part of my job, and I've done a lot of different aspects of this job between producing and directing and writing. And the greatest pleasure for me, by far in a way are the moments you're describing where as a writer, you do, Discover or channel however you want to describe it, invent whatever the verb is, it is outside of you, and then it is coming through you, and then it is on a page. And if not, for you existing in the world, those lines, that idea would not exist either. And that feeling is the greatest feeling in the entire world. And it is the feeling, you know, there's a there's a joke, and I can only say this joke, because I'm a Jew. Is it? Why did the Jews search in the desert for 40 years? Because they found, I don't know, $1? Why did they search another 40 years? Because they found $1. And, and I think that is very much my writing process and all of our writing process, right, which is like, like, forever, we find something that is invaluable. And then we take another forever because that we're chasing that feeling.

Alex Ferrari 7:21
Oh, that's the film industry in general. I think as film creatives, you're just always searching for that. Hi, that happens. A handful of times, if you're lucky. If you're lucky in your lifetime, whether as a director as a producer, as a writer, you're looking for that Hi, it's we're sick, we're all sick. It's it's a it's a beautiful sickness.

Simon Kinberg 7:41
Listen, you know, I say this to my partner all the time. She's a writer too, but a different kind of rhetoricians poet, and I say, you know, if not for the fact that after six hours, eight hours, 10 hours a day, we came out of our rooms, with pieces of paper that had writing on it, we would be considered, you know, psychiatric, or psychologically, you know, imbalanced and put in a psychiatric hospital because we would just be sitting in our room for 10 hours a day, staring at the wall, communicating with imaginary voices and characters in our head. And if we didn't somehow experience you would be that I'm sure that would be diagnosed. I'm not a psychiatrist, psychologist, but I might my armchair psychology would be that would be schizophrenia. Um, fair enough. But but, you know, we tend we're writers and artists, and so we get away with it.

Alex Ferrari 8:30
Now, one of my favorite films in the X Men series is X Men Days of Future Past. You know, you you wrote that, how did you come up with that storyline like that? That's an insanely complex line, meaning all moving parts?

Simon Kinberg 8:47
Yeah. Um, well, I came up with it, because Chris Claremont came up with it. And, you know, it was it was a comic book. Um, and so the, the notion of it was something that already existed as a comment. But as a comic, it was wildly different than the movie made like as, as a one specific example. It was Kitty Pryde, they went back in time, not worrying. And one of the reasons I made it will vary. And other than obviously, Wolverine, being the leader of the franchise, was because I thought there was something incredibly powerful about this character who had been in some ways teamed by, by Professor Xavier having to go back to a younger broken Professor Xavier and team and teach him the lessons that Xavier had taught him. So there was a there was an inherent complexity. And it was interesting that, but writing that movie, I would say, from a technical standpoint, was the most complicated and difficult film I've ever written because of the time travel element because of the time paradoxes because of the fact that I was playing two different sets of characters who were essentially the older and younger version of the same character, you know, simultaneous and wanting to Giving them all arcs, you know, and wanting to wanting to give Halle Berry interesting things to play and certainly wanting to give all of our younger X Men from X Men first class who were sort of the dominant storyline of that movie, really interesting, surprising twists and turns emotionally in that film while also servicing a storyline that was itself an unbelievable, you know, demon to wrestle to the ground. And

Alex Ferrari 10:27
No, no question and be like, yeah, like, even when you're writing the voices of the same character is so different from the older Xavier to the younger, Xavier, and keeping that all together like did you like just put it all up on a board? Like how do you keep not only the characters, but the timelines? And the paradox is like, that's why I looked at movies like Back to the Future. I'm just like, Jesus, man. How did Bob and Bob do that?

Simon Kinberg 10:51
Yeah, I mean, back to the future was obviously a movie that I looked at a lot. Terminator two did a lot. Although there's not as much back and forth obviously in the character, the same kind of struggle with the characters. I'm a I have a great actual Terminator two story, which is I met James Cameron's one of my shareholders like all of us, and I met him we were on a panel together and sanely while I was writing the as a future past and I said to him, Listen, I'm writing this time travel movie. And I'm, you know, the Terminator films are for me, among the greatest time travel movies of all time, obviously, among the greatest science fiction movies, maybe movies movies of all time. And I said, you know, I had brought this like fan book that I had, I told him to sign and and, and so he was like, okay, buddy, I'm going on a panel with you, but I'm happy to sign your book. So I saw he wrote signed the book we went to the panel I looked at the book afterwards. I need written dear Simon Don't fuck it up. Love James. And I ever met and and and throughout the writing of the process of Days of Future Past, I just kept thinking Don't fuck it up. Don't fucking keep fucking it up with these paradoxes. But I'll be into those words. But, sir, sir, sir. So um, you know, yes, I did have I don't usually use no cardboard when I write. But I did with that, because it was so complex. The luxury I had. The advantage I had in writing the older and the younger versions of these characters is that I had already written the older and younger versions of characters, I'd worked with the older cast X Men three, and did work with the younger cast on days on first class. So I knew the nuances both of the characters and of the actors. And so I could channel that to some extent, or rely on that to some extent. But even within that I was, I was creating new versions of those characters like that. The professor, the young Frederick Xavier, that McAvoy is playing in his future path is very different than the McEvoy of first class, obviously. And so I in the fact that you know that from the very beginning, the movie you introducing the older Xavier and the older Magneto as partners and friends, again, you're just, there's a lot of sort of work you're doing to both honor the voices, and then also innovate on the voices that came before.

Alex Ferrari 13:20
Now you you produce the film, that's one of my favorite comic book films of all time, Deadpool, which must have been I mean, I just suddenly assume it must have been a ball to work on that project. What At what point did you jump on that project? It was it after the film was leaked, by somebody got the green light? How was it? How was it working on that project?

Simon Kinberg 13:44
Um, it was extraordinary work on that project. And it was exactly what you said, which was it was it was great fun to witness. I'm, like, just unbelievably talented people from the writers, Ratan Paul, who really created the voice to Tim Miller, who was directing his first movie, which is incredible about, you know, the multi tonally of that film is really hard. And then most especially Ryan. Ryan Reynolds is not just the actor of those films or any film he works on. He's the producer. He's He reminds me a lot of the way Tom Cruise works. He's also kind of the person who is operating in every category of the film. He's just sort of force of nature of the movie in the best possible way. And when I got involved was after the movie had leaked, but before it got greenlit, it was close to getting greenlit but was not greenlit and Retton Paul, the writers where they can reach the writers emailed me I'd never met them, and they email me saying we need your maybe they said we are we are dead will we need your ass with a bunch of ellipses after it and And then that that was the subject. And then in the body of the email, it continued the word asked into assistance. And, yeah, and they and they, and they made this, this sort of plea to me because I was at that time overseeing their sort of X Men universe at Toys of jury box to help them. And Ryan and Tim get the movie greenlit. And so we all work together a bit on the script, and then quite a bit in the budget. And one of the things that was extraordinary about that film, especially when you go back and rewatch it is, we made that movie for I think, something like $50 million. Now, which is low, it's tiny compared to what your superhero movies are made for, which is usually in the $200 million range. And, and that was part of the deal with Fox because they'd never made and nor had most people ever Marvel hadn't made. They've made blade, but they'd never made a true R rated comic movie before. And the tone was so wildly anarchic and different. And, you know, breaking the fourth wall and all the things that Ruby does. They said, Listen, this is feels like a gamble. But it's a cheap enough gamble that we're going to take it. And they did. And obviously it paid off. incredibly well for everyone involved.

Alex Ferrari 16:22
Now I have to I have to thank you for for making a Logan, which is arguably one of the greatest in my opinion, superhero films of all time. In the genre. It is what it's like dark night, it's up there with dark night. It's just one of those films and it's such a bittersweet film. Because I wish you could stay his age forever. Just continue to play that character. What was it like? Because you've been with that character, and you've been with you playing that character for so long. What was it like putting that film together and finishing off his his swan song, if you will.

Simon Kinberg 16:55
It was all the things you said it was bittersweet because I had lived with Hugh as both a friend and a partner in making these films for probably over a decade. And and it was also really exciting because he his ideas, Jim mangles ideas, who's a genius filmmaker, Scott Frank's ideas, who's clearly a genius writer. You know, Scott wrote, directed all the Queen's gambit episodes, and he just has such incredible, incredible pedigree. We all came together, they all really did the heavy lifting and Hutch Parker, who was another producer on that, and had worked on a bunch of the X Men movies and had been the executive at Fox for a lot of them. We all came together and with a common purpose, which is creating, you know, a truly dramatic, truly emotional, deeply resonant swan song for this, you know, character that had been in the zeitgeist for, you know, again, well over a decade, close to two decades. And so it was it was an extraordinary process with a bunch of, you know, a plus brilliant human beings taking the job incredibly seriously. And just really listening and caring deeply. Yeah, thing when this isn't good enough. And like, really, I remember Jim mangled with that last action sequence. And really the third act of the movie just going over and over and over again. And Scott rewriting it and me taking a pen to it and, and Jim mangled himself, rewriting it and just like working and working and needing it until, until we could create something that was worthy of saying goodbye to you in this part. That would be hard for people.

Alex Ferrari 18:54
Would you I have to ask this. Will we ever see Hugh in a dead movie in a Deadpool movie? As a cameo ever?

Simon Kinberg 19:02
I you know, I'm not a part of that universe anymore. Because Disney bought all the Marvel movies at Fox they bought Fox. So I dancers I have no idea. I know, obviously, like the rest of the world does that you and Brian are friends and have this sort of rival beyond, you know, foam rifle rifle on social media. Um, so I wouldn't be surprised, but I also have no idea.

Alex Ferrari 19:34
Got it! No problem. Now tell me about your new film the 355 which I had a pleasure of watching yesterday. And it was it was wonderful. It was just wonderful to see a group of women just kick all sorts of us throughout the piece. So how did that how did that come to be?

Simon Kinberg 19:50
It came to me because it was actually going back to an excellent movie. When Jessica Chastain and I we'd work together on the Martian. And then we work together on X Men Darlene When we were on the X Men set, Jessica had this idea to do a an all female ensemble spy movie. And she brought that to me and said, I had this idea It might sound crazy, and I said actually sounds really intriguing. Um, and then we just started building it with her producing partner, Kelly Carmichael together, and we got the actresses really on that pitch alone. And Jessica's relationships and Jessica's, you know, sort of pedigree. And we went to the Cannes Film Festival, and we sold it at the Cannes Film Festival to universal for the UK and US rights as our partners, and then to other distributors that other territories around the world. And from there, we really crafted it to the actresses and built the movie,

Alex Ferrari 20:49
You pre sell, but you pre sold it prior to actually going into production.

Simon Kinberg 20:53
We pre sold that way before going into production. So it all happened very fast. I mean, we pre sold that it can in 2018 in May of 2018. And we were shooting by summer of 2019.

Alex Ferrari 21:09
And it's been on hold since then, because of COVID

Simon Kinberg 21:11
Because yeah, we were meant to come out last year, exactly one year ago. Um, and it was a tough time for COVID. And obviously we're in another tough time for COVID. But not a tough time. That's true, I mean, a different tough time for COVID. Because we're in a mime. And sure, strain is not thankfully quite as lethal as what we were dealing with last year. But yeah, we pushed to the year it's been done, it would have could have easily come out last January. And now we finally get to release the film.

Alex Ferrari 21:47
Now, how was directing such remarkable actors? I mean, you've got Oscar winners in there, you've got I mean, they're powerhouses every single one of them. What What how do you approach directing actors like that, as a director?

Simon Kinberg 22:00
Umm, I approach it, the way that I approach kind of directing any actor, which is their partners, um, I have to go into it that way. And especially with actors like this, because they own their characters, more than a director does. Because they're living that part, they're wearing that part, they're thinking of that part. And only that part is the director, there's so many things you're thinking about, right, not just the characters in the story, but also the visuals and all of the technique of making the film. And with these particular actresses, and the actors at your Ramirez and Sebastian, Stan, they just had tons of ideas, and really an immense amount of authorship and ownership over their characters. And that was part of the process going into all of this was we were all partners in making the film. Um, and so that's the way I directed them was, you know, their ideas, my ideas, other people's ideas, and other actors ideas within the scenes with them. We played it felt like kind of, like the lovely thing about it, it felt like being in an actor's workshop with the best doctors in the world.

Alex Ferrari 23:03
Pretty pretty much pretty much now as directors, you know, there's always that day that we're on set, and the entire world comes crashing down around us. And we're the sun is we're losing the sun, the the cranes not working, the actor can't get to the set for some reason. What was that day for you either on this film, or any of the films you've directed? And how did you overcome that moment, as a director?

Simon Kinberg 23:26
You know, I think on this film on 355, the hardest moment to the moment where I felt like, I just want to go home. Because you know, you do that you do have that feeling sometimes, um, you know, you're shooting, you know, 5060 on a huge movie, 90 days of photography, and they're long hours and all that. On this one, it was we were filming the fish market sequence in an actual fish market. And it was right after the fish market closed, but you could still smell the sting of from that day. And it happened to be quite literally the hottest day in the history of the United Kingdom. And so, the smell itself, I think Penelope passed out. I was close to passing out most of the day. Um, it was, you know, sort of before the day of wearing gas masks or surgical masks wherever we went. And, and so it was overwhelming, and the heat was overwhelming as well. And we had stents and we had big crowd sequences. And it just felt like the scale of it plus the simple, you know, Human Reality of you're in the stinkiest place imaginable on the hottest day in the history of a country was a was a lot to manage. And you made it through. I made it through luckily the actors made it through We all kind of bonded together and helped each other get get there.

Alex Ferrari 25:04
Now, is there any advice you could give a filmmaker screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Simon Kinberg 25:10
You know, it's hard, because, you know, everybody has a different way into the business. So, you know, I get asked this question a lot. And I hear people ask this asked this question a lot. And I don't want to give like a symbol or a singular answer, because again, obviously, my path is very different than other people's paths are going to be and everybody I know who works in the film industry habit has a different story. The thing I would say is, write something you love, direct, something you love, I think the mistake that I see a lot of new filmmakers make or new writers make is they right or make something they think is right for the market. Or for the cycles or for, you know, not for themselves. And the truth is, you can't chase the market, partly because by the time your movie comes out, the market will have changed already. It takes time. And also because people can feel it. There's enough writers out here in Hollywood, there's enough director there in Hollywood, what they want is new, fresh, genuinely original, genuinely unique, bespoke voices. And I want that as a producer, I can feel that when I read new scripts, and, um, you know, we all know how to write the tricks of a script, we all know the structure of a script, it's not enough to just write something that's solid, you have to write something that makes people feel like, Oh, this is a new voice. And so it's trust your voice, trust your vision, don't try to copy other people's voices and visions because they're working.

Alex Ferrari 26:39
And last question, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Simon Kinberg 26:46
Wow, um, balance, I think balance is something that took me a very long, 48 years old, and I would say, I just learned that, and I'm still learning it. Um, but I just learned it in the last few years with a two year old baby and God bless you. I know, I hope God does. Um, I'm counting on it. Um, but, uh, um, you know, I think for a very long time, I was so focused on my work. That and I, I felt like, you know, I'll have time when I take a break from my work to take care of my life. And my work just kept rolling. And, you know, I moved from country to country and movie to movie and set to set. And that's wonderful on the one hand, but on the other hand, it hurts two things. One is obviously it hurts your life. Because you know, if you want to be in a real relationship, or a real family, it's harder. It's harder on them. And it's harder on the bonds. But it's also it hurts you as an artist, because you start recycling your old ideas, instead of actually living in the world and coming up with new ideas. And so that balance is something that I'm still learning. But it is the lesson that comes first to mind when you ask that question. It's a good question.

Alex Ferrari 28:14
Thank you, Simon, so much for being on the show. And where can people and when can people see 355?

Simon Kinberg 28:19
This Friday, January 7, it will be in theaters. Um, and I hope people go see it.

Alex Ferrari 28:28
Simon, thank you again for being on the show. And thank you for doing making some amazing films along the way of your career continue doing so, sir. So thank you so much.

Simon Kinberg 28:35
I appreciate I appreciate all your questions and your support. I really do.

Alex Ferrari 28:39
Thank you, my friend.

Simon Kinberg 28:40
Ok take care!

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IFH 542: Producing Films in Today’s Hollywood with Oscar® Nominee Chris Moore

Every once in a while I have a conversation on this show that blows my mind, this episode did just that. Today on the show we have Oscar® Nominated producer Chris Moore. He produced films like Good Will Hunting, American Pie, Waiting, The Adjustment Bureau, and Manchester by the Sea. Chris’ profile grew from his appearance as the producer on the early 2000’s filmmaker reality show Project: Greenlight.

I have a short, and I mean short, history with Project: Greenlight. You can see below.

After graduating from college, Chris Moore moved to Los Angeles after sometime working in the mailroom of a major agency he got promoted to literary agent. He championed projects like: The Stoned Age, PCU, Airheads, Last Action Hero, and My Girl. 

When Chris’ agency was acquired by ICM, he left and became an indie film producer. With some friends, he raised the budget to produce the indie film Glory Daze, which starred an unknown Matt Damon. Damon turned down the leading role in favor of paid work on another paid project but introduced him to his friend Ben Affleck, who ultimately starred in Glory Daze.

Afterward, Affleck and Damon wrote the screenplay for what would become the Oscar® winning Good Will Hunting, and they asked Chris help them produce the film that was directed by Gus Van Sant.

Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is twenty years old, and already stands out in his rough, working-class neighborhood in South Boston. He’s never been to college, except to scrub floors as a janitor at MIT. Yet he can summon obscure historical references from a photographic memory, and almost instantly solve math problems that frustrate Nobel Prize winning professors. The one thing this remarkably bright, impossibly angry young man can’t do – after his latest bar fight – is talk his way out of a pending jail sentence.

His only hope is Sean McGuire (Robin Williams), a college professor-turned-therapist with an admiration for Will’s emotional struggles, and a keen understanding of what it’s like to fight your way through life.

Chris and I had a remarkable conversation about how to produce films in today eco-system. We also discuss what it’s like working in the studio system, some of the issues he has with the system, how filmmakers are treated, and so much more. This an EPIC 2-hour conversation full of knowledge and truth bombs so prepare to take some notes.

Enjoy my conversation with Chris Moore.

Right-click here to download the MP3

 

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I'd like to welcome to the show Chris Moore, man. How you doing, Chris?

Chris Moore 0:15
I'm good. How are you Alex?

Alex Ferrari 0:18
I'm doing great, man. I'm doing really great. I I've been a fan of yours from back in the day. Not even during good. You know, obviously Good Will Hunting and all that. But specifically, this little show you did called Project Greenlight, and I have to ask you, man, season two. Why don't I make the top 10 man I made the top 25 man, why did I make the top 10 I'm just.

Chris Moore 0:39
I wish I could remember. I'm sure there was a reason though.

Alex Ferrari 0:44
I'm sure there. I'm sure there was.

Chris Moore 0:46
But the other thing to remember is that we didn't I guess I was in charge of the top 10 So I'll take that hit.

Alex Ferrari 0:55
But not busting your balls and bust your balls. I always people always like cuz on my IMDb I'm on Project Greenlight. Season two in the like, Did you were you on Project Greenlight? I go. Yes for three seconds in the opening montage. Project Greenlight two because I had to send it I was one I got to the level of least sending in a director of video. So and we'll talk about Project Greenlight in a little bit, but I just wanted to push it a bit.

Chris Moore 1:20
Fair enough. I mean, I'm so old Alex that I'm sure there's a story for almost anyone who runs into me at this point. But uh, you know, those are the hardest is because the the fact that no one became a big star coming out of Project Greenlight people had careers, and it definitely helped people and that kind of stuff. I can't speak to the fourth season that was involved, but the a lot of people are like, well, if this guy wasn't such a genius, you know, one of the winners, why don't you're like, Dude, that was like, 15 years ago, I can't remember. I just know, we made our decisions. I had somebody stopped me in an airport this Thanksgiving. No, 15 days ago.

Alex Ferrari 2:03
No.

Chris Moore 2:04
Are you Chris Moore from Project Greenlight? And I felt like saying no, but I was like, I think that's a dick move to be like, No, it's like, yes, long time ago. He's like, you know, I never got over not making the top three. And I was like, Oh, my God. Like, I don't know what to say. Like, I'm so sorry. It's like those people at once soft fair enough that the film business is tough. Because everybody judges everybody.

Alex Ferrari 2:30
Oh, my God, that's hilarious. Alright, so let's go back a bit. How did you get started? And why did you want to be in this insane business?

Chris Moore 2:40
Well, the hard part about that question is the first answer. I'll answer the second question first, which is I never set out to be in the business I, I am the worst sort of how did they get their stories because she just kept happening to me. And I just wrote along with it. As I said, people, I'm not trying to be falsely modest. I clearly had an okay ability to identify talent or good scripts or whatever it might be. But I actually think that was just because I grew up in small town in Maryland, and love movies. So like, I came with a predisposed, like sort of saying, you know, how did you get into basketball or whatever you're doing? It's like, Well, I happen to be seven foot two. And you're like, you don't have any control over that like, and you decide it's good, you liked it. Because if you decide you want to be a jockey being seven foot two is not a good idea. But so I would say I got lucky I came out here. The quick story is, when I was in college, at Harvard, and Boston to get all that out of the way, I worked as a PA. And then I sort of graduated up to other jobs in live television, sports, and I thought I was going to work in television, sports. And over time, by the time I had graduated, I decided to move out here to my best friends are coming out here and had a sweep place, they were working on Wall Street, but for for here, and they had a sweet place in Manhattan Beach. And I knew that the entertainment business was sort of startup kind of money, you're not going to be paying for a sweet place in Manhattan Beach. So I was like, sounds good to get away from everyone and warm weather. So I ended up in California living with them. And a friend of mine, who I had met through, you know, I've worked as a PA on a television show for USA Network and was sort of checking it out. So he was gone, said, You know, this little agency that I work for, is expanding. They've just recruited four agents from the other big agencies, and we don't have enough people. You want to come just work, check out an agency and I thought, you know, that might be interesting to see how you sell stuff through whatever. I was actually only going to be in LA for six months because I owed a semester to college. So I was gonna go back in the spring. So I was like, I'll go work for five, six months at this agency. So it's like, you know, and it really was for the old people. They can remember the Saturday Night Live skit, it really was making copies and kit and coffee deliver and packages and shit all which is digital now except the coffee. But I, I liked it, I really love reading scripts, you know, we had to read like 1015 scripts a week, and give him my thoughts. And I, it was kind of fun to be at that beginning phase where you say this could be a great movie, and then, you know, it sells and then you know, I wasn't there long enough to see anything get made. But I, I had a lot of fun. So they then I guess, like me and said, Look, when you come back from college, we'd love you to come back, keep working here. So, so I really sort of was like, Okay, that's a good job, my parents are gonna want me to have a job and get paid. And I'll work in the mailroom. And then, when I got back after my, you know, that last semester, to LA, the, the agency had expanded again, and brought in some more people. And so they didn't even put me back in the mailroom, I became an assistant to an agent. And then I moved up to one of the, the sort of founding agents desk after about three or four months. And then they expanded again and needed, like young agents at the time, one of your big jobs as a young agent was to go out and sort of just gather information, you weren't experienced enough to, you know, have clients of your own, but you go out and you you know, and so you got territories, and you'd be in charge of territories. And so myself and another assistant got promoted, and we were sort of these, you know, Junior guys would just drive around all day to studios and networks and other places and, you know, sort of learn what they need, you know, do they need writers on this project? Do they need actors on that project? Do they need, you know, we want a horror movie for Halloween shit like that. And I was primarily in the movie business. And so anyway, I was doing that. And then I ended up finding some scripts that sold and some movies that got made, I ended up signing some young talents early, you know, from Sundance and from you know, film festivals, and, you know, had a had an okay run as a producer as an agent. And, you know, and, and I realized this gonna make me sound like the dumbest person on earth. But I, I got frustrated with, I would fall in love with these visions of the scripts, and I would sell using the vision. And then by the time they got made, they were not good. And I was always like, the fuck out, excuse me what happened? Like, like, maybe there's a job I could have, or at least I had more of a chance to be part of the whole process. So I, the agency, the small agency I was working for it was called inter talent. And it sold it basically the some of the founding partners got in a fight. A group went to UTA and a group went to ICM, and I went to ICM for a year, but the big agency business is very different than the small agency business. And so after a year, I raised a million dollars, you know, 1992, and made a little movie that's out there called glory days, that happened to star guy named Ben Affleck. And, you know, Ben came in and audition, and I was paying the casting director out of my pocket. He was great. And I liked him a lot. So we gave him the lead in the movie and, and then as we made that movie, and I learned a ton about it, it's a great way to learn is to be the financier and the producer, of you know of a little movie, because you get to see everything. And it's it's a huge nightmare. And I'm sure I you know, I'm gonna die earlier than I would have having done that. But the, but I learned a ton and I became friends with Ben and Ben. And I know Matt a little bit in college, but we weren't friends. And then I knew him through Ben and, and but my reputation as a young literary agent was pretty good. I've been profiled in some magazine so much. So Ben just said, Look, my buddy, and I wrote the script. Would you read this script and tell me what you think? And I was petrified? Because, you know, actors, writers, actors, directors can go one way or the other. They there can be super, you know, sort of stuck on themselves. And it's hard, or they can actually be really talented. That's probably true of other people, but actors in particular. Anyway, I didn't read it for a while because we were still shooting a little movie. And I didn't want to have to tell them I hated a script while he was shooting. The movie we were making. And but I read it and I thought it was awesome. Like a little I was like, Look, dude, you don't? You don't want to give this to me. I'm a little producer trying to start out you just sell this for a million dollars. Like there's no I can just tell you that right now. This is a great script. And he got one that no then we regret shooting and we sat down we thought that and they told me they wanted to start it and they want to do it. I said well, that's gonna be a little harder because no one's heard of any of you but I was like, you still could probably sell it you will probably get faced with the question of started less money. More money don't start. So anyway, Be The rest was sort of history and that's why I say I'm, that's a bad story of a came out before I graduated college, worked in the mailroom got a job became an agent, all happened within a three year period of time I had produced good wine. And so the point is that you can't say to anybody in the hustle, you know, copy that, because right, that was pure luck and a little bit of taste, right. I mean, there were other people that read that first draft of Google hunting were like, I'm not sure this is very good. So all I can say is I was smart enough to know, you know, some of the guys I worked with very early in the career like Night Shyamalan rituals. Richville Zak, Penn, some of these guys are being writers now and, and directors and whatever. And then Matt and Ben, obviously. And so the point is that the best The only thing I can say, I was okay, at being able to read or look at watch something and be like, I really like that. Maybe if I'm lucky enough if I really like other people like it. And I'm sure if your favorite movie is, you know, some obscure Japanese film. That's harder, because your natural taste isn't, you know, my favorite movies are like diehard,I think diehard is close. Great, perfect movie,

Alex Ferrari 11:13
And, and the greatest Christmas in the grid, it's just Christmas movie of all time.

Chris Moore 11:16
Exactly. Get ready to watch it over the next six weeks. But like so that's what I try to say to people who might be listening or thinking about it is you got to lean into your talents, you have to think about what it is. And you some of it is luck in this business.

Alex Ferrari 11:33
I think I think I agree with you 100% So many people and trust me from from when I was coming up, you know, I try to study everybody else's path. So you know, you try to go down Robert Rodriguez's path or Kevin Smith's path or been in Matt's path. I mean, how many actors after Goodwill Hunting sec. We're gonna write a movie and we're gonna get it one first. I mean, Sylvester Stallone, oh, gosh, face. Oh, of course. I mean, yeah. Yeah. You dropped the mic.

Chris Moore 12:00
That's, that's awesome.

Alex Ferrari 12:02
Exactly. But for that generation, you know, they were big, big, big inspiration. And the funny thing is, and I've just in this is just, you know, a couple of all old farts talking with age, you really realize that there is no path you can take from somebody else. You might be inspired by somebody else's path. But it's truly your own path. That is weird, because every single one of those people I just mentioned, from from Ed burns for from Spike Lee, all of those 90s directors that we all idolize, they all had different paths. He all went down different paths. None of them were like, Well, Kevin went down the rabbit Rodriguez path No, nope, no, he didn't he he did his own thing. He was inspired by lit by Rick. Linkletter slacker and so many people were in so so it's just I just wanted to put that out there for people, as much as you want to kind of emulate somebody else's path. I promise you will never work. But you could be inspired by it and move forward going forward. Now, you know, obviously, your your history with finding talent. And you know, especially with Project Greenlight and the chair and things like that, that you were you're always looking for directing talent, is there something you look for specifically in a director?

Chris Moore 13:17
Well, it's a good question. I mean, what I would say is, I still love sort of professional storytelling. And my view is, I take this larger, historic view that humans need storytelling. I don't know why I'm not a psych guy. I didn't study any of that shit. But I know that it's valuable. And I know that it's valuable on the escape entertainment side. And I know it's valuable on the just learn about stuff or having catharsis or whatever. And I've been very fortunate to be part of all of those kinds of projects. The thing that I would say about a director and specific is, I believe, and I think we're actually in the heyday of it right now, which is, there's the right medium for all kinds of stories. And the point is that, you know, yes, when the Brothers Grimm were out there just walking around the forest telling stories to people, that's the only choice they had. But the truth of the matter is, not every Grimms fairy tale should be filmed with a camera and a crew, right? And so what I look for in a director is, why did they pick this story, to film and tell as a movie or a television show, right? Because if you don't make it better than it was right on paper, or better than it was when somebody told you the story in a podcast, or better than it was as a graphic novel. There's no reason to direct it. So as a director, you have to prove to me that you're gonna take this and make it better, right and use the skills of what I call, you know, audio visual effects, you know, music, you get to use all of those tools. To really knock me down with how great the story is. So like to me it you use all those 90 directors, I think a few of them. Kevin Smith being one and I think it's actually happened is, he could have done Clark's as a podcast. And it would have been super funny, and it wouldn't work. And he's got the whole smodcast network, and he's got a bunch of podcasts. And he, he under his dialogue is unbelievable. His characters are unbelievable. What he does with the camera was the genre or the medium that was available for him then, right? What he would do now he still makes movies every now and then. And he's still, and those are different, they have effects and they do whatever. But I, Kevin's a guy who would say to you, I just want to tell these great stories about these people and these characters and situations. And however is best to tell them I'll tell them, right. Robert loves effects loves us. And again, I don't know these guys, well, I've met them. But the point is that you look at Robert, he's got troublemaker he loves, you know, turn it. So Robert needs to be in this genre. You're not the podcast of Spy Kids isn't fun.

Alex Ferrari 16:05
Right, right.

Chris Moore 16:08
Yeah, I'm gonna go listen to Spy Kids. Right? That's, that isn't how it's gonna work. So I think that, for me, what it is, is a director or a icon, sort of professional storyteller, saying, I decided this is the best way to tell this story, right. And I'm going to come in and show you that you want to give your story if I'm the producer, if I'm the writer, if I'm the rights holder of the story, you want to give it to me, because I'm going to take the tools of writing, directing, working with actors working with composer, and I'm going to make this story badass. Right? And, and that's what I look for in a director is, well, what will this benify Just read it as a novel? Right? What are what would I have liked this story just as much? Right? What would it be? And that's, you know, I think New because now there's way more professional ways to be a storyteller than there used to be, or you can make a living. And that's the kind of thing I did when I was an agent, I'd say, Look, this thing, maybe you should do this as a graphic novel. Or maybe this would be really cool as a play. Right? Or, or, you know, maybe this is a is an animated piece, because you can do really funny stuff with animation that you can't really get away with in live action, right. So. So I think part of it when you look at a director because I still look at as a director or a sort of episodic showrunner, also as sort of the leader of the whole thing, right? This sort of vision, the the NI, not a believer in committee, I think you want one or two people who are really the creative center of any project, but the, but I think you really want them to see and have a vision for why it's better this way or that way. Not they did it that way. Because somebody would pay him to do it, or they did whatever. And you see a lot of what I would call, you know, sort of people who are really good at one off storytelling have moved into limited series, right? six episodes, five episodes. That's to me a movie, that's anything else. It's you're telling one story over a period of time. In that case, you have more episodes, so you can get more into it. Right? You know, but the point is, that's also because the buyers seem to be interested in that. Right, right. So I always when I do these, I say to people think about what Good Will Hunting would be today? How would we have made Good Will Hunting today? I'm not sure it would have been a $25 million movie. Right? Right. It could have been a bunch of episode hell, it could have been a podcast, it's just that and that's characters talking to each other about how the hell to get out of Southie? Which, which then, which will then lead to other stuff. But like, how does how does a story get out into the world? And so for a director, that's a big part. And then the other thing for a writer is is not that you asked, but just to answer is, are they? Did they capture a story and I was read things twice? Because there's the first time where it's all new. Right? And then it's the second time when you know everything that's about to happen. Do you still like it? You know? And that's it just did I like it. I look at myself more as a consumer who was buying early than

Alex Ferrari 19:19
Your early investor,

Chris Moore 19:22
Expert anything right? I still see 20 movies a week. You know, I watch it shows all the time.

Alex Ferrari 19:28
It's all about this is the one thing that that filmmakers and screenwriters don't understand is that you can't teach taste, taste. It's something you are programmed with at the factory and developed over the course of your life. There's nothing you can do. And that's, that's why when I work with with collaborators, as a director, I'm looking for taste because you can teach craft. You can teach craft, you can teach technique, but taste man is just like, Oh, it's so tough.

Chris Moore 19:56
You're 100% right and the thing that makes taste so hard to quantify is I think tastes weirdly can be muted or, or affected by mood. So like, I think that the mood is something that none of us have any real control over, right? So like you can, you know, the mood of the world today is different because of COVID. Because of the economy because of partisanship, if you're in America, because of whatever right mood as you said, We're two older guys, right? So our mood and what we might respond to is gonna be different than potentially what we responded to when we were 25. Right. So part of it is also looking at yourself and saying, what, what am I looking at? Or who am I speaking for? What, what who else is in the same sort of move or frame of mind that I'm in? Because I think there's other ones like, today there are, I just need to get away and I want to go somewhere fantastical, like, I've been watching Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings with my 14 year old recently, and it's fun. I'm always like, Yeah, dude, let's go back. Okay, let's get in there. Let's go to Middle Earth, right. And that works, you know, and I loved it when it came out. It's not like I've watched it 10 times between when it came out on my 14 year old just got interested. So I'm watching it again. You know, that's different than, you know, watching something that's more serious or more interesting, or more about grownups, you know, actually really like this Spencer, movie about Princess die will say a little too much Princess die in the last, you know, two years. But that one was weird, because it's basically a study of how you just fall into craziness, like your life. And so I was fascinated as an older person who had people I've known for 4050 years of my life, who go crazy, sort of watching somebody do that. Is it weird that they did it really well. And now I couldn't recommend I would go on out and say everybody should watch this movie. You gotta be in the frame of mind that you're gonna watch somebody go crazy, right? I think that's the, and I certainly would never want to marry into the royal family. I'll tell you that.

Alex Ferrari 22:02
Oh, no, no, no, no no No, yes.

Chris Moore 22:04
But anyway, that's what I think's interesting about, you know, professional storytelling right now is there's a lot of options. There's a lot of ways to do it. Some are more lucrative than others. But

Alex Ferrari 22:14
Now, now, there's, there's I heard you once talk about three leverage points in producing, which I found fascinating, and I never heard it clarified so beautifully. Can you please, can you please talk about the three leverage points of being a producer? Because Because producing is such a nebulous thing, and you actually quoted a couple things they can help you

Chris Moore 22:37
The embarrassing part of this moment is you got to Malia which three I talked about on that one? I mean, I have, I have the three, what I always go is so this may be the three you're talking about is that there's the material, there's sort of the money and distribution, you know, that can be divided into two or can be one. And then there's the talent. And in my my view, for a producer, you're really only value. Yes, there is a skill set to producing sort of like what you said about craft, there are things you've learned as a producer about how to make deals, how to sell stuff, how to budget stuff, how to manage people on set, but somebody could, you know, throw me into a construction project. And I could probably figure out how to manage it relatively quickly. There's a skill set, but producers don't really have a craft as it were, we're salespeople were taste, right? Makers, man, where then we're management of the humans that you need to make it right. So your power or your leverage comes from the three areas that you have to have. And so at certain periods, like when the internet was less prevalent, I had four which was there's eyeballs, people who can get you to eyeballs and distribute distributors were a lot bigger. Now with YouTube and the internet and all this other stuff. You have a lot more power yourself to reach eyeballs, right? You You may not know how to monetize it, you may not be doing paid advertising, but you can put stuff out there. And over time, some stuff does get just discovered because people liked it. Right? But money is still important, you know, particularly audio visual, perfect professional storytelling is expensive. It's not, it's not you know, even if you're doing a $250,000 movie, that's still a shitload more expensive than many other things you could do. Right? Right. So it's like, so there's money and so a lot of producers come from the money set, they come from the you know, I'm gonna get your money or I'm gonna put the money in or I am rich and then I'm gonna bring other people right. So those two areas you can either work for a distributor, you know, a 24 trusts you and you can get a 24 to pick you up. So that gives you some power or rich guide number two loves you and whatever you bring them they'll give you half the budget. You So that's one version of power. I personally came the other way, which is talent and story or like the project itself, right material that I never really was a rights guy. I bought some life rights, but I've never really bought books or anything like that, which is put me in a bad spot right now as a producer, because right now we're in a weird moment in the business where some sort of past life for the material seems to be necessary. Yeah, it seems to, you know, the IP. And I've always been a believer that movies and television could create value. And most of the successes on my resume Greenlight, you've talked about Goodwill Hunting, we've talked about American Pie, that, you know, we those were original ideas that were made in either film or TV, right? Today, they probably say go do it somewhere else first, let us know people like it, and then we'll make a movie out of it. Or then, you know, very rarely today, do you see original material coming through movies and television.

Alex Ferrari 26:00
Let me ask you, let me ask you this question. Why is it that because right now Hollywood is mining, the 70s 80s and 90s. For material and IP that's basically we're just getting rehashes remakes read everything in a time period were they allowed creativity to come up with original ideas? Like Gremlins in goo? Do you think Goonies would be made in today's world? Or even Gremlins would be or even Good Will Hunting would have never been made by Studio? And today's out of 25 million? That's like a dead zone. 25 million bucks. You know what? It just doesn't make any sense. So what is it? Why do you think from your point of view? Is the studio so just resistant to new ideas? Or you've got to be James Cameron to come in with $500 million to make an original IP, which is Avatar.

Chris Moore 26:48
Well, the irony is the answer to that question is both is the same answer, actually, which is the entertainment industry, if I can go back just a tiny bit, has had basically 100 years where they own the audience. They had complete control over the audience. And it was basically four or five companies in America, right? They would tell the movie theaters, what movies they were coming out with, they would put on what they thought was necessary on the television channels. If you were at home, like I grew up in a small town of Maryland, you you're just waiting around to see what's going to be available Friday night, right? You have no control. And there's not a lot of choices, right? This is there's no video games competing against it. There's no social media that can't just go on YouTube and go down a rabbit hole for three hours. There's no tick tock. That. I mean, it's literally they own you, right. And the two things that they own are the scarcity of product. So you have no other movies, like when home video came, they all got nervous. Well, maybe now we're not gonna own people, because you might be home and decide, you know, I'd rather watch diehard again this Christmas and go see whatever the new Christmas movie is, right. But what they found was people still like the experience of seeing the new thing. And they actually just watched double, they still watch diehard. And so I would say we hit a heyday in the big DVDs, big cable channels, big foreign markets, that people just making money all over the place. We analysis late 80s into early 2000s. Right? It was just a machine for money. And the reason was because of marketing, right? The reason was they could aim people at stuff, and 100 million people worldwide would do it. You're right. That isn't possible anymore. Right? It's just not possible because that 100 million people today has way more choices. Oh, yeah, they they have video games, they have tick tock. They also have all these older movies that are now available on their screen that because they have these subscriptions. Right? Secondly, the economics of the business, again, because of marketing are not really driven by opening weekend anymore. They talk about it, they push it, but it's not a condensed period of time. Right? So doesn't matter. You can be Netflix that comes out next week. And then people find it like Queen's gambit was like two months after it came out. People started finding squid game was seven months after it first was available on Netflix. That became big, right? Like the point is they don't care. They just want people to keep coming back to Netflix. So every time it you find it right? Yeah. So what that did is it made marketing to make something matter, become, in my opinion, way over important. And so to your example it's either IP people have heard of which they think they're going to want to see in this new medium, which is only 50% At best, actually reliable to get people to come. Right. And then it was talent and talent has become way more I saw Jim Cameron and Avatar is possible because people want to see what Jim Cameron does. And there's one avatar people really like. So dropping $500 million on that makes a lot more sense, right? Because you can, Jim Jim cameras do movie, and it's an avatar, right?

Alex Ferrari 30:19
And it's a technology and everything he was doing.

Chris Moore 30:22
Right. So if you're, you know, and also I bet it's gonna be one, you're gonna have a better experience watching it on in a theater, no matter how big your home screening room is. Right. And, and so the point is that those things get a lot of attention. And then anything else that can spark a article a, you know, interview people's want to see. Now over time, that has been diminishing, there's very few stars now that are guaranteed big successes, there's very few, but they still are bigger success, you know, read notice, is still going to be bigger for Netflix, you know, then a movie that doesn't have the rock Galco and Ryan Reynolds, right. But my example when I use that example, when I'm speaking in colleges and stuff, what I say to them is think about it for a second. That should be seen as the example of the end, right? Like to some extent that movie should be recognized in our business as the jumping of the shark. And some older people don't know what that means. It's an analogy to a show called Happy Days that was wildly popular and had a character the Fonz wrote a motorcycle wore leather jacket, and they got into their fifth I think, or seventh season. And they had nothing to do. And people still love the characters. And they literally had an episode where Fonzie this, you know, goes waterskiing and jumps a shark and you're sort of like their that is literally net became this word in the business this phrase of you have now gone so far off the this sort of creative drive, right? That you're literally having Fonzie jump a shark, like you got nothing else in your mind. And so what I'd say is read notice is, look, they had to have three of the biggest stars in the world in the movie to get any attention. Right? You're right, you're absolutely right. And and so you look at it and you're like, it's basically look, I think those are three of the most charismatic performer out there. Right? I did a movie years ago with Ron lentils called waiting. Yeah, and he is super entertaining. Like, just unsung. I think the rock is so charismatic, and galgos proven to be very charismatic. She can be funny acts like I saw. I was like, Yeah, I'm definitely watching a movie, right? But when I watched it, I was like, it's sort of this phrase of all sizzle, and no steak, right? Like, I was like, it's fine. It has all the stuff there. But if you're gonna sit down and bring the rock, Ryan Reynolds and galgut out again, you should fucking blow me out of the water. You should be like, holy shit. That was awesome.

Alex Ferrari 33:01
It should be. It should be diehard meets, Lethal Weapon meets, the predator.

Chris Moore 33:05
Spider Man is coming out what two days and it's like, some reviews have been all the best spider man ever and other reviews as well, whatever. It's, you know, you got Dr. Strange and you got the multiverse. He goes, I'm worried I'm just gonna be totally confused. But we bought nine tickets to the first show, because they're desperate to go see it. But the point is that we might be at the moment of volume right now. We're all the streamers and everybody wants so many product that everyone is jumping the shark that like the whole business is jumping the shark right now?

Alex Ferrari 33:39
No, it's it's it's a great analogy. You're absolutely right. Because I've been saying for a long time ago, people are like, oh, I need to get a movie star. And they're like, Look, if you can get a movie star and the term movie star is not what it used to be. Because before Tom Cruise Kurita, a telephone book and it would open to 20 million. I mean, it just it Will Smith could do the same thing back in the day. Remember Arnold and you know, it just just showed up and it was $20 million $30 million opening? Those days are gone, because it's just it's just so much dilution. But as an independent filmmaker, if you can get a star or a recognizable face in your film, it's always better than not having that like, I'm not sure. I'm not sure Google hunting would have gone without Robin. Like

Chris Moore 34:18
I can tell you right now. That's 100% True. I mean, Matt was on his way. He had done Rainmaker and some other stuff. So maybe two years later, sure would have been tough for you know, Ben and Ben and Chasing Amy and other stuff. So they might but the reason it got made when it got me was solely Robin Williams

Alex Ferrari 34:39
And that budget to that's it that wasn't a small budget.

Chris Moore 34:42
No, I mean, today $25 million. Like that. They'd look at you like you've lost your mind.

Alex Ferrari 34:46
That's, that's in today's world. That's a 3 million 5 million tops, depending on the star.

Chris Moore 34:51
Absolutely. Yeah, there's no way and if Robin was in it, it still would have been that but he would own 50%

Alex Ferrari 34:58
On the backend. Absolutely.

Chris Moore 35:00
So, yeah, God rest his soul.

Alex Ferrari 35:03
He is He was I had the pleasure of meeting him once and it was just ah, I just God rest his soul man. So sorry. So you got so you got Good Will Hunting off the ground is your second feature film, which is not a bad not a bad thing Oscar nominations and you know Ben and Matt and all this kind of stuff, man, what was it? Like just being in the center of that that hurricane? Because I remember that it was it? No, everybody was talking about that movie that

Chris Moore 35:28
You're, you're being generous to say I was in the center of it. I was more, you know, Toto in the basket. You know, the widths flying around the hurricane, I would say they were in the center. They were very loyal and nice guys to keep me around. You know, that doesn't happen as much anymore. For producers were the talent that helped you get your first movie made? Don't, you know, the producers don't get carried nearly like they did. But we it was intense. I mean, it was, you know, and I think the having it be the three of us and to some extent, their agent, Patrick Weitzel, who I had also worked with as an agent. When I was an agent, the four of us and then they they have a, you know, a lawyer that's been with them a long time. And Sam Fisher, you know, the five, there was a lot, there was a lot of calming of, you know, let's figure out the best way to take advantage and, and to some extent Matt and Ben made different choices as actors as they went forward, you know, and, but they're still together, they still produce together, they did the last door they wrote together and they did other stuff. So they're, you know, I think what it was was, it was also the hay day for Miramax. You know, I know, Harvey's bad person talking about and he is a bad person I'm not trying to make but that that version of Miramax at that time now owned by Disney and they were doing whatever they were on fire. You know, and I'm sure Robert, we talked about that Quentin or Lawrence Bender does I mean, we were we were in there every moment. Yeah. Yeah. Kevin Smith, you know, it would be gone. You know. So there was a lot that that were part of it. And what they always said, which I respected about them was okay, we got here, like, what are we going to do with it, you know, like, and so they, they have always tried to get some projects a little bit harder made, they've always tried to help people move forward and use their star power or whatever to, to advance other stuff. But they also want to become John stars, you know, and they did very well. You know, and I, I respect them immensely, as I and I got to produce with them and be partners with them. And then we started this internet thing called Live planet together. And, you know, we saw a lot that celebrity, their celebrity, let me have access to that I never would have had as a producer. And then I had this great luxury where I also was doing their American Pie movies that had nothing to do with them. Right. So I was very lucky that I could sort of make the argument that I was doing all right, as a producer. And I was working with Matt and Ben. Right. And, you know, and it's, it's one of those things where it was crazy. I mean, we were making stuff, but like Project Greenlight, his example was where the celebrity and the sort of well known pneus got an idea that nobody really liked off the ground. And it was surprised success. Because the three of us could be on camera and could do stuff and sort of became likable enough that HBO was like, Okay, let's keep doing this. Right. And, you know, and that that's an exempt, but then you have you know, all the Bruckheimer movies that Ben, did you have the other stuff, you know, when that got brought into the Bourne movies, like, all that stuff, had nothing to do with me. And I'm really happy for them. And they, they knew what they wanted from the beginning. And these are guys who've been, you know, you asked me when we first started, you know, did you know, I had no idea, you know, I was kicking around doing whatever. And this worked out, these two guys were driving down to New York to audition for stuff when they were in high school, whenever, you know, they wanted to be movie stars and wanted to be players and wanted to be creators, since they can remember, I could have say that I happen to be the dude who recognized it got lucky and wrote it as long as we possibly could. Right. Yeah, but but the point is that they so what I'd say is that whirlwind was really weird. And there were some bad decisions got made, there was some overwhelming stuff that happened. There's a lot of projects we set up that are never going to get made that, you know, we probably overused our, you know, our position within Miramax and the universe. But ultimately, it it was just like, sort of going through the whole process. I think a lot of people go through in overdrive. It just happened a shitload faster. Right. And so it was just like, all of a sudden, we're like 2830 and we've been they'd won Oscars. We'd had 100 million dollar hits. We had an office with some six employees developing stuff, we had TV shows, we had documentaries, we were doing all this stuff. And it, it was just going so fast that it also I don't think had a chance to survive over time. Because, you know, you were going too fast. Like,

Alex Ferrari 40:17
You can't sustain that.

Chris Moore 40:20
You all had our ways of dealing with it. And and you know that that's always Shawn Bailey, who joined later in the process is now the president of the Walt Disney Pictures, same thing, we just went buck wild up until sort of the late the mid 2000s. And then it was sort of like, okay, what are we really doing, and that's the weird thing. Like, it's a little better than we ever expected to be. But it's also different. So now is this what we really want to do is we want to have a company want to do whatever. And I think that ultimately, they are just awesome talent, and really smart and really talented. And Shawn has an unbelievable executive. And I'm sort of this flaky dude on the outside who likes to push stuff. And, you know, I'm not really built for corporate Hollywood, and I'm not really a talent. And I, you know, I really love, you know, sort of working on projects, I really care about the success of American Pie and the success of, you know, some of the other stuff allows me the freedom to sort of work on projects I really care about and study the business and do podcasts like this and teach some classes and stuff like that, because it's, it isn't, you know, for Harvard kids, since I went to Harvard, I do stuff. There's no ladder, there's no process, like use

Alex Ferrari 41:32
Not doctor or a lawyer. It's not doctor,

Chris Moore 41:34
Right. So you, that's what I like about it. And some days were on fire, like the fact that, you know, my last big movie was Manchester by the Sea. Like if anybody said, a movie about three kids died in a fire and their father never being able to deal with it. And you know, whatever, like, and then the brother dies, and the nephew is homeless, like you're like, if you pitch that, like I just pitched it to you, not a soul on earth would ever make that movie, right? More joy out of the fact that people liked that movie. And that it actually, we made it and we made it honorably. And I think Kenny Loggins have been big talent. So does Matt. That's how I met him was through Matt. But the point is that those are not if you're trying to manage a career, you would not say, after all the success I've had, let's go make Manchester by the Sea, right. But I just loved it. I love Kenny and Matt loved it. And I think Casey's a real star. And it was like, Yeah, let's go try to get it made. And that's what I think happens as you become a little bit more successful. You can take a little bit more risks, like I say to young producers, or bring me projects. Now I do mostly consulting stuff where I try to help people move their project along and it bums me out that more successful producers are always trying to get into other people's projects always feel like you know, don't, don't do that. Let them go out and and see what it's like. But it's it. I'm just so fortunate had so much fun making these things. But that that sort of tornado, I'm also afraid. I would argue that I'm probably here partly because not really sure I want to get all the way back into the tornado.

Alex Ferrari 43:05
Well, I mean, listen, I mean, you also put yourself out there in a way that most producers don't by being on camera and a character on on a huge show on HBO, which is why so many people want me I promise you not as many people walk up to Jerry Bruckheimer in the middle of an airport, but they go, Hey, man, why don't I get on season three of Project Greenlight? Like why did I make it? So if everyone listening who's not as old as us, when Project Greenlight came out, it was the first time that I can remember that a doorway was opened to the unknown, because I lived in Florida at the time. So for me, it was just like, oh my god, some somebody from Mount Hollywood is opening up a doorway for us to try to come through. And that was the that was the idea. And for people don't understand the part of the project is extremely popular first season was extremely popular. And then I promise when I when I appeared for three seconds. On the opening, opening montage of season two, I got 20 phone calls. Was that you on HBO? Where you had you just a project? Really? It was it was insane. It was insane. So how did I mean? And I have to give you guys credit, you guys decided to do something that at the time? Nope. I'm sure everyone said this is a horrible idea.

Chris Moore 44:26
Well, that's why I said that's where their celebrity became really valuable is because you know, a lot of this business is about risk reward. Right? And you know, if you're running HBO and Chris Albrecht was running at the time and I think Chris is actually an example of an adventurous Head of Programming outlet right? He could run a studio he could run a network he he'll here and he knows he's got to do programming. Right like you don't have the luxury of just be like yeah, I don't need to do shit this year. They're gonna put some on so but he could hide behind Matt and Ben, right? He could. No one was gonna say you're an idiot for Putting Matt and Ben on HBO, right? Sure. They might say, couldn't you have come up with a better idea for Matt and Ben, like, but the point was that we walked in and he said, we walked in, we're just look, what we're really trying to do is do a reality. We were a little early in the sort of Docu reality show stuff to Project Greenlight was one of the first ones that sort of was a series of watching people do shit, you know, and what we said to them was that there was this fun, we're saying if we could put down the experience of what we went through on Goodwill Hunting, right, yeah, people would people would have been amazed, right? And I said, I can add, what happened. I mean, American Pie was that way for Sean William Scott for Jason Biggs for a lot of these people like they, when you go through that process of not really being that person, and then you are that person. Now we never in my personal opinion, we never really captured it because we got stuck. And all the when do you release the movie? And does the show keep on past when the movie comes out? And what's think, but you're right, it was the first time insiders actually said, Okay, we're gonna let you see it. And the great thing about Matt and Ben as human beings is, they're incredibly confident in who they are. Right? So like, you can hate them, you can like them, you can be mad at them. They can say something stupid, there. They are, who they are, there's not a sort of weird, you know, thing. And so and I am, as you can probably tell, and as hopefully I've shown since project are nice. I'm really that guy like that wasn't me playing a character. Yeah. So it was like, it's sort of so the point is that we were sort of like, we felt like we were given back to a community that had really helped us and that what we had gone through was crazy. And people should see it. But it was also awesome. Anytime you can watch people fulfilling their dreams, anytime you can be part of helping somebody get a shot to you know, not no, this for everyone is working in an Amazon, you know, fulfillment center right now, I'm so happy. And I'm glad you have a job. And I'm not trying to belittle it, but I'm saying getting to be Matt and Ben or even me is probably better than that. Right? And so when you're part of that, just like the shows that exist now, like hard knocks for the NFL, yeah, baseball does it or, you know, there's a ton of music stuff, because it's a lot cheaper to watch people seeing than it is to make a movie. But the point is that people love being around watching people trying to get their dream watching people struggle. And when it's honest, and it's true, it's great. And I think that that was where we came from. So it actually that somehow came through in the show that these are people who actually are humbled by all the success they had, they thought they deserve it, and they are super talented. But people need this opportunity. It's not. And ironically, I like prizes gonna be more valuable today, in some ways, because there's so many people struggling to get their thing done that to go do a show about how do you start now, because as we said earlier, it's so different now. Oh, my God back, back then it was pretty straightforward to get Miramax to make your movie, your Kevin Smith, your head burns you whoever, Robert Rodriguez, I mean, all three of those guys went through at different stages, the Harvey machine and the Harvey bar. But my point is that the that today, it's even harder to tell somebody what they should do. You know, we I taught a class for AFI last semester. And it was really hard because by the end of it, people got comfortable with me, and they're willing to ask me about their own personal careers. And for some of them, I was like, Look, I can't tell you. And this is, by the way, why I'm not been invited back to teach another class for EFI. I said that people listen, if you're here for career advancement, which all education is not purely career advancement, but like I read on your website, you guys have classes, you do stuff, you're trying to help people be better at it. And that, to me makes a lot of sense, right? But when you're paying all that money, and you're coming to f5, particularly as a producer, so it's not like you're mastering your skill, right, you're trying to contact you're trying to learn about it's one thing to be an editor and get to edit six things during your two years.

Alex Ferrari 49:08
Cinematographer even directing, even directing.

Chris Moore 49:12
Directing, writing, your the production designing program, the cinematography program, they're great, right? But where I got in trouble just said, Look, if you really got whatever it cost to go to AFI, you might be better off going to make a film. It might be better off going out and saying to those same people, look, you know, it's not and when you ask AFI graduates, well, what did you think about the producers? They don't graduate from AFI wanting to work with the producer they worked with in film school, they want to work with me. They need to graduate up to the person that's going to help them right. And so I said, Look, I can't 100% Get behind. If you're trying to decide whether you want to be a producer or not. Sure, take couple classes learn about what it's like. Watch Project Greenlight. Come to indie hustle, right, like the point There's a bunch of ways to make that decision whether you want to dedicate some of your life to being a producer, right? I still know that anyway, you can see how they were unhappy with that

Alex Ferrari 50:11
It's shocking. It's shocking. I don't understand why.

Chris Moore 50:13
And I said to them, Look, I think you should take what I'm saying, and let's revamp the class is that you're acknowledging that you're helping them in what you need to do? And they said, No, we're gonna keep doing what we're doing. I said, Okay, that's fine. It's not like, the very small amount of money you're paying me is gonna make me lose my house, if I lose it. And I love AFI, they've been around a long time supporting a lot of people. So it's not, it's the producing programs in particular, it's very hard to justify what wasting That's unfair. spending two years of your life, studying it, versus two years of your life doing it. Oh, great, I think is way more,

Alex Ferrari 50:54
I couldn't, I couldn't agree with you more. I mean, I went to I went to full sail in Orlando. And it's a great technical school, and I walked out with all a good amount of technical skill, and you had to wrap cable and you had to make a good cup of coffee, you know, the core things that you need to learn. Yeah. But at the end of the day, and also, when I went, I was 9596. It wasn't where we are now, it was still expensive as hell to go make a movie. You know, we're still all film, all that kind of stuff. But in today's world, you're gonna learn a lot more by making a $10,000 feature than you will by spending $10,000 going to film school, in my opinion.

Chris Moore 51:34
Yeah. So yeah, that's why I said when we first came out, I think we're gonna agree on because I saw that one of your sections, and I was like, This guy just didn't. But the thing you also gotta remember about film schools, they started because the equipment was so expensive, right? The average person couldn't buy a camera that was a film camera, like Spike Lee talks about his first movie was like, I had to go to NYU. It wasn't like somebody's gonna say, here's a film camera. Here's, here's an edit rack system. Here's all this stuff. That's how you got the stuff, right? Today, that stuff's The Best Buy. I had,

Alex Ferrari 52:07
I had I had this poor, I had this poor filmmaker, come on, he had a $300,000 plus debt, student debt, going to film school $300,000. And I told him, and he's done. And he's like, I'm like, He's working. He's trying to make it up. But he'll never ever get out of that hole. It's just gonna take him for his entire life. And I was just like, Oh, my God, man. I mean, can you imagine if you would have taken that money and just made 20 movies?

Chris Moore 52:34
Yeah, and that's the thing. And look, I went through it on a bigger level, I raised about $5 million for what is currently my production company called the media farm. And our whole concept, the reason was called The farm was we're gonna grow stories basically, from the beginning, right? Like, I'm not a genius. So that's a pretty straightforward analogy. And we had about $5 million. And I was so arrogant and stuck up about, well, I can't go into podcasts. I can't. That's just like below me. I'm a feature film, guys. So let's see, how do we take this five minute done? If I had taken that $5 million, and spread it across the 10 Awesome podcasts or the 10? Awesome, like you said, $10,000 movies or pilots or web series that came through my office, right? I literally have a library of content right now. Right? That I'd be selling up the chain, and just be basking in the glory of my genius. I'm here talking about how arrogant and stupid I was. And then I couldn't see that this is the same storytelling that's going on. And these people are Matt and Ben, now that they were then, you know, I had people become wildly successful walking up to Sam Esmail does all these fucking shows. AFI grant walks in, he had a great show, we could have figured out how to do you know, there's a guy who's getting right now, Rob, was Rob's last name. He was like the number one comedian on Twitter. And he created this show called catastrophe with Sharon, Oregon. I can't believe I'm forgetting Rob's I think, but he walked in one day. I was like, I have this idea. And I was like, Well, you know, I'm not sure how that is a TV show. But it was a catastrophe. But the point is that I was so arrogant about the medium. And also with my investors. I had promised this sort of scale, that spending $10,000 on a podcast wasn't exactly what they thought they thought I'd be spending $250,000 on Manchester by the Sea, which we did. But that the $5 million is gonna go a shitload faster if you're everything is costing you 250 to a million than if you had done things for 25 $50,000. And I was more like, and that's part of the insider part about why I joke about present Greenlight and it's great what they do with an ISA Ray took it over, and it's gonna, you know, it's it's gonna be a whole new thing with her and I think that's awesome. But the point is that that the storytelling is what you love, which is what I've realized I love his storytelling and getting stories out there. There's a way to do it. And if you're thinking about being a producer, where you find stories you love and you want to be part of the machine that gets them out into the world, whether it's a piece of talent, whether it's a specific story, whatever, you you're better off getting into it, then you are, you know, not getting into No, I guess

Alex Ferrari 55:22
Which brings me to a question. If you had to, if you have Goodwill Hunting, and American Pie today, you were the producer on it? How would you do it differently? Would you try to own it more? Would you try to hold the rights to it more? Would you self distributed? How would you approach both those projects differently? Or would you still try to go down the studio path?

Chris Moore 55:44
Well, I think what I tell people now when I'm doing some of my consulting stuff is look, the more it can exist in the world, somehow, the more leverage, you'll have to control it later. So if your goal is to try to control it, that or at least you have a vision for it, you don't really want that vision, which as I said earlier, was Why stop being an agent is because the vision is only a sales vision, and then you're done as an agent. But the thing is that there are all of these other ways right to get something done, like even Rob's project catastrophe he tried to sell in America, but it's sold in England. And we I met him right at the time when he was deciding whether he was gonna move England or not. Right. And I remember very clearly his agent, he's having this whole conversation and meant that our show we weren't gonna be able to shoot cuz he was gonna be put into right. And but I was like, yeah, man, if somebody wants to make your show do it. Right. And but and so what I'd say is, I think American Pie think about a lot, because I actually think there's an update to that. Where, because I think teenagers today, and this may not be appropriate, I apologize. But I think their sex lives and their way they're losing their virginity, and the way they're doing stuff is different. on a macro level, like I don't think it's just different technology, or we have different morals, I think, is gone to a whole other thing. And just having a 20 year old daughter, a 17 year old son and a 14 year old son, I just sit here watching, I think what would be the American Pie. And the truth of the matter is, I think there's a direct camera YouTube, Tik Tok kind of version, where you could have started that story with four friends trying to help each other lose their virginity before they go to college, and how they help each other and you film it with, you know, your, you know, your phones, and you you sort of start cutting it together. But then you, you see a way to then summarize it up into a 90 minute experience of whether it happened or not, or what happened. And you you play the line? Are these real characters? Are these are these just written? Are these fictional or this could have been a podcast? I think it's funnier, because there's physical comedy, that was really great. And that, so I think visual, but tick tock in bite sized stuff, you could interest a lot of people, and then you could go to them and say, Okay, we want to turn this into something most likely, it would have been a limited series, or, you know, like, there's one that just came out called the sex lies of college kids, another one sex, and I think and then, you know, and so I think it would probably not been a one off movie, it would have been, let's follow these guys for six episodes or six, whatever. And then, and but it would still have been the one story of that end of senior year. Then if it was successful, you'd come back like we did, you'd come up with reasons they all get back together. They've just, they wouldn't be coming of age as much as just sex comedies. Right, right. There used to be a lot of I mean, in my opinion, the best one is sleeper by Woody Allen. It wasn't like people were doing sex comedies before. I mean, you know, and I quirky generation work marquees fast times. And that's yeah. And so I think some of those things, particularly because the younger audience is there, I would be recommending to people, let's put out some of this funny stuff. Let's introduce Stiffler. And Jim, and, you know, Jessica, which is the Natasha young character, they would have been featured, they would have been great. Tik Tok YouTube sort of web series. Imagine, yeah, and you could have had so much fun and and then you could put it together into a bigger thing. Right. And, and I think that's for something like that. I think Good Will Hunting because of the nature of what it is, you would have had to try to make it as a drama right away. Like I don't think that the best you could have done and you know, we joked about this was take the screenplay and turn it into some sort of coming of age novel that was actually written by Will Hunting. And you try to sell the book and you try to get somebody think it's there and then people realize it's fake and then they let's make the movie. But the truth of the matter is, I would there still some things get made now most likely again, it might have ended up as a limited series. As I said, I think the the limited series has created, in my opinion, just longer movies. I don't think they're in so the way I talk about it now I try to convince people to so many use your platform to continue my evangelical preach, I think the what the new term should be is one off stories versus episodic meaning it a one off story can still have episodes, but it's one story, the last episode will be who is the murderer? Does the couple get together? Do people so you know, it's one story now you may fall in love with those characters and decide to make more one off stories with them. You know, we've talked about how much we're both like diehard I mean, whether we're up to six of them, right. And I think that they have jumped the shark in the sense of this one cop can't be in all these stories, but I do love John McClane as a character. Right? Like, I think it's great. I actually think the new process of having a series that works and then having a movie that sort of wraps it all up like they did with Breaking Bad like they don't, where I think that's actually not a bad way to go where you where you sort of then have the the wrap up thing of it. But my point is on goodwill, it's sort of, it's either super intimate. So it could have been like, if Matt was not as well known. And he could have started a YouTube channel where he's talking directly to the camera and doing Hey, I'm whale hunting, and I live in Southie. And, you know, I'm a math genius, but it's not really what YouTube's about. Right? And it's not, you know, so then you could have done something like there's some other character, maybe it's Chucky who's trying to have or Iowa's joke, the better one would have been Casey's character's name was Morgan, trying to have a YouTube channel. And he's like, Dude, you're genius. You gotta come on my YouTube channel. Come on, you guys. What am I it's always like, I don't fucking know, talk about math, talk about whatever, just come on the channel I need can't just be me, you know? How much you jerk off upstairs. Like, you know that that kind of thing would have been funny to get to know these guys. But it doesn't really fit who they are, that any of them would even have a laptop. Yeah. So so that's why I'd say that's why I say producer's job is to know a little bit about the business to say when they find stories that they find talent that they believe in to say, look, this, we should do like, I have a friend who had a great action movie idea. And he's pretty well known writer. He's written a bunch of shinies, read the Marvel movies done all this stuff. And he was one of my clients early on, he's and well known and he went around, he pitched it to all the people, and nobody would buy it, because it was brand new, big action franchise female lead, and I'm not producing it at all. But we had lunch one day, and I was like, dude, just find somebody who'll do it as a graphic novel. It's a great idea as a graphic novel, you could get a cool artist to draw her and to draw the thing to create this visual. And you know, I always use kick ass as an example. Everybody talks about oh, yeah, they were they were out there and they adapted this graphic novel kick ass then you go and you actually look up the numbers kick ass never sold more than 5000 copies. Right. I mean, I could get a Facebook post have 5000 reads right now. Right. But somehow in the mind of Lionsgate and and Matthew Vaughn's a genius salesman that he goes, like he created the Kingsmen. I don't know where the hell that came from. But he went out and said, We can do this. And the point is that they just had this graphic novel. Like I said, the people loved it. They could show on a blog somewhere that somebody loved it. But it wasn't like, there were so many fans of kick ass, the graphic novel that you could do the math of, we should definitely turn this into a big movie with Nicolas Cage, right? Like, they just sort of got Lionsgate to do it. Right. And so my point was, and I'm just not saying names, because it hasn't been made yet. Whatever. But what I what I was saying was, look, try to get somebody to do it. So it turns out he has a guy went to college whose friend has has a tiny, tiny little graphic novel label, right? So he calls him up. He's like, What do you think I'll write it. He introduces them to this cool young female artists, she starts Johnson pictures. And one of these like graphic novel blogs, probably has, you know, a quarter of the listeners you have, right? says, Oh, I hear that this company is about to do this with this writer. Here's a picture of the girl, right? Done. Seven people bid on it. He sells it for $2 million to somebody who already heard the pitch, who passed on it, who literally now is buying it in a bidding war because some 20 year old, literally, he's got 200 people listening to all about graphic novels, but some young executive inside that production come he's like, holy shit, this thing's about to be a graphic novel. We should get into it now. Right? And so it was like, okay, but then of course, because the money was so high. They said you can't publish the graphic novel until we're making the movie and of course the movie hasn't got made. So the graphic novel hasn't come out and ended up in the exact same development hell he was in before, except he has probably a million dollars. Okay. So what I said was you shouldn't have sold on the rights, you should have said, Look, I'll give you a year. But if you don't figure it out, we're putting out the graphic novel, and you know, whatever. But the point to potentially screenwriters and producers people might be listening to this is literally, they never even made the graphic novel. They just got lucky that some, you know, junior executive at some production company was validating his job by saying, Hey, I'm on the pulse of graphic novels. I listened to these blogs that nobody else knows about this blog. And you're like, you heard the pitch four weeks ago? Like, what do you mean, you're on the pulse? Right? Like, they should have realized they could have bought the rights from him for a lot less than that. And then said to him, we're gonna go publish a graphic novel, right? Like, but movie people are so stuck up, that they want to wait for somebody else to say, Oh, this is a good idea. You know, and it didn't used to be that way. There was a lot of heads of studios alive. Yes. Was you know, Joe silver, again, not the greatest guy on Earth. But he's, he read Lethal Weapon, totally unknown writer, totally unknown thing. And was like, this is an awesome movie. We can make it great. And now lethal weapons, Lethal Weapon.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:18
I was I was talking to Richard Donner's ahead of his studio a while ago, and he was telling me he's like, I go, what was it, like, rolling with Dick back in the 80s. And he's like, Alex, all I needed to do all it all. It says like, oh, Dick's wants to do it. He would just call up Warner Brothers. And they said, Sure. And I go, Well, what were the budgets is like, we never had a budget. We just, they just, they just gave us what we needed to make the movie. Like, it was never even a question. Because we were very responsible with it. We didn't go crazy. But I never, I never saw a budget for Lethal Weapon. We just kept like, this is what we need guys. It was a different world. But there was Guys, guys, it specifically they were all pretty much man at that point. That would say, Hey, this is what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna make, I'm gonna make good. Well, I'm gonna make good wanting.

Chris Moore 1:07:11
And the thing, but that goes back to what I said not to pretend that I'm a genius. But I will just bring it back to my comment, which is, that was because they believe they control the audience,

Alex Ferrari 1:07:22
Right! That's a really good point, man. That's

Chris Moore 1:07:24
Meaning the Warner Brothers guys could look at that and say, we know we can make a new hit this year. Right? Which one of these projects is going to be our new hit? Well, we like this Lethal Weapon thing. So let's go try that.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:39
Right. It's got dick. It's got Joel

Chris Moore 1:07:41
Right, and we'll see what happens. You know, I mean, Keannu Reeves couldn't get arrested when they made the matrix. He'd been in Bill and Ted.He's been a, you know, a teenage star, and he still was doing some movies, but point break it, you know, and it was sort of like, okay, let's put you on a reason that makes a big, cool, awesome idea. This Warshawski. They, they have a real vision. Let's make the matrix.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:06
But that thing but but the matrix was if I'm if I know my history correctly, Joel is the one who pushed that through. And you needed a champion.

Chris Moore 1:08:16
Yeah, but that that's what I'm saying. Guys like Joel, right. Larry Gordon. You know, Jerry Bruckheimer deserves a lot of credit. But the point is that these guys were like, we can make hits, right? We can, we can make it happen. Right? And every now and then something would sneak up on them. Right. But most of the time, you had a pretty good idea, you know, and some of it was based purely on marketing budget, if you spent $50 million, you're gonna make $100 million? Sure. No, that's a great business to be in. If I could be in that business in Vegas, and just be like, every time I've read on 13 Read on roulette, I'm gonna win. Yeah, I just been there right now dropping money on 13. Right, right. And then they lost the ability to control that machine. Right.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:02
And that's why it took them almost a decade to come up with their first streaming service. And Netflix had a huge head start because they were terrified of Netflix, you know, and they and they still, I don't think there is terrified now, but I mean, it literally was like 12 years for Disney plus to show up, and then everybody showed up, and then everybody has one now,but it took forever.

Chris Moore 1:09:19
Well, after they believed that it was gonna be the new version of DVD. Yeah, and for like, a year, or maybe four years, it was I mean, that was the big problem with Disney is Netflix was playing them so much money to have the Disney product on Netflix. Yeah, that they were like, why would we ever start our own that's just gonna cost us money. And we're gonna lose all this money we're getting from Netflix, right? But then when Netflix started premiering stuff, right, when they started coming up with new stuff, when they started competing with Disney on original intellectual property, right, then all of a sudden they're like Wait a minute, they're getting all this money by showing our content. And then they're out bidding us, right. And we can't, we can't. And that's the big thing. I'll say, another one of my, you know, to your point about my three leverage points. The other thing is that the industry has changed now to where there's, there used to be these windows. And sometimes people read these articles about windowing. And they think this is over my head, I can't figure this out what the hell are they talking about windowing? But what it really comes down to is you had three to six moments to make money off your product, right? If you have ever made a product and tried to sell it, the holy grails failed to make it once and sell it five times. Right? Like, you know, that's, that's the holy grail of manufacturing is you never have to spend any more money which you get to sell it again. And in that late 90s, early 2000s. That's what it was, you had foreign, you had premium cable, you had regular cable, you had broadcast TV, you had DVD, right, and you had the box office. So what happened is, the big companies were only focused on that first window, right? They do the big theatrical thing, the launch was what I call it into the world. So you have a piece up made something, you're gonna launch it, you want to control that, right. But once you're done launching it, the rest of it is just gravy, right? So you have these other windows. And so they looked at all those people on the other windows as sort of the second tier, the JV, this sort of extra money all the way to the point is something like red box, where I bet if you went to the head of Paramount Pictures in 2010, and said, Do you even know which one of your movies are in the red box right now? You'd be like, No, I have no idea. I don't care. I love that we get money out of it. It's totally irrelevant. Right? And that's what they all thought Netflix was gonna be Redbox. Right? They were like, Okay, for the geeks who want to have streaming, when the Internet is big enough that they can have, you know, big files, and people can watch HD, but they're never going to be in the business, we're in of launching content. Right? Yeah. And the second they were in it, Disney realized, we can't have Netflix doing that we can't, we gotta have get those people to our side. And that that's why I think it's changed dramatically, because now there's just launch. And then there's the whole life after launch, there are these other windows where you can make money. So all the people that are green lighting material are green lighting it based on whether they think they can make money in launch, or whether they think like they think it's just gonna be good to have in their library. You know, and and that's why I think the producers, the writers, people got to think through where is your project in this, right. So like, read notice back to the movie talked about for Netflix, that's super important at launch to make people think they're still a big studio to make people want to be part of it, to have new big stuff. So when you see your 1399 every month, you're like, I get it, this is why I do it. Right? Stranger Things for will come out

Alex Ferrari 1:13:05
And don't look up, Jessica is coming out.

Chris Moore 1:13:08
Exactly. And the Sandra Bullock movie just came out. But but the point is that, that that's where it's changed a lot as a producer, because you really don't have any of that back end part anymore. None of that is for you. So you're either selling into the launch machine and saying this will be valuable for you. Over time, Netflix, you'll just want to have this in your library. Or you're saying this is one of your launch projects. And all the big producers and the big writers and the big directors are trying to make sure they only work in the launch area. Right. But a lot of us are going to get relegated to the you know what, in the old days would be called the straight to DVD. Right? Nobody wants to be called that. But I mean, a joke amongst producers today is if you make a movie and it premieres on Netflix, did you really make a movie? Because of No, but if nobody's heard of it, right? Did you do it? Yeah, you got paid. But, you know, no one's stopping me in an airport, you know, for things that get made on Netflix, right, unless it breaks out as one of their things. And so that's, that's what I think the whole industry is trying to figure out right now. That's why I think podcasts like this, and whole communities, like what you're building on your website, and what you're doing with your classes, and your interviews are super important because it's wiggling itself down to where as a producer, as a writer, as a director, as a creator, performer, comedian, whoever, you have to understand where you fit into the new marketplace, to make reasonable expectations for what you're trying to get out of it. You know, and that's why I say like, if I were starting American Pie, I'd say let's go do this stuff. You're not gonna get paid for the first two years of this. Alright, maybe we can pay, you know, 100 bucks or we can pay you scale minimum for a podcast. I don't know what that is, but I'm sure there is one. But the point is, you're doing it so that we promised You get to be part of it as it grows.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:02
Well, that's I mean, that's Jason plums entire model. I mean, when I had Jason on the show, I, it was just so fascinating. He was just so like, these are the rules. I don't break my rules. That's why I'm successful. And like, and that's why every single thing has to fall within these parameters. I don't care if you're JLo. I don't care for anything. You're working scaling, you're going to get the backend, and we do pay everybody. And that's the way it works. And it's just like, that's brilliant. And he's done fairly well for himself.

Chris Moore 1:15:30
He's done. Great. He's done. And I think he's also he's actually a pretty good judge of talent. Yes, yes. I mean, like he he sees somebody Jordan peels example. I mean, that's an easy example. Because now he's become Jordan Peele, but like,

Alex Ferrari 1:15:44
James De Monaco,with the purge.

Chris Moore 1:15:46
Yeah. I mean, the point is, it wasn't like those guys weren't out here already. That it just fall off the turnip truck. In some ways, Jason is example. And there's not a lot of Jason's now, of the Joel Silver, the Jerry Bruckheimer from we were just talking about in the 90s, right, where they looked at and said, we can make this a hit. Right. So he paranormal activity and the purge, and you know, these things, and that, that's why I think it's a, it's a fascinating time, it can be a little bit wild, wild west, the problem is back to the conversation of the three points of leverage, as a producer, or a writer, where you're sort of traditionally low person, you know, on the pecking order, right, you, you need to find leverage, because it is a business right now, because of the Wild Wild West, that will try to, you know, diminish you down as the process moves forward. You know, I've been working with a group producers to start this sort of producers union. And part of the reason we're trying to just collectively bargain is that in certain situations, producers are literally the person getting paid the least on set, and have no health care, and are actually legally responsible for everything that happens, but legally have no control over everything. So, you know, it, it's, it's sort of like, again, what, what people say, you know, when they, you know, sell somebody, a six pack, and that person has a drunk driving accident, you know, that they didn't know what they were going to do. Right? With the six pack, you know, you set up, make a movie and do whatever, and then somebody, you know, gets COVID, or somebody in the worst case, scenario shot or somebody, whatever, you're, you're on the hook. And it's like you, you want to really think some of this stuff through because if you jump in using the past as the way to do stuff, you could find yourself in a really bad spot. Inadvertently,

Alex Ferrari 1:17:42
Do you feel that filmmakers in today's world need to start building audience or understand them? First of all, they have to understand marketing, before filmmakers need to understand marketing, they have to absolutely in today's world, especially in the indie world, need to understand marketing, and audience building. Because when I, you know, when I release a feature that I've shot, you know, I targeted towards my audience and I, I've built product to feed my audience, because I know, the kind of audience, I'm not gonna make Manchester by the Sea, and sell it to, to my audience, because that's not the audience, but I will make them the last Jason globe. Right, exactly. But I will make a movie about filmmakers going to Sundance trying to sell their movie, and giving and getting out to the artist because like, oh, that's what that's what my audience wants to see. So do you feel that that is where the future is for independent filmmakers? I know a lot of filmmakers don't want to so many filmmakers, I'm sure you've met these met filmmakers like this. I just want to be an artist. I don't want to think about the business. I don't want to think about the marketing. I just want to just go be an artist and I'm done. Yeah, if you're certain director, you might be able to do that. But I argue that even all those directors we've mentioned in this entire show, all understand marketing, all understand the business of it, they James Cameron, you know, David Fincher, all these guys understand every aspect of the business. So do you agree that audience is something that filmmakers need to understand marketing and maybe gathering an audience to be able to sell product?

Chris Moore 1:19:05
I do in the same way that I said, you know, pretend it's gonna be a graphic novel, and you might, you know, sell it? Or if you have 2 million people, you know, who are following you? Right? You know, but you had to be careful. You know, in the chair we did, we used a big YouTube celebrity at 9 million people, quote, unquote, subscribe. But it turned out a lot of those people are young, and they don't have credit cards, and they can't go see all rated movies. And so it didn't really translate to his movie becoming, you know, a box office success. So you got to be careful what the followers mean. But I think the other thing, what, I guess the answer, I'd say so yes, for a human being, who is sales, marketing promotion, I use the term promotion because a lot of times you don't have the money for paid marketing, right. And so you're, you're trying to promote your stuff in a way where you get an audience and one way is to build your own Audience I agree with that completely. I think there's also going to be a lot of room for partners for filmmakers. And, and that people like me in today's world, and that's part of what my consulting thing is, and is to try to say, look. And then I think companies like, you know, the A 20, fours or neon, or they're basically the promoters of the music business from five or 10 years ago, right. We're like, you know, and they might merge and become Live Nation and they become a bigger, you know, district. But I, a lot of times tell people look at the music business five years ago is always where the film businesses and it's mostly the lag is the fact that it takes longer to make movies than it does record songs. And it's a shitload more expensive. So people have to be worried about but ultimately now, because it's no longer theatrically driven, right? We are creating digital files, just like songwriters, and song. And so the point is that in so what I try to say to people is, look, if you're not going to be that person, and you should listen to podcasts, go to one of your classes, and say to yourself, can I be a promoter of my own work? Because some people, they need to take a shower after their promoter, right? Like, hey, they think trying to talk somebody into doing something or buy something or do whatever, is somehow a dirty thing, right? And yeah, if you lie to people, and you cheat it is, but promoting something you believe in is a totally fair, and I think great way to spend your time. And so my point is, there can also be these partnerships, like one of the things I recommended years ago to YouTube, you may remember, they came out and said, We're gonna come to Hollywood and spend $100 million to get all these original, you know, content. This is even before YouTube TV is just YouTube. And I said, You're crazy. Don't do it that way. I said, what you should do is you know the numbers. Pick your people because I would say of every YouTube influencer YouTube influencer, I've met. They're either our promoter, meaning they're great at getting audience, but their contents average, right? Or they're great at creating content. And they're horrible. I've promoted and they've risen, because on one side of the content, push them up on the other side that I said, Pick those people and merge them. Just go ahead and say, here's $3 million X, Y, you're now a company, you figure out how to promote this stuff, you figure out how to make their content better, and go. And they're like, Well, I can't, that's all inside the YouTube ecosystem, we're trying to bring people in. And that really hasn't worked. There hasn't been a ton of crossover between the YouTube ecosystem, and sort of big Hollywood. But the point is that I do think promotion is super, super important. But I do accept that there are some people that just can't promote. And what I'd say is, if you're not that kind of person, you know, sit, it's sort of like taste, it's know yourself, right? And if you realize I'm never going to be a good promoter, go find one, right? out on YouTube, go out on whatever say, I love the way this person sells. I love the way this person talks about stuff I love. Hey, would you ever helped me promote this stuff? Yeah, you might have to share a little money. Yeah, every now and then they might come up with some gimmick that you're like, This is the dumbest thing ever. And you're and you may battle but it's gonna be a lot better than us sending out really boring emails that are gonna make me say, I don't want to watch this guy's movie. Right. Meanwhile, you might have made a great movie. You know? And, and I think that that's the, you know, which is why to some extent, comedians have built the biggest audience the fastest, because they're already funny. So you're like, I'll sign up for Louie CK or Dave Chappelle or whatever it is. And they can sell me stuff directly, just because I'm probably gonna laugh. Right? Yeah. And, and I think if you talk to big musicians, big bands, there, a lot of them are doing it directly now to okay might have hired people to run their business, but they're not, you know, they're taking a small piece of what the record label has to offer, not given them 80% To do all of it. Right. And so again, using the music business, I would say, I think there's going to be a lot of companies a lot of places that become, you know, promoters for talent, and that that the new talent company will be the promoter and the the talent together, figuring out what to do, right, like, and what's the best way and that might include somebody who understands the business, right? Like we're about to find out whether Reese Witherspoon selling her company to a private equity firm actually makes her any more money than just be at risk Reese Witherspoon, right like, she obviously thinks it will. Right. It looks good in a press release. But haven't been a guy for a lot of money and had a production company that had a lot of money. I'm not 100% Sure for somebody like Reese whether having money really benefits her, you know, and if If it were to fall apart or times change, do whatever it can also be negative in the sense of like, you know what happened I like Reese live I believe in her and I love the mission of hello sunshine. But the whole thing is like, the world is still trying to figure out where best to put the money. And I would say again, if you go all the way back to the brothers Graham or Shakespeare, sure never, you know, fuck Homer walking around telling us poems. You go back, somebody had to tell everybody Homer was showing up to tell a story. Right? There's a Harold aerobill up and tell story. Right? And I don't think it was Homer Shakespeare all the time. Right. There were other people in that mix. And I think that's the traditionally best partnership in any creative endeavor is the promoter and the talent,

Alex Ferrari 1:25:46
The Grazer and the Howard. Yes, those are the that's that's the perfect analogy. Brian Grazer, Ron Howard. And because Ron's not a promoter, Brian definitely. Yeah, absolutely. And they've done they've done okay for themselves over the years. Um, Chris, man, I could keep talking you for at least three or four more hours, man. And you're always welcome back anytime you want to keep talk, because I have literally 1000 Other questions I can ask you. But I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into this business today?

Chris Moore 1:26:20
Well, by filmmaker do you mean like somebody who's not a producer?

Alex Ferrari 1:26:25
Yeah, Director, like the director of filmmakers trying to trying to get their movies made,

Chris Moore 1:26:29
Make stuff and put it out. Like, like, it's just constantly be putting out and making stuff, whether it's, you know, smaller pieces, longer pieces, trying to get it and then, you know, find this promotional person, whether it's internally or inside yourself, or, you know, look, there's a famous story out there of a director who just basically changed his voice and created this character, that was his agent. And he would call around as the agent and got himself jobs. And, and then finally got a real agent and had to go through the whole thing of firing his agent, who was him just doing a voice. But you know, Hollywood is,

Alex Ferrari 1:27:08
Who is that guy, I want to get him on show.

Chris Moore 1:27:13
Okay, but I'm sure there's other people who've done it, but But your point is that there is a unwritten thing in Hollywood about, it's easier to talk to a third party about somebody than it is to talk to the person directly. Right. So, you know, sometimes, so that's why I say if you find this other person, manager, promoter, producer, agent, all those are the same thing. Right? And, and, and the point at the launching of your career, but then it's put out work, try to get something that some audience has liked, right? And make sure it's in the space where you'd like to be a director, right? Like, don't, don't go make some romantic comedy short thing, and then come out and say, All I want to do is the next Jason Bourne. Because people you know, it's sort of like, don't go play basketball, and then say, what I want to do is be a pro football player, like, like the point is, put yourself in a space where you're showing this stuff, and you're doing this stuff, and just keep putting stuff out. You know, and I think, as a writer, try to find a director or somebody to help you make, right because for writers, it's even worse, because it's so hard right now, for script for people, they just not wrapping their head around the page to the screen. And so normally, I would have said, write stuff, sell some scripts. But at this point, I think you, you still need to potentially take it one step further and make sure it's I mean, your story starts at a short, right? Like the, the at least on your website. And so the point is that make stuff and if you're a writer, find a director you like and it doesn't mean you have to be partners forever, it doesn't mean you have to do it. But the point is, the more stuff gets made, the more people look at you and say, Wow, that's a voice or that's a skill set, or that's a thing. But like I said, we're so either stuck up or insecure, whichever way you want to look at it, or I think a shrink would say those two things are somehow melded together. But the point is outside validation somehow carries, in my opinion, an inordinate amount of weight right now. So if you're trying to get in, do everything you can to have outside validation, when you try to get in, as I said, even to the point of faking it, right? Like here's where the they might go to jail because called Ozzy media where the guys pretended they had all this, you know, viewership, and they had a big meeting with an investor and one of their executives pretended he was an executive from YouTube. And the executive figured it out.

Alex Ferrari 1:29:39
There's a point there's a point of where you fake it till you make it

Chris Moore 1:29:42
I'm saying hi and do that, but what I'm saying is, if if people you know if you are having success, let people know. Yes, no,

Alex Ferrari 1:29:53
Yeah, no, no question. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Chris Moore 1:29:59
You know, this is more personal or, you know, it's larger than just the film industry, but it applies directly, which is, I think the hardest thing that I learned is I don't function well, in situations that are primarily driven by financial success. Meaning that as I got deeper into the studio system, as I started making movies that really were getting made, because they filled a pipeline, or because they, you know, were big enough budgets that everybody was getting paid, that that didn't, I wasn't my best, I didn't enjoy it that much. But also, I wasn't that good at it. Like I didn't, I need to love the story and want the story to get made to be good. And that has limitations. So part of it is is for everybody out there. You know, this is the dumbest. Even if I were at the lesson, we're like, fuck that guy. Like, excuse my language. But the but the point is that what I'd say is spend a little time with a pad of paper, the voice recording on your phone and say what it is you really love to do. You have actually a great paragraph on your website, where you say, people ask me, Why do I do this? And you say, I love doing it. And to me, that's the number one thing and somebody may have said to you, you're gonna make less money doing this than you are directing episodes of some show on The CW. But But, But your point is, I'd rather spend this two hours with me doing this thing and sharing it with your audience than doing it that episode, right. And so the point is, you learned that at some point how you want to spend your time. And my point is it took me the longest because you get in this thing of oh my god, I could be president of production at a studio, I make all this money, I do this. And then you realize the movies you'd be making, you don't like and you wouldn't watch, but the corporate politics of it. That's what they should make, right. And so I have the great luxury to to allow myself to function primarily outside the need for a certain level of money, I have to make some money every year. And I do that. But it's not. It's not what drives every decision. And it took me a long time to accept that it took me a long time to turn down. Like, as an independent producer, turning down projects, turning down paychecks, is really counterintuitive. You're like, I spent the first 10 years trying to get to the point where somebody offered me this job. And now I'm like, yeah, there's no way I'm doing that job, right, like, but it's so true. And so that would be the lesson I would say is if you're in the place where you're literally not homeless, so any job you need to take, right, you're not living in your car. But you're at a place where you have to be like, This is what really gets me going, this is what I love to do. This is where I think my craft again, we're talking about people have a real craft, which in my opinion, I don't think salesmanship and understanding the business, and sort of giving creative notes isn't necessarily a craft, it's just, it is a skill set as a producer, but ultimately producing is more learning how to sell learning about the business, networking, doing all that kind of stuff, the so that's why I say for those people, it's getting out and putting the work out there and doing but it's also sitting home and saying, you know, I like doing this better, right? Or I need to have this outlet. So I can support my life, like I was talking about Gus Malzahn, who I made two movies with. And I think Gus is a real artist. And he's, he's, he's really great director when he wants to be. But he also occasionally goes off and makes his own movies that I don't understand at all. But I'm just sort of like, why why would you make this movie or in the case of Jerry, which I know a little bit about because Casey and Matt started, there's a whole second half of that story, because it's based on sort of a real life thing. That's awesome. And I'm always like, how could you tell the story of that without going into the second story because I don't care about that story, right. But guess also somewhat, will be honest about he also will go make a big studio, whatever movie for a paycheck not not just for the money, but for this is also what I use my skill set and my craft for so he's figured out a balance in his life. And you can go look at his his resume or his biography and you can see it. So my point is, I You really got to spend time on figuring out your lifestyle and its relation to your career. Because if you're constantly struggling, if you constantly feel like you're failing, if you constantly get frustrated, you won't be good at your job. And so you have to set your bar on your lifestyle. And I don't think this is unusual thing. I think every kid in college every kid is thinking about like, if I'm going to go be a public school teacher, you know, right away what your financial upside unless you happen to invent some shit in your garage in your free time. You're, you know, this is where I'm capping out. Right, right. And you've decided I get more out of being a Teacher, then I would be on Wall Street where the cap is a lot higher. Right? And so what I'd say the answer that question is what? It took me a long time, partly because it went fast. And so I never really had a chance to stop and think about it. But partly because I wasn't aware enough, and I wasn't, you know, whatever, smart enough human being, and nobody was saying this in public have better figure out what it is I really like, because this is what I'm actually good at. And, you know, fighting and sticking out a project like Manchester by the Sea, you know, is a lot more fun and interesting for me than it would be going and making, you know, read notice for Netflix, not that I don't like that movie. But it's not, it would be hard to leave my family. And it partly, that's where it gave me the was leaving my kids for a period of time became much, much harder to do. And so then your bar is like, what, why am I leaving my kids for this? Like, you know, and that is a luxury. And I say that openly to all of your listeners and all the people there. It's a luxury I have that I'm not going to lose my house. And what I would have done is sort of what I just said about Gus is like, I wouldn't have doing one thing a year where I got paid, and then I'd have this other stuff and I'd figure it out for the last four or five years. I haven't had to do that.

Alex Ferrari 1:36:21
Yeah, and it's so I always found you to be a very scrappy, scrappy producer, you just like you'd like that. Like I'm gonna get material about Manchester by the bay done. Alright, so bad to see done like that. That's, I don't see you as like working for Marvel or, you know, big franchise, this is just not your flavor. And there's nothing wrong with that. And a lot of people look at me, they're like, oh, man, why aren't you pumping out more features? Or why aren't you doing more stuff? I'm like, Guys, I'm happy. You took me a long time to get here. Man. I was a bitter and angry motherfucker, for a long, long time. Because I was like, oh, I want that. I want that. I want that. And when that thing never came, or I got so close to it so many times that I just decided, I'm just gonna do me. And now I'm like, hey, I want to put a movie out. I'll go make a small little movie with myself. If some opportunity presents itself, it presents itself. But I'm not chasing anymore. And man, am I so much happier. And that only comes with age, man, you can't get that. It's hard to experience, right age and experience.

Chris Moore 1:37:21
And a bunch of that stuff had happened to you in a way where all of a sudden you are out there doing it. You might say, well, this is what I ended up doing. Right. But you know, Jason, I don't know if he talked about the drum movie. I always forget the title of it. That someone? No, no, he did the one where the JK Simmons is the guy Oh, yeah. Whiplash, you know, his name is on that he was part of getting that maybe he was a big part of getting me but it's not a Blumhouse movie. Nobody had to do it outside of his company and stuff. And that happens. You know, I remember talking to Thomas toll, you know, runs legendary. And he did that documentary with Jack White. And the guy from Led Zeppelin and the other guitar guys is like, I couldn't do that through legendary. That's not what legendary set up to do. Right. And so I'm the guy wants to make whiplash and the guitar documentary. So like, where's the company that set up to do that? And there isn't one, because they're risky. There's no margin in any of them. Maybe you make money? Maybe you don't. So it's people have been successful in some other place, pick their passion project, and they go do it. Right. And I think that that's what people have to look at is, you know, and that's part of that, again, not to keep coming back to this, but just to talk about this union is that part of the reason producers need I think a little bit of a collective experiences, passion project shouldn't become only for the rich, right? You should be able to be passionate about something and have a process where you can make a living, like I said, you may only get paid what a third grade teacher in, you know, the Omaha, Nebraska public schools get paid, right? But that's a choice, you may have to make that your passion project isn't going to be American Pie, right. But the point is, I'd rather have somebody tell me that going into it. And I can, as you said, I can make my lifestyle to fit what I like to do. But I can actually make a living again, it may not be this living, but it's this living, but I can be happy, because I set the expectations correctly. Right. And that's the part that is being missed right now is people are looking at someone who should make $50 million a year. And it's like, very few people are gonna be making $50 million a year as streamers take over, because it's gonna be much more, you get paid for fees up front, you're doing programming for these big multinational machines. And they'll hopefully there'll be a small, independent business just like, again, the music business, right, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:39:44
And it's, I agree with you 100% And I've told that I've been yelling at that from the top of the mountain. Guys, it's we're all not going to be millionaires. We're all not going to make studio movies. You know, Spielberg Nolan Fincher that there's a handful of directors who get to play on that sandbox, you've got to build out something that echo if you made $100,000 a year, if you made $50,000 a year, and you live in Kansas, in the middle of Kansas somewhere, is that enough to put food on the table to support your family? And and be happy? And can you do that while making movies? Holy cow, you have one, you have one 110% You don't need to make a million dollars a year or $2 million to $5 million a year. And that's where people are so upset and depressed and angry. And I was that way for years, over probably 1020 years of my career. I was always angry because I wasn't that guy. But when I finally figured out like, wait a minute, how much do I actually need to make to be happy? Oh, man, that changed the whole that changed the whole game for me. And now I'm super happy. And then now I get to talk to people like yourself, and, and make make relationships connections. And, and, you know, look, if I would have told my self in 2005 Hey, man, you're gonna sit down and talk for a couple hours to Chris Moore on a podcast. And I was like, What the hell's a podcast? But I would if I would have been pinching myself. Or if I talked to any of the amazing guests that I have on my show. That's, that's because I found my happy place. I found my happy place if you will. And that's fine for themselves.

Chris Moore 1:41:19
Right. And I that's why I think it's a tiny bit bigger than just the film is but it's very true for the film business because finding your happy place. In a business that is a little bit more like the wild wild west is hard because it redefines itself. You know, every time a new gunslinger comes to town, we're whereas, you know, if you're in the public school system in Omaha or Kansas, you're, you can see a little bit more of what the process is and what's going to happen if you decide to get into academia. I mean, I flew with that I taught I taught at NYU I taught at UCLA. I was like, maybe this is the future for me because I do love share me Project Greenlight came out of me and this young guy, Alex collegian talking about how can we capture what can we do? Could we fake it? Like, I still believe in this? Why would come do a podcast with you? Right is because I'd like to share my experience for one macro reason, which is, I don't think every producer needs to go through all the shit I went through a man I don't think they need to go through everything you went through. And I think that if as an industry, we didn't think that there was some secret shit. That's why I like RV I think originally introduced us, you know, stage stage. 32 always takes this

Alex Ferrari 1:42:27
Friend, a friend of my friend of the show.

Chris Moore 1:42:30
And I love them. And he's like, look, I'm struggling. I go out, I learned all this stuff. But like, why should every next guy who's a writer, actor, whatever, coming out in New Jersey, you have to learn everything I learned from scratch. Right? And I think that's the industry should do more of that where we help people. And that's what one of the parts of Project Greenlight was about when it originally happened was Why Why should everybody go through completely blind as you said, no one's gonna have the same experience. Matt and Ben had go on, right. And we never recreated it. In Project Greenlight. I didn't recreate it in the chair. There was no you can't recreate it. But you give people an insight. Like one of our favorite things we used to get in the first couple seasons, Project Greenlight is people write to us. And they say, I'm so grateful to your show, we'd expect like, and then I wrote my screenplay, and now I'm going to USC film, school, whatever. But what they would say is, you completely convinced me I don't ever want to work in Hollywood. And we say, yes, that

Alex Ferrari 1:43:30
We saved the game. We saved another one.

Chris Moore 1:43:34
You know, that's another doctor. That's another guy. Sound Engineer somebody, right? It's like that's, but they feel happy in that job. Because in the back of their mind, they're not constantly I should have gone to Hollywood.

Alex Ferrari 1:43:46
It's like,look man, this business is not for the faint of heart. It's not for everybody. I call it a sickness, a beautiful sickness that we have. Because it is it. And once you're bitten, you can't get rid of it. And it's it's really hard, but it is an absolute insanity. I had a guy on the show who lost his house six kids, because his first movie died at the box office, he mortgaged his house at the move back into his to his parents house with five or six, five or six kids. And he said to me, the only thing I was thinking was, oh my god, I'm never gonna get the direct again. I'm like, is that what you were thinking?

Chris Moore 1:44:25
And if you have ever been part of the 12 step program, which I will admit, I have been, that's exactly what happens when you sit in those rooms, right? I'm, I'm in jail. I've wrecked my car. My wife left me. And all I'm thinking about is how soon can I have another drink? Right? Yeah, that is fucking what happens in this business. It's like, I lost my house. My wife is pissed. My kids are homeless. And all I can think about is how do I get to direct my next move? And that's part of why I think what You're doing what I would like to do. And what other people do is, it's part of why it's so important. Because again, you want to at least give them a resource to make an educated decision before they end up living in their day house, because they, they thought the business was reliable. I mean, and they, they made decisions and and worse, a lot of times, I don't know where he got his money, but I'm sure he had more money besides the mortgaging of his house, that he probably owes people money to, or like the person you talked about owes 300 grand from film school, like, that's the other thing, you go on this debt, it lives with you forever. It doesn't. And that and that's why I feel so fortunate that I'm not sitting here, you know, I was able to pretty much pay everybody back. And in the cases of where I wasn't, I was at least we made one or two things that people were proud of helping me get made. And that's it. That's why I'm not out raising money right now. Because I couldn't say to somebody, what's the best way to use money right now? And I just don't think there's a way that money makes you more money. That's why I made the comment about Hello, Sunshine was like, I don't know what they do. And I think annapurnas For example, She got all the money she needs, and you can't figure out what to do with the money. Yes, you can Greenlight and do stuff. But then you end up losing that money. And so then, you know, so then you might as well make it a charity, you know, you might just say, this is pro bono film, finance, right? Just like a lawyer says, I'll go take this case for free. Okay, I'll produce this movie for free.

Alex Ferrari 1:46:27
And I know it's, and then you know what, it's so awesome that you said that, because it's not about just the money. Because you're right, you could have if someone gave a filmmaker $100 million, one that you could give it to 10 Different filmmakers and 10 different filmmakers will make all you're gonna make $100 million movie. And just or you go with Jason Blum does is like, Oh, I'm gonna make like 50 to 75 movies. With that, and I'm gonna make money with it. Because this is my, this is my system. But it's no camera, but there's no guarantee. This is the only business in the world you could spend $100 million and gamble worthless product.

Chris Moore 1:47:01
Yeah, and I have zero. I mean, when I say zero, I have friends at this age, um, as some of them are wealthy, like they've done real well. Yeah. And they're starting to fade out of their jobs and thinking, What should I do? And of course, there's always some friend who's a movie producer, or some friend who wrote a movie and calls them to say, yeah, why don't you finance my movie? And luckily, they know me. Well, the cops would say, that's the last thing you should do. Right? Like, like, unless, unless you're just want to give this person money, right? Or unless, like, I had one situation where person was going through a divorce, and they were like, Look, I need to have less money, so that I don't have to give it to my wife because I hate her. Right? Fair enough. Okay, I can find the movie for that. Oh, but the point is that, that's not that often. And, and but I think that that's, that's the thing is, the more podcasts like yours are out there, the more there's honesty, people will be able to make smarter decisions about what it is, and the industry will start to defy out that thing of, okay, if you go in this part of the business, this is what your life's gonna be like. Just like if you decide you want to go in academia, but you decide I want to teach at a private school, or I decide I want to teach it public school, you decided you want to be a college professor, right? Like, you know, college professor can be a great job, if you get tenure, they can't hire you, you get paid 100 300,000 bucks a year. You know, and people think you're a genius, right? So if that's what you want to do, do it, you know, but I think that that's the that's the funny part is, and again, I'm the worst person to giving us advice, because I got so successful so fast, that I never sat down, had to think about it until I was somewhat, you know, 20 years in and was like, now it's getting a little bit harder. Do I really want to do this Matt and Ben are big stars. Am I gonna go out and find the next Matt and Ben? Or am I going to keep going down the road I didn't want to keep going down the road with them because the producer for movie stars and this is no offense to anybody who's doing that as a living right now. But the point is, you're you're really there to facilitate whatever it is they want to go do to your point about taste. You're giving up your taste to that person shoots the bad if you agree with their tastes, but my experience is you never agree with everybody all the time. Sure on shit you like, you know, um, but the point is that the that the more people can listen to some of this and say, Okay, let's take 20 minutes after this podcast is over. Let's just think about what have I liked over the last 10 years? What have I been really good at? What has the world told me? I'm good at what is the you know what, and what lifestyle do I want? Right? Do I really do I only want to make 50 grand a year and live with my dad. That guy, whoever it was sounds like yeah, he's okay with that. I'd be willing to bet that he didn't explain that to his wife when he got married and had six kids, that all I want to do is direct and lose money.

Alex Ferrari 1:49:58
He did. By the way, happy ending took him seven years he built other businesses up, he got back out he made another movie. But he was a lot smarter about it the next time around. Yeah, but it took him but it took him a minute. It took him a minute to go back out. It took him a minute.

Chris Moore 1:50:11
And that's, but that's the point is he probably had that moment. I, you know, I'm not a religious person. But I spend a lot of time in churches. So I was called to come to Jesus moment. Yes, is what they used to call and anywhere you whether it's you had a failure, whether there's too many options in front of you, whether somebody offers you something you're not quite sure whatever it is, everyone ends up in that come to Jesus moment of, Is this really what I should be doing? And there's a lot of factors lifestyle, family, time health, all that plus what I like doing, and what are people going to let me do, right. And I think the more you can sit down in any version of a life, but certainly in Hollywood, because it is wildly unpredictable. And the thing that's funny about high was even unpredictable, if you take the more predictable route, like if you become an executive, you still could get fired anytime. And pretty much if you're a lawyer or an agent. If you work at one of the big management companies, you can have a relatively predictable way. But you're also trapped in that situation. And a lot of people who are interested in Hollywood are not people who are interested in being trapped. So

Alex Ferrari 1:51:17
Right, exactly. And I'll ask you one last question, sir. three of your favorite films of all time.

Chris Moore 1:51:23
Well, we talked about diehard. I also love Clockwork Orange, which some people's think is crazy, amazing. Um, oh, yes. I just think that movie is a perfect example of how to be about something but also be a really fucking good, scary, sort of interesting

Alex Ferrari 1:51:46
How in God's green earth did the first 20 minutes of that thing past any sort of censorship in the 70s? Can you imagine if the first 20 minutes of Clockwork Orange would show up today?

Chris Moore 1:51:56
It will be nc 17. And, you know, but it's also so clearly one guy's view of violence, which I'm interested in, I'm afraid of random violence. And I think that whole study, so that to me, I like that, like, the third or the next three or four are always hard, because, again, back to what we said earlier, sort of mood related, like, I do really love Peter Jackson's Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, like I can go back there and I get sucked in. You know, there's, I think Chris Nolan's pretty much most of what he's done. I'll be honest, I was a little confused by Tennant and inception. But I, there's a filmmaking skill. I don't know if I like this next one. You know, sometimes directors go, they stretch their muscles in a way that the average spurt, but there's a chunk there, particularly the Batman movies, but even, you know, the movies before that, that were really, really well done. And he's dark, like, you know, some of that stuff, but it's sort of then becomes more popcorn, you know, sort of fun movies I've seen, you know, some smaller movies. I mean, I always joke that I tell my kids all the time, one of my favorite younger movies was baby, the first baby horse. Road Warrior series that George Miller did, were awesome, even his most recent one with Tom Hardy. And, you know, I, I grew up, you know, as I said, in a small town, my parents got divorced, blah, blah, blah, but I sort of escaped a lot of that by going to the movies. And you know, literally the year they got divorced was 1977 when Star Wars came out, and I watched that movie 11 times in a row in over four days in theaters. And just wanted to believe I was out there fighting the Empire, you know, and I believe movies still have that power to take you away or give you a chance or do whatever, and it's a saint, you know, it's close, not the same year, but in that it's close to another horrible, you know, another much rougher movie that would have trouble getting made but it was one we talked about a little bit with Manchester by the Sea was ordinary people, you know, you know, that's just a horrifying said, traumatic now, as a parent, I can't watch. But I, in my younger days, I was always like, you know, they're brave to go out and talk about this. And it's easier to experience what's happening here in the movie than it is in you know, real life. So, I'm a real believer in that. And, and I think that that's the That, to me, is the biggest sort of use for these stories. You know, recently I've loved these limited series. I've loved a lot of the stuff that has come out on a tender right now like the British ones in the sort of Scandinavian ones more than I like the American ones. But you know, my wife is producing the Luthor movie. They're making a movie now. Yes. At the end of the Luther show, and I love the Luther show and I'm sure so happy they're making another Luther because I think that's a great character to see. So there's an exam

Alex Ferrari 1:54:51
And and I agree with you, man, like with Nolan and Fincher and these kind of guys. They're taking swings at the bat that just they just there's not many people given that opportunity. There is only one Nolan no one no one's getting to do the Oppenheimer 100 million dollar movie

Chris Moore 1:55:05
Right! And that's why I'm so look, Spielberg has taken a little bit of hit for his West Side Story. But he did an unbelievable job. And like, and he he's taken swings, and it's literally one of the best many movies I've ever seen. And the story is the start, like, like, for anyone to be somehow shocked in the sense that things been around forever. Like they change it completely. And I like I just, to me watching an expert who also brings in experts, I like Tony Kushner's, a bad writer and these that like, and the performers are great, and whatever, and you're like, that's what you want to see. You want these people? Well, I'm psyched for Jim Cameron's Avatar. I always thought a no, no, Sadie. It's just waiting for COVID to go away and waiting for like to finish, but it's like, I want to see great filmmakers do stuff, you know.

Alex Ferrari 1:55:55
Exactly. Chris, man, I am so grateful for this conversation, man. I mean, I argue this is probably one of the most important conversations that filmmakers should listen to. I swear to God, man, it's there's so much there's so much gold in this in the up in these hills, sir, I do truly appreciate my friend.

Chris Moore 1:56:14
Given the list on your website, I would say it's sort of, um, third tier, but I hope people listen to it. And I really appreciate what you do for the business as a whole and for talking about it. And, you know, I'm gonna listen to a bunch of them, because I think that group of people that you've had are also experiencing a change in the business that that they've been in. I'd recommend trying to get Kevin, I'm willing to write to Kevin Smith if you want if you've tried.

Alex Ferrari 1:56:41
Amen, sir. I've been trying to get through to Kevin for the longest time

Chris Moore 1:56:45
He may not do it because he has other podcasts or whatever. But Kevin fits in with the story.

Alex Ferrari 1:56:49
He does podcast. I think when clerks three comes out, hopefully he'll want to promote it.

Chris Moore 1:56:56
Because I think he'd have a lot based on what we're talking about. And I know him enough to write him and just say

Alex Ferrari 1:57:03
I had Scott on. Oh, Scott Scott is

Chris Moore 1:57:07
He's the best.

Alex Ferrari 1:57:08
Brother, I appreciate your time. Man. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Chris Moore 1:57:10
Thank you so much.

LINKS

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IFH 541: Inside Writing for Marvel Studios & Spider-Man with Erik Sommers

Today on the show we have one-half of the writing team that wrote the record-breaking Marvel film Spider-Man: No Way Home, Erik Sommers.

For the first time in the cinematic history of Spider-Man, our friendly neighborhood hero’s identity is revealed, bringing his Super Hero responsibilities into conflict with his normal life and putting those he cares about most at risk. When he enlists Doctor Strange’s help to restore his secret, the spell tears a hole in their world, releasing the most powerful villains who’ve ever fought a Spider-Man in any universe. Now, Peter will have to overcome his greatest challenge yet, which will not only forever alter his own future but the future of the Multiverse.

In addition Sommers co-wrote scripts for Spider-Man: Homecoming, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Spider-Man: Far From Home, The Lego Batman Movie and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle with Chris McKenna. Erik started his career in television and wrote on the ground-breaking show Community under show runner Dan Harmon (Rick and Morty).

Erik tells me how working with Dan changed how he wrote and how he uses Dan Harmon’s Story Circle in his writing today.

We discuss how he got the Spider-man gig, how he writes with his partner Chris, what it’s like working inside the Marvel Studios machine and dealing with the pressure of writing Spider-Man.

I watched the new Spider-Man and I have to say it’s the best Spider-Man film yet. Get ready to have your nostalgia heart-strings pulled in the best way possible. Erik and Chris did a fantastic job writing the stand-alone film, while still weaving in the larger MCU narrative, not an easy thing to do.

Enjoy my conversation with Erik Sommers.

Right-click here to download the MP3

 

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I like to welcome the show Erik Sommers. How're you doing, Erik?

Erik Sommers 0:14
I'm fine. Thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 0:16
Thank you so much for coming on the show, man. I've been watching your films for quite some time and stuff you've been writing. I'm a huge community fan, as well. So we're gonna I definitely want to get into the weeds a little bit about how, how that basically, I'm going to go down the rabbit hole in your career, you and Chris's career. Now Chris McKenna, your partner is supposed to be coming in, we're having some technical issues we're gonna get we're gonna start because I use Skype because I'm, I'm back in 1997. And again, MySpace is going to be huge. When we post it there. So if Chris gets back on we'll, we'll bring him in. If not, we'll finish it off with you, sir. But first and foremost, man, how did you start in the business?

Erik Sommers 1:00
Um, I was in college, I was on my way to law school, probably. And just had one of those things where you know, college can be great because you, it helps you sort of get away from your folks and where you grew up and all this stuff and just realize, like, Wait, do I really want to do those things? Or do I just did I just think I want to do those things. And I just senior year realized I don't want to go to law school. And I took my, my college had one film class, it was not it was just an appreciation class, we watched the bicycle thief and racing cane. And I had always loved movies and TV, I had always thought about writing. And I took that class. And it was like, my last semester, and I just decided, that's what I'm going to do. And so I gave my mother the phone call, Every mother wants to get mom going decided not to go to law school. I think I want to go to Hollywood and try to make movies

Alex Ferrari 1:56
As a writer, as a writer,

Erik Sommers 1:58
As a writer, the most respected in the feature business or the writer. So I messed around for a few years before I finally got out here, but I literally clean it was a cliche I had, I had a beat up car and I had all my stuff in it. And I drove out here

Alex Ferrari 2:15
Really? not knowing a soul not knowing a soul.

Erik Sommers 2:18
Luckily, my father lived in Orange County at the time, so I stayed with him for a little while until I could get a place up here and but then I but that was it. I had to get a job. And I I didn't know how to type. I didn't know what about screenplay format. I didn't I so I started taking night classes at UCLA, screenwriting one on one. And eventually I got a job as an assistant on a TV show. And then that really changed everything because I was around the process and around writers and so I was working as assistant and writing on my own and you know, eventually trying to get jokes into the show and become a writer's assistant and sit in the room with the writers and all these things. And within a couple years I you know, I just a lot of hard work and hustling, but I managed to get my first job writing on a TV show. And so I did that for 15 years about

Alex Ferrari 3:09
Which show was that which which is, which is that first show.

Erik Sommers 3:12
Gosh, my first show was called Three south and it was on MTV created by the wonderful Mark hintermann. And it was on about the same time that Clone High was on which was created by our by our friends, Phil and Chris. Yeah. Ben Miller. Yeah, very long time ago.

Alex Ferrari 3:33
Now, when you were, you know, when you got that job in the writers room, and you started becoming a writer's assistant, what was uh, what was some of those lessons? What was like the biggest lesson you learned from the other writers that you might have not learned at school? Like, you know, the, the street level stuff?

Erik Sommers 3:50
That's a good question. I mean, first of all, I learned everything in there. I mean, I, I took a few classes, extension classes, and they were great, no knock against them. But just being in a writers room with a group of funny, talented people and watching them just break story after story after story, just watching them do it. You know, I mean, this was a, I think I was on a network show, I think and it was like 22 episodes. I mean, it's a lot of stories to break. And just seeing it done over and over again, at a high pace. I learned everything, being a writer's assistant. And, and then, you know, some of the writers were very, very good to me and took me under their wing and showed me, you know, I think one of the most valuable lessons one of the writers showed me like, this is my first draft, if you'll notice, it's not good. And he said, I just had to get it out, and then I'll go through it again. I'll rewrite it and rewrite it. It's okay to just just churn out something that's not the finished product don't get stuck. Just obsessing over it just like if you need to get it out. Just get it out. You can go back through it and I mean, I think I thought it was supposed to be You know, ready for primetime the minute it was on the page and and I realized, Oh, okay. And I think that really had a big effect on me that just knowing that you just just write it out, and you can rewrite it, go over it and over and over it. And don't be afraid to just get it out. I would.

Alex Ferrari 5:17
Yeah, that's, that's a big gray piece of advice, because so many writers, you know, think that that first draft has to be perfect. And they'll go back and rewrite the scene again, and rewrite the scene again and rewrite the scene. Again,

Erik Sommers 5:28
Don't do that. Don't go back, just just churn it out. And when you sit down the next morning, don't go back over what you wrote yesterday, just keep going, keep going. And then when you get through it, you can go through it all. Again, I would say the other big lesson you learn being in any writers room is just to have a thick skin, especially in East in a comedy writers room. Because a lot of really smart, funny people who just love to, to just bust each other's chops, I will say, because it's a family podcast. And you just get so much, so much criticism, usually in a hilarious format. And you just can't be precious about your work. And any writer who's in the room, especially on a comedy show, and is real precious and defensive about their work. Just the other writers don't, like, don't like that, you know, that's not playing well with others. And it's just not being it's not the fun writing staff kind of mentality you need to have you just, you work on it as a group, you get sent off, to do the outline, whatever you get sent off to write it on your own, you bring it back, they tear it to shreds, people, and it hurts because these are people you respect. But you just learned to get a thick skin. And I think that's become invaluable, because you just have to be able to take notes and listen to what people think of your stuff and just have no ego about it. And just think about it as objectively as possible.

Alex Ferrari 6:56
Yeah, I've heard I've spoken to many TV writers and showrunners on the show. And when they transfer over to features, or when they start working in features. They're much better prepared for collaboration, where someone a screenwriter who's just on features, gets that precious gets defensive. Like I can't take notes, like, but when you're getting your stuff shredded daily,

Erik Sommers 7:18
Right. I mean, I can't speak to the experience of coming up as a feature writer. And I imagine to me, it would seem very difficult and very solitary, I felt so lucky to have all these other writers around. But I can see where it would just be a completely different experience. And and, you know, so we found the same thing a lot of people would tell us, you know, early on when we were doing features like wow, you guys are just open to listening to us now and think well, who isn't? Who wouldn't? But you know, different strokes for different folks. And and the way you come up and get there is going to have a huge impact on how you take those notes.

Alex Ferrari 7:54
Now, how did you meet Chris? And how did you guys decide, hey, I think we're better together than apart.

Erik Sommers 8:01
We met on a show called American Dad. shoebox Yeah. And, and he was there before I was but we we met there and we became fast friends. I remember it was time for my first episode. And we were trying to come up with a story idea. And I was pitching all these ideas that were getting shot down because they weren't very good. And then Chris I think said like what if it's about finding Oliver North's lost gold from the Iran Contra affair, like turn it into some crazy thing. And I was like, that's insane. I love that. And then we ended up doing it. And that was my first episode of the show. And just immediately I was like, this guy gets me, you know. So we work together on that show as separate writing entities for a few seasons. And then he went off to community and I went off somewhere else did happy endings. And I think marry me was before that. And anyway, um, then we reconnected we always stayed friends. But then we reconnected for Jumanji.

Alex Ferrari 9:09
Now. So but did you guys work together on community?

Erik Sommers 9:13
Oh, sorry. Yeah, I skipped community. Yes. Yeah. Yes, he and Dan hired me for season five, which was Dan's first season back. He had been gone for one season, and then he came back. But then I saw I was there for season five. And that was great. And a lot of fun. And then I moved on to something else. And then they did the sixth season with Yahoo.

Alex Ferrari 9:40
And how did you end what what was like? I mean, I mean, damn, Heyman is like a Harmon is one of the like, you know, legendary. It's show runners at this point in the game. What are some things that you took away from that experience? Like what lessons did you learn working with him in that writers room?

Erik Sommers 9:57
Well, I mean, again, Let's see, one thing I really like about Dan is just just wanting to, he's a perfectionist, you know, like, he'll want to keep going over it and make it and I can relate to that. And so, you know, it's always nice to meet another perfectionist who's like, let's, let's go over it one more time. And that's not quite it, and I want to break it again. And I would say, his story circle, which you've never heard of maybe haven't heard was was really cool, you know, I had read the hero's journey, and I knew vaguely about that kind of thing, but just seeing how seriously he takes the circle. And, uh, it, it was really cool to just break story after story, like under a different system. You know, it was like, I guess a mathematician or something like switching types of math. There's, it's hard to explain, but it was like doing writing but in a different way. And it was really cool and fun to do it that way. And then I actually used his circle to break the story for a pilot that I wrote after that. And it was really cool to apply it to my own thing. And I still carry a lot of the lessons from that. I think one of the best things about his story circles that it really teaches you to pay attention to act to, and to keep things changing and act to and to make sure that characters attitudes change and things like that. And let's face it, that's where a lot of movies really just fall apart, because they just learned out and there's not enough going on, there's not enough change, there's not a and so I think Dan Harmon really taught me how to think about an act two, which has helped me in everything I've done since then,

Alex Ferrari 11:38
Now with, with writing with a partner, like how do you guys physically do it? Like, do you guys sit down and outline the project together? Do you like you write something and then send it over him? And he looks at over? Are you guys both writing different things and swapping it like how was the actual process of working with a partner,

Erik Sommers 11:57
A lot of just sending documents back and forth, or putting them up, you know, on the on the cloud, and like, check this out, and then just rewriting each other's stuff. And a lot of back and forth, a lot of texting, a lot of calls. And a lot of we're both, you know, have kids and busy lives. And so one thing that is really great about working in features is that if you're if you're just on a deadline, you know, as long as you get the work done, you can decide when you can create your own schedule and, and so we don't find ourselves together that often physically together. Sometimes we'll be together to break a story up on a whiteboard, or index cards or something like that. But even then, I think we've we've graduated to more of just like writing beats out and outlines and sending them to each other and just a lot of back and forth.

Alex Ferrari 12:46
Now, is there anything you wish you would have been told at the beginning of your career? If you can kind of go back in time and just go, Eric, man, this is if I can give you one nugget. This is the thing.

Erik Sommers 13:00
That was a good question. Save your money.

Alex Ferrari 13:05
Buy Apple Buy, buy this link called Netflix.

Erik Sommers 13:11
In two years, there's gonna be a freckle. Weird on your arm get it checked out, get immediate. Wait. That's funny, I think, um, gosh, I don't know, I feel like I had a lot of great writers and people really good to me and teach me a lot. And I'm really grateful for that. I wonder like, what is the one thing? I? I mean? That is a tough question.

Alex Ferrari 13:41
Yeah. Because I mean, a lot of times when we start off, you're like, I wish I could I could have just I would have gone back to myself and just said, it's going to take twice as long. It's going to be probably 10 times as hard as you think it's gonna be right. You know, and I'm sure like, because you're you're 20 you're like, next year, I should be writing Spider Man.

Erik Sommers 13:57
Yeah, yeah. I think write fast. Don't Don't dwell. I mean, I think I was telling you about the guy gave me his first draft. And I think even then it took me a long time to just to just get to a place of like, well just just write it out. Like don't sit there and think about it forever. And and, and if you have something that's not working, don't just obsess and stay working on it, be willing to give something up and step away, and just go work on something else, or try something else, do something else, maybe in a month, or working on a different script will give you some inspiration, and then you'll come back to this thing. And you'll realize, you know what, this was my problem. And I think early on, I had a few things that I just thought like, Oh, this is so good. This is this is my openness, this

Alex Ferrari 14:46
They will recognize my genius,

Erik Sommers 14:48
And I just have to keep rewriting it over and over and in the end of the day, I should have just like, Okay, you you did that you're done. Put it in the drawer and do another one. You're going to learn more by doing by writing Another one, then by just keeping working on this one over and over and over.

Alex Ferrari 15:04
Right! Exactly. Because you could only sand that wood so many times, you sometimes got to build out a new house,

Erik Sommers 15:10
There's something to be said for rewriting. And I'm a big fan of that. But at some point, you know, you just have to recognize and put it in the drawer and start working on the next thing. And you're gonna learn more by doing that.

Alex Ferrari 15:21
Now, it's so many so many writers that I've talked to, I always am fascinated with the creative process of writing of like, how you tap into that flow, that that creativity that we all kind of the Muse where, what how do you get the muse to show up for you, in your process? Do you just show up every day at a certain time? And just do the work? Or do you wait to be tickled fancy, like I always love asking writers with their processes.

Erik Sommers 15:47
Sure. And and I think, again, it has to do with the way that that I came up, I came up through TV, and in TV, you go to the office, every day, and at 10 o'clock, you start writing, and it doesn't matter if you're happy or sad or tired or what's going on, you're expected to be there. And you need to perform. And, and so there was no like news. Look, we all have good days and bad days, we all have days like that in any job. You know, but But ultimately, it was really just that training that just taught me to look at it as a job and work and like you just have to do it. It doesn't matter what's going on in your life. You're being paid. There's a deadline, you have to do it. And so that I've carried with me and and even to this day, yeah, no matter what's going on I, I have a routine and I come to my office here and and I just tried to get it done. And certainly, there are days where it's it's not going great. But I come and I try and

Alex Ferrari 16:51
See you're telling me that every day that you sit down to write, it's not genius that flows out of you. Is that what you're saying?

Erik Sommers 16:58
I and anyone who's ever worked with me will tell you that yes. 100% Yes.

Alex Ferrari 17:05
I forgot who said it is like if if writing is easy for you. You're not doing it right.

Erik Sommers 17:10
Yeah, maybe

Alex Ferrari 17:12
I think it's very true.

Erik Sommers 17:14
I also know a bunch of writers. I know several writers who are very good, who hate writing. They're like, Oh, the worst part is when you have to write,

Alex Ferrari 17:21
But you're you're a writer.

Erik Sommers 17:24
But I'm grateful that I enjoy it. I love it. I love immersing myself. The only thing I love more than immersing myself into writing something is just sitting down on my butt and watching it. You know, watching something that's you know, just just real, but it's I just love sitting down and doing the work. And it is work.

Alex Ferrari 17:46
It is and a lot of people like oh, you're just typing on a keyboard. I'm like, But Nah, man, this is sitar anyone who's ever written a script. Knows. And by the way, most people listening have written a script without knowing that there's going to be 150 to $100 million budget, sitting on their shoulders, as writers or or leading a franchise or you know, or writing something that is beloved by you know, billions around the world. There's a tremendous amount of stress that comes along with that. I think you could speak to more so than

Erik Sommers 18:18
You're doing fine until you started saying

Alex Ferrari 18:21
I don't think I'll ever write again Alex thank you so that brings me to my next question. How did you increase land The Lego Movie about the Batman Lego Movie?

Erik Sommers 18:33
Lego Batman movie? Yeah, um, but I don't remember

Alex Ferrari 18:39
Was was that the first feature? Or no, you did other features.

Erik Sommers 18:42
The first one was Jumanji,

Alex Ferrari 18:43
Right! So Jumanji came out before Batman or you worked on.

Erik Sommers 18:48
I think the order in which they came out isn't saying that in the order in which we worked on them. Okay, but I think we worked on on Jumanji first then we worked on Lego Batman for a while and then we went over to I think the next one after that was was Spider Man homecoming.

Alex Ferrari 19:04
Alright, so then with Jumanji, how did you approach? How did you How did you land that job? You know, coming out of television? And then how do you approach board game as a script

Erik Sommers 19:17
That one Jumanji, I did the old fashioned way, which is to just be sitting there minding your own business and have a friend call you and say hey, I sold an idea for a new version of Jumanji, will you help me write it? And then I said yes. So that was Chris. I really earned that one.

Alex Ferrari 19:40
So Chris is the one who sold the idea.

Erik Sommers 19:42
Yeah, he had pitched them an idea and they bought it and then community was brought back for another season on Yahoo. And he knew he wanted to be doing that. And he had a deadline for Jumanji and it's just inhuman an impossible amount. have things to do in the amount of days. And so he asked me if I would help him write Jumanji. And I had only written one thing with a partner before I had just been a solo one man writing entity. And but we started writing, we had just had a great time. And and we had a great time doing it. And it was really great. And, you know, we did a couple of drafts of that. And then they moved on to some other writers, which is fine, that happens. And then I don't really recall exactly how we got involved with a Lego Batman. We do. We do know, Lord and Miller. And it might have been just that they needed someone to come in. And and they knew that we were doing features now. And there might have been something through the agents.

Alex Ferrari 20:52
Gotcha. But you got it in there.

Erik Sommers 20:54
As we were brought, we went over there. And it was already in process. And Chris McKay, the director, who was just a brilliant, brilliant, talented guy, was already, you know, plugging away and so we were happy to join that team and be a part of it. And I still love that. I love that movie. My kids love it. So, so

Alex Ferrari 21:14
So good. So how do you like with with a world like that as a writer, which is essentially infinite? You know, it's like the Lego world in the Batman Lego world is fairly infinite. How do you deal with that kind of like, just, you know, when you have so much to do, it almost kind of blocks you because like, I could go anywhere with this?

Erik Sommers 21:37
Absolutely. When you have a I can say in general, when you don't have any limitations it can it can be its own overwhelming limitation. And having having some limitations put on you can oftentimes be the best thing. As far as that specific movie. We were not the first writers and and so the previous writer and the whole creative team in general. And Chris McKay had had already figured all of that out for us so so that when I can tell you was easy, because I didn't have to.

Alex Ferrari 22:09
That's awesome. So then you get the call for Spider Man. And I got to ask you, when you got the call and said, Hey, man, you're going to write the new Spider Man, which is going to be the crossover between Marvel and Sony. And Iron Man is going to be in it and it's the brand new split the geek in you. I'm assuming there's a geek in you. What what was that? Like getting that phone call? Like you guys got it?

Erik Sommers 22:34
I mean, when I was a kid, I had Spider Man comics. I'm old. So I had the Spider Man doll that was like plastic and this big. Oh, yeah. It was like made of fabric.

Alex Ferrari 22:45
You don't look you don't look as old as I do, sir. And I was probably the same age if not older than you.

Erik Sommers 22:52
And I still remember that thing. It was such a strange accent.

Alex Ferrari 22:56
I remember it

Erik Sommers 23:01
But then his face was rubber was the rubber Spider Man. So like the costume was fabric cloth.

Alex Ferrari 23:09
It was it did nothing has no I mean no kung fu action

Erik Sommers 23:13
To to suddenly know that, that I was going to be writing. Spider Man was yeah, it was overwhelming thrill but also daunting. You know, just when I had gotten comfortable as a TV writer, you know, and moved over to features and then just now had a little feature work under my belt and was starting to feel more comfortable. And then boom, this thing comes along. And as you know, you're going to be working with Marvel and you're going to be working with Amy Pascal and and and, and this this venerable, Venerable hero that that is so beloved. And yeah, so it was intimidating but equal parts intimidating and exciting.

Alex Ferrari 23:55
And and when you I mean, because you had obviously Jumanji was a big hit and Batman. Lego Batman was a big hit. And then you got Spider Man. And then Spider Man was a huge hit. So I'm assuming at this point in time, you know, in town, you're getting offers, you know, you're getting offers, you know, people are like, Hey, you guys are magic. We want to be in the Chris and Eric business. Did anyone ever say that to you?

Erik Sommers 24:18
I know but I've always wished that someone would

Alex Ferrari 24:25
Say that to you.

Erik Sommers 24:28
It would be great to hear someone on ironically say that would be pretty amazing.

Alex Ferrari 24:36
That would be pretty it cuz you only see that in the movies you like I want to be

Erik Sommers 24:39
Absolutely. It's one of those things you wonder like Did someone it sounds like the kind of thing that maybe someone really did say yeah. And then people talked about it in a writer put it into their script, and then it got a life of its own. And now it's like the phrase that means that kind of intention. So who was the first one who really said

Alex Ferrari 24:58
I would love because someone's in here. Bro smoking a cigar. At the time in my bed in my mind like I want to be in the Chris and Eric.

Erik Sommers 25:05
Yeah, exactly. I can see that.

Alex Ferrari 25:08
So how did you approach writing Spider Man? Did you kind of go into? Did you just go into the archives of Marvel and just start pulling story ideas? And then mixing it with your own ideas? How did that whole story come to be?

Erik Sommers 25:23
That one again, we were not the first writers on that project. So there had been it, there had been two pairs of writers working on it. Okay, a few teams that worked on it before. So it was actually pretty late in the game. And right up in late pre production, they were we're not that many weeks out from shooting, that we came on board. So we didn't have any any of the challenges of, you know, taking all of this source material and honing in on one story or trying to figure out what story we were going to try to tell or anything like that. I mean, it was all there. We were basically rewriting, doing a rewrite on an existing an existing story.

Alex Ferrari 26:03
And how about did you did you start off with Ant Man and the Wasp?

Erik Sommers 26:09
With Ant Man and the Wasp, we were also the second in in that case, they decided to they kept some elements of the first script, but we changed it it was it was earlier on. And then we had just to change to make bigger changes, some more sweeping changes. Just because of the the time available. And for various various reasons. The guys who did the previous draft did a great job. No knock against against issues, what was decided and so we we dug in a little bit more into into RE breaking a story.

Alex Ferrari 26:43
Now, how about no way home? Like what did you guys started off with that? And I mean, that that's such a see if I'm going to watch it tonight? I haven't seen it yet. I'm going to watch it tonight. The trailers make it seem insane. It seems so big, so many things going on? How did you even handle dealing with timelines and characters from different timelines and keeping it all together in your heads? How did you guys do that?

Erik Sommers 27:13
You're stressing me out again, describing it.

Alex Ferrari 27:15
It's done. Eric, it's done. It's over. It's done. Yeah, it's done. It's over. It's come it comes out Friday. Don't worry about it. Don't worry, I won't talk to you before any project ever again, don't worry.

Erik Sommers 27:28
Um, I mean, it was, of course, we we didn't start off knowing that this is what we were going to do. The one thing that was fixed at the beginning is we knew how the last one had ended. Right? We we knew that we had had to deal with it that that was going to be the story engine, you know that that that? Clearly the repercussions of that were going to have a huge impact. And that was going to drive this story. The question was, what impact exactly would it have? And what would Peter want to do about it? What he set out to clear his name? Would he you know, what story? Would we be telling what he'd be setting out to clear his name and really leaning into? No, that was a lie. And I'm going to prove it. And that's going to be this whole story? Or is it going to be he's trying to maintain the balance now that he always tries of being a normal kid and being a superhero, but now it's impossible? Or is it going to be some crisis comes up that has nothing to do with any of this, but it's harder for him to do his job now, because he's, and so it was a lot of conversations with the creative team. You know, we are in a room with John, the director who's really great on story. And Amy Pascal, Rachel O'Connor. And if we're lucky, Kevin fygi will be in there. And really just rolling up our sleeves and thinking what is the best story to tell here? Well, and so it was a long process. There's a lot of blue sky just thinking before we even came down to the idea that it was going to be this.

Alex Ferrari 28:57
So on the swamp. So when you guys on the SEC at the end. And this is a spoiler for anyone who hasn't seen the second Spider Man. At the end, when they reveal who Peter is. You guys didn't know where you're going? Like the studio didn't know. Like, because you always look Marvel looks so well put together. And this sense of like, Oh, they've got scripts for next 10 years. It's all connected. They really it was like, Okay, we'll figure it out. Yes. Amazing.

Erik Sommers 29:24
We you're obviously we want to think about the greater Oh, yeah. Like there's forest and things like that. But at the end of the day, you really just have to focus on your story and what is what is the coolest ending, most satisfying ending for your story? And that idea had been kicked around. And it's the kind of thing where some of us were like, No, we can't do that. That would be that kid. And then some people were like, Yeah, we shouldn't we should do it. That's it. Yeah. And we just it was a lot of conversations and ultimately, the creative team came to the conclusion that that would be the ending that story With Mysterio, and everything that finally Peter's gonna get to a place where he realizes I don't have to step into Tony shoes, I can be Spider Man and I can play a larger role out there, but I can do it my way. And he was finally starting to seem comfortable. And he had his girlfriend and everything did seem to be going great. And of course, because it's Peter Parker, then you have to pull the rug out. And and things have to take a turn for the worse. And that was like the the best version of that we felt that, oh, you're happy with everything now. And great. Well, guess what the whole world knows who you are. And it's all ruined everything that you saw today. It's all ruined. And so we did not know that what it would lead to we knew that it would be a story engine for the next movie. And, and but don't forget, at the time we did, there was only a deal, right between Disney and Marvel. For far from home. No Deal existed for a next. So it's also one of those things where you have to write what is you think is going to be the best version of your story. But also you can't, you can't hold things back thinking like, oh, we'll do that in a sequel. Or we'll do that in this because you don't know if that'll happen.

Alex Ferrari 31:13
Right! You're playing in somebody else's sandbox as a writer, so you're kind of, you know, like you said, those forces are beyond your control, like, totally completely outside of your outside your control,

Erik Sommers 31:25
There would be another movie we didn't know, we would be hired to write it. So I mean, we just so everyone that that ending is born of a group of people working hard to come up with the best way to end that story. That's it.

Alex Ferrari 31:41
That's, that's remarkable. And that, which brings me to another lesson, I always love to tell film, filmmakers and screenwriters, the best advice I've ever heard in the business is don't be a dick. And because, you know, there's a reason why you guys are keep getting hired, again to do because it's not, it's not usual, you know, to write multiple tentpoles generally speaking, I haven't seen a whole lot of that where the same team is writing or are on the same projects. And that that's a testament to you and Chris, that you like, but these guys obviously are fun to, to work with.

Erik Sommers 32:18
I hope so I want to have fun when I'm working. And I want everyone who's in the room with me to have fun. And I think again, and so just Chris and I think again, that comes from TV, because we were we were we came up in, in comedy writers rooms, and it's just really fun to be in there. Yeah, no, and you're working and you're being creative, but you're joking around, and it's just really fun. It was a fun, fun job. And I'm so grateful that I got to have that job. And I think we we try to bring some of that with us. And so I think it's it's that spirit, but also again, just being willing to collaborate and take notes and not not be defensive and not push back all the time for just for its own sake. And I think you know, I can't say and I'm not I can't say I'm and I'm by nature, not someone who wants to toot their own horn or anything like that makes me comfortable. So I'm sure I couldn't see why people keep fires. I'm glad

Alex Ferrari 33:22
I'm glad I'm glad and humbled by it.

Erik Sommers 33:25
I mean, it gets back to Lessons I was taught early on I think one of the writers when I was assistant he just said like, work super hard. Be nice and friendly with everyone and like to

Alex Ferrari 33:40
Work hard and be nice. Work hard be nice.

Erik Sommers 33:43
I mean that probably is good advice for any job but

Alex Ferrari 33:47
Is there any is there any screenwriters that you kind of looked up to in their style that you know when you were coming up

Erik Sommers 33:55
I can't say that was anyone I I think I just had lots of stuff I enjoyed watching but I you know I didn't read tons of scripts and think oh I love the technical way that guy writes or this or that you know i mean i i I had shows and movies that I loved and in probably subconsciously I was like aping that kind of style or sure sure it's on me but I I can't say there was anyone where I was like you know on a technical way the way this guy writes his action lines are his dialogue sure like um I think it just a lot of it just comes down to half hour comedy influence probably just like keep things snappy, keep moving go and fewer long speeches keep them shorter and it's probably a lot of stuff like that, that I don't even realize I'm doing that's just I was influenced by that's how I learned to write you know, in in writers rooms of half hour comedies.

Alex Ferrari 34:57
Fair enough. I'm gonna ask you a few questions ask all my guests What? What advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Erik Sommers 35:06
Work hard.

Alex Ferrari 35:08
Be nice. Fair enough. That's a good answer.

Erik Sommers 35:11
Work hard, be nice. Just Just get it out. Don't sit there and think about it forever. Just get out your first draft and you can always write another one. And then, at some point, be willing to put it in the drawer, put it away and move on to the next one. Don't Don't linger on one script or one idea for too long. And because you'll learn more by just moving on and doing the next one.

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

Erik Sommers 35:40
Don't beat yourself up.

Alex Ferrari 35:43
Good advice

Erik Sommers 35:44
For all of us to learn in life and in writing.

Alex Ferrari 35:48
Yeah, especially in writing. And three of your favorite films of all time.

Erik Sommers 35:54
So many predator

Alex Ferrari 35:59
Oh, thank you.

Erik Sommers 36:00
Arnold Schwarzenegger seminal just a moment in my life, I can still remember going to a drive in movie theater and seeing it with friends. And it's just such a big deal. Aliens. I still remember that night to go in with a friend and go into a movie theater. And you know, I just remember that experience and how special and amazing that was. And I would say the Karate Kid.

Alex Ferrari 36:26
Wow, man. Those are three great, great lists, man.

Erik Sommers 36:30
That's it so many. I don't know that that's what I could pull from the top of my head

Alex Ferrari 36:34
Predator is arguably one of the best action films of all time. And so as alien aliens is a masterpiece. So good absolute masterpiece. Erik man. It was a pleasure talking to you, man. Thank you so much for being on the show

Erik Sommers 36:46
I hope I didn't ramble too much.

Alex Ferrari 36:48
No.

Erik Sommers 36:50
Old tendencies I have.

Alex Ferrari 36:51
No you did fantastic. And I can't wait to see Spider Man. No way home. It looks amazing. And continued success my friend and I wish you continued success. And please keep writing these man therse are so much fun.

Erik Sommers 37:06
Thank you very much. It was a pleasure talking to you. And thanks for having me. And I hope you enjoy the movie.

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IFH 540: Selling Indie Films with the Regional Cinema Model with Daedalus Howell

Daedalus Howell

Today on the show we have writer/director Daedalus Howell. Daedalus’ film Pill Head is the definition of being a Filmtrepreneur. So much, in fact, I used his film as a case study in my book Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: How to Turn Your Indie Film into a Moneymaking Business. The method he used was the “regional cinema model.” 

This model is based around developing, producing and distributing a film project targeted to the niche audience of a geographic area. He essentially made an Art House film for his hometown.

Pill Head was entirely a hometown affair — from discounted permits to merchant buy-in and a recent theatrical release through a consortium of local exhibitors (no four-walling!) accompanied by tons of local press.

After an overdose, art student Theda becomes an unwitting specimen in her university’s experimental psych program. There’s a side effect, however — she sees the branching possibilities of reality in an alternate universe. Moreover, an alternate self wards her off the program’s enigmatic researcher Dr. Ashe. Determined to escape, Theda’s salvation lays through the looking glass of quantum quandaries, romance revisited, and the jagged little pill of her own nature.

In this interview, we go deep into the regional cinema model, how he creates multiple revenue streams and how he got that group of local theater owners to four wall his film for free. Enjoy my inspirational conversation with Daedalus Howell.

Right-click here to download the MP3

 

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I'd like to welcome the show Daedelus Howell man, how are you?

Daedalus Howell 0:14
I'm Grand man, how are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:15
Thank you so much, man. I appreciate you reaching out to me and coming on to the to the podcast and hopefully being you know, dropping some knowledge bombs from your experience because I always look for unique as you know, unique ways of looking at film and you you you hit something I hadn't heard before. Hey, how about using your hometown as a backlot, I'm like, that's a podcast so.

Daedalus Howell 0:38
I had nowhere else to go Alex had nowhere else to go. And I'm with you.

Alex Ferrari 0:43
I appreciate it. But so first of all, man, what made you want to become a filmmaker? Like why did you want to become a carny?

Daedalus Howell 0:52
Well, that's a great question. I, you know, I should back up until you I'm from Petaluma, California, and what you may or may not know about Petaluma, we're north of San Francisco a little bit. This is a movie town. And so we were surrounded by all kinds of film phenomena beginning with like American Graffiti, which was shot here. Lucas, Peggy Sue Got Married was shot here, Coppola and then through the 90s, in many of the Abbotts phenomenon, the leader remake flubber. I mean, it was crazy the amount of like cinematic immersion, just in production that was here for a while. And so growing up in that you get the bug compounding that Lucasfilm was just over the hill in Marin, right. And then you throw in Winona Ryder going to Petaluma high. And this is like Super film consciousness in terms of town. And so a lot of us grew up with, yeah, my cohort and I, with this fantasy that we could do it too. And of course, that was summarily crushed, you know, once we all went to Hollywood and, and, you know, as everyone goes through that process, and so, so I had the bug pretty early. And I had to really figure out how I was going to like, deal with having that in my system. I became a writer pretty early on for local newspapers and that kind of thing. So I was able to kind of build a film adjacent career I could, I could interview film people. And when I did finally go to Los Angeles in like the early 2000s, I was principally, you know, an aspiring screenwriter had some minor breaks, that kind of thing. But you know, I washed out and I was left with the disease, you know, the virus was in me, I wanted to make a film. And it got so bad man. That after, I mean, the infection was really,

Alex Ferrari 2:30
I always refer to the bug or the thing to become a filmmaker. It's like herpes. Like it literally, it once you get it, you've got it for life. It will flare up sometimes, but sometimes it's dormant. But no matter what, it will flare up eventually again, and then you'll and then sometimes it's really bad. You just start like, oh, man, turn into a crack fiend. But go ahead. Yeah.

Daedalus Howell 2:51
Well, that's yeah, that's a great metaphor, because it's really what happened in the gut, it got to the point where it began to forbid myself to like read about, you know, read film books, to look at anything about any film because I didn't want the flare up to come back because I was feeling so negative about myself from never having done it. Yeah. And then I just, I, I got in a situation where I was between jobs in my my partner, girlfriend said, Hey, what do you really want to do now? You know, what, you just kind of wide open and I said, Well, what I really want to do is direct. And she didn't know much about production, anything like that. So she didn't know it was impossible. And so she became a film producer and I became a writer director. And it was just it was just the the drive to do it. That that compelled me but it was really just a you know, after you know you did this with this is Meg 15 years or whatever, you know, you're like, why haven't I done it? There's no really excuse not to apart from manifesting the drive to do so. And so that's what we finally did.

Alex Ferrari 3:49
No, I mean, I mean, I had a I had a horrible experience with a mobster and Hollywood. So that kind of that kind of that kind of stain to me. And so

Daedalus Howell 3:57
I havent read that book Yeah, I'm going to though Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 3:59
It is. It is it definitely I realized it subconsciously stopped me from ever going back into like, why would you go back to the most painful time in your life, and you associate making a movie with the most painful time in your life? So I had an excuse. It was a horrible one, but I had an excuse. Why I didn't do it, but at a certain point, you know, you and I are both have similar vintages. You know, at a certain point, you just go dude, I'm not 20 anymore. Like I can't keep I can't keep doing this.

Daedalus Howell 4:25
Yeah, but the problem is when you bring that filmmaker identity into your consciousness, and you're carrying it that long, and you haven't made that, oh, you know, the feature film, your life is all plot no story, man, you start like you start questioning who you are. And of course, all your friends are like, Dude, are you you're so you're a filmmaker. Really, dude. I mean, where's your movie? And you've got a bunch of shorts on YouTube. Who are you? You know, it's like it's so you just have to do it. You just have to do it. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 4:51
Yeah. And then I hid behind. You know, I did direct like little commercials or music videos and things like that, but it wasn't what I wanted to do and I hid behind post So I was like I was it was kind of like nice. It's adjacent. It's you're kind of you're still a filmmaker, but you're not doing exactly what you want to do. So it's a great experience but your hide you hide in that in that world. So for me, I hid there for god knows about 20 years. Yeah, dealing. Yeah.

Daedalus Howell 5:16
And then you did a podcast and that, you know,you hid behind the podcast,

Alex Ferrari 5:20
And then I hid behind the podcast and behind this. I'll be honest with you, though, I'll be honest with you if it wasn't for the podcast, and if it wasn't for the tribe, I don't think I would have made this is Meg. The reason why I there was two reasons I did it was because one I wanted to prove to the tribe that it can be done. I wanted to prove to myself it could be done. I also wanted to use the tribe as something to keep me to keep me what's that word? Ah, not compatible, but when you're trying to when you're trying to do something and someone tells you like was watching you. I forgot that word. That term I losing my will never find it now. We'll never find it over. I'm sure someone's yelling at it in their car at the moment. But, but, but I did it for that reason. And then also for whatever odd reason, because I was still doing indie film hustle on kind of a side hustle. Still, it wasn't my full time gig yet. I just said, Well, if it doesn't work out, I always have indie film, hustle, I can just go back to that. So it's like my safety blanket, you know, and it's become this kind of like, oh, I I'm good. I'll just go i It made me more brave to just go out there where it might scare other people because you're like putting yourself out there. i It's the opposite. For me. I find it very comforting knowing that I have an I have not only an audience, I have a tribe, I have a community that I could always go back to. And if it doesn't work, doesn't work.

Daedalus Howell 6:41
Yeah, no, that's that's really I think that was one of the smartest moves you clearly one of the smartest moves you've made, you know, and you did I mean, you've definitely galvanized the community. I mean, I'm, you know, how they say like the Velvet Underground had 100 fans, but each one of them started a band, you know, you've got well more than 100 fans, but I there's gonna somebody, some film historian is going to trace back this explosion of independent film, they're gonna be able to blame one man. Oh, they're gonna go oh, sorry. And that would

Alex Ferrari 7:09
That be amazing. You know what I honestly that would be the most wonderful thing ever. Because if I you know, I'm here just to help and I want to I want to I want that and I get these stories like yours and, and other people who've listened to the podcast for a long time. Like I finally made my movie I finally did this thing. But now it's my my job to teach you how to make money with it. But that's why you're here because because you have a unique story behind it. Now tell me about your film pill head? Because great name, great name.

Daedalus Howell 7:33
No, thank you. Yeah. The the general gist is a young art student takes too many pills in wakes up in what's probably a parallel universe. And it's all about finding her way back to her reality, whatever that may be in a sort of redemptive Alice in Wonderland kind of phenomena. However, we went out this sort of fit, you know, typical sci fi style plot, I think, with an arthouse vengence in so I call it an arts floatation film, this thing I just, it's like your first year in film school, you take a survey course, and it's all shot on Luc Godard and Truffaut and I kind of thing I checked every box, I could man, it's black and white. It's it's moody, it's handheld, it's it's an aesthetic kind of like, hat tip to, you know, the French New Wave and all the films I grew up on and that kind of thing. And so it scratched a lot of itches, you know, that, that the flare up was real. And so it's it's a very different kind of movie. And it doesn't really fit into the general indie landscape, which is a stumbling block, in some ways. It's sort of its differentiator in other ways. And, and I was able to play that to my advantage once, once I accepted that this is my aesthetic, there's no way around it, I have to make the film I'm going to make. But I have to make it in a way that it's meaningful to my audience. And I know and I knew pretty much who they were because I'm in local media and that kind of thing. And I knew that I wasn't going to make the kind of film that's going to scale and explode, I was making a regional film, I was making a film that's going to be meaningful to where I'm from, and the people in my community. And that sounds a little backwards because you want your film to be as big as possible often you want to go everywhere. But I'm really hooked on this notion of regional cinema the way that you know, they used to like regional theater, right? There'd be a you know, like a play house and then they'd put on a regular program that kind of thing. I wanted to start something wherein I could credibly create films and know that I had an audience here and do it on a regular basis. And the trick of that of course is making them inexpensively making them profitable and making it for an audience that you know is going to come back in so I knew was gonna make a Petaluma film.

Alex Ferrari 9:43
That's that's that's a really so that's what regional cinema the regional cinema model is for you because that's the first time I've heard that term. And it might be out there in the zeitgeist, but I've never heard of it. Yeah, I've never heard of it. And generally speaking, if I don't hear it, I've never heard of it. It's a weird thing. cuz I'm pretty much inside of this world all the time. So when I heard that I was like, interesting. So now that's the definition of it. And honestly, it's, uh, you know, we're we're taught as filmmakers, especially our generation, but even younger filmmakers, that everything's got to be huge. It's got to be big, it's got to be blockbuster, you've got to make $100 million. And, you know, what film entrepreneur is about is to start bringing it down, bringing it down to niche audiences to bring it down. Now you've created the, the regional aspect of things, which is awesome, because now you are, you're doing basically what I've been preaching, but doing it on a regional standpoint, as opposed to a niche is a niche, but it's a regional niche. Yeah, but it's a regional niche. And if you as a filmmaker have a region that you know, that you can sell movies to, and you can make those movies for a budget, and you can recoup your money and continue to make that's a business, that that's a business and if it goes somewhere else, and it goes International, or sells outside online, somewhere to a bigger audience, fantastic. But your core audience is what is going to sustain your career. That's a really powerful thing. And it also gets out of your gates, that lottery ticket mentality out of the filmmakers head, which is like I need that make something this movie's got to pop for me, I need to go to Hollywood I need to do you don't, you don't, you could keep it small. And as long as you're cool with not living in the Hollywood Hills, and you could just have a lifestyle, buy, you know, buy a house, you know, pay your rent, you know, and enjoy it, like make money, make enough money to sustain you and your family comfortably and make your art well. Hell That's the dream.

Daedalus Howell 11:41
No, that's that's you're totally right. And that's the metrics of success. Can you do it again, it's a supporting you, versus like you're saying a lottery ticket where it's supposed to make your career overnight? That's just not going to happen anymore. You know, unless you're in a dat system, which you know, I would have I would gamble most of most everyone listening is not clustered in Hollywood. Maybe they are but

Alex Ferrari 12:00
But even if you're here, but even if you're here, it's a lottery ticket. There's one guy like, like you and I were raised in the 90s. Like we came up in the film industry, like in the 90s. When independent film like every frickin week, there was Talentino Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater, Spike Lee, John Singleton, it just kept the Steven Soderbergh every week, there was a new magic lottery ticket being handed out. And

Daedalus Howell 12:25
Sundance was just stamping these guys out, oh, it led us to believe that that's the system, that's what you do you show up, it happens, and it doesn't. And that could be that could really derail your life artistically. Yeah, tell me about it. So yeah, so So I, you know, I had to get really pulled back and figure that out. And once you scale stuff, to, to not just a level where you can actually make it but you know, who's going to watch it, and you know, that you're going to earn it back and in beyond it, it changes your mindset. And there's a lot more freedom in it, you know, especially if you know, your niche, or you know, you're doing now and I totally agree with you regional cinema is a nation that is the region in this case, and I grew, you know, this where I live is, is it's a very special place. And so I knew this fairly dependable and, but there are ways to, to galvanize that and make it happen. And so we set about with our production, and I have to tell you from the like, I was talking earlier about the exploitation factor, this, I knew this is going to be intrinsically not a mass market film, there's just no way about it. But I knew if I did anything other than that, I wouldn't, I wasn't going to be, you know, my artistic integrity and all that BS wasn't gonna be intact. But if you're going to make a film at RH, after not having made a film, you're gonna make your guide and film the way you want to make. Absolutely. So I had to dovetail that into a concept that would work in so I was on a radio program yesterday, and guy pointed out, because hey, you can pedal it's kind of a character and like, that's right, you know, the town, I made the town look, I wouldn't say beautiful, but I gave it a vision that, that this town hasn't seen itself that way before. And and I think that had resonance, you know, and that's something that's talked about a lot. But to kind of like roll back and like how to do this kind of thing. You're going to do a lot of favors, you're going to need a lot of a lot of buy in from like the sort of civic, you know, like bureaucracies that you have to participate in. And you're going to have to become friends with the local press, and you're going to have to have to have a story that's beyond local filmmaker does good, you know, because they've seen that story, right? It's not 1982 Yeah, no one cares. No one cares. Everyone's making a movie right now. You know, they'd rather write about the YouTube kid than they would use so. So I just hunkered down and wanted to tell the story that I told and but I wanted to make the film. I didn't want to do too much guerrilla stuff. I knew that I had to do it legally. by that. I mean, like permits and insurance and all the things and I needed to keep it cheap, lean and fairly invisible because I couldn't afford to close off streets I couldn't afford To I couldn't ask any businesses to stop their business from me, that kind of thing. And so the first thing was, you know, to ensure the production you have to be permitted. And to get that permit, I had to appeal to the city of Petaluma and I go to them. And you know, so in Petaluma, as I mentioned before, has been has seen a lot of film, right. And they're used to big budgets coming in and they make this cities make money on movies through transitory occupancy tax. That means heads and beds, right crew comes in 50 plus people or more, they, those people are put up at hotels, they're eating local restaurants, local services, so films can be a big moneymaker for a city. So when you come in and say, I got this little itty bitty film, please give me a film permit. They're like, Well, okay, sure. We're not going to deny your your freedom of speech. But what's in it for us, especially since in my case, I wanted a discount. And no one thinks that you can negotiate with the bureaucracy, but you totally can, especially the smaller town because the mayor is your neighbor, right? So I wrote a letter to the city manager, they wanted I think, 200 bucks a day, or 225 a day or something like that, you know, that was their deal to 222 25. And I had like a 20 day shoot, right? That's not a significant amount of money to the city. It's like, what, four grand or so like that. But to me, that was like a budget breaker, right? So I wrote a letter to the city manager an email and I said, Hey, here's the deal. I'm a townie. I'm a local, everyone here is local, it's locally cast. It's all this. Here's the general pitch. And the guy wrote back and said, Have it 300 bucks flat rate. In dying, I'm like, isn't that great? You can do that. Right. And so then I went through Fractured Atlas, which is a nonprofit, sort of fiscal sponsor, you know, there, if you can't receive donations yourself, because you're not a nonprofit, they'll they'll vouch for you and receive those funds. And they have an amazing insurance policy policy situation where they worked out, they broke out some deals, so they get discounted insurance for production. So I was able to take that get discounted insurance, which is what the city wants to do want to want you to mess up anything and they weren't insured. So then I had to go most cities will ask you to go to the local merchants is usually like a chamber of commerce or a downtown merchants society or something like that. Because their main concern and this was a concern in Petaluma. And that kind of led to a lot of productions being shut down or not even shut down, like blocked from coming in. Merchants complain about streets being shut down, sidewalk traffic, ending foot traffic gone, no customers, right, even if they're compensated by a studio or whatever. It's never enough. Everyone's grumpy, and it's so disruptive to local business. So when you have a lean little production like ours, you're not going to impact in that way. But you got to tell them that. And that was the weird part. I didn't expect to go to the local business and say, Hey, man, we're gonna be shooting here. Here's my flyer, you have to, you know, announce it that way. That's where I got the first bit of, like, pushback. I was like, Dude, we're just a small. I mean, we were gonna look like tours. There's only five of us, you know, and I camera, and they were so suspicious. And so kind of like, we remember what happened last time, you know, like, you know, I can't remember the film, but I can't I think screen was shot locally, and it ruined the town for a few weeks. Right? So they're pretty chapped about that. And, and I just had to sit down and talk with him. And eventually I surfaced up to the, you know, the the chairperson of the Downtown Association, and I just, I just pled my case, I made it clear to them that we're not gonna shut anything down. This person happened to be a Mason. And I threw that person's influence. Everyone just jumped in. And then the Masons said, Do you need a building to shoot in and like, yeah, and they gave us their building, we shot in a Mason Temple at one point, it was crazy, man, so awesome. It's so it's that it's that local boy makes good angle. But more like, we're doing this together. We're doing this for these reasons. This is how it aligns with what you're trying to do. And we're not going to cost you a thing. And and we're not going to tell you we're going to make your business look good. It's going to be an advertisement for you or anything like that. But we are going to respect you and your business. And we're going to make this as seamless as possible. And we're gonna make it fun for you. You want a cameo? Great, you know, that kind of thing. And so that's

Alex Ferrari 19:08
The power of the cameo. Oh, yes.

Daedalus Howell 19:10
Which is the most Yeah, as everyone else the most BS thing ever because usually it's the first thing gets cut, right?

Alex Ferrari 19:15
That in the associate producer credit

Daedalus Howell 19:20
Got a couple of those.

Alex Ferrari 19:22
So that's when a merchant buy in is is like that's

Daedalus Howell 19:25
That's how I would characterize it is because you're going to need the streets of your small town as if you're shooting the exteriors you're using their storefronts and their backgrounds and that kind of thing. You're going to get location releases from them you know and that kind of stuff and you're going to you want them to to love what you're doing versus being afraid that you're going to cost them money by blocking their customers from getting an intimidating people or people don't want to be on camera. People are afraid of being caught up in something people that want to be in a movie called pill head I get it, you know and so, so you start just literally on the street level going door to door saying This is what we're doing. We're insured, we're playing by all the rules, we're not going to make a mess. And and we're going to, we're going to try to make this a pleasurable process for everyone. And in most of the time they they get into it, we actually we gained more locations than we were a threat of losing because people said, Hey, why don't you shoot my building to? You know, when we had a place that just scheduled wise wasn't gonna work out? Another guy stepped up? Because he's like, Yeah, this sounds like a lot of fun. You guys are, you know, doing a great thing here and that kind of thing. And so that's, that's the place to start on the street level right. Now, what was the what was the budget of the film? Just a smidge under $30,000?

Alex Ferrari 20:38
Okay, so it's a it's an it's a low budget without What am i It's a argue or people will argue micro budget.

Daedalus Howell 20:44
Totally. It's, I don't even think it qualify for the micro budget sag agreement. Be ultra low. I mean, we didn't we paid. That's the thing. Here's the to keep within the budget, we flat rated all the performers. And so everyone got 100 bucks a day, across the board. And that, and that's great. Because that kind of that keeps the spirit of the thing alive. These people are getting paid, or paid actors, that's huge for them. Because we're often in small towns, just starting their careers. And that kind of thing

Alex Ferrari 21:10
That's huge is normally they wouldn't even get paid to be in a feature in a small town. So that's a big plus,

Daedalus Howell 21:16
You have to do it. You know, in hit us, we used a casting director remarkably, we have one up here, I guess, because there's a lot of extras needed when the big films come in. So and so this was the chance for the casting director to break some talent, and it was great for everyone. But we paid everyone which make some accountable. Right? They show up they take it seriously. But at 100 bucks a day where I think the minimum for a SAG agreement 125 I just couldn't make it pencil man. So they didn't get there, you know, sag units, but they don't care.

Alex Ferrari 21:46
Yeah, it's not about the second is how many days did you shoot, by the way

Daedalus Howell 21:50
20 and so here's the thing, man in the middle of our production, the big California fires in Northern California happened. And Petaluma wasn't affected necessarily, but all the surrounding area was and so we were smoked out and we had to shut down and reschedule which was pretty traumatic for a small scale production. And there's a moment of course, where I'm like, we're never going to get this done. This isn't gonna happen. But it's a Karen has a producer was able to like, triangulate, work it out, get all of the merchants to come back on board on different days. You know, the first thing that happens though, when there's a catastrophe like that is that all of the money's all of the donation kind of stuff, like the free catering kind of thing that goes right out the window, because they're diverting that energy and resources to, you know, people who actually need it, you know, fire victims, and that kind of thing completely makes sense. But that that was, that was something we never accounted for, of course, and we had to figure out how we're going to patch all these holes. You know, fortunately, there's a local woman who makes tamales. And so we, we lived on tamales for a week or so. But it was it was a

Alex Ferrari 22:52
Look can I, I want to tell you a quick story. My first film broken was my first short film in 2005. We shot in a like, it's arguably an abandoned hospital. But we like there's four floors that are abandoned, but the rest of the hospital is functional. So the basement was like in it's like from the 40s. In the 50s. There was like ancient stuff. And like there was entire entire, like floors full of props. Basically, they've just been sitting there for four decades. And they're like, go have it go at it. And they eventually originally, were going to be for 500 bucks. And at the end of it, they had such a good time with it. So like, yeah, don't worry about it. So we got the whole place, we got the whole place for free. But the problem was the week before we reshoot, a hurricane hit us because we're in West Palm Beach. So hurricane hit our area. And when we drove up there, like everything was destroyed. A lot of a lot of flooding happened, all of this stuff. So we just incorporated it all into the story. We just said screw it, we'll just we got a roll where we're shooting in five days is happening. But the best part was that FEMA, because it was a hospital set up shop there. And there was hundreds of 1000s of people in line outside while we're trying to shoot a movie, so you gotta roll with the punches sometimes

Daedalus Howell 24:07
Like now you have great production design and a cast of 1000s. Right. Yeah, that's yeah, that's that's the thing that when you're lean, small production, you're you can pivot like that, you know, and so if you do have a natural disaster, you can actually either incorporate it or at least in our case, reschedule and make it work. But so that that was a setback, but But generally speaking, everyone was appreciative and understanding of it and that kind of thing. And and so throughout our post production, we kept everyone abreast of what was happening, that kind of thing. Because once you go into post production, like, it's like, your film disappears. If you're in the cave for once, totally, and no one knows what's happening, or if it's ever going to or if it's ever going to happen. So we've been driven out.

Alex Ferrari 24:48
Well, I was gonna ask you, did you, you obviously understand who your target is, which you're very it's a very it's a niche audience, but it's a very broad, you know, you got a lot of spectrum of people there. So how did you realize that Your movie, which is an art arts floatation film, would would resonate with this audience. Did you do any mark? Did you do any market testing? Did you? Like what was the other than just being shot in that town? Do you think that was enough to gather everybody to come to see your movie?

Daedalus Howell 25:18
That was a start, that was definitely a platform that we could start with. But that's a great question. I knew that given the sort of demographic makeup here, it's a pretty rd town, we're very close to San Francisco. And there's a lot of a lot of people who go back and forth between here in the city. So it's sort of it's a suburb, so it's got a kind of a cosmopolitan edge to it in some ways. In the local movie theaters are multiplexes and and have the usual stuff. And so there's no arthouse films as such. So I always knew that I was going to pursue some kind of local theatrical distribution to kind of like to slake that thirst for that kind of content in this area, right. And so we're blessed that in that we got a couple of like old school venues that used to be old movie theaters that can still do it, that are now music venues and that kind of thing. And so, I always had an eye to like reviving this art house phenomenon in town. And

Alex Ferrari 26:18
So it's a consortium, if you will, a consortium of local local exhibitors.

Daedalus Howell 26:23
So yeah, that's my job. Because it's, you know, every small town has, most small towns have movie theaters, most movie theaters are gonna be owned by somebody, right. And that's often a local business person. Or if it's a chain, you can figure out where the basis of that chain is. And oftentimes the regionalised in, because of the nature of how these businesses put together, they're often they could be like a big AMC theater, but they're actually local franchisees, that kind of thing. And so, or something, I'm not sure for that particular chain, but that's how it often works. And so you can find through just through some internet sleuthing, like who actually owns the theater, right. And it's usually a small company, that kind of thing. Up here, we had, for, you know, a fairly small market, relatively speaking, two separate exhibition companies, right, that between the two of them represented most of the theaters in town. And so I knew that those guys had to be my friends. Right. And I needed to make a case that our film would be worth the risk of, of slotting you know, against the Avengers in this case, you know. And so, what we did was, I knew that a good healthy cast and crew screening would would, I just at this point, I had faith in the film, it was cut, we had a great mix, I knew that I knew that we had something that was really going to make the town lose their shit, right. And so I booked a theater in town called the mystic, which is one of these used one of these old single screen funky, fairly large venue, beautiful place that has turned into a music venue, but they still had the screen. And I approached them. And I said, Well, you know, what's your rate for single night screening, we're near casting crew, and it was like 3000 bucks. And again, you know, deal breaker for me. And so I made the case, hey, this is a local film, it's local talent. It's local, this local that I just really sold them on. This is your opportunity to be a hero to the cast and crew of this film and their friends and family and bring new eyes to this theater who haven't seen it in this capacity in 30 years. Right? I saw so they're like, yeah, it totally, exactly total muscle in and, and they saw the merit in that and they shaved it down to like 1000 bucks, then, which is great. Still, that's 1000 bucks, right? So then, in fact, I have one here. I got myself, a designer, my producer, and we made a program. And then we sold advertising in that program, right, to underwrite the production, or sorry, the the presentation of the cast and crew screening at the theater. So we sold 1000 bucks worth of advertising. Then, of course, he said to be printed, I go to the print shop, and like hey, man, I could go to you know, FedEx Kinkos or whatever. Or we could keep it local, you know, Petaluma printing, and, and we'll throw an ad in there and the guy just shaved it down to like, practically zero. We had to staple them ourselves. But we totally hustled it, and we pass these out, and everyone was happy. And so, you know, they're it, you know, it's like could put him in a special thanks. I did, you know, the credit roll, but the film was pretty locked to that point. But But all in all these advertisers were like, you know, and of course, they got to come the screening because as the thing, man, I wasn't selling any tickets. Right. I told the casting crew, come on down. Bring as many friends as you want the theaters capacity of 300, something like that. And I set it up on Eventbrite. So I can I could register that capacity and I wanted the on Eventbrite. You know, they show you how many tickets are remaining, even though they're free. You want to see that number like, dwindle and get down, down down in the surges, right? And so we packed that place beyond capacity. Right? We had a line out the door, which everyone wants to see, I invited all of the local press to see that line and the local exhibitors. So they come and they they see this film. And of course, you know, it's casting crew, everyone's cheering every time some new face pops on. It's a round of applause, right? It was a really spirited fun up great event, you know, the film's 80 minutes, so you're in and out, right? But we kept the party atmosphere going, it was really great. And in that what happens is the press the exhibitors, they come up to you like, that was really great. That was really exciting. You know, what's your next step? Next step is a bunch of lunches. The next week, we do a bunch of interviews, and we do some deals, right? We negotiate it with the exhibitors, they have, you know, theatrical exhibition, sorry, exhibition is kind of weird, where they, they need to, they kind of lost lead on the film, right. And so I'm films, right. So they're, they're moving popcorn concessions, that kind of thing. For the first few weeks, right, big film comes in, they take a dive on the ticket price, it but they're there. And then the longer the film stays there, the more their percentage of the box office goes up, as you know, and so I knew that I couldn't really tolerate that threshold, you know, because I needed to make the money now at this point. And so because of the nature of of our sort of awareness aware, the where the awareness we'd created in town and all that, and because I knew some press was coming up and all that, I was able to tell the story of getting into it, how we're having local exhibition, it makes the film seem successful, because no one gets distribution, right. And, you know, if unless you go out of 40 Mile Square radius, you don't know the film's not everywhere, right? It's in the movie theater. Right? And so we did a straight up 5050 split. Right, which is a sound for them. It's huge for them. Yeah. And so they got more money up front, on a Thursday night from our little film than they did with endgame, which is playing the theater next door, because there's five guys in there, right? Because yes, I film it been played out a little bit. And so it was a win for them. And it was a win for us. And, and they have all their stuff wired. So like, you know, they, they're taking the tickets and all that and we had to invoice them at the end of the month, they sent the money in the money shows up. And it's great. And so we ran for a couple of weeks in four different cities. That's the thing. That's what you don't want just one theater, you want it, you want to leverage your press, as as wide as you can. And in as many markets as you can, even though it's ostensibly the same community in the same type of audience. They live in different places sometimes. And we have enough regional media that I was able to, like, push that. And once you get one story, you can push that story to other places. I got lucky because one of the newspaper chains here has reported that, you know, they're cheap on the reporter. So they get the one guy to write it, but they run it in three different papers, right? Mm hmm. Fine by me. So here, here's an example. You know, here's, there's one clip. Right. You know, and this is, of course, the hardcopy, it has more of a life online, you know, is another clip, right? Same article, same exact article, this one was different. This is a shot from the movie, this is the cover man of a local alternative news weekly. And they, they just jumped on it, man, we made it a story. Because we had 300 People who had a great time talking about how great it was, and then looking for the paper. So then that's how you did it, man, you start small and you keep it focused and you and you knock on the doors that you know will open for you in your town and and you keep the spirit alive with it. And so so this all snowballed to our Amazon released but anyway, that's that's kind of like the

Alex Ferrari 33:46
So how much did you make on this theatrical release? What was the kind of revenue generally speaking,

Daedalus Howell 33:51
We were making about 1000 bucks a week. Right? And so it made a dent in in our, our initial outlay, and I say the thing that all the film was in part, underwritten by Indiegogo, right, not significantly but a few 1000 bucks, we got a private donor, right who came in for a couple grand to begin with. And then midway through I'm like, I need more money and and I so I just asked him again and he was cool enough and kick kick down into the few grand and our post we did ourselves we built our own you know system, you know, out of bits and pieces and use Premiere in this case. We got a real break though in the mix Central Post la down there up up arm did our did our mix through. I did some music videos for these guys back when they're running some label stuff. And my brother is kind of a mid level Rockstar worked with those guys. And so they did the mix for free. I mean, that's that was huge. Wow. Yeah. And so I shouldn't say for free they they

Alex Ferrari 34:49
Deferred points.

Daedalus Howell 34:53
And they're great associate producers. I'm very happy to work with them. And if you ever need good postman that's where it's at. Good I see producer credit. But so we we made a dent in that and then or so that's that's for one theater. So that so we had four theaters, some theaters do better than others in ran multiple nights in in most of them. Let me backtrack a little bit. We didn't have enough money to make the film when we started. But we knew that we could keep making money while we're making the film to keep paying everyone and paying it off. And I

Alex Ferrari 35:27
I think that's a dangerous business plan, sir.

Daedalus Howell 35:30
Well, is it though, because you can either not make your film, you can either wait till you have your whole budget and not make the sum or you can know that you're going to you know, you have your day job, and you're going to sink a little bit of your paycheck,

Alex Ferrari 35:43
As long as you have if you have a revenue stream that you know, it's coming to cover your nut, then yes, yeah, I've seen too many filmmakers start, like we got 10 grand, but we really need 50, we're just gonna start, we don't know where the other 40 are coming from. That's dangerous.

Daedalus Howell 35:58
No, that is dangerous. I don't advise that. But I do advise making a film if you know that you that if you don't have the budget all at once that you're at least going to accumulate the budget, actually accumulate it not pretend you are but actually know you're going to earn that money or acquire that money through production and post mostly in archives so that you actually are still making that film, there's nothing worse than having a you know, a film on your hard drive, and waiting for somebody to write a check, that's not going to happen and you never do it. It's better just to keep moving as best you can, and then keep it as cheap as possible. So we're so this is 30 grand, but this is this is 30 grand over 18 months, that's still a lot of money. But that's a lot of money in in smaller chunks.

Alex Ferrari 36:38
So what was it? What was the total that you actually had to recoup? After everything was done?

Daedalus Howell 36:45
Oh, of our own actual outlay? Yeah. Right.

Alex Ferrari 36:48
And investors are donation? Is it all donations? Or

Daedalus Howell 36:52
It was all it was all donations or Indiegogo kind of stuff.

Alex Ferrari 36:55
So like actual money you had like, what was the what was the the, to make this go into the black?

Daedalus Howell 37:01
To recoup our personal out of pocket expenses, we only needed about eight grand. You know,

Alex Ferrari 37:09
If you can't make eight grand with an independent film, then you really shouldn't be making an independent film.

Daedalus Howell 37:14
Right in and you can do that. And the great thing is, you know, we own it, too, you know, and it's part of that. Yeah, and it's part of this growing library. And now it lives online. And you know, Amazon sends us little statements every you know, and so if well, did I need to send it I check every day. But but there's it's better to have done and do and start building your your intellectual property empire and have something to leverage. And here's the thing with Pierhead. It's not a standalone property, the way I constructed it, it speaks to in an actually features other things that I've done. So there's this character who has a book called Quantum deadline. That's a kind of a MacGuffin in the movie, which is also a book that I wrote that's published in so I'm selling the book, in conjunction with the movie product placement product. Yeah, but it's, but it's not just product placement. It's it's a plot device. It's it's transmedia. You see, it's, it's it, they share the same story world. So the movie and the book are kind of exist in the the Luma verse for lack of a better term. And so that's, that's, that's how I'm kind of thinking this long term. It's like keep building in keep building the world and properties that exist within that world, in own all of it. And so it could be a longer game, but it's a better game to play. I think.

Alex Ferrari 38:34
So then how did you How was your online marketing game? Like? How did you guys you know, you have this audience that you're trying to reach? How did you reach this audience? How did you, you know, reach out to this audience, your regional audience, and then also beyond?

Daedalus Howell 38:50
So what I did first for the regional audience, because we did that cast and crew screening, through Eventbrite, which, you know, it's just a, you know, it's a free ticketing service at the level, we were doing it that allowed me to capture all of their emails. So not only did I have my cast and crew emails, I had all their friends and family at that point. And so, so that was a list of, you know, 300 plus people, which doesn't sound huge, but it is huge. When you want your numbers to spike on your on your first day of releasing, as you say, Hey, everyone, remember that great time we all had last month or a couple months ago. If you missed it in theaters, here's here's the chance to really deep dive into this film. And I hope that the film can endure repeat viewings. And so because it's got a lot of easter eggs and stuff like that in it. And so that's how we did it. We just did a blast, encourage everyone to share it. Of course, we leverage social all that you can triangulate through emails, like you know, where people are on different social platforms, and you can invite them to fan you know, like your fan page and that kind of thing. And so that's how I started and then I started with press releases and just sending them out to places that I thought would cover the film. And I'm still in that process in trying to try to Push the online. But that's a little. So that's a little outside of the regional model. That's a whole different kind of, it's more traditional in that this

Alex Ferrari 40:10
It's another revenue stream. It's a hybrid. It's a hybrid model.

Daedalus Howell 40:13
Yeah. And you have to keep doing that and keep that alive, because it keeps in the consciousness. And so I send out a press release, or some sort of appeal to a reviewer or a blogger. And then it doesn't have to be like, you know, a huge place any, any mention helps, you know, and so that's what I do. And it only takes you know, it's templatized at this point, so it takes a couple of minutes every day, or every, every week in my case. And that's what I'm doing

Alex Ferrari 40:36
Now. And do you did you use? Like, have you built an online community on Facebook at all or on different social media platforms?

Daedalus Howell 40:44
Yeah, so I because I was a local author and all that I was able to use my my own kind of presence, right. And so I'm generally the face of the film, even though there's a wonderful cast and crew. This I got to push it right. And so through my own Facebook, you know, I've got like, only 1500 followers, but they're really great. And they're really responsive. And so they're not like your tribe where they you know, if you ask them to, you know, march in and take bullets for you.

Alex Ferrari 41:08
I don't I don't know, you given way too much credit, sir. Giving me a way too much credit

Daedalus Howell 41:13
My tribe goes, Oh, this guy, this asshole again. All right. But it keeps it keeps it moving. And, and I know it's working. Because I see I see the you know, the hockey stick, you know, in my Amazon results, but I also get really great feedback. For whatever reason, pill head is the kind of film that people if they get into it, want to talk about it and tell me about it, which is really great. And so I've I've met people online and just hey, I watch your film, man. I really dig it. Did you mean this by that? That kind of thing. They're trying to decode some things. The dude I was speaking with yesterday on the radio, kind of nerded out on me. I didn't. He was putting out things that were in my opinion in the film, but I was like, Yeah, dude. SURE that you believe that? Let's go for that. And I don't mean that like in like a cynical way. I just mean, like, you know, you know what it's like people find something that you didn't maybe intend, but that's important to them. And it's important to let them have that.

Alex Ferrari 42:06
Oh, there's no question. I mean, I know Kubrick understood that very well.

Daedalus Howell 42:12
Yeah, he was brilliant. Not even talking about anything, you know,

Alex Ferrari 42:14
Exactly. Just like you guys figure out what I meant. I you know, it's much more interesting. Now, did you at any point, did you consider doing traditional distribution? Did you go down that road at all? Or was this planned from the beginning and like, we're doing this all the way?

Daedalus Howell 42:32
Okay, it was planned from the beginning that we were going to make a cause like, a completely comprehensively unmarketable film. Right. In that was in I mean, it sounds weird. It sounds like a like a rational after the fact. But truly, Alex, my producer, and I were like, we had done some conceptual art installations. We were, we were all about the creative, and which can be healthy thing, but also it's not going to make any money. Right. The idea was to make the film, we wanted to make a bout this place for this place. And that was the audience. So as long as we stood, you know, kept kept to the the principle like this is Petaluma film for Peda lumens. That was going to be enough to take it over the the, you know, the hump, but but there is that little part of you. Of course that goes. It would be cool, though, if this got picked up, and it would be a hell of a lot easier if it did. And, and so early on, I looked at the distributors that were distributing the kind of films in the A, the arthouse films have a peculiar kind of psychedelic nature, like like this one. And, and, you know, comes down to like, there's the big ones like Annapurna, and a 24, that kind of thing. And there's like a little ones like oscilloscope, none of those guys want to talk to me, it's, it's so and and I knew that and I kind of needed to lob that out there to confirm for myself that I'm, I gotta stay on my path, right? And even if they wanted to pick it up, if they I don't think there's the investment for this kind of film. And this film was so regional in its in its scope, that it wouldn't make sense really outside in some ways. However, I found it a little more universal mathematically than then. I'm probably giving a credit for but but no, I, you know, there's there's the, the darkness is always lurking, right. And it's in the seduction of, you know, breaking through somehow, as always there but you gotta stick to your own thing. It's the only, you know,

Alex Ferrari 44:34
And then how about film festivals, you didn't decide to go down to film festival route either.

Daedalus Howell 44:38
I considered it and I remember looking at the Filmfreeway you know, lineup and thinking this one looks good. That one looks good. I did the you know, I took pleasure in submitting to Sundance and giving them my $100 to sit.

Alex Ferrari 44:56
So it's a fantastic donation. Yeah. And that's and

Daedalus Howell 44:59
I knew going in. I had never submitted a film to Sundance, I had no delusion that it was going to get in. But I wanted to have participated in that. Finally, does that make sense?

Alex Ferrari 45:09
It's worse. It's such a strange such a strange Sundance is such a unique Film Festival in the in the scope of the world. I mean, unlike any other film festival anywhere in the world, especially for people in the US, Sundance is it, and we know that it's astronomical to get accepted. We know we have almost a better chance of winning a lottery or a scratch off than we do of getting our film in was last year, it was like 15,800 submissions. and 120 P films got in including shorts. So if you go go on the features, it's even less like the chances of you getting in are so astronomical. But then we all turn it to Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber you're saying, but there's still a chance. But you're saying there's a chance. And that little dream is what kind of, you know, look, I fell into it. Like when I made the ego and desire, which was a film about Sundance at Sundance, yeah, at Sundance without Sundance permission, I waited a year to submit to them, because I was like, if I'm ever going to get a chance, this is it. And I wasted a year, you know, I wasted a year of my time, you know, chasing that film festival dream. So I always find it fascinating when film, filmmakers now are just saying, You know what, I don't think the film festival route is for me. And it's not for everything. And it's not what it was in the 90s. Like, you know, like Sundance was stamping them out. They don't do that anymore. There is no festival that does that anymore.

Daedalus Howell 46:42
Right in festival, the festival culture has changed quite a bit to in what's considered a festival where the film is way different. Right? And not just in terms of, you know, production value and that kind of thing. But you know, a lot of the one stars a lot of them want

Alex Ferrari 46:56
They want asses and seats, they want asses and seats, they want press and that's look at start, you need star power. There's two ways you get into a film festival star power so that you can prove that you can fill that that those seats in those showings by your audience, whatever, that if you're a YouTuber who made a film, and you say, hey, look, I got 5 million subscribers. And I'm going to get how many seats do you need? 300 filled? Yeah, that's not a problem. Yeah, that's yeah,

Daedalus Howell 47:23
I didn't have that. And so I knew that I would have to, like, make my breaks. The other thing was, I was I put myself on this timeline, right? I booked the first screening before the film was done. Right? Because I needed the deadline. And I needed to, like really push it. And I know that sounds a little risky. But we have the technology, you know, it just takes the drive to finish. And so he did. I mean, like up all night, you know, that kind of stuff. But it was worth it. And it's exciting, you know, but no, this is not a festival film, man. And that was that was kind of a weird thing to accept, you know, because I, you know, I'd been everyone we've been through these festivals, we've seen what the culture is like, it's fun, but it just has changed. And there's such a delusion of content now. And our little black and white weird art flick is just not the kind of thing that's gonna play.

Alex Ferrari 48:13
It's not and trust me, like I, you know, with ego and desire, I was rejected from all the major festivals. I mean, I got into rain dance, I got a world premiere at Rain Dance, which was huge. That's pretty great. Yes, it was really, I was so blessed about that. But I was rejected by every other one. And I realized I was like, you know, I think other festivals just have a big stick up their butt about promoting Sundance at their festival. Like you don't want to be thinking about another festival while you're at my festival. That's interesting. Yeah. And I was like, Yeah, because anyone who watches the film really enjoys it. It's a filmmaking movie. It's about filmmakers selling a movie at a festival. Like why? Why wouldn't that play? It's a perfect film festival movie. Yet it didn't sell. It's odd man. I've seen I've look. I've been in over 600 festivals throughout my career with all my projects. It's changed. So so much in your

Daedalus Howell 49:05
Yeah, tastes are different to me. Like the people who go to film festivals. It's, it's usually an older demographic now. And there's a lot of baby boomers. They're kind of looking for the thing that speaks to them. You know, no one wants your punk rock or your movie, you know, it's better to project it unless Brad Pitt's in it unless Brad Pitt unless Brad Pitt's in it. And if Brad Pitt's in your punk rock movie, it's not a punk rock movie anymore, man. See, I mean, so.

Alex Ferrari 49:24
Exactly. So you've got

Daedalus Howell 49:27
Brad Pitt he's great but

Alex Ferrari 49:28
But there's there there's that whole thing is well, it's It's remarkable, man. But look it also I wanted to say I saw on your website, you have some merch? Have you been selling that merch? Has it made any money? Have you created any revenue off of it?

Daedalus Howell 49:41
Yeah. And so that that's the thing, I put it all on the front page of D howell.com. And that that's a constant stream. It's really great man. It's not like huge, but it's definitely buying groceries. You know selling Yeah, I'm selling the film. I'm selling the books that are related to the film and on the site. You can you see that I kind of make explaining What I'm doing this is all one world. And these are the different pieces and you can you can dive into the book or you can watch the movie and there's more to come and stay with me and that kind of thing. It's just the beginning. But it's, it's, it's like the foundation, you know, for like a personal content empire, you know, it's like,

Alex Ferrari 50:17
But that's that's where the future is man. That is, that's, I believe, truly believe that's where the future of independent film is going. It's not this one movie that's going to get me to where I want to go, it's like, it's going to be the grind. It's the film after film, building a portfolio, not selling out to distributors, or creating some hybrid distribution deal where you maintain some sort of control over your your film, not for 15 years, but for five or three things that there's so many different ways of going about it. And this is the future, I think that what you're doing is fantastic.

Daedalus Howell 50:51
I think that one of the tricks though, is to keep it coherent in its own universe, because people want you know, we see this with binging on Netflix, and that kind of thing, I find that audiences if they're going to invest in your your thing, your story, they want to, they want to be like rewarded for for that investment. And you got to do that by giving them another story. Just like the other one. I'm not saying the same plot thing. I'm saying like the same world, allow them to dive into something that you keep building out for them, that keeps them in, in interested in that world. I think the as filmmakers, we want to always do something new and novel and all that. But if you can commit to a story world with characters within it that you can explore, I think that's better. I think it's better to corral everything under some kind of some kind of unifying concept. Like, you know, I'll use the obvious example of Star Wars. Star Wars is like a world and all this universe, frankly, and all this stuff is in it, right? And there's no dearth of story material, you can, there's always a new spur someplace to go. I think if I can encourage anyone, if you're if you want to build a foundation, that blossoms into a business, keep it consistent unto itself. And another that can feel like you're locking yourself into something, but if at all possible, because synergies develop, right. And I'm not like selling like, you know, millions of copies of quantum deadlines that I've sold more this year with this movie, because of the relationship between those two projects than I that I have prior to that, you know, and hopefully one feeds the other that kind of thing. And as I roll out new material that speaks that place in the same playground, it'll keep growing exponentially.

Alex Ferrari 52:22
And it's similar to what I've done with my films with like, this is mag, and you know, what this is mag is not specifically a filmmaker movie, but it's a movie about the industry. It's about an actress. Yeah, it's about the industry. But it's also, you know, really, it's part of my ecosystem of indie film, hustle. So I created multiple revenue streams off of it, in addition to just the actual sales of it, and licensing and things like that. But now with ego and desire, which is coming out, as of this recording, it's coming out in in less than a month. Hopefully, that is going to be real product placement. And real interesting, because that is a product that is designed for the tribe like it is designed for a filmmaker, an independent filmmaker, like if, I mean, I wanted if I would see this commercial, I see this trailer, I'll be like, I've got to see that.

Daedalus Howell 53:12
Right, right. No, that's Yeah, totally. That's exactly what I'm talking about. You've you, that's your niche is kind of turning the camera back on the camera, you know, and exploring the nature of independent film, that's a perfect sweet spot for you. It's great in everything dovetails perfectly, right, it's a coherent brand proposition, I think you're onto something

Alex Ferrari 53:30
And that's it. That's what I've been trying to do. And I you know, and shooting for the mob, which is a book about my filmmaking, and then I've got the new book, whereas with films like it, there's a there's, you could see the film entrepreneur aspects of my business, you know, I and you have, to an extent, you've created multiple revenue streams coming in, and you're not getting you're not retiring off of them. I'm not retiring off of anything. You know, it's it's work, it's a hustle, but it's, it's a keeps the roof off over my head. Lights are on family is fed, we go on a vacation here or there. Life is good, you know, you know, and I live in Los Angeles, for God's sakes. So I mean, like, I wish I lived somewhere else that you know, house costs, you know, but I'm here and in this kind of world that I'm building out as a film entrepreneur is something that's able to sustain me and my family and and you're doing you're doing something similar so that's one of the reasons why I want to jump on the show, man it's really great stuff, man.

Daedalus Howell 54:29
Oh, cool. Yeah, there's that threshold I think for me it's about 18 months, maybe two years out where I hope that the revenue from all these endeavors begins to catch up in Eclipse you know the other work I have to do you know, I'm a writer so I write regardless so you know, I write for clients or write for magazines or newspapers, that kind of thing. And but I I feel a tipping points coming and eventually it's gonna you know, and that's, that's, if you can make it like that. That's the best way to make it man where you made it yourself. And we all have help along the way and all that Yeah, we help others along the way, I hope but But ultimately, you built your own kingdom you built your own empire Alex and and I think that everyone should endeavor to do that, because I think that we're gonna be a bunch of micro studios in 5-10 years.

Alex Ferrari 55:12
But that's but that's the go to the 100% we have to be our own businesses, we have to be our own corporations, we have to be our own studios. And I got to that tipping point, probably around two, two and a half years in, is I got to that tipping point where I just said to my wife, I'm like, I don't think I need to do post anymore. I you know, if a directing gig comes along, I like it, I'll take it, you know, but I don't have to do it anymore. And that is most wonderful feeling. For someone who's been hustling for 20 odd years in this business to just wake up every morning and go do what I love to do. It's the dream. It really is the dream. I'm so blessed and humbled by it. And and that's what you're doing on your end with your films, man. So congrats, man. Seriously,

Daedalus Howell 55:55
Thank you appreciate it. Yeah. I have to say, though, the way you do things, I really appreciate the openness and the way that you share how you accomplish these things. That's something I'm trying to engineer figure out a way to incorporate into what I'm doing. So because they're the give back factor is pretty huge. I mean, as we talked earlier, I without listening to indie film, hustle all that and kind of keeping the spirit of film alive in my head. I don't think I would have gotten to this point. And I think that if there's a way that filmmakers filmmakers can bake in some kind of way of acknowledging or helping kind of keep the community growing, all the better. I don't know what that is for me yet. Perhaps I'll figure it out. But

Alex Ferrari 56:40
The as as I don't know who said this, but if I forgot who philosopher said this, but he says, If you want to, if you want to succeed, help someone else succeed, right, and steal from them, and then obviously, then knock them over the head and take no, but but I've discovered by giving is, the greatest strength I have is because I am of service to my community, I give as much as I possibly can. Sometimes I give give too much, I give away 95% of my information for free. And I only charge for about 5% of what I do every day on a daily basis. You know, I could easily there's some podcasts that I do some interviews with some people that I'm like, I could charge 20 bucks for this is amazing information. And I give it away for free. Because I just found and I discovered that when you pay it forward, man, it comes back to you. And now it's addictive for me like I can't not give I cannot be of service. It's part of my DNA now. So wherever I meet someone, right, sure, you know, there's only there's only one of me, so I can't do it as much as I would like. But as much as you can give. And as filmmakers, you have to find that, that thing inside of you, that you want to be of service. And that be of service could be making a regional movie for your community of a film, that's a mark, that's a that's a a need in that in that marketplace. And you're being of service to that community, giving them a light that they haven't seen before. It doesn't have to be grandiose, it could be something very small. But when you discover that being of service aspect, and you should incorporate that in any way shape, or form you can through your work it is it's so much better than the Me me me vibe that I had back in the day when I was coming up when my ego was out of control and all sorts of craziness that I've gone through in my my career. That's why That's why anytime I meet a filmmaker, which I'm sure you've met too, who are just so ridiculous. That's why I may be going desire because I just had to had to make fun. It's so ridiculous. That I say it's all good man, don't I there's nothing I need to say to you. The business will take care of you. Life will take care of you. Yeah, it's and you might have some success here there. But I promise you, the hammers coming. It always comes and I don't care who you are, it always comes. So you will be humbled. If it's not. It's not me to do it. I won't humbly tell you, do you.

Daedalus Howell 59:11
I think that there's a tick in filmmakers, I think filmmakers, especially in the indie realm are intrinsically problem solvers. Right? constantly figuring out how to do something, or fix something or whatever, patch the holes of somewhere. And I think when you see problems in, in, like, the community, like in terms of like accomplishing something or making a film, that kind of thing, you there's an impulse to want to fix it or help somebody like, Dude, you're doing this wrong, man, this is how you do it. And I think maybe that's where it comes from. At first. Were you just like, Oh, I gotta help this guy. He's, you know, he's gonna waste everything here and I don't know, it's it's, it's a fascinating place to be and maybe it's just maybe I'm just getting older, you know? And then

Alex Ferrari 59:51
Don't underestimate the power of age, brother. I'm telling you, man, I mean, I look when I was 20 Oh, oh, I would I would slap my You know, it takes years of shrapnel it takes that that that kind of that rhinoceros skin that you've got to develop because of all the just the bruising and the battles and the and the punches and the, you know, the cuts, and the scarring that you have to go through in this business and I'm not being dramatic, it's the truth. Like we all go through it. And as you get older, you just start figuring things out. And that's what I try to do with this podcast. I try to like, give them a little bit of a shortcut. I still want them to go through their pain, but it's one thing to be sideswiped by an MMA fighter who's sitting next to you. And another thing is if someone says, Dude, there's an MMA fighter right next to you, you will be punched any minute now. There's a huge difference between you're gonna get punched, but understanding it preparing for that budget is a whole other story

Daedalus Howell 1:00:51
Well put. Yeah, good. The MMA metaphor. I love it. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:00:54
It's I always call ego is the MMA fighter that sits on your shoulder that that's what ego is because it'll be he'll be quiet. Sometimes you'll be like, quiet down quiet. He's fine. But he's just waiting for that moment, where there's an opening, and there's always that moment, you're like, Hey, maybe I am not that, boom. And that's it. You're out like, Hey, maybe I am really this good. Boom, there you go. You're out. And ego is always there waiting for you. And you've got to kind of flatten it and it takes forever. So I use that analogy all the time that MMA fighters always on my shoulder.

Daedalus Howell 1:01:28
That's good. That's good.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:29
Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all of my films or printers, sir. What advice would you give a filmtrepreneur starting a project today?

Daedalus Howell 1:01:37
Really focus on the writing, that's the one thing you can do for free yourself and get right with enough practice and dedication to it. Make sure that script is story worthy and shoot in shooting where they first just, you can't fix, you can't fix bad writing and post you can edit it around some stuff. But even in my own experience, there are scenes where I go eat if I just spent one more day on a draft, I could have cleared up a lot of problems for myself. Just make sure that things written first write it

Alex Ferrari 1:02:06
Fair enough. Now what is the biggest lesson you learned from building your company building what you're trying to do with your film company.

Daedalus Howell 1:02:15
So go in on getting professional advice for setting it up correctly. If you're going to do an LLC, or, or a sole proprietorship, whatever you're gonna do, just make sure you actually set it up as a business and do it legitimately. Sometimes, if you're going to have your business is going to have what they call a fictitious name. And by that it's like again, it's not your own. Yeah, DBA go through the hoops. Just check all the boxes, it's worth it and and it sets you up for success. You don't want to have to like mess with your taxes. You don't want to have to mess with all this stuff. That's just gonna slow you down artistically. Do it right. And if you have to pay a little bit for it, do that.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:52
And get an account.

Daedalus Howell 1:02:54
That's a great point. Accountants, you know, cheap. Total bookkeepers is way cheaper than you think, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:03:01
A lot cheaper, than you're doing it yourself man. I could tell you that much.

Daedalus Howell 1:03:04
Especially when you mess it up. Yeah, it especially in production. Having a bookkeeper? I didn't didn't have one until ahead. I really wish I did. Because it would have been so much easier just to have it happening every week. Everyone gets paid. Versus do I get my check? It's midnight. I'm you know, like, well, let me get let me get the book out. Yeah, no, just pay the 200 bucks, whatever. It's nothing.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:24
Yeah, it's no, it's it's, it's a good ROI. And an ROTC return on time and return on investment Ah, yes. Yeah. Because, you know, a lot of us, as filmmakers, especially us guys, here at the micro budget level, we always want to save a buck, but you got to be smart on where you save it. Because if you save $5, but if you pay that $5, not $5 will save you an hour or two in work, or time does it makes is your time worth more than $5? Right? Could you be doing something else that could generate more revenue, or help the project farther along? That is such a huge, huge thing.

Daedalus Howell 1:04:03
That's a great point. Let the pros do the pro stuff, you know? Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:04:07
Fair enough. Fair enough. Fair enough. Now, what what did you learn from your biggest business failure?

Daedalus Howell 1:04:13
Hmm, well, that wasn't necessarily this project.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:17
No, no, no, no, in this business in general.

Daedalus Howell 1:04:19
Um, there's a lot of people who are often not invested in your success. Shocking. Yes. And it's, it's important to recognize that and get rid of them early. Not that anyone may be intentionally sabotaging you, but they may unconsciously have a grudge and you might be carrying them with you and you want to drop them as soon as you can. We see this in creative stuff. Sometimes, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:04:48
Some just not all the time just sometimes.

Daedalus Howell 1:04:53
Just sometimes. This guy suck. You know, there's just there are energy vampires, you know that they want to be close to you Because you got the thing and they don't and they're gonna take it from you. Bit by bit drop by drop papercuts death by pet. Yeah, in they may not even know they're doing it, get rid of them. It's okay to get rid of them.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:13
It took me a long time to figure that out a long time to figure that out. Now in your opinion, what is the definition of a filmtrepreneur?

Daedalus Howell 1:05:23
A filmtrepreneur is someone who endeavors to make filmmaking their live their live in livelihood and by pragmatic and judicious execution of the their, their talent in the cinematic space.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:43
Sorry, you're a wordsmith, sir. Obviously,

Daedalus Howell 1:05:45
No that sounds a little put on. That again, I was I was reaching their films I film a filmtrepreneur is is somebody who, who knows that to make films, they have to make films that that sustain them ultimately. And so by by being smart as as, as well as pragmatic, is the way to go.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:08
Now where can people find you your movie and what you're doing?

Daedalus Howell 1:06:12
Yeah, I'm at DHowell. It's Dhowell.com. And if you want to go directly to the business, it's culturedepartment.com culturedept.com. I'm on Facebook at Daedelus Howell don't even bother Dhowell.com. There's links everywhere I swear. And until hits on Amazon, go to Amazon watch pillhead You can see how I did it.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:33
Yeah. Is it on prime? Or is it on just rental? And

Daedalus Howell 1:06:36
It's on prime yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:37
Nice. Fantastic. Are you finding that you're making? You're making good money on prime as opposed to rental and purchase?

Daedalus Howell 1:06:43
That's a great question. I I'm finding it's not quite as juicy. In terms of prime. But I'm prime is kind of a long term play for me, because I'm trying to push it a lot. And it's easy to get people to watch it if they're not paying out of pocket. Sure. Like, it's a little frictionless. And so I'm kind of in a in a marketing push right now. And so I'm sending out links to, you know, bloggers and stuff like that. I want them to be able to click it, watch it, love it, talk about it. So that's kind of where I'm at right now. So yeah, there's a bit of a little bit of decline. But you know, the great thing about prime though, it's like it's opened up in the UK now. So the film's kind of getting a different audience, that kind of thing. less friction, long term play. I'm a little I'm still on the fence about it a little bit to be honest.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:24
But you're but you're huge in Turkey. So that's all really that matters. You can't walk the streets in Turkey, sir. So

Daedalus Howell 1:07:32
I can't anyway, but yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:07:35
Brother, man, I appreciate you coming on and being so transparent and forthcoming with the tribe, man. So thank you so much for dropping those knowledge bombs, brother.

Daedalus Howell 1:07:44
Oh, thanks for having me. This is a real privilege and pleasure. I really truly appreciate it, man. Thank you. Yeah.

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IFH 539: How to Make an Indie Film Against All Odds with Tzvi Friedman

Tzvi Friedman

As filmmakers we all have challenges to make our films. Today’s guest had to deal with obstacles that most of us would never have to. We have on the show filmmaker Tzvi Friedman and he has on heck of a story to tell.

Tzvi is a writer and director based in NYC. He was born and raised in an ultra-religious community where almost all cinema was contraband. Growing up he secretly watched countless movies under his covers and sneaking off to the cinemas. At 18 he started making films, becoming a social outcast, but that didn’t stop him.

He has since directed multiple short films. At 21 he crowdfunded $10,000 dollars and made his first feature Man.

Tortured by his inability to feel emotional or physical pain, a man finds murder to be his only respite – until he meets a lonely woman whose compassion awakens something inside.

After he finished shooting the film, by some miracle, veteran producer Cary Woods (Swingers, Scream, Godzilla, and Rudy) discovered his film and jumped on as an executive producer to help Tzvi finish the film.

Enjoy my inspirational conversation with Tzvi Friedman.

Right-click here to download the MP3

 

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I like to welcome the show. It's the Tzvi Friedman, how're you doing?

Tzvi Friedman 0:15
I'm doing good. I'm doing good. How are you Alex?

Alex Ferrari 0:17
I'm doing good brother. I'm doing good, man. Thank you for coming on the show, like we were talking about earlier, before we got on the air is I get, I get hit up almost 20 30 times a day now. Without question by filmmakers wanting to be on the show. And I try to make I try to make as much room as I can. But at a certain point, we can't hear the same story again and again and again. You know, like, you know, I've made my movie for 5000 bucks. That's great. And if it was 1991, I'd probably have you on the show much faster. But your story actually kind of has a very unique, it has a few unique elements to it. So we're going to get into that as well. But can you tell the audience a little bit? Because you were talking earlier. You've you found me. You've been listening to me for a little while. So how did you find me? And and how have I been able to even help you? On your on your path?

Tzvi Friedman 1:04
Yeah, sure. So basically, you know, when I decided to get into filmmaking, I knew right away, I wasn't going to do the college route, the film school route, for various reasons. So you know, YouTube, to me was sort of the, you know, wealth of information. Everything is on YouTube nowadays. And you can also listen to various channels, and one of them was Indie Film Hustle. I mean, I have a lot of friends who listened to you and all your channel, you know, pretty popular among us some, uh, we call the underground filmmakers. So, yeah, so we just listened to it. And I also saw your evolution, which is pretty wild. You know, like, I remember, you were talking to, you know, sort of like mid level producers and directors and now you're talking to Oliver Stone. And you know, it's pretty, pretty crazy. And congratulations to that.

Alex Ferrari 1:53
Thank you know, I've been I've been very, I've been very humbled and blessed to be be speaking to the people I've been speaking to lately. And it's been, it's, it's been humbling to say the least, man. And it's, I'm glad and a lot of my audience have heard just told me that they're like, man, I've seen you when I was there at the beginning, when you were just talking to like, you know, you know, just young filmmakers. And now you're, you're talking to, you know, legends and things. And it's been very, I look, man, if I can get any information out of those guys, and gals, and bring it to the underground filmmaker, to an independent filmmaker who didn't have the opportunity to sit down for an hour to talk to I would I want to, I want to be able to do that. So, but thanks, man, I'm glad. I'm glad I've been of service to you on your journey. And I always find it fascinating how you how people find me, and like and how it you know, because I don't get to talk to people often. You know, listeners I generally, and you see them at a film festival every once in a while. So how did you get started in the business? Man, what made you want to jump into this ridiculous business?

Tzvi Friedman 2:55
Was a good question. I don't know if I made the right choice no I'm kidding. Um, it wasn't really like that. It wasn't really so much of a business. And like most of us, you know, it was, um, you know, I was obsessed with movies from a very young age, I didn't really know that somebody made movies, you know, you don't realize that there's like, somebody orchestrating the, you know, the story. I'm actually I think I wanted to be an actor to tell the truth on way back like that. Like, I think that I wanted to be in the movies. That's all I wanted. From a pretty young age. And then I'm not sure exactly when I realized that there was a director, I think it might have been a mini doc about the making of Lord of the Rings. And I remember seeing Peter Jackson, it was like two in the morning or something. It might have been the hobbit I'm not sure. Anyways, and he's driving to like, pick up the DP or something. And just like the whole vibe, and the whole, you know, they're all joking around. And I think that might have been, you know, when I started to realize that there was this one guy, you know, there's puppeteer, basically. Um, and then I just became obsessed with the concept of the director, you know, and, yeah, yeah. So

Alex Ferrari 4:03
I remember I remember in The Lord of the Rings, Docs, this is when the First Lord of the Rings came out, that he released that same DVD set that just had like seven hours or 10 hours of like, how they made it on each movie. And the one thing I always never forgot is that he had his, he had his crew carry around a lazy boy. And that was his director's chair. Like a recliner, like a full not like a director's chair. He like how to full recliner and they would just carried around from set to set, and he would sit there and he do everything and then he get up. I was like, why hasn't that become a thing? I have no idea.

Tzvi Friedman 4:41
Well that's Peter Jackson though, you know,

Alex Ferrari 4:43
If you're Peter Jackson, and you've already released the first Lord of the Rings, I think you can get away with this stuff. By the way, everyone listening. If you're an independent filmmaker, do not I repeat, do not bring a recliner on set and say it's your director's chair. People will hate you

Tzvi Friedman 5:00
Yeah. Yeah, sorry. No, no, no, just about the director's chair. I remember, you know, my first few short films, I never sat down, you know, just sure the whole time adrenaline rush. I remember seeing Roger Corman, you know, very some interview of his not too long ago, he must have been pretty sure he's still alive, right?

Alex Ferrari 5:21
Yes, he is still alive.

Tzvi Friedman 5:24
And he was saying how, you know, asking, like directors advice, and you think he's gonna talk about lenses and whatever, or whatever it might be. And he says, just make sure to have a chair to sit down. And you know, that was his. That was his advice.

Alex Ferrari 5:38
I spoke to a steady cam, I think that the inventor of the steady cam, and he goes, What's the best piece of advice for anybody who wants to learn a steady game, and he's like, good shoes. Comfortable shoes is the biggest piece of advice. Now, tell me a little bit about your background, before you jumped into filmmaking? Because from what you told me in your email, you know, filmmaking is not really looked nice, very positively by your family. So how did what would that? Because that what are the struggles you had to deal with with that?

Tzvi Friedman 6:12
Yeah, so you know, I'll speak vaguely a little bit, because I don't want to get into much rattled, but I'm sure but basically, I come from a religious community or ultra orthodox community, Jewish community. And I think like a lot of very far right, religious communities. That's a far right, I don't mean politically far out, I mean, religiously, very conservative. They have a weird relationship with movies in general, and with Hollywood business, just the concept of Hollywood, Hollywood is sort of the Boogeyman. For a lot of people, in my community, and on Yeah, it's a, I think, um, a lot of it has to do with, you know, Hollywood sort of was the, the front runner of the, you know, counterculture revolution. And I think a lot of it started there, you know, a lot of, you know, just the way, Hollywood, you know, the sexuality in Hollywood, you know, 60s and on, you know, Rebel Without a Cause all these movies, you know, were seen as a threat to, to religious communities and to my community. So that's part of the part of it is like, so Hollywood's this big, scary thing. And there's a lot of immorality there and things like that. Um, and then, yeah, I think that's, that's really what it is. So in my family really was the same thing. You know, modern movies, I wasn't able to see Star Wars or Pirates of the Caribbean and stuff that's, you know, pretty much tailored for kids even that, you know, because there's a fear that it has traces of, you know, either ideologies that disagree with the religion, you know, postmodern idea, and things like that, or, you know, explicit scenes and, you know, stuff like that. So, um, so that's basically where I come from.

Alex Ferrari 8:03
So alright, so then you you see a little film called Star Wars. What happens after you see Star Wars? By the way, you're not the only one who saw Star Wars and like, James Cameron did that too. So that you're in good company that Star Wars changed your life.

Tzvi Friedman 8:19
Yeah, I hope that was unique, but I guess, not so much. Yeah, no. So So I had a neighbor who was, you know, also religious, but more modern than me. His parents were more chilled, so they let him see a lot of stuff. And he would just rant and rave about Star Wars. And I didn't know anything about it. But I just, I just knew I had to see this thing. He had the toy lightsaber, he had like, video games. So I just, um, yes, I just looked it up one day on my dad's computer. And I saw a new hope in like, parts, I'm pretty sure at one time, if not the whole thing, or part of it was just on YouTube. This is, you know, I don't know, 15 years ago, whatever it is. Um, so I saw the first the first Star Wars and, and, you know, I think I always had my mom would read us, like science fiction and books. So it's not that I you know, I, I knew about these worlds, but only in my head. Sure. And then when I saw Star Wars, the first time I actually saw it on a screen that that in movies, people are able to do this, they're able to, you know, create these crazy fantasies and these worlds and it was as simple as that. It just, you know, it was it was like the Big Bang for me, you know, it was Yeah, and I just became obsessed with Star Wars and playing Star Wars with my brothers and having lightsaber fights and stuff and right so I think the Star Wars obsession really was like the story of the bug that bit me you know,

Alex Ferrari 9:45
Yeah, the as I as I like to call it the beautiful disease, or the beautiful infection that is filmmaking, one because once you get it, you can't get rid of it. No matter how hard no matter how hard you try, or no matter what obstacles are up and to be in your way. It's something you just have to do. Just have to do. So which brings me to your first movie, man. How did you you know living in the in the environment that you were living in not getting much support I'm assuming from your family or community? How did you generate the not only the energy to make it but to find the money for it and all that whole thing? So how did that whole process come along?

Tzvi Friedman 10:24
I didn't know I didn't dumb and think as you can see.

Alex Ferrari 10:28
You look, you look as you look as old as I am. And I'm joking!

Tzvi Friedman 10:35
Oh, yeah, it's so basically trying to get the timeline. Right. So basically, I went to Israel, actually, I went to study in Israel, you know, on the hopes of becoming like a big rabbi or whatever. And it was a very intense thing. It was a good experience. But it just didn't work out for me. A lot of good friends who went there to study. But I was a movie addict, the movie junkie, like, that's how I got through high school. Like, you know, there was a time where I was dorming. And in a very serious religious school where, you know, if they would catch you with watching a movie, you were thrown out. And we just watched movies under our covers, literally, I remember seeing Schindler's List in my dorm room on a tiny phone, you know, for the first time,

Alex Ferrari 11:17
I'm sure, Stephen, I'm sure Stephen exactly how he wants you to watch it.

Tzvi Friedman 11:20
So, so basically, so basically, when I came back, I got a job as an assistant teacher in a school. But it was just a soul crushing job. And, and I just had this, you know, like, buzzing my ear, like this little whisper in my ear. And then eventually, um, and then I had a friend who passed away, sadly, and, and right before he passed away, I was talking to him about I want to be a director, you know, and he came from the similar we grew up together, went to school together. But he, but at the time, he became more open minded and everything. And we both we saw a Goodfellas we saw, like all the classics together, I saw Goodfellows in his grandmother's basement, you know? So, you know, he was very positive about it. And he said, You know, I think you should do this, and then he, and then he literally died a week later. So, yeah, he was, he was an incredible guy would do dinero impressions and all this. So. So that really compelled me, I think, like, I remember being at his funeral and his burial. And I just felt really angry. And I just decided, like, I'm just gonna try to do this, you know. So I basically, um, you know, I had this idea for a short film. Turns out the short film was gonna cost like, $100,000 to make, you know, that's how it goes. And you first start, you write a script, it was like a mixture of Blade Runner and all these different things. And, and I remember, like, I went online, I was looking for a producer, and I found some girl on Upwork I don't remember one of these things. I wanted the, you know, the film sites. And she said, Yeah, well, I'll produce it, you know, so I meet with her, she said, Oh, first we have to make a trailer, you know, like a sizzle reel, or whatever, to raise money through Indiegogo. So basically, we ended up getting $2,000 from this. Basically, I used to work with special needs children. So there was a kid I was taking care of, and his dad was like a big fan of this movie obsession of mine. So he gave me like $2,000 cash on the spot for the trailer. Amazing. So we made this trailer. And it was an utter disaster. I mean, it just didn't work out and we raised like $100 is like my older brother who gave them money you know, like on Indiegogo was pretty embarrassing. So then, you know, it was like back to square one again. I'm like, How in the world is this gonna happen? It just is, you know, the trailer was pretty good, I think but it just didn't fly. It just didn't work out. And then I remember I was watching Vice News did a thing on Christopher Nolan's following they interviewed him about zero budget and I was watching his advice and he basically said just take a camera you know the the thing that they say but to me the thing about him certain filmmakers you could see like you could tell they sort of come from the underground world but here's the guy who made inception and all these things. And then I saw a following and it's this real you know guy yeah, like glued together you know with popsicle sticks or whatever it's a brilliant film brilliant but um, but it just it's It's unbelievable to see that he went from there to there. So I basically he did it advice I took a camera I shot a short film you know, I only money was to the camera and stuff into the makeup artist. And I felt it was okay you know like I put it out there some people liked it. Some people didn't. But um, but that's that's basically how it starts just kept making short films. Then I produced a short film for this thing called the indie film collective. I was an interesting experience. And then we made another short film. And then just over time making all these short films, I picked up a very small following on the internet. I mean, when I say small film, I like maybe 10 15 People, whatever it is, but it was enough that at a certain point, I just decided it's time to make a feature film. And, you know, and I kept trying to make feature films or like trying to get or get it off the ground, but it just never worked, you know, and my older brother, he's a pretty well to do successful business guys completely self made. And he just said, you have to you don't be embarrassed, just have to ask people, you know, and again, you know, where I'm from. People don't really know what that like, there's no such thing as somebody's going to make movies. It's, it's bizarre, you know,

Alex Ferrari 15:32
I know the feeling. I know the feeling.

Tzvi Friedman 15:34
Yeah. It's what the other people do, you know, like, it doesn't it's not a real profession that could ever happen. So I think I was at my friend's engagement party, or, you know, ultra orthodox engagement party, and I just summed up the cards, and I just started asking people upfront, I said, you know, could I have money for my movie? And they're like, You're movie what? You know, and I think I quickly explained why I was like, trembling. Yeah, making a movie, you know, and then Christopher and all I can just try to explain to them, and a lot of the guys there that just very kind people very generous and said, whatever, let the kid go do his high school play or whatever they were doing, you know, we I raised like, $800 to $1,000, literally that day, just from asking people, you know, just basically bullying people to giving me money. And then with that seed money, we I joined forces with a friend of mine, and we basically started raising money online crowdfunding on Indiegogo. And we raised like, $8,000 that way, and I put in another 1000 of my own, and we basically managed to get the budget together. Um, but yeah, but there was no, it wasn't easy. Let's put it that way.

Alex Ferrari 16:38
So so then when you get the movie done, then you're now and you basically got it in the can. But from what you told me, you basically, were kind of kicked out of your house, and you were like, sleeping on the floor on a couch with your sister. You know, we all have struggles as filmmakers, man like there's no question this is you're trying to get your feature. May we all got a bag, we get a bag and you know, sometimes steel. Do whatever you got to do to get the movie done. Yeah, exactly. And, and that's the insanity of being a filmmaker, but, but you have the extra stress of also not having a place to live in at this point. And all that stuff. How did you break through that man? How did you break? Because I've never experienced that. I always was curious.

Tzvi Friedman 17:21
Yeah, yeah. So. So also, throughout the shooting, we shot once a week. So I was shooting once a week. And when I'm shooting, I feel like you know, you feel you, you're on top of the world when you're shooting.

Alex Ferrari 17:30
Oh, yeah, it's a drug, it's a drug. Absolutely.

Tzvi Friedman 17:33
It's a drug your high, you know, and then I would come home and not, you know, my siblings are amazing, you know, my brothers, they're very supportive and stuff, you know, but I don't blame nobody, you know, like, how are they supposed to know what the hell I'm doing? I you know, and it's not just, it's not just a religious thing. A lot of parents aren't, you know, regardless, any, anything in the arts is insane. So I would come home, I come back here, and they'd be like, you know, there was, you know, you're kind of like a rock star when you're directing. And then you come home and it's like, you know, you it's like, coming back to the slums. You know, you're, you're, it's like a descent. So it was really pressing, in a way it was like, swinging between these different worlds. And, yeah, and then. So the shooting itself was, there was a lot of a lot of stress in not just the production, but just the, like this dichotomy or duality that I was dealing with, going from basically sinning, you know, doing the grave sin of right, you know, making movies, which is this again, like, sort of, like, taboo satanic thing, and then and then coming home and you know, whatever, participating in the Sabbath and all this stuff, and then yeah, then we finished we wrapped shooting, it wasn't the most satisfying production, you know, again, it's, it's the first feature film, sure it for a penny. And then I come home and, you know, I'm again, I don't want to tell tell you too much about I'm sure. Basically, it's a combination of, you know, I wasn't I didn't have a proper income. You know, I didn't really I wasn't making money didn't have a real you know, my parents were very worried about me, you know, I didn't have a career path. And then again, it's the movies it's all these things coupled together. And I basically just pissed off enough people and they were like, you know, it sparks flew and I basically was told nicely to leave and I went to my older sister, you know, who was living in Queens and I just I was just sleeping in her husband study on a mattress on the floor. And it wasn't that bad though. They were pretty good to me and all and um, but I was really desperate to get a job you know, it was kind of like the Wake Up Calls like alright, this movie dream probably is not going to work you know, I made this movie wasn't edited at all. We didn't caught it just a bunch of hard drives at this point. It was just hard drive just sitting there my editor Christian who works for complex media who I met a whole different story but he edited all my shorts basically. He put together a trailer for me and a reel because I you know I call I'm like frantically saying I'm doomed. And he was, he's always been like, he's my right hand, man, you know, like, it's not for him, I wouldn't be anywhere. So he was really supportive. He's like, I'll make you a real don't worry about it, he made me reel made me a trailer. And I put it into a resume and I just started applying to film jobs, because I didn't want to go back to being an assistant teacher, whatever it might be. Um, and, and I went to Mandy, my older brother, I was so broke, I didn't have like, $1, you know, filmmaker. So my older brother, he paid for my Mandy subscription, you know, for like, a month. And I'm just applying to like everything in the world, you know, Pa D, should I remove old picture, low budget horror movie and all this stuff. And I applied to maybe 3040 things or whatever it might have been. And then I applied to a director gig like a horror movie director gig. And of course, you know, that would, that would have been great, you know. And then like, a week later, I got a call from some guy, the producer of this horror movie. And he's like, is this three Friedman? I'm like, yeah. And he says, um, you know, I saw your resume or whatever, why don't you come down and let's, let's have a chat, whatever, let's get lunch, whatever it was. And I was like, oh, yeah, I'm gonna get the job. You know, I'm so desperate now, at this time at this point. And I remember it's snowing, freezing cold, I go out there. And like, a second I meet the guy, he's like, you know, I don't think you're the right fit for the job. And I'm like, Oh, great. Another one of these, you know? Yeah, meeting time. Um, and then he says, but um, I saw the trailer for your feature, I saw some of your shorts, and I really like it. And I sent your work to my friend Cary Woods. I have no idea what that is. But again, this guy, this guy, you know, he thinks he assumes I know, you know, like, he doesn't realize like, you know, where I'm coming from, you know, that I've no, you know, connection with the business whatsoever. And he's like, he wants to he really wants to meet you. So when I leave the meeting, I call up my editor, Christian, and I say, Oh, my God, this guy. He said, Cary Woods his whole thing was I looked up, I Googled Cary Woods right after, and I saw his credits. Um,

Alex Ferrari 21:52
He's a legend. He's a legend. Yeah.

Tzvi Friedman 21:54
Yeah. And Christian, my editor. Again, I love him. This is to disparage him, but he just was like, come on. And you know, you because you know, people, he's been in the business much longer than me. And he's in a much more professional, severe. And he's had horror stories. So he was like, you know, I wouldn't just don't get don't get your hopes up.

Alex Ferrari 22:13
Right. I would say the exact same thing if you were talking to me.

Tzvi Friedman 22:16
Yeah. And like, I waited for like, a week, I was like, should I call back this guy and ask him and like, I was waiting with my phone. They're like, you know, and then I get a call from this producer again. And he said, Why don't you come over Friday evening, for dinner with carry, he'll be there, you know? So I go, there I go, I go to this, like penthouse again, like, you know, I didn't grow up poor or anything, but you know, just regular middle class. Sure. Family, five siblings, a, you know, everybody that lives very simply where I come from, and all of a sudden, I'm in this, you know, crazy apartment. And there's Carrie, and he looks like right out of his Wikipedia page. You know, it's a little weird. I was like, I kind of thought, you know, but, um, and, you know, like, we didn't really talk March, you know, I didn't, I didn't try to sell myself or anything. But it was it was weird to be in a place where like, everybody was filmmakers. on a on a slightly high end on a slightly in a much higher level than me all in the business. And who appreciated my work, which is really surreal. For that's a cool experience Yeah, it was, it was also like another type of high, you know, like, I was used to always feeling guilty about my work. And, you know, at one time, I would show it to my work to my parents, but they just didn't understand it. They thought it was bizarre. You know, and, you know, my dad would watch very, my dad has a good taste in movies, but it was more very conventional, very formulaic classics. And here, I'm trying to make like a button. Well, weird, experimental, right? Yeah. And he's like, you know, what's with the hands, or whatever, you know, so getting that or even my religious friends who love movies, but like thing, like, they want to watch like Michael Mann's heat or something. They're not, you know, sure. Are all French movies. Um, so basically, yeah, so that was a really great feeling. And then a few days later, Cary texted me said, Hey, let's get let's get coffee or something. And we got coffee. And you know, we just talked movies, and he has all kinds of crazy Hollywood stories. You know, your hero complex is Robert De Niro. So in Marvel, here's my favorite actor. So we spoke about that he worked with Warner Hertzog on Playboy, just endless stories. And he also was an agent before he was a producer, you know, so he's all kinds of stories about that. And then what I don't remember exactly the timeline, I don't want to distort the facts. But but more or less, he basically called me up one day and he said, Hey, I'll help you. I'm going to try to help you finish your feature film. I'll see if I can get some investors and whatever. Um, and, and yeah, that like my, you know, you can imagine I was like in seventh heaven. Um, and then we got investors. He got me a lawyer. And then he actually connected with this unbelievable film producer Jonathan Gray, who's an indie film producer. or also did a bunch of pretty flannel pajamas and blue capris, and you name it, he did a lot of very critically acclaimed films Dark Knight, not the Dark Knight Dark Knight, which went to Sundance couple years ago. And he basically became a producing partner with carry on this film. And he gave us an office at his studio, gigantic Studios, which was insane. Just like Monster just squatting there. And me and Chris Christian and I, my editor. We just were coming there and I was able to pay Christian finally, and I never paid him in my life. Am a few dollars, you know, that was nice. And yeah, that's a sort of the story in a nutshell. I don't know. I'm just wow, man.

Alex Ferrari 25:40
That's that's that's a pretty remarkable story. Because that was the twist that that also added another layer to this onion, that is your stories, because like, you know, trying to get your movie made all this kind of stuff. But then all of a sudden getting a major producer like Carrie woods on board, who's a legend. He's an indie film Legend. I mean, from swingers to kids, and so many other movies he's made over the years, you know, to get him on board with essentially a first time filmmaker, I was fascinated by how the hell did this happen. I always love these little stories of how people connect and how things fall apart, fall into place. And it's just luck being at the right place, right time. Like, in what I don't want people listening to understand this is that there is no path that you can copy. You know, I wasted a good decade trying to figure out how to copy Kevin Smith pass or Robert Rodriguez's path, or Ed burns path like these, these guys, you can't can't copy their path because their paths are unique to them. So the time frame when that happens, so you place an ad, go for an interview, they happen to watch your short a I have a friend of like there's so many things that were magical,

Tzvi Friedman 26:54
It insane, insane.

Alex Ferrari 26:57
It's luck. It's luck. But if you didn't have all those shorts, if you didn't have a trailer, if you hadn't had a movie, ready in the can, nobody would have it, this wouldn't have happened. So it's it is truly when luck meets preparation. And that's exactly your story. It's It's pretty. It's a pretty magical story. So now, where are you with the movie? You're still finishing it up in post, so you're getting ready to put it out to the festivals.

Tzvi Friedman 27:22
Yeah, so we are we already submitted to a bunch of festivals, but it's still a quote unquote working progress. We're doing the music now. That's where we're at now. So we're picture locked, we're doing the music, literally, like we just started yesterday. And also the color which we're basically finished. Um, and yeah, we're just we're just trying you know, you know, nowadays you have you know, it's not like it used to be now you have literally 10s of 1000s of films, you know, everybody with their $100,000 movie. There's just a lot of competition it's very easy to get lost in the pile. Um, and yeah, it's it's really it's sort of playing a lottery you know that a day.

Alex Ferrari 28:05
Yeah, it's it's pretty in you know, if you've listened to the show, and you've seen the show, you know, I've talked about distribution and how to get your movie up there and stuff. It is very difficult to get an independent film with no you have no stars if I'm a mistake you have no faces are stars in the movie.

Tzvi Friedman 28:20
We have some future stars I'm on my right to say that to be nice. We, particularly the main actor in our movie. On time, he was on the Broadway show, cabaret. Sam Mendez is a production but he's a brilliant actor. Brilliant. His name's John Peterson. A shout out to John Baba he he's really remarkable you know, these series that we've been showing the movie to now like we you know, we're showing it to all sides forever they're all like wow you know so the thing is if Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 28:52
Yeah so but but as far as distribution is concerned, yeah. Yeah, if I walk into distributors room and like, Hey, I got a lot of future starts it's gonna be like, get the hell out of here. But no, but not not lack of talent, but lack of star power means recognizable faces. Right? So without that it is difficult to do it unless you can a kid into a film festival that could be you know, that likes it and gets some awards and maybe get some attention. But you know, it just as a non it's an you haven't asked me for this advice, but this is what I would do. I would use Kerry Woods his name as much as he allows you to use it to open doors for you because that name does carry a lot of weight in the indie film space. And that they're like, wait a minute, if Kerry's executive producing this guy's film, I should maybe watch it because of his track record. So you've got an ace in the hole without question. It's not gonna help you it might help you a little bit in distribution but it will definitely help you in the film festival circuit without Question

Tzvi Friedman 29:55
Yeah, there you know, I got like, I don't know how what I'm allowed to say but like you

Alex Ferrari 29:59
Don't Don't say I don't want to get in trouble don't get in trouble.

Tzvi Friedman 30:02
Exactly. I don't either want to get in trouble but no definitely carry but not again, not just Cary we have, we have a lot of the Cary sort of built an army around the

Alex Ferrari 30:10
Right. So um, it's amazing that he, it's amazing that a producer of his magnitude who's done so many films over the years, still is hunting for that, you know that diamond in the rough. It just trying to grab something and trying to help a filmmaker along and that's another part of the story that I love is that someone like him is not too high up in the mountain. We're all the gods, the filmmaking gods live, like mountain Olympus, you know, where Spielberg and Lucas and all those guys live? That they're able that he's still willing to to do because it doesn't have to mean he's completely doesn't have to do anything. But he wants to because he loved the process so much and wants to help young voices come out. So that's a really, that's a really pretty awesome part of the story. So I'll gotta get Carrie on the show. One day, I want to talk to Carrie.

Tzvi Friedman 31:04
Thank you. I think you do it. Yeah. Yeah, he's, he's just a really, I mean, you know, I don't know why he decided to do this. You'll have to ask him.

Alex Ferrari 31:14
You're like, Man, I don't know why I'm here. I don't know how this happened.

Tzvi Friedman 31:19
Kind of like, you know, the movie being there. Which is actually when it carries favorite movies. Oh, yeah. Oh, I love the colors. Yeah, just like he's just like this, you know, um, I think he's supposed to be on the spectrum, if I'm not mistaken. And he's just, just like, stumbling into you know, power, you know, the powerful people and and all these rooms, and you're just like, whoa, what am I doing here? And I get that all the time. You know, like, I'll be at an like, again, like, once you meet these people, all of a sudden, you're at these events. And also, you're meeting these people who somebody people inspired you to, like, do this thing now. And you're just, it's bizarre, and you're not sure and they ask you like, who are you? And you're like, I'm not sure who I am. But um, you know, security? Yeah. But um, but Buckcherry is a really righteous guy. I think he's a really, he's just a really good person, you know, above all else. He's he really, he's, like, a real cinephile. He really loves, you know, even though he might have produced some really big commercial movies, too. But he, he just loves cinema. And, and I think he just really wants to try, you know, he sees himself sort of maybe again, I shouldn't, you know, you have to ask him, but my read is that he really feels like a guardian of cinema. And, yeah, and that's why I got lucky, you know, I bumped into him, but um, you know, but yeah, that's why he again, he didn't he hasn't just done this for me. I'm not the only but pretty much. Many of the directors he's worked with were all first time directors, you know. And

Alex Ferrari 32:51
Doug Liman Yeah. Doug Liman with swingers and John Favre, and that whole crew, I mean, helping them along, and the list goes on and on. I mean, he's helped so many filmmakers

Tzvi Friedman 33:02
M.Night Shyamalan.

Alex Ferrari 33:04
A couple guys, a couple guys,

Tzvi Friedman 33:05
A second, like legit movie, like, I might did like a low budget, indie that went to a bunch of festivals, but his, his second, you know, like, more studio film or whatever, Carryade that happen. And, yeah, the list goes on forever. But um, you know, yeah, so it's really cool. And also, another cool thing is that Cary's producing a film called Maggie Moore's, which is a Jon Hamm movie right now, you know, in New Mexico. So it's just funny how we're making our little $10,000 movie and stuff and Carrie sending us notes. And then he's, you know, busy with these guys. It's really weird.

Alex Ferrari 33:38
It's and I just, I also, I also wanted to have you on the show, because I want filmmakers out there listening to see that this has happened Still, these kind of little, this lottery ticket moment, there are these are kind of lottery ticket moments. I mean, look, look, you're not making the next Marvel movie yet, or anything like that. But you are definitely on a path that will hopefully build a career for yourself and having a champion help you and we all everyone needs a champion Spielberg to look, you know, every one of the gods, the filmmaking gods that we look up to had a champion. If it wasn't for Steven Soderbergh, Nolan wouldn't have gotten insomnia. And without insomnia, he wouldn't have gotten Batman and the rest of that goes on and on if there's always a champion. So I'm just glad that that, that we could put this kind of story out there for filmmakers to hopefully hold on to and go look, there's a hope you got to just got it. The thing is that you just have to do the work without expectation because that's exactly what you did. You did the you didn't have any expectation of anything happening to you. Other than hopefully this is going to get made and hopefully I'll be able to do another one, let alone teaming up with carriers and becoming Oh. Let me ask you, I want to ask you about what is when you were on set, I always like to ask the question when you were on set, shooting one day a week, which is fascinating, which is awesome. Yeah, it was awesome. What was the toughest day on set, like that day that you felt everything was gonna come crashing down around you? And how did you overcome it?

Tzvi Friedman 35:16
That's almost every day, but many days. I'm like, we just have crazy, crazy stories. I mean, again, not. Not anything new but but fun. You know? So we were operating with like, it was a tiny who, first of all, like, some of our crew pulled out, you know, last shock. Last, Shocking. Shocking. Exactly. So we have to do the scramble, Facebook, all that all that jazz. Went to makeup artists like I don't you ever saw manbites manbites dog,

Alex Ferrari 35:43
Of course. It's amazing, amazing film, everybody listening, watch man bites dog. It's on criterion,

Tzvi Friedman 35:50
They keep killing the sound mixer. The reservoir. So that's basically what it was like, we were going through makeup artists like a revolving door, you know? Because again, we didn't really have money. So that's how it goes. Right? Nobody first you know, very people want to get and it was in the middle of the winter. But the second day, the second the second day, which is the second week, it was going to be one of these 18 hour days, and we're shooting in multiple locations. And we were at the beach, we decided to make it into the film and None None of this footage. And all of a sudden, again, I don't want to I love my crew and everything. But somebody said, Oh, we don't have we didn't have anything, we could have dumped the footage and we didn't have enough memory cards, let's just put it that way. It happens, bro. It happens. You're like one memory card, you know, and so that that was like one of the that was you know, I just started I had a full on panic attack. Um, and whenever we ended up having to drive over again, and laptop and good memory card was crazy. I mean, something as simple as that, that we didn't prepare for obviously, it was a little ridiculous. But still, we had like, I don't know what it was like a 64 gigabyte, you know, like, the whoever was supposed to bring that stuff didn't bring that stuff. That was one of them. And then we had another shoot. Well, also, we were shooting in a lot of places that were given to us as a favor and paying for it. Sure. So one of the places we were shooting at, I just remember being terrified of like things breaking, you know, and of course, we ended up breaking something. And then it was the whole thing was like who's gonna talk to the owner who's gonna make the call. And we'll just read tickets just together with the whole supervisors, just like fear because like, everybody was just like, let the kids do their thing. Let them play a little bit, you know. And then the craziest thing was, we were doing a reshoot of scene, a murder scene. And this is like, this is after the 10 weeks. This is like, this is like a few weeks later, we finally managed to get everybody available. And we're shooting a scene. And it turns out, we didn't realize that when we shot there a few weeks before dislocation was were a homeless man would sleep it was his territory. And he remembered us from the first time and he came he started like cursing us out. And my lawn producers span is from Colombia. So he speaks Spanish. So he understood what the guy was saying. But he didn't want to like tell us what the guy was saying because you don't want to scare us and we wanted to get finally conservative. He's like, I think the guy my break the camera, and I saw one and I turned around there pulls out a knife and he puts it to my AC'S neck. And he's like basically saying, you know, I'm gonna kill you if you don't leave. You know, so the first thing I did was grabbed the camera and Ron, you know, and and the whole crew followed afterwards. I was like,

Alex Ferrari 38:32
What happened to the AC what happened to the AC.

Tzvi Friedman 38:35
He was fine. But he said we you know, we just like walked away slowly like we did you know? And the guy just chased us out of there. He chased us out of the location. We couldn't go back we couldn't get any more coverage. And that was it. That's all we had. I'm afraid to go to that train. Stop now because it's near a train station.

Alex Ferrari 38:52
Wow. Yeah. It's crazy stuff and never ceases to amaze me the stories you hear about productions especially indie. No budget productions. It's there. Man, I've been there. I understand it. I I've been there's too many times to today. I haven't had anyone pull a knife on us. So that's a new one. I haven't had that. But there has been other stories to say the least. Now, I want to ask a few questions. I asked all my guests, man, what do you what advice would you give to that underground filmmaker listening like you've been listening to me? And what advice would you give them to get there, you know, to get into the business to do what they love to do?

Tzvi Friedman 39:32
Yeah, so like you said, like, there's no roadmap. Anybody who tells you there's a roadmap and end of the day I think it's bullshit. I remember I got a PA gig actually like on a big set called the good fight. CBS show. My friend Sergio was my line producer on my film. He got me in there. And I was like, I was trying. That was at one point. That was my thing. Like I just kind of get on a big set and I have no idea how right you don't go on indeed and get on a because it doesn't work that way. So it turns out these have to meet someone who knows Mondo can get you

Alex Ferrari 40:00
Networking, networking networking. Yeah,

Tzvi Friedman 40:02
Yeah. Which to me is kind of it's that's really frustrating to me about the about how the business it's like this very elitist, high barrier entry type thing. So I finally get on I'm gonna stand in PA, I'm given a radio and stuff, you know, and my job is to stand outside of door. I'm like, just like 1000 PhDs and I'm gonna stand outside the door and just tell people to be quiet, right? My job basically is to do nothing, but I got it was good money, but like, I did nothing the whole day. And by the by, by breakfast, I'm just trying to talk, you know, network speak to people find out like, how do you get into this mysterious place? And I remember I met the production designer of the show, and he was covered in paint, like his pants and everything. And I said, Hey, like, how did you get here? How do you and he looks at me with a big smile. He's like, you're here. I was like, Oh, thanks. Wow, great advice. But, but the point is, that there really isn't. And I remember I asked them, you know, how the actors have PA is also, you know, like the treated like royalty that can't touch the ground. So I asked them, the PA to one of the actresses like, you know, about the director, I'm like, How do you know how she got here? And she's like, you just have to do it. You know. So the point is that even when you're in the US the, you know, the inner chamber, the machine, yeah. Yeah. Like, nobody really knows. It's like, I remember seeing an interview with David Lynch. When he was doing Twin Peaks Season Three in like a cafe some woman was interviewing him. And she asked David Lynch, you know, what do you what's your advice to filmmaker, you know, asked to make a living or whatever. And he's like, I don't want to talk to such a filmmaker. You know, he was trying to say that if that's your goal, then, you know, he, you know, it was he's a very he's a purist. You know, he's

Alex Ferrari 41:44
He's an artist. He's a pure artist. Yeah,

Tzvi Friedman 41:46
Yeah, it's pure artist. But But I think it's true. Even if you do want to make a living off filmmaking, you know, you're gonna be in for a lot of heartbreak, probably, again, I'm, I'm in the very beginnings of this, I can't really, you know, give like real sagely advice. But I just think from the little that I've little path that I've traveled is that just make just, you know, make films tried to believe in yourself and on. And, but again, like some people want to I again, I don't want to impose my my thing, because I had my I put it this way, I just did my thing. I wanted to make my kind of film. I made the film, I wanted to make some I got lucky. Some people recognized it, and they appreciated it. And that was that but but who knows, you know, Ridley Scott made his made his first his first feature at 40 years old again, again, he was a big commercial director. You could you could point to that. But there plenty I mean, David Lynch was like, 33 I think what he did a raise your head? And so who knows? You know, there is no, there's no path. Ad. Yeah, there is no path. That's basically the advice that there is not no advice.

Alex Ferrari 42:52
Yeah, it is. Yeah, I get asked all the time. What that is, is like, just do what you love to do. And try it just don't don't bet the house on it. Because this is a very difficult path, digital question. And I've talked to everybody from the biggest guys to, to, like, you know, people just starting out like yourself, and it's always about, you know, how do I get in? And what do I do? I'm like, you just got to do it. And, yeah, you'll meet someone, you'll connect with somebody, maybe someone you met not now, in six years, they'll open a door for you that you didn't know about. It happens, it's happened to me, it happens all the time. It's just it. That's the thing that's so frustrating about being a filmmaker. It's unlike being a doctor or lawyer they have those are direct paths to making a career. You know, an engineer like these are direct paths. Filmmaking is just like, it's like, it's like a musician or like, arts in general, there is no, there are some paths you can take, but like to be a filmmaker to be a director to tell stories like that. It's tough, man. It's tough. But Is it doable? I talk to people every day on the show that it worked out. You know, I was able to make a career out of it as well and, and still love to do what I love to do. It's just about doing it, man. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Tzvi Friedman 44:20
Hmm, I think, um, just as a director, what I found again, like there's no universal because the honest, that's the thing, the arts are so subjective, which is why there's such a diversity of artists in so many different paths in the art world, because it's not a science. It's not a doctor. So, you know, it's not like look for a surgeon. Yeah, like, he'll tell you, you know, don't move the knife left because you'll kill the person. But um, but for an artist is very different. But for me, personally, what I found is that I used to think I remember I used to be a big Ridley Scott guy.

Alex Ferrari 44:53
Oh, I mean, Blade Runner. I mean, Jesus Christ.

Tzvi Friedman 44:56
Yeah, Blade Runner is one of those, you know,

Alex Ferrari 44:59
Top 5 yeah, no, no, no question.

Tzvi Friedman 45:02
No other masterpiece. But anyways, I remember him saying like, you know how, you know, I storyboard everything. And you know, like, really? He's a tough guy. And premeditated, you know, and I remember being terrified, watching his interviews, he said, you know, if you're ninny, then this is not for you, like all the you know, and, and as I used to go into during the short, that's the, he says that it I remember seeing him say that, I remember, I would storyboard everything and just like, try to be like, very calculated, you know, and, and like, basically not let my actors breathe and, you know, be this tyrant on set, I'm going to be like Cameron and Scotland, you know, and again, it obviously it works for some for, for some people, but what I found, at least for the low budget world, is that oddly, ironically, it helps to sort of, like, let things go, like, for me, that's what I found, like, I was the biggest that I went from this feature, but this feature I came in with all these plans, and oh, boy, did I have to throw them away pretty quick, you know? Yeah. I found that, like, the magic for me happens when, when it you know, I'm avoiding the cliche of collaboration, but that's kind of what it is, like, you know, I got lucky my DP and I, we did two short films after the feature, I got like a really good relationship with Him in a really good relation with my editor, and my composer and the main actor, in my film, have a very, almost like a telepathic connection with him, you know, and we're able to sort of vibe with each other. It's kind of like a dance. And we just, you know, you have to leave, I think, for me, it's leaving room to just allow people to breathe, and let's try to let the movie sort of let it take its own form, let it come alive. It's like this organism that, you know, you only could control to a certain extent, and then you just let it live. And in fact, it ends up making the film better. I think, for me, when I allow the chaos, let the chaos take over. The chaos is good. It's not bad. You know? That's, for me. Probably the biggest creative lesson that I learned, you know,

Alex Ferrari 46:56
Fair enough. And three of your favorite films of all time.

Tzvi Friedman 47:01
And the there are none, but I could come up with three like very important films to me. Sure. Um, the 400 blows, I think would be one of my favorite films of all time Francois Truffaut. I would say I'd have to say, Christopher Nolan's Inception

Alex Ferrari 47:24
Mind blowing

Tzvi Friedman 47:25
Yeah, I have to say that one. Um, and I would say Fellini's eight and a half. Again, this is the mood now you know, your top three change, you know,

Alex Ferrari 47:37
Oh, no, that's just the three right now. Yeah, like a band plays on by Fellini,

Tzvi Friedman 47:41
I asked me when I was 10 years old, it would have been Star Wars, Star Wars and Star Wars, you know, so it just changes but right now, as a as like a filmmaker, when you're studying the craft, those are the films that really, to me, are like the most important films to me at inception to me, at least of the modern era of movies that's like to me like the Citizen Kane, my city might what I consider the citizen game for me of modern cinema.

Alex Ferrari 48:04
Well, my friend, I appreciate you coming on and being raw and honest about your story. And I wish you nothing but the best I hope man does very well and in the scene out in the festival circuit. And I hope to have you back when you're doing the next big Marvel movie or something.

Tzvi Friedman 48:23
Yeah, it's been pretty thanks for having me on the show. And it's it I still can't get over it. I'm talking to you is pretty odd listening to this voice, you know, Indie Film Hustle Podcast Talking to you, it's just it's, it's cool. And it's an honor. And it's also like, is this real? But um, okay.

Alex Ferrari 48:43
I appreciate you, brother.

Tzvi Friedman 48:45
Likewise. Yeah. Great to meet you Alex.

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IFH 538: I Made a Short Film Now WTF Do I Do with Clarissa Jacobson

So you made a short film, now WTF do you do? Today guest is filmmaker Clarissa Jacobson and she is the perfect person to guide you through the rough waters of getting your short film out to the world.

Clarissa is the writer, producer and creator of the multi-award-winning comedy/horror short – Lunch Ladies – based on her feature. The film garnered forty-five awards and is distributed all over the world.

Her follow up short – A Very Important Film – also got distribution. Her optioned feature screenplay, Land of Milk and Honey, is in development with Elizabeth Avellan and Gisberg Bermudez.

In addition, Clarissa wrote a book – I Made a Short Film Now WTF Do I Do With It: A Guide to Film Festivals, Promotion, and Surviving the Ride

I Made A Short Film Now WTF Do I Do With It is jam-packed with hard-earned knowledge, tips, and secrets on how to enter film festivals, promote your movie… and SUCCEED!

I Made A Short Film Now WTF Do I Do With It covers everything from what festivals to submit to, how to maximize your money, secure an international presence, deal with rejection, gain publicity, harness the power of social media, what a sales rep does and much more.

Included are exclusive filmmaker discounts on services/products from the subtitling company, Captionmax, and promo merchandisers, Medias Frankenstein and The Ink Spot.

Enjoy my conversation with Clarissa Jacobson.

 

Right-click here to download the MP3

 

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I like to welcome to the show, Clarissa Jacobson. How're you doing Clarissa?

Clarissa Jacobson 0:15
I'm doing great. I'm really happy to be on your show because it's so freakin awesome.

Alex Ferrari 0:20
Thank you so much. Thank you so much. We were talking a little bit off air. And I appreciate all the kind words you said about the show and your you know, that you've been listening to for a while. And you found me through distribution, where a lot of filmmakers end up finding me when they start running into that wall.

Clarissa Jacobson 0:36
Leaving gray area is since it's no fun, and nobody knows anything about and we're all terrified.

Alex Ferrari 0:42
Right Exactly. And then of course, after you listen to me, you're even more scared. Because Because I tell you the truth. I'm like, No, you're never gonna make money here. This is how they're going to screw you. They're don't sign this here. And and

Clarissa Jacobson 0:54
Knowledge is power. Even It's scary.

Alex Ferrari 0:56
I'd rather you I rather you be scared than lose your movie. So but um, but I'm happy to have you on the show. And yeah, you reached out to me about your book that you wrote called, I made a short film. Now, what the eff do I do with it's a guide to film festivals, promotions and surviving the ride? Based on the title alone? I said, Well, I have to have her on the show. I I mean, because I was like, this seems like the kind of gal that I can vibe with on the show. Because it's it's no nonsense.

Clarissa Jacobson 1:29
Yeah, that was my title. And then I just never changed it. And it's super long. So now I just call it my WTF book.

Alex Ferrari 1:37
Exactly, exactly. TF. So, so many. So so many filmmakers do make short films. I mean, I have a long history of making short films and having some success with them early on in my career. But there is so much misinformation about short films, how you what you do with them, can you monetize them? How do you run the festival circuit is you know, where do you go with it? All this kind of stuff. So before we jump into the, into the weeds, how did you get started in the business?

Clarissa Jacobson 2:04
Well, I when I was a little kid, I thought I wouldn't be an actress. So I did the whole acting thing. I went to acting school. You know, I went to Indiana University and majored in theater. And then I went to American musical and dramatic Academy in New York City. And I did that whole thing. But I was always writing. And the thing about acting is you need so many people to to do it. You know, so I had all this pent up pent up artistic energy all the time that it can never use because if you're not in a play, or you're not you just can't use it. And I stumbled on so long story how I met my mentor Joe Bratcher who teaches twin bridges writing so on. But I he offered me a class and I was like, Well, I'm an actress. I don't write, you know, like, I'm an actress. But I took like, yeah, and I took a few. But I was kind of getting that burned out stage where I was feeling like the bitter actress, you know, but I was always trying to do my own projects. And then I started screenwriting with him and I just never looked back. And I had like, you know, that weird come to Jesus moment where I had to like, because I always like want to commit to one thing and really be good at it. And I was like, you know, freaked out going, Oh my God, my whole life is saving actress, I'm leaving that behind. I'm a failure at it. And my friend was like, you know, life is like a tributary, you're just taking another, you know, waterway. And that was like 1415 years ago, and I don't miss acting at all. And I just love screenwriting so much. And then I made a short film for a variety of reasons. And that's when I really realized Holy shit. I'm a filmmaker. Like, that's where I fit like, 100% I fit as a filmmaker. I mean, screenwriting first and foremost, but I, I don't want to just give my screenplays over. I like to be part of the whole process. I just freakin love it. So yeah,

Alex Ferrari 3:49
That's awesome. That's awesome. And yeah, it is, you know, a lot of times you walk into this business wanted to do one thing, and then you find yourself doing something else. And it's, I mean, I walked in wanting to be a director. And that still still was my goal. But I fell in love with editing. Because Oh, I can make a living. And I can learn and I can make connections. I'm like, this seems like a good job. And I I get some carpal tunnel. I work in an air conditioned room. I'm good. I'm good to go enough to be on set all day. As a PA because that's thinks you know, when I first started, I was like, three o'clock in the morning call. What did Oh, I'm getting $75 Well, that's fantastic. And by the way, that was $75 back in 1995. Whoa, that's $75 today $75. So fun money man. That was something like that was some mad money back in the day. But um, so So you so let's discuss your book, how I made short films. I made I made my short films on what the heck do I do? How to we're gonna go over a bunch of stuff. But one thing is a question that we always get people asking me about is branding. Because I've done I've done it a decent job branding my show and branding myself over the years. How do you brand a short and your opinion?

Clarissa Jacobson 5:07
Um, well with my situation I just looked at this the story and what what little thing that I could pull from it that would be that people could latch on to and that was my lunch. So my movies comedy horror about lunch, ladies. So first thing I did is I was like, okay, where does my film take place it takes place in a school. So when I made the website, I don't know where I learned this, I learned somewhere along the line that you, you always do the same type of fonts, you do the same. So I got started doing like, you know, it was going to be the century schoolbook font, it was going to look like at school, it was going to have the same attitude as the film. And when when I talked to other filmmakers, short filmmakers about branding, I say, you know, don't don't like freak out about it. Like, you know, you don't have to be some marketing genius or whatever you have to find like that thing that you can pull from it that other people will react to. So like for me, I my life actually reprehensible. They're, they're like, really, they're the bullied all the time. So you kind of you feel for them, but the reprehensible so like I, I kind of went the opposite. I branded it in a way that like, everything was, if they got in a festival they cheated to get in, everything was so I just found that like little niche kind of thing that I could hang my hat on. And then when I would do all the Instagram posts, the Facebook posts, all the products I took, I find that a lot of people just throw stuff together, I took like a really a lot of time, making sure that everything like fit together matched with the fonts look to get looked good, and that it was consistent across all the social media. And even my blogs, like I mean, if you wrote like over 200 blogs during the course of it, but like if you look at my beginning blogs, there's there you can see how it's helped grows. So like I would say you don't need to be at 100. When you start, you just start somewhere and you you branded in a way that also it's information that you'd want to see. Like you have to like create a look for your film, whether it's comedy or drama, or whether ever when you're creating content, that stuff that you want to look at that you would want to look at. Because I see a lot of times people just want to like announce stuff. So

Alex Ferrari 7:27
So it's basically graphic graphic design 101 is basically like you're thinking about everything you just said is graphic design 101, which most filmmakers don't think about, because they're like, oh, I'll just throw it up there, I'll just take a still and I'll grab whatever font that I find in in Canva, or in Photoshop and my cracked version of Photoshop that I got somewhere on my old Mac, and they just slap it up there. And that's where I always find I think that's really separates. You know, projects is the design of the branding how it looks before anyone even sees the movie. More people will see the website, definitely more people will see the trailer and the poster. And that will tell me like anytime I get sent video of a gets sent pitches for being on the show. I'll look at the trailer. I'll look at the movie poster, right? And the second I look at I'm like, no, they obviously don't know what they're doing purely on the scope of the design. Because design is so powerful of a way to kind of introduce you to your world. And if you haven't done a good job with your posts, your your website, your trailer, chances are, I've never I've never once seen an insanely well done short or insanely well done feature that the poster in the trailer sucked.

Clarissa Jacobson 8:48
Right and, I think it's too like you have to come from such a place of creativity like in that you have to think of the branding as just as creative as the film. And you know, like I fought it, I didn't want to do it. Don't want to do this. Don't want to do that. But you know what, like, I just sucked it up, you got to just suck it up. And you have to find a way to make it joyful. So what I did was I found a way to make it joyful, so and I would send out my postcards because it's about lunch ladies, I would wrap them in in butcher wrap. I would send like the pins in like little wax paper bags with little stickers, you know, like, just what would amuse me, you know, and try to make, make it fun. Because if you're not having fun and you're not being creative with it. It's not going to resonate. So that comes from that authenticity of like what is fun, like what excites me about how to how to do it and so that was kind of like always my thing like if if I was creating something or sending something out what I want to receive this and you know, people would say, you know, nobody, nobody cares are just gonna rip through that paper. I'm like, Yeah, but I know when that the programmer opens that package. They have a little smile on their face. You know? Put a smile on my face.

Alex Ferrari 10:02
Right, exactly. And sorry. So the other question is this branding? This is where a lot of think a lot of filmmakers make mistakes, too. Is there a lot of times they'll brand their film for the mass audience? But you need to understand who your audience is. Is your audience. The public? Or is it Film Festival programmers? Or is it studio execs? Or is it financiers? Like, you've got to really understand your audience? Is that a fair statement?

Clarissa Jacobson 10:29
Yeah, I think so. And I and I, you know, and I just think there's like a big thing to be said, for consistency. And putting yourself out there. I mean, I have a whole chapter on this about the fear of putting yourself out there, because everybody, you know, it's so much easier to shout someone else's work out than your own. And you're afraid that people are going to go, oh, I that person is so egotistical, because all they do is talk about their film. But you know, at fucko you got to talk about what you love. And if you have a passion and an authenticity, and you're putting it out there and spending time, like it takes time to like, make your product look good, like did not just slap together to, you know, stay up a little a little later that night. And like make sure you have the right stuff that you're sending out. You know, like, it takes time in that passion and putting it out there. Like people will respond to it.

Alex Ferrari 11:24
It's you know, that's called hustle. That's called work. And yeah, a lot of filmmakers they, they feel that that once they're done with the short, I'm good, I don't need to do anything else. And that's the I don't want to do the non fun stuff. But

Clarissa Jacobson 11:37
That's what you got to make it fun. That's what I did. I try I made I made I made it. I made it as fun as I could. Right and, and i Nobody thinks that's fun. They can throw like, Oh, you have a talent for it. I'm like, You know what, everybody has a talent for it if you want to do it,

Alex Ferrari 11:49
Right. I personally love the branding. I love the marketing of my projects and things like that, because it's, I just think of it as just an extension of the creative process. Yeah, for me,

Clarissa Jacobson 12:00
That's exactly the way I think of it.

Alex Ferrari 12:01
I mean, you look at you look at Fincher, and he's really in a David Fincher, he's really involved with his marketing, Stanley Kubrick was heavily involved with the marketing from the trailers to the artwork to everything, every aspect of the marketing process of his films, because he saw it as well. So to Fincher that way, and I not that I'm putting myself in the same category as Rick,

Clarissa Jacobson 12:24
Right, you're absolutely right, you have to have that creative. Yeah, I mean, that's the best thing to think about. It is like, it's just an extension of the product, you know. And I think, too, you need to know what you want to do with your short, like, if you you don't want to if you just want to go to film festivals and part of your ass off, and you don't care where your film goes, and you don't need to do all that stuff. But if you have a vision that you want it to be like a proof of concept, or you want people to notice you, then you have to find a way to connect the whole thing together make it part of this. I mean, to me, it is part of the same thing. It's not as fun as making the film. But no, it's part of it.

Alex Ferrari 13:00
And I think the the big benefit that everyone has nowadays and now I'm going to put on my old man hat because back in the day, back in the days in the 90s it was a lot more difficult to put something together online. Oh, yeah, I remember. I mean, yeah, when you still had dial up and like DSL, okay, stop and

Clarissa Jacobson 13:21
Rent a camera to like, do a little video.

Alex Ferrari 13:23
No, no, there was no video. We were 10 years away from YouTube. Okay, that's where we that's where I was. That's how old I am everyone

Clarissa Jacobson 13:32
Like my acting things. I mean, I'm aging myself, but like my acting things, and you had to do like a thing. And I had to like hire somebody to bring a little camera. Oh, yeah, a little tiny tape or

Alex Ferrari 13:41
Mini DV tape and they would have to transfer it to a VHS. Exactly. So but the point I'm making here is that when you when you, you now have the ability to make yourself look much larger and much more established than you might be? Because if you've got good design, and you've got a solid website and you've got a solid trailer, agents, managers, financiers festival festival programmers, they'll look at that and go wait a minute, they must know what they're doing. Because that is the depth honestly, a good design and good branding will set you apart you have so much bad

Clarissa Jacobson 14:27
Even just doing it.

Alex Ferrari 14:29
So that so it so there's different levels, not doing it doing it badly. And doing it really well. Yeah, even doing it bad that like well, at least they got a website they must have done. Right. But if you do it really well and that's from my experience. I mean, I was with my first short film in 2005. I was I got into like, I think three or 400 film festivals with that with a with it was a different time. It was awesome. It was a different world back then. But a lot of times it was about The website we put together which was a flash, it was a flash website. But it was so far beyond anything short film should ever have. plus all the extra stuff I did for and everything. So it looks so much bigger I was getting called by like Oscar winning producers. They're like, what's going on here? Can we can we produce your Oh, that's a whole I'll write another book about that whole story. sure one day about about what happened with the journeys I went through with that project. But it was about the festival, the trailer, the branding, and I did it instinctively. I didn't know any better. I didn't go like I got a graphic this economic. I did it instinctively. But

Clarissa Jacobson 15:37
I was the same. Mine was like such a design. Like I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my film. And I was like, if if this fails, it's going to fail. Because not because I didn't do everything I could to make it succeed. So if it fails, then I can go okay, well, I did everything I could write. So it was such a desire to have it succeed. That I just was like, I had to figure and figure out how to make a website, I figured out like, I didn't know how to use Twitter. I was like, pound what they're like, No, it's hashtag. Like, I didn't have a Facebook page. I was not interested in Facebook. I didn't. I was terrified to like, you know, to talk about it a little bit, you know, because everything, she's gonna have an ego, but the passion to get it out there outweighed my fear. And then I became good, getting good at it became better became better and better at it, you know, the more passionate but Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 16:31
Now speaking of social media, do you think that you need to create a specific social media presence for each film? Or do you create a brand around yourself as the filmmaker and promote all of your projects through that, that those social channels?

Clarissa Jacobson 16:48
Well, I think you could do it either way, like I have. I'm a co creator with my partner, Shane Webber and we have trouble minx. But I still, you know, we have like everything. We have our projects all there. But I still like have a separate website for lunch, ladies, we're doing a feature and I have a separate, separate thing. I mean, it unless you're like Richard Linklater, right, like everybody knows who you are. I think it's I think it's harder to like drive people to it, than it would be just to send somebody your film and just go hey, guess what, go to my website. And they don't have you know, lunch ladies movie calm, and they can just look at their versus going to my rebel makes website, trying to find where it is trying to find what it's about. And you can put a lot more information.

Alex Ferrari 17:35
Well, yes, but not as much on the websites. I agree with you on the websites. I'm talking about social media. So mean, like, Oh, do we have it do have a lunch lady Twitter account, which has maybe x amount of people on it? Or do you go to rebel minx and have that as your main

Clarissa Jacobson 17:50
One for the films because that way you can gauge who's involved in the films, okay. versus, you know, versus just it might just be your they might be in the one film and another so you know, how many you can gauge how many people are into it? I think it's easier for? I don't know, like, it feels like it's, it feels very professional to have a film website. Like, I don't I mean, I haven't really looked at like, you know, the big films out there. But I would bet that like, like, let's say Warner Brothers puts out a film. I bet all those films have their own social media just feels more,

Alex Ferrari 18:25
But they also have $200 million back.

Clarissa Jacobson 18:27
They don't cost anything to open it up Twitter counters or anything. I just work.

Alex Ferrari 18:32
Yeah, it's it's a lot of work. Absolutely. I think it all depends, too is how much how long? What's the long game here? Because if it's just the one movie because it takes so long to get one movie made, let alone trying to do like two or three. So focusing all your energies at the beginning on individual projects would be great. But then you could also coincide that with a company site or branded site like, like trauma. I'm thinking like trauma films. Yeah. If you're making the same

Clarissa Jacobson 18:58
Thing because trauma has I mean, differently good trauma has a very specific niche style, right? If you're a filmmaker maybe who just does so like I have a comedy horror I have a historical horror, I have a feel good drama I have. There's my films are different. So it'd be hard for somebody who likes I mean, you know, they might people I think would like that like my stuff like my voice, but they might not necessarily like my drama, they might only like my comedy horror. So then, um, you know, I just feel like I can groom people so much more just having, you know, but like, like a trauma. You're expecting a cert in there. All those films are kind of the same, the same vibe. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 19:37
I agree. So if you are a filmmaker who's going to be like, I'm going to be a horror filmmaker. And that's all I'm going to do. That might be something. Yeah, I can see doing that way. Yeah. Or if you're a comedy, and all you do is comedy, there might be something of but if you want to, you know, move across. I gotcha. Gotcha. Now, the big thing with with short films is film festivals. Like how do I get into film festivals? How do I submit the Film Festivals. What's that? What's the it's a land. It's a landmine, field Land, land field related land, field minefield, a minefield of all sorts of do's and do nots and secret. Like you shouldn't do that. But no one's ever told me that before and all this kind of stuff. So what advice do you have for filmmakers submitting to film festivals today?

Clarissa Jacobson 20:24
Well, first of all, and I think I read this in a book a while back and that but I kind of perfected my way of doing it is to have to have a list. But you you can you, you have an Excel spreadsheet where it tells what the early bird is the you know, the so that so that way you can track you can look at that spreadsheet every day and track to get your films to get your film in the early bird. So you can save money that way. And you can kind of organize it by you know, by what you want from your films. So like, Are you a person who wants to have maybe be nominated for an Oscar so like, for example, I was like, Yeah, fuck yeah, I want to be nominated for an Oscar. I'm gonna go I'm gonna go for all the Oscar films for sure. Right? Don't put those all on my list. And then I'm going to go for you know, I'm going to do I did a little research about you know, you like great horror festivals. And so I knew I wanted to be a bunch of horror. So I put those on my list. And then I started really getting into the idea. pretty early on that I was going to get subtitles for everything because even though that's a little bit upfront, you put like 100 bucks or whatever down for 200 bucks for your subtitles. In the end, it saves you so much money because so many festivals across the world are free to enter. And so once I got on the bandwagon of getting first of all, just getting your English subtitles is amazing because once you get your English subtitles, a lot of film festivals will just take your film. Foreign festivals will take your film as your film with the English subtitles and make subtitles for you. So I think that the first festival I got in that was I submitted it with English subtitles was more beat on then they wanted Spanish subtitles. But then all the festivals after that, that I entered, they all made the male made the subtitles for me and then opened up this incredible world in Europe where all the festival first of all, like I went on other other sites because people want always want to just go on Film Freeway, well, there's fest home, there's short film depot, and you can find like the most amazing freakin festivals on there. But your film has got to have some subtitles. But by the time you're done, you're you're you know, so I would what I would do is I go on those those sites and I'd look every week and see what the what ones coming up work, you know, and then I see is that right for me. And if it's free to enter a couple bucks, what do you have to lose nothing, if you got your subtitles. And then you're also having a long game if you have your subtitles, because then if you get picked up by a sales rep, or you do it yourself, then you can, which is harder to do it yourself to get your film distributed in Europe. But if you have a sales rep, then they can go and sell your film in France and Germany, because you already have the subtitles. So I you know, so like, and the other thing is, is a lot of people would say to me, can I have your list? You know, because I want to know, I want to know which ones to enter. And I would say Well, first of all, every film is different. So my film was a 18 minute film. So I didn't there was festivals, I couldn't enter because it was too long, too long. My comedy horror, and in AI and the thing about doing your own list and going out there and researching and like looking at these festivals and see and looking at their websites is pretty soon you start to get a real feel of what's out there, what your film might be right for now, you're always surprised by what your film gets in, like, sometimes you think Oh, for sure that's a shoo in. And other times you don't you know, but you do get a feel, you do get a feel. And I can't say enough even though it's a lot of work to create a list, you know, about what first of all the film, the festivals that you think will fit your film, the festivals that are free. The festivals that maybe are Oscar and you you make that list and you also put the early bird down. So you know that you know how much money you're spending or you know how to weigh it. Once you've made that list. It's like you kind of feel I mean, I like I really got like a real feel of what's out there. And what in what to submit to and how and how to do it, how to get stuff going. So I think it's really important. Like I get filmmakers all the time. I'm like, hey, you know, like, I'll see their phone be like, I bet this film would be great for this or this or this, like I'll give I'm happy to like tell people that. But I but I don't like when people say can I have your list? Because I'm like, how is my list that specific for my film going to help your film? Right? You have to take that time. You have to take that time to create that list. And I was coming from Ground Zero to like I had never been on the festival route. I didn't know I mean, you know, I knew I knew Sundance.

Alex Ferrari 24:50
Yeah. Yes. The five the top five. Okay, no, Toronto. Yeah, yeah, Rebecca

Clarissa Jacobson 24:56
Just got to get out there and just kind of like and then another way that I did it too as I decided that I wanted my lunch ladies to go all over the world. So I'd be like, Oh, God, I gotta get in a festival in Venezuela I haven't been an investor woman is and which ones these have not been Venezuela yet.

Alex Ferrari 25:10
She's still trying, but they didn't they didn't pay your weight. All right, you bet you paid your own way. No, no,

Clarissa Jacobson 25:15
I mean, I met like my, my film, like, I had this feeling like I would create, I created a map of where they had been, because I loved the idea of them going to these, you know, places like in December, it's going to be in Bali. I mean, it's going, you know, so like, There's something so amazing about having your film be seen all over the world. So that's another way to do it, like has your film been seen in Spain and to not get to not give up because it can take a while to break into a country. And then once you break in, it's like, the programmers all talk to each other. And they get to you, they hear about you and the Europeans especially like, I feel like the programmers there really talk to each other and really share films, and really, they'll play your film more than once. So you know, that's another way to do it, too, is like geo geographically or like, which states have by knocking into if you can't decide which ones to enter, you know,

Alex Ferrari 26:05
So the thing, I think one of the big problems that filmmakers have, as well as they always focus on the top five, or 10, the Sundance is and the slam dances and these, these kind of festivals, and the I always tell them, like the chances of you getting your film in are so astronomical. I mean, it was like 30,000 submissions to Sundance last night. And, you know, 110, including shorts get in. So it's so astronomical to get into those kinds of things. And they feel like they're failures when they don't get into the big, the big 10, or the big 20, even bigger, and I always tell them, It's not about you. It's not personal, it's not about your film, you're not hitting what they are looking for that year, that year, they really might be into this kind of film, with this kind of filmmaker attached to it. It's political, it has little to do with the quality of your film, to be honest with you, because I've seen a lot of good projects that don't get in. And then I see projects, sometimes it like, I never forgot this. And forgive me if there's a filmmaker who did this, but I couldn't. I was so angry. I was at Sundance, was such Sundance, and I went I went to the shorts of a shorts block. And I see is called Batman goes on a date, a Robin goes on a date. Okay, and it's Justin Long as Robin and Sam Rockwell as Batman. And, and, and Robin and Justin is like, you know, trying to go on a date, and then Batman's trying to basically move in on Robins date. And that's the short film. And I'm sitting there going, if that was done with anybody other than Justin and Sam rock, it would have never made the Sundance block. And I go, that's just that just upset me. Because I was like, I don't have access to SAM and Justin, especially in 2005. So that it just was like, but that's the way the game is played. It's unfortunate. It's unfortunate. Sometimes, you'll get you know, and then sometimes you'll get the Cinderella stories and sometimes you'll get people that don't have names, get into those festivals, of course, based on their quality and things like that. But that was just one example. It's like, oh, it's not really about my project.

Clarissa Jacobson 28:18
I I find that like you have to go for the big ones. Sure. Because it's fun. But also sometimes like there's ones that are like just so that opened up so many freakin doors. I've had festivals that have opened up so many doors you know that that maybe if that you know cuz I've seen I you know, I talked about this so like, you know, I didn't my film did not get in Sundance. Okay. But,

Alex Ferrari 28:49
Mine either by the way, you're in good company,

Clarissa Jacobson 28:52
You know, but then my film got in Claremont fron and that was the festival that I needed to get it going. Sure. But But, but you know, there's plenty people I mean, come up front is the most amazing festival. There's plenty people don't know, Claremont fry is right. So you know, I got you know, I'd get in that one or I get in some small or into some small festival that I couldn't get in. Or I'd enter another festival that nobody had heard of, but that festival would open another door for something else. So like the idea is like to check out the festivals and make sure they have a real thing going you know, to know that they're legit or not to feel good fake or, and to really just be thankful when you get in them and not. You know, like it was it was a total crazy thing when it got in that one and I wasn't even in the competitive section. And it still was like the most amazing thing in the world. But like, I didn't get in South by Southwest I didn't get in you know a ton of it. But there's always a festival that's that it's for your film and you just got to get out there and just submit some MIT submit and realize, you know, like when I actually did a whole, a whole chapter about that, about why your film doesn't get in festivals, because it's a mindfuck. If you if you go down that path to start believing that your film was bad, you'll drop out and I talked to people that will be like, Oh, I've entered 10 festivals, and I only got one. So I'm dropping out. And I'm like, you know, the average is 10% of the festivals that you get in. So that means you're gonna average film gets in only 10% of the festivals. Oh, yeah. Just get out there and keep, and you can't have, you know, like, there's people that I know, that's a small festival, you know, some of the smallest festivals have been the most amazing.

Alex Ferrari 30:36
Three are the best. They're the best it was ever. I went to I went to when I with my first film, I, I got into so many festivals, but I got into my first 35 festivals turned down from all the major festivals because I had a 20 minute, right, you know, action thriller, not the film festival grading, you know. So, you know, I got into a lot of genre and all that stuff. But after 35 episodes at 35, festivals, I'd spent about $1,000, in submission fees. So I was just like, I didn't know anything about anything. I was just trying to

Clarissa Jacobson 31:10
Bring up the free festivals in Europe.

Alex Ferrari 31:12
I mean there was no free festivals in Europe. I didn't know about any of that stuff. And subtitling costs $10 a minute. So back then it was a whole other world. But then after a while, I said, Well, I got into 35 festivals, no festival that I'm going to get into from this point on is going to explode my career is the way I thought about it. So I'm like, right, I just boycotted paying for festivals anymore. So I just said, I'm not gonna pay for any more festivals. Now. Right? What I did at that point is I didn't stop submitting, I submitted to everybody. And because my branding and my marketing was was so on point with the trailer, my trailer was watched 20,000 times back in 2005. So it was a whole lot like, you know, it's I think it's one of the first trailers ever on YouTube. I'm so old, is I looked it up. I looked it up the other day. I looked it up the other day. And I was like, oh my god, am I the first movie trailer ever on YouTube? And I found, I think Sony Classics had put one up. Oh, my God, I love it. So so it's still up there. And it got like 20 30,000 views back then I've seen and it's a great trailer. Yes. So it was so because of that, I was very confident. I was like, hey, look, I already got some of these other vessels. So what I would do is I would submit to everybody, I mean, I did not discriminate, I submitted to everybody that could be submitted to, and then they would go back and like oh, we like your film, I'm like, great. If you if I'm accepted, I'll be more than happy to pay your submission fee. But I'm not gonna pay a submission fee. If for the mere chance of getting it because at this point in the game, I'm not gonna throw another three or 4000. Right. And I it worked enough that I got into another couple.

Clarissa Jacobson 32:53
And it does get Yeah, I mean, the truth is, is like, you know, if you get that roll going, then people start to come to you. Right. And actually, it takes a little bit, you know, like it's building you know, Jerome Kershaw and calls it a pedigree, it's building that pedigree, I didn't realize that that's what I was doing. When I was like, you know, emailing every single day, you know, someone to write about my film, no matter how small it was, like every single day, like just just building these reviews, building these reveals just creating this buzz for my film. So that after about I would say it took it took a while, but about six or seven months, then I started having people come to me saying, Can I see the film, you don't have to pay the you don't pay the submission fee? Can I see the film? You know,

Alex Ferrari 33:36
It takes a minute, it takes a minute, but once you're able to build up that momentum at a certain point, and don't get me wrong, I got a lot of film festivals. I was like, yeah, no, we need you to pay the submission. I'm like, that's fine. I'm not going to.

Clarissa Jacobson 33:47
And you hustle in the beginning and you always gotta hustle through the whole thing, but it does. But when it starts snowballing and you start getting like people excited and hearing about it and stuff like that, then then it becomes even becomes even more worth it. You know, cuz getting some positive reinforcement.

Alex Ferrari 34:02
And some of the best experiences I've ever had at festivals are always been the small ones. Because it's, it's, it's kind of a mom and pop. Like, you know, everybody, everybody knows you. They treat you like family. Whereas in some larger festivals who shall remain nameless?

Clarissa Jacobson 34:18
Yeah, I can go over that with you.

Alex Ferrari 34:21
After Yeah, I mean, there's a there's one specifically in LA.

Clarissa Jacobson 34:26
I think. That same one. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 34:29
And that specific one in 2005 It's not Holly shorts, by the way. I love Holly shorts. It but I I do 1005 I submitted and got accepted. And it was a fairly big one. It was an Oscar, whatever qualifier and all this kind of stuff. I flew my ass across the country. Put myself up in Hollywood. Can you imagine I was in a hotel in Hollywood. Me and my friend. I never forgot it. We might meet my producing partner we got into this hotel room and the beds. Like

Clarissa Jacobson 35:10
Shut the window.

Alex Ferrari 35:11
No the beds were they were so they were so close to each other it almost seemed comedic.

Clarissa Jacobson 35:17
Like you want trains and automobiles?

Alex Ferrari 35:20
Like is this is this a cleaning closet? And then like out front when I walk into like, you know Marilyn Monroe stayed here once I'm like I'm sure she did but Jesus guys so it caught it cost us a couple you know, by 1000 bucks. 1500 bucks, if not more back to go over there. So we get to our screening. We were in a block with everybody else. And then at the end, no q&a. No q&a, only thing I wanted. It was a q&a. And I talked to the the programmers there and then everyone's like, Sorry, can't do it. We're running late. I'm like, dude, and oh, by the way, I wasn't even the worst another another poor filmmaker in that block flew from Spain. And he didn't get his his and he only had the one screening. There's nothing so yeah, and that's off air. I'll tell you some other stories. But But, but but but, but some of these smaller festivals like there's a wonderful festival down in Florida called the Melbourne Independent Film Festival. I know those guys really well. They love filmmakers. They treated me like like gold. And they're wonderful. There's so many great film festivals out there that that will treat filmmakers well. So don't always look at the big boys the big boys.

Clarissa Jacobson 36:35
Oh, you do you do a nice little mix and then yeah, and now that they have you know fest home and Short Film depot, you can enter the foreign festivals for like next to nothing. And in I've had just met so many amazing people. Yeah. Let's talk many amazing people in the foreign festivals.

Alex Ferrari 36:53
So let's talk let's talk a little bit about the experience of working a festival because a lot of filmmakers just go there with their eyes full of shiny golden lights. and the like. Oh look the

Clarissa Jacobson 37:04
Right expectations like I had to Morty to see

Alex Ferrari 37:07
Exactly, you're like, oh my god, this is gonna be a mate's gonna be like up because all you think about a Sundance, so you think everything's gonna be like, I'm gonna walk the red carpet, there's gonna be people taking pictures of me everyone's gonna want to talk to me about my genius, and about my my artistic expression and how amazing I am. And then eventually, obviously, Steven Spielberg, or somebody is going to watch me for sure, obviously, from going to that first festival. So when you get there, so can we talk a little bit about how to actually work a festival, how to take advantage of what they have to offer and things like that, because a lot of filmmakers just go they're completely clueless about what this is, and what the true opportunities are. And what the true complete delusions?

Clarissa Jacobson 37:54
Yes, absolutely. So one thing is that you can do is you can always work a festival, even if you're not there. Oh, so that means that when you talk to the programmers, so they know who you are, like, don't be a pain in the ass, but you know, talk to them and say, you know, can I send postcards? Can I can I send a poster and I mean, I've sent them to Europe as many times as I could, because if because if you're not going to be there, at least or postcards will be there. And I will tell you like, even if you're not there the first part of the week, and you hear coming the second part of the week, you want your postcards there on the table, I've had distributors that have gone to see the film, because there was a postcard on the frickin table even though I wasn't there. So that's the first way to work your festival is to make sure you know and you got it you have to ask sometimes festivals don't want your swag and they don't want all that but like, you know, get up try to have a presence, then, you know, earned learned early on don't have expectations about how you think it's going to go. So I have a funny story about Morabito fest, which I just I love it so much. But when I went there, I missed my film both times the first time I got in an Uber X. For the first day I was in such a bad. It was like you know that James Bond movie, I got stuck in a Day of the Dead parade and I was running and I was sobbing and I was like me put me Gouda, which was the only Spanish words I knew. And I was running and I was like I couldn't the taxi cab driver dropped me off on the side of the freeway. I ran up I ran into this huge parade. I got to my film right when it was over and got to do the q&a with mascara running down my face. Said the second time.

Alex Ferrari 39:25
I mean, it was a horror comedy. So that makes sense.

Clarissa Jacobson 39:30
What is it 2000 3000 miles to know I know to do this to do this, right? And then the second time the film play twice. I was like I'm gonna get there really early. So I got there really early, you know, like had a gin and tonic like talk to people. And then I found out two minutes before that it was canceled. Yeah. And then I got in a second Uber accident on the way home. So like you'd think this would be like the worst situation right? Well, it wasn't because first of all I like I said I was telling you earlier I had stood in line for the opening night and I met my director there that of my current film. So if I hadn't gone to morbido Fest, I never would have met him. The grammar was just so wonderful like I I talked to him so many times, they've been so supportive, I wrote about them on my book. So you could look at that experiences like, oh my god, that was the worst experience in a world because you have this expectation that you're gonna go to the more Beto fast which is this amazing festival in Mexico City, you're going to be like hobnobbing, and you're going to Oh, and also I went to there was supposed to be a party and I went, I was there by myself and I speak Spanish and we're supposed to be a party. I go to the party, and the guy goes, no party here. No party here. So I went to a bar by myself drink a margarita. And the next morning, I saw on Instagram that they were all partying at the place where they told me there was no need. So that kind of like week but like, but at the same time, like that's when I was like, I already kind of gotten gone to a few festivals where it was like your expectation of what do you have no freakin idea what its gonna be but like, if you can just open it. Open yourself up to it. Something always something amazing always comes out of it. Even the worst festivals I've been horrible festivals where I meet just one person that's so freakin amazing. And they become like my best buddy. And they helped me so much. So the first thing is to try not to have expectations and know that something positive will always come out of it. And then you want to be as prepared as possible with all your stuff. So like, there was many times when I was the only one there with a poster

Alex Ferrari 41:24
Oh my god a poster and an easel postcards all that.

Clarissa Jacobson 41:27
I mean, it sounds simple. It's a pain in the ass to bring it but yeah, if you have a poster and evil people will see will tend to go to see your film over other people's films.

Alex Ferrari 41:36
Right, exactly. And it's, it's, it's just an interesting the whole thing I remember when I first my first I never forgot my first film festival ever got into because I didn't know anything about premieres or if there was premieres or anything like that. So I submitted and got into the Ocean City Film Festival in New Jersey. It's amazing way to make it. I won Best Director. Right, like right first first festival. I don't like a set. I'm like, This is gonna be easy. Like, obviously, everyone's seeing my changes. Like everyone's seeing my genius right away. This is Oh, I should be directing a studio movie within a year. And then I didn't get another award for a year.

Clarissa Jacobson 42:26
That's hard to like when you get in the you don't get you get rejected. But then you get then you then you don't you know, because it comes in waves get kinds of waves, you'll get accepted to a bunch and then it'll be like eight or nine rejections. Oh, yeah, it's it's never gonna get in another festival.

Alex Ferrari 42:42
No, no, it's crazy. But so but the best part was when I looked them up. And again, guys, this was 2005 when I looked it up on their website, which if you can imagine what a 2005 website done by somebody who doesn't know what a website is? It's absolutely brilliant. It was my film was being played at like Billy Bob's Crab Shack. And that was where they were holding the festival. They were like, basically just projecting it in the back of the bar. And this guy, and I think that went on for like two or three. I think it went on for two, three years. And then what a great story, but one I wish I would have gone. I wish I would have gone it would have been amazing. But yeah, but you just never. You never know who you're gonna meet. My best. My best story of working a festival is working Sundance, because I didn't get into Sundance, but I worked it. So in 2005 when my first film came out, my first short broken came out. I flew to Sundance, even though we got rejected, and we were just gonna like make sure everybody at Sundance knew about our film and we literally walked Mainstreet on Park in Park City, with a DVD portable DVD player really was showing people showing people the trailer. And we had postcards all over the place. And people are like, Where can I see this? And I would just send everybody to our website. And I got so much attention. We actually got more attention than most of the festival film.

Clarissa Jacobson 44:04
Yeah, you have to put yourself out there. You know, like, even if you're afraid and believe me, I'm I. I mean, I was so happy to be like out there doing it. So like, sure, you know, up but but I but yeah, there is fear like that. Yo, how am I going to talk to people, you know, and it's like, you just got to talk to people. You don't just pitch pitch. You get to know people and you like, and sometimes it's even better if you don't have your sometimes it's even better, it's fun, or if you have your team with you. But sometimes it's better even if you're by yourself. Because you need more people that way.

Alex Ferrari 44:35
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that it was at that year that we did I think one year we actually wrote We created our own passes. So my parties, so we actually created of like this ridiculous pass. That would not fool anybody. But again, this is 2005 so Sundance was a little bit different. And it just said All Access. That's all it said. It was just an all access. You have no idea

Clarissa Jacobson 45:00
But that takes so much chutzpah like I love that. They're probably like knew knew it was bullshit, but they were like, Oh man, we got to let these guys in because it's been

Alex Ferrari 45:08
You have no idea how many places we got in to. Because we acted like we were in the festival and we're like, oh yeah. And we will leave our postcards it like Sundance's like headquarters and then like, back in the day, like, Who's this guy? And you see it all in the garbage cans we pick them out of the garbage can we like it was just straight up. It was just straight up porcelain like hard, hardcore stuff, but we met or hustle but we met producers distributors that way we had it led to me flying up to they flew me up to Toronto to when we were going to try to make the feature and all this kind of craziness all because we went to a festival that we weren't accepted in. Yeah.

Clarissa Jacobson 45:49
And you work it you talk to people you like got a really I mean, it was parties we were we were like when I was at Monster palooza. I just walked up and down the line. Because I knew that people were there not to see films. And I just was like here, here's a lunch ladies here. Now we please show up my show.

Alex Ferrari 46:06
So this is so this is so this I'm going to tell the story. I'm I don't know if I should tell this story. But I think

Clarissa Jacobson 46:10
Yes, please do. If it's embarrassing tell it

Alex Ferrari 46:12
It's not embarrassing. It's actually a it's a hack. It's one of the many hacks discovered at Sundance.

Clarissa Jacobson 46:19
The to hacks, man. Okay.

Alex Ferrari 46:20
All right. So that was about it. But it does affect somebody else. So we knew so so because we were hustling so much. There was this one agent at CAA that we met there at some parties. And he was, he was a prick. And he wasn't very nice, but we knew his name. So what we would do is we would go to a party up in the hills at one of these giant houses. And they're like, where's the list? And like, Hi, John, John Smith from CAA. And they're like, go right on, and Mr. Smith, we would get there early before John would get that that was like because, because he treated us badly. So then what we would do is, so I would get in, and then I would walk in and find an exit or somewhere and I would let my buddy and I let my buddy and on the side. So we're there. Like I'd never forgot it. We were at this giant house, in the middle of you know, up in the hills in Park City. And we're like partying next to like, Paul Walker, Elijah Wood. Paris Hilton was there at the time, like, all awesome, man. I mean, we were just like, fifth. It's awesome. Oh my God, I believe we're here. Like love that you did that. But that's it. But you know, there was I was younger, I was more foolish that thing times with different guys times were different. But don't do that to any agents that cool guys, please. But, but it was a way it was. And we and one other trick that we did is we got to Sundance probably a date too early, while they were setting up. And we became we became friends with the door guys. That's smart, too. So we walked in, we became friends. We befriended them, we bought them little drinks here and there. So when the parties were happening on Main Street, we just walk up and like Baba and Baba would let us right in. And that was and that and we were able to get into parties that we had no business being in whatsoever. None. None whatsoever, like people are like is that why are these people? What the hell have these idiots? What's all access? What is that about? So? Oh, no, I should write a book just on my Sundance adventures. That's why I made my movie ego and desire because I'd love I just love.

Clarissa Jacobson 48:32
Yeah, I just started watching it. So fun. I think girls are pissed off, get all the credit.

Alex Ferrari 48:40
Because that never happens. Never happens in filmmaking ever. Never. He goes, he goes in filmmaking. Never in a million years would that happen? So, um, so let me get oh,

Clarissa Jacobson 48:53
And show up. The other thing too, is to show up, like can cost you $1,000 Go to the festivals like I mean, I saved a little nest egg. And I found out you know, using Scott's flights, which is amazing that you could go to Europe for pretty much the same price as you can go to New York City to see a festival because a lot of the foreign festivals will pay for your hotels or they'll put for for you know, food or whatever. You know, and I just can't tell you like how valuable it was just meeting just going and meet new people.

Alex Ferrari 49:23
And especially if you're if you're not in LA or New York or Austin or or a hub where there's a lot of filmmakers or in Atlanta. You you get to interact with your kind. Your your people, you meet other filmmakers, you meet other producers, you meet other writers and the networking that you do at these festivals. Even if it's a little hole in the wall festival is important. There's somebody there that you can meet. You have no idea who you can meet there. And sometimes there's a panelist who's on a panel somewhere and you walk up afterwards, and you and you introduce yourself and it's a Weird thing at a festival? Like you couldn't do that on the streets of LA. But no. But at a festival, it's acceptable to a certain extent. Like if they're at the bar, you can walk up to them. And Oh, totally friend.

Clarissa Jacobson 50:13
What do you do? Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 50:15
Do you have any advice? All that stuff? By the way, if you do meet somebody at a festival that's like, you know, big writer, big director, producer, don't just start asking them for things. Please know where and Can I buy you a drink? You know, what advice do you know? What advice do you have for him? But don't go hey, can you see my movie? Hey, can you Hey, hey, I got this script. Don't.

Clarissa Jacobson 50:37
Don't you know, the other good way to is, I know, this goes without saying, but this happened. I mean, this happened. And I talked about this in book two. Another way to make sure that you work a festival is is freakin support the other filmmakers see their films. And when you go to a block and your film is played, don't get up after yours is done. Watch the rest of the films. Right? Do that not like really? Nothing is like worse will than going to a block and somebody gets up in the middle after their film is done and doesn't watch the rest of the filmmakers to support them.

Alex Ferrari 51:12
Yeah, there's there's that Yeah. Yeah, I've been in those. I've been in those as well. And

Clarissa Jacobson 51:18
Makers are your like best.

Alex Ferrari 51:20
The worst is when you get to a film when you're at a film festival, and like the only people in the audience are you in the crew. And that's and there's like, Okay, we bought 10 tickets. Okay. I see there's some sort of

Clarissa Jacobson 51:33
Every once in a while, there's a small audience and yeah, which is great, which is great. And you're like, Oh, bummer. It's a small audience. But I've learned to love small audiences, too. Because sometimes, you could have a huge audience and not a single person could do anything for you, you can have a small audience, and there's somebody there that can help you in some way or wants to help you. Right? So never look down on even a small audience. You just don't know who's in that audience.

Alex Ferrari 51:55
I'm gonna I'm gonna tell one more story. When I was at the Toronto Film Festival, in 2005, or six, somebody, one of the producers who I was working with at the time to like, Hey, we're distributing this film. Here's a ticket to go see this film. It was like a, an independent film. I'm like, Cool. So I went, and we sat there. And I was with my partner, my producing partner, and we look in the back and the like, is that Roger Ebert? sitting in the corner of the theater? And he goes, I think it is, I'm like, let's go up and talk to him. This is before the movie starts. Like let's, let's go up and talk to Roger Ebert. So we walk up over to Roger Ebert. And Roger, you know, we're like, Oh, my God, Roger, you're like the best. Like, you know, we're such big fans of yours, all this stuff. So we're talking to Roger Ebert. And all of a sudden, and then we start, like, we start yapping about our film, like, Oh, we got this, we've got our movie. And we did it for like $8,000. And it's got like 100 visual effects shots in and we shot it with its digital camera, and it looks like film and all this kind of stuff. And we're disputing things off. There is nowhere in my mind that I believe that Roger Ebert will ever watch my film. That's not even that that has not even crossed my mind at all. I'm just depressing. I'm just expressing. I'm just expressing I'm just expressing to Roger Ebert, who was an idol of mine, what I've done as a filmmaker, right in the middle of the conversation, I see something change in his eyes, and he kind of tilts his head, and he goes, Can I take a picture of you guys? And I said, Sure, Roger Ebert. That would be awesome. That was he had, he had his, like, he carried around the, you know, this is before iPhones. So he carried around his, you know, his, his digital his camera with them. So he, and he, you know, we take a picture, he takes a picture of both of us. And, and the only ignorant thing in my mind is like, well, now I can ask him for a picture too, because he asked for one of ours because I wasn't going to ask him for one until this happened. Because I'm not that guy didn't want to like you get big. But he took one of me. So now it's fair. I want to take a picture with you. And he's like, Sure. So I got a picture with Roger. And and then he's like, you know, this story would make a nice little story from my blog, about up and coming technologies, and all of this cause all the up and coming technologies and filmmakers using this. I'm like, great. Would you like to watch our movie? Bam, here's a DVD. And we happen to have our DVD with us. And he's like, Sure, I'll take this. So we took it. And we're like, great, you know, because originally, as we were talking and talking, he's like, Guys, I can't I can't watch your film. I it's not in the festival and I there's so many hours in a day I have and we're like, Roger, of course you're not going to watch our film. You're Roger Ebert. Why in God's green earth would you watch our little $8,000 short film from West Palm Beach, Florida. Like, hey, makes no sense. I made him want to watch it. Um, so then he grabbed it. He took it and we're like, okay, hold on. Ever watch that, but that was really nice of him to do that we got a picture with Roger, but that's all we got. So we fly back to Florida, when we land, our emails blowing up because everyone's like, Roger Ebert reviewed your film on his blog, and wrote a story about

Clarissa Jacobson 55:15
The jackpot.

Alex Ferrari 55:16
I'm like, what? And we went to his website, and oh, my God, it's there. It's still there. It's still it's still there. He wrote a long article about a bunch of films he watched. And he in that article, he also wrote about us that he watched the film, he gave us two lines in the movie, effective and professional. What did he say? Oh, got it. I used to repeat it, like on verbatim, but he's like, Oh, the mastery of horror imagery and techniques. I'm like, holy cow, Roger,

Clarissa Jacobson 55:49
But he was he was vibing on your authenticity and your passion. So I would I had similar things happen like that. No, but it was situation at Claremont fron were friends 24 There's a million filmmakers. And they came up to me and I got to have my little film on Fritz 24. You know, what it was to me sedative section. But he said, I said, Why me? He goes, because you were so passionate and excited about your film. So that like translates that's uh, you know, that's, you know, bringing it up. I'm sure. That's why he probably was like, There's no way in hell, I'm gonna see these guys film, but your passion and your authenticity about it, not pushing it. He was like, I got to see this.

Alex Ferrari 56:26
And I'll never forget, I will never forget that to the day I die that a giant like Roger Ebert that's insane. Gave a little a little he sprinkled a little magic dust on on us. And then from there ever was still the best bet still the best film critic in history of film critics. Yeah. But he because of that quote. And because of that attention. I that was my lead with zactly every festival I'm like Roger Ebert reviewed it, Roger Avery, because

Clarissa Jacobson 56:55
See, that's what I mean. Like, when you You never know, like, who's gonna be there. And what you're in is going to be I mean, I've talked about this before, like, I've been in festivals, you know, with films that have gone to Sundance where they, the people in Sundance did their film, they did nothing with their film, they didn't promote it, they were just like, if I was in Sundance, right, their film didn't go anywhere. It just wasn't Sundance, that was it? Right. So. So you know, like, you don't have to get in sun. You know, it's what you do with your film where and who you the passion that you exude when you're you're there. And you you meet? Roger you, but

Alex Ferrari 57:28
It was the most and it was such an it was like, like you were talking about earlier is like, how do these things happen? There was no reason for us to be there, there would have been never asked juried in everything. Everything just happened. Like I met this person that

Clarissa Jacobson 57:41
They feel like I feel like you just drew that dude to you

Alex Ferrari 57:44
No, there's there. Yeah, there was an energy there thing there no question. But then you're like, Okay, here's the ticket to the screening of this obscure independent film from Australia, then, and then I just happened he showed up and showed up and oh, my God, there's

Clarissa Jacobson 57:57
The universe gave me the ticket. And a lot of people be like, oh, you know what, I'm just gonna go have a drink with my buddy. You know, you know, like, I'm gonna go next door that Oh,

Alex Ferrari 58:06
And that and that that one moment, or that one moment opened up so many doors, and I got called by, like I said, Oscar winning producer.

Clarissa Jacobson 58:15
Oh, my God. Yeah. Example the proof for

Alex Ferrari 58:19
Yeah, it was in for a short film. That wasn't in the festival in 2005.

Clarissa Jacobson 58:25
He doesn't even he doesn't he doesn't learn there. He does. Yeah, I mean, he does, I think, only times I've ever heard him even

Alex Ferrari 58:31
Reviewing a short. And when I say review, I use that term very loosely. He watched it and gave me to

Clarissa Jacobson 58:36
Talk about it. And he said nothing about it, and you can use it. And it was positive. It said something positive.

Alex Ferrari 58:42
It was sneaky. And he was so kind. I could have said negative. But he was the thing about him is he he was kind when he didn't need to be kind. He was supportive when he didn't need to be supportive. And that is that is the hallmark of a great, great person in our business. Because and I've heard this, I've heard similar stories about Steven Spielberg, constantly do out. I interview many of his collaborators. I've spoken to many people who've worked with him on the writing side, on the cinematography side on the producing side. And I hear the same things about Stephen that he does things behind the scenes that you're just like, oh my god, he has no reason to be. He there's no need for him to

Clarissa Jacobson 59:29
Always here. Good stuff. James Cameron.

Alex Ferrari 59:32
James Cameron. Well, James Cameron, let me I'd love Jim. I mean, Jim is Jim he's, there's no other filmmaker liking

Clarissa Jacobson 59:39
Stuff, good stuff behind the scenes about him. I've heard good stuff, too.

Alex Ferrari 59:42
He helps. He helps when he can help. I've heard there's also those legendary stories about his temper onset. But, um, but he's he's mellowed over the years and I know a lot of people who've worked with Jim as well. Um, I actually know what it is neighbors cuz he told me stories I was like, he has what? What does he do? That's amazing. But there's there's these giants who who are kind when they don't need to be kind, you know, I got a I got a an autograph from George Lucas in middle of from when he was only gonna have to that's just his book I wish I was a Stanley Kubrick. But But yeah, like he didn't have he didn't have to be that nice. So there's these giants who are nice and are that don't need to be nice and that's such a refreshing thing and Roger Ebert story is one of those. But anyway, so that's something we could keep. We can keep yapping about this for hours, where can people where can people buy your book?

Clarissa Jacobson 1:00:48
Um, so you can get it at my website? HeyImClarissaJ, or you can get it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble target Sunbury Press published, so you can get it there. If you get it from my website, I'll send you some lunch lady swag. Book. If you get it from Amazon, you probably can get a cheaper you can get it on Kindle. You know, so yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:11
Is it an audio book yet? Or not yet? No, it's not you right now. But right now that my but when you're stopped when you stop talking to me, you're going to start recording your audio book. And we'll talk about it afterwards. If I ask you a few questions, ask all my guests. What advice would you have for a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Clarissa Jacobson 1:01:35
The biggest thing for me always is to surround yourself to find a class and surround yourself with people that will hold you up and help you and to keep learning.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:44
So what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Clarissa Jacobson 1:01:50
That I am enough. And everybody talks a lot about filmmakers and artists having egos. But, you know, there, I always felt and I know a lot of people feel this way that you just I just wasn't no matter how many classes I took that I just on, no matter how much I did it that there was that I just wasn't enough that I could, I couldn't you know, and then when I just kind of set back into like, I'm enough and they're either gonna get me or not get me. Things started to turn for me, like when you when you can find that belief in yourself. And I have this like, I have this crazy story like when am I in my 20s. So I, I when I was an actress, I wanted to be unmad TV. And I like this is a perfect example. I want to be a man TV and I just bugged them and bug them bug them for an audition. And I finally get to go to the audition. And you had to do three characters and an impersonation. So I decide that I'm going to dress up as my character which was a bingo lady, that the bingo lady and carry a suitcase with all my clothes and do my whole like little stand up thing with them. So I show up to the audition. And I'm the only one dressed up. And all these girls are kind of talking. And I hear like the lady at the front desk doesn't know that here, but I hear her go. Clarissa Jacobson's here, you should see her right. And I felt so mortified and so embarrassed. And so just being in that place of like, Hey, I'm awesome. I showed up. So I went and I did my audition. I did okay, it wasn't. I just was like, I was off. I was off because I was upset about it. I didn't get I didn't get on my TV. But years later, I read that Pee Wee Herman did the same thing for Saturday Night Live. And the difference between him and B was he was so completely in his own like, Fuck, yeah, I'm showing up in my clothes. I'm going to do my thing. And he owned it. And I look back as like a younger artist about thing just not owning. My does.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:46
Yeah, that's that. Yeah. It was so funny. Because I've actually, in my first feature, I worked with Deborah Wilson and, and Joe Michelle McGee on both mad TV alumni. Oh, really? Yes. And they've told me stories all the time about oh my god, it's the golden days of Mad TV and stuff.

Clarissa Jacobson 1:04:03
And I just was like, if so many times if I had just owned because I actually had a frickin good idea of I mean, it was good enough for Peewee Herman. It's just being haters. They were just being haters, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:04:14
And if you could just be authentic with who you are. That is what's that's what makes you stand out. Yeah, you're authentic and you own your space like Andy Kaufman come out. I mean, come on. He mean, like you look at Andy Kaufman, he owned everything he did, to a level that is beyond normal human capacity. And he did it. He did it in such a level that they're just like, well, we he's we don't understand what he's doing. Let him sit next to that record player and sing my and Mighty Mouse just like it's you like, Oh my God. It's like, but that's the authenticity.

Clarissa Jacobson 1:04:49
So the new idea, don't let the haters get you down.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:53
Own it, own it, own it, own it. If your three of your favorite films of all time.

Clarissa Jacobson 1:04:59
The magic second film Santa song Gray. I don't know if you've seen that.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:03
Vaguely sounds familiar.

Clarissa Jacobson 1:05:05
Okay. A girl walks home alone. And I'm 16 candles.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:14
Nice mix.

Clarissa Jacobson 1:05:17
John Hughes is a genius. John was right teens like even today nobody writes teens like John Hughes.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:23
Amen. Amen. But Clarissa thank you so much for being on the show. It has been fun. It's been a joy talking to you. And I hope I hope a whole bunch of filmmakers go out and read the book because it is a guide to really helping you through these treacherous waters and spiders. And I appreciate you so thank you again for being on the show.

Clarissa Jacobson 1:05:42
Thanks so much, Alex. It was really fun.

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IFH 537: The Power of a Niche Audience (Saltbox TV) with Jerry Goehring and Patty Carver

saltbox tv, Jerry Goehring, Patty Carver

Today on the show we have Jerry Goehring and Patty Carver. They are the founders of Saltbox TV.

Saltbox TV is the first-ever streaming service dedicated to connecting older adults with diverse, informative, and engaging programming. Through a simple and user-friendly platform, Saltbox TV welcomes even those with no technical experience. Saltbox TV hosts various programs from music, faith, classic film & television, lifelong learning, wellness, documentaries, arts and crafts, Saltbox Originals, and everything in between.

This is the Senior streaming service I represent.  They have an incredible mission and great programming for seniors.  They’re just moving into original programming and currently developing their first reality show SILVER STARS.  Attached is a sheet that highlights that current programming which includes financial assistance, health & wellness, exercise, general entertainment, etc.

The real topic here is ageism, the lack of entertainment focused on this demo from content to devices…SALTBOX has made some incredible partnerships with players in the sr industry from pre-loading Saltbox onto tablets for seniors, playing on closed circuits TV at senior homes, and deals with Roku, Firestick, etc.

In this episode we discuss the power of niche audience, how to serve them, how to build and audience and much more. Enjoy my conversation Jerry Goehring and Patty Carver.

Right-click here to download the MP3

 

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I'd like to welcome the show Jerry Goehring and Patty Carver. How're you guys doing?

Jerry Goehring 0:16
Oh, great, Alex. Thanks for having us.

Patty Carver 0:17
Hi Alex!

Alex Ferrari 0:18
Thank you so much for coming on the show. I wanted to have you guys come on the show because you have a great product and called saltbox. TV. And, and I just was really interested in using it as a case study as far as how to focus on niche audiences as opposed to going mass market, which so many filmmakers do nowadays, creating their projects and TV thinking that they're gonna compete with Marvel, or Disney or Star Wars, or any of these kind of mass market concepts or even just a general drama or general comedy. It's very difficult in the independent film world to do that, I think focusing on the niche is so so valuable, and you guys have definitely focused on a niche. But before we get down, go down the road with with saltbox. TV. How did you guys get involved in the entertainment business in general?

Patty Carver 1:07
Well, alright.I'll go first Jerry?

Jerry Goehring 1:11
Yeah, go for it!

Patty Carver 1:13
Okay, I'll go first. So I am, I'm a singer and actress. And for the past 20 years, I've been well, Jerry and I have theatre companies. Before that, I traveled across the country doing regional stock, Dinner Theatre, cabaret in New York. And after we got married, we started some theatre companies, including Connecticut children's theatre. And Jerry, of course, has always had his his commercial projects. But as far as I go, after we got married, and we had two children, I sort of had to navigate around all that. And so I created these one woman musical programs, which I started performing in schools, libraries, historical societies, and older adult communities. And as the years rolled by, and I was able to book around my kids growing up and being carpool queen and driving to swim meets my audience flipped to almost exclusively older adult audiences, in communities. And I love this audience. And I have a database of hundreds of communities up and down the East Coast throughout the Midwest, New England. And that's a large part of what I've been doing for the past 20 years after we got married. And yeah, and so when COVID hit theater was shut down. And that and so saalbach was born of COVID. But maybe Jerry, you should just talk a little bit about your background before we start talking about soapbox. I don't know.

Alex Ferrari 3:09
You're a good husband, sir. You're a good husband.

Jerry Goehring 3:13
Fine. So yeah, so my background, my background, I'm on the other side of the footlights. I can't sing dance act, I can't do any of that stuff. But I started producing way back when in the you know, early, late 80s, early 90s, you know, in New York, and produced, I can't even tell you how many shows around the country in London elsewhere through the years, had a knife started nonprofits. For a long time, I was a turnaround guy for nonprofit theater companies when they were in trouble. I did that for a while. I would say in the last 10 years or so I've also started working on a ton of commercial projects, meaning Broadway, Off Broadway and West End. So my my, my focus has always either been on the nonprofit in the theater world and really supporting artists, young artists, young writers, young creators, and conversely, then in the commercial world, taking those artists that have a voice that really wants something to say you can tell me I love this because I pride myself on reaching an audience that is underserved. And we like Patti talked about the children's theater, we started a sound so like oh theater for children. No, no. Here's what we did. We actually got there all of our Broadway friends. We created professional shows and all we did Alex as we went to the inner cities of at risk communities and gave professional theater experiences to only pre K to second graders and at risk community how niches that that's fairly niche. It was such a unique audience that we wanted to serve and we were able to also support a lot of young artists out there that were trying to get their started in the business. So kind of go to Broadway as an example give you a broad example my first Broadway show, you probably know the movie A Christmas Story, of course. Sure. So with Ralphie and leg lamp and all that shoot your eye out. Should we all? So that's right. In fact, guy played Ralphie Peter Billingsley, you may know from the film world, he was my partner on that. And we put up the musical on Broadway with multiple Tony nominations. And we got a composer and lyricist out of University of Michigan bench pastic and Justin Paul, that, as you may know, went on to do lala land and, and, and greatest showmen dear Evan Hanson. So again, discovering young people and helping a demographic that looks like they're there. They're on the outskirts that that they do need some representation. I think that's where Patti and I have found our lives leading in that world. So that's that's kind of, you know, our background.

Alex Ferrari 5:53
Now, Jerry, I just had to ask you a side question. I've always been faster because I don't know a whole lot about Broadway, I have talked to a couple of Tony Award winners on the show. And, and I've talked to a couple people in Broadway, when I see these shows that could pop up every once in a while, which are based on movies. Some are, you know, some, you know, do very well, some don't. But I'm assuming that they're in Broadway, they're trying to tap into an existing audience that knows the property, the IP, it's very similar to what studios are doing with films like The you know, the grab a book, they'll grab a comic book, they'll grab something that already has an existing audience. So something like, obviously, Lion King is a great example, or any of the Disney shows, I remember when Lion King showed up, everyone's like Lion King, watts. And then, of course, it's still running, and it's made a couple bucks along the way. So it's something like the Christmas story is really interesting to me. Because, you know, it's a, it's not a, it's a classic, but it's not, it wasn't avatar. So it's a classic film that has an audience to it. But I guess when you and Rafi put it together, I'm assuming you're trying to tap into that audience. And it's in that as far as the business side is concerned, again, just trying to understand the niche audiences and how you're how you're approaching it.

Jerry Goehring 7:07
That's a very good question. And one I've talked about a lot through the last 10 years, you know, it seems so simple on the surface, hey, let's get an IP property that is branded already it has an audience, and they're going to come because they don't have to worry about as much about having stars or having, you know, huge, great reviews, blah, blah, because some of those don't work in the professional world. But Alex, there's the flip side of that, when you have an audience that is absolutely devotees, and your fans have an IP property, and you want to change that property, you know, you're kind of playing with fire a little bit, right? So here's what I've learned. And and A Christmas Story is a great example is how do you take the essence of an IP property that that is, beloved? And how do you change it to a new medium? Retain What was special for all the fans, but I'll take it to the new medium, like live musicals on Broadway, and how do you enrich and enrich what they and deepen what they love without tearing it apart? And still giving them what they expect? It's a very, very fine line to Krishna is a great example. For us to get to Broadway. We took five years and put it up year after year and changed it and nuanced it to make sure we could hit all those hot buttons. So niche audiences can be really tricky.

Alex Ferrari 8:23
Now, is there a song called you'll shoot your eye out? I'm just asking. Thank you. I just see that was as a fan of like, if there is not a song called you'll shoot your eye out, I you're not gonna have my money.

Jerry Goehring 8:36
Or niche audience expectations.

Patty Carver 8:40
I have to say Jerry, really was a champion of staying true to that story. And making sure that that book reflected the movie and captured the essence. Because it's easy to let that stuff go when it goes to another medium.

Alex Ferrari 8:55
Yeah, it's it's it's I mean, that movie is such a such an interesting case study. Because it did not. If I when it came out in the 80s. I remember saying it was 82. So right so wasn't a monster head. Even when it came out. It was a very male, the box office, it was a very slow burn of a film. And now it's beloved. I mean, it's like now they're they mean just the merchandise alone every Christmas you see those lamps with the leg and, and the outfits for hollow. I mean, it's insane.

Patty Carver 9:28
All over our house.

Alex Ferrari 9:29
Yeah, I'm sure. Thank you. Thank you there. For everyone listening. He just, he just focused the camera onto a leg lamp from the Christmas story. So but yeah, it's it's so which brings us to our conversation today about saltbox now, you know, I wrote a whole book about niche about that's the future of independent filmmaking. That's the future of filmmaking in general for the independent, because if you, you know it'd before in the 80s and in the 90s In the 80s, literally, and I've had this conversation with multiple filmmakers from the 80s, that like if you just finished the film, it was sold. It didn't even matter if it was good or not. If you were able to get 35 millimeter settled, Lloyd edited and put in a can, it's not gonna make money, like it can be sad to be good, but had a shot, you would go into theaters automatically, because you were one of 50 people making movies that year, as opposed to now that there's 1000s and 10s of 1000s of people creating content at a very high level. So now the barrier of entry is not technology, which it was before. Now its audience and finding that audience. So saltbox is such an interesting concept to me. So please tell me what saltbox is, and how was it born?

Jerry Goehring 10:50
I'll throw that to Patty. Definitely. This was at that very beginning.

Patty Carver 10:54
All right. So when COVID happened, we were shut down. I mean, we and I was completely unemployed. And we decided to, you know, since everyone was going virtual, and I was specifically concerned about the older adult communities that were in my database, because I had like six months sold out. And like everybody called me within 48 hours saying, you know, canceled for the time being, yeah. It was really crazy. And of course, not only that happened, but but Broadway went dark. The West End

Alex Ferrari 11:30
Once a generation, it's like once in a generation. Yeah.

Patty Carver 11:33
Yeah, it was just unbelievable. So we had this idea to film, my one woman musicals that had been doing live and offer them to them as a virtual option to these senior communities in my database and beyond. started calling communities one at a time, it started, it became really clear really fast that people needed more wanted more than just a baddie Garver show. They needed all of these activities, directors and communities were being thrown into this frying pan, this virtual frying pan, many were not tech savvy at all. And they were suddenly I mean, having to, you know, do all this virtual programming. So I went home one night, especially after one conversation, in particular with a, an activities director who was exhausted, they're on quarantine. And she said, I would love to purchase your virtual shows, but I don't have any time in the day. Right now. All I'm doing is bringing food to my residents doors, and arranging facetimes with their families. And, you know, I went home that night, said to Jerry, there should be a channel for senior communities, for older adults, especially now when they're so isolated, and quarantined and away the whole world is, but they are that much more. And so the next day Jerry started, we all we both started calling our theatre colleagues, and Jerry in particular, and started the ball rolling with saltbox. TV. You know, as the first phone call started happening, everybody was saying it was a good idea. But it wasn't just that people really wanted to help us. And in particular, older adults that we were reaching out, that were in the industry wanted to help one because they wanted to help but also because they want to work to to, they want to work. And, you know, it was an it's been an interesting journey. Because we're not just becoming a platform for older adults, in many ways. It's becoming a platform by older adults for older adults. And, you know, the interesting thing that's additionally happened is multi generational thing, or intergenerational thing where, if you're an older adult, you're in your 80s and 90s, and might not be tech savvy, your grin son or granddaughter can help you hop on Roku or firestick and get the free app. But I know I skipped a lot in between there because you know, there were celebrities Jerry that the first celebrity that stepped forward to help us a spokesperson was Ed Asner Bless his heart. Yeah. And, you know, he sort of opened the door to a whole bunch of other people that said, whatever you want to, if you need help, we'll help you. So yeah, and, you know, we hired some gerontologists to help with the structure the website with you know, colors and font sizes. And very early on, we realized that older adults They're not going to go on if they have to log in, or put their email in, or remember a password. Even my mom, who's our biggest fan wouldn't go sign into saltbox if she had to leave her email, so we were like, it has to be click and watch. It has to be free. And it has to be clicking watch. And that's what we are. And so we can very, we can we can say to people, you know, just click and watch and it really is that it's easy.

Alex Ferrari 15:29
So you want so you obviously, you went for a VOD platform and advertising video on demand platform as opposed to a T VOD, or s or subscription based video on demand. Was there a conversation early on to make it instead of making it subscription, making it a VOD, because, you know, a lot of people think that subscription is the key to everything, but from my understanding, and from my experience, and my my knowledge AVOD is where the money's at right now, for filmmakers and for content creators. Because there's no barrier to entry. There's no monthly fee, we are subscribed to death right now. There's so many subscriptions that we have going on, and being able to just click and watch, especially the generation in a niche audience who's so used to television from like, you know, that's just, oh, it's commercials. Okay. As opposed to, as opposed to 20 year olds. We're going oh, God, commercials. And I'm like, You think commercials are bad. Imagine having to wait for that next episode a week later? Yeah, right. Right. Yeah.

Jerry Goehring 16:35
You know, Alex, we actually, in full disclosure, we were when we first started with a summer of what Patty 20s When we really got rockin July of 20. So we've been doing this about 18 months now. So we're like Nunu. We were like, Yeah, I'll pay 499. My first business plan was just changed like 1000 times since then. Was that's fine.

Alex Ferrari 16:54
Sure. Because that's the mentality. Yeah,

Jerry Goehring 16:56
Right. I can see the money. It's easy subscriptions. Yeah, I people, I can market to all that good stuff of capturing information, blah, blah, blah. But then what as Patty mentioned, we learned quickly that this particular audience is not going to do that no credit cards are coming out. So

Patty Carver 17:11
We owe 499, a month for this audience.

Alex Ferrari 17:13
No, in that's the thing that's so fascinating about you. Because you know, when you talk about it, I noticed a few certain few key terms there that were very insightful, which are that you were looking at font sizes, you were looking at color schemes, you were doing a deep dive into your audience and really providing value to that audience where so many filmmakers or even businesses, they'll just launch without even thinking about their audience. They'll even they'll write a story. I mean, the same thing goes in theater. I mean, I'm assuming he's a you don't just throw up, hey, let's go put on a show. Let's go spend, you know, obscene amount of money. Let's go put on a show. And hopefully someone will show up there is there was really a good amount of thought put into I mean, even hiring those specialists to come in and and guide you on that it's really very straight very forward thinking.

Patty Carver 18:03
And you know, what, Alex, this audience that we're talking about, we're talking about it with, as if they're a niche audience, but they're huge.

Alex Ferrari 18:16
They're huge, nice. They're huge.

Patty Carver 18:20
And they're, I mean, as far as Geryon are concerned, and they're a neglected demographic in so many ways, and dismissed in so many ways. And, you know, they deserve a font that they can read.

Alex Ferrari 18:36
And also, I mean, they deserve also content that they could that that they're going to connect with, because I mean, look how many look, everyone's not going to be 20 and 30 years old for the rest of their lives. But according to Hollywood, that's what we see. You know, and I'm, I'm not 20 or 30 anymore, in a case, and now it's a lot better than it was 1015 years ago, now. We're seeing multi generational stories, stories for women, women that are not 20 You know, these kinds of things. And I think that, you know, the smartest, the smartest business people always look for the neglected audience that neglected customer underserved. And that's when when this came across my desk, I was like, okay, these guys got it. And I'm like, I can't believe no one thought of this. And then I went to your Santa Ed Asner, who, by the way, I had a short meeting with on a set one day, I was visiting a friend shooting film and I met him. He was the sweetest man. And he was like, he was busting my balls within the first five seconds of meeting him and he was, oh my god, he was so great. He is so so great. But having someone when I saw it as I'm like, okay, these guys get it. They got it. They understand who their audiences. Look at their spokesperson, look at the way the health thing is set up. It was really well. Well, well put together.

Jerry Goehring 19:52
Thank you. We learned a lot as we looked at content, you know, and we learned a lot of times we were completely 100 100 180 degrees wrong. And what we thought as an example, if you go to the site, you'll see that we have, we have cultivated content. So it's always a one stop shop. Yeah, you can get classic movie and TVs, you can also get lifelong learning and be wiped if you're somebody in your family has dementia, there's all kinds of programming to how do you deal with that? How do you Oh, there's all the way to chair yoga for older people. But what here's what I learned is that, as I mentioned, the very beginning, we love young artists, we love new, we new love creep young creators, so we automatically don't go for, you know, the huge blockbusters, we can't afford them anyway. We go for the for the artists that are looking that had this great piece of content, be it you know, 30 years old, or brand new, that come and we put them on our site, we since we're Avon, we do a revenue share deal. So everybody's in the same pod, very standard. But what we learned, I thought people would come because they want to learn about they want to do exercise, want to learn about dementia care, whatever. And then they would stick around and see all all this great entertainment. It's actually the other way around, is everybody wants to get be entertained. And then they're like, Hey, wait a minute, you have this also for my community or for a house. And it just goes to prove that even though you may be 75, you still love the same things you did when you were 25?

Alex Ferrari 21:18
Oh, there's no question. I mean, I would have to ask you. So right now, your current demographic was raised on the Andy Griffith Show. And in Sanford sun and the you know, and I Love Lucy, and those kinds of those things. So when Generation X, which is my generation gets to, is saltbox going to move with it? Is it you know, is there going to be a Gen X, you know, channel, that's which I should create one right now, because I would love to watch a Gen X channel of things just in the 80s 90s. But it's still, there's still plenty of it out there. But like, but you know what I mean? So is it going to be moving along with, you know, the, as far as the generation and the audience because the audience will change? Because I I know of Andy Griffith, I watched it when I was very, very young, but it's not a show that I'm gonna go watch. But if you throw on, you know, different strokes or friends or, you know, a team or night writer, those are the those are the shows that I grew up with. So is that something that you're thinking about as, as your population starts to change as your audience starts to change?

Patty Carver 22:21
Wow, I hope we have that. I hope we have this problem.

Alex Ferrari 22:28
Like, oh, God, it's just too much money.

Jerry Goehring 22:31
You know, what we talk a lot about athletes is, is the term aging up, right? Because even if you look at 65, plus now, what 65 year old and 95 year old, have different entertainment expectations, and even kind of community learning opportunities that that they need. Now, that generation, let's look at 75 and Plus are maybe not as tech savvy as perhaps a 50 year old is, but at the same time, there's a lot of smart 75 year olds out there. So there's we're already in a mixed group of people and their abilities and access to online streaming. So right there, we thought we can tell you where our niche challenges are. That's where they are. Now you look 10 years down the road, that's gonna start to change all the people like Patti and I, we just cut the cord a year ago, we're still kind of dealing with all that we can't just turn on, you know what we want. We're used to it. But in other 10 years, people are like, I cannot believe I described subscribe to a cable channel. How archaic is that? So we are not only thinking about that, but we're actually thinking right now, with our multiple mixed ages and our audience that we're reaching to how do we age up and then look back to the Gen X to the the 50 year olds like us? And how does all that mix together so we can have a business plan that can go forward?

Alex Ferrari 23:48
Yeah, and that's, I mean, I cut the cord, probably about five years ago, probably I cut the cord. And, and then I've never looked back. And every time I move or something, of course, I got to talk to the cable guy. Well, you know, we could do this. I'm like, Dude, if you need to just stop. Or I had DirecTV forever, and they're just like, Well, why don't we uh, we could give you the sweet deal. Like, there's no sweet deal, dude, it's over. I'm probably paid the exact same thing. If not probably more with all my subscriptions on on the apps, there's no question but the ease of use the technology of being able to record everything all the time and have access to all of it at all times, is something that is just priceless in the world. But now, how did you guys develop the technology? Did you use it? You know, are you did you develop it yourself? Did you work partners?

Jerry Goehring 24:38
Uh, yeah, we reached out and made some partnerships with some of my friends in Broadway. So there are some Broadway streaming services out there. We've been friends for a long, long time. So we kind of went in and shared the cost on coders and you know, kind of build it from the ground up. So this is not a template format. As Betty mentioned, we wanted to make sure that we could have a viewer could change the size of font if they need to see you later. You can go on on the homepage and change the size of the font. You can do colors, all that stuff that we worked on all that had to be put into, from from day one. So yeah, we basically are all about partnerships in our world right now.

Alex Ferrari 25:13
I know that I know the feeling. And partnerships are much more affordable than cash out out of pocket.

Jerry Goehring 25:21
Everybody wins. You know, we all bring our, you know, air in front and makes filmmakers and TV makers out there. They're, they're bringing projects to us, because there's a need for all of us. We need great content from artists, and creators. And these artists and creators need as many just distribution channels as they can get.

Alex Ferrari 25:38
There was a filmmaker story, I heard that they directed a documentary about sanitarians, who were at the Olympics, like the Olympics Antarian that, you know, the that that was something like, yeah, yeah. And they, they, they tried to do the normal thing, and it just didn't work. So they will actually went out to these communities, and toured and toured and sold licenses. And they made over a million dollars. Just just like it went to I think they went to a convention. And you guys probably know that convention where all the they all get together to buy content. Right, exactly. So they went in, and they said that in the first, that weekend, they sold $380,000 worth of licenses, just because because there's such a lack for this demographic for this, this niche audience. And it's not like I think we say niche, but we're talking about, you know, 65 and older, there's a few of them. The baby boomer generation is you know,

Jerry Goehring 26:42
Yeah, no, is totally the largest demographic in this country. All those all those baby boomers are over 55. Now, and, and that's it. I mean, we talked about advertisers Guess who has the most disposable income, baby boomers over 55.

Alex Ferrari 26:56
I know, it's and that's why 499 should have made sense. But it didn't.

Jerry Goehring 27:04
You know, what, what's very interesting to me, is that as we look at at to the financial landscape of all of this, that Hollywood does truly, truly focus on the young person. And I get that our kids are in their mid 20s. And they're, you know, they're they do their thing. But there is such not only a market for the for the content, but there is a very huge potential market for artists to be seen by millions to make money from that, and revenue share deals to find a new way to get product out. And to get all these amazing stories that are being told at a high quality and you brought up Alex, there is opportunities out there being created all the time, like saltbox. TV.

Alex Ferrari 27:44
Yeah. And I mean, I was just shocked that no one had thought of this, and no one had done it the way the you guys are doing it. And you obviously considered the technology barriers for your audience, you you you are very well aware that they are not I mean, if if my parents are any indication, they, they I mean, texting was a thing. You know, and like, email was a thing. And God forbid, my father's like, next time you come over, I need you to set up Apple TV, because it sounds really good. But I it because I he loves it when he comes over to my place. And he's like, wait a minute, I watch baseball all day. And like, yes, you can't how much? Is it? What, um, you know, like, but there's that technology barrier. So you guys really thought about that. And again, you know, filmmakers listening now thinking about your niche audience. I mean, obviously, we're talking about a streaming service, which is different than a piece of content. But concepts are still the same. Thinking about your audience and thinking how you can get your product to them. How it can serve them is something that should be upfront, when you're thinking about this. Do you agree?

Jerry Goehring 28:55
No question. I'll give you one less example. I see. Patti wanted to add to that. But when we first started, we said we're gonna take our first two years, and we're still have like six months left. And we're not going to worry about advertisers right? Now let's build our base, we'll just get some investors. And we'll just pay for this the old fashioned way, right. And then we're still doing that. What we did, what we wanted to do is get into these markets so we could actually get real feedback and build our base. So what we started with your point to get to senior communities where they all live together in a community, and they are all in service with content from one provider, and there's a many providers out there. Like right now we're in over 5000 communities nationwide, and each community has two to 250 people in it. Because they we know they can actually watch us because of the technology in those communities. And of course, we did OTT platforms and all that, but that's going to take a while be patient for that to grow to eight people to age into that. So you hit it right on the head. It's about technology and finding the lowest common denominator. How do you get this to them?

Alex Ferrari 29:58
Now how did you What is the marketing plan for this? Because I'm assuming you don't have the $200 million for marketing that universal does for their next Fast and Furious thing. So how I mean, obviously, you had a database, and you knew this audience very well. So I'm assuming that's what you tapped first. But beyond that list, and beyond those original context, how are you planning to reach that audience? What are you doing with that?

Patty Carver 30:22
Well, we're talking to you.

Alex Ferrari 30:25
Well, I'm not sure my demographic is going to be going into salt box. But hey, listen, I have no idea who listens to me sometimes. But, but other how other ways are you doing it?

Patty Carver 30:39
Well, I just have to say, we're doing any, you know, marketing press opportunities that we can at the moment. And we're doing that all the way to giving up postcards, one person at a time, I'm actually doing that going to communities, live gigs are happening again. And I've been to, you know, I go to lots of communities again, which thank goodness, and I'm getting way up, I'm sorry. No, no, no. I'm just kind of just saying that we're really it's a big array of things right now a great big puzzle of different marketing puzzle pieces right now.

Jerry Goehring 31:17
But that's the partnerships for a second, Alex, let's think about, we're not the only ones out there that want to get content to this audience. They want to bring this audience in, right. And so the streamers of various sizes from a tiny new place like us all the way up the chain, are looking for partnerships are looking how to share content, looking at fast channels, looking at linear looking at different ways to get out. I think, ultimately, that's the answer. You're right. We don't have 200 million or two USA Today, ads, and AARP ads and all this stuff that costs so much money, we are going to continue partnering and with other like minded streamers, not only to get our content out, but to also create content together, we're in multiple deals now in pre production to start creating our own content, bringing all of those people together, and telling stories and filming and creating. And we are not doing it by ourselves by any means. And so honestly, that's the truth. That's how we're getting the word out because there's a need, and other people are seeing it too, that have a much have many more eyeballs than we do and a much broader reach than we do. And the same need.

Patty Carver 32:21
Yeah, one of the one of the ways we when we first started gathering content when we first began this, you know, the obvious is movies and sitcoms and documentaries. But we also went surfing YouTube, and finding content providers with big followings. And we just reached out to them, we just got on the phone and found them. And we ended up in some really wonderful partnerships with for instance, tip us know who's like the rock star of, of dementia care. There's a guy and she has hundreds of 1000s of followers on YouTube. And you know, it's a win win, because people see her on saltbox, that directs them back to her site. And it just, it benefits everyone. There's a guy named Greg Pickens who has a show called Finding America, he travels, he travels across the country, with his metal detector. And he digs and he finds these treasures. And he's got a huge following. And he has recently joined us and, you know, we have like 10 of his programs on saltbox. And when you go to salt bucks, you're also directed back to his channel. And, you know, we have that type of partnership with so many content providers, who, especially at the beginning, really kind of took a leap of faith in this new this new company called saltbox that wanted to, you know, do a 5050 Revenue Share, and, you know, partner with us to air their content.

Alex Ferrari 33:54
And that's the thing that I that's interesting about your specific audience is that you can't buy Facebook ads. You can't buy, you know, YouTube ads, you can't do traditional even content marketing is not something that your audience, you know, is not looking on YouTube, or looking on for articles about things generally speaking, I mean, obviously, it's different, but generally speaking, so I think the for the lesson for filmmakers listening is that you are going at the at the at the street level, and partnering with other audiences, which is something I talked about in my book, you go where the audience is, you partner with those people and then try to tap into that audience and try to provide service to them and they provide service to you. And that's much more powerful. I think then Facebook ads, if you if you're able to partner with someone in your niche who's a rockstar in your niche, that's so much more powerful than spending $100,000 on Facebook ads and hoping that someone will click on it. Is that fair?

Patty Carver 34:53
And they bring the passion to that they we had the same mission.

Alex Ferrari 34:58
Right

Jerry Goehring 34:58
Yeah. And what's interesting too Here's what we're discovering on the aging up topic. And this marketing is that, like you had mentioned, your, your parents had enough parents are the same way, maybe a little older than yours. But the same ideas that we're finding that those older adults that truly maybe get a little lost in all of this. The kids or the grandkids are under our understanding that and they want to help their parents or grandparents to be more connected, and then starts connecting families, Mrs. Getting called kind of heartfelt now that we're seeing that happen, we're seeing, honestly a marketing opportunity we didn't anticipate, which is our kids and grandkids helping older adults have access to this content.

Alex Ferrari 35:38
You know, it's so funny that some of the content that is is aimed at your demographic, let's say a show like The Golden Girls, which is a show that I watch, but then Millennials love. And I was I was watching it. I was watching a show like that in the 80s when I was a teenager, I was like I love The Golden Girls like that's one of those shows that like Connor that just jumps through generations. So it's it's really interesting.

Patty Carver 36:07
It's a good story, and it's well done. Everybody loves it.

Jerry Goehring 36:10
Yeah. Look at Grayson Frankie right now. Oh, guess who's watching it.

Alex Ferrari 36:15
Oh, god. Yeah, it's I can't I mean, yeah, I upset I'm obsessed with Grayson, Frankie. I mean, I'm obsessed. My wife and I started watching it. We're like, we are obsessed with this show. Lily Tom and I just hope before the series ends, that Dolly Parton just makes a cameo, please just please bring dolly in. Please. Please, please.

Jerry Goehring 36:38
We agree. Go Dolly.

Alex Ferrari 36:40
Yes, exactly.

Patty Carver 36:43
Now, how do you not I just got word that Dolly Parton is going to make a cameo on the last episode. Okay, have a Achille here.

Alex Ferrari 36:52
Okay.

Jerry Goehring 36:55
We're all learning this together, Alex.

Alex Ferrari 36:56
Well, you heard it here. First everybody Dolly Parton is gonna be on the last episode of grace of Frankie. Well, yeah, there's only a handful of there's a there's only a handful of episodes left and I'm sad but it by nose. And going off topic just for a second. There's no reason why Grace and Frankie should have succeeded in a platform like Netflix. For as long it's like the longest running series in Netflix history like has the most seasons of shows to my knowledge. I mean, even said, yeah, there's there's no other show. I think even Orange is the New Black stop that five or six. So that that it's that makes no sense. Like on paper, this makes no sense. But when you watch it, you're just like, Okay, this this is good. It's just as good writing good performing. I mean, it's, it's amazing. And a question I have to ask you as well with the the A VOD platform, how do you get advertisers? Because that's always a big problem with with with a VOD platforms unless you're tap into one of the big boys like a to b or something like that. How did you bring advertisers in? And how do you you know, get as much as you can tell me, I don't want to get any proprietary stuff out?

Jerry Goehring 38:07
No, I'll give you heads because we had to learn this again, theater people, we don't go out and get commercials, you know. So learn, learn how to do it. So here's here's what I learned a lot about programmatic advertising, and learning how that works in the digital world. And you know, our site right now has no advertising on it, it will start July 1. So we're still just self funding this whole thing. But we are now working with programmatic advertising firms out there that do this work. And then we are coding their their work into our our underbelly, you know, so all of our platform will have full systematic integration of programmatic advertising. So then we do the revenue share, and they're a part of that. But then our goal is over the next five years to start phasing that out having our own sales staff having our own nobody kind of phasing that out. But right now, there's resources out there, because everybody sees this burgeoning streaming market exploding. And there are advertisers that want a specific audience in a specific area, that country of a specific age, oh, programmatic advertising gives that to you.

Alex Ferrari 39:16
Perfect. Yeah. And it's, I mean, I get it through podcasting right now. So as you're listening to this podcast, I've heard that there's been ads that have been local to that specific area that they're listening to the podcast. And as opposed to I mean, there's some general market stuff like a McDonald's or a Honda or something like that. But many times it's local advertising. And I found out when I moved from Los Angeles, to Austin, my ads, I start hearing Austin, local Austin ads, when I'm listening to my, my own show, to test it. I'm like, Oh, okay. So even then, through my through my, my provider, it does that too. So I think we're still getting we're still in it's in the infancy of AVOD very much So very much the infancy of a VOD, and it's getting better and better. But we'll get to the point where, like anyone almost I can't say anyone can get an S VOD going because it's not does take a little bit of there is a barrier to entry to that. But generally speaking, it can still be done where five to eight years ago, if I said I'm going to if you guys said I'm going to open up saltbox it would have been the technology would have been a major hurdle on cost and putting it all out there and everything like that. So yeah, that's that's it. There's, there's a will there's a way without question

Jerry Goehring 40:34
That our our ignorance has paid off, because I don't know how how to do it. So I just do it.

Patty Carver 40:40
Really, it's not and this this programmatic advertising is not my world at all. And I just, I just look at it as this magical thing where you know, that the right advertisements appear before and after, and it's all good.

Alex Ferrari 40:58
Right, and it's all tacked in, and then some, some Gremlins, some sort of Gremlins inside the computer, do it for you. And that's it, little elves or something. And that's it, and then check shows up, it's just fantastic. Um, so it's kind of like residual payments for television or films, like all of a sudden, like, if someone's doing something someone's tracking something, I get a check. It's fine. It's nice. Now what's in your so where do you see the saltbox? In the next 5 10 years?

Jerry Goehring 41:32
I'll take that. Should I start?

Patty Carver 41:34
Well, you know, I, I see it growing. I mean, I we're gathering momentum, I see it growing. And what I'm most excited about is the opportunities that are happening for our in house productions. I want stories by soapbox, TV, that right? On the horizon for us.

Alex Ferrari 41:59
I mean, Netflix figured that out a little bit ago. Yeah.

Jerry Goehring 42:04
I mean, there's only so many I Love Lucy, as you can put up and people will come we need destination content, to be quite honest, we need to go we're used to creating our own shows from scratch on Broadway. So now we're working with the same and more artists from a different field from electronic media. And we're meeting new people every day. So those listening, feel free to reach out, you know, look at this all but we're look we're looking for always to partnerships and content. I think my main goal is to continue cultivating the content for this aging up audience. I mean, right now, in a year and a half, with really no experience doing this, we have almost 400 pieces of content up right now. And more and some have multiple episodes, we're talking well over 1000 pieces that are on our site right now. And we are just now starting to produce our own and work with other production companies to make that happen. So yeah, let's see where it goes.

Patty Carver 42:57
I want to add to that, Jerry? Um, so yes, it's, it's going to grow, it's going to be great. And I'm so excited about all the possibilities to produce softbox productions. But for me, also, the mission will always be to be a resource for communities. soapbox TV started out as a as a resource for communities. And of course, there's such a broader market out there. But that will always be something that's extremely important to me to reach those activity directors and communities that can use saltbox for any number of reasons.

Alex Ferrari 43:39
And, and there's a lesson there for filmmakers to listen to is is is always think about your audience, and not about the money. Now, if you're when you're making movies, and you're being a filmmaker, yeah, you've got to do you have to be financially responsible. But if you don't lead with being of service to the audience, whatever that story might be, look, Marvel does it probably better than anyone else? Disney does it probably better than anyone else, whether you like or hate their films, they're doing it a pretty high level, and they're reaching their audience and they're paying off their audience. It's paying off for their audience. I still remember watching Avengers endgame. And after 10 years of stories, ending with that story, how it just brought the entire audience together and I'm their audience. So it might not be someone else but it but what they did is they did think about how to really touched their audience in a way that a lot of Hollywood productions and a lot of filmmakers don't think about, think about what's hot, like you know what's hot right now salt, like Asian Americans, yes. And if that's that's where the money is, we got to throw things in there. But if there's no heart behind it, it will fail. I feel

Patty Carver 44:46
Right.

Jerry Goehring 44:49
Agree. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 44:51
Now I'm going to ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the entertainment industry or in life?

Jerry Goehring 45:02
Oh, woof. Pat, do you have to go first now? Oh my goodness. Alright. So from the heart on this one is that someday we're all going to be at that moment where we're no longer here, right? You're gonna have a little time to look back and think, you know, you can think of the things first you want to think about the family, your friends, all of that, and then think, can I make a difference? What did I do to help people? What did I do to take what little skills I have, in this case bringing artists together? And did I make a difference? Did I help somebody with what I did? Or was it all just self absorbed, make money, a lot of the story, I'm just determined to make it for other reasons. I learned that as soon as I have a project that is driven like that is driven by an investor or a partnership, that is only seeking the return. That's when it fails. And if there's not somebody that at the top, that trickles down with passion and artistic integrity, and a reason for doing it, that is not worth doing. We've learned that multiple times through the years and we get keep getting reminded that. So there you go.

Alex Ferrari 46:23
That's a great lesson. Great, great lesson. How about you Patty.

Patty Carver 46:29
Mine short and sweet I think always be willing to change the plans. Because the best laid plans are good. Always gonna be a good one. Yep.

Alex Ferrari 46:44
So you made it. So you need to tell me that things don't go as planned in life. Is that Is that what you're saying? Cuz I, I mean, everything I've ever planned. It came out perfect. I don't know what you're talking about. Oh, come here. Oh, my God, when you're young, you think Oh my God. And when you're younger, you think that everything that you're planning is exactly, it's gonna it never happens, exactly how you plan it. And most most of the times even when it's it's bad. In hindsight, it was good. I've always found that even the worst things have happened to you in life, somehow is something that needed to happen or, or, or was meant for some sort of good and I know that's hard to accept sometimes for people because I went through some I got shrapnel. I've got a lot of shrapnel, and I'm sure you guys have shrapnel as well in the in the business? Yes. Not easy. Not easy at all. Now, um, what is the? What did you learn from your biggest failures, artistic or business wise?

Jerry Goehring 47:48
From saltbox, or in life?

Alex Ferrari 47:50
In life? Well, saltbox is still there. So I'm assuming we're still good. Well, let me rephrase that question. What was the biggest lesson you've learned so far from launching saltbox?

Jerry Goehring 48:03
I'll tackle that first is that you get pitched by so many people, and so many people that have decades of experience in this business. And they only see it one way, you have to do it this way. We've always done it this way. It's how Hollywood works. Know how Hollywood works. So when I come in and say, here's how I do that, here's how I'm going to do this. And the lesson I learned from that, because we tried stuff the Hollywood way a couple times. And you know what, it was a miserable failure.

Alex Ferrari 48:32
Mm hmm. Shocking, shocking.

Jerry Goehring 48:34
I know what I'm just gonna kind of do what I know. And do it the way I know how to do it. And if it's not your cup of tea, then Thanks for calling.

Alex Ferrari 48:44
Very good answer. Very good answer. You want to add anything Patty?

Patty Carver 48:48
Um, yeah, what I've learned through soapbox right now is that I have to say, you know, when we started it, it's a great idea. But you know, not, you know, there are so many great ideas out there. What I've learned is that, yes, we can do this. Because we it could because we were a couple of theater people that just dove off a cliff into this new media. And really, and Jerry talks about, you know, ignorance is bliss. It really is true, because ignorance is bliss. And it allows you to pick up the phone and, you know, call somebody that, you know, you know, you wouldn't otherwise. And actually I tell the team here sometimes, if we have an interview, don't tell me too much about this because I don't want to I just want to go talk. I just don't I don't want to know. Anyway, but I also and this kind of piggybacks off of what Jerry was saying. I go with my gut, my intuitive feelings about things and from the get go, I've also been saying that I have just a really good feeling about this. You know, coming into the office and you know, and just day to day stuff and finding a balance.

Alex Ferrari 50:07
That's great. I mean, I was I was completely agree when I picked up a microphone six and a half years ago it started a podcast. I didn't think I would be here that's for sure. My best laid plans were not this and it's so much better than what I ever thought of. So it's been I've been blessed in that sense So ignorance many times is bliss. And last question, guys, three of your favorite films of all time.

Jerry Goehring 50:30
Three Oh my goodness. Okay, Patty. You go first on this one,

Alex Ferrari 50:34
Whatever comes to mind

Patty Carver 50:35
That can can we go back and forth?

Jerry Goehring 50:37
Oh, sure.

Patty Carver 50:40
All right. I like Shawshank Redemption.

Alex Ferrari 50:43
That's my number one. Thank you so much. It's it's it's it's the it's it's the best one of the best written scripts ever and one of the best movies ever and I can watch it a million times and sorry, everyone, everyone who's listening knows my love for Shawshank.

Jerry Goehring 50:58
I know we'd love to work with Morgan Freeman. Just putting that out there.

Patty Carver 51:03
Jerry your turn.

Jerry Goehring 51:05
All right. I've got to say love Scorsese. So I'm going to go with that's a good skirt, the Goodfellas.

Alex Ferrari 51:14
Goodfellas good film can't complain.

Patty Carver 51:18
Silence of the lambs.

Alex Ferrari 51:20
Wow. As you hear the nice kind voice silence of the it's like it doesn't it doesn't connect. It doesn't connect. But also, that's it felt like that wasn't that I didn't think that was gonna come out of your out of your lips. There was a nice,

Jerry Goehring 51:38
She's a tough one. Not me. See. I like Silver Linings Playbook. So you know,

Alex Ferrari 51:41
there you go. That That makes sense. And this next is going to go Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I think that it's a fantastic

Patty Carver 51:54
You know, I have just musicals in general. But I think my favorite musical because I have to include a musical. You know hairspray.

Alex Ferrari 52:08
Oh, nice. Nice. That's a fun movie. That is a fun movie. And last but not least,

Patty Carver 52:14
One more, Jerry.

Jerry Goehring 52:15
All right. I'm thinking I'm thinking, you know, since we're almost in that season, I'm going to say the one that I end up being only one of the house watching most of the time is It's a Wonderful Life.

Alex Ferrari 52:26
Oh, it's a fantastical I mean, not as good as diehard, which is obviously the best Christmas movie of all time. But No, I'm joking. Story, of course, obviously a Christmas story. But I've had I've had multiple conversations on how diehard is a Christmas movie. And it it we actually did the numbers we did research it actually is. It has more Christmas references that home alone does. Oh, you know, for like we did. There's a whole episode I'm going to really I'll probably release it for Christmas movie Jerry. And we actually talked to John McTiernan and to the writer. And both of them said, Well, yeah, it's a Christmas movie now. I love it. That's so great. Jerry, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you guys. Thank you so much, much success with saltbox. And I hope the audience picks up a little couple of nuggets on how to approach niche audiences and how they can create projects and sell things to a niche audience. It is a very powerful idea and needs to be put out there more but I do appreciate what you're doing. So thank you so much.

Jerry Goehring 53:33
Thanks for having us, Alex.

Patty Carver 53:34
Thank you Alex

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IFH 536: How to Production Design for Ridley Scott with Oscar® Winner Janty Yates

Janty Yates costumer designer

Today on the show we have Oscars® winning costume designer Janty Yates.

Janty Yates has had a collaborative relationship with Ridley Scott since the great success of Gladiator in 2000, for which she won an Academy Award®, one of the eight Oscars® garnered by the film.

She was also nominated for a BAFTA, a Golden Satellite and a Saturn Award. She has also had CDG nominations for De-lovely and for The Martian, a Golden Satellite nomination for De-lovely and a Goya nomination for Kingdom of Heaven.

Yates is a frequent collaborator with Scott, having worked on thirteen films with him in addition to Gladiator, including: Hannibal (2001); Kingdom of Heaven (2005); American Gangster (2007); Body of Lies (2008); Robin Hood (2010), for which she received a Saturn Award nomination and her fourth Satellite Award nomination; Prometheus (2012), Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014),  and The Martian (2015). Her most recent films with Scott include the epic historical drama film The Last Duel and the biographical crime drama film House of Gucci, both released in 2021.

The historical epic is a cinematic and thought-provoking drama set in the midst of the Hundred Years War that explores the ubiquitous power of men, the frailty of justice and the strength and courage of one woman willing to stand alone in the service of truth. Based on actual events, the film unravels long-held assumptions about France’s last sanctioned duel between Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris, two friends turned bitter rivals.

Carrouges is a respected knight known for his bravery and skill on the battlefield. Le Gris is a Norman squire whose intelligence and eloquence make him one of the most admired nobles in court. When Carrouges’ wife, Marguerite, is viciously assaulted by Le Gris, a charge he denies, she refuses to stay silent, stepping forward to accuse her attacker, an act of bravery and defiance that puts her life in jeopardy.

The ensuing trial by combat, a grueling duel to the death, places the fate of all three in God’s hands. The film is based on Eric Jager’s book “The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval France.”

It is produced and directed by Ridley Scott, Kevin J. Walsh (“Manchester by the Sea”), Jennifer Fox (“Nightcrawler”), Nicole Holofcener, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck with Kevin Halloran (“Ford v Ferrari”), Drew Vinton (“Promised Land”), Madison Ainley (“Justice League”) serving as executive producers.

You can watch The Last Duel through popular video-on-demand (VOD) retailers like Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Apple TV (iTunes), Microsoft Movies, and YouTube.

Enjoy my conversation with Janty Yates. 

Right-click here to download the MP3

 

Alex Ferrari 0:00
This episode is brought to you by Indie Film Hustle Academy, where filmmakers and screenwriters go to learn from Top Hollywood Industry Professionals. Learn more at ifhacademy.com. I'd like to welcome to the show Janty Yates, How are you doing Janty?

Janty Yates 0:15
Hi, how nice of you to invite me. I'm very honored.

Alex Ferrari 0:19
Thank you. I'm honored to have you on the show. As I was telling you earlier, I think you are the officially first costume designer we've ever had on the show, and a heck of a costume designer. To do that with after almost 500 episodes of the of the of the show. I am I am honored to speak to someone of your caliber, and artistic skill because I've been a fan of your work for a long time. Probably the first the first time, of course, I recognized your name was in Gladiator a few years ago.

Janty Yates 0:54
I'm extremely doubly honored now to find that I'm the first to thank you so much. And thank you so much for your compliments as well.

Alex Ferrari 1:04
So so how did you get started in the business? What made you want to jump into this insanity that is the show business?

Janty Yates 1:12
Oh, hell, yes. I couldn't agree with you more. It really is insane. But I started making clothes when I was like 10 or 11. And I never stopped. And I just went off to college. And I did pattern cutting dress design, dressmaking. And I started off thinking I would break the fashion industry. And that was not going to happen. And I started with wholesale fashion manufacturers. And that was just not my cup of tea. I was not the inspirational Alexander McQueen or John Galliano, I didn't sleep under my cutting table to produce eight perfect outfits, I realized that I didn't have that sort of quality. And also you have to be extremely well funded, unless you do sleep on your cutting table. And so I then was living with an editor, Martin Smith, who basically steered me into the world of commercials. And I knew nobody in commercials. And I was just literally putting myself out there with friends of his and working for no money being an assistants assistant assistant, and just learning one's way around and happy to work just for no money. I do have to say my boyfriend did subsidize me for the first six months, which is pretty nice of him.

Alex Ferrari 2:53
Now, was there a film that kind of lit the flame of you wanting to jump into the future world?

Janty Yates 3:01
Oh, no, listen, I was I could have done commercials all my life, I would have been so happy working with different directors, you know, three or four days or a fortnight or three weeks. I was so gobsmacked when I was offered just a half hour film for television. And that was because the costume designer who was doing it was ill. So it was by default, in fact. And so it just I was clambering up this Dickie scope, I think recall it. Basically, I then did a lot of television, a lot of television series. And then did my first feature in mid 80s. I think that was was probably my budget was really what I'd spend on a good dinner now.

Alex Ferrari 4:08
Times the times have definitely have changed. Yeah, I mean, working in the commercial world, when especially during those years, when there were budgets, like major budgets, that I mean, oh my god, they were massive budgets that you had so much fun. I can only imagine what a department like costume would have with a budget like that even on a commercial.

Janty Yates 4:31
Well, commercials are like mini films. And basically it's like, I want this sky blue pink suit on this man. And we're shooting on Monday, and it's Friday. You know, it's that sort of hairiness and so I was kind of quite glad to leave that behind after X amount. Oh, I've got six weeks to do this film How marvelous films I did

Alex Ferrari 5:05
So when you were working with so can you tell the audience a little bit about what a costume designer does? You know, because I think there is a lot of miscommunication. A lot of misunderstandings about what you actually do?

Janty Yates 5:19
Well, yes, we dress everybody on set, literally, from the socks upwards. And whether it's contemporary, or period, or space, science fiction, we do it from beginning to end, unless it's such a low budget that they've said, the director said, they can come in their own clothes. And then you know, you always, always do all the actors, all the main actors, it's only background that you'd let go on a on a low budget crowd seen that they, you know, and then they'd say, Well do we don't want red, and we don't want yellow. And we don't want primary colors, or we only want red, and yellow, and blue, and primary colors. Usually, they'll say that, when they've all come in beige. But a bigger film, then you get more chance to, to construct, and you have more time to do the research, which could be upwards of a month or six weeks of research. And then basically you start your cutter, and he or she cuts and you make prototypes, then your actor is with you for your first fitting, then you take photos, and the director throws it all out, or doesn't make sense. If you got your brief from your director, so I'm talking, you know, basically, everybody from leads number 12345 and six, right through we have about 185 actors on this film I'm doing at the moment. But they're possibly, you know, just one will be saying nominee parties, you know, and it's one outfit, but they're all all costumed by us. It's responsibility

Alex Ferrari 7:28
Oh, I can I can only imagine. And then it also is all themed. Do you have a whole kind of idea? I mean, obviously, depending on I mean, if it's like in the Martian when you worked on, obviously, there's the Martian costumes, and then there's the back and NASA costumes. So they're not to get but you there is a color theme. There is a general theme throughout throughout the movie itself, because even in some of the I mean, if you look at something like Gladiator, there's definitely a theme within all of the costumes that you've created. Because you could have gone one way or you could have gone another way with with theme of things. So it is all kind of cohesive. If I'm not if I'm not mistaken, correct.

Janty Yates 8:12
We always have basically, we always have a big meeting with the DOP, who at the moment is Doris Wolski, with Arthur Mac's the production designer, and with Ridley, and he will set the tone because he's a painter. And he was at art college for seven years, he went to the Slade and Royal College of Art. And he goes down to his heart at the bottom of the garden a Christmas and he just paints which is wonderful. My whole room is papered with storyboards, which he does ad infinitum on every film so you know exactly what's in his brain. And basically, you have to really go by storyboards because he's got a complete vision, a total vision, and basically no, having said no red, you know, reds, yellows and blues, nothing primary is really he's because he's a painter. He loves. He loves old masters, he loves the feel of a painting. And so it's that you veer to the feel of a master a bridle or you know, a George La Tour, you know, you will you will go to that direction, rather than just here it is the red dress or you know, here it is the blue dress. So, a lot of it is guided by Ridley we just talk along.

Alex Ferrari 9:56
Now, how did you meet Ridley Scott and how did you guys become The collaborators that you've had, because you've done a couple movies with him at this point,

Janty Yates 10:03
One or two, only as good as your last movie, so never assume. Never, ever assume, frankly, you know, I basically was doing a film with his son called Plunkett and McLean, which we thought was the most fabulous movie, and I still believe it is the most fabulous movie. And he come in, and he says, Oh, my dad was watching rushes the weekend, when I've had a huge hero worship of Sir Ridley Scott for decades, and decades, decades, and I guess I'm sure he's not, you know, I never really believed Jake. And because there was, you know, he was in LA and Jake, and we were all shooting in Prague. I thought, Oh, sure. He hasn't seen them. You know, this was back in 98. However, he did, and he he stole from Jake, the makeup artist. Me the Steadicam operator, and the second second second unit director. So there off the top was it Jake is a great commercial Jake is a very, very lovely and very creative guy. And he never minded he wasn't making movie after movie like as well there was he was quite happy

Alex Ferrari 11:34
So that's so that's how you guys got together. And it was was your first collaboration with Ridley Gladiator?

Janty Yates 11:43
Oh, no.

Alex Ferrari 11:45
You did that. You did a couple movies before that, right?

Janty Yates 11:48
No, no. No. Why me? You know, how blessed was I? It was it was incredible. You know, just the fact that we were making tunics down to the needs look like Scottish kilts. I was running around the helmets that we had. I was making sure that the brims are they're not they're actually hit blockers that they were on the end on the edge of the helmet to look like a baseball cap, right. And they just really trying to make them look cool. Rather than you know, if you look at Trojans column, which is the best place for research actually just standing in front of this column, it has acres of legionaries just marching round it all carved beautifully. And they all have short skirts they all had. They just didn't really it didn't really work. So we just cheated a little bit on their on their legionary uniforms.

Alex Ferrari 12:54
I mean, because I'm in that film alone, you had I mean, between the iconic now Gladiator. You had these multiple gladiator characters who had a very distinct look like that silver with the the Teardrop of Oh, my God. Yeah, all of those amazing costumes. And you also had the legionnaires. And you also so it's like, almost two completely different worlds. And then you have the commoners and the peasants. And this is your first big movie at this point. Correct?

Janty Yates 13:25
Completely. And I really was guided through it by my supervisor, Rosemary Barrows. And, you know, I didn't know where to go. We interviewed so many different specialists effects costume makers, we you know, we luckily, prep was delayed because of some reason I can't remember. But we they grabbed us another month and a half, which was terrific. And we had we had the germ, the barbarians, the Germans, we had the Praetorian Guard to design. And you know, it was very, very exciting. It really was terrifying. I was every single day of that entire prep and shoot, it was terrifying.

Alex Ferrari 14:12
How do you how do you research a project? Like where do you find your inspiration for the individuals like from I mean, if something from like the gladiator to the Martian, like there said that's such an alien. There's so many different or brief Prometheus. There's so many there's so different. Where do you go to find inspiration per project, and how do you what's your process?

Janty Yates 14:35
In Gladiator you just walk around Rome, you know, because every single statue is either a legionary or it's Caesar. Or it's, you know, Augustus It's extraordinary. Obviously, books, huge amount of books, Ridley came up with the most wonderful inspiration For the crowd you wanted ALMA to Deema. Who painted? He was a late 19th. No, sorry, late. He was 19 Eight, not nine today to 1880 to 1910. He painted wonderful Roman scenes. And we used a lot of his paintings as inspiration. Obviously the British Museum, the Ashmolean Museum, just museums that go go libraries, and artists, and roam, and then really the Martian. Ridley, briefed me that he wanted similar to Prometheus for Prometheus. He'd said, We want skinny suits, we want them to be body hugging. And we were ahead of the curve there. We, you know, there's been a lot of movies since which have nicked our ideas. But the great thing about The Martian spacesuit was that really, it was Ridley again, who just said, I want orange in it. I want it to be silver and orange, or gray and orange. So we just worked with that. And we just worked worked. And we added and we took away. And it was, you know, a whole host of trial and error until we came up with it. And the the helmets on Prometheus, they were a work of art, they had a seat recording for sound. We lit the actors, and we had 11 monitors with tech running on them constantly. Batteries at gogo just drove everyone mad replacing the batteries. And obviously they had to breathe. So we had to, you know, pump air into their, into their helmets, and also for not fogging up. So we were doing a lot of, you know, really quite broken ground. Excuse me ground breaking work on on this. Now maybe they did all CGI, but CGI was around. We just did it.

Alex Ferrari 17:19
Practical is practical. You know, there's something about practical human human beings can feel it. It's enhancing with visual effects, even in clothing, where there's capes and things like that and other things that they do in visual effects that can maybe add to but even then, you can't replicate. Even with as much amazing technologies we have today. It's hard to replicate reality.

Janty Yates 17:45
Yeah, and all these capes are usually on fishing wire.

Alex Ferrari 17:51
Right, exactly. Exactly.

Janty Yates 17:53
Two main I decide. I should screen obviously. pulling, pulling wondering exactly.

Alex Ferrari 18:03
Not none the most. That what you think about? Yeah, not what you think about you're like, oh, there's must be something high tech. It's fishing wire. It's fishing wire in a dude in the corner polling to generally generally to now. So you've worked with Ridley for for, you know, for the better part of two decades. Now. What is his approach to costume design? How does he approach? I mean, because we know he has a vision. I mean, all his films are so visual, and he does storyboard. He is an artist, a painter? How does he specifically approach the costuming of his characters within within the conflicts? Let's say the last duel is one of his latest films. How did he approach that?

Janty Yates 18:45
Well, he's very visual. He's very visual indeed. And he, he is a huge collaborator. And he will, you know, he will come up with ideas. He was the one that found the most wonderful effigy, which was still the front of his CQRS to make Adams battle armor. In actual fact, Adams battle armor, he just punches around in he doesn't really do much battling he's just, you know, it's just a peers. right hand man. And he, it was wonderful. It was gold circles on each breast and a gold circle in the middle of the grass. And really found that and so we went with it. You know, I basically I'm just a facilitator.

Alex Ferrari 19:42
There. Yeah. And it just basically, whatever really comes up with you're like, okay, and obviously it's a collaboration you're he's asking you for your ideas and your input, obviously, and how to put it all together. But I mean, imagining I mean, working with someone like Ridley Scott who is so specific, yeah, about his vision. During but there's still obviously room for collaboration. I mean, you obviously are throwing ideas at him. He's either batting them away or or agreeing with him.

Janty Yates 20:09
Absolutely. And, you know, we we do go backwards and forwards. But he, for example, he's done every single scene in this film that we're collaborating on at the moment in a store in a storyboard, and I noticed that he had Josephine, because we're doing Napolean in a red dress in a red setting. And so I questioned him on that. And he said, Yes, he wanted a red dress. Well, we were doing Josephine different colorway, but we made him the red dress. And that's fantastic. So, you know, you can never really tell, but basically, his storyboards are the Bible. They really are. But we always we always get together and work out the colors. I sat down with Arthur Mac's a week ago, and we went through all the sets. And I mean, we're shooting entirely on location that he always shows me through, says, Well, what do you think? Should we redo the drapes on this bed? And really won't necessarily have any input on that, but he will. You know, he'll comment if the drapes are wrong. And you know, he'll comment in time for them to make new ones. It's same for paste a bed.

Alex Ferrari 21:33
Right! He's, he's not gonna do it on the day of generally speaking,

Janty Yates 21:43
Generally speaking. I wouldn't know but I mean, he did this on Gucci, E. LG, I came running down with LG, she had this red dress that we'd made another red dress for, ironically, that we'd made for eight weeks, we'd been making the twile, fitting it, making it in the fabric, fitting it, fitting it again. And then we run down to the set. It's supposed to be when she meets Maritza, for the first time. And we're doing what's this? And I said, it's the red dress. And he won't see her legs. So we put her up on an apple box. And thank God, she brought her wonderful man from New York, who did the cutting because I would have just gone like, we took 18 inches off the hem of the dress to make it a nice legs dress. Oh, my hemming, nothing just like with five camera crews all standing around drumming their fingers. Chewing gum waiting for us.

Alex Ferrari 22:56
Oh, that must that. I mean, I can imagine that's a little bit a little bit of pressure, a little bit of stress

Janty Yates 23:01
Ohh no on his role with Ridley his called role was Ridley he'll say, he'll say something like on the in the court of Ramses the third, he'll go or is read again. Actually, he's he'll say everyone's in white and gold. And you know, there's lots of clerics and say, I don't I'd like something red. You're just about to shoot. On maybe there's 10 clerics. So it's roll with Ridley, you know,really.

Alex Ferrari 23:32
And you're and you're always locked and loaded, just in case, I'm assuming at this point in the game?

Janty Yates 23:38
Yes, of course. Haha.

Alex Ferrari 23:41
You figure it out. You figure it out. But that's what makes?

Janty Yates 23:44
I know, I know. You never know what he's going to come up with. What? Okay, right. I mean, I remember on the Martian, and Matt, Matt's just sitting in a park and 20 students jog past him. And he went, why haven't they got any baseball caps on? Okay, and as Sarah said, run the crew. And we were blocking a gaffer taping. I mean, that's just a day in the life of costume designer, blacking out the Nike signs, you know, just beanie hats. Yes, I'll have 10 of your beanie hats, camera crew for, you know,

Alex Ferrari 24:25
Amazing

Janty Yates 24:28
Because it was supposed to be New York, or America really.

Alex Ferrari 24:32
Exactly. Now, can you talk a little bit about the power of color in the work that you do and the emotional attachment that we have with color? And you know what red kind of means what green kind of means? Or is it basically just whatever, you know, release feeling that day? Is there. I mean, obviously red has a very different distinction than blue or green and address. Can you talk a little bit about that for the audience?

Janty Yates 24:57
Well, he basically He only goes to red. Usually when it's involved with something quite personal, something fairly, maybe sexual, you know, it's sort of it's the naughty woman will wear red. And the reason that LG wore it was because she was kind of on the hunt, even though she was very innocent and young in that time, early, early days when she's seduces Maritza that night on the dance floor. And he's not very keen on brush colors is not keen on. On what's the word? When you can see them at night,

Alex Ferrari 25:50
Neon, neon loud.

Janty Yates 25:52
Exactly, exactly. He's not keen on those sort of colors. He prefers the colors of an old master. He loves grays, browns, beiges. He loves all those all those tones. That was navy blue, he loves blues of all colors. But it's all dependent on the setup, all dependent on you know, whether it's contemporary, or period, everything is pertinent to the set.

Alex Ferrari 26:24
Now on a film, like the last duel, which I just I just recently watched a few days ago. And, you know, I have to say there are very few directors left working inside the Hollywood system that can paint with a brush like Ridley does, that's given the resources to paint these large on large canvases, which are not based on a superhero, or a major IP or Harry Potter or something like that. I can probably count them on one hand, one or two hands, how many of these are left? What was it like working on last duel in this? I mean, if you've also worked in the kingdom of heaven, which is also a massive, medieval medieval part, how was it like working on and last? And how did you specifically question? How did you handle the mass amount of people and battle sequences and clothes? You know, costuming, all of those? What's the process?

Janty Yates 27:30
Yes, you basically you have a wonderful wardrobe supervisor who I have in Italy, and we get a lot of costumes from Italy. And they just look after the street. People. They look after the upper class, the middle class, obviously, the the battles where they had to be really in full armor. So that was, that was a problem. We rented a lot of armor, because we couldn't make for every single soldier, you know, there's no way we could afford that. Because it was bad enough, just getting the 12 or so for each of the, of the leads. So they basically they did work we had one or two, maybe five or six in actual metal, but most of it was urethane, which is you know, the go to fabric of making armor now. And so that was that taken care of the deal. They were all upper class along the the top most of them were actors. So we we designed them I mean, it's a very I could just drone on about it, you know, from where everybody everybody costume came from, you know, the king we had embroidered in Chalk Farm, North London, for example. And the queen, you know, everything I really could I could sort of write a book about where everything came from, you know,

Alex Ferrari 29:19
So so on on a project that big, you know, because most filmmakers listening to the show will never be able to play that kind of, you know, that kind of color palette is a very few people that can do that. What is the process of just literally the actual production process of clothing? On day one everyone's call time is five o'clock in the morning. Okay, we've got you know, 1500 extras 250 extras is everyone going through a tent and just basically almost like a assembly line, getting fitted for the for the background and things like that and maybe on a battle sequence. We're working to see on screen at one time, maybe 500 to you know, not 500 but 100 people at a time because I know a lot of my be added in post to make it look bigger. But I know from what I've read about Ridley, he likes to do as much in camera as possible. Is that correct?

Janty Yates 30:08
Yes, that's absolutely correct. And we fit them all in advance. So they all come in the day of shooting, they know exactly what they're wearing. There it is literally a production line, they come into us, they get dressed, they get then go on to hair and makeup, they go there. And then after they're out of hair and makeup, they go to the armor, let's say we're talking soldiers here. And also, there's a huge amount of stunts that are used now in in battles, because they're more useful, frankly, than just having extras who can ride. So they have their own tents they have, but there's exactly the same production. And the same with the civilians, they literally will come in maybe at three or four in the morning. Not quite as bad as Gladiator, which was 132 in the morning. But we had 3000 there.

Alex Ferrari 31:12
So was it was it really literally 3000 people that you guys had to

Janty Yates 31:16
Yeah, he had 3000 in Morocco. So one of the smaller battles. And then 3000 A day in Malta for the Colosseum for four weeks, I think.

Alex Ferrari 31:36
I can't I mean, I can't even comprehend on a production of that magnitude. That's just the people let alone feeding the people, let alone clothing people, let alone bathrooms.

Janty Yates 31:51
It's, it's a huge moving circus, you know, it really is. But we've always fitted them before we fit them, you know, upfront. And basically, they know what they're going to wear. They know what they've also visited hair and makeup before. So they know they're going to get a, you know, a shock of new hair or, you know, brows or, you know, great big bushy beard or whatever. And so they know all of that. And there's no surprises, really. And they know what arms because the armors always deal with, you know, however many there are 200 300 400 they deal with them, and they have them out, you know, when they're actually on set. As for feeding them and Lou stops, then you know this huge, great tents of catering honey wagon that go on as far as the eye can see.

Alex Ferrari 32:52
Basically no other productions are around you at that time. They basically have taken all the honey wagons. Yeah, exactly. Now, I mean, you've had the pleasure of collaborating with Ridley for the last, you know, couple a couple decades, you must have been on set multiple times watching him? Is there anything that you can see, because it takes a very special director to be able to orchestrate on such a large scale? You know, it, you know, really doesn't make private movies in a room? That's not he doesn't make the one location film. That's not what really does. What did you What do you see in working with him over these years? That is a skill set that he has, that allows him to continuously? Not only do this once every few years due to a year? It's insanity. How does he What does that thing you see?

Janty Yates 33:49
Yes, it is. It's just madness. He's a complete fiend for work. You know, I've spoken to him over Christmas. And he goes, No, I'm just going down to my shed to paint. You know, I can't bear this hanging around nothing to do. You know, he's an complete, he's a fantastic workaholic. But what I never, ever will understand is how he can position five cameras and be done. That's what I can't answer. I can watch him work. And I can see his brain working. And he's mapped it all out beforehand, every shot that he's going to shoot, which is extraordinary. I mean, that's extraordinary in itself. But the fact that he handles these five cameras, so commonly he in the DOP is Doris Wolski at the moment, you know, they just handled camera crews so gently and so you just put yourself there and you get this close up and you get the mid shot. You know, they just do it. I mean, x amount of times a day, and very often he'll feel Shirley because he's got everything in two tapes. He's a miracle worker, he really is.

Alex Ferrari 35:06
Yeah, I was gonna say, because to be able to shoot at that scale with that kind of Canvas, and with that kind of just humanity that you have to deal with sometimes, especially like on the last duel, or even out of Gucci, there's so many people you got to deal with. I've heard that he shoots five cameras at a time, that is a master as a master at work, be able, because to be able to light four or five cameras, be able to move and capture everything, he has to be able to move quickly to be able to efficiently to be able to work within these budgets, and he's working within.

Janty Yates 35:42
Well, absolutely. And I think Daris works, they work very well alongside each other. And they've got it down to a really, you know, a fast pace. And it's fantastic. And he moves on. He beats the schedule, sometimes.

Alex Ferrari 36:01
He's ahead of schedule, sometimes on some of the most massive projects going on in Hollywood.

Janty Yates 36:08
But he's confident in what he's got. That's the thing. It's amazing. I mean, that's what he wants.

Alex Ferrari 36:15
Right! Exactly. Because he's been I mean, he's gone to war so many times. I mean, he made his first feature, and at I think 40. But before that he had shot 5000 Commercials

Janty Yates 36:26
5000 Probably 6000. Exactly. He was a past master even before he shot, you know, the dualists his first feature.

Alex Ferrari 36:37
Yeah. It's remarkable. Now, all these years as you've been working, is there ever been a day and I have to believe there has been when there's a day on set where everything in your department, something has gone wrong? The world is coming crashing down around you. You're like, oh my god, how am I going to get out of this? And what was that moment? And what project if you can tell me? And how did you overcome it? Or does it happen every day?

Janty Yates 37:07
Every day. How a costume designer can just sit at their desk, and let everything go on around them. I'm on set all the time, because Ridley will come out with Well, we're going to have a couple of horses, can we just get a couple of Grooms and, you know, maybe a child on the back of the horse or something like that, you know, oh, okay, running off putting out fires all the time. You know, he's just, he's inspirational. He really is. And you've just got to roll with it. Because otherwise,

Alex Ferrari 37:44
You lose your mind.

Janty Yates 37:46
Yeah, but he doesn't. He doesn't get what he wants. So you're facilitating him? As much as you possibly can, you know, and I mean, he understands if you haven't got that sky blue pink suit, you know, over the weekend. That's fair enough. He understands that. But he's he's a very tight taskmaster. He keeps you on your toes. He but he inspires constantly. So what's not to love?

Alex Ferrari 38:17
And when you were so when you run that set of Gladiator, and that's your first big movie, which I can't believe you were thrown into the deep end of the pool at your first feature. I mean, you're basically working with a living.

Janty Yates 38:31
I did a lot of features before but never anything of that.

Alex Ferrari 38:36
Right! With Ridley Yeah, if you had worked on future

Janty Yates 38:40
Huge budget, huge. And then for it to have the success. Unbelievable. You know, it was extraordinary. But now I had done I have done some features before.

Alex Ferrari 38:54
No, no. Yeah, I know you've I've done yeah, but nothing at the scale of gladiator and being kind of tossed into your into the deep end with Ridley. I mean, I have to ask you, because I always love asking anybody who happens to win an Oscar, what's that all experience being in that hurricane? The center of the storm like that, being on your first big monster Hollywood film? What was it like?

Janty Yates 39:18
Well, it didn't belong to me the Oscar, she belonged to my entire team. She you know, had four different companies making armor. I had you know, even from the drivers for everybody in Morocco, everyone in in Malta, I think there are probably, you know, 200 people that that Oscar belong to, and my assistant and my supervisor. I didn't feel worthy of it, to be honest.

Alex Ferrari 39:49
Really, and it just kind of like it must be it must have been surreal. It must have been surreal.

Janty Yates 39:57
Well, it's like nothing else that whole weekend of completely feeling like a princess. And you know, I didn't. There's no way I was going to get it. You know, the fact that I got it, I was completely stunned and speechless. So that was, that was extraordinary. But I wanted to thank everybody, you know, I would have stayed up there for an hour, listing everybody's name because I didn't feel it belonged to me.

Alex Ferrari 40:30
Now, I have to ask you, you also worked on another film that just got released. Because really releases a movie a week apparently. House of Gucci. When I saw that, when I saw the trailer for that I was like, oh my god, the costume designer must have had a ball diving into the archives of Gucci of all companies. What was it? Like? How much fun did you have on that project?

Janty Yates 40:57
Had so much fun. It was great. And basically, they open the archive. But the archive was moving. And they were storing us we finally got to see the archive, there only about 20 outfits, but they allowed us to ship them over to LG. And she fit them all like a glove. They were fabulous. And we actually then this was October, we fit her kind of, I think in January in LA. And then basically, or maybe it was December anyway, it doesn't matter. Then they when we started shooting towards the end of February, they released them and we kept them in a strong room in the hotel. We were all bubbled in. And so we basically we knew that they fit and we knew that they look great. But Patrizia Reggiani didn't wear a lot of Gucci, because it was kind of a bit conservative. She liked Eve zanla Wrong. She loved Dior. She loved she Vaughn, she etc. So I was so lucky. I found two really. And they had the most wonderful archives. Also alamode and Ferrante. They had archives as well. But it was it couldn't see the other end of the room. It was just because I was thinking where am I going to find all of this costume that I need for LG because I had a cutter, and he was making the most wonderful stuff. But I needed the archive as well. And I found all of your all of Shivaji all of Eve Center at tirelli. It was amazing. Absolutely amazing. So I was very, very happy. And you know, LG would come into a fitting and she goes, that's what I'm going to wear when I meet or Axio. Or this is what I'd like because we all have all the stuff that we'd made as well. I my cutter started very early. And so we'd have a lot that was just punted to fit. And then we'd have to see.

Alex Ferrari 43:08
I mean, I mean, Lady Gaga is essentially a, essentially a fashion icon in her own right prior to being here. So I could only imagine having her almost as a collaborator, as well as going, Hey, I want that. I think this would be good. And let's ask Ridley

Janty Yates 43:25
She was great. She was so collaborative, and so happy to, but she would never ever wear the same outfit. She had 54 different outfits. She would always say right, that's it that's done and we'd pack it away with the earrings. With the three necklaces, with the bracelets with the brooches with the handbag, we'd pack it away and it would never be touched again.

Alex Ferrari 43:49
Wow, really? So sitting somewhere in a warehouse.

Janty Yates 43:53
No, it's actually in LA. Oh, it's over. I think MGM I think they have it the moment. But everything else. For example, the 40 suits I made for Adam and the 1520 seats. I made Frappuccino there at the moment in a warehouse in Rome because they're embargoed until the film has come out. Well now. Last week it came out so we'll be sending those all over to MGM. I guess.

Alex Ferrari 44:27
You're too busy on Napoleon right now think about things like this. Guess Yeah. Because normally you get you get a year off, you know, you know, between projects. So you're like, oh, maybe I get six months off. But I guess working with Ridley you don't get much breaks.

Janty Yates 44:42
Well, this has been extraordinary. You know, I think what happened? Because I knew about Gucci a year before we actually started it. And I was sent the script I went to the museum in Florence is beyond fantastic. It really is Gucci museum. And I went there, and I crewed up all my Italian crew. And then we didn't do it that year, because Matt brang Ridley, and said, Well, I've just written a script with Ben, would you like to shoot it? And he went, Yeah. Would you like shoot it now? Because we're all free? Yeah. So you know, that just came like a missile out of the blue.

Alex Ferrari 45:30
Again, the small little independent film that Matt wrote, Matt and Ben wrote that's the thing. It's like,

Janty Yates 45:38
Came along, you know,

Alex Ferrari 45:40
It wasn't a small little movie to like, sneak in between house of Gucci.

Janty Yates 45:46
Well, in point of fact, because COVID happened, right? There's six weeks in France in medieval France. And then we thought we were going to Ireland to shoot the rest of it. But no, we were all sent home from Ireland. So that

Alex Ferrari 46:05
Slowed things down

Janty Yates 46:06
A bit. Yeah. That was COVID. But MGM reached out to me and said, Would I like to do six to eight weeks on research and development of Gucci? During during a lockdown? Yes, please. Thank you. We did a huge amount of research. It was terrific.

Alex Ferrari 46:25
What it shows on that it shows on the on the screen that you had you would you have gotten that much time prep on a movie like Gucci? Or did was COVID allowed you a little extra time that you wouldn't have normally had?

Janty Yates 46:38
No, I think I'd have probably been asked to do research and development. Anyway, they might. But I had to get my cutter to start early. Because we were just Dancing in the Dark measurements wise, we haven't sure for everything up with LG. So thank goodness, the MGM head of physical production. said yes, he can start early. So I might have been just asked to do that research and development then. But who will never know we

Alex Ferrari 47:16
Never will never will look after COVID has changed everything for everybody on the planet. So it's will never there's a lot of will never notice of what if there's a lot of what ifs?

Janty Yates 47:28
No, I was I was working at a local food bank. And I was just happy to actually earn some money during lockdown. That was great.

Alex Ferrari 47:40
Exactly.

Janty Yates 47:43
I'm saying Alice that. Very happy to get my teeth into Gucci.

Alex Ferrari 47:49
That's fantastic. Now, what advice would you give a costume designer or that wants to kind of break in of someone who wants to get into your kind of line of work in the business?

Janty Yates 48:01
Well, I knew nobody. Absolutely nobody. And my partner at the time was an editor. And he said he pointed out you know, commercials and little films and things like that they all need costuming, I didn't really. I didn't know that knew. I mean that's how naive I was. But I had been to college and I had you know, done my time. So I basically worked for anybody who'd have me I did stills I did you know and assistants assistant assistant, working for no money, literally sort of you know, but she washing stockings and awning skirts and doing anything that they give me to do. And gradually I sometimes be asked back and given a small amount of money. So really it's get yourself a basic training. And persevere. Be as nice as you can because that helps that you get us back. Never seen no. Right All right. All always carry a notebook and if you can't think of anything to do on something

Alex Ferrari 49:20
No, that's so look busy is what you're saying if you keep busy. Wow, that Jan she looks she's working hard over there. We should bring on the next. No, now I'm going to ask you a few questions. I ask all my guests. What is the lesson that has taken you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Janty Yates 49:43
Well, I've trusted people terribly and made terrible choices. And I really still always believed the best of everyone. And I'm getting more and more cynical as I get into my Olden age, so, I think really, I would just say, you know, always give people the benefit of the doubt. But only three times.

Alex Ferrari 50:16
Wow, only three times. That's just once three times. So you're not that cynical yet. You're not that cynical yet. No. And what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Janty Yates 50:30
Oh, well, Lawrence, of course. Every Yeah, I just still, I watch it probably once a year. And love it, I will say loved Anna Karenina of that time with. And listen, there's another David Lean. Direct directorial. I love David Lean any of his work. The third one, I can't really think I'm just running through all the movies I've seen. There will be blood, possibly such. Yeah, that's such a Great Dane is who? Thomas Edison. Just all day? No, just amazing.

Alex Ferrari 51:23
Now, are there any projects that you would would aim someone interested in costume design to look at? Are there any films that you can go? Oh, if you want to get it? I know. It's a tough question. I know. She just made she if anyone just listening, she just gave me a look. It's anything that pops to the top of your head, you're like, you know what, these, these two or three movies are really great. But there's 1000 of them out there. But the things that may be synced to you personally?

Janty Yates 51:50
Well, it's very, very hard. I have to say that's why I was I was giving you the look of what there's so much out there. I really didn't think off the top of my head. I could pick anything to say, watch this and learn. Because I think you learn every day from everything you see. Every film, every movie that you watch, you just learn. And you know I could I honestly cannot think of three just off the off the cuff like that. I would have to email them to you. Hard, like, oh, but that's not fair on that one. That one.

Alex Ferrari 52:39
It's like putting a guest list together for a wedding. Well, if I invite this person to help them and then you got 500 people.

Janty Yates 52:48
Yeah, exactly. I'm sorry. I'm gonna Wiltshire's that one.

Alex Ferrari 52:54
Fair enough. Fair enough. Fair enough. Jessie, thank you so much for being on the show. It has been an absolute pleasure and honor speaking to you and please continue doing the amazing work you're doing with with all with every every project you work with and, and and with Ridley because we need. We need projects like the ones you're working on out there because it they're an endangered species in Hollywood. They really are. So thank you so much for the work you do.

Janty Yates 53:22
Well, thank you so much for talking to me. I've so enjoyed it. And really, it's all Ridley it's not me.

LINKS

  • Janty Yates – IMDB

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