IFH 636: The RAW Truth About Screenwriting in Hollywood with Rick Najera

Today on the show, we have award-winning screenwriter, actor, director, producer, and sketch comedian Rick Najera. Rick is also an author, playwright, coach and national speaker with an expansive portfolio of credits in all forms of entertainment.

From starring in films with Sidney Poitier, George Clooney, and most recently Mario Lopez to writing sketch comedy for Jim Carrey and Jamie Foxx, Najera is best known for starring on Broadway in his award-winning, self-penned stage play, Latinologues, directed by comedy legend Cheech Marin. Najera is only one of three Latinos to ever write and star in their own play on Broadway.

As a screenwriter, Najera has written dozens of scripts for TV, film, and the stage, starting out in the industry as a staff writer on the groundbreaking urban comedy series, In Living Color, for which he wrote more than 30 episodes. Najera went on to write for Townsend TV (10 episodes), MAD TV (47 episodes), East Los High – a Hulu original (21 episodes), and more.

He penned the feature film Nothing Like the Holidays starring Debra Messing, Alfred Molina, John Leguizamo, and Luis Guzman, which won him an ALMA Award. Najera learned from great writers like Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, and Scorsese to “write what you know and has been a pioneer in Hollywood telling his American experience from a Latino perspective.

Rick and I discuss the raw truth about working in Hollywood, writing comedy, working with greats like Jim Carrey and Jamie Foxx, and much more. This is an entertaining and informative episode. Get ready to take notes.

Enjoy my conversation with Rick Najera.

Alex Ferrari 0:09
I like to welcome to the show, Rick Najera, man, how are you doing, Rick?

Rick Najera 3:28
Good, Alex, how you doing?

Alex Ferrari 3:30
As good as we can be in this crazy mix up the world we live in today, sir.

Rick Najera 3:34
It is a crazy mixed up world. Yeah, it's so much going on. But you know, different stuff. I'm sure that everyone's tired of hearing about COVID interactions and things like that. Let's talk about film.

Alex Ferrari 3:44
Absolutely. Absolutely. So first and foremost, sir, how did you get into this ridiculous business?

Rick Najera 3:51
You know, it's very simple. Um, I thought of the, the one thing that would just totally destroy my life and make my life really horrible. And I went, let's go for that job. And it had to be writer, because that is the probably one of the worst jobs you can get in Hollywood. It's just, you know, really horrible.

Alex Ferrari 4:08
Now, why not? Why, sir? Why? Well, I

Rick Najera 4:11
Well, I mean, I have to tell you, first of all, it's a lonely business. So it's not like, you know, it's lonely. No one, you know how many times they go, Oh, my God, there's, that's the writer of that film. You know, it's even you could name off Star Wars. They'd go, Oh, my guts. Oh, wait a minute, is that James Earl Jones Oh, my God, not for you. Because people are are attracted to the to the man or woman in the podium. You know, and that's, that's the person I mean, we've had years of now, you know, the the cult of the director like Orson Welles and people like that, or, you know, Quentin Tarantino, but say Quentin Tarantino, Orson Welles, were also actors, they're performers. So they were hybrids. And I think that's kind of what's coming to the world now is more hybrid. I mean, yes. writer you know, I'm a proud member of the WTA I've you know written a lot of things but now I love my union are great. And my favorite things are screeners I used to get but we don't they don't really send at the screeners like they used to

Alex Ferrari 5:14
know that as much anymore now yes like you go online

Rick Najera 5:17
to see something like one thing I don't want to be online is a freakin pandemic. I don't want to be in five a screen.

Alex Ferrari 5:25
Yeah. I want to go to a theater and watch it theater. I

Rick Najera 5:27
want popcorn. I can't watch a movie without popcorn in my hand. There's so it's, it's it is the it is more of what I think I am in a lot of certain performers are and writers and people like that. We tend to be Heifetz. And the old world of Hollywood actually was the Model T Ford world. Right? Like, the the writer does eight hour, you know, he does the eight o'clock hour family sitcom, that's the guy and this person's the single camera guy. And that person's this no, this is a writer, but he's really comedy. And this is this. So they approach writers that way. It's being Latino. I had to always create my own job. You know, there wasn't, you know, we talked earlier on the show that there isn't a lot of Latino writers. And there's there's a reason for that. But they're just we're just few or a few and far between. I was on a plane I think was hosted in Lopez and one of the writers were going to some event, and there's like three Latino writers on the plane, I say, this plane goes down. We've lost half the writers in Hollywood. And at that time, it was kind of the truth. It was like it was like, we've lost half the writers the display goes down. I mean, and I hope I mentioned along with Josephina in the other writer, for sure it was it would go you know, but it was true. It was like What a tragedy is sad because, you know, no one wants to be the first in Hollywood. Or like, you know, people have called me a pioneer in some ways. You know, Pioneer I got I've never wanted to be a pioneer pioneer really is a bad job. Because pioneer gets killed by the bear gets cholera syphilis some mercury poison and a silver mine and some

Alex Ferrari 7:15
What's that? What's that? So it's like game Oregon Trail Oregon Trail trail. Yeah,

Rick Najera 7:19
just the worst things you can imagine Eagle the eagle takes your baby yeah your feet you have no fingers or hands you've got no personal hygiene fair enough fair to add and you're you're just hoping to syphilis kills you instead of a Native American and well that's it's just bad it's so I want to be the guy that shows up in the train you know what the you know the nice mustache and Joe show up with a train and and all that kind of world that's the kind of guy I want to be I don't want to be a better yet. The guy shows in a jet just right to New York even better. You know, it's great. But pioneers a bad thing to be you don't want to be a pioneer. It's just the danger level of Pioneer is really up there. I went to Australia to film something. And that place was dangerous already. I could imagine someone going that place and being a pioneer. They have everything there will kill you. spiders, snakes, every the people I mean, kangaroos box. I mean, it's crazy. Oh, kangaroos aren't even cute animals, like I saw King like seven foot high. And they will gut you with their feet. You know, so you go walk up with a carrot your mouth and what to feed it gently, you know, with a gill kill you. And so it's that's to me, Pioneer. So I do not want to be a Latino pioneer. Because first of all, they don't no one cares. And

Alex Ferrari 8:37
no one do. So by me. So when you when you started out? I mean, you started out? How did you like start getting work because I look, I'll tell you what, you know, I came up as a commercial director and in post production as a Latino in Miami. And, you know, I started off in editing Latino, you know, commercials and doing other stuff or South America and things like that. But it was a little it was hard to break through to the American market for and that was This is the mid 90s where things are a bit different now in regards to accessibility, like I mean before, get more and and then that whole crew

Rick Najera 9:14
and those guys aren't even doing what you say particularly Latino stories.

Alex Ferrari 9:18
No, they're no they're they're not there but they're still but they're still you know, Latino, you know, let's call it Latino directors and and Robert Rodriguez and and you know, and all that kind of stuff. It was it was a different world so I could only imagine what it was like for you as a writer coming up in the 90s

Rick Najera 9:36
Well first of all, they were surprised I could write in English what's the bigger surprise what could I do you understand the words it was very hard you know it's it's I got in this business because I believe you can be anything you want to be you know that was drilled in my head you can be able to ever you want to be and and I believed it So I said I'll be an actor because being an actor you can be any character want to be and then this business spends their entire energy telling you can't do that. And now those exceptions are starting to happen. I'm watching with Shonda Rhimes. I'm a big fan of, you know, people like that. But on the whole, for the 90s, just the 92, like when I first started out was, it was a 92 it was I got an in living color. And I got that after being an actor. I was, I was working a lot, you know, as I got into acting, I did you know, I mean that did shows every show from Colombo to whatever to you know, China beach and all these pilots and you know, West Wing, and I just didn't like the roles. I finally it was one day I was doing a film called Read surf with George Clooney. And we both were leads. And he had 1020 Auditions afterwards, I had zero. And we both release. And I said, Well, why what he's going on 20 shows why, why can I? They said, Well, he's going out for white roles. You only play Latinos. So it was ingrained. It agents, managers, everyone, you play Latinos now which led to can you play? At that time, it was like you're either gonna be drug lords, which hasn't changed terribly much because look at Narcos and shows like that, or you're the gardener or your you know, whatever it is, it wasn't like, you know, Dr. Sanchez, we need to We're losing him. Dr. Sanchez. We're losing. You know, it was always you know, you know, quick cut, you know, Pan left. And Dr. Sanchez is I'm just working here as a gardener, but part time I am also a doctor to help with this situation. So that

Alex Ferrari 11:46
I want to watch that I want to watch that medical drama. That's Dr.

Rick Najera 11:48
Sanchez. He's a gardener by day. But ER doctor at night. I learned this during the war, you know, salads. Teach people back up. And also

Alex Ferrari 12:02
gardening. Because I do like the gardening. It's steady when

Rick Najera 12:07
it calms me down. One night, er, gametime gardening. And I also have him. I bring the truck around. And I also make lunch for the people.

Alex Ferrari 12:19
Oh, of course, of course. Great. That's a funny

Rick Najera 12:23
dimensional character. I didn't know that. You know, so I just I just said, listen, these roles aren't, you know, they're dumb. I was very insulted by them. And I was I started off as a classical actor as an actual actor at the Globe Theatre in San Diego was as it lawyer playoffs, I did Time magazine 10 Best Production years American Conservatory Theater, all the best theaters in the nation. And the minute they found out I was Latino, there's like this. And it wasn't a secret was it wasn't walking around going. My name is Rick Nash. It sounds like an Arabic word cried. You know, nothing is exotic. And obviously not Anglo American is when I got very, you know, stuck in playing the Latino. So I said, um, if I'm gonna play a stereotype, I better written it. So I just started writing the roles. And I've turned the stereotypes upside down. I would I play a drug lord, but he was a news fanatic. You know, I talked about the news. I was I was watching the news last night, you know, talking about

Alex Ferrari 13:25
these Scarface who watches CNN?

Rick Najera 13:28
Yeah, I heard about a man. His name. He he was executed in Texas by lethal injection is ironic, no. Lethal objection. He was a drug lord. So I'm thinking to myself, for his last meal. He asked for steak, french fries and a Diet Coke. Why would you order a diet? Are you worried about the calories we're talking about? I would do that I would take care of and really create, you know, flip and flip them out and change them around. And it was it was a tough fight because you're you're in a battle with Latinos themselves. And that you you know, because it's because you're going to you every every time you're performing Latinos looking at you going, No, he's not that good. Or I don't like him or for 1000 reasons. Mostly. We're Vidya you know, Andy, of looking at someone. And so, you either people assume you're full of yourself, I gotta get that people assume I'm full of myself. You've done all these shows. You must think you're the most incredible person in the world. And I go, No, not at all. And I'm the most insecure person in the world. Those shows make you insecure. Okay, Hollywood is geared to make you insecure. It's actually geared when you walk in the door and they look at you and they said they're just not good looking. Or walk in the door. You're not sexy. Hey, you know, old, but it's like the words they used. I was like, vibrant, wonderful.

Alex Ferrari 14:55
No, it's not. It's not it's not a ton that builds you up. It's not it's not look like Brad Pitt and George Clooney were having problems getting roles when they were young. I mean, I mean, yeah, it took it took a minute. It's a George Clooney took a while before he actually hit.

Rick Najera 15:11
George Clooney. I'll tell you a story. I worked with George years ago, and we did that read serve together. And he invited me to his house to have two

Alex Ferrari 15:20
is this free? Is this pre or post? Er?

Rick Najera 15:23
Oh, this is this is I believe, pre er, like, like, so he's, he's still hustling at this point. Still hustling, still hustling? And he's hustling and I go to his house. And he has a pet pig. Pig? Like, yeah, so we're in his house, you know, doing tequila shots, and we're talking is a few of his friends over. And he says, you know, we do the movie, we'll get a bad guy, and I'm the good guy. And so we're gonna cut or not hang out together to keep that kind of denture. I said, understandable. No problem at all. And I look at his house with George. It's a great house goes out. Thank you. I go. So what do your parents do? What are your parents? So did

Alex Ferrari 16:08
he test himself?

Rick Najera 16:09
He looks at me and he just goes, it's my house. I go, I go, Well, what do you do? I'm an actor. I go. I'm an actor, but don't have a house like this. Because he really what he done pilots and stuff like that, but so he's making money, but he wasn't, you know, so I didn't know. And I said, Well, I'm an actor. How come I don't have a house? Like the house? Like there's so many because you just have to ask for more money. It's nice that Okay, last remember money? The truth is, it was just math. If you audition for 20 different roles, you're going to get one. And when you came to the Latino actors, there wasn't many roles. We didn't have many Latinos writing those roles. And even now, half the time when there is a Latino show, I almost assume I'll never get on there. Because Latinos, a lot of times they don't want to hire you themselves. Because they're looking at going no, I want to have this cast filled with all these white writers behind the screens and stains. And I am talking major Latinos who have told me no, I want to have some, you know, white writers around me. Because to them, that's success. So that's changing but but it's it is a very tough business. And it's sad because the least thing, the reason all of us go into art, and you know, I'm sure it's the same with you too, is it? You want to comment and explore the world you're living in and talk about it and show people look at this. This is such a unique way to see those I was just watching you know, Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad and I love that writer. And I was looking at I what I love about his writing is and in Shonda Rhimes to what I love about the writing is they'll take it anywhere. And a lot of times when you're dealing with Latino stories, particularly you have Anglos, you know, white Hollywood telling you what a Latino story is. There's the difference was

Alex Ferrari 18:09
like they did it with black, what's a blood? What's a black story? What's a gay story? What's with any whatever, whatever minority it is, I'll tell you what kind of story it is.

Rick Najera 18:17
Exactly. And that that is the problem. And so that's been the issue. And a lot. That's why I became so independent is why I produced my own shows and stuff like that, because I had to.

Alex Ferrari 18:29
So there's a you, you got started with a living color, because for people not for people who aren't aware and living color when it came out. I mean, Kenan was kind of like an 800 pound gorilla that could really do whatever he wanted, especially after the first season because it was such a runaway hit. And if you haven't if you don't know what a living colorize it was basically just you know, a Saturday Night Live sketch comedy,

Rick Najera 18:51
which is Chappelle Show. Yes, Chappelle Show before the Chappelle Show,

Alex Ferrari 18:55
right. And it was Yeah, and before that, it was like really, Saturday Night Live was the only thing on Yeah, honestly. But in living color just hit the mainstream in a way that I mean, it really hit the zeitgeist. So I could only imagine what was it like working with you know, was Were you there when Jim was there? Jim Carrey worked

Rick Najera 19:13
with Jim till four in the morning. I mean, this is this is my day. Okay. I'm working with Jim to like four to write a sketch called you know, the juice man. She's a fan sketches like juice, juice juice, his character Gray, and about 10 o'clock I go, Hey, what if he so crazy with his juice that he thinks he can fly or something and jumps out the window? That's a horrible idea. For the morning, Jim. Hey, what are you with the juice guy so hyped up the juicy things you can find jumps out the window and dies? Gets a great idea. Oh my god. Brilliant.

Alex Ferrari 19:51
You're gonna go far. Jim. I borrowed my words.

Rick Najera 19:55
And I say Jim's a very you know, and it's like Jamie Foxx was hiding in my office because He was in some fight with so and so. And you know Katie was upset about something and and Jennifer Lopez and walking and going Rick and I be an actress. Do you think it could be an actress? Right? I told her yes, you can. So it's like Rosie. Oh, you know, Rosie Perez, Perez and and, you know, Rosie, and I would and Jennifer would have lunches together because we'd be only Latinos there. Right? You know, the one of my favorite times in living color. I wrote a sketch because they wouldn't let me act. They're like, Dude, you really can't act you gotta write. No, no, just do it. Because most of the acting staff are the writers were actors and performers, some of the great performers. Some of the best performers were not on stage. They were actually you know, guys like Robert Schimmel are great stand up comedians, you're like, these were the staff. I mean, you know, the people you just it just goes on who's who's in fact, I'm the bliss famous person in that room. Like, one time has an event and Jennifer Lopez there and say, Hello, Jennifer, say hello to Jennifer my ad, spend some years you probably will remember me. I don't want to go up there and get amazed by her security detail. And I just would like to avoid that for my ego. She's gonna say something, and I'm not gonna say anything. So she's walking up was Marc Anthony, and I get to meet Mark entity years later. But she walks up, he recognizes. And she runs up and gives me a hug. That was such a beautiful moment. And she goes, Rick, we've done so well, haven't we? And I just looked at I was like, Well, I'm at the party, too. But I

Alex Ferrari 21:34
really well. But my security detail hasn't gotten here yet know,

Rick Najera 21:38
my security detail. Still getting the press pass and trying to get past there. My main security guys on the floor being arrested right now. priors. Yes.

Alex Ferrari 21:49
And this is a rented suit. This is a red.

Rick Najera 21:53
So a lot of times, you know, that was, you know, that's really what the day was like, you just had tons of people around. It was a very exciting time, especially for people of color. To me. Just amazing. And it was Fox and Fox would let you get away with stuff even though Fox now seems to be against people of color. Good. All right. There's a time,

Alex Ferrari 22:14
though not the time, but they let that when Fox first showed up, as far as the network was concerned, they had nothing to lose. So they just they just like we got married with children. Sure. The anti Cosby Show. Great. So why not? It was

Rick Najera 22:29
basically this kind of you had to be, it was the bad boys. Yeah, we were the true not ready for primetime players. And it was it was such a unique time in Hollywood, and it I'd still have my Living Colour jacket that they gave me. So give me a jacket. And I didn't know as a hit show until I work one day at an airport. Because remember, we're there all day long and a night to four in the morning or some amazing, you know, ridiculous amount, the price so many sketches do so much work. That meant none of us had a personal life. Right? You know, no one had a personal life. So I didn't, you know, you'd work till Friday, but you'd be done about four, whatever it was, you go to sleep the next day takes you one day to get yourself together, you feel like you just beat like a pinata. And then Sunday, you're like, oh, I should get my laundry done. Or I should get to pay some bills or do whatever. And then oh my god, what happened this time? I gotta be there. 10 in the morning to pitch. And one time the pressure pitching was so hard because you're in a room with Robert Schimmel. The greatest writers ears, you know, Larry Wilmore, all these people that are, you know, are in the room with you. And everyone's got to get something on the air. Everything's got a because if you don't you pitch and they say, Oh, I love that idea. It's great. Okay, well go with that idea. That idea that you're had to work. And this wasn't nice. This wasn't Oh, we're so wonderful idea. This is great. Let's go for with this. It was like, Alright, you got to 12 gets done. It's pretty

Alex Ferrari 23:59
brutal. Those rooms for my worst part,

Rick Najera 24:02
they'd walk in and say you got nothing. They don't want any of your pitches, you bet. You're going to pitch again in a few hours, some ideas. So you'd have to come back when you've worked all amount of time on this, to come back with a story. And if they didn't like it, for whatever reason, it just, you know, science was not gonna play that. Well. That's like work Nana, you had to come up with new ideas. So you're constantly coming up with I had one writer as you know, well known writer worked on tons of shows. He gets in there. And it was intimidating me because he walks up. So yeah, I've got 108 I kept a list sketches. These are 180 sketches that will just you know, no one will stop these ideas. This is the best pitch. I've worked for a year coming up with ideas for this show. He's telling me and stuff. I'm like, Wow, I'm intimidated. And I got my big list of sketches. I got about 200 of those. That means you know, not for you know, not guaranteed kill it's still good. Could you to my car at 300 those, you know, they're good premises, maybe Need some work? Maybe they do it to be, you know, BS or and maybe five days. And he's like this whole math Wow in a humble within a week, he comes to the office and goes, I got nothing man.

Alex Ferrari 25:12
They destroyed me mad they destroyed

Rick Najera 25:15
nothing. And he's like thinking ideas. So So I would see grown men cry. Wow. And I was people needed ideas bears like crack because like cracked in the 90s or 80s It's like, you know, it was it was sad so they would go through so much material and you would have to come up with ideas and you know like to work on other shows later years later, like mad tv. Or

Alex Ferrari 25:41
how has it worked because matte TV was like the kind of almost the, the sequel to live in color in some ways. In

Rick Najera 25:47
some ways. It was a sequel, but living color had more of the stand up comic sensibility. Jamie Foxx, that's the Mad TV had the Groundlings sensibility, yeah, more like sketch comedy from the Groundlings. There's a very particular Groundlings is a very particular style, they use a lot of wigs, they use a lot of different stuff. They're you know, they look at Pee Wee Herman and will Pharaoh as they're saints, you know, they pray to them. And so there you have a different style. But to me, it was kind of cultish in some ways, because you had to have that school. I like the stand up comedy schools, the chapels those guys like that, because they in stand up comedy of the Comedy Store. But then you've got the improv, then you've got the Laugh Factory, but each one has their own style and schools. So as much more varied. Groundlings was a very definite style. Then came UCB and all these other others.

Alex Ferrari 26:41
And What years were you at Mad TV?

Rick Najera 26:44
Gosh, I gotta think maybe like around 2005 or something like that.

Alex Ferrari 26:53
Starting starting around? 2005

Rick Najera 26:54
I think I think I remember. I mean, I wrote a lot of those things. And it's in my IMDb and i i read this stuff. And I'm like, What I didn't remember so

Alex Ferrari 27:02
you miss you miss the time that Julie was there. Julie Michelle Jones. Oh, yeah.

Rick Najera 27:07
What is a Julie Julie I worked with later on Julia and I work together and Latino locks either showed up on Broadway. Well,

Alex Ferrari 27:14
she's wonderful. She was my she was the star of my first feature. Wow. Which one was that? This is Meg. She and I directed her comedy special. And I've been friends with Jill for about a decade. Jeff. Tonto stages. Wait,

Rick Najera 27:30
this is a very close friend. I really like her like because because I interviewed her for my, my podcast now in America, you know? Sure. I don't want to siphon your million man. Audience.

Alex Ferrari 27:44
I'll put a link i'll put a link in the show notes. So

Rick Najera 27:46
yeah, put a link to the show. Because you know, Listen, guys like me don't have the audience to you do. So, but I'm here in America to hedge Julia and she's just a great person. You know? She did. She didn't, you know, I think it was Reno 9110. Yeah, she's like that. So it's it. The comedy school in Hollywood is very small.

Alex Ferrari 28:08
Yeah, that's one thing I've made since I got here. almost a dozen years ago, I met Julie three months in, by the way. Three months after I got here. I met Julian she started in a short film that I shot like, I was hired to do within within three months of getting here. It was like, and I when I got here, like this is Hollywood. Great. This is the way it's always gonna be. I'm just gonna like in that whole project turned into a shit show. And you know, but she was wonderful. We always stayed in touch.

Rick Najera 28:33
We say this is Hollywood. This is Holly. Now this is all I know.

Alex Ferrari 28:37
This is Hollywood. Yeah. But it's very small town. And everybody knows everybody. It's so weird. Because and the more I do these show, like when I do this show in my, my other podcasts. I'll talk to a guest and I'm like, Oh, I know. Do you know this person? Yeah, I know that person. Like, and it's just like, everyone knows everybody. So if you and this is something for the audience listening. Don't Don't be an ass. Because you will get back to you people will talk.

Rick Najera 29:06
I know, it's with me. It's like, you know, I go through through Mum, you know, normally for me, it's it's I've run into more just I don't think people understand. I don't think they've ever stood because I don't fit anything. You know, it's not like you go you're not in a box. I'm not a box. I write a director, actor, you know, I've done everything, you know, VP and network and, you know, do all this stuff. Not a big network, but it's still a network. And so I've seen the world very differently. And, and I come up like, I'm gonna do a T, a web show in February on a web show. A masterclass right, in February. So, so people go like, Hey, he's actually teaching are doing some like that. Because I came from school, you had to do everything. And that's very Latino. Like, oh, I know. I've never met a Latino that you You go to front of Home Depot. Can you do tile? Oh yeah, I can do can you do plumbing? For sure I got my tools. Can you do surgery surgery? Can you? Oh yeah, I can do quite crack open the heart. I need a donor. But then I got my tools. I guess you got a donor I got my tools. So it just, that's where people have been.

Alex Ferrari 30:24
I mean, look, I have a hat on this says hustle. I mean there's there's there's I mean, it's it's it's on brand for me, sir. I

Rick Najera 30:29
understand woke up this morning. Every day. I'm hustling Everyday everyday I'm hustling. Because, like, even even before Yeah, every day. That's our mantra. Everyone hustle.

Alex Ferrari 30:42
It's just, it's just the way it is. It's just the way this

Rick Najera 30:45
is where it is. And I thought about my son started acting as commercials and doing quite well. And he was like, how do you want to do commercials right now I want to study school. And like, in part of me was like, if I worked, if I was in Tijuana, you would have a box at Chick place in your hand going to a chiclet you'd work that's the way our Latinos are, you know, it's like, some, you know, people go I have children, because I love them. And also it's like Latinos. Like, we need a crew, and a little bit to get there. But my family that's hilarious, even though I can't stand it.

Alex Ferrari 31:26
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. You you, you were able to make a, you know, an anomaly in Hollywood, which was a movie called nothing like the holidays, which was a holiday Christmas movie, which I saw. And when I saw them, the cast is amazing. And it was a Latino basically a Latino Christmas movie with a with a real representation of what it's like. And you know, it's always, you know, it's always weird with with Latinos, because we're, we're not just one block, where we're 30 or 40 Different tribes, if you will, depending, you know, I'm Cuban, Mexican, and, you know, you know, everything from everywhere, you know, from Chile every so everyone has their all different kinds of traditions. We all kind of have similar traditions. Yeah, but so you know, nothing, nothing like the holidays. I saw I saw myself in it, but it still wasn't a Cuban Christmas, you know, but it was

Rick Najera 32:32
it still there are certain things you relate to like, like, you know, do Latina logs as long as I did. And, you know, getting that show on Broadway is the first successful Latino play on Broadway. Right? They called it a play. Right, which to me, it was more of a comedy special series of monologues, but they call it a play, which put me in direct competition with all the big multi-millions. I'm like, No, don't call me a play called theatrical event or something like that. I brought Latino logs back, I could actually get Tony for revival. But, you know, a lot of times when you would do work like, you know, Latino logs and that kind of stuff. People didn't know what to label it. You know, we're hard to label you know, nothing like dollars we use Ah, I'll tell you where you can relate your Caribbean. Yeah. And are Ricans are still Caribbean now. Sure. The joke is Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico would call Cubans to vase in two ways. And that means basically I used to have so it's like every every time you meet a Cuban in Puerto Rico, like I call where they me back, that's not an avocado back on Ah, the avocados would fall from a tree kill you. You know, it'd be like, everything was just hyper beautiful what Cuba was. And of course, that's a human aspect that we're looking back. Like, I thought my years in high school are wonderful. Now I'm like, now I luckily Don't Look Back in high school. That was the best time of my life. Because but if people do they look back and they go I was a football captain are always so

Alex Ferrari 34:07
I'll tell you I'll tell you a joke. If I may be so bold as to tell you a joke. If what's the difference between an Argentine and a Cuban like so the Argentinian thinks he knows everything but the Cuban knows. He knows everything.

Rick Najera 34:20
Yes. It was like, it was like, it was an Argentinian if they can. If they sell you what they're worth would they think they're worth paying millions.

Alex Ferrari 34:33
But that's good, but those are those kind of look subtleties. When you're writing when you're writing. You know, it's like I remember doing commercials for Latin America and I literally had to version out. Yeah, 30 different videos. Because if you if you have a Puerto Rican vo guy in Mexico, that's not gonna fly. No, you have to It's so it's you know, that was the first time I kind of really understood like, oh, okay, this is like that's everything. is a little different. So when you're writing for this kind of audience, it's not easy. You're trying to appease a bunch of different audiences.

Rick Najera 35:07
What I would write like what I would my writing I've, I've worked everywhere in the United States and outside the United States. So I've worked for Mexico with fertility sit down in Mexico. You know, I've worked a lot of like, all speaking horrible Spanish, which is, to me the most amazing thing because I grew up Chicano in California. We're, we're known for getting a C in Spanish. That's like our deal. If, if that's Chicago, you speak great Spanish, you're not a Chicano. It's like, hasn't disappeared to America. They're interviewing me in Spanish. I'm like, Ah, let's give me a headache. Oh my god, I gotta get this thing. And of course, understanding and doing this but, but a lot of words, I just don't know. You know, like this, this quick side story. I was in, in Mexico and in Chihuahua, Mexico, and I had a bodyguard and it goes, his car keeps driving by me. And he goes, we have to leave and I go why? Because to guide us and I go oh, there's a there's a mural around here. I'd love it. I love his work. So cannabis is wonderful. I thought he said see get us you know, it got it. So finally I go back to the hotel and I go where's that mural? You're gonna show me because what mural like go see cantos because Sicario sees like directly me. I go. Oh, what does that mean? He goes assassins. I go assassins like those guys driving by me were assassins. Like, how do you know? It goes because they kidnap me I call the kid have you? Because yeah, go well, what kind of bodyguard are you if you're getting kidnapped by the same people that doesn't protect me?

Alex Ferrari 36:41
I'm gonna have to let you go. I'm sorry.

Rick Najera 36:43
Because I go who normally do bodyguard this the the chief of police of Chihuahua. So bodyguard for the chief of police. This guy was a major guy. It took him 24 Narcos along with army guys to capture. And but it's you know, I didn't know. So when I started working for you know Mexico and places like that I had to have an education because it's it there's so much different flavors. So if I do if I go to Miami and perform, and I do one of my monologues then the truth is, if I do a monologue, take Cuba Libre, which is about a Cuban prostitute and Cuba, you know, very, you know, gut wrenching hard monologue to perform not by me an actor and actress in the company would do that. And I'd hear people crying in the audience, because it affected them so much. Yet, when I was doing night monologue button 11 in New York on Broadway, a whole nother cry and feel sure. So I can tell what cities are performing. And if I'm doing if I was doing, say, Miss East LA on the West Coast about a beauty pageant girl that doesn't want to give up a crown. I would take to New York I did as Miss Puerto Rican Pride Parade. You have to shift it a little bit, you shift it you adjusted and in Miami. I'm doing alien resorts and I'm saying, you know, I'm basically yelling screw Cuba. Screw Castro. Right, right. Every Cuban is applauding me and loves me forever. Sure. So you're playing to the audience? You have to you it's what committee the RT did. minidoll RT was, you know, was a form of theater throughout Italy. And around I think it was, you know, the Renaissance area around that. People go to each town and listen to the gossip, listen, and the taking. If you live a Saturday Night Live, any of these shows now in Sketch wise, that's what they are. They're comedians are listening to the gossip. They're putting it out there. You got the audience going, Oh, I can't believe they went there. And what comedy is that cathartic release of ideas and expressions that you shouldn't be able to say on stage. But since you're saying it, you'll get an applause and laughter.

Alex Ferrari 38:58
Now, you I mean, you have you're very unique in the sense that you you had a Broadway show, a hit Broadway show. Excuse me. A what? It's not a show. It's not play. It's a it's a special

Rick Najera 39:10
special. On Broadway,

Alex Ferrari 39:14
it was on Broadway, and you did. So how do you approach as a writer? How do you approach a Broadway show?

Rick Najera 39:21
You know, a, you approach the same way you do with all writing, which is basically the story. It's a big beginning, middle and end. You're on the way I learned writing with my father. We were very poor. And he would go to see a movie, and he couldn't afford to take me so he'd come back the movie. And he would explain the movie to me was such graphic detail and this and that. And then years later, I see the movie and I'd be really disappointed. I was like, oh, it's boring. My dad told me so much better, so much better until the story and the man what he felt. And I learned storytelling to him. And that's really what it is is telling a story now. You can take a story. And like say Mandela Are you? Okay? That's Yoda as a child, and ever seeing Yoda as an adult. And then when you look at a story, like Breaking Bad and you go, well, Breaking Bad, here's Saul, before Breaking Bad. You know, here's his the early part of his career, let me understand where we're coming up, coming up. So we're all going through stories that we just don't know the ending most of time. And that's also true in life. It's like, we could sit there and have this great, you know, wonderful conversation and this and then it's like, Did you hear what Oh, do you mean? The COVID? Oh, no, not Alex. So it's like, yeah, immediately afterwards, somehow, he went out, a plane up and a plane dropped from the sky, or anything. And that's the thing is we don't know the end of the story. And that that is what life is. So as storytellers we're making up how we think the story is, but there is no ending. Because the biggest lie a storyteller tells is, and this is what said, you remember, as a child, what we heard was, and they lived happily ever after. Well, that's a lie. Because I saw OJ Simpson one time as a kid. I remember seeing OJ Simpson go out. Wow, he's with this blonde woman and like, I was like, impressed. I think it was a was a I think it was a busboy or something.

Alex Ferrari 41:15
He did the Naked Gun movies. I mean, he writes to me, you're like, Oh, my

Rick Najera 41:19
God. Now cut two years later, he's in a white Bronco going down the freeway in a slow chase and then stop there. And they lived happily ever after. Yeah, is it happening? So it doesn't we don't live happily ever after. So storytelling is a continual evolution of a human life. From before and after. And so that's why you know, stories are so you can take a story like Breaking Bad and go to the prequels or go to the sequel or go this is still a story, but there are every story has a beginning, middle and end. But the end is there will be no end. It continues until somehow. I mean, you look at the greatest books are. Our stories are never ending. You know, in fact, there was a movie called The never ending story.

Alex Ferrari 42:05
There was three of them, apparently. Three of them. I only saw the first and second I didn't even know there was a third

Rick Najera 42:12
gear. Is this true Hollywood. It's a never ending story. There's always a different way to tell the story. It's like, how many it's like you started noticing your older when you go. Oh, that's the remake? What?

Alex Ferrari 42:23
Oh, tell me about it. Are you kidding me? Yeah, as you start looking at like, how many Batman like I remember when Batman 89 showed up. And it was the biggest event of the year. I mean, 89 was an amazing was an amazing year for movies. And now what is there been like? 15 Batman's?

Rick Najera 42:41
Like Batman online. It's it's there's a guy who plays Batman, which is the voice. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. He's scares his wife.

Alex Ferrari 42:49
Oh, that meant that bad dad bad that.

Rick Najera 42:51
Yeah, yeah. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 42:52
he's so good. It's so good. So

Rick Najera 42:54
many versions of Batman and then you kind of look any go. There's only so many versions of stories, you know, me with basic structures beginning, middle and end. And then you go, whose eyes are we swatching the story through? Are we watching it from the Father, the Son, the daughter, who's who have worked my entrance in the story. So stories as complex as they are really are, are very simple. You know, we learned them as kids and we need that completion. We need to feel that completion, like yeah, you fought, you know, like Alfred Hitchcock, when he's doing vertigo, and the man is standing there, he's conquered. You know. Jimmy Stewart has conquered his fear to be on top of that ledge. And you go, wow, that moment, but you know, there's a story after that he has to go down the down, walk down the stairs, call his office tells us you know, this is what happened, explain it fill out paperwork, then he has to go home, got to serve himself a drink. And later on he dies but his son takes up the mantle v you know, so it is This is what life is we're a neverending story and as as writers and people are telling people's story that we recognize and we hope they recognize it too. And nothing like the holidays is a family story that just happens to be Latino.

Alex Ferrari 44:15
Right, exactly. Now, you've done a lot of acting and writing in your life. What do you enjoy doing more?

Rick Najera 44:23
I like acting more for one reason this difference here's here's a difference acting omission hair ready for you on the set. Now, here's writing. This is a piece of crap. What are you talking about? We made it das Dogen is dead. He's not available. Guys in rehab. You got to write it for this person. What is going on with you? I said you're talented.

Alex Ferrari 44:47
I mean, this is supposed to be a positive show about writing. So I'm not sure No, no, it's

Rick Najera 44:53
positively miserable.

Alex Ferrari 44:54
And no, no. It's it's, it is I'm actually one of the more honest shows about the film industry that there is on on in podcasting. So I'm very real and raw about it. But what you just said is not wrong.

Rick Najera 45:10
No, no, it's not wrong. Because yeah, I remember being in living color. It was a very classy example. I was wearing sweats looking like, just the worst homeless person you could imagine. been writing for days. And I remember seeing this actor hidden under five, Michelle did one line. And he was like, there's all these women around me. He's talking and everybody's yeah, I've done this. I've done this. And, and me is like, a coffee. I need coffee. It's what are you doing in line? I just need food, you know, and they were totally different being treated. And so when I would act, it's it's just how well they treat actors is such difference, you know, a writer unless you're a major showrunner. You might be treated a certain way. But on the whole, they just, you know, the, the writers are the guys that were getting beat up in high school. You know, they were the ones who went to Comic Con and came back and told all their friends and things like that. I didn't sit that form of writer I tended to be much more street. I grew up with tough people and situations where and that's one thing about being a Latino is literally like, just in living color. Remember, Salma Hayek came to visit me one day and all the all the male writers who, you know, totally lost lost their mouth. Oh my God, look who's visiting you. You know, and she wasn't even famous this point. I took her Danny's actually. And we had lunch at Denny's and

Alex Ferrari 46:39
I came this is pretty this is pretty Desperado. Well,

Rick Najera 46:43
big time pre Desperado. She just flown into LA. She'd been maybe three months in LA.

Alex Ferrari 46:48
So the year a year a year away. Like that's probably like, she was like 9495 When she did that was like yeah, it was like 9392 I think it was sure she was Fresh Off the Boat Fresh Off the

Rick Najera 47:00
Boat. And here's an ironically, I'm talking to you know, Jennifer Lopez monitor lunch knob cool. Okay, I'm going to lunch. What are you gonna do? I'm gonna meet the guy. I just Latino called me up and she wants to meet me. Because some of Latino writers how rare we were. And she, I took her to Denny's gutter. You know, I got the Grand Slam, obviously.

Alex Ferrari 47:23
I mean, you want to treat them all right. So

Rick Najera 47:25
you're right. No, I just told her. I said, Look, I have one hour and Denny's is right next door to Denny's. Get guests on Denny's. Denny's. You know, a $2 biscuit too. And so I took her there. And we were talking she said, you know, you confuse me, you're a writer, you're an actor, you do everything. And I try to explain to her that she came from the world of Televisa, right? Where you were an actor, and you're a writer, and you're a director and all these different things. And I'm like, as a Latina, as a Latino in Hollywood, you have to do everything you just need to do because you, you always have to remain relevant. You always have to be doing something. And you always have to have something to say. And to do that to be fresh and be relevant. To talk you. You've got to be out. You got to be out and about. And I would luckily as a stand up or as a comic, when I'd go out and do stand up comedy. You're out normally. But once I got married, it was difficult to do that. I became a dad, I did a Showtime special called diary of the dad man, which was about becoming a dad. You know, it was a unique thing because I did not want to be a dad. You know, I've told my kids that many times. bargain with them. I did not want you I didn't even want you here didn't even want you. You are a mistake.

Alex Ferrari 48:46
On fact that one night of the kealan leuco came out you were

Rick Najera 48:51
right on your mother. No, it was you know, I I tell him joking. Of course the church did. I did not you know it, but men, you know, especially Latino men, we weren't necessarily taught, we were taught to work, you know, you're gonna work and you brought and never see your kids. But you better bring home money and you better do all these different things. That was your idea. You know, you don't see little boys playing with dolls going someday I'm gonna hold the doll like this in my hands and rockets asleep. And no, we're not. We're not trained that way. So, for me having spent so many years in the business and and it was it was um, you know, it's like, I can't believe I just got married, you know, and I am and she got pregnant right away. And literally right away. I mean, she told me she's like, it'll take me years to get pregnant. Of course, in vitro, most of my friends are doing in vitro. And I'm like, now here, I'm Mexican. There's one thing our people do extremely well. Pregnancy naturally,

Alex Ferrari 49:55
so you brush you brushed your shoulder against terrorism. That was I looked

Rick Najera 49:58
at her you know? look better and it was done. It was it was like, you know, I was ugly

Alex Ferrari 50:04
using the force and using the Force use the force. There you go. You're pregnant. You're pregnant at this point.

Rick Najera 50:11
So she got pregnant. And the kids right away. We have three. So you're still married? So, you know that's in Hollywood.

Alex Ferrari 50:21
That's a that's a that's a success in Hollywood.

Rick Najera 50:23
Well, I it was our 18th year anniversary. But I

Alex Ferrari 50:27
mean, you're so let's, let's put, let's just clarify for everybody listening. What a miracle it is that you're still married. You're in Hollywood, and you're a stand up. Yeah. And, and a stand up and a performer and a writer. So I mean, you really are you are an anomaly, sir. Because I know I've known many a stand up in my life, and worked with many and it's, they are very interesting souls.

Rick Najera 50:51
Well, the thing was stand ups. You know, it is it's a rowdy world. There's there's not no two ways about it. It's just a very rowdy drink, talk hang out, world, you know, it's like and that's, that's a unique thing. You know, that was really kind of kind of straight, I think. But you know, women don't ever give you extra points for that. They don't go so amazing. You know, it's like he expected and that's, and I think it is so yeah, we've been married 18 years and being married in Hollywood is probably the real toughest job. Not only but you

Alex Ferrari 51:25
So you started off as you started off as a stand up. First.

Rick Najera 51:29
I did. Well, I started off as an actor. I was an actor. I did. You know, I mean, every cop drama, Hill Street Blues, I'm at my age myself. But I was like the last year of Hill Street Blues that

Alex Ferrari 51:41
wasn't that shot in black and white. And it was like that invite by Gunsmoke.

Rick Najera 51:44
He was next to Gunsmoke set. I remember that. And and they were talking about a show called Gilligan's Island. They didn't do it years later. And I it was I did the Spanish version, Gilberto silent where we would go back to you'll hear something that sounds funny shirts getting cross what's going on?

Alex Ferrari 52:08
You're just too soon. Too soon. Too soon. Too soon, too soon.

Rick Najera 52:12
Yeah, it was. You know, I mean, you it was a it was unique in Hollywood, that, you know, it's actually I mean, in a weird way. It's tragic. Yeah. All it is, you know, you go and you say, my father was in Vietnam, and World War Two. And how many world war two movies ever seen a Latino? And then you go and how many do you see in Vietnam? Vietnam. I think the platoon has, has a camera pan and have a guy with a Virgin of Guadalupe, you know, statue or something? I think that was it. Anyone? Oh, they represents every single Latino that that went through Vietnam and, and did that whereas my family actually did it. So I saw how Hollywood never told her stories. What Diaz became my, my passion was a teller stories.

Alex Ferrari 53:02
Did you ever see the movie Hollywood shuffle? Yeah, no, I

Rick Najera 53:06
worked with Robert Townsend. I looked at his TV show.

Alex Ferrari 53:09
Right. So Robert, I mean, I and I, and I've said this on the show multiple times. I think he's, he doesn't get the credit he deserves because he before he was like, before that whole I'm gonna go do my movie on a credit card thing of the 90s and clerks and, and then by the Archie and that whole thing. He did it first. He and he did it in 87. I remember because I was working at a video store at the time. So I remember it,

Rick Najera 53:34
where it was rare things you hear? Yes, I

Alex Ferrari 53:37
was. I was working on a video so that time,

Rick Najera 53:39
and I remember, he's gonna bring back video. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 53:43
And he made that movie specifically because he was exactly what you're talking about in the Latino experience he was talking about in the black experience, which was Hollywood wasn't telling him a story. They're gonna tell you you're gonna be the slave or you're going to be the gangster or are you going to be this? And he there's this great skit in Hollywood shuffle where he's, he's like a duly like a Juilliard trained actor. And he's talking with a British accent. And he has a whole bunch of African Americans who are speaking British. And then all of a sudden, you have, like, the whitest guy in the world going Nah, man. When you talk jive, you got to talk like this. And you see them trying to train the African Americans how to talk gangster and so it's just so it was such a spear into Hollywood. It's so wonderful. It was

Rick Najera 54:26
so true. I remember that. Yeah, I was in. I was doing general hospital as an actor on General Hospital. And I played one from the Biscayne islands. And this has been me years ago. I'll tell you how long ago was I was I was at you know, Latino Golan kind of character. Okay. Oh, Monica. Poor traveler helped me Monique. So I thought

Alex Ferrari 54:47
this is this Armando Bondi. So Ricardo Montalban stop.

Rick Najera 54:50
I wrote for the guy new Ricardo my

Alex Ferrari 54:51
work with all these beautiful you know, everybody, you know, do you know?

Rick Najera 54:55
I do and I don't want to.

Alex Ferrari 54:58
Have you worked with Robert did you ever work with Robert,

Rick Najera 55:00
I met Robert Robert came to live in color and I brought him to I toured around and live in color. And he invited me to his his movie. And I saw as I went to the screening of it it or yeah, oh, yeah, he didn't know anyone in Hollywood. And I was like, Hey, you're Mexican, Latino, I am doing live in color. Please come by, I'd love to show you around. And that's how you do it. You'd actually call people up and say, Hey, man, I hear you're Latino. I'm letting them do alright, cool man. Want to come by are? It was it was a very much a feeling of helping one another. I don't think that is just now. But the time it was, there was Paul Rodriguez. And

Alex Ferrari 55:41
there was there was not many men. I know George

Rick Najera 55:43
Lopez. I knew George you know, we all knew each other coming up. So, you know, it's very much a small world where you said, you know, every buddy, you just call people up. I mean, you just you just did. So Robert, and guys like that. And George and so we were very rare. But before us came, you know, Ricardo Montalban. I remember working for him and writing him a speech for some, you know, theatrical event, and, and I was like, I felt like a kid. I was at his house. Beautiful house. And he was like, Ricky, Ricky, no, no, no. Ricky. What about he called me Ricky. I mean, that's how that's but as a Latino, we understood he was the adult he was the the man. So we had a great deal of respect for him. I mean, Eddie almost is my neighbor. So

Alex Ferrari 56:33
I've met Eddie's, Eddie's wonderful man. And he's wonderful

Rick Najera 56:38
guy. Yes. The guy's like, he's like family, just saying. I mean, I love the guy.

Alex Ferrari 56:43
Yeah. I said, I sat down with him talking. I had lunch with him once and I was talking to him about Miami Vice. And he was like, Oh, let me tell you about my advice. And he'll just go into this whole, like, all the backstories. Like, yeah, the other guy when I replaced them after three episodes, and then Don Johnson came in, and I set him straight, like day one. And that was the end of that. And like, he just started talking to all this stuff. And he was, he is so cool. And Blade Runner and all that. I mean, he's just, he's at

Rick Najera 57:07
all of us. He season. He's a legend. And that's, that's the thing is like, that's the part of Hollywood, like, we're people that, you know, like, got to work with Cheech Moran, he directed me on Broadway. He's amazing. And my other show Latino thought makers, right? Interview these these celebrities, star. I think, for me, it fits my purpose in life, that I feel Latinos are the solution, never the problem. And if you get to know us, you'll realize that. So what Latino thought makers does, which I do that show is introduce people to Latinos in a different way to see us as the solution, not the problem. And what comedy does comedy opens door like, I worked on culture clash, which was at Fox, I was one of the writers on that show culture clash in living color, mad TV, I could go off comedy wise, it's pretty, it's a pretty good resume, you know, in terms of who I've worked with, and all that stuff. But those aren't the moments, the moments you remember, are the silliest moments in the world, just like when, at the end of the day, when you're in a studio, and everyone's putting away all the equipment, and now it's, it's getting to be sunset, and you feel you've been part of a dream factory. You've done something. Those are the moments I remember, I just go that's such a beautiful, they taught the Martini shot. No, no, those are moments where you go, yeah, it's worth it. All the pains worth it. Yeah. And it's it. I remember that because I saw I remember, as a kid, I saw movies, black and white film, and the guys is that he's an actor, and his whole life has been every time he's about to make it. It gets he gets drafted to the Korean War. So he cut to just 50,000 Koreans coming toward my Chinese. He said, machine gun, shooting it and all these, I mean, just everything. Finally he gets the big roll of his life. And he's about to walk on stage. And someone turns them goes, is it worth it? And he looks at me goes, yeah, it's worth it. And this is after 50,000, Chinese, all these things, all the stuff he's gone through. And he goes, it's worth it. And I think that's what it is, is that when you do it, and it's we share a love for something that is hard for other people understand it's tangible. We love the business of making up stories.

Alex Ferrari 59:27
And but isn't it insane? But that's the insanity of this. This whole thing I've been saying for a long time that it's it's an illness. It's like once you get once you get bitten by this, it's in your bloodstream and it will never go away. It will flare up. It can be dormant for 20 years, but I'm talking I sometimes I talked to filmmakers who were like, Hey, I just turned 60 I'm retired. But what I really want to do is direct so what do I need to do and like and they were a doctor or something like that all their life? He's like, I really wish I would have gone down that road. But now I'm here and I want to do, it never goes away. Even I've, you know, I've been in this business 25 plus years now, and going in and out, and I've wanted to leave, because it got so difficult sometimes. And I literally just like, I can't take the pain anymore. And I would go for a minute and then I would come back, you know, and I'd always have one foot in or one foot. I never truly left it ever. You'd never

Rick Najera 1:00:29
truly retire. I always tell people because I every time I meet somebody, you know, they anyone who makes it announced that I'm retired. I'm not doing this anymore. They're always back the next year going okay, well, my God really bored. Alright. It's like just never say retired because it's not a, an occupation. It's a lifestyle. Yeah, when you sit down you say My lifestyle is being an artist, my lifestyle is creating my lifestyle is doing that. And I can do it through stage page or many different forms. And and this is just like us having this podcast and us talking. We're sharing a love for a craft or an industry. And you're not necessarily industry really for the craft for sure of it. And that's that's really what it is. We're sharing a love for something that we truly

Alex Ferrari 1:01:18
do love. Now what so what do you say to writers listening right now? And filmmakers for that matter? listening right now who are struggling to get their voice heard to get their thing out there to get their their work seen? Or? Or they're just going there? They're basically in the Korean War right now. And there's 50,000 Chinese coming at them. Or the enemy is coming at them? How, what kind of what's the words that you can say to them to keep them going? And to keep that dream going?

Rick Najera 1:01:51
Messy? It's actually it's, you know, I haven't thought about this for a while. So thank you for bringing this up. This is why I like talking about the industry with other people. You really kind of you think about Oh yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:02:00
you work it out. You work it out. Work it out. So

Rick Najera 1:02:02
the workout is this. Um, my father was a door to door salesman, man, he would go door to door and I when I do stand up, I give him an accent. The truth is he didn't have an accent but no, but it's funnier with an accent. When you're with an accent. I hate to say it, but it really was people. Because if I did with his regular voice we would like so your you said your dad's Mexican. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:23
Oh, hold on a second one I my friend. Yeah. Okay. Okay, now, I understand.

Rick Najera 1:02:30
So, but my father, you know, would tell me this story. And he was a member of Toastmasters and all Stephanie's book beautifully. He told me it, Rick, I really want you to speak beautifully. If you spoke beautifully, be very proud of you. So that's why I became a Shakespearean actor at the globe, my 17 I wanted to speak beautiful. So I studied Shakespeare and I memorized it and all that. So one day told me, you know, I was auditioning for something, I didn't get it. And he goes home. Okay, so that ain't good debt. And normally, I was, as I lived, grew up in San Diego. So I was working all the time. I mean, I was like, an actor that could work. And because the, the talent pool was less none. I mean, there's great people, but there was just more more. I didn't have to audition to get 50 people, the National Search and 2500 It'd be 15 people, 15 people, and I knew most of them not doing so I auditioned for a second city, improv Chicago. They're doing a special in San Diego. And they hired two unknown actors. You know, for the first callback, I didn't get it. They weren't sure when the second callback finally got it. I told my dad, I'm auditioning for this thing. And I didn't get it. Because what let me tell you story goes every day I go out and I knock on the door. And I say, I try to sell my things. He pots and pans he sold. Because then I go to another door. But around the 100 door. Finally someone says yes. You have to knock on a lot of doors. You hear no. Before you finally hear the one. Yes. And that was it. Knock on doors. So I went back to the audition. I got I got the role. And the other unknown actor in San Diego was Whoopi Goldberg. So why Whoopi Goldberg and I got a second city improv special together in San Diego. So that was a

Alex Ferrari 1:04:21
true story. So that's, that's pre Color Purple. So we talked 8483

Rick Najera 1:04:26
It was it was pre her one woman show. Oh, oh, wow. So it was there. I was a kid. I was like, What 17 or something? Yes. At the Old Globe, and then I had to audition. I think I just turned 18 And I felt she was speaking in a bars. You know, she's a full 72 The bad influence but she was but she told me what she taught me that improv is saying yes. And you know what acting is and writing and all this stuff is saying yes, to a dream. But you you know if you remember the star outriders hearing that it's remember, you have to hear a lot of nose before you hear. Yes. And once you get that mantra in your head, you will you know, and here's a second one. What you think is success may not be read your idea of successes. Oh, yes, absolutely. So that's a that's a lot of times, you know, cuz I, I, I struggle with it. You know, like, sometimes I'm like, I'm the biggest loser in the world on my Lord. You know? Sure I get to play on Broadway. But Lin Manuel Miranda.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:30
Wow. Well, it's always that there's always a bigger fish. There's always a bigger fish.

Rick Najera 1:05:34
Hamilton. Oh, I did 137 performance with an extension, the first one like that, while they were off Broadway, and they said, Hey, you could be Broadway. So it got people thinking that direction. But the man just nailed it. And so. So you start to get that comparison. You know, and I think about it. It's like, well, Whoopi Goldberg wired I Whoopi Goldberg,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:55
why did I win the Oscar for gold? Yeah,

Rick Najera 1:05:57
you know what I mean, to Jennifer's just a fly girl, what happened to me, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:02
but don't forget, look at what we've been where we are. Looking at some accomplished,

Rick Najera 1:06:09
you have to kind of look at it and go, you know, maybe success. To me, in the end, for my success in life has been my three children. That's it. If I looked and said, Look, if you go all your success in life that you've done, if your three children are your measure of success, then I'm a successful man. Now, if my measure of success was an Emmy, you know, I get a nomination. But if I got, once I get that me or if I got an Oscar or whatever. And you have to learn that your ideas, success is the process. It's the that's what life is life's a process, you wake up you, you try to find love, you try to keep love, once you find it, you try to you know, all these 1000 things of what our evolution isn't, you know, and I, I saw my relative Mike was much older now. And, and, you know, I gotta tell you, old age does not look pretty. It just looks like oh, man, this looks bad. But I've never heard them complain. I've heard them understand this is life, that they're happy when they wake up. And you know, and that's the word, their attitude is, you know, this is a good day. It's, it's if you stop comparing yourself to others, and compare yourself to you find and you find that happiness, then I think you're successful. Because in the end, the moments that truly make you a human being and can truly make you give back and what is our humanity is the love our kindness and how we you know, like you said earlier, don't be a jerk, because people remember, I constantly meet people every day that will walk up to me and they go, hey, you know, I work with you years ago, I always go was a jerk.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:57
That was that was a nice to you.

Rick Najera 1:07:59
And I've never heard anyone say I was bad. I've never heard that. You know, maybe because I'm asking him I look you're imposing and intimidating Batman, mask yourself. I'm simply, I add a simple rule was very much so of to judge a person by their character of how well they treat someone that can do absolutely nothing for them. Right? That's it. So if I walk on a set, or whatever it is, if I see a scar, someone else treating an intern or a PA or someone badly, that's my judgment of that person. But, but I gotta tell you, I've had so many actors and stars that I've met, that are truly nice people. Truly great people. You know, you know, I look at certain people and I go, they're a good person. And luckily, when I meet them, they tend to be I haven't been fooled that often. Where I go, Mother Teresa. Whoa, that was a surprise. She was rough man. Attitude.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:03
She still owes me 50 bucks.

Rick Najera 1:09:06
So close. I'm a miracle worker, watch this. Look, that's my leopard. Get away from the way I look at it, though.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:19
Yeah, that is wonderful. That's wonderful.

Rick Najera 1:09:23
If we fall in love with the process, and we enjoy it. That's the thing because, you know, you're constantly writing you're constantly doing stuff, you're constantly testing yourself and and it is a business that it's it's a beautiful art surrounded by a very ugly business. That's the reality. You know, that's, that's truly it. But then again, you know, some of the greatest stuff in our world can be bastardize or changed or you know, best intentions or whatever. You have to develop in yourself, your purpose. And once you find your purpose. And once you say this is my happiness is larger than you, then you giving it the best you can as long as you're grateful for little things, I mean, be grateful for you calling me up and putting me on your podcast and having a nice conversation. Being grateful for that, that's, I'm grateful for it. That's the thing to be grateful for you, you know that be grateful for the little things. And that way, when the big things come, you'll still use you haven't changed, you're still grateful.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:28
I'll tell you when I when I when I let go of that whole comparison thing. And, you know, it took me years before I got my first feature done. And I was capable of doing it 15 years ago, who could have shot I could have shot that was the dream is the dream is the feature the feature the feature. And but the thing was, I compared myself to Robert Quinton, because I came up in the 90s. So I was like, Oh, my first feature is got to be a mariachi, it's got to be reservoir die, it's got to be this big thing. And that pressure, the art can't handle that kind of pressure. Like it's not built to do that. So when I finally hit 40, and I was attached to another huge project, and that project fell through again. And I was just like, You know what, I can't do this anymore. I'm 40 I got it, I got to do it. And then within 30 days, I was shooting my feature with Julie. I called her up on my joke call your friends, we're gonna go make a movie. And we shot this kind of like improv, you know, Curb Your Enthusiasm, style, style, you know, you know, story about her loosely based on her life. Yeah. And we just did it. And but but I liked it. And I also never attached any outcome to it. And that's the other thing with art. Like, if you were like, I need to win the Oscar, you're never you're gonna you're setting yourself up to be miserable. It may

Rick Najera 1:11:37
not, you know, it may not be for you. You know, I mean, that's the thing is, is it. You know, if you if you as an artist, you believe there's a higher power because I think you have to as an artist, you have to me I know Ricky Gervais always talks about he's an atheist. But I think if you really broke it down, he would hope to believe there's a God and something great something, something, something that we all do. Because the truth is, we in the place of things in life, we need to have something we can look and go there's a reason we're here, there's some higher being that goes, there's a reason you're here. And we want to believe that because as artists, if you look at even the Bible, you know, I went to, I've read so many, you know, I went to seminary, very few people know that. So I it says, the beginning of Genesis says, Man, God created man in the image of God created, you know, basically, so you're creating the image of God, trust your creator was God. So God creates you, your wife, your children, wherever, in the image of this higher power. His act of creation, is what art is to create. And if we're in his reflection or her reflection, then we are creators itself. That is our natural thing to be as creative, be creative people. And so creation and be creativity is storytelling. And it may be done to a commercial, it may be done because I've cried over commercials when well done. Oh yeah. You know, you that to get haiku up in only 30 seconds or a minute. You're going to create this world that will will touch you, then that's beauty. I mean, think about it. So like I looked at and I remember you know I did want a character was Alejandra was a busboy that was a macho guy, all the women. He thought did a great character because I said I worked as a busboy. You know I was my only had three jobs in my lifetime there were not related to entertainment one was a busboy. It was so traumatic after three months that

Alex Ferrari 1:13:44
was a true a true artist. So

Rick Najera 1:13:48
that was my my my

Alex Ferrari 1:13:50
took dramas Iwo Jima.

Rick Najera 1:13:54
He asked me to bring water no ice out my foot. Remember that? Like it scarred me.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:59
It scarred me.

Rick Najera 1:14:02
Good. The waiters. And the busboys, were so confident. And I remember I'd see I saw a busboy in a 10 speed bike, drive up to a woman and start talking to her. And I'm thinking, you're on a 10 speed bike with no very little command to the language and you're going up to a woman go, Hey, how are you? Yeah, my name is Alejandra. You know,

Alex Ferrari 1:14:23
how would you do? How do you do?

Rick Najera 1:14:27
It kind of attitude. And here, I'm like this educated, you know, there's been actor type, working as a busboy for three months, just scandalized by this. And I'm thinking that man's a happy man. Yep. He's honestly happy. And his whole life is happy and he's loves life and all stuff. Michael asked what you want to be. You want to be the person because every day, every you know, I nearly died a few years ago and I came back from a coal mine. I bought stuff and people are like, Oh my god, I wrote a book about it almost white And it was about a Hollywood but it really was about Saxon in my head. And so I came back. And I remember being in a coma and almost sort of voice of God going, you want to go back or you want to stay like a literal voice. I can't remember exactly what the accent sounded like, so I can't go. God was Puerto Rican.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:26
He sounded like, he sounded like Tony Montana. It's like, did you wanna go back? Or did you want to stay here?

Rick Najera 1:15:35
They don't like. But I remember hearing you want to go back and stay. And I said, I will I still have some things to do. And so I came back on my body. And I, you know, once you feel the pain in your body, like, oh, no, because I changed my mind, I'm going to have it. But I worked myself through and I just said, a simple mantra. This is about six years ago, I said, I will do no harm. And I will be kind. And that'll be compassion of is not not that I was a bad guy. I will do what I just said, I'll be grateful. I'll remember being grateful. And that's the thing. That's what you do so. So if you sit there you say, you know, because a lot of times, I'm sure I think I'm reading right? And me too, is it? We're in this business? And we're constantly going we've got to do this, you know, our ambition is always the ambition of Yeah, why should I get any more and more, or I want them to recognize me as the genius that I am. Well, I

Alex Ferrari 1:16:33
let that go while ago I the time. Now I'm just now. I mean, this is what he did he just become more liberal. Like, you know, I just look, I just want to be happy. I want to enjoy the process. Yeah, that's much more important to me than Bhaskar.

Rick Najera 1:16:50
I'm Harvey Feinstein, I just want to be loved. I look at and I go, I want to make the world a better place whenever I can. If not that, then thank God for the world that I've been given. You know, thank God for every little miracle. And you know, I think wasn't me says, Louis CK actually said this. And, you know, he said, you're 40 you're in a plane, 30,000 feet or whatever. It's a miracle. And you think about that, and I go, I mean, you right now on a podcast, I'm seeing you you're seeing me. It's a miracle. It is. We you know, as a kid, I'm watching three channels, three networks, you

Alex Ferrari 1:17:36
know, and when you hear that,

Rick Najera 1:17:39
yeah, or, or better yet, when I was grew up in San Diego, we heard the Mexican national anthem, because the the disc were over on the side of Mexico. So you sit there go, that was I Love Lucy, then that the Da da da, da, da da. Standing tall singing the Mexican national anthem. But I appreciate what you got. That's what I tell anyone that's listening about this business is that you appreciate every single moment. You appreciate everything. You guys the miracles all around you. If you think that way, then it doesn't matter whether you so called made or not. Yeah, you're making it. You're making it?

Alex Ferrari 1:18:20
Yeah, absolutely. Rick, I I appreciate you coming on the show. It's been it's been an absolute joy talking to you, sir. Where can people find you?

Rick Najera 1:18:29
Well, you can always check me out on on on Aaron America. It's on revolver podcasts on Apple and other stuff. And then check out Latino thought makers. I'm doing a show with Cornel West, Dr. Cornel West from Harvard law college, and that's going to happen January 28. And then I've got a if you check out my site, you'll I will have a class on writing that I'm doing with Sanjeev Chopra, Deepak Chopra's brother, and Jackie Ruiz who just quit publisher. So I'm constantly even with this COVID You know, you got to work and keep going, keep going. You got you got to work because if anything, I just look at and I go, I go. Newton, came up with his best theories during pandemic. Shakespeare wrote Lear during a pandemic. And even though we're in this time of pandemic, and I'm, like you, you know, said you watch the news, you go, Can it get any worse? I'm expecting Godzilla walking down any avenue and anything that happened,

Alex Ferrari 1:19:30
the Mole People should be taking over any moment. Yeah,

Rick Najera 1:19:33
you know, maybe I'm even thinking maybe that lizard people idea is true. I have no idea. I don't,

Alex Ferrari 1:19:38
I don't know. Hey, whatever, you never know.

Rick Najera 1:19:42
But if I can love my life, and be grateful, and and be kind to another person every day, and I said, that's, that's what we're gonna do. And if the greatest production of my kids then I'm fine with it.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:56
Rick, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, my friend. Thank you so much for for what you're doing and continue continue making people laugh, man and making people think so I appreciate you, brother.

Rick Najera 1:20:05
Thank you. Great talking to me. Good. Consider your friend now for podcast brothers anytime.



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Screenplays: FREE Download 2022-2023 Oscar Contenders UPDATED

UPDATED Nov 2022: If you want to be a screenwriter, you need to read a lot of screenplays. And if you are going to read film scripts might as well read some of this year’s best. Below is an active running list of 2022-2023 Oscar Contending Screenplays. I’ll be adding new screenplays as they become available, so check back often.

PLEASE NOTE: These screenplays are FREE and LEGAL to download for educational purposes. The studios will only keep them online throughout the awards season, so the clock is ticking. Enjoy. 

When you are done reading, take a listen to Apple’s #1 Screenwriting Podcast, The Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast, with guests like Oscar Winner Eric Roth, James V. HartDavid ChaseJohn AugustOliver Stone, and more.

2022-2023 Oscar Contending Screenplays

2021-2022 Oscar Contending Screenplays

2021 Oscar-Winning Screenplays

The Father – (Sony Classics) – OSCAR WINNER (Best Original Screenplay)
Promising Young Woman – (Focus Features) – OSCAR WINNER (Best Adapted Screenplay)

2020-2021 Oscar Contending Screenplays


Want To Learn From Oscar® Winning & Blockbuster Screenwriters?

Learn from some the best screenwriters working in Hollywood today in this FREE three day video series.

2020 Oscar-Winning Screenplays

Parasite – (NEON) – OSCAR WINNER (Best Original Screenplay)
Jo Jo Rabbit – (Fox Searchlight) – OSCAR WINNER (Best Adapted Screenplay)

2020 Oscar Contending Screenplays

2019 Oscar Contending Screenplays

2018 Oscar Contending Screenplays


Want to read more screenplays by the best screenwriters working in Hollywod today?

The Bulletproof Screenwriting collection of screenplays are organized by screenwriter's & filmmaker's career for easy access.

Screenwriter’s Screenplay Collections

We started a new weekly series where we highlight a screenwriter and post a collection of most if not all of their work in one online resource. Sign up for our weekly newsletter above to get weekly updates sent to your inbox. Here are a few recent screenwriter collections:

I also decided to include a bonus area where you can download some of the best screenplays of the last few years. Over 175 screenplays in all. Happy reading!

Best of 2016 Screenplays

Best of 2015 Screenplays

Best of 2014 Screenplays

Best of 2013 Screenplays

BONUS: Oscar Nominated and Winning Screenplays

Top Ten Best Screenplays Ever Written

If you want to be a screenwriter you have to read screenplays. There’s no better place to start than reading the masters of the craft. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) published this list of the top ten best screenplays ever written and I would have to agree.

My personal favorites on this list are Casablanca, Chinatown, and Annie Hall. Click on the links below and start reading. Happy Reading…then get to writing.

Screenplay by Julius J. & Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch. Based on the play “Everybody Comes to Rick’s” by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison

Screenplay by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola.

Written by Robert Towne

Written by Herman Mankiewicz and Orson Welles

Screenplay by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman

Written by Charles Brackett & Billy Wilder and D.M. Marshman, Jr.

Written by Paddy Chayefsky

Screenplay by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond.

Screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo.

Screenplay by Frank Darabont. I had to add this remarkable screenplay to the list.


Want to read more screenplays by the best screenwriters working in Hollywod today?

The Bulletproof Screenwriting collection of screenplays are organized by screenwriter's & filmmaker's career for easy access.


IFH 633: Confessions of a Hollywood Screenwriter with Pen Densham

Today on the show, we have Pen Densham. Pen is a successful award-winning screenwriter, producer, and director, with an extensive track record in film and television. He is responsible for writing and producing some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters, such as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Backdraft, Blown Away, and some of its longest-running television series, including The Outer Limits.

Starting with his first job in show business, riding atop a live alligator for a theatrical short film made by his parents, Pen decided to leave his English school system at age 15 and has since spent his lifetime in the business of entertainment, selling films and television series, as well as hiring, mentoring and collaborating with A-list writers along the way. His latest film is Harriet, which he is the executive producer of.

Pen’s latest project, Riding the Alligator: Strategies for a Career in Screenplay Writing and Not getting Eaten, was written with one clear goal: to write the kind of book he would have loved to read when he was starting out as a writer-filmmaker. Pen is also an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California’s prestigious School of Cinematic Arts.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.”Albert Einstein

I had a ball speaking to Pen about his time in Hollywood, what it was like to screenwriter/producer monster hits, and his screenwriting philosophy on how to make it in Hollywood.

Enjoy my eye-opening conversation with Pen Densham.

Alex Ferrari 0:17
I'd like to welcome to the show Pen Densham. How you doing my friend?

Pen Densham 3:57
I'm doing great, Alex, nice to be chatting with you again.

Alex Ferrari 3:59
Yes, I know, we met at a wonderful mixer the other day. And we hit it off. And I'm like we have to be on the show. And, and you've written some of my favorite movies and produce some of my favorite movies of all time. And I will get to all of those in a minute. But before we even get started, how did you get into this business?

Pen Densham 4:18
Oh, well, I was born into it. My folks are making short films when I was a little kid. And so I'm four years old, and I'm writing an alligator in a movie that my folks are making about people who keep strange pets, dating myself. That movie actually went out with Africa Queen into the movie theaters. So I saw my mom and dad with cameras and the power of cameras. And since that time just yearned to tell stories and have that but I call it casting a spell. You're you're doing something that's extraordinary people are all drawn to it. And I don't think they had babysitters back then because they couldn't afford them. So they took Meet a Water Street. So I'm four years old, meeting the people that are distributing their movies, and sitting in the theater with them, watching them with them. And from that time on, I just yearned literally yearn to be involved. And then my mom died when I was eight. My father's behavior was not as supportive, he married a very difficult lady, and a 15. I left school with an eye love cameras, but my school was trying to punish me out of being imaginative and helped me by getting me a job as a bank clerk or something. And my stepmother and my father, were doing the same thing. And it's very destructive, to your sense of self worth, and your holistic, the way your mind works if you're a creative person, to have people banging on you to being egotistical or difficult. And so, it, it left me with a deep sense of trying to protect other people's creativity. And, and also, it gave me a lot of understanding about creativity and vulnerability, which I think people who have very complex imaginative minds are also vulnerable to a lot of self doubt. And so we were talking a bit about why I wrote a book on screenplay writing, it was that I couldn't find a book that reassured me, when I was starting to write screenplays way back, that I was normal, that this process was not perfection, you sit down to write from A to Z, or you have to have every plot beat and every structure, I learned that when I let myself go, sometimes I would have the last lines of a movie in my head that had been in my brain for two years, knowing I was going to write it, get the last lines that make me cry, and then pursue getting the rest of the movie. And it's illogical. And then sometimes we have what we call the islands of sanity, which you get two or three pieces in a movie. And you know, you have to write the rest. And it's not about writing to fit somebody's belief system or some architecture, but it's how do you get that voice out of you. And I think if you get that voice out of you, you write to a different potency level. And also you protect your work for longer, you fight longer to try and make it more approachable for a buyer. And so you don't give up on it. Whereas if you write something to hit a formula, oh, horror movies are selling or ROM coms are selling, right one, but it's not in your nature. When the people that you're trying to sell it to give up on you, you give up too. Whereas I have scripts that I've fought from generation to get made. I can't give up on them, because they're somehow in my soul, which sounds crazy. But

Alex Ferrari 7:44
it doesn't sound crazy at all. Wait, well, first of all, I always tell people, we're all crazy to be in this business. We are we are all carnies. We are all we all ran away to join the circus we are isn't that isn't that a good analogy, we all are currently, the most unique people ever you meet in this business, they're all a little bit crazy. You know, we just put on a show. And if you want to get a complete, you know, perfect analogy is, when you're making a movie, you go to a location, you put up your tent, you shoot for the day, you put on a show, you record the show, you put it down and you move on to the next location. That's a carny.

Pen Densham 8:23
That's fascinating. I liken it slightly differently. But I still think that's an incredibly valid way of looking at it. I, I look at it, because I've tried to figure out how to overcome the suffering of it. Because the way I looked at it is, it's like a sport, and I absolutely love playing it. And the sport I think it is, is American football. Because I get hit, I have to put a team together. I don't have to love everybody in that team, but I have to inspire them. I'm going to have the ball stripped from me, I'm going to sit in the bench sometimes. But if I get to play and I love it enough, it makes it worthwhile.

Alex Ferrari 8:58
And then you get your start in the business as a screenwriter correct?

Pen Densham 9:02
Not quite No, actually. My my. I don't like talking about my mail too much so but left school at 15 tried to start my own businesses in England, fled to Canada at 19 thinking I was a washed up failure ended up in a culture where young people were being helped to make movies. And I'm going Holy crow. And I'm watching a 15 year old guy making a six sound 16 mil movie. And because I've been trying to sell things in England, I was able to help him sell his movie to the to the TV network. And started to see in Canada, there was an exchange of ideas from young filmmakers. And we were making short films. We were learning from each other selling to the world markets and the schools and libraries, which was a market back then. And in some ways I see this parallel happening in the way that the business is now aggregating again, many different avenues of opportunity. And so we tried worked with a couple of companies. When including introduced me to Marshall McLuhan, who is the guru of Communications at that point in the world, and that sense of free thinking and the sense of starting something, because you cared about it, and pursuing it until he put all the money together, and all the pieces together entrepreneurial side, was trained into making short films, at a point where we, we also learned, if you don't enter, you don't win awards. And if you don't win awards, people don't know how to judge your movies. So award winning became something we pursued. And we ended up winning over 60 Awards got medals from the queen, but it's bullshit. Because if you don't see it, it doesn't happen. And we made this one film, which was vitally important emotionally to me, which is where we asked children to direct commercials for life as if they were selling. And I wanted to make a movie about young people's imaginations in a way of protecting the punishment that I've gone through and saying, These people are incredibly valuable no matter what age they are, their imaginations of vital and powerful things. So by doing this, we got a movie that we ended up with nine young people each directed their own commercial for life with real actors, real crews, and we managed to get it nominated for an Oscar. And we we i'd also learned being a huckster being a carny that I'd seen other friends of mine in Canada get occasionally nominated for an Oscar, and wait to see if they won, and went to the Oscars didn't win and came home and no one knew what had happened. So I said, Okay, bucket, we're going to put every ounce of effort into making sure everybody knows that this nomination happened. And so we were on the front page of every newspaper, we had a film crew fly with us to Canada, from Canada, to the Oscars, we got permission with the government's help to take all nine children to the Oscar ceremony, and you know how hard it is to get tickets. And the end result was that when we lost, there was only three movies in that year, but one was part of the LA Philharmonic. So the we were on the front page of every newspaper in Canada. And we were on the nightly news Palooza. And that put our company on the map, which again, gave us the opportunity to go out and beg for more funds to go do films that we cared about.

Alex Ferrari 12:22
That's amazing. And it's something that they don't teach this that exactly what you did is you get an opportunity like this, whether it's an Oscar nomination as a short film, Sundance, a big event, a big news article, something that you leverage it, and you and you try to use it to push your your yourself and your company or your movie further along. And filmmakers aren't taught this I yell at this about this at the top of my

Pen Densham 12:48
writing a book about this, right?

Alex Ferrari 12:50
Yeah, my my new book, Rise of the film shoprunner talks about that, as well as many other ways of creating revenue streams and so on. But one thing I wanted to talk to you before, before I ask you some other questions I have for you, the whole world of distribution is changing so dramatically. And you know, you we were talking OFF AIR about this whole distributor thing and you know, and all the press that I've been getting, and not only me, but all these 1000s of filmmakers who have been been hurt by you know, the downfall of this film aggregator, and how that many ways that the system is rigged against, especially at the at the low indie level, the system is rigged against independent filmmakers as far as distribution is concerned. How do you see things going forward? I mean, we we kind of touched upon it a little bit. But there is going to be a change, look, look, Netflix came along and literally changed the entire industry. You know, this little, little company that would could have been purchased for 50 million bucks by blockbuster back in 2000. And I think two or three and now it's worth 150 billion. And it's changed not only the industry but changed how we view our viewing habits, how we the concept of bingeing the concept, all the you know, it's changed the world. That's there's still going to be more changes coming in, I think they're going to come faster than we even anticipate for independent films and for for creators, what do you think the future is in distribution?

Pen Densham 14:14
Well, you know, it's, it's the Gold Rush, nobody knows where the veins are, no one knows how you're going to chill them out. It's a creative entrepreneurism, which I always call that process that you must spend as much effort selling your material to people as you use to create it. And I call it also building a bridge backwards, which is you can't anticipate that your buyer understands what you've got. If you make them make the effort of trying to categorize what you've got, you lose because you're doing something where they have too distracted and don't understand it. So I break selling down into four component elements which I'm now going to give you my two minute lecture on how to sell please. First rule is identify your buyer because no one buys from a stranger research them and then reach out to them and find compatibility Because you're not going to sell to someone unless they, they feel that you understand them a little bit. So you know that they were the people that did that particular movie that was successful and you praise them genuine. Everything is about authenticity. Because people have a big bullshit detector, you can't, and you've got hustle on your forehead, you can't hustle people, when they don't feel so good a reality. Yes, there's, there's a good passion. So anyway, so you research your buyer, you create a rapport with your buyer by meeting with them and talking about things that they value. Second one is demonstrate passion, because why should they care if you don't? So you take you take an idea. And I tell my I taught a couple of times at USC film school. And I'd say you can be almost inarticulate if you demonstrate passion, because the excitement is contagious. And if you have got something and it's cold blooded, and you don't really care, and it's a marketing device, you're not going to get me believing that you're going to go through brick walls to achieve it. So by demonstrating passion, what you're doing is getting the that this is the root stem of my belief systems that I'm investing in this thing. And it's more likely to get people to support you. And when you're doing a movie with somebody, if it's a development deal, they're putting their job on the line a little bit with you. And so really a pitch is a chance to have a conversation with somebody, and not a chance to say okay, I've got 47.2 minutes, and I have to give you a to z of a of a structure, because that leaving them out that then I use a demonstration, I say that my wife had a dream. And it was so scary. She stayed up nights. And then she told me the dream. It seems scary. It was keeping me up. But I decided to turn it into a movie, which is my passion statement is a totally illusory one, but it's helpful. And then I say that movie, which is what I call the goalposts is sort of like halfway between the exorcist and alien. Now the reason I use that term, before I describe what the movie is, is that I've made a relationship with the buyer. I'm demonstrating passion. And I've told them that I'm going to show them what this movie is in terms of the things that they need. Because selling a movie is really filling the need of the buyer, not your idea of getting them to buy you, but what you're trying to sell them that you provide a solution to their goals, which is a nice say this movie is halfway between the actor system alien. Now what developed exact wouldn't like to have one of those in there. And so what I've done is I put two goalposts and simplicity, I don't say it's halfway like the X is the alien and got a game of thrones, because you screw up there, remember, and so, hopefully, between the Xs and the alien, and they might give them my pitch. And I say this movie is about a defrocked alcoholic priest who's taken to the moon by NASA, because they found the devil's bones up there, and people are becoming possessed. And I could sell that. And I just use it as a pitch module. But what what I'm really trying to demonstrate is that people will send me scripts or ideas every day, I get dozens of emails, and I've got a movie that's a horror movie and horror movies of selling. I have no interest in you haven't you don't know that I did Houdini Moll, Flanders Robin Hood. And that I've got a an interest in physicalized in historical characters, and that I'm interested in making altruistic care heroes out of things. You have no idea who I am or what I'm, what I'm. And so because you didn't research me, you're not going to touch my heart. And if you send me an email, and you say mall, Flanders, my wife and I crave when we saw that movie, we love seeing Houdini, which you did. And we wondered if this project would have an appeal to you, that changes the whole dynamic. And so I also see people trying to sell their work. And they'll say, Oh, this sold in the movie theaters this weekend, and I got one just like it. And you go, oh my god, I bet you you've already sent that out to hundreds of people and why would I care?

Alex Ferrari 18:59
Can't can we can we? can we can we I just want to for everyone listening right now. I need to just I want this to be put out there into the universe. I've said it before. But I want to say it one more time. If you're creating a pitch, and you're making a horror movie, do not use Blair Witch Project in the paranormal activity as examples of how much more money your movie can make. Is that a fair statement to say? Well, it's

Pen Densham 19:22
it's a fair statement, because those are so extreme that they're unlikely to be taken seriously. But if you can find a couple of films that are really solid, yes, in great lengths into the market, and have got a similarity of relationship, there's two goalposts things. But also what you're looking at is the buyer is the button. The most buyers don't want to do exactly the same thing twice. There's no stimulus. If you go to a director and you say, hey, you did The Blair Witch. Well, I've got this other shaky camera movie about people,

Alex Ferrari 19:51
but I'm not a witch, a witch, you

Pen Densham 19:53
know, whereas if you take a look at them very seriously, and you study them a little bit, you say, you know, I noticed you did this. In this with this challenge you, would this be exciting, and you're really looking at the next stepping stone. And actors are also excited to get involved with things that challenge their skills. They like to be a little scared. And so if you got a you know, it's like going to Costco and saying, hey, you just did Robin, how would you like to do? Will you tell? He's gonna say no, no, not at your mind. But when you like play some of the investigative john f kennedy death Yeah. Because that's fascinating. And your goal is the artist entrepreneur trying to sell your work is to try and see the buyers and there's a lot of buyers out there, you know, we normally need to have you come at us through an agent or a manager or a lawyer, those are the three routes. But you can also go in through potentially a professor of school, USC or somebody who would, who would add you add their name to you as an advocate. And I suggest to people going after the actors, or directors or producers with their own companies, and avoid the studio, because they don't have a system to engage people like us, the more freebooters. But the directors or the actors, they have people looking every day for things that will stimulate their biases. And so you don't look like you're coming from a prompt proforma place, you're coming from a place of discovery for them. And if you can do that, then you've got a good chance of breaking through the system and actually getting seen, but you got to research your buyer, you got to even make friends with the assistant, a lot of us forget that we're dealing with human beings, and it's human beings, to human beings that will help you. And by taking the time in a meeting, when you're going to meet the boss, take the time to say hello to the assistant get them number, and follow them up afterwards and say, you know, is there anything I could learn from what I went down and when would be a good time to talk to you about and you realize, again, assistants are on every phone call. They they monitor the progress. And they also scuttle that with each other about what their studio is looking for what their boss is looking for. And a lot of the time the students the the assistance in a structure are people trying to get up through the system just like you are. And by by taking again, honest interest in them and asking to their experience to help you get to your goals. You create friendship. And as they as they go to their levels of opportunity. And I've seen a direct a friend of mine ended up being represented by the assistant to the to the agent he was with, it was with a big agent who never had any time for it. And suddenly the assistant gets promoted to agent. And she's only got three clients. So suddenly, he's gone from being ignored to being someone that they're trying to push. And now she's the head of lit for a major agency. So again, this this process of creative entrepreneur ism is looking at opportunity and trying to find it not being scared to look for ways to get yourself to the front. And I also believe there are systems for reinforcing yourself such as I call it story midwives. But there are safe people that you trust, who will tell you the truth in a kind way. And you've got to expose your work to people there before you expose it to the Philistines the net, the naysayers, the difficult ones, because they can cross check all the things so that you get it really right. And can be reassured that when you go out to the other buyer that you've gotten most of the questions answered, or you've got most of the material clear, so that people understand it. And we call that asshole proofing. So we don't send a script out until it's really clear that we've got most of the objections and the things that are hard to understand out of it. Because you don't get to read. And if you put a year of your life into a script or longer, and you've got things that people didn't understand in it, it's it's like falling in the water of a stepping stone and you know, you're going big, big thing and then and then you're wet for the rest of the script if the rest threat. Whereas if you fix those things, you've got a script that's solid, and your friends have reassured you that it makes sense. And then you put it out to the world, but you never put it out until you've got it. Because all that effort deserves that. That kind of sense of value in your own.

Alex Ferrari 24:23
Now you've spent you've said it a couple times creative entrepreneurship, which I call film intrapreneurship which is, which is the same exact thing. I truly believe that in the future, the film entrepreneur is going to be the only way independent films, independent filmmakers can really make a living is being an entrepreneurial filmmaker, entrepreneurial, creative, and that goes with screenwriting that goes with filmmaking. Do you agree? Do you think that because the because the opportunities, I mean, you come from a time you know in the early 90s and before but like specifically in the 90s there were there were a lot of gates Lot of gatekeepers, there was only a handful of places you could go with a project. And, and out of that you were like, really, you were stuck in the really independent world, where and again, even there, there weren't a lot of outlets. Now, the gates have been flown open. The big boys still have gatekeepers, but there's so many other places that will accept your your, your art, your your projects, your writing, that the there's so much opportunity, that if you're not entrepreneurial about going after those opportunities, and then monetizing those opportunities, once they come into your world, you won't survive. Because if you're trying to play the game by the rules that they set out for you, which is stacked against you, I don't believe that I don't believe it will work. Do you? Do you believe that that the entrepreneurial creative, the creative entrepreneur is going to be the key to making a living in this business,

Pen Densham 25:55
we're in a revolution, we don't know where we're going. But I always figured there'd be 100 million TV channels. And I was thinking that since the 90s. Oh, we're not

Alex Ferrari 26:05
too far off.

Pen Densham 26:06
We're not too far off. It costs you nothing to upload your film now to YouTube and actually profit from it. So you can actually become your own studio and your own distributor. Now what what the next thing is, how do you get an audience and that comes back to being imaginative in some way. We did a TV special on magic many, many years ago. And we complete that show, we hung a guy in secret over Niagara Falls and did a straight jacket escape. And that we, you know, first of all, when we when we went to Niagara Falls parks commission, they said no freakin way, you're never going to do that. So then we realized that we've been totally reject. And then we decided, Okay, so then we analyzed who was on the parks board found a guy who was 80 years old, who knew my brother, my father in law. And we asked him if we could show him one of our movies. And we showed him a movie that was about sports heroes of Canada, he came out of the screening crying, and he then let us go and make a presentation to the board. Again, it would already totally refuse this. And I happen to go to that on a day when they were fixing Niagara Falls, and they had a crane outside, killing in concrete on places on it. And I said, I really, first of all have to apologize, I failed to tell you how important this was to our company. But secondly, I'm going to tell you a secret. My guy who's doing this study was the amazing, Randy says it's no worse than falling out of bed. It's like no danger. And but we don't want to tell people that. And then I said you already have people hanging out over the Niagara Falls right now, if you look out the window. So I all that effort ended up that I was able to shoot raising Randy upside down and when Agra falls in secret in the middle of winter, and then we held the photographs until the show went on the air. And I phoned up every newspaper in Canada. And they said, We will give you exclusive on this these photos that no one knew we'd done of a stunt at Niagara Falls, if you'll put them on the front page. And we weren't with any other newspaper have. So and we ended up getting front pages with our stunt which promoted our movie. Now, is that effort normal? Or is it what you have to do? I don't know. But it certainly for us was the only way we could break through the clutter that we had back then. And I think that same kind of application of energy, whether it's finding a reason why an audience should tune in or find a reason why a buyer should buy those things are really part of making films. And I learned from Norman jewison. Mike, Mike, my luck was that we did a lot of short films, then we did a lot of TV specials. And we would not be in getting support to do a drama. And I eventually found to a friend of mine who's another filmmaker, he said CBC is giving 10 grand anybody that can make an idea as a young filmmaker that they'll approve. I decided I would write a drama, which was the most miserable experience in my life never done it before. It didn't matter, right. I was 30 I had always been too scared, ended up working with direct directing actors that never done in my life. It was the most miserable experience, like Todd edited, like a sports film together. He pours out of it. It was a piece of shit. And I was so embarrassed. I sat with him in the editing room and there was days it was taken film. Oh my god, I just let everyone down. We have to do something what happens? What does this face look like before he says that line? And you know that was a

Alex Ferrari 29:33
man that took a minute to do back that took

Pen Densham 29:35
all Yes. And you look at it looks like the guy's thinking. And you go oh my god. What else can we do? So I went through the whole thing doctoring it with my partner putting it into cuts, expanding the pauses, you know, and it wasn't 14 Awards. I'm going no no no. I just barely survived this and Norman jewison offers me free paper by the Indian Government come to Hollywood and are going, Oh, I don't deserve this, you must I mustn't do this, because there's a thing called imposter syndrome. And when I'm coming back, some you're talking about earlier, but people, I'm invited every year by final draft and meet the winners of the final draft contest. And what I do is I have a breakfast with them. And I talk about imposter syndrome, which is the failure to take advantage of an opportunity. And what we only get those opportunities once in a while. And if we question ourselves during that opportunity, instead of pushing to its most possible, beneficial outcome, we fail ourselves, and we're going to be polite, we're going to feel like it's it's wrong to push ourselves and that this is probably a mistake, and we don't deserve it. And I will frequently ask them, What else have you succeeded with? And I said, Well, we, you know, was in leading school play, I have several writing prizes. And you realize that these people have a consistency, but they don't validate it. And that's one of the most dangerous things as a creator is not believing in yourself, and not going to take opportunities. And I say, my worst personal damage is the things that failed to have the courage to stick my neck out and try. I call those my errors of omission. And they still haunt me for going, Oh, you idiot, you could have walked across the room and class. That guy, that actor you didn't do it because you didn't. And so I want to encourage people take the freakin shot because your areas of comission where you embarrass yourself briefly minor compared with the opportunities you might find. And so going back to taking another shot at Niagara Falls, it was embarrassing. It was scary. I'd already been rejected. Les Moonves when I had the idea of trying to revive the Twilight Zone last time was revived, rejected me soundly, three times in a row would actually said yes. And then changed his mind. That might send him a letter saying, you know it because he's changed his mind. Because the system they said, TV couldn't use anthologies. And I said, Well, you've got 60 minutes, and you've got unsolved mysteries. They're anthologies, same host every week, different stories. And they've been number one. That's not the same thing. So I get shut down. Can we got this clip of pieces from our adult limits TV series, which was science fiction, fantasy, some wonderful, really fascinating CGI and things we were doing at that point. And we put this together to demonstrate what we've been doing. And I said to my partner, john, he put the Twilight Zone music on that. So I then I delivered it to Les Moonves, and his, his people thought it was fantastic. Unless there's I'm not doing this stuff. And then les gets control of UPN, which is the network at that time that had Star Trek on it. And that was the number one show. And I go to my partner, john and said, Could you get a lesson mentioned that Twilight Zone might be good, because we found, by the way that they own the Twilight Zone. So it was not me coming to them with something I'm trying to actually get them to do something. I love the Twilight Zone, I'm the only person who can actually provide both the Twilight Zone have the outlet. So I my partner says, No, no, no, you have to do it. And I got to do this. I'm too scared, I'm gonna he's gonna, he's gonna like scream at me. And then what I did was I found what I call a framing device, which is, I'm taking you through the steps of trying to be entrepreneurial.

I found something that made me comfortable. And a framing device, we use these terms because we needed the, we need to help each other, find these things, which is something you could say, or something you felt that protected you so you could take the risk of sticking your neck out and trying to get to your dream. And my framing device was I wasn't courageous enough to phone less. But I was willing to write him a letter. And my letter that came up to me that gave me permission to talk to him was DLS. So healthy. I swear I will never mentioned the word twilight zone to you ever again, after this. And that was my friend device. And I felt great. And then I wrote, how about it being a companion piece to Star Trek. I was in his office the next day. He said, I'm giving you 10 days because we're up against the deadline. You can write whatever you want a 10 minute presentation, whatever you want. I wrote it on a one hour pilot. I didn't know I could write a one hour pilot. But if you fucking put yourself under the it's amazing what you can do. We were shooting it within 40 days.

Alex Ferrari 34:47
So to me that's unheard of in the industry.

Pen Densham 34:51
But it's because the demand was at his need. I was filling his knee. He's taking over a network he has a number once Science Fiction show. And the idea of teaming up with one of the greatest anthology series is, and we, we always bowed to that not being us, we were picking up the mantle of storytelling. But it wasn't our show. We were, we were celebrating what had gone before. And that's an example of not giving up.

Alex Ferrari 35:25
That's that's his

Pen Densham 35:29
word. But once in a while, you end up with a success. 22.

Alex Ferrari 35:35
That's amazing. And one thing that

Pen Densham 35:38
you said before, because we had two stories every episode,

Alex Ferrari 35:41
so that was fair enough, fair enough. So the one thing you said that I wanted to touch on is that you were fulfilling his need, where I feel that a lot of screenwriters and filmmakers are asking you to fulfill their needs, you're not being of service to you. So like, if you're the person I am trying to pitch or do something else, doing that research, because you, you want good projects, you you want good things to do, and so to studios, and they all want you to be a good project. They all want your script to be the next greatest thing of all time. But most people and I see it, I get it in my inbox every day. I just literally got one today that like sent me a screen, a screenwriting a screenplay, a courier script, Curry, whatever that thing is, where they're like, Hey, I have a new script, I got this kind of coverage Would you like to do? I'm like, do you not know who I am? Do you? Do you think I have some sort of? Sure, here's a million dollars, that's gonna make it. I'm not that guy. You didn't know research, but you sent it to me anyway. And, but but by being of service to whoever you're trying to pitch is so much more powerful, and also more powerful when you're selling to an audience, when you're selling to a customer, when you're selling to a producer or a studio being of service to them should be the way you lead with these pitches, is

Pen Densham 37:02
that make sense? Well, you chose to play this game, which cost millions of dollars or high school if we now make a film on our iPhone, which is possible. But you're still investing your time and energy you have to look at the end result is trying to get it to a mass market. It's not like you're trying to do this for personal reasons, you're trying to get as many people as possible to see it. Now, if you would, if you were selling a car, would you go out and sell a house like a mini within who's got six family members? You know, so it's like, asking those questions, you're going to sell a Cadillac Escalade, to somebody who's just come out of college and has, you know, gigantic bills for their education and no money now. So you're what you're trying to do is fit your project, because there's probably a place your project might fit. If you've asked for proof the project by checking out with people that you trust, that the material is strong enough now. What you're looking at is, okay. What what people? Could you see using this as a tool to get into their goals? Not I'm going to send it everywhere. But how can I make it personal, so that you see a director who's done several, very, very high key but very unimportant, unemotional movies, Marvel Comics or something, you wonder if they and you see your research underneath them, you see, wow, oh, my God, this guy studied Shakespeare. And then and then. And then you realize that maybe he likes something that's really contained, but would really show off his skills, working with actors and emotions. And you you then approach the system in his through his either his agency's management or through his own production company, and you tell them and the most important thing in any letter is acknowledge the quality that you validate in that person. Because the first thing they read is going to be, oh, he gets me or she gets me, as opposed to I've just got this project and would you buy it? It is I understood from researching you because I loved your this, that this and that. And but also I saw that you had this deep heart, you're actually donate money to charity for whatever this is. And I have immense feelings for that same thing. Would it be okay if I shared this project with you? And another tool is don't sell, ask for advice. Sometimes it is easier to get in to meet somebody or to exchange information by showing them that you understand what they've done by finding an advocate. Maybe you've gone to film school and your professor will say, you know, I love this guy. He's very unique and I believe that you're talking to him would help help his career. You get that out of your professor, you make the effort. And then you go to this person and you sit with them. Talk about your Career, what you can learn from them, you create a relationship. And along the way, you mentioned the project, you think that he might like, that's the effort, you have to go to not sending a frickin email app.

Alex Ferrari 40:10
You mean sending 5000 emails out and, and it doesn't even say their name, it just says Hello,

Pen Densham 40:16
yes. Or even worse, you know, and those poor people, you know, they they're, they're not wrong in sense that the school systems don't teach entrepreneurs, the colleges are not about trying to help you find routes to success, they're about trying to fit you into a system. And, and it doesn't mean to say that you won't succeed some time just the law of averages, the monkeys and typewriters will write Shakespeare, you know, we have enough of them. But if you can help yourself by finding your framing devices and finding tools that reach out to people through your genuine care and excitement, to deliver something to them, you believe it's special to their skills that you validate. That's a much easier way to sell. Now,

Alex Ferrari 41:00
I wanted a one of the things that we talked about when we first met at that at that mixer was your work on a film that was released in 1991, called Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. And I told you I sat there gushing, because Robin Hood in 1991, I still remember it. So clearly, I was working at a video store during that time. And I went to the movie theater with my friend, we sat in the front row because it was sold almost sold out. So we had to sit in the very front. And you know, with our necks cranked up and we watched it and I don't know if it was the reason that we felt like we were inside of it because we were so close to the screen. Or if it was just that impactful to that that high school kid. But when we walked out of that theater, we went right back in and watched it again within within 20 minutes. And I don't I could count on how many times I've done that in my hand. That's how wonderful of an adventure it was for us. And it was such a it's one of my favorite films of that era. Can you tell me how did you you wrote you wrote Robin Hood? Prince of Thieves and you're also a producer on it. How did you how did this whole thing come to come to be? Because Robin Hood is one of those you know, every every decade or two they just redo a robin hood? You know they and I don't know before though Kevin Costner one. When was the last Robin Hood? Like prior to that?

Pen Densham 42:19
Oh, probably Disney. The anime?

Alex Ferrari 42:21
Yeah, the kouachi. So that we're talking about like 30 years prior to that. And then Flynn was prior to prior to that. And

Pen Densham 42:28
I remember that there was a banks whose before that, and

Alex Ferrari 42:32
others, but I do remember that there was a TV movie that came around that was trying to hack it just jump on that Robin Hood bandwagon I remember very clearly in the jar to release it as a because I worked the video store. So I remember watching.

Pen Densham 42:44
Oh, yes. Right. So I remember watching that video story behind that too. Okay, well, if I get boring, cut me off and just say get to the end.

We've been very successful in Hollywood working with people like Stallone who'd asked us to fix things in his films as consultants, because our own hands on way with GM was very successful for getting problems resolved. We worked outside of the definition of just a script. So we had access to people, which is very cool. But we also looked at what we were also doing was in Canada, we choose and chose to pursue things that excited us. Having had the privilege of having a wife, I looked at what do I want to say and I'm looking at Stallone making movies about killing lots of people and sports and I can make in commander where human beings are just targets and I'm looking at us raising his kid putting all this energy and and going, what an enormous amount of love and effort it takes to raise a child and you are using them as target practices, what would I like to say. And I came up with this idea of putting a Muslim and a Christian side by side in a robin hood, which would show to people are different of different who's supposed to be enemies actually learning from each other. And also came up with this idea of what I called the makers of life versus the takers of life, which was if you had a hero hero, and it could be a heroine who's willing to die for the future of someone else. That's like a we did backdraft which is like a fireman is willing to die so he gives other people a future. That's a maker of life. That's an altruistic hero. Whereas a taker of life is someone who puts their foot on a hot dead corpse and thinks they've done something wonderful. So I went out and pitched a robin hood. That was about a lesson hidden inside an adventure because I grown up on Robin Hood. I grown up on the TV show just like you watched ours and came away with my heart full of jumping off rocks with a sword in my hand. And I went to three different studios and pitched the Robin Hood idea I had which was to take it and make it a an adventure but with this idea of putting a Muslim with him. And the three all said pretty much the same thing. No one wants to see guys with swords all he wants these guys with guns, you're wasting time. And I was about to give up. There was a number of there was a, there was a thought that I was also off course, by trying to put an Arab in Robin Hood that didn't look good to a couple of people I knew. And we had a partner, we have an assistant who was working with us called Mark Sturm. And marks sort of looked at my notes and said, You know what, I think it's a great idea. If you start out try and help you. And so the only reason Robin Hood exists this because that guy gave me enough encouragement to blow on the embers of something that I'd almost given up on. And I started writing. And every day I looked at what I was writing, because I wrote just passionately not not, not with any plan just to see what would come out to me. Every day, I looked at my pages and thought they were obvious. It's silly. And Maid Marian comes out. And she's very large. And she's and Robin is shocked and looks up at her on the balcony and says, Oh, my the years have been kind to you. And then suddenly, he's jumped by a person in leathers. And that turns out to be made. And that seems obvious to me. And like my assistant is no, no. And then he's giving the pages to john Watson who's reading Oh, my god, no, no, keep going pen. So I've got encouraged to keep taking risks. And we ended up that the film I got, I got the script out of me in three weeks. But it also then I gave it to john, to go through it and format it and add any any ideas, any adventures, and so it had his layer on it. And then as it got shot, different people added other elements. And we ended up with a rich, funny, warm script that was the seeds of what I created, and the energy of what I created. And to me, I was making a movie where you taught people a lesson about altruism, where you took the richest, most spoiled and not just Lord son, and he told his dad to go screw himself, he was going off to fight and father's begging him not to try and force a man to another man's religion. And he comes home, sees his father's dead, and takes his anger by making his peasants go out and fight the show. And then realize that all he's doing is destroying their lives. And then he has an epiphany, and he's willing to die for their sons for their children's future. And we put a birth scene in the movie. And the birth scene is metaphorically my son being born. And Robin Hood doesn't. It is both an adventure. But it's also a philosophical statement of life for me. And I couldn't give up on it. And so there were and john

took on the challenge of he was what I call up to with Aston Martin arrows most of the time, because he's a great onset producer, and I'm bar philosopher, producer. So I was working on changes and writing things. And, and whereas he was really taking the brand and getting 100 day shoot. But the movie itself grew as each channel is each element came to it. And Michael came and score was just extraordinary. I also got to run the mix. And I am very much about when you create a movie, you're weaving a dream. And the goal is never to let your audience wake up. It's like blowing up a balloon, you must never let the air out. And so in a mix, I worry about every facet of it. Can I pre lamp a sound coming in from the next scene? So there's no pause, but you're not conscious of it. If there's a pause in the in the dialogues, that's, that's empty, can I put birds flying from the trees so that your ears tuned without it knowing that you didn't actually hear some dialogue. So I I'm also excited in that process of keeping a trance, which is don't wait, don't like the audience wake up. And so when you mix a movie, which is the most beautiful part of the movie, because like a Frankenstein, you're putting new blood in it. And then when it comes to life. To me, every aspect of making a film is like costumes tell a story. Sound Effects tell a story. They have character and distribution, even the title. Your title sets up a trance state and induction. A few I studied hypnosis. So there's a thing you know, it's just inducing people and inducing people makes them want to go with you into the dream state. And what does that mean? I think Hollywood is a is a called the dream factory. Because truly, stories work on our Dream Center. Like we have receptors in us. And that was what Marshall McLuhan taught me when I was all those years ago, saying, Look at an audience watching a movie. And you'll see they're in a trance, and they're moving their faces with the characters on the screen. And years later, I found myself So that said, the reason that that's happening, which is fascinating to me is that we have a social structure in us, which is the ability to sense and feel empathy with others. And the way it works is that we are hardwired to our pain centers, we micro mimic the expressions of others as we watched them, and then we feel what they feel. And if you Botox yourself, you don't feel as much and you don't send as much, right, which is fascinating. And we have these things called mirror neurons, which are in a switch light up in the parts of our brain, when we watch somebody do something, or even when we read a book about somebody doing something, those same parts of our brain light up as what the characters doing in the book. So that's why I come back to this trot state. The purpose of a story, which is the thing that most people don't understand, is to teach us a lesson about ourselves. So that we can actually watch the struggles of the characters and make choices about our own lives and the things we struggle with. Based on making a decision. Having observed others struggle comes back to if you have a hero in a movie, Superman isn't vulnerable, he doesn't have a problem. There's nothing to learn from. So and the real purpose of films is to find what the characters floor is what the difficulty is, and illustrate it to the external story of getting the adventure out. But inside is the actual journey. And it's usually only like three steps. I'm a spoiled rich brat, I then have a tantrum, which causes more problems. And then I come to learn who I should be, if I was not spoiled, and take responsibility for myself. That's wrong, you

Alex Ferrari 51:46
know. And so the way you've explained it now, knowing the movie so well as well, as I do is that it just adds a whole other layer to it. You should have done the director's commentary, or a commentary producers commentary, writers commentary on the DVD track, back in the day, because it does open up

Pen Densham 52:05
a completely. You know, again, it's different different things get to a writing audience, I'll talk about these things. It's nutrition. An enormous number of stories don't have nutrition and emotion is that you, you've got a personal journey that you can relate to, that you can discover how to change yourself because of watching these people struggle. And I came up with a system inside our company because we developed hundreds of stories, where I changed camera with code words pulled a nugget nugget for us, is the seed inside the story that's going to grow in the brain of the person watching it. And what you know, an example would be a man is getting married, and his girlfriend is starting to feel the closer to the date, the more he's sort of like living in a world and she's feeling that she's being suffocated, because everything she's doing is there. And he's not letting her have a sense of her own freedom. And she called off the wedding. And she says to him, you know, I can't do this. And you know, you're not letting me be me. And I'm, and he said, You don't understand. My mother left the family on Christmas Eve when I was five years old, and I didn't know how to love her enough. So she was Stay with us. And she says I'm not your mother, you have to trust me, you have to give me my freedom. That's a nugget. And it's three lines of dialogue. But it's got such pain and damage in it. And the story is, can he let go of his old fears and trust this woman to be the one MP he wants her to be in? Can you be the person that you would have been if that damage had never happened? So once you look at the story, and you say Okay, can I can I define those things? in you? My rule is you write stories Anyway, you can't, then you look for these things and see if you can emphasize them. And usually this piece of information is discussed at the belly of the beast is not as, as Joseph Campbell says, when the characters crash and burn at the end of the second act, and all looks hopeless, they do a reassessment of who they are, and a character who has an influence on them will will suggest something or will change their perspective on themselves. And the last act is can they become who they really should be. And we learn we then learn about ourselves letting go of our own fail damages or and using strategies to have a better position in life.

Alex Ferrari 54:31
Yes to everything you just said yes. It's it's, it's it's amazing. I'm just sitting here just listening to you. And I'm just like, you know, like, I feel like I'm just sitting here like around a campfire right now talking to you as you explain these things the way you do you have a very hypnotic tone

Unknown Speaker 54:48
to you. Right?

Alex Ferrari 54:50
You have your voice is very

Pen Densham 54:51
hypnotic in a very good way can write for everybody because there's going to be people that do things absolutely different from anything I could imagine. Oh no, no question. And I say Einstein said, it's not that I'm smarter than other people, I just stay up think longer. And I have the privilege of doing so many stories and trying to make that process simpler and make it effective. And I'm a humanist. So I want my stories to reach out. And I believe storytellers are basically what shaman would have been around that campfire, which is to help the society pull together.

Alex Ferrari 55:25
And that's its purpose. Now, when you made when you made you had a run of the two films back to back, which was pretty successful. You had Robin Hood, and then you had backdraft, which is the Ron Howard movie. And both of them are amazing films again, during my video store day, so I, I made sure to suggest that to many, many people, sir. So. But what was it like cuz I've had other guests on the show, too, when they had that one or two like that. There's moments you've had multiple moments in your career, but that I think that was probably one of the first big

Pen Densham 55:56
exposure that put us in the math in a different way. We've done several features, but nothing has opened the doors as much. And and even though the doors open, they didn't mean you get carte blanche. No. I say scripts are like sperm in this town, there's millions of eggs in production, so that you can frustrate the heck out of yourself. You write a script, and it could be the most beautiful, the most coherent, the most emotionally potent, you can't get it made. And you're damning yourself, because you think you failed. No. When I look at my I vote in the app, it's every year, which is the Academy. And there's usually a list of 300 movies, only 300 movies qualified in America to be considered the best. And so we've got 1000s and 1000s of scripts out there. And it's not a it's not necessarily a statement of failure, when something doesn't get made.

Alex Ferrari 56:54
Now, what was it like I always ask my guests at some time, especially if there's been that moment, that moment that kind of really explodes them in town. What is it like being the belle of the ball, because I remember Robin Hood, when that came out, that was a monster hit. It was a very, very large hit for both Kevin.

Pen Densham 57:10
I mean, Kevin was on that was that was his peak time it Dances with Wolves. So we were getting an enormous amount of dreams, terrible reviews. My son was with us in New York, and he said, Why do these people hate you that has their reviews in the New York Times are horrible, but you know the thing, you know, Time Time heals all wounds and remembers critics. So you know, in a way, you can't judge what you've achieved except, and that comes back to this thing. Do what you do, do it to the best of your skill level, let let time be the judge of it. But if you don't, and I when I say right, create think you don't do it to the point where it's dangerous, which means you're going against the convention, as you're going in, you're taking it, you're not going to find your voice, you're not going to be the significant person. Everybody says, Well, I want to film like his because he's got a voice. And we those don't stick out with novelty and originality, but they're still going to follow the same footsteps of any good story. But they will be in a fresh way. So we get Robinhood we get some doors opened up. But we also get asked to do every bow and arrow film in the world. And then we find their films that the system is not it's you got to love it. And you can't get it let it get you down. But I spent time with Mark Stan actually helping me with my my my writing assistant on that project. I spent time with Arnold Schwarzenegger working on Gulliver's Travels for Disney spent like 18 months, the Disney at that time goes, you know, it's a really good script. I don't know why I'm not gonna make it

Alex Ferrari 58:59
and have and have Arnold attached. Yes. So Arnold in the 90s, which arguably, he was still one of the biggest movie stars in the world at the time.

Pen Densham 59:08
So he says, but you But you see, this is normal. And we've gone through dozens and dozens of steps. And you realize that the logistics of this are not why not their survival long enough with keep trying to present the things you care about. So that you're willing to take the risks of exposing yourself to try and get them to become reality. And if you don't care about what you've done, which goes back to don't just do something because you think it will sell. You're not going to keep going through the years and years. Now what we're talking about Harriet Tubman briefly.

Alex Ferrari 59:43
Yeah, so yeah, it's for everybody to know when we're recording this Harriet just came out the weekend prior. And it did bid at the gangbusters and people were like really overperformed so please tell us how you're involved with that.

Pen Densham 59:54
Much more than anybody anticipated, which is wonderful. Harriet Tubman I discovered As an Englishman, listening to a quiz show, which asked what what woman wearing American uniform went into battle soldier. And I got that sounds interesting. It's the only one. And I go and start researching the answer, which is Harriet Tubman and find this extraordinary, mythic, incredible altruistic heroine. And it appeals to me very much to make films which have got a reinforcement of human nature. We managed to get Disney, which was Hollywood pictures that time to write a script with Gregory Allen Howard, who was one of the producers and one of the writers on the Harrier, and we got three drops out, and we couldn't get it made. Run, we were approached by people who had picked up the baton, and proud to say, we did not stand in the way we said, Take the project, did not charge the money for it, and said, just let us stay involved in some way. Give us a credit, if that's comfortable for you. But God bless you go out and get it made, because her story is much more important than us having money in exchange for it. There are things that you you just think America needs that story. Mm hmm. Oh, then the producers on the movie, who took up the challenge? You know, they go through fire, and they got through fire. And they ended up with a beautiful film, a wonderful human statement, a moral purpose that I am so proud to be associated with. But all I did was plant the seed

Alex Ferrari 1:01:41
in you, when did you start that journey? 90? Correct. So I can only imagine trying to get here.

Pen Densham 1:01:50
A 94 when we sold, Greg Allen, how it getting written. So even there was four years of trying to get that.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:57
And during the 90s this was not gonna happen. Like there was just I don't think it would have been very difficult in that environment. I mean, in today's world, it's it's tough. But there's an opening for that there's a conversation about, about minorities and about other other other stories that need to be told from different perspectives and so on. Back then it would have been very difficult, like, I'm just trying to think of the Hollywood pictures logo coming up with that movie. I'm like, in the 90s

Pen Densham 1:02:25
I'm an optimist. So you never know. I mean, that's the thing. You gotta go, you gotta try that. And the beauty of it is it, it takes a team. I was I may have, you know, blown up the football at the beginning.

When I played the game,

it takes a team where we chose a very difficult business.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:49
No, and it is and it's and I always tell people, we've our paintbrush, and canvas is probably the one of the most expensive on the planet, you know, to play with. And other than architecture, I think I always say is like, as far as an art form is concerned, this is probably one of the most expensive art forms there is. And as filmmakers, and as creatives, we have to take some fiscal responsibility with the money that we're given, or that we spend on this on these on this process on this process where I just love when filmmakers we've never made a movie ever. And by the way, I put myself in this category because I said the exact same thing. When I first started, all I need is 3 million. All I need is 5 million, 5 million I can make It's nothing. It's 5 million. It's not that big a deal. The last movie was made for 200 million a Marvel spending 5 million on coffee. it you know, and that's all fine. I did write that. I've heard this. I'm sure you've heard this a million times. anyone listening out there? No. It doesn't work that way.

Pen Densham 1:03:42
Yeah, there's some outliers, of course that have that, you know, they make their their indie movie and then are given a Marvel movie or given a big studio movie or something like that. But they're outliers. It's not the way the business works. Is that fair to say? Well, you can create your own business if you're able to have enough guts or enough partners who are helping you. I do think that movie business as you've been asking is, is changing. But I can't tell you how it's changing. Where's the where would you put your energy right now to try and get movies made? I think that, you know, the apples and the Netflix is still not accepting independent films until you've succeeded, then they'll cherry pick you. So your goal is to try and get something out. That gets viral, that gets emotional responses that gets you to be noticed in legitimate awards, because I think there's a lot of awards comp groups that are out there that may not be actually giving you status whereas the Nicole's are in final draft or the Austin have very sincere, very real judgments on your work. And if you if you get and you got to fight for these things, and and it's hard, frightening, demoralizing, and therefore that's why I keep coming back to if you Have a personal philosophy and you're pursuing it, nothing you do is wasted. Every element that you write, even if that movie doesn't get made, adds to your ability, it's like muscle development, it adds to your ability to the next time you write. And I've seen myself right out of sheer passion, when I suddenly hit the click moment when it's right. And I was talking with another young writer yesterday and talking about exactly the same thing, we tend to write a form. That is our nature comes out of our subconscious, what you're really trying to do is to get it out of your subconscious. And I have tools for that. One of my tools is to look at the process, like a Lewis and Clark Expedition. Any frickin way to the coast is legitimate.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:46
Amen, brother, amen.

Pen Densham 1:05:48
You've never been there before. How can you critique the journey? know that once you get there, the brilliant thing is just get to the end. Because just get any way you can get to the end. And if necessary, I write bits. So I might have an ending and then get, I might have a middle and an end. I don't write in a linear form, I write whatever way it comes to me, and I'm grateful for once you get to the end, then you get to see what you've created. And you see what you've actually subconsciously been given to yourself. And sometimes it's like dictation out of God. You know, you just don't know why you're getting it. But if you question it, you screw yourself. So there's a net, there's a nag in your head, this game is always the time, no one's gonna like it, that neck has nothing to be objective about, what it's doing is it's just trying to prevent you from going into a dark cave. And it's helpful when it's doing that. But it's not helpful when you're writing something you've never written before. So you got to ignore the nag. And then you write down this stuff, and you get to the end, and then you take a giant celebratory sigh, because that's a monumental achievement to get to the end of anything creatively. And then you get the permission to look at it, and see why you really wrote. And now now, you have this opportunity to see what it says to you. And it didn't exist before. So now you're you can make a judgment call. And I call that putting the freeway through. And what you're doing is you cleave off all the things you don't need, you combine two characters, so they become one, you essentially, now know why you and how you want to go and why you're getting there. And then you put up freeway signs. So everybody else can follow you. But you don't do that as one thing you don't right, I gotta be perfect got to get it out of me. And I got to cut it right it so it can be a hit. No, you just get it out of you, and then tune it. And then return it once you've had people read it. So that you make sure that the people who are reading it, understand what your goals were and don't don't just have an ego snip and say, Oh, that's obvious, they should not know if you're going to do that. And you're just damning yourself, because you will find that most people don't know, they don't have the time to read, they read very badly. Or they give it to somebody who does coverages, who's paid 50 bucks to read it in a hurry. And so the more powerful you can make the statement and not allow it to be misunderstood, the more chance you have of selling it.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:15
Now you also you work obviously, as a producer, you've worked with many directors in your in your day. And you you're always looking for collaborators to put like that team together. Specifically, when you're hiring the director, what do you look for in that director? Because I think there's so much misinformation about what filmmakers want, you're smiling. Because Because you're like it because there's so many filmmakers have this illusion of what a director needs to be like I always tell people if you walk on a set and the director has a T shirt that says director or a hat that says director you need to run away. Generally speaking, I don't see Ron Howard, or I don't see Steven Spielberg was the director and everyone just knows who they are. So what do you look for? What are the characteristics you look for for a good collaborator and specifically the director?

Pen Densham 1:09:03
Well, it two different forms. One is in TV, I look for people who will bring the kind of style that I had envisioned for the show to the screen. And you know, I'm I did space Rangers, which was a great fun, I call the rock and roll in outer space compared with Star Trek, which was classical music. We only land we only got six episodes shot. But I chose people that could shoot it like Hill Street Blues with a sense of human. So I was looking for directors who could actually facilitate things I couldn't do myself as a as a show creator. But the other way we look for is people who've written something that's so poetic and beautiful, or so that we understand that we can support them getting it to the screen. And so we frequently work with writer directors. It is or we work with directors whose work we feel simpatico with a visionary, who tend to use the camera in a way that's poetic So that our goal is if we're not, if I'm not doing it myself, I want to do it with somebody whose work I really think is exciting. And my my mentorship as a producer on a set is to ask the questions of the director in the quiet spaces that you get what you want. Don't give up. Let me figure out how to help you. Because I know when I'm on a set, the amount of pressure, the number of people asking you questions, the the, the time issues, the frickin effect didn't work, and you've got somebody tapping and saying, we're going to golden time. I know if you don't shoot it, and it doesn't work, right. Don't accept it. We'll figure it out. Because I've been there. And I know if you accept it, you're the Florida film. And so I'm quietly trying to be an ally, for the vision of the director, not telling him what to do. But I'll sometimes come with a palette of options. Because I'm with pressure, it's really easy to have ideas. Very true, very true. See three different ways you can solve this and any of these help, but never telling him what to do.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:13
No, now you written this amazing book called riding the alligator. Can you go a little bit into details? And we talked about it a little bit earlier in the show. But can you just go into a little detail about what this book is and who should read it. Because you know, it's not just for screenplay writing, I mean, it's also about the business in many ways about how to deal and navigate the business, which is from a person who actually navigates the business and actually has navigated for many years. So tell me a little bit about the book, The origins of the book, and what you hope that it achieves.

Pen Densham 1:11:44
I was invited Well, it's an interesting thing. Again, I'm assistant to us, one of the development execs, who left our company and gone to work for other companies came to me and said, I gotta talk to you. And I go, Okay, what is it? He says, You got to write a book, it's I'm not writing a book, because I don't have anybody explain things the way you do. And I think because I work with partners the whole time. And I and I am a visionary, I don't deny my creativity. I've always had to explain my creativity in some way to try and get other people on board. So we could all go in the same direction. And so he said, write a book on creativity. And I'm never going to do that. And then my partner who's gone to USC, and is now a tenured professor there. So would you like to teach, and I'm going to teach but, and they said, well, it would be the entrepreneurial class, which is the pitching class. And I go, oh, cool, creative entrepreneurial ism, I wouldn't mind to find out what that is. Because maybe this is when I could write a book. But I was too scared to write a book. But it was I wrote one chapter. And I went in that first day, I gave the students my chapter. And I said, under professor, mark my paper, and it was unpatched. And I wrote the book based on what I felt I wanted to communicate, where my biggest vulnerabilities were, where my biggest failings were, were the things I needed to be reassured about, to create a sense of voice, not to dictate what you should achieve, try and find ways to reinforce people's skills, so they could take the risk of being themselves. And my book was determinately, responsive to what I was learning from the MFA students at USC, about what were their instincts and what were their feelings, and how could I give them strength? So my, I, I don't believe in teaching, I believe in inspiring. I didn't want to make a book that was a formula, because I, you know, we one day, we had a young guy get up, run out of the room. And I phoned him up, and I said, what, what happened is that I just panicked. And I decided I'd write a chapter on stress and the good side of stress, and try and put stress in a perspective, which is stress is actually a positive survival mechanism. When you look at it the right way. You know, we're naturally problem solving creatures, but it doesn't mean it doesn't cost us something to try and figure out how to solve the problems. So never seen a book with stress in it. I, when I first went in, I never taught I didn't want to freakin syllabus was I thought it was something had to take penicillin. So I'm looking at the syllabus in this, the previous guy, it was one book, and going, I've got 30 people already in one book, what a waste of time. So I then found 18 books, and I found them on Amazon and I said, Okay, we're going to divide these books up, and everybody's going to do one paragraph on this book, and the 10 most important things that they learned from it, as if this was information you're going to share with your friends. So the first week, the students come in, and they're pitching the books and the 10 things, that's Amanda and and then I put 10 of those in my book which were They could you could sample 10 books on this in this area in Hollywood instantly, and make decisions, whether that books you want to buy where these ideas just sort of fit you. And I also found people like Shane Black and lead a colleague ritas, who are successful Hollywood, I asked them to write a single small chapter on overcoming fear. And what was the worst thing that ever happened to and because I would bring in people, and I wouldn't ask them, How did you succeed? I'd say, what's the worst thing you have? Okay. And you find that then it normalizes the process, you know, I spent, one of the most wonderful things like like was, I got to be able to go and spend two days with David lean. He was at the American Film Institute, doing a retrospective of his films. And what we discovered was that when he went when the film, were happy to introduce it, and he come in afterwards to answer questions, and then he sat in the lobby. So, you know, the guys that were smart, went out in the lobby and spent two days asking him questions. And he complained about not being able to get Dino dilaurentis to greenlight his version of Mutiny on the Bounty, Robert bolt script. And he felt sabotage by that. He talked about his struggles to get things that he wanted done. And it wasn't as obvious and as simple as he makes it look when he succeeded. And it's not that I'm David lean, but what it did was it humanized the process. And it made it so it was understandable and achieve that look at what he is his body of work and see how he work, which, again, just gave me courage.

And so I wanted my book, to take the myths of being perfect. And I really don't like schematic books, except as a checklist at the end of writing, then they're helpful. But at the beginning, if you're trying to write someone else's formula, you're you're going to run into a lot of problems, trying to think like someone else, a lot of these people are wonderful, they developed exactly, they've gotten a lot of experience, but they've never initiated, an initiating is blowing on an ember sometimes, and making it flame up. It's like getting a two year old to ride a bicycle, when they're 15, you got to get all the way to all those stages of creativity. And you don't do that by yelling at it, you don't do it by beating it every time it folds over, it's like, you got to be able to see yourself as nurtured and taking risks and that making mistakes is normal. And it's acceptable. Because if you don't, then you won't be able to take on the challenge of getting to the end of a script. We allow ourselves in film to do multiple takes with an actor, and then we shoot another angle. So you know, we should allow ourselves that life, that having multiple takes, you know, rewriting a book is more important than writing it some way. Because you're able to distill down, what do you maybe took 10 pages to write, you can now distill it down to a more cogent level, you can't do that the first time you write it. And to criticize yourself for not writing coherently immediately is self flagellation is terribly unfair. So my my, my thing was to try and help allow people to jump into the unknown and other things, philosophy philosophy, so choosing an agent or a manager, we tend to think we should get the biggest one, because that's going to be a career bonus. In fact, the biggest one has to deal with the biggest other writers. And so you get very little that person's time, my feeling was searched for the person who is your, what we would call a Fairweather friend, someone who's going to talk to you when it's shitty, not somebody who's going to talk to you when it's easy to sell you that they they're philosophically looking to support the vision and the style that you've got, as a human being in your art. Because if you're working against them, and they say, Oh, I can't sell that console that can't sell that, you end up being demoralized. But if someone says, you know, if you just did that, I could sell it. That difference is enormous. It's it's vital to create a people so my books effort was to try and find and guide people to take steps in a career in a lifetime. So that your work became your life, so that you can integrate both of them and also deal with the fallow periods which along and also deal with the things that you don't necessarily sell because there's just too much out there. And also encouraged to take risks and to stick your neck out and try entrepreneurial ideas and when they don't work switch again. And I you know, I'm and it goes right down to the philosophy of how do you lay out a page, which you can't argue about when you're writing your first draft. But when you get down to it, every word you get off a page makes it easier to write easier to read. So I worry at the end of the process, right down to the whitespace. In the layout, if you see a script that sort of helps you read it, because it's embracing your eye, and it doesn't have big wedges, just an easier script to sell. So every step of my processes is all about trying to get the thing I deeply care about to an audience that can buy it. And if it doesn't go there, at least I've carried it on with a sense of personal purpose, and learn from the process.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:31
Amazing, sir. Amazing. Now, we've gone we've were we could talk for another three hours, I'm sure. But, but I am going to I'm going to ask you a few questions. I ask all of my guests. So first of all, what are the top three screenplays every screenwriter should read? We will I mean, it's not going to be on your gravestone suggests, you know, just

Pen Densham 1:20:56
it's not the sort of thing I think about so I mean, I could I could risk three right now. And then another three. Yeah, gosh, that's awfully difficult. Everybody's gonna say Lawrence of Arabia. Good. Rubble, wrote in a very distilled and powerful fashion, we actually got the privilege of meeting with him and tried to work with him on things and actually did work with his son. And so a bolt script is a great thing to read. I think you should read lethal weapon, which is again, and it has what I call fusion writing. And fusion writing is what I really, again, you have these rules, you're supposed to use the descriptions for certain stuff. No, you're supposed to use the descriptions to support your store. And therefore, when you read it, when Shane Black is like putting punch lines into the description, he sees a gun. It's a big gun. And it's really a hiring gun. You know, your potency is in the description areas as well as in the dialogue. And if you know, practice can carry thoughts that make you see into their mind. So I insist that people write for him. I heard other people say, Oh, no, no, I do. That's against the rules. There are no rules. The rule is sell your story. So if you read lethal weapon, what you're reading is this potency of imagery, this pulp fiction writing, but it's just so dynamic, that it causes you to want to keep reading and pulls you into the characters and into their lives and into their minds. So that's two, three. Okay. It's a Wonderful Life.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:34
Okay, very good.

Unknown Speaker 1:22:36

Unknown Speaker 1:22:36
that'll do. That'll do. All right.

Pen Densham 1:22:38
I yearned to try and make a film like it's a wonderful life, I worked for 12 years on a project of mine called father time, which was about father time, who gives human beings time every year. And he argues with the original architect that we're just a waste of time, and is forced to go down to earth for the last 24 hours before he has permission, not give us any more time, and bumps into a family and friends what it is to be human. And I want to see that movie. What

Alex Ferrari 1:23:03
why is that movie that made

Pen Densham 1:23:06
more films out there than there are people to make them, you know what scripts out. But it's a wonderful life, people can use it as a comedy. But in fact, it's a it's a semi tragedy is a guy, it's going to kill him. And everybody loves him, and he's going to leave them behind. And what it really is illustrative again, of this altruistic heroism, the humaneness of that film is just beautiful. So if you read it, you really get to grips with some of the the elements of it that are very humanistic, and quite troubling, and at the same time, very beautiful. And reinforcing of human nature. Now, what

Alex Ferrari 1:23:45
advice would you give a filmmaker, or screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Pen Densham 1:23:52
Well, it depends what your goals are. If you want to write, I would say, go and try and write anyway. I, in my book, I have a chapter on what to do if you're not actually in the business, which is go work somewhere that's creative, see creativity going on. Go work for a cable company that's doing local shows for the community, because they're going to likely let you do things because no one is really wants to take on the work and volunteer for it. Try writing things that are that you put out yourself on your cell phone, put them on the internet, put them to the train, try and get noticed. You know, again, don't overwhelm yourself. Another thing that lifetimes nine was selling commercials for life, and that was to not overwhelm the kids. And so sometimes people will do these epic things, which they can't, they struggle to achieve. But if you say I'm going to do a three minute utterly, incredibly potent short film, you'll get people to look at that. You can get that to a studio executive. He said All I want is you know 120 For your seconds or whatever it is. And if you've mastered something, and you can do it, I mean commercials do it every day that is original, different, potent, we've got a better chance of getting noticed. Then if you do something which is 10 minutes and floppy and doesn't quite hold together because you could. So my my attitude is due to tools that help you break in, find allies who are willing to spend time with you already in there. So social go to go take classes on screenwriting, that there are night school because you're going to meet other people that are doing and you're going to find a community. That's the Ken Robinson as the number one TED Talk, which is Weis, how schools kill creativity. What what he talks about is find your tribe and hang out with them. And that means engineers only feel comfortable talking to other engineers because their brains work that way. musicians are most comfortable with other musicians. And they suddenly start grooving off each other and they start giving each other katatak charismatic catalytic ideas. And so you should go try and find where you can hang with people that are doing something you want to achieve in a non dogmatic area, so that you can learn from them. And I say that my buddy who flew me out and said the CBC has got this TV show is the reason I have a career in Hollywood. A friend tipped me off. And interestingly enough, we're still friends and executive producer on his latest movie, which is a movie about the Beatles going to Rishikesh with Maharishi. And yesterday, we're chatting. And, you know, I've tried to help solve these problems. And because from the outside, it's so easy. You know, when you're in the middle of it, you got this cloud around your head. So

Alex Ferrari 1:26:43
is that movie being made is that movie being made, it's made, it's,

Pen Densham 1:26:46
it's finished,

Alex Ferrari 1:26:47
I can't wait to see it.

Pen Densham 1:26:48
I can't wait to see. And, you know, I actually went with him and my wife and another friend to Rishikesh a year ago and went to the ashram, which is now like a jungle ruin. And that the Indian government is slowly trying to turn it back into tourist spot, tourists neck. That's amazing. He went out when the Beatles first were there, and photographed them, because he was running away from a bad breakup. And just like spending the 60 times, Jesus.

Alex Ferrari 1:27:23
Alright, so what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Pen Densham 1:27:29
That's the one I have? stick my neck out more?

Alex Ferrari 1:27:34
Really take more chances is what you say.

Pen Densham 1:27:37
Yeah, I'm terrible at it.

Alex Ferrari 1:27:39
You've done okay, sir, you've done okay.

Pen Densham 1:27:42
I, but the interesting thing about creative people, is the thing that you most care about is what you have achieved. Especially if you're working on things that in passion, you have projects, two, or three, which are what I call life scripts. These are the things that forced me to write and tells you, and I am failing my life scripts, if I'm not doing enough to get them made. And I'm not finding the actors that can become the carrier wave to get them laid on. And I'm trying, but I'm not trying hard enough because they deserve more.

Alex Ferrari 1:28:16
Now, what was the biggest fear you had to overcome to make your first film or write your first screenplay?

Pen Densham 1:28:26
Well, self doubt, I think that that's the you know that this is a waste of time. I'm a freakin idiot, who am I, we came to Hollywood. And we sold a couple of projects. And we we determined even though I'd won all these awards for this drama, I sure that I didn't know how to write, and that Hollywood writers didn't know how to write. And so we hired writers. And then we looked at the work realize that no better than us, there were, in fact, some ways we were better interpret, better interpreting my ideas. And I kept doing that kept sort of trying give someone my idea, and have them write it because I was scared, I wouldn't succeed with it. I wasn't good enough. And then when you see the result, you go, Oh, God, why did you do that? And I've done that to two or three projects where you go, Oh, I should have stayed on and had the courage to write to self doubt is the biggest problem and putting yourself with the right people don't hang around with people who do a lot of drugs do Allah, you know, I sound pompous saying that, but I did drugs. When I was a young guy. I tried them all in fun. But I actually want to hang out with people that are constructive, who are self studying, who have a vision of the future that is optimistic, and are going to be problem solving, and they're going to be allies when it gets tough. And that those are the people that you can build a foundation on. And coming to this town to start a career. You have to find the People we have to work together. Which is why trying to find community places like going down to like school or something it, it puts you in a banding opportunity. And going through school or USC or something, I say, keep reaching out that network of people will be vital to you in the future, try and help them try and give them things so they want to trade with because somebody don't mind someone will know some access to something that can change your life.

Alex Ferrari 1:30:32
Now, where can people find your book and more about you?

Pen Densham 1:30:36
Well, I don't promote myself well enough. I did put up a kind of cheesy looking site called writing the alligator calm. And you can download a free chapter from my book, which I love. And also you can download this link to downloading a book I wrote, which is a mini book called a creative person success manager. I wrote that out of passion. When my son wrote me an email. He's also a writer, and we tend to mentor each other. And he wrote me an email one night saying, I hate this is awful. And I decided I had to write him a letter by by six o'clock the next day, of course, myself. And then the ideas kept coming. So I ended up with this, what I call a mini book, which was just a philosophy of structuring the process of creativity in a way that you could embrace it, and see yourself inside it and see that you're normal. And that the feelings you have are part of being a special creative person. And there's things in there, which I wanted to share, learn from other people. So that's for free. I got I persuaded Michael, we see books can give it away. And

Alex Ferrari 1:31:51
that was a big, that's a big, that's a big ask.

Pen Densham 1:31:55
You know, what they see in this? Michael AC books is the best film book company in the world. Because they was Michael says, I will ask an author to write a book, I don't necessarily believe we'll sell profitably, but because I think this voice needs to be in the film community. And so instead of writing books that are like pro forma, which some companies do, you got to have these stereotypical stuffs in a book, he's asking his writers to find their own passion expressed through the book. And they're cool. So you can get if you go to writing the alligator.com, and doing my pitch, which I very seldom do, you can get led to both the download of a chapter, which is designed to inspire you to write, designed to take away that fear that you must do it in a certain process, but to actually embrace yourself as being the instrument and that you're entitled to allow that instrument to play itself as you discover it. And that, that again, is if I could tell if somebody ever gets up at an Oscar and says, You know, I read that chapter and it helped me I will be so proud.

Alex Ferrari 1:33:07
Pen It has been an absolute pleasure talking to you today it is you you've dropped all sorts of knowledge bombs on the tribe today and I truly truly appreciate you taking the time to to share your experience your and your knowledge and your wisdom with us. So thank you again for taking the time out. I truly appreciate it.

Pen Densham 1:33:26
Thank you so much. You're a great interview, and I enjoyed it. It was easy to do.



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IFH 631: From Horror Indies to The Revenant with Mark L. Smith

I’ve spoken to many people in the film business over the years but today’s guest is one of the hardest working craftsman I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down with. Today on the show we have screenwriter, producer and director, Mark L. Smith. If you look at his IMDB you’ll see a list of 15 projects at various stages of development. He’s come a long way from entering the Hollywood scene some 15 years ago with his fear-striking horror screenwriting and directorial debut, Séance in 2006.

Read Mark L. Smith’s Screenplays

Mark stumbled onto writing as a hobby during off-seasons at his family’s ranch where he worked after college. Self-taught, some workshops and an inventory of specs later, his path crossed Mel Gibson’s – who bought Smith’s first-ever script written in 2001.

From then onwards, he’s been credited for successful writing and producing for hits like The Revenant (2015) and Overlord (2018) and The Midnight Sky which was just released in 2020, starring the incomparable, George Clooney.

In Overload, a small group of American soldiers finds horror behind enemy lines on the eve of D-Day.

While producing his directorial debut horror, film Séance, with friend of the show and veteran producer Suzanne Lyons, Smith was also a writer on Vacancy in 2006. You will hear more in the interview of his experience navigating the world of filmmaking on both sets, as a rookie, and the village of support he received.

Vacancy follows the unfortunate adventure of a married couple who becomes stranded at an isolated motel and finds hidden video cameras in their room. They soon realize that unless they escape, they’ll be the next victims of a snuff film.

After Vacancy, many horror projects started to open up for Smith. He worked those for a while until it felt old and he had the urge to do something different. That’s when he co-wrote the revisionist western script for The Revenant with legendary director, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu.  The film was based in part on Michael Punke’s 2002 novel by the same title. You can watch the remarkable Making of documentary of The Revenant here.

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, and Domhnall Gleeson, the story sets in the 1820s, where a frontiersman, Hugh Glass, sets out on a path of vengeance against those who left him for dead after a bear mauling.

The twist and turns that caused delayed production of the film and its eventual success will pique your interest. The Revenant became an instant commercial and artistic success. It grossed $533 million worldwide, earned 11 Oscar nominations, 3 Golden Globe awards, and 5 BAFTA awards

Mark recently wrote The Midnight Sky that released last year, starring George Clooney. It is a screen adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton’s novel, ‘Goodmorning, Midnight’ which is a post-apocalyptic tale that follows a lonely scientist in the Arctic, as he races to stop Sully and her fellow astronauts from returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe.

I had an absolute ball speaking to Mark. He’s one of the hardest working screenwriters in Hollywood. We discuss everything from The Revenant, genius-level tips on how to adapt a book to the screen to what it was like work with Quentin Tarantino on the Star Trek script that has yet to be made. If you pray, please pray to the Hollywood Gods that Mark and Quentin’s Star Trek gangster film sees the light of day.

Enjoy this conversation with Mark L. Smith.

Alex Ferrari 0:03
I'd like to welcome to the show Mark L. Smith, man. How you doing, Mark?

Mark L. Smith 0:07
Great. Thanks for having me. Alex,

Alex Ferrari 0:09
thank you so much for being on the show. Man. I am a fan of yours for a while. And, you know, we I was telling you before we started, we have a friend in common one, a friend of the show of the indie film, hustle podcast, Suzanne Lyons and anybody who's been at the IFH Academy knows Suzanne very well, because she's one of our best selling co instructors selling courses and webinars. And you guys got a little history as well if I'm not mistaken.

Mark L. Smith 0:35
Yeah, man, we go way back before God, I think before I ever had anything made, I sold a few things. But then something got to Suzanne and, and she was just so lovely. I wouldn't let her go, you know, I just hung on. And so we just, she's just the greatest. So it's, um, so we we kept finding things, trying to put little, little indie projects together and it's okay, and as hard as it is to put like a big studio movie together to get all those. It's those little indies or even tougher, you know, it's just like trying to find all the pieces, you know, because it's got to be just right.

Alex Ferrari 1:13
Yeah, absolutely. So we'll get we'll get we'll get a little deeper in the weeds on on that project in a minute. But before we get started, man, how did you get into the business?

Mark L. Smith 1:22
I stumbled into it. I actually had a right out of college. My family had a dude ranch, believe it or not in Colorado. And it was like 2000 acres surrounded by a quarter million in National Forest. And we were I mean so remote our driveway. Our entrance was a two and a half mile old stagecoach trail, literally North stagecoach trail through canyons and over creeks. And so we we would have guests come in from May until like the first of October. And it was you know, hot air balloon rides and whitewater rafting, horseback riding camps, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:56
all they like sit like cities like city slickers.

Mark L. Smith 1:58
Yeah, the same thing, just kind of a little more of a resort vibe with the tennis courts. But it was that same sort of thing where you got that rustic, they stayed in cabins, you know, and it was kind of cool. But we were only open, like five or six months a year. And so I had to figure out a way to kill those Colorado winters. And so it was, um, they were they were very long, very cold, lots of snow. And so, after about two or three years, I start actually started writing stories for my kids, little short stories. And, um, and then I realized, I've always I just loved films, I just love movies. And so it was like, well, these stories are kind of fun. I wonder if I can combine them. So I did. And I just wrote a couple things. And now this is back, man, this is you weren't emailing scripts around and everything this is this is mid 90s, you know, early 90s. And it was um, so I started playing around just during every offseason, I would try to write one or something. And then I actually went out to the asi did a workshop there. And kind of grasped the one thing that the great thing from the workshop that I remember that I took with me was the first class he said in front of all of us, Nico's, you guys all are here because you want to write a screenplay. I'm going to tell you right now, none of you are going to write a screenplay. You all think you're going to write a screenplay, you're all going to try to write a screenplay, but you're not going to finish none of you're ever going to finish. So that to me was like, I'm incredibly competitive. And everything I do is my family and friends will tell you a little too much at times. So I took that as a challenge, you know, so it was I was going to go and so I started those off seasons starting to write starting to learn to write and then I wrote a couple things that I optioned one option to a producer at Disney, and then they they got like, I would enter in the nickels. nickels. Oh, of course, of course, they still do. And so I entered and I would get a one like, each year, I would get into the nickels finals kind of thing. And so and it finally got around to enough that I I wrote a spec and sold it to, to paramount for Mel Gibson, it was the first thing that I ever did, and back in 2001 that ever sold. And so um, so from that point, it just, it was weird, because everything kind of changed. And it was, um, I was super lucky to get it to a guy who knew a guy was just like this really weird way. But it finally got to people, you know that that they were able to buy it. And so after that it kind of people started coming to me more. And so it was from that point on, I was writing steadily and all the way until I guess the first thing I got made was Vacancy. I think it was like oh six

Alex Ferrari 4:39
years or so.

Mark L. Smith 4:41
And then uh, but all during that that period of time it was just kind of nice, nice steady work and couldn't get anything quite made. I was doing a lot of dramas that people like but they were harder to get made. And so I actually the reason I wrote things like they can see your stance on that was because horror was kind of big at that time and it was like okay, I'm Ready? I've had enough fun, just selling things, you know, it's like, let's get something in, let me see it and so on. So it worked out.

Alex Ferrari 5:07
Yeah, that's the thing that i a lot of screenwriters coming up don't understand that just because a screenwriter might have one or two credits on their IMDb have produced things that has, they could be working steadily for a decade. Oh, yeah, making well, making a really good living as a writer and and in script doctoring and, and doing all sorts of things, but only get one or two things produced. And yeah, I know. So.

Mark L. Smith 5:34
It's so even the super successful like, say, a Scott frank, I love Scott Frank is just just, he's my guide as far as writers, but it was, um, you can look and you think, Oh, it's I would have thought he was busier, you know, you look through it. But what you don't know is he's doing he's doing just dozens of jobs in between each of those, you know, he's non stop, he never stops writing. And so it's a it is it's, it's, it's a little deceiving. When you just look at credit system, you know, it's like, oh, they've only they only written that one thing or two things, you know, now what?

Alex Ferrari 6:04
What fear did you have to break through to write your first screenplay, because I know when you when you sit down to write the very first one, when you kind of really are kind of clumsy? You kind of you might have read Syd field, you know, you might have read saved a cat or something. And you might have had something like, what was that thing that you'd like? I'm going to do this. I'm not I'm done. Because there obviously there was fear, there has to be fear. Any writer who looks at a blank screen, it's free

Mark L. Smith 6:29
No, there absolutely. As I tell you, what saves me. It saved me it was William Goldman and Sinfield. And the the structure aspect is, to me is invaluable. And I tell everyone I ever talked to about it structures that thing. Because you're suddenly if you're looking, if you're really into the structure of a script or film, you're not looking at a blank screen that you got to fill 120 pages with, you're looking at a blank screen that goes well, I just got to kind of get 10 to 12 before I get my inciting incident. So if I give good characters and good, you know, some fun action do that, that's 12 pages, I can do that. And then well, now I've only got like 1618 more pages, I've got my first act, you know, so I break it down. And then it's like to my, to my midpoint. And then it's like, where I'm going to turn. And I don't outline when I write I've never outlined. And so I know kind of my beginning, middle and end. But the fun for me is discovering it as I go. And so I tried outlining a couple times. And it was like, actual writing got boring, if that makes any sense. Because Well, I know what's going to happen there. You know, I already know this, it's like, I need to be I need to kind of box myself into a corner and write my way out and twists and turns. So um, so yeah, the structure kind of helped me overcome that fear of kind of just staring at that thing. And I think part of it, obviously is too stupid to know how difficult it was gonna be. Well, I mean, so because I was, like I said, I just started, I just started writing. And back then it was, you know, everything was through the through regular mail. And so I would write a script, send it off to people for to get reads. And by the time I was hearing back, I just immediately dove into the next one. And so I was writing the next one, because it was like, I didn't even care about that anymore. It's like, Okay, what did I learn from writing that script that I can use on this one, I'm gonna write this one. And then I'll say, I just kept doing it, it just got to be in such a cycle of writing that it just became really easy. You know,

Alex Ferrari 8:19
the, the thing that so many screenwriters and filmmakers in general who decide to write as well, they don't understand the absolute insanity that it is to be a screenwriter, the, the diff, the level of, of craft that you need to write a solid screenplay is so much more difficult than reading a novel so much more difficult than writing a novel, or any honestly, other than the Haiku, I think is probably one of the most difficult forms of writing invented. Is that fair? It's,

Mark L. Smith 8:48
it's funny, it's a little bit, um, it's like, to me, I look at almost like a math problem, you know, because I do fall back on the structure of it, you know, it's like, Okay, I've got to do this much in this many, this amount of number, you know, this amount of pages. So everything goes there. So then I have to fit the words and the character and, and all of that into those little, those little sections. So the math part just helps me the structure helps me but it is tricky. And people don't, don't really realize even people that are working in it every day, there was a producer on a film I was hired, went flew over to London, doing a weekly thing, they needed a quick rewrite, they were shooting immediately, and the script was in trouble. So they asked me to do it. So I, I go, and there was I had some friends that were part of it. And so I write I'm writing like crazy. And I, I they need a complete rewrite, but they needed in 10 days. And so I wrote three straight days, gave them the first like 50 pages of the script. And the producer looked at it and she said, This is great. When do I get the rest? You know, it was like, I told her I said, I feel like I'm I'm like having to teach you like you're a small child. I have to teach where babies come from, you know, it's like you don't understand the process. This is what goes into it. You know? It's so it's not as easy as just writing the words down, you know, everything affects everything. And so that was, um, so it's just everyone, you know, it's until you've done it. I mean, it's like anything, you know, it's like, I remember my kids played, played football and stuff in high school sports in high school, and I would you know, I'd be in the stands and grumbling about the coaching and the stuff and I, and then I did some little league football and I'm coaching them and it's like, oh my god, this is so hard. You got to think about everything you got to know. So until you do it, you just never know.

Alex Ferrari 10:32
Oh yeah. Oh, yeah. It's like it's it's I think the film industry, and specifically screenwriting is the only business where someone goes, Hey, I watched the movie. I think I can write that. Like, you don't go You don't you don't pass by a mansion and go, yeah, I could build that. Like, you don't do that and any other

Mark L. Smith 10:46
bridge Game and Watch the Brom play and say, Yeah, I can get out there, you know? Sure. Was that hard? No, but it is, it is funny, because everybody can write everybody has a story. And everybody, you know, so it feels and to be honest, more people could do it. If they had the time, that was the huge benefit that I had, what were those five, six months a year off where everybody else is having to work, go to their day job, do all that stuff. I was at home in the middle of nowhere, you know, and so I could just focus on and without that, I don't think I would have been able to do it. You know, it just it is so consuming and stuff. So yeah,

Alex Ferrari 11:24
it was very, it's very shining, like, very cool.

Mark L. Smith 11:29
Yeah, but no, the writing it was so much. So I figured I would write instead of grab an axe, you know.

Alex Ferrari 11:36
fair deal. I think it worked out better for you that way.

Mark L. Smith 11:39
My wife and kids were thrilled.

Alex Ferrari 11:40
Exactly. Now, how many? This is another thing? How many screenplays Did you write before you sold your first one?

Mark L. Smith 11:51
I auctioned my first one, the first thing I ever wrote out. And

Alex Ferrari 11:55
that's lucky. It's very lucky.

Mark L. Smith 11:57
Yes, very lucky. And then it came through I entered in. It was like the Nichols and the Austin heart of film and those kinds of things that they had. And so, and it was just lucky that somebody stumbled on it. So I actually like the first two or three things I wrote. And then I got a little cute, tried to do some things differently and be smarter than I really am. And so I probably wrote two or three things that I didn't so it was probably like my 76767. Yeah, Devil's kiss was it was a Western, it was a Western thriller, that I am sold to Paramount, with no this

Alex Ferrari 12:30
and that. And and the reason I ask is because I always am a proponent. And in many people that I've talked to a lot of professional screenwriters like, say you need to just write. I mean, just write as many and have as many of those screenplays in your inventory. Like you should look yourself as a business. And your inventory and your product are scripts, the more of them you have. So when you walk into a room, you're lucky enough to get into a room. I don't like this one. What do you have? What else do you have? And you bust out two or three other

Mark L. Smith 12:54
100%? Because it's so key because good writing people will find good writing, but the stories are so subjective. You know, it's like, they may like your writing, but not like that story. So it's so valuable to have those other things kind of in your pocket that it's like, like you're saying, you know, well, I do have this, you know, you never know when one of those will click so

Alex Ferrari 13:14
yeah, absolutely. So now, when you did your first movie with Suzanne, I think that was according to IMDb. At least that's the first movie that got produced on I think it's around the same year, as Vacancy.

Mark L. Smith 13:25
Yeah, I was actually bouncing back and forth between the vacancy set, and that's that they were kind of shooting at the same time. So you were directing nothing to everything. But you were directing that one was like, so I had no clue what I was doing. And I'm sitting here it was so lovely to let me do that. I mean, of course, I would never tell them that. But it was like I was following Jeff Shaft who was who was our dp and, and, and Suzanne and Kate. And they were just kind of like, okay, yeah, you probably want to you know, you move the camera here, because I knew the story. And I knew the performances, I wanted to get into stuff. And the one thing that I realized going bouncing from the vacancy set to the SAM set was we're shooting 10 to 12 pages a day on seance we're shooting half a page, sometimes on vacancy, you know, it's like you have so much more time, right? So I had to like, I remember the actors we we just rehearse on sounds rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, because I knew I was only going to have time for like two or three takes so we had to really do it quickly. And so Um, so yeah, that was it was it was a really wild year and a half or so on those two.

Alex Ferrari 14:25
Now what was the biggest lesson you learned working on Seance because that was kind of the first like you were thrown into the deep end of the pool. And I didn't know that you were jumping back and forth between Vegas he was so you could actually see the difference in budget and in between say, hey can see cuz Vegas. He was like walk back

Mark L. Smith 14:42
into that stage on Saturday and go Oh, God, here we

Alex Ferrari 14:45
go. It's just like, what I had to bring my own lunch today. Suzanne when the hell we did that I used to run.

Mark L. Smith 14:51
There was a Carl's Jr. Just around the corner for work. And I would run during breaks to get myself a sandwich because it really was like the nr Our crew was mostly film students from, I think it was the LA film school. And so that was it. There was there was a time there was a point where we were trying to use a gurney. And I'm sorry, a dolly. And we couldn't. We didn't have anybody that could that could do the dolly. So we couldn't do the shot. You mean literally

Alex Ferrari 15:19
you had a dolly, but you had no doubt, we

Mark L. Smith 15:21
had a doubt you couldn't have anybody do it. So just the DP where he's trying to figure out a way and I'm there trying to do it, but we couldn't get anything, anybody to work. We just didn't have enough people and enough stuff. And there was one day where we walked in, I walked into the set, and the stage, and I go into one of the bedrooms, the college bedrooms, which had been gray, and it was kind of I wanted this kind of dark kind of a, you know, just a plain, plain background. And one wall was yellow, the other was bright blue. The other was like red. It was like a rainbow of color. I go What the hell what happened, you know? And this guy goes, I just thought this was so great. It would make everything pop. And it was like, but no, you know, we don't. And we're shooting now in like an hour. And so there's nothing that can be done. And so now every some of the the wardrobe, were the same colors. So there were shooting scribbles there with a blue shirt against the wall. It's like we're losing. It's like, Oh, god, it's like, okay, move over to the yellow wall. It was just like, it was a learning experience for all of us. I think it's like,

Alex Ferrari 16:19
it's like you were you see those shots with people with green shirts over a green screen. And just like

Mark L. Smith 16:24
it was it was so brutal, but it was, but it was, it was fun. If nothing else, I learned it. It was it was weird. I learned I never had time to be creative on directing. So I was talking to a director once years later, and it was like, it becomes such a machine, you just have no time. So everything has to go so fast. That whereas I can sit with a script and really kind of decide what I want to do and make choices and all of this. You're locked in. You know, when you're on set, you're locked in you're you know, that's that's it. And so you're kind of all your creative stuff comes prior, you know.

Alex Ferrari 17:02
So then you're you're doing vacancy at the same time, which was a hit. It was a hit when it came out, because that spawn to sequel and did it did fairly well. Did did opportunities really start opening up after vacancy?

Mark L. Smith 17:14
Yeah, they did. Then Then I've got every every horror project, Senator, you know, it was all of those. And then I got I saw I did a couple of those kinds of things. And then well, I did a couple of those things. And then I wanted to do something different. So that's when Revenant I actually wrote, I wrote The Revenant right after they can see came out. And really,

Alex Ferrari 17:39
yeah, also, that was a script. That was Hank did. I was an old script, he was hanging around and I wrote

Mark L. Smith 17:44
it, they wanted me to do a pitch on it. And the producers had the book gave me the book, they wanted me to come out and do a pitch. And I'm just the worst at pitching. I just can't do it. I can't tell. I mean, I couldn't pitch you The Revenant. Now,

Alex Ferrari 17:58
you know, now that's done. There's a bear, there's Leonardo DiCaprio, that

Mark L. Smith 18:02
would stumble and say, well, the bear kills the guy. And then they know he's, you know, it's like, so it's it is for me, it's easier to write. So I wrote the spec, and I wrote it on spec. And then it just turned out really, you know, I got lucky, it turned out pretty well. And so we started putting it together. And we were God, it went through so many iterations It was originally I wrote it for Samuel Jackson. That's who was going to be Hugh Glass. And I ran into I ran into Sam on another set, and on another movie that I was working on. And I said, Hey, do you remember that because he sent me this great email after we read the script. He was so excited to do it and stuff. And I said, I asked him, you remember how we we used to, we were supposed to revenue together. And of course, he dropped into some of his, you know, his efforts. And you know how that went. That went didn't happen. But we went out with it with a different director. It didn't, it didn't go they wouldn't give us kind of the budget that was necessary. And so I there were so many iterations we had, we had several different directors, we have Christian Bale was on at one point, and with another director and everything, and then Leo saw draft. And then we got all 100 and 100 came in and then it kind of all started started happening. And then um, so it was it was a really long process.

Alex Ferrari 19:18
Yeah, that's something that a lot of people listening who don't know about the business don't understand is that even if it's an indie or big budget, it it just takes for ever.

Mark L. Smith 19:29
And especially what I found was especially with like, because I've done it, I've done like three things written three things for Leo. And so the great thing is is Leo and whenever he's ready to make it, anybody will make it the tricky thing is that everybody wants Leo in their movie, so he gets sent everything and so you can write these things, but there's, there's only he's only gonna make one every year or two. So you have such a small chance that you're going to be one of those ones, you know, so it took a long time like we were getting ready to go in the financing. Wolf of Wall Street came. So they did that first. And then while that was happening 100 got Birdman financing. So that kicked revenue back a little bit further. And so it was just, you're just waiting for all these kinds of things to align. And it's tricky

Alex Ferrari 20:15
It's Yeah, you got these these kind of giant, you know, solar galaxies kind of flowing around. So you got Leo is one galaxy. Alejandro is another galaxy. The project is another galaxy, and we're just trying to get everything to align properly. Because if, you know, oh, 100 got up there. And that's what people don't understand. Like, the second you get financing on something like something like Birdman for God's sakes, that's not the most box office. I got, I have to, I have to go my friend, I have to

Mark L. Smith 20:45
know that it is a little bit like waiting for like this perfect kind of three Planet Eclipse, you know, for everything to just kind of fall off. And just, it's really tough. And so, um, so you just jump on a bill, you know, just be very grateful when it does happen.

Alex Ferrari 21:00
So Alejandro comes on. And then Alejandro starts working with you on the script, as well. He starts he starts working with you and developing the script. I mean, the concept of The Revenant, you know, with is it's, it's awesome. It's based on a true story. The visuals are amazing, feels amazing, the movies remarkable. But, you know, that's, that's a tough pitch. I'd imagine that that's not an easy that's not an easy studio project in today's world.

Mark L. Smith 21:25
No, and that's why I didn't want to I didn't see any way I could pitch it. It was because, you know, I was even when I was writing because it was like yeah, there's going to be like, I'm going to write 30 pages where nobody says a word you know, and it's going to be really quiet you know in our our star leading man is gonna just get mangled you know, so you probably he's gonna look rough for most, you know, all these different things you know, it's gonna be expensive and out in the cold and and we need to shoot it you know, outdoors are no stages and, and so I knew that was that was going to be really tough and it wouldn't have gotten made without like a Leo. It just wouldn't have known then. So no, and then so and then Allah Han and Alejandro as well. You know, you had to have that combination, but all 100 after Birdman. Right? You know, with the combination of Leo that was the key.

Alex Ferrari 22:07
Yeah. Cuz after Birdman, because they both came out year after year.

Mark L. Smith 22:11
Right? Yeah, he wanted us director for both

Alex Ferrari 22:14
years in a row. And Chico was

Mark L. Smith 22:16
kind of talented. Yeah, Chico. Oh, my God. Geez. We'll

Alex Ferrari 22:18
talk about Chico in a minute. So. So you you Yeah, so he did Birdman which exploded. And it's still arguably one of the best films I've seen in the last 20 years. It's still Yeah, I just absolutely love those genius. So it's a it's at a different level. And I got to ask you, man, because you've worked with some some of the most amazing people in the business. When you're working with someone like Leo or Alejandro? I mean, they, they are at genius levels. I mean, they their crafts is, and I'm not trying to blow smoke up anybody's but but I mean, they definitely playing with a different set of cards than the rest of us in a good way. Because they're just, you don't make Birdman and The Revenant. Right after each other in that, you know, no. Feels like there's something they're playing. Yeah. So, I mean, you've worked with everybody from, you know, low budget Indies, all the way to, you know, Oscar winning guys like Alejandro and Leo, what is that? What is it like being in the room? Not to say that you're not part of that group as a genius as well. So you have done some amazing work

Mark L. Smith 23:27
over the corner

Alex Ferrari 23:28
with the writers, but the writers generally are often

Mark L. Smith 23:34
a little stupid is that's expected. But it's no, the, the thing with 100. He's, and then you combine with chivo. And what they do, because we're working on the script, and we do something like we can pull that one off, you know, we can't really do this. And this because mark, you know, I can do this. Just let me watch. And so so it and it always worked every time that I bought, you know, there's just no way he's gonna be able to pull off that shot and make it visible in there. But he did it and antiva did it. And so and that and then Leo's performance, and especially coming off of I mean, you kind of look at you know, all 100 did Birdman and then Revenant and then Leo just did just did Wolf of Wall Street where he's just rat a tat tat with a dialogue and everything's over the top. He's doing good. And then he does The Revenant, which is all just kind of expression and so quiet and everything that I mean, when you can pull that off. I mean, again, like you said, they're just on a different level. And so it was so fun. I just, I just was on go up on set and just watch them up in Canada. It was like, this is like an all you know, but you

Alex Ferrari 24:36
were on set. So you were on set for a bunch of it. Yeah,

Mark L. Smith 24:38
it was just a as a tourist, sometimes I would go it need a little we didn't change and he had it so heavily rehearsed, that everybody knew every move. And so there was really no changing of the script. But he would say I need some background dialogue here. Can you give me something that's going to happen there so I go to the trailer and do that. But the rest of the time. I'm just standing there watching them work and it was it was just amazing. Like I said, I just I felt like I learned so much just by seeing those guys what they could do.

Alex Ferrari 25:07
And I mean, I saw that documentary that they did about the making of that Alejandro was on and I mean, it looked like hell, man. I mean that that's a hellish, hellish shoot like,

Mark L. Smith 25:19
I mean, there was there was a time I was thinking there was a scene where Leo's hang up the Rockies trying to fill a canteen after he's kind of drug itself to the river. And it is so cold up there. I mean, I've got gloves and hat and and he's laying there on the side of the river and he's filling this canteen is his elbow deep in the water. And, and

Alex Ferrari 25:37
it's not Hollywood, and it's not Hollywood water. It's real.

Mark L. Smith 25:40
This is this is Canadian, Rocky, right? He's there and they would shoot Alejandro would shoot different angles until he was just shivering so much that they'd have to stop and then put him in the suit with a with, like blow dryers heaters that would then heat him up inside the suit and he's doing doing eating soup, and then they'd go do it again. And then they do it to the shivers then pull them out and do it. I told him, I walked up to him one day, and I go and this is the only time in my life that I'm glad I'm not Leonardo Decaprio, you know, it's like, it was the most brutal thing. Again, stuff you don't really realize that actors go through, you know, and so it's not all just let's hang out in the trailer to we shoot this thing. And um, he was super, he never complained. There was never one time that he like moaned and bitched and groan or anything, he was just like, he's just the best it just, he's there to do his job and do you know, give the director exactly what they're looking for?

Alex Ferrari 26:31
I remember I remember someone saying the commentary for for God's sakes, somebody give Leonardo DiCaprio the Oscar before he kills himself? Like everything

Mark L. Smith 26:41
I mean, you know, Alejondro would ask you to do it. You know, it's like, you know, Leo just called God now, really, but he would do it.

Alex Ferrari 26:48
And, you know, he's an intense figure. I mean, he's he without question. He's an intense director, not in a bad way. But he has, he has a vision, he has a presence about him. You know, I've had him I've had I've had the pleasure of meeting Guillermo a couple times. And he has that kind of different energy, different energy completely, but has that presence and those those kind of directors, I mean, when you're going to make the revenue you you've kind of be a general like, you can't, you can't lollygag around you can't show any week. I mean, you're in jail during the year badly that elements and Yeah,

Mark L. Smith 27:23
everybody, you know, it is like your army is miserable. You know, they're looking, you know, you're you're trying, you're looking for deserters at that point, you know, because it is so brutal. And that and it's it's long and it's cold, and it's hard. And so um, he had it, he had a cool thing that he would do, he had this chime that would go off the same time, every afternoon. And when that time would hit everybody would just even if they're, you know, they would time it. So they weren't in the middle of a shot. But every but if it was pre shot for everything, everybody would stop. No, no one would say a word. Everybody kind of just look around, get get get a feel for nature, kind of, you know, remember what we're doing and stuff and then boom, go back into it. And everybody was ready. And it was every day. And it was really cool.

Alex Ferrari 28:04
That's an that's an interesting technique. I mean, it's just kind of like, because you can get caught up in the not only the minutiae, but just, you know, when you're in the battle, it's tough to just go, Dude, look where we are, look what we're doing. Take a second to breathe. That's it. Yeah. So and that's,

Mark L. Smith 28:20
I think he did it for everyone, because he knew he needed it as well. I think it was very helpful to him because he is so intense, you know, and it is, you know, there are directors that will go and it's just the job. It's it's more than the job for a hunter. Of course, this is life and death, you know, and so he's, it's, it's important. It's funny, because I did something with gamma as well, we wrote a script with him, and they couldn't be more different. You know, no, come on. You know, it's so funny. And they're good friends and everything, but they are completely different. And both so amazingly talented stuff in their own ways, but it's just yet very different.

Alex Ferrari 28:55
And how was it writing with Alejandro? Like, I mean, bringing that energy because you're pretty much a loan writer from your credits, like you generally don't partner with?

Mark L. Smith 29:03
No, I don't. And it was, I wasn't sure. But we got in it was it was kind of fun, because we would each write things that he wanted to tweak and change. I would write my 10 pages, he would write his 10 pages, and then we would trade you know, he'd send me his I'd send him mine. And then we would, you know, discuss which one was, you know, we'd have an argument about which was better, you know, and he always won. Which is, you know, that's what he should have, but it was, um, but it was, it was fun, because I got to kind of see storytelling through his eyes in a different way. And also, you know, not just kind of like the lens kind of thing, but also how the character stuff and everything that he would do now, it's funny because we made one big change that my draft of The Revenant was much more of a kidnapping. There was no Hawk there was no sun, in mind, oh, really, in your mind, the sun you actually opened with the, you see the hands of a little boy and a father and they're carving this star in To the wooden stock of a hunting rifle, and you hear the boy coughing and stuff, and you know he's sick, you're getting just a couple words of dialogue. And then there's a splinter in little boy's hand and it gets a couple drops of blood bleed into the star of the rifle. And you kind of go into the grain, you know of that rifle. And then when you pull back out, we're with Hugh as Leo now, and this age old, battered rifle and everything. So my story was when after when Fitzgerald leaves, leaves glass to die, he hadn't killed anyone, he took his rifle. And so we took the last piece of his son, he The last thing that glass had of his son. So it wasn't my story wasn't as much of a revenge to get to get Fitzgerald for that it was he just wanted his his son back. And so it was literally just to get his hands on the rifle. So it was a little different takes. So that was the one big change, I think, in the, in the two versions, and everything else, kind of more nuances, you know?

Alex Ferrari 30:54
Yeah. And that's, I mean, to be honest, either one seems to work

Mark L. Smith 31:00
fine about his version, you know, no, no, it is, it's just it's like, if you want to go really hit somebody hard with the reason for revenge, or if you want it to be something that is more, you know, a little more subtle, and I do tend, I tend to be subtle, even in, you know, in dialogue, it's like, I don't want to say anything on the nose, just like, let me take a few extra lines or a couple extra scenes to get stuff across. You know,

Alex Ferrari 31:23
now, I have to ask me, because when Chivo got involved, yes, when you start seeing this footage, come back. I mean, it's unlike, it's really unlike anything that had been shot the camera was pretty much I think only that if I'm not mistaken, was a fairly new sensor, new everything, I saw some behind the scenes shots of how they did it, you know, with these giant, you know, giant silks across the forest. I mean, like,

Mark L. Smith 31:49
yeah, it was all natural lighting. So we would have just that little window, you know, two or three hours on some days where there was light to shoot, you know, and so it was, so that's why I was so critical. They did the, all the rehearsing and everything, because they knew they didn't have any time to waste. And so um, no, and then to watch to stand there and watch them shoot, and then go watch the dailies, and they had a nice theater that we'd go to and watch the dailies and to see what was coming out of it what Shiva was, you know, what I was seeing compared to what Shiva was finding, he was like, Oh, my God,

Alex Ferrari 32:18
yeah, yeah, cuz, because we were on set. I know, he was insane. But like when you're seeing like, what, what they're shooting and you're just like, there's no light. I mean, it's an exposure, or is this gonna work? Because To the untrained eye, not knowing who chivo is, and not knowing what the heck's going on in the camera, in the sensor in the lens and all that stuff. It looks like it's amateur hour, there's no lights, there's nothing like there's no even

Mark L. Smith 32:42
flags. And it was so funny, because if you walk down there, it was along a river you walked way. I mean, you drove forever, then you'd walk there to like that. The first attack scene where the the Native Americans came in, and it was, like, you walk back in time, and everything looks so real. And there were so many layers for hundreds of yards, there would be extras, walking across getting water doing this. And if one of those people timed it wrong, which happened, all the horses would race through, we'd get some attack stuff. And it was like, Wait a second, that person that no one's ever going to notice, you know, was out of place, we start over again, you know, and so it was just my god, it was just amazing to watch.

Alex Ferrari 33:23
So then once The Revenant comes out, everyone just loses their mind. How was it? You know, Oscar night? You know, again, it gets what was it? How many nominations? Like 11 nominations or something

Mark L. Smith 33:35
like that? I don't even know a lot. Yeah. whirlwind.

Alex Ferrari 33:38
It was. So what is that like being in the center of a storm like that? Because you're just like, I'm assuming you're just holding on for the ride at this time. Yeah.

Mark L. Smith 33:44
Alejandro and I just had to do we went from New York would fly to New York to LA and back, I guess, just doing a bunch of Q and A's. And so it was just he and I and it was it was just a whirlwind. And it was so much fun. And it was, you know, we did a lot of it before, like, after it came out. But before the you know, before there was we did a bunch of stuff before it ever premiered. So we knew how much we liked it. But it was still such a different film. You know, it was kind of a, an action film. But it was an art arthouse film a little you know, so

this, you know,

Alex Ferrari 34:15
it's an art house studio. It's like an art house studio

Mark L. Smith 34:18
film. It really was. It's so it's like, you know, we weren't positive of the reaction, you know, so whenever we got the reaction, I remember the night it opened. And we're all texting and emails and, and new Regency is sending the fox or sending the box office stuff throughout Friday night of what the you know, this is it and it's gonna be this we were like, Oh my god, you know, it was so much more than we expected. So it was it was great from from both into the commercial and artistic kind of sides. It was nice. It was. Yeah, very, very lucky. It was funny because the the title, everybody wanted to change the title at the beginning because they It was like, No, nobody knows what The Revenant means. You know, it's like, let's get something that's simpler and everything but now The Revenant you know, I remember years ago seeing it be thrown around on Saturday Night Live, you know, somebody's giving someone the nickname of the revenue. It's like, it's kind of cool, you know? gonna hang around for a while. Oh, no, you

Alex Ferrari 35:10
know when you hear the word The Revenant you just think bear attack. If you just think Leo and eating, did he eat this? He ate the salmon Dendi.

Mark L. Smith 35:19
Yeah, he did that he actually ate up real liver. He ate a buffalo liver, or I think it was a cow liver. And that one thing and then threw up immediately after the camera stopped. It was just rough because he was vegan. I can't remember he did. It was really crossing a line for all hunter to get him to do it. But he got him to do it. Jesus

Alex Ferrari 35:39
Christ, Matt. Yeah. Now you've adopted a couple of books. As you as you as The Revenant. Do you have any tips on how to adapt a book to the screen? Because I know that's a lot of everyone's looking for IP, everyone's looking for existing intellectual property and kind of things to write scripts about, is there a way that you approach adaptive adaptation?

Mark L. Smith 36:00
Yeah, I find I do the things that there's whether it's theme or character, or world something about it, pulls me in, and I never really go. I don't follow the story, the structure of the novel always, it's like, it's like, I find the character and then I kind of go my own route with it. And so it's, it's a tricky thing. I mean, I love I always feel like it's cheating a little bit, you know, after writing so many originals. It's like, God, when you can adapt something, it's like everybody's doing all the heavy lifting for you, you know,

Alex Ferrari 36:35
it's a play, you're playing at that point.

Mark L. Smith 36:37
Oh, yeah. And it's, you're just finding the stuff that you love, and then using it and building off of it. And so, I don't know that I think I approached it a little differently than most. So I'm not sure I'm the best person to give advice, because I don't follow. I just don't i don't jump in where the novel starts, you know, and I don't ever do that, even with, even with The Revenant, we took on a micropump, the authors, a friend of mine, and it was we just took little tidbits, you know, and then and my first draft was was a little more loyal, close to it. The second one distance itself a little bit more, but it's just you, you kind of find the stuff that you love, you know, in a novel, and then, um, and the stuff that works, and then you you go with it.

Alex Ferrari 37:16
So basically, that's the thing, a lot of times screenwriters will look at a book and be like, Oh, well, it's not exactly like Harry Potter. Like, you know, you missed that part. Like you can't, it's you can't do an adaptation like that, because then it's gonna be a mini series at that at that point, or eight hours, or 10 hours worth of stuff. So your approach, and I think the best adaptations is they take the best of the of the, of the novel in that form, and turns it into a new plot a new a new format, because it is a brand new story, new format, everything

Mark L. Smith 37:44
it is, and there's so many things, I actually just ran into this on this. Another thing I was adapting. There's so many things in a novel that you can get away with little cheats, little things that visually, you can say something's happening on the page. But if it's on a screen, it's like, wait, no, that's not right. That doesn't work, you know, or a cheat in a plot that a plot hole that you go in? Well, I read three days ago, when I was reading, you know, the first 30 pages that that happened, this shouldn't have, you can't do any of that in a movie. So you have to you have to fix those. So there there are some novels that I have loved and wanted to adapt. But they had holes like that they had things like that, that I couldn't figure out a way to get around it cinematically, so I just didn't do them.

Alex Ferrari 38:26
Yeah. Now, you said you said something a little earlier in regards to on the nose dialogue? Do you have any advice on dialogue? And how to how, because you have some very realistic dialogue in your scripts? How do you how do you approach dialogue?

Mark L. Smith 38:39
I tried to my one thing is never answered the question. Somebody asked, you know, it's like, if you if someone asks, is the sky blue? You don't say yes, you know, you would say the sky is blue, but not not like it was yesterday, when the you know, when the storm was here or set, you know, what had just blown through or something that leads to something else, you're always every line of dialogue should kind of be telling you something about the person that is speaking it, you know, and the events and what's going on, you just want to you want to get that feeling. Because that's how people in real life, you know, they don't, you just everything isn't just a ba, ba ba back and forth. It's like things, things flow, you know, and you kind of get off tangent, and you get back and you find your ways. And, you know, it's um, it's essentially, I'll throw another name, name drop on you again. So I was doing the Star Trek with with Quentin Tarantino. And so he and I are working on that together. And when we're talking about he's writing this dialogue scene that I've written, and then he writes it. And it's like, Oh, my God. I thought I was like, didn't want to be straightforward with anything. So I'm kind of flowing over here. And then he does this thing, which is now five pages longer than my scene was. And he's going all out here and he's touching on stuff. That's way over here. And then he comes back over. And it was just beautiful. It was just so wonderful and so funny. And so it's like, he just, again, you're talking about someone that sees stuff. Oh, well, normal humans, you know. And so. And I say that, you know, reverence. It's, but it, he's just that guy. And so he's really good at not just being straightforward with that, you know? So yeah, clearly. And so that that's to me is that you just kind of, you want to take your time, don't rush, don't rush to feed information, don't just deliver information through exposition and everything, you, you just want to you want to have conversations and then let the stuff come out in conversations this did this thing we're just selling, it's a TV show with Benedict Cumberbatch. And I've got these two strangers that kind of meet in Europe. And they're each asking questions about each other, just having a conversation, but neither one ever gives a straight answer. So you, by the end of it, you kind of know where they're coming from, but you don't really know any details about either one, they're still missed your mysteries to each other. And that's, I think, is is important, you don't want to, you just don't want to know who everyone is, you know, in the first 510 minutes, because then it's like, Okay, I'm just gonna follow this guide, then it then it all comes down to and I build everything from character anyway. But if you if you do that, if you feed everybody, if you've given everybody, the audience what they need to know, in the first 10 minutes of a character, then it's like, you're now you're relying on explosions or actions, or whatever, you know, it's just, you're not really getting into the twists and turns of character. And that to me is like that. That's the fun.

Alex Ferrari 41:39
So that was I was gonna ask you, because I always ask screenwriters Do they? Do they start with plot or character. And I know they obviously need both. But some, some writers focus on the plot much more than the character but I always say is my personal experience in it. And I've talked to a lot of writers about this is like, when you think of a movie that you've loved. Rarely do you remember, it's like, Man, that plot was amazing. I mean, you could say that the sixth sense, like Sixth Sense was such a strong plot that right, that that's what you remember from it, but that was like that, yeah, but generally, like Indiana Jones, like I kind of, I kind of remember Raiders of Lost Ark, I vaguely remember Temple of Doom, because not one of my favorites. But then I vaguely remember, Last Crusade, like I get the general plot, but what I remember is Indian, his father and Last Crusade, like that's what, that's what you connect to?

Mark L. Smith 42:32
Or are short, rounded moments, right? It's moments and moments come from character, you know, unless you're in a Michael Bay film, you know where it's like. But it is it's so unique characters, everything. Like I said, I always start off with the beginning, middle end, just two lines. So I know kind of where I'm headed. And then when I my character, I start building the character, normally that middle will change, you know, what's gonna, what I thought was gonna happen at the middle no longer happens, because this character decided to do something else. And so the ending is, usually I'm going to get to the same ending at some point, you know, it, that doesn't vary as much, but it's all about, it's all about the character and where they're taking you, you know, and it's a reason why I'm not, I can't really pitch because I can't, I can't write, I don't know what I'm going to write, you know, I don't know who this character is going to be. I can't tell you like in a TV show, I can't tell you what he's going to be doing in Episode Five yet, you know, I've got to get him to the pilot. And, and there was one time I was first starting out the only time I ever pitched it was a job I really wanted. And I had a week to get ready. And so I sat down and I wrote the script. And I just plowed out the script, 111 pages or something, whatever it was. And then I wrote a pitch from the script that I'd written. And that's what I pitched. And so that's the only way I can do it, I have to actually write it.

Alex Ferrari 43:54
And fill on what you said something really interesting. And I've heard this said so many times, and I've read it in so many books, is that a lot of times writers like Stephen King and some, you know, prolific writers, they'll say this, this comment where like, all the character took me somewhere, or the character decided to do something. And I know a lot of writers listening, I get where that that statement comes from. Because as a writer, I see kind of words, certain things kind of start flowing. But I want to hear your opinion on like, what does that actually mean? Because for some for some people who are starting to write, let's say they start off with Indiana Jones like, well, where does Indiana Jones go? How is Indiana Jones talking to me? Like I think quitting says it he's like, I just let them I'm just addict. What is it a dictator, not dictator, um, court reporter Yeah, yeah, yeah. A court reporter between two I'm like, that sounds great. Quinten but for the rest of us, mortals. How does that work? Like I'm sure you know, Mr. Mr. Blonde, and Mr. Black are talking. That's fantastic. You know, but like, how like, I just want to know from your point of view, and being inside of that space in your own writing, how does that work?

Mark L. Smith 45:03
It is it's so weird. It's, um, it's like he said, it's these guys are talking, and I'm hearing them and I'm saying it, like my wife will say, I heard you, I heard these lines, you know, the dialogue, she's walking past. And it's like, because I don't even realize I'm saying them out loud, you know, and it's, I'm just doing it and it's you, they just, they do they speak to you and they change. It's like I just this one thing, I just sold it. In the in the first 10 minutes, this guy, this man and woman they meet, and you think they're gonna be this great, this this love stories can be wonderful. And then boom, there's just this like tragic death. It's kind of in a thriller action thing. And by it's a TV show, so near the end of the pilot, she dies. And that's the way it was all planned, that's whales all written. I liked her character so much, and they were so good together, that it was like, okay, we're not going to kill her now, you know, we're gonna change this, because she, she just did things that became so important. And she became such a part of the story that we never intended, I never intended that now, she is kind of the second lead in the show. So she's gonna, you know, it's all gonna work out. So that's, I guess, again, the thing that I say, I don't like to outline don't, I don't want to get too locked in, I would always recommend that to be flexible. You know, just because this is the way you thought you were gonna do it when you started. Don't Don't lock yourself into that, because there's so many moves that can be made. And, and if you find, if, as you're writing, and you find something that wow, this feels like it's really working, and I really like it, that means it's really work. And it's probably good, you know, so keep going, keep that person. If that dynamic, you need those two people to really make it work, then don't get rid of the one person. And so um, so there's, there's all that stuff in and characters again, they just, they evolve, and they write I mean, the way I write is I write as many pages as I can in a day. And then when before I start the next day, I go back and I read all the pages that I wrote the day before, and then I kind of change and I tweak and I do all that stuff in those, those first pages. And I keep going that way. So I'm always rewriting. And like, if I just stuck on page 40, I'll go back to page one, and read all the way through and start making changes. And I just keep doing it.

Alex Ferrari 47:15
So that's kind of so so in your writing process on a daily basis, you let's say you write 20 pages, the next day, you'll you'll come and read those 20 pages, and it's almost kind of like a runway to get you going to the next gen like Dodge, as opposed to just starting cold. Pick it up. Exactly.

Mark L. Smith 47:31
I'm already now Okay, I'm with them. I'm with the journey. Now. It's like I'm going I've got momentum. And so it's like, I just keep going and, and it's a quick read, you know, because you know what's going to happen and stuff, you're just kind of seeing if everything is flowing, and if you bump on anything, and then if not you just like you said to run what you just take off.

Alex Ferrari 47:46
And when I'm writing, you know, when I was writing my my nonfiction and fiction books, I do the exact same thing. Sometimes I'll get caught. And I'm like, Where do I? Where do I go from it? Let me just reread this chapter. And you just start back and it just all of a sudden, oh, there it is. And it just, it's kind of like you're picking up a signal or radio signal almost like your channel.

Mark L. Smith 48:05
Yeah, a little beacon back there, you know that you get Okay, and then I got that now I can go but it is true, there are those little things that that you've put in this first sections that you knew were going to take you to the next ones, you just sometimes have to remind yourself, you know, and just see them again.

Alex Ferrari 48:18
Now another thing and I would love to hear your point because you've you've sold a lot of scripts, you've been working in the business for a long time. When and I'm sure you probably did this originally because if not, you wouldn't have sold your first scripts or options your first scripts with the the way that the script is formatted. I've always heard that you people want to see a sea of white, they want to see as much white as possible not as not a lot of description not a lot of black. Unless and obviously dialogue to a minimum unless you turn into you know, which then you do whatever you want. That's a whole other that's another thing. And then also before I'm gonna just go sign off for a second people are always use quit and Shane Black Sorkin you know, Kaufmann these kind of giants in the screenwriting space and they're like, well, we'll quit and does this and and I was reading a quitting script the other day and there was some grammar grammatical errors. And I always tell them, dude, he could he could misspell every word. And it's still gonna get sold. He's at that place.

Mark L. Smith 49:18
That's that's so that's so exactly right. I mean, you just you don't ever pattern the way you're going to do things the way off you know Tarantino or stalking, you know, it's just you're not gonna be able to and right it's you you do want my thing is always I tried to be as sparse with words. I get very descriptive in my in my action. The because the short

Alex Ferrari 49:43
though but short

Mark L. Smith 49:45
Yeah, it's short, but it's I want people to know I it's like you get one shot at reads and read in a screenplay can be kind of a cold read. You know, it's like it's not. They aren't the warmest emotional thing. So I do add flavor I do. Mine's a little different. There. was an executive at Paramount once that told me that, you know, she got a script without a title page. And she started reading and she knew it was mine, because it was the way it was written and a lot of haze a lot of ellipses and I just, I go, and I continue action and then a lot of dialogue, and I'm, I'm doing action down here and, and I space it out, but I want people to, I want people to really invest, you know, because I've got him for a read. And if I have him for 10 pages, if I don't have after 10 pages, if I don't have him for those 10 I don't have them, you know, and so it's like, you've got to be you want to you want to pull them into the story. And sometimes you just, you know, the description for me helps it more than the dialogue, you know, you can, that was what I was gonna say on some of the ones that I, I kind of got off my path I got early on, I got real, I thought, well, I've kind of figured out the structure and all this, I'm going to get super cute on dialogue. And every single person is going to have all these really snappy lines, and it's going to sound great, and people are gonna love me and think I'm so clever. And what it was, was, every character sounded exactly the same. And they were all annoying, you know, it was just like, oh, enough, enough of the cue banter, you know, and so you just, you don't want to do that you you just want to, again, keep people keep people authentic, you know, keep keep, you know, keep them real.

Alex Ferrari 51:15
Now you you've written a handful of horror scripts and thriller esque scripts in your in your day. In your opinion, what makes a good terrifying film? Or script? Is there an element or a couple elements that you feel? Yeah,

Mark L. Smith 51:31
I mean, you need that kind of cool hook on a horror script, you know, that it's something, you know, like a vacancy where it's like, they know, they're going into the hotel and their cameras, you know, and now, you know, it's gonna be a snuff film. It's weird.

Alex Ferrari 51:44
It's a terrifying concept. Because we've all i think that's another thing, if you feel like you've been there, or are going to be there, like, Look, if there's a giant shark coming after you like, chances are, I'm not going to be that's not gonna happen to me, right. But if but going into a motel on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere,

Mark L. Smith 52:00
a lot of people have done that. Airbnb now or whatever, you know, you don't really know where they are. So that to me was that you get a hook, and it's a hook that people can relate to. And then it goes, everything goes back for me to the characters, you have to then build characters that you care enough about that the audience will care enough about that it matters, whether they get through it or not, you know, that you're rooting for them that because if they're people that you don't care, you might get some jumpscares out of or whatever, but you're not going to be really an audience won't be tense, they won't be frightened. Because they don't really care what happens, you know, the fate of the characters and so that it's it's you just have to you have to write you know, characters that people want, you know, want to love want to protect.

Alex Ferrari 52:41
Yeah, cuz if you think of Well, I mean, the exorcist. I mean, Jesus. I mean, like, that's one of the I mean, you want you want you want to save that little girl.

Mark L. Smith 52:50
Yeah, that's it. I

mean, so that's it so often, that's really what it comes down to. And I mean, any great you know, any great story is really about you just want the people to be okay at the end of it. I mean, if if it's like a thriller, man on fire denville you know, and so we've got a fan, which is just, I just love that film. But these guys these two characters that you care so much about, you know, his journey, and then this little girl in that relationship, and then all the other stuff that happens you're just so tense because you're not tense because the guns are firing, you know, you're not tense, because the cars are flying around. You're tense because the people you care about are in the car or getting shot, you know, and so, it's always you just always have to remember characters is the key.

Alex Ferrari 53:32
Yeah, I mean, you look at you look at something and everyone listening on the show knows that's one of my favorite scripts of all time, Shawshank. I mean, it's all about Tyler Hunter, because it's just, it's, it's about you know, a guy who's been thrown in jail and it's in that what is in the 40s 30s 40s something like that. Yeah, 4050s or something like that takes place. And it's you know, it's a horrible name. Let's I mean, if you think The Revenant was a rough sell, I mean, Shawshank Redemption is even more. But it's all about you. You follow? You know, Andy dufrane you following red? You? It's all about character. The plot is fantastic. Don't get me wrong. Yeah.

Mark L. Smith 54:11
No, it's I feel like it's a near perfect film. I just hate that movie. And it's everything about it. The world the character, you know, and even the stuff you know, that that was, I know was written into that because i've you know, I've read the script and the stuff that you think is just a director's choice, but it was on the page, you know, the, the vibe of what this place feels like and what these guys were, you know, no, it's it's wonderful.

Alex Ferrari 54:36
It's Frank. It's a fab. Frank is Frank. Okay. He does okay. Yeah,

Mark L. Smith 54:40
yeah. I think he's gonna make

Alex Ferrari 54:42
i think i think he's, I think he's gonna make it is gonna be fine. Yeah. That your latest film that just got released a little bit ago, the midnight sky. How did you get involved with that in George Clooney?

Mark L. Smith 54:52
It was I got my manager found the book. It was just this kind of little thing. So I'll book review on it and he sent it To me, and, and I didn't read it for a long time, I was really busy. And I said, I don't think so and everything. And so I slipped it to my daughter, and who she and I actually wrote a script together this shooting summer, but but so she said, she said, You need to read this because you're gonna want to do it. And so and she was right. So I read it and loved the characters loved the setup. And then knew I was gonna change certain things, again, kind of like we're talking about it, it was I, I grabbed hold of, of kind of a core there and then want to do my own thing with it. And so I wrote the script, we sold it to Netflix, just the pitch. I didn't pitch Luckily, but my producers are really good talker. So he loves Netflix. So I wrote it, and then it came out. Okay, and we sent it. We were looking for directors, but we were also thinking about the character of Augustine and who we could get we kept thinking about cloning, we thought well, who's a director that could, you know, that could get George and we didn't think George

Alex Ferrari 56:05
Lucas was the director who could get George George George could get George.

Mark L. Smith 56:10
But, um, so we did, yes. So we sent it, it got to him more for the acting part of it. And then he read it and said, No, but you know, I'd really like to direct it. So there were a few different directors that we're trying to get at that point. And we just loved the, the Clooney package. So we, we we did that. And it came together like incredibly fast. And probably God, three months after I wrote it, it was in pre production, it was like super fast.

Alex Ferrari 56:35
I mean, I remember when when George came out with his first when his first directorial film, the one about the Gong Show guy confessions of vessels of dangerous, dangerous, but I was so blown away by his, by his take his his choices, as a director, he doesn't get as much credit for the directing, because his persona, and his acting is so locked, that shadow is so large that the directing almost gets swallowed up. But man is accomplished director, man really so good.

Mark L. Smith 57:06
There's like an ease to it, which I think is, is sometimes people don't appreciate what the effort that goes into it also is acting as well. No, just is amazing. He makes it look so easy. That it's it is um, you know, it's not always appreciated. But, um,

Alex Ferrari 57:19
and how is it? How is it collaborating with him?

Mark L. Smith 57:22
It was great. It was really great. I mean, it was it was nice, because he loved the script. And he didn't, he didn't want to do a lot to it, you know, like some directors and then he made some tweaks. The biggest changes, I think, we ended up going because Felicity Jones turned out to be pregnant, she, she wasn't pregnant when she was cast. And so the character, her character, Sally was this kind of loner who never wanted a relationship. And everything that we'd built was this idea that she was she was traveling to space and stuff. So she would never have to settle at home and actually have a relationship with another human being. So now suddenly, we had our our character was that and now she's pregnant. And it's like, Wait,

Alex Ferrari 58:00
does that happened? immaculate? conception.

Unknown Speaker 58:05
It's different movie.

Alex Ferrari 58:07
That's a whole nother movie. immaculate conception and space. Somebody pitched that pitch that right now. That's ours. Yeah.

Mark L. Smith 58:17
But it um, so. And then. So George was in London when it happened. And, and he goes, Okay, we've got to make some changes. And I was over here in the States. And so he and Grant Heslov who they've written so much stuff together, I mean, nominee for Oscars and stuff, so they know exactly what they're doing. So they ended up working in the pregnancy angle, I didn't, I didn't do that one. And so the stuff that happened on the ship changed a lot because it became so much more about her pregnancy, because that was such a part of the story, that other stuff that was kind of built in for conflict, and everything kind of lost that. But um, but it was a trade off in some ways, because it was, it probably worked to some advantage, because there was maybe a little more of an emotional thing, because now it's like, you know, there's a child that you're kind of protecting for the future. Also, it's not just a bunch of adults on

Alex Ferrari 59:02
there. It's, it's fantastic. That's it. I mean, you have had a heck of a ride so far. Mark, I have to say,

Mark L. Smith 59:09
I know. And it's fun because it's enabled. I just get to work with this the best you know, it's just really talented people. And it's like all these people that are kind of, you know, walkthrough just watching their films and stuff. And now to be able to actually kind of interact with them and stuff. It's and work with them is really cool. I'm incredibly lucky.

Alex Ferrari 59:28
Yeah, it's and that's what I was gonna I was thought we were going to talk about earlier is there isn't a matter of luck for this. But the thing is, there's no question because there's a there's 1000 other screenwriters who are really good writers. But the differences I feel with is luck, helps once you've prepared for it. And once you you need to help it along. And then certain things kind of like the character in a story. It starts to Miranda but you've got to give it that that push that fuel. Yeah, that's what's writing constantly and getting all Those scripts out and, and putting yourself out there. And that's when these things happen. Because if you don't write those scripts, chances of anyone knocking on you don't go, Hey, can you write a script for Alejandro? and forgot? George? Like, that doesn't work that much. Yeah.

Mark L. Smith 1:00:16
I always took it like the old, you know, the old good fishermen, you know, good guys a lot of lines, you know, yeah. And, you know, you're not gonna, you know, you're probably not gonna get a bite with one. But if you throw out 10 or 12, you thought we cast out those many hooks, then you just your odds increase. And so it's luck. But it's also kind of perseverance is kind of just not never stopping. You know, it's never, like I said, if you if you write one, and then just hand it off, and hope, you know, for the best and, man, if I, you know, I should be lucky enough to get that it's not gonna you know, it's not gonna happen. You've got it, you've got to keep going. Because not only are you increasing your chances for luck, but you're increasing your chance, you're increasing your skill, you're getting better so that the, the fifth sixth one is going to be better than the first one, no matter how much you love the first script. The fifth one's always gonna be better, you know? And so it's just the way it is you everybody gets better when they you know, use the muscles,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:07
and then and also work on a dude ranch, obviously, yeah, that

Mark L. Smith 1:01:12
was one of the things that I one of my early scripts was all on a dude ranch and so did that. But

Alex Ferrari 1:01:16
that gets old did that gets old, it got optioned.

Mark L. Smith 1:01:19
It did never come later. So yeah, so. But it is one of those things that also helps to write what you know. Yeah, I was gonna say that. Yeah. Because, um, it's, it's one reason that I, I've always kind of stayed away from sci fi. So I'm, I'm not, I don't really know, I don't love writing technology technologies. I've always found if I bring into story, I use it as a cheat. You know, it's like, I want people to have to deal with their own emotions and their own conflicts and their own stuff. And I don't want to have to be able to use technology to get in and out of stuff. And I know other great writers smarter than me can use it well, but it was even like on Star Trek, whenever I told a told witness. It's like I I'm not a Star Trek guy. You know, I'm not a big sci fi guy. I know the characters. And I like the relationships and all this and I know about it, but he goes, don't worry about that. I'll take care of all the, you know, the big sci fi stuff and everything. Would you do that? And so you kind of find what you know, when you write what you know, don't try, especially when you're starting out, don't try to try to write something that doesn't feel like a fit. Because if it feels clumsy, it's probably gonna be clumsy at first, you know, just kind of build build up to that.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:20
And I have to ask, because I know, I'll get shot if I don't. How did you get involved with quitting and Star Trek? Like how? Because I've heard of the, I've heard of this, this story in town that, you know, Quinn's gonna make a Star Trek movie and he's writing a Star Trek movie. And it's going to be whatever, like pulp and fiction and space. I don't know. But so how did you and generally couldn't doesn't work with other writers? He generally is a lone wolf like yourself. How did that work? How did you guys get together?

Mark L. Smith 1:02:45
It was it was through JJ Abrams. And so it's through Bad Robot. I've done a few things with them. And so they always they kind of bring me stuff. It was like they had a tough script. Guillermo del Toro that they that he was on and so I worked on that with with him I worked on and then with Edgar Wright on a script with for JJ and stuff, which was another I mean, completely different experience, but just as much fun. But, but Tara Tino was like, he wanted to do this. And then we so we all gather in your room, and we talked about the ways in and so after that, he they just called me it was like the day later and said, Hey, are you up for Do you want to go? And if so, you know, quitting wants to wants to hook up. So I said, Yeah, sure. So and that was were like, one of the first times I ever I guess it was the first day I met when we were in the room. And he's reading a scene that he wrote, and it's like this, this awesome scene, and he's acting it out. And he's doing the book, back and forth. It's like I told him, I said, Man, I'm just so mad at my phone, like, record it. At that point, this would be like, so valuable. It was just amazing. But um, so yeah, so then it was that then I then just we started, where do I go? Right? We hang out. I go hang out his house one one night and watch old gangster films. I mean, we're there for hours. I don't

Alex Ferrari 1:04:02
know what to film on film, obviously, on film. Yeah,

Mark L. Smith 1:04:05
in his little in his theater. He's got this amazing, huge theater attached to his house on film, he actually had his projection is from his theater there on Beverly coming on coming through it. So it's just, you know, we're just kicked back and I watched some gangster films laughing at the bad dialogue, you know, and, and then, but talking about how it would kind of bleed into what we want to do. And so, um, so yeah, then it was it. I don't know. I give it 10% chance that ever gets made. You know, it's one of those things that's so tricky for him to do. It's like if he really wants to, he's got this set limit that he puts on and he keeps, he'll tell me he's got an you know, well, I can say it's not an original so it won't count against my you know, his Yeah. And so, but I think it's, it's, I would love for to happen my god I'd be I'd just be thrilled if it did. But I gotta

Alex Ferrari 1:04:51
I gotta say, though, I mean, when I heard that, I'm like, how is that how is paramount? going to give? Karen Tina one of the most valuable IP They have me Quinn's gonna do what Quinn's gonna do? Like he's not he's not gonna like, you know, kowtow to studio execs on, like, Well, you know, we're gonna make some toys like yet no, it's gonna be full blown open. So how does that like when I heard that I'm like, I want to see it. I'm first in line to see it. But like, how is a giant conglomerate going to give their biggest IP, arguably Paramount's biggest IP? Yeah, to to one of the most Renegade filmmakers of his generation.

Mark L. Smith 1:05:31
Again, it goes to like, you know, guys, like Quentin can do stuff that the rest of us can't, you know, they can get into, they're going to trust him because they know what they're going to get is going to be like, something that's going to be talked about for years. You know, it's it's just and it and it was I mean, the, the script is it is so Tarantino and it's it's hard are and it's violent. And it's you know, it's got all these great elements, and, but and I guess probably too, I mean, I guess they've gone, Paramount has done different things that kind of veered back on Star Trek, they probably feel like Tarantino's worth being able to veer off path and

Alex Ferrari 1:06:07
always be its own thing. It could be its own thing. And in the Zeitgeist of Star Trek, like it's in the Pantheon. It's not going to mix in with Kirk. I mean, maybe it does. I don't know. I haven't read the script. But yeah, no, it does.

Mark L. Smith 1:06:20
Yeah. No, we've got no it's all the characters are there and stuff. And so it would be it would be those guys, but it's like, you know, I guess you look at it probably like, all the episodes of the show didn't really connect, you know, yeah, this will be almost its own episode, you know, and

Alex Ferrari 1:06:39
it's like an adventure. It's like it's a cool episode. It's like an adventure somewhere else that kind of doesn't connect with the rest of the

Mark L. Smith 1:06:45
little time travel stuff going on. There's all this other Yeah, so it's, it's not really just stop it. You're

Alex Ferrari 1:06:49
getting me excited. Stop it, and I'll never ever gonna

Mark L. Smith 1:06:52
get more angry that it has.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:55
And the more you tell me about it, like what time travel What? What's going on? I need to know. Oh, my God.

Mark L. Smith 1:07:00
It's so great. Yeah, hopefully, fingers crossed. He'll, he'll decide that he gets so bored. And he just he's gonna do it. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:07:06
I mean, it's Yeah. Oh, anyway, Alright, stop. I gotta stop. I can't I can't stop thinking about it. Because it's just gonna get me upset. I'm sure afterwards, you're gonna get quit and what's going on? Man? Are we just happening?

Mark L. Smith 1:07:18
Some angry call from the studio? Wait, what do you know? What are you talking about? You know?

Exactly how secret.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:25
So now, what's next? What are you working on next?

Mark L. Smith 1:07:28
I am doing God. Well, we've got a Daisy Ridley film that's shooting. That's the one I wrote with my daughter Marsh king's daughter starts shooting in June, we hope and it's a little little thriller that we're really excited about. I adapted a book for another book for Clooney called boys in the boat. And that is its true story of the Olympics. 1936 The crew that um, had to go over to Germany to Berlin and kind of these underdog things. It's a it's a really cool sports. You know, I just love how the script turned out. Doing a thing. I did another thing memory wall adapted for a short story that I'm Johan rank the, the director from Chernobyl and everything he's going to, he's going to do and so I don't know another thing for JJ. Couple. I'm doing a couple things with Pete Berg, who I just Yeah, I love Pete Berg. He's insane. He's insane. He's insane. We're doing this. We're doing this as quick story that I'll get out. But the first I'd never met him before. And we were going to do this Western TV show. And I go into his office and I'm just sitting there waiting. And all of a sudden I hear this screaming, yelling and it's like, God, what is going on? And it's getting louder and louder and closer. And all of a sudden the door comes open and Pete Berg runs in with his hatchet. And he's charged him he goes this is the show. This is what we're going to do. This is our show. And so

Alex Ferrari 1:08:58
did you saw yourself sir? Did you saw yourself at that point?

Mark L. Smith 1:09:01
Yeah, okay, sir. Sure. Whatever. But uh, so it was so it's he's so fun. So I'm doing doing a couple things with him and separate Robert Redford. He was going to direct but now he's producing and so yeah, it's um it's it's it's a charmed life. Sir.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:16
You lead it's in pretty.

Mark L. Smith 1:09:19
really lucky I'm waiting for like, my roof to crumble is crashed out.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:22
I have to ask because I have daughters man. What's it like working in writing with your daughter man? Like, I mean, I have young daughters. So they're not the right the stories would be interesting now. Very interesting. They would find that structure might be a little off. But um, but how is it like just on an emotional and creative level as a dad working with someone that you've raised? Like, I'm just curious, this is just purely This is not even for the show. Now. This is just me asked dad. What's it like man?

Mark L. Smith 1:09:52
It was tricky. To be honest. Now it was funny because the we we were adapting a novel but it's about a Father gets out of prison. And he's, you know, they love each other very deeply. And, but he's not a good guy. And so it's really the story is about her trying to, you know, he, she has to kill her father, you know, instead of sending her daughter thing, you know, all these emotions that, you know, all these little secrets that she had about me, you know, she's gonna, it'll all come out. It'll flow easily for but it was, he was really good. She's really good. She she feels a lot of the gaps in my writing, you know, so she, she finds things that kind of keep it going and, and, and really good with female characters and stuff. So that that's good as well. She'd always helped me with stuff. She was always kind of the first person I would send a script to when I was done with it and let her read it and stuff. She went to NYU Tisch, and, um, and majored in writing and stuff up there dramatic. But so, but the process was tricky. Because there would be feelings hurt, it was almost it wasn't unlike, and I, you know, it's like, we can have our arguments, but 100 was always gonna win my daughter, and I learned and I could always have arguments, but I was always gonna win, you know, and so that's just the way it was. And, um, and so, so

Alex Ferrari 1:11:07
you were the 800, you were the 800 pound gorilla in that in that room? Well, 100 was 800.

Mark L. Smith 1:11:14
I know, I wish I thought to kind of do all my, my arguing and like that in all 100 Spanish accent, you know, to really get some flavor. But um, but it was good. And it turned out, it turned out really well. And we've done other stuff together since so it's like, yeah, we haven't killed each other yet.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:30
That's I can imagine that must be tricky. Because even when I I've shot some stuff with my daughters for school, and it's, I'm directing them, and I'm directing them in a scene and it's just like, it's, it's in my wife. It's hard. My wife would be sitting there like, they're not actors. They're your daughters. I'm like, and I'd get frustrated. I'm like, No, you gotta do this. And you're like, they're they're eight.

Mark L. Smith 1:11:56
Luckily, yeah, luckily, I started very young in college, when Lauren was born, so it was, she's she's older so she can take my, my kind of yelling, it's like, No, you know, structure this has to happen by Hey, what are you talking about? You know, so, but it's no, it's, it's really, it's turned out? Well,

Alex Ferrari 1:12:14
fantastic. Now I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests. Okay, what are the three screenplays every screenwriter should read? Oh, God.

Mark L. Smith 1:12:24
Oh, man, you pop this on me? See, I would I would point people I would. I would steer people away from a Tarantino script for almost the reasons you were talking about earlier. It's an outlier. He's an outlier. Yeah. You don't want to do that. Because you don't want to pick that stuff up. You don't want to get infected because because you're just not going to do it as well. You know, so you're always gonna write bad parenting and the best you could ever be is a bad parent, you know, and that's like, who wants to do that? Yeah, right. So


I mean, any anything by Sorkin is his he's just so clean and his dialogue so good. Scott Frank, out of sight. Oh, such a good move. Oh, Clooney film? Yeah. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:13:08
that thing Soderbergh? Oh, so good.

Mark L. Smith 1:13:10
Yeah. In the writing. It's so that's such

Alex Ferrari 1:13:13
an under that's such an underappreciated film because it wasn't a massive hit when it came out. I mean, in the head, obviously, George and George was George was still George but he wasn't no Ocean's 11 George hitting that he wasn't Ocean's 11 George yet, but he was still George and Jennifer Lopez was just starting to become Jennifer Lopez. And Soderbergh was still started becomes auto Berg as well. So it wasn't, it was a real kind of interesting film. But when you watch it, there's so much style. Some of the dialogue is crisp, it crackles. It's Oh, yeah. The cast line.

Mark L. Smith 1:13:45
No, just amazing. No, it's Yeah. Including I would talk about that one a lot. Because it didn't. To me, it's like it's probably my favorite of his films. And so but um, of the things that he started but its people it did kind of miss you know, it just kind of slipped under the radar. And I'm sure people found it later. But it's got everybody

Alex Ferrari 1:14:04
go watch out. Yeah, watch out. So

Mark L. Smith 1:14:07
via I don't know on screenplays, I'm I'm terrible at that stuff. I mean, I have my writers, you know, the,

Alex Ferrari 1:14:13
the writer so so so. Frank Aaron Sorkin, who else we study? You can't go wrong with Goldman, I guess? No, we've

Mark L. Smith 1:14:23
Goldman's was the guy that Butch Cassidy was the first movie I ever saw. So it's all in the theater. So it holds a special place in my heart. So yeah, Goldman would be the other. I mean, again, you're talking about dialogue and kind of stuff and characters. I mean, those journeys he takes, I mean, film wise, jaws is my film. I mean, that's the that's the that's my go to and um, if somebody is gonna, you know, what's your favorite guys?

Alex Ferrari 1:14:49
Can you kiss because jazz has come up so many times on the show on both my shows and it is as perfect of a film as really you can get I mean, it's such an it's a movie made in the 70s Very few movies hold the way jaw. I mean, go to godfathers and those of course but right. And there's others that the jaws man, it just hold so well. And considering we all know, it was hell. And it wasn't planned this way. And it wasn't like things just happen. It was all the mastery. It was almost like almost like a possession by Spielberg to get that made the way it was because even he thought it sucked.

Mark L. Smith 1:15:27
So scared, I know No. And what's amazing is that it holds up with a mechanical shark that was done in the 70s you know that now you look at you go got that thing. So fake, you know, but it doesn't matter. This, the characters in the story and everything are so great. And it's funny, I bumped into the only time to meet Spielberg. And it was, um, it was at this. This was after the Oscars, it was after the governor's ball and, and revenue just lost this picture. And I was kind of in a lousy mood. And I was I was kind of saying stuff, my wife, we should just go home or whatever. And she said, You better get your act together and appreciate your look over there Spielberg talk and I go, you know, you're right. So I go over, and I just introduce myself and tell him he's, he's the kind of the guy that got me into this. And

Alex Ferrari 1:16:12
I'm sure he's never I'm sure he's never heard that before. Yeah.

Mark L. Smith 1:16:17
But so he goes, Okay, which movie was it? And I said, jobs. And he goes, Okay, so you're a storyteller. And so he just starts going, because he just the judges people, and they're kind of what they see in films by their favorites. And so, so that was kind of a, it was an interesting thing, because I kind of like to do consider myself a storyteller, you know, and so it was, um, it that was that was, that's my Spielberg moment. And my jaws moment. And so it just, even jaws was always there. But it just went a little bit higher after that,

Alex Ferrari 1:16:45
right. And so jaws is number one. Fair enough, that's not a bad number one to have. It's not a bad one. What advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Mark L. Smith 1:16:55
Right, just write every free moment. I mean, just never, you just, that's the only way it's going to happen, you know, you're, you just have to keep, you have to keep producing content. And then once you have that content, send it out. I would also say don't send anything out too soon. You know, if you're, if you're going to write something, and you've got this first draft, you call my God, this is just the best thing and you send it to your, your very best friend, they go, Oh, god, you're genius. You know, this is also great, I would love to see this movie, don't send that to any agents or anybody that you really are going to count on. Because you're going to need to do work, and you're going to look at it yourself three weeks from now and think, Oh, God, I've got to fix that, you know, I always when I wrote it, I would set it aside. And, and then I would come back to it, I write I set aside, I'd start working on something else, that pull that one out and go through it and make all the changes that I want to make for ever let anybody read it. And, um, it's really important. So it's, you just, you just want to make sure that you um, I guess it's, if you want to be a writer, you got to love writing, you know? So it's like, you're going to be doing it a lot. And so if you find that it's a chore, and you don't want to sit down and put in and write the words and look at those blank pages. And then you're probably you're not gonna be great at it, because you're not going to want to do it for very long, you know, and I guess maybe that's what that instructor know that first guy that if I when he said to me, none of you guys are going to ever write a script, you think you are but you're not. It's probably what he was thinking. Because it's just, it's not for everyone, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:18:28
but but there are moments I'm assuming, even in your writing, where you just don't want to sit down is there or do you always like, there's moments you're like, Oh, God, I can't crack that next scene. I don't want to go in there right now. I mean, there has to be those moments, right?

Mark L. Smith 1:18:42
Every right. There's our I usually I try to have two things going. Now that never I slam into a wall here. It's like, Okay, let me go over here, because I'll beat my head against you for two or three days and realize I'm not getting anywhere. So I'll jump in this one. Fine, kind of get my flow. And then I'll go back here and do that thing where I read through again, it's like, oh, yeah, that and then gets me through it. And so it's it is kind of nice to have to

Alex Ferrari 1:19:03
know. And what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Unknown Speaker 1:19:11
Oh my god.

Mark L. Smith 1:19:14
I'm a slow learner. It really, I think it probably comes to if you think you're good at it doesn't mean it's gonna be easy. You know, I think that's what really took me a while to figure out it was like, wait, I'm writing this stuff, and it's good. And I know it's pretty good. You know, people are telling me is good, but why isn't Why isn't it selling or why isn't getting made? You know, why are they making this instead of that? And you just have to realize you have you kind of just have to trust yourself and kind of the process is isn't simple. And so you just you've got to you got to be in for the ride and and know that, you know that to be patient. You know, I guess maybe patience is the thing to learn because it's it's The good stuff rarely happens easily and quickly. You know, and it's, um, you know, the stuff, the stuff that you remember. I mean, Revenant meant so much more to me because it took seven years to get made than it would have if it got made in this first six months. You know, it's like, it was such a journey and these things that you fight with, and that you just, you know, so and patients because it's at ups and downs, so you just gotta, you just gotta be able to ride them all pay

Alex Ferrari 1:20:25
me I'm telling you, patience is my anytime I asked to answer my own question. It's like, it's patience, man. I it's never gonna go as fast as you think it's gonna go and it's it will probably go slower. And then your thinking is going to be at every level.

Mark L. Smith 1:20:40
Yeah, no, and you can't even sometimes get sucked into where, you know, like, oh, wow, these two things happen quick. Now. I've figured out the way it's gonna work. So they're all gonna happen now. It's just the next one's gonna stop and it'll be three or four years, you know? So

Alex Ferrari 1:20:51
That's amazing. The Mark, man, thank you so much for being on the show, bro. It is

Mark L. Smith 1:20:55
No, no, this was so great. No, I thank you for inviting me. Yeah, this was this was really fun. And as we're talking, I'm just, I'm admiring your room. I love all that stuff. But no, this was this was so great. And please, next time you talk to Suzanne, tell her I said hi.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:13
I will. Thanks again.



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IFH 610: Inside the RAW Reality of Being a Screenwriter with David S. Goyer

DAVID S. GOYER has earned a reputation for telling character-driven stories adapted from the otherworldly realms of superheroes, fantasy and the supernatural. His breakout came in 1998 when he wrote the action hit BLADE starring Wesley Snipes, based on the Marvel Comics vampire hunter. Since then, he’s solidified himself as writer and producer who elevates genre driven stories to the next level.

Most recently, Goyer Executive Produced and served as Showrunner for one of the year’s most epic series, FOUNDATION, which premiered on Apple TV+. Based on Isaac Asimov’s iconic novels, Goyer’s sensibilities brought this world to life with his unique tone.

On the film side, Goyer produced the Sundance hit THE NIGHT HOUSE, starring Rebecca Hall, as well as the Scott Derrickson film ANTLERS. Both films are being released by Searchlight this fall. Goyer also produced THE TOMORROW WAR, starring Chris Pratt for Skydance and Amazon.

Previously, Goyer scripted and collaborated with Christopher Nolan on the story for the Superman feature MAN OF STEEL. Goyer also worked with Nolan on the mega-hit DARK KNIGHT trilogy, starting with the screenplay for BATMAN BEGINS. Goyer went on to team with Nolan on the story for the billion-dollar blockbuster THE DARK KNIGHT for which they received a Writers Guild of America Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, followed by the story’s conclusion in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. Additionally, Goyer co-wrote and produced BATMAN V. SUPERMAN, which broke the record for biggest March opening weekend in box office history.

In 2002, Goyer made his feature film directorial debut with the drama ZIGZAG for which he also wrote the screenplay, based on the acclaimed novel by Landon Napoleon.  His other directing credits include THE INVISIBLE starring Justin Chatwin and Marcia Gay Harden, and the hit supernatural thriller THE UNBORN, based on his own original screenplay and starring Odette Annable and Gary Oldman. In the same year wrote 2002’s BLADE II on which he also served as an executive producer. In 2004, he directed, wrote and produced the last of the trilogy, BLADE: TRINITY.

In addition to screenwriting, Goyer made his debut in video games with the story for the smash hit “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” and penned the story for its blockbuster follow up, “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2” as well as Black Ops: Cold War. Goyer also wrote and executive-produced the groundbreaking VR series VADER IMMORTAL for Lucasfilm and Oculus.

In Television, Goyer’s work includes the series DA VINCI’S DEMONS, for which he served as Creator, Director, and Executive Producer, focusing on the life of Leonardo da Vinci; CONSTANTINE, KRYPTON; and the cult classic FLASHFORWARD. Goyer also co-wrote the pilot and serves as executive producer for Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN, which is currently filming in London.

The Dialogue: Learning From the Masters is a groundbreaking interview series that goes behind the scenes of the fascinating craft of screenwriting. In these 70-90 minute in-depth discussions, more than two-dozen of today’s most successful screenwriters share their work habits, methods and inspirations, secrets of the trade, business advice, and eye-opening stories from life in the trenches of the film industry. Each screenwriter discusses his or her filmography in great detail and breaks down the mechanics of one favorite scene from their produced work.

Your Host: Producer Mike De Luca is responsible for some of the most groundbreaking films of the last 15 years. After enrolling in New York University’s film studies program at 17, De Luca dropped out four credits shy of graduation to take an unpaid internship at New Line Cinema. He advanced quickly there under the tutelage of founder Robert Shaye and eventually became president of production.

To watch the rest of this amazing series go to The Dialog Series on IFHTV.

Enjoy this conversation with David S. Goyer.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:03
Well guys, today we have a special episode of the show, we are going to be airing an episode of The Amazing screenwriting show The Dialogue that's available on indiefilmhustle.tv. And the guest is going to be David Goyer, the screenwriter behind films like Batman Begins, Dark Knight, the new series on Netflix, The Sandman, Terminator, Dark fate, Godzilla, Man of Steel Ghost Rider, and of course the classic John Claude Van Damme film Death Warrant, among many other. Hey, we all got to start somewhere. And David sits down with legendary producer Mike DeLuca to talk about screenwriting, the craft the business, and I thought this would be a really great introduction to this amazing series called The Dialogue, which again is available as if you are a member on Indie Film Hustle TV. So if you want to watch this episode, and 32 other episodes with some of the greatest screenwriters working today, all you need to do is go to indiefilmhustle.tv and sign up for a membership. But without any further ado, here is your preview of The Dialogue Series with David Goyer.

Mike DeLuca 2:54
I'm Mike DeLuca. Welcome to this rare in the trenches look at the craft of screenwriting. Today I'm sitting here with the Prince of Darkness writer producer director David Goyer, the man behind Batman Begins, The Blade series, Dark City, Crow, City of Angels, Flash and 1000 other movies I'm probably forgetting how do you get so busy and welcome.

David Goyer 3:15
Thanks. Thanks for having me. How do you get so busy? I'm workaholic, I guess?

Mike DeLuca 3:20
Well let me put it this way. What do you think was the beginning of this kind of current wave of superhero movies?

David Goyer 3:26
The first really significant comic book movie was the Richard Donner Superman film in 1978. The next really significant one was Tim Burton's Batman film, but they didn't really open the floodgates in terms of all these other superhero movies. And that really happened with the first blade film that you and I did, actually. And the reason for that, I guess, is because, aside from the Batman and Superman franchises over DC, being somewhat dormant, Marvel itself was in bankruptcy, right. And I remember the very first meeting we had for blade was the first day that Avi rod, who's now the head of Marvel, you know, got on the job, and, and what was significant about that film is it wasn't a well known property. It wasn't the jewel of Marvel's crown, it was a sealless character character that didn't even have his own comic book. And it was significant because there was always this assumption that you can make comic book movies out of maybe five characters over DC and five over at Marvel and that was it. But they realized with blade is totally seamless character, oh, my God, this, this character in and of itself can generate the $300 million franchise and Oh, my God, we've got 9000 characters. It's just a free for all right, and that's proven to be the case. I mean, you know, now Marvel's got well with with with the advent of fantastic bore, at least, for ongoing significant superhero franchise.

Mike DeLuca 4:53
Well, I think what you proved with the director of blade, Steve Norrington is that there wasn't so much you needed a known character but there was is a certain attitude and, you know, Yuma and irreverence and modernity reflected in Marvel comics that you guys brought to the screen that had been absent in any of the previous Marvel adaptations.

David Goyer 5:10
There was that and there was also wired to some of the sort of comic book movies that have been made prior to that Dick Tracy, things like that. There was always the assumption that they would be, you know, the production design would be in these primary colors, and that would they would be comic booky, right, if you will. And what the blade films did, and the X Men films and the Spider Man films did, and more recently Batman Begins is they treated the subject matter seriously. It wasn't a kind of a wink wink nudge nudge going on with the audience. And, you know, the filmmakers weren't they weren't looking down on the subject matter,

Mike DeLuca 5:44
Right! The fans have always said we want this kind of Batman, they showed up for Tim Burton's Batman, they should have your Batman and Chris Nolan's Batman. Why did the studio Why did they have to get bitch slapped twice? To go back to something that the fans have continually said not just compact fans, but movie goers we want it to be treated seriously. Not that has to be downer, but we want it appropriately treated characters lasted for 75 years. Why did they let it drift into camp?

David Goyer 6:08
I think it's a generational thing. I mean, first of all, the public's conception of Batman and this is specific to Batman, aside from the fans, is the 60s TV show.

Mike DeLuca 6:17
Do you think that's true, though? Do you think that really represents Batman to a big group? Because I do where are those people who want that Batman? I've never, I've never run into one of those.

David Goyer 6:26
I don't think they want it. Right. I think that that's, that's what they think of as Batman. Right? And so the my grandmother, my uncle, my mother didn't read comic books, they don't know that dark night from, you know, whatever. But the other thing, I think, is that it's a generational thing. I think what's happening now, with filmmakers like Yamo Del Toro, and you know, singer and Nolan and you know, Sam Raimi and breasts, Royals to lesser extent, you know, myself, we were all we all grew up actually being weaned on these comic books, we loved them. We sort of the, you know, ate, breathe and slept them, right. And, again, we weren't looking down at the material. And I think it took that generation of filmmakers to come of age in order to really treat them seriously for the studios to get it.

Mike DeLuca 7:14
Like a generational thing.

David Goyer 7:15

Mike DeLuca 7:17
Do you think special effects coming of age also, as an enabled more adaptations, because they simply weren't there

David Goyer 7:24
There are things that are possible now, that that they simply couldn't do it would have made for $300 million movie or something like that,

Mike DeLuca 7:31
Like spider man swinging through the canyons? There's no way

David Goyer 7:34
I don't Yeah, how would they have done that in the 70s? Or the 80s? Would it look like those TV movies that they did,

Mike DeLuca 7:39
Right! Where does Prince of Darkness come from?

David Goyer 7:45
Prince of Darkness. Well, originally,

Mike DeLuca 7:48
You're a nice guy.

David Goyer 7:49
I am a nice guy have children and pets, bunny rabbits and sunsets and long walks on the beach. I had a high school teacher dubbed me dad. And somehow I was doing some interview with Premier magazine and debt stock. And then they did an article and then in the lame way that other you know, things in magazine. Yeah, they just suddenly He's the prince of darkness.

Mike DeLuca 8:14
Now, did you get tatted up as a response to the unknown unknown and I don't live up to it or what's the story behind those?

David Goyer 8:20
I got my first tattoo the weekend or so my first script when I was 22 years old, sort of in defiance back then tattoos weren't as prevalent and I thought, I'm, I'm, you know, going to be a rebel and never commit to a real job, right? funny anecdote, though. I thought it would be all right early, and get a saying tattooed on my bicep from a poem not drowning, but waving and the tattoo artist misspell the word drowning. So my tattoo says not drawing but waving. So I'm a professional writer with a spelling error tattooed on my body.

Mike DeLuca 8:54
That's pretty ironic. Yeah. What attracts you to dark material over things that might be more like fantastical or escapist or a little lighter.

David Goyer 9:02
I mean, I liked seeing lighter fare. But clearly, it kind of themes that I'm attracted to. I mean, every movie I've ever done with the exception of Batman Begins has been R rated. And Batman Begins is certainly I think about as dark, a PG 13 film as you could get. And certainly people were surprised at how dark it was. And I mean, I'm really interested in anti heroes, I'm really interested in characters that are conflicted. I'm interested in characters that have to sort of go to a dark place in people that are alienated and whatnot, probably because I'm sure there's a little bit of my own experience as a kid or something like that in there as well.

Mike DeLuca 9:41
Does it require a different skill set to make a comic believable on screen? Or is it writing is writing?

David Goyer 9:47
Well, I mean, yeah, I think it is a different skill set. I mean, it depends on whether or not you're adapting ghost world. But say you're adapting a superhero comic book. If it's a well known character, Spider Man, Batman, Superman, there's a cannon, there's it, there's a known lore, and you have to be very careful about what you choose to change or not change. And I'd like to think because of my background, reading comics, and also writing comic books that in the case of Batman, I had a good handle on, you know, what was sacred, and what can be modified a bit. And I would maintain that some of the conflict movies that have been made that aren't successful are the ones that veer too far away from source material. I mean, Spider Man, Superman Batman, the X Men movies, they stick pretty close to source material when you're dealing with a lesser known character like blade. You got more latitude there on a lot of people out there that are you know, specifically aware of blade.

Mike DeLuca 10:55
Was that prevalent in your mind, your mind and Chris Nolan's mind, the fans had, making sure you were reverent enough, but not so reverent that we've all seen it before. Was that a big consideration into the draft story?

David Goyer 11:09
Yeah, we had to walk this thin line between delivering something for the fans, which obviously are the core audience, but they're not going to be enough to make a movie of that budget successful in its own right. And, and, and sort of the broader mass audience. And the problem was the core fans, you know, ever since Frank Miller and Alan Moore and things like that. They were used to a very dark depiction of Batman, Dark Knight, but the mass audience wasn't used to it. And I mean, even burdens first Batman film, which I enjoyed, still had a fair amount of whimsy, and then they got progressively nuttier, and via more like Starlight Express by the time they were done. And they started to become like the old Batman show. And so we had to also make sure with the mainstream audience that we just didn't completely shocked them. Right. But it was definitely a juggling act.

Mike DeLuca 12:04
But last year, micron was interesting, because they did become like the TV show, but no one told Batman like Batman was still placed right straight by right Cloney are poor, like no one told, believe die. We're making a comedy,

David Goyer 12:16
But they were actually quoting lines from the old show like holy rusty metal, some new spawn perversion, I don't know.

Mike DeLuca 12:28
Now, you've made the transition from writer to director when you directed blade three? How did you adjust to things like pacing and action and shooting big action? I know you had done zigzag before it was it a big transition, or is an easier leap. And I mean, who would have thought

David Goyer 12:43
It was a big transition. But since I had been involved in the other two movies, on the first played film as a writer on the second blade film as a writer and a producer, I mean, certain things have already been sketched out, I was aware of, you know, various pitfalls and things like that. So I think that the leap was not as difficult as it might have been for somebody just coming in having never had any experience with that whatsoever. But, look, directing drama is significantly different than directing visual effects or things like that, right. And they're sort of two different skill sets. And you know, especially when you're doing a chase scene, or something like that in the third blade film, where we also had a second unit, and we're literally storyboarding and divvying up shots and whatnot. And it's, it's it's definitely different. I also found, ironically enough, with a third blade film that I as a director have veered away from my own script more than Guillermo del Toro or Steven Norrington did, which is kind of ironic.

Mike DeLuca 13:43
Right! You were, it was easy for you to to show some of your children that Yeah,

David Goyer 13:47
Well, that's the other thing that happens when you go from the transition of writing to directing. I mean, as a writer, sometimes you get in these arguments with a director, and the director will say, Look, I'm on the location, or I'm come down here, I don't know how to shoot this the way you wrote it, or you say, No, I remember one time in a script I had, I had some description of, you know, a bad guy or something like that as being like the, I don't know, like, I described him is like the primordial face of evil, you know, and the director said, that sounds great, but how the fuck do I, what is that? And, and I realized, and sometimes I would argue with Norrington or delta or even Alex players or whatnot into but why are you shooting exactly what's on the page? Why are you changing that? And they would say, because this doesn't cut with this. And I didn't really get that until I was on the set. Having sort of boxed myself into a corner as a writer, and now as the director, thinking to myself, Oh, yeah, I get that. Now. There's a practicality involved. I mean, the script is obviously important and everything comes from the script, but it is the blueprint at some time. As you get on location, and the location is different than you had anticipated, or you run out of time, or the actor has some kind of problem and won't come out of his or her trailer for six hours, or whatever it is, you sound like you've had some experience. Oh, yeah, we've had experienced like that before, you know. And then sometimes, sometimes you'll get there. And this has happened to me, as a writer, as a director, as a producer, and a star will say, I'm not saying that line, right. But you need to say that line because this connects to this, I don't care that your problem I'm not saying that long,

Mike DeLuca 15:31
Right! It's very different than being the writer in a room writing your script. Exactly. You're out there having to explain everything

David Goyer 15:36
Exactly. or justify something or

Mike DeLuca 15:38
Do you think you'll be directing your own material from now on? Except for Batman.

David Goyer 15:45
Funnily enough, I, the next movie I'm about to direct, I did not write. Okay, so the one after that will be the last one, you're gonna you're gonna direct that you want me to direct next is called the invisible. It's a remake of Swedish film. And once again, it's a dark drama, about a murder in high school. But I just thought it would be interesting transitioning into directing to do something that I didn't write, I mean, for me, I thought, well, if I if I get a script with someone else's voice, and then I interpreted that marriage might be interesting, frankly, that's why Chris Nolan approached me to do Batman as he thought, well, your voice is so different than mine. And I think the combination of the two will make for a better film.

Mike DeLuca 16:29
Do outlines play a big part in your process, in the beginning of the script, you do kind of beat out the whole story, or just dive in after page one and wing it.

David Goyer 16:37
The few times I've tried to dive in, you just become hopelessly lost, or on page 40. And just fall into despair and start drinking. Yeah, outlines are a big part I, for myself, usually right, you know, 3040 page outline fairly detailed, I never give them to the studio, right? In my whole career. I've never given an outline to studios, it's the worst, they always ask for it.

Mike DeLuca 17:04
What do you say when they ask? I mean, I know the answer. Because we asked, I didn't have personally, but I know it was asked of you.

David Goyer 17:09
Right! I say fuck off. But, but I reached a certain pinnacle. And I say that, jokingly, I have a certain place in my career where I can say that, right? But you know, you always see young writers can't I mean, well I usually do is I'll say, I will come in to you. And I will verbally pitch you write everything that's in the outline, and I'll take an hour to take you through everything. But the problem with the outline is a format or for studios to read. It's a it's, it's I think Terry Rossio has a website. He's another writer who wrote Pirates of the Caribbean with his partner. And it's the worst possible format to get your ideas across, right? Because it's, it's sort of longer than just, you know, a Synopsys game sort of long enough to raise questions, but you don't have the dialogue in there to execute. In some cases, they had read the scene, you know, they would be, they wouldn't be confused or the essay. It's all in the execution. So you're not getting notes on the outline, as opposed to you get notes in the outline, and it's terrible. And so basically, it's it's the worst format to try to present your ideas in because it's not the whole scene. And they always try to get you to do it. And it's always a disaster,

Mike DeLuca 18:22
Right. So what happens, Chris Nolan calls you and says, I want you to work on the new Batman for me, I know you're a big fan of Batman. So that must have been something that made you very happy. Yeah. And then the two of you immediately got to work breaking the back of that story.

David Goyer 18:35
Yeah, yeah, we that was an amazing experience, because Chris and I worked in a complete vacuum. And, you know, we got together for a couple of weeks and worked out the basics of the story. Then I went off and wrote an outline, 30 to 40 pages, just for Chris and myself, never went into the studio. Chris went in and briefly pitched it to the head of the studio. I wrote the first draft, then Chris did some work on it, then I came back and did it, then it kind of went back and forth. But the amazing thing in that instance, is they were so paranoid about secrecy and whatnot, that the studio a greenlit the movie on the first draft. And the only two people that read it initially, were Jeff Robin and Alan Horne the two and they came to Chris's house to read it right did the script never went into the studio. And we started pre production for a good two months and old people would only come to the house to read it. And then we had a fake title it was called the intimidation game. And all the documents all the legal documents that the intimidation and intimidation game because they were worried about a Superman and Superman scripted when Brett Ratner was doing leaked online, and it had generated some negative feedback. They were very concerned about that. But then again a little funny sidebar is Chris and I went to New York to meet with DC Comics for three, three days to sort of get their blessing while we were doing

Mike DeLuca 20:16
Now were they like abused children, but oh yeah, I imagine remember when Marvel when we got to them they were all suspicious of movie companies and I imagined for DC must have been the same.

David Goyer 20:25
Yeah, DC was when we came in Bristol nipples on the Batsuit. Yeah, they were they were terrified. And when we came in and presented what we wanted to do, Paul Levitz said, Thank God, he's he's the racy comics, and he gave us a blessing. But when we checked in our hotels, what's funny about this is more travel had put on all the itineraries. Batman Begins. That's how it leaked right? With their own cover. Yeah, it was pretty funny.

Mike DeLuca 20:58
I know you've been an independent movie, you've worked at a mini major, you know, a new one. And now you've worked with big studios, is there a are there major differences between your process for independent for many major for major was dealing with Warner Brothers tremendously different than dealing with new wine or the zigzag experience.

David Goyer 21:16
Every situation is different. In the case of zigzag that the independent film I had written and directed, it was a negative pickup. So we were given a set amount of money and just, you know, sent away to make the movie and then come back and there's absolutely no interference. And I had Final Cut and blah, blah, blah. In the case of the mini majors, I was lucky in that I primarily dealt with you, and I hear good things about me. Yeah. And you and I got along and you know, and to a lesser degree and other executives. I used to be there Brian Witten, and I'm we had a good relationship. And you and I obviously had the same sort of points of reference,

Mike DeLuca 21:53
And we knew what we wanted the character to be important to know. All swim in the same direction.

David Goyer 21:57
Yeah, you know, in the case of Warner Brothers, they knew that the Batman franchise had been sorely damaged, and that they had to do something significant in order to resurrect it and go in a different direction. And they knew

Mike DeLuca 22:08
They were like Ellen Burstyn an exorcist. Yeah, we're like Jason Miller. Yes. And the franchise was Linda Blair. Yes, exactly.

David Goyer 22:15
And, and there was projectile vomit. Right. But they they knew that they had to sort of give it credibility again. And so when they announced that Chris, and I were going to do it together, I think there was somewhat of a collective sigh of relief, you know, amongst the fans that Oh, wow, they're I guess they're serious about reinventing this.

Mike DeLuca 22:35
Now. We were aware of the the rumors about the Superman versus Batman project. Did you think or do you think that's a good idea? Or do you think that that's a kind of unlikable movie?

David Goyer 22:45
I think eventually, it's a good idea. I mean, the thing about Superman versus Batman The script is written by Andrew Kevin Walker, who we both know.

Mike DeLuca 22:52
But that's a script capital, the lock and key like, I've just heard about it, but I haven't read it.

David Goyer 22:55
I've read it. It's actually a great script. And but I think, you know, Warner Brothers, they've been trying to revive the Superman and Batman franchise for years. And they were getting nowhere in there, all these different iterations of things at the end and kind of in despair. They said, well, let's do it. This combo movie, sort of like when universal had died with Frankenstein and a Wolfman. Let's just throw them all into the same movie. And, you know, see what happens. But the problem with that is by making that movie, you're basically admitting that you've exhausted all possibilities, right? A franchise. And I don't know whether it's Alan Horne or Jeff Robinson, but they said, you know, always make that movie. Yeah, exactly. But, you know, hopefully now, I mean, I think they with Bryan Singer and Chris Nolan, I think they have successfully press reset on those two franchises. And they can probably get three or four more movies out of each and then make Batman versus Superman right.

Mike DeLuca 23:51
Now, how did they approach you about the flash similar? Did you get a phone call and say we want to go to them and say

David Goyer 23:57
No, after after after Batman Begins. Warner Brothers owns DC Comics. And they'd obviously had a good experience on that. And so they came to me and said, which was fun for especially for comic book geek like me and said, any DC character you want? What do you want to do? We want to do another. They were primarily pushing Wonder Woman, Green Lantern or the flash. I had no particular love for Wonder Woman. And I just thought the flash would be fun and that no one had really exploited those powers right, you know, cinematically yet, so that's what I'm working on right now.

Mike DeLuca 24:38
And when you sit down and begin to write a movie, like the flash or any movie that you've worked on, do you think in pictures first, and then words or words first?

David Goyer 24:48
In the case of flash, I did something similar to what I've done in Batman when the first thing I did was just sat down, locked myself in a room for a week and just reread everything I could possibly Were reread. And I did two things a, I made a list of just cool moments, or lines, in no particular order that I just thought had to be in the movie. And then also made a list of you know, what, if you boil a flashy boil Batman down or you boil blade down, what are the elements that absolutely have to be there? What's the story about what's the, you know, in the case of Batman, obviously, there are core elements that have to be there. But in terms of the theme, you know, it was a story about fear and overcoming your fear and living in the shadow of your father and being afraid that you're not going to, you know, fulfill, you know, you know, what he was trying to do? And, you know, honor his memory. In the case of the flash, I did do the same thing and figure out what's, what's the metaphor, what's the or theme of this movie. And what I decided for the flash, should we be fortunate enough to make it is it's the Icarus myth in a way, that speed is the only modern bytes. And there's all these vices that exists time immemorial. But speed is something relatively new, right? And it's addictive. And, you know, if you run too fast, you'll run yourself literally out of existence, but you'll also sort of won't be able to stop and smell the roses, and you'll leave the people you love behind. So that's sort of the emotional core of what I'm trying to do with the flash.

Mike DeLuca 26:31
In terms of themes, are there other themes that you'd like to explore over other ones? I know, you mentioned the antihero, but are there other themes in the flash that are similar to some of the themes in your other work?

David Goyer 26:43
Well, I mean, in a lot of cases, I seem to tell stories about either reluctant heroes, or heroes who, you know, I mean, in the case of blade, he's, he's acting heroically, but sort of the rest of the world thinks he's a vigilante, as is the case with Batman. In the case of Dark City, it's, again, sort of a hero acting alone, it's isolated and whatnot. I don't think I would actually ever be good to write Superman, because it's the opposite. Thanks for Yeah, and I wouldn't know the angle because I'm so angst ridden, right, that, you know, I wouldn't know what to do with a character like them, right? Give them x, right. Well, in the case of the flash, the Wally West character, I mean, his angst is that he's a screw up, right? He's just a, he's like the last person that you, you know, he gets these powers. And the first thing he does is he just messes round. He was wildly West Kid Flash. Yeah. And then around 1980 1980 became flash became flash. And so the, you know, the bulk of the major generation of film goers that would be seen that moves while he was he's been wildly West.

Mike DeLuca 27:51
You mentioned Dark City, you know, which is another film we worked on together. It's kind of become a cult favorite. And if it's an odd movie, what were the biggest challenges in putting a movie like that together with? Was that an idea that you collaborated with Alex on?

David Goyer 28:06
Alex had the bird Alex boys. Yes, they had the initial light. You had a tree bend that he sent me. That was amazing. But he incomprehensive Brett, and he knew it. And he said, at the time, you know, I want you to sort of make a movie out of this with me and get direct to the CRO but it hadn't come out and I hadn't seen it. There was nothing to go on. And I just thought it's crazy. I turned it down. He went off eventually found limb Dobbs, they did a draft but and lemons great. But lamb is also not known for Ron, you know, the guy that wrote Kafka when wrote the limy. Right? Yeah, okay, the lime is great. But but if you want if you got to kind of inscrutable Chinese box of envy, the guy that wrote Kafka may not be your guy, the best guy to kind of, you know, make it a little less accessible. Yeah, yeah, we're more accessible. And so eventually, I came back on and my job was to my whole point with Dark City was I said to Alex, you've got all these. It takes place in kind of this parallel universe, you've got all these weird rules, and it's fine. For this universe, they have different rules, they just have to be consistent rules, right? So we just have to there was no consistency in anything that was happening,

Mike DeLuca 29:20
Right! So a big challenge is to make everything conform to one right set of rules so that you could suspend your disbelief and go

David Goyer 29:26
Right and it had a dream kind of logic. But I just said we just have to kind of codify right where these rules are new, you know, the first the first scene I wrote for Dark City. I pointed out to Alex kind of something that I thought was obvious, which was you know, the city is always takes place at night. But no one ever comments on it. Right? That that there is no daylight or that there you know, I just had will they might mention that. Yeah, that's like a big deal. So the first thing I wrote that That movie was kind of out of order, and the first thing I did was the scene between, you know, the protagonist character, the Murdock havieron Bumstead was played by William Hurd. And it's, you know, he's being interrogated. And there's this moment where he says, Let me ask you a question to Bumstead Do you remember daylight and that turned out to be kind of the pivotal scene and Ron V?

Mike DeLuca 30:30
No, got that got the existential thing going in, in the movie. In a movie with big ideas like that, you have to fight for space with trying to get those things in, but also have like, character work and great one liners or, you know,

David Goyer 30:45
Well, the thing about dark city that was kind of nice, is we we were deliberately trying to do a movie that forced the audience to think right, and

Mike DeLuca 30:58
Boy, did we get bitten the ass for that.

David Goyer 31:01
You did. But I but the other problem with Dark City, even though it's a movie that I dearly love, is that it's a movie about a guy with amnesia, right, who sort of doesn't find himself and become more active protagonist until the end of the movie? last 15 minutes of the movie. With the soil. Roofers tool is pretty cool, right? But it's kind of hard to make a movie about a guy with amnesia when you cast an unknown before that there was this moment where we're going to have Johnny Depp right, Johnny Depp, playing a guy with amnesia is still Johnny Depp. Yeah, you know what I mean? Yeah, you've got reversibly stars. Yeah, and unknown, and nobody knows who he is. And there's nothing to deal with. But, but another funny anecdote, we shot that movie in Sydney, Australia, and you don't like to fly. And so no one from Uline would ever come to check on us because we were often part of the world.

Mike DeLuca 31:53
Well, the ultimate irony is now as a producer, I just spent seven months you had to go to Australia know that scene in dark city between Bumstead. And Murdoch is is a very pivotal scene. And it it kind of sets the tone for that existential debate. Was that a difficult thing to come up with? And once you had it, it's fitting great. But did you guys struggle with that one?

David Goyer 32:11
We really didn't. It's the first thing I wrote. did. You know I sat home one night, that hour, actually, I was in Sydney at the time, and I wrote that scene. And we never changed it from that initial draft that scene. The trick of Dark City was that it was a Chinese box of a movie. And so many things retroactively had to make sense that we were constantly we had these flowcharts set up, and Alex and I were just constantly getting lost in our own logic. But that was part of the fun of doing it.

Mike DeLuca 32:50
In terms of your own writing, have you ever looked to other screenwriters for advice? Or to be or to have other other writers read your stuff? Or have you ever gotten really bad advice that put you on the wrong path, but do not open yourself up to that kind of?

David Goyer 33:04
Well, I mean, I do have people read my work before I turn it in to studios, I've got four or five friends. Some of them are writers that read it. The more recent friend of mine, Mark parota, Savage, who you've also worked with both the cell II and I have taken two, we write similar kinds of things. We give each other our drafts and give each other feedback. And it's very easy for Mark or myself reading his stuff to see kind of obvious plot holes, and maybe other people might, you know, right, he'll call me up and say your kind of bulging in here, right. And he'll keep me honest, and I'll keep him honest. I think that's important as a writer to have, you know, critical minds looking at your stuff and you know, telling you if it's not good enough,

Mike DeLuca 33:49
Right, why did you decide to be a screenwriter? Was it always that for you? Or did you come to it?

David Goyer 33:53
I was going to be a homicide detective in Michigan. I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I had been accepted to Michigan State and I was gonna get a degree in police administration and become a homicide detective. And some of my high school teachers just flipped out and called on my mother and said we think he should be a screenwriter bizarrely

Mike DeLuca 34:13
Wow. Specifically screen

David Goyer 34:15
Oh, yeah. Well, I'd made little email I mean, in high school, they handed her the application for the USC BFA program. Wow. And and you know, and I had never read a screenplay. I didn't know anyone in Hollywood it's so much easier now for people becoming screenwriters. There's there weren't any screenwriting programs I didn't have a computer now you can get all sorts of scripts online, right? There's final draft and there's books on screenwriting and things like that and and digital video cameras, right? But I didn't have any of that crap. And to my surprise, I was accepted to USC and decided to go and upon arriving a USC was promptly kicked out of beginning screenwriting for arguing too much with my teacher. You What was the point of contention? The point of contention was, he said that you could only tell a narrative story. Within within with a living person or animal or something in an animated film, he said you can tell a narrative story within in with an inanimate object, which to me was ludicrous, right? I believe that short film Brave Little Toaster had come out that year. Yeah, but Disney short. Yeah. And I just said, That's bullshit, but you're full of shit. And I remember I stood up on his table, and I was ridiculous. You got a riot? Yeah. And he kicked me out.

Mike DeLuca 35:35
Now what about the high school teachers who push on the path has ever talked to them. And yeah, I stayed.

David Goyer 35:39
I stayed in touch with them. And I had a nice experience a few years back about three years ago, after I directed my first film, zigzag University of Michigan invited me back to kind of do a master class or whatever. And we had a screening of zigzag. There's one movie palace back in Ann Arbor. And tickets, were free to any teachers, former teachers or students from my high school. And they all showed up. And that was kind of cool.

Mike DeLuca 36:04
Was there a particular moment where you gained full confidence of your skills as a screenwriter, where you didn't you know, I don't know if you ever had doubts, but was there a moment where you're like, I got it. This is gonna work.

David Goyer 36:14
Yeah, actually, it was the script for blade. Okay. I mean, I had been writing professionally for at least five years before that. And, you know, looking back on it, I look at some of the stuff I had written and even gotten made and said, Can

Mike DeLuca 36:26
Pretty good van damme movie I thought, yeah.

David Goyer 36:29
But that's like saying, you know, I don't know would you say like, is the best Steven Seagal movie? Right here? It's the best doleful, and everyone has to start somewhere. Yeah, yeah, that that was the first thing I'd done, which was this van Damme movie death warrant. But I think blade was maybe the eighth or ninth script I had written, okay. And it was the first time that I felt like everything just clicked, right. And for me, my prior to blade, even though I wrote the script, it took about four years for the film to be made. Prior to blade, I was still auditioning for jobs, I really did pitch myself really hard. And what was interesting with blade and this can happen with screenwriters, as the movie hadn't been made, but it'd become this sort of infamous script that was circulating around town that people really liked. And, and it happens every once a while and you can make a name for yourself on something that even doesn't get made. And after blade, I, for the first time just got offered projects, right without having to audition for them

Mike DeLuca 37:28
That one script that kind of breaks through and is the writing sample the magic writing sample for writers it things change.

David Goyer 37:33
Yeah. And the script replayed changed my career. What about film school?

Mike DeLuca 37:38
Do you think it does anything for anyone? And do you think did you pick up stuff at USC?

David Goyer 37:42
That was I mean, I clearly did. In my case, I knew nothing about filmmaking, or screenwriting. And I was just coming from Michigan. So obviously, I learned something. But nowadays with the internet, and all these other tools, I don't know that it's entirely necessary to go to film school. I mean, there's so many filmmakers that didn't go to film school, they were successful. And just the whole aspect of filmmaking is so much more accessible to people.

Mike DeLuca 38:08
Yeah. Anyone with a Mac can Yeah, produce a Pixar movie final

David Goyer 38:12
or Final Cut Pro or whatever it is, you know, I mean, that guy that made that film at Sundance tarnation. I don't know if you ever saw that. But he made it for a 1000s of dollars. Right. I saw primer though, which is a primary trade. It was made for $7,000. And it's like a really engrossing movie. Yeah. And I mean, you know, anybody can put together seven grand now, which is tuition for per year. Oh, God. I mean, they even back then I was 25 grand a year or something. undergrad? I mean, no, I

Mike DeLuca 38:41
yeah, I'd rather make the $7,000 move and up at Sundance, but then again,

David Goyer 38:45
You know, there's only one of those a year for Yeah, I I don't know how many films that get submitted. 1000s like winning the lottery, right?

Mike DeLuca 38:56
Is there anything in your life that prepares you for life as a screenwriter or as granted director in Hollywood? Like, is there one quality your tone from way back? When that gave you an edge out here?

David Goyer 39:05
No, there's no quality. I mean, writers come from all walks of life. And I used to think that that, that you had to be tortured, right, to be a good artist. And and I think to a certain extent, that's true that whether you're a musician or a screenwriter or a director or a novelist, that oftentimes if you got a really idyllic childhood, would you produce is somewhat boring because you haven't had any adversity or any conflict in your life. That doesn't mean you have to be miserable now, but but there Yeah, there was a certain amount of adversity or things that I had to deal with as a child. And, as is often the case with writers, you get into that as an escape, right? You know, you don't want to deal with whatever it is that's going on. So you you write stories or you draw comic books, or you write songs, and, you know, they've everything was hunky dory and dandy. you'd be out. stickball team or you know,

Mike DeLuca 40:14
Right whatever it is, you have to write a lot of screenplays before your first produced one.

David Goyer 40:18
My first produced movie was my second screenplay. Okay, so I didn't have to write a lot. And I was one of those sickening guys that I sold my first script about six months after I graduated college and didn't have much in the way of a real job and have no idea what I would do if I didn't do it. Now, I mean, I don't have any real applicable skills,

Mike DeLuca 40:40
Right! Through the skills that you you refine over the course of writing a lot of screenplays, does it result in a better one each time out?

David Goyer 40:49
I think that writing is something that you can continue to get better at. 30 40 50 60 you you know you're I mean, I think as unless you're suffering from Alzheimer's, that Yeah, I think so. I mean, I I'd like to think I put it this way. When I wrote blade I look back at the scripts part of that and thought they were crap. But and then when I wrote that in begins, I look back at blade. A blade was crap right now, I hope five years from now that whatever I'm running at the time I look back at and think Batman Begins right crap, because that means I'm evolving and continuing to kind of hone my craft.

Mike DeLuca 41:26
Did you know that films like puppet masters or death warrant, we're good way into the business, the movies, people, we're going to make that we're going to probably make a profit.

David Goyer 41:35
Now, when I started out, I mean, I everybody's different I was just doing I would just try to burst a make a living right, as a writer. And then it was okay, now let's try to get something made. Yeah, I mean, the bar kept on being raised, right. And then let's try to get something good made in the, you know, I've had a lot of things made. I've had, I think, feature wise, something like 17 things made. And I'm lucky enough, I remember a teacher in film school said, Look, making a good movie is so incredibly difficult that as a screenwriter, if at the end of your career, you can look back and feel that there's even one movie you're truly proud of, you should consider yourself as successful. I can look back between TV and movies now and say there's maybe seven or eight that I'm proud of. And you know, I've got seven or eight that I'm embarrassed by in seven or eight that I'm indifferent to, or I've also got a fair number of things made that I've written under a pseudonym, right, which is something kind of fun. Now what what caused that? Well, if you have enough crappy things made the problem with writing for film, is that you are at the mercy of the director. Right. And I mean, I've been fortunate enough to work with a lot of good directors, but I've also worked with a lot of crappy direct, right? And that's where you use the pseudonym. Yeah, well, at the beginning of your I wish I could retroactively go back in time, right? Put a pseudonym on kickbox or two or demonic tours or something like that. But right, but I didn't, but once I kind of got wise to that. Yeah, I've used the pseudonym three or four. What is your pseudonym? Oh, I have a bunch of them. I have a Cynthia Verlaine. I have Ricardo come out at night. Yeah, your chin. I have Ricardo fist diva. And the studio is no people. No, you have to you have to let the studio know that is you're using a pseudonym. And then I also have you Shiro Tegan, Midori. So those are the three so far. And I have another one that I registered that I've yet to use flex gamble.

Mike DeLuca 43:32
So who knows he's on deck. Yeah. Have you ever had a film that you thought was going to sell into production? Not go into production? Never go into production? And was there one thing that stopped that from happening?

David Goyer 43:44
That's the thing. I mean, you learn in this business that anything can happen. I mean, all the time you meet with producers or studios. They say, You don't understand. We're making this movie. You know? And right, cut two. We're not making this movie, right? Yeah, I had a movie once that the plug was pulled eight days before shooting, which is very late in the game. Sometimes there are movies, the plugs pulled in the middle of shooting.

Mike DeLuca 44:06
What was the what caused the eight day plug loophole?

David Goyer 44:09
I think it was casting and you know, they just ultimately decided does this movie worth it? Or something like that? Did not that movie was ultimately made as a TV movie. And Cynthia Verlaine?

Mike DeLuca 44:23
I say how do you know when to really give them a fight? And when to pick your battles? Like what? How do you know when to to really throw up to fall on your sword for a point of view or a project or

David Goyer 44:39
That's a hard one, especially as you're starting out? Because, you know, there are a couple of different factors involved. I mean, first of all, if you're a beginning writer, you're too difficult or too argumentative. You will ultimately run yourself out of jobs because people say he's just too much of a year she is just too much of a pain in the ass.

Mike DeLuca 44:59
But they want to put point of view too, probably right?

David Goyer 45:01
They do want the point of view. But then But then the other thing that happens is, as you become more successful, you've got a body of work, so you can speak with more authority, and throw yourself around. Now, I reached this aha experience where, I don't know maybe about 10 years ago, I was given a set. The other thing is that you have to be open to the idea that to constructive criticism that just because it's a studio doesn't mean that what they're saying isn't a good idea. You have to really challenge yourself and find this balance between listening to the criticism, and possibly doing what they're saying, and also fighting for your instincts. And there are cases where you could be in a room of people who are all tentative or saying don't do this. And you think, no, I should do the opposite. And you absolutely should stick to your guns. And what I realized 10 years ago, as if I really hate the notes, and I really think that these notes, just completely screw with the integrity of the piece. I won't do them a walk. And usually nine times out of 10 That's so freaks them out. Right? You know, I'll say give back the money. What not on that I did it with you once your appears to me which one refreshment? I was I did an early draft of Freddy vs. Jason. Ah,

Mike DeLuca 46:16
I don't remember it. No, I don't remember. And, and I chose that when Rob butene was,

David Goyer 46:21
Yeah, truth be told, I didn't really want to do the project right in with and you kind of talked me into it. And my heart wasn't in it. And we did a draft and it sucked. And, and I said it sucked in. You know, you guys wanted me to do certain amount of notes. And I just like I

Mike DeLuca 46:37
Get me off this train.

David Goyer 46:38
Yeah, exactly. 10 years later, they made it.

Mike DeLuca 46:41
Did you ever say the eventual movie?

David Goyer 46:43
Did I ever see it? The irony is 10 years later, I ended up being Boone swagel into Script doctoring the day. Since I spent by weeks on that, that

Mike DeLuca 46:54
It was fated to be you and Freddy and Jason. Yeah, you're lucky they didn't draft you for the Freddy Jason Chucky ash from Evil Dead movie.

David Goyer 47:00
I know. I know. That, like every writer in town, like worked on. Right? Pretty versus JC. I mean, there were 13 different scripts written and nothing.

Mike DeLuca 47:12
Cynthia Verlaine took a shot probably now that you're directing your own material, the new line, trust you more because it's one stop shopping for the vision that dealt with you as a writer?

David Goyer 47:21
Yeah, I think newline did trust me because I, in terms of things that have been made, I'd been involved in five or six things in the one that I made and maybe 10 things, you know, all the things that hadn't been made. There's definitely a comfort level between us.

Mike DeLuca 47:37
Have you turned down other assignments besides running away from Freddy vs. Jason? Oh, yeah.

David Goyer 47:41
I turned down assignments all the time.

Mike DeLuca 47:43
I know, you turn that you turn me down again for Ghost Rider?

David Goyer 47:45
I did. I did. I did turn you down for that.

Mike DeLuca 47:50
I guess it was it. Your schedule. But also, you have to be turned on by the material? You will?

David Goyer 47:57
Yeah. I mean, in that case, I actually could not do it, right. Because I was about to drag a pilot. But I turned things down all the time. I mean, that's one of the nice things about hopefully becoming more successful is you can become progressively more selected. And, you know,

Mike DeLuca 48:11
Do you think you'll continue to be open to direct other people's scripts as well as right?

David Goyer 48:14
Yeah. Well, we'll see what the experience is like after I do it. But I think so you're gonna let the writer on the set? Yeah. Yeah, I'm, I'm, I think it's, I think it's good to have the writer on the set. Because it it's important to have somebody who can protect the integrity of the story, because when you are directing, you're shooting it out of order, right. And he says, and his little pieces in, you're overwhelmed by costume and continuity, and the actor won't come out of their trailer and whatever it is that you're dealing with. And the actor might want to make some line modification, and you're not thinking at the time. But if I change that line, it's going to screw up this scene later on down the line that the writer is because the writers got it in his or her head. So I think that's important.

Mike DeLuca 49:01
At this point, your career What do you know what the best thing you've ever written is? I think I'm produced or not produced. But do you know, yeah, that's the best thing.

David Goyer 49:07
The best thing ever written, I think for me produced is Batman Begins so far. I think the best script I ever wrote, not yet produced is not a patient of a Neil Gaiman short story called murder mysteries. And that's admittedly, something I hope to direct but it's more of a dark city. It's led to much more challenging, not sort of downright mental movie.

Mike DeLuca 49:33
Do you like Do you still like those complex narratives as puzzle boxes?

David Goyer 49:36
I do. Right? I do that. I mean, you do too. They're not they're not always gonna burn up the screen in terms of box.

Mike DeLuca 49:43
I think what I learned is that we have a peculiar taste and yes, budget should be watched. Yeah. I mean, although we did have matrix two seconds before matrix,

David Goyer 49:52
I know what's frustrating is the matrix came out. Yeah, you know, a year later or something like that

Mike DeLuca 49:58
And with the ah, That's how you make that idea commercial.

David Goyer 50:01
Exactly, I forgot how to do that.

Mike DeLuca 50:14
This is a hard question to answer, but what do you feel you have one weakness as a writer, I know you want to broadcast this to the studios.

David Goyer 50:20
I think that writers tend to gravitate either more character writers or more plot writers. And I think that that's a kind of a fundamental way that writers approach things. And a lot of writers will write characters person sort of see where those characters take them. Right in no other writers will work from a place of structure and plot and, and back into them. I mean, you know, it's still difficult for me, I think to write female characters. Just because I don't have a vagina. Right.

Mike DeLuca 50:52
You know, they saw those done on Melrose. Yeah, the robber.

David Goyer 50:56
I, yep, that's still difficult for me.

Mike DeLuca 50:58
So what do you do to improve in that area? Knowing that that's a weakness?

David Goyer 51:02
I mean, do you seek go down to Melrose?

Mike DeLuca 51:05
I mean, do you show do you talk to women about characters when you're writing a strip of female?

David Goyer 51:09
Yeah and do you say, we read this to you? Can you see if it rings true or not? You know, and you try to do whatever research you can ask?

Mike DeLuca 51:19
The Katie Holmes character and Batman Begins and nimbu che right and blade we're both pretty strong female characters.

David Goyer 51:25
Yes. And I like writing strong female characters. But you know, I'm, but I'm aware of the fact that I don't want to make them to stride into a book. I'm not. I think I can do it. It's just something that I

Mike DeLuca 51:40
that's one area. Yeah, yeah. You and Oliver Stone. Was there a point in Batman Begins where you guys had a roadblock, and it took you a little bit of time to bust through it was anything difficult in the in the RE fashioning of that myth?

David Goyer 51:55
I remember saying to Chris, at one point, near the end of the second act of the film, that would be great if there were a certain amount of symmetry if, if if Ra's al Ghul when he comes back could burn down Wayne Manor. And I remember thinking that a that would be something the audience wouldn't expect, because it's not in the cannon. Right. I think they're not going to destroy Wayne Manor. Because, you know, Wayne Manor continues exists, but I knew it seems obvious now. But it took us months to figure out how she was, you know, just to figure out well, they can rebuild it. Oh, I mean, it's like

Mike DeLuca 52:34
da right. Well, that's how reverently you treated the cannon in your mind that has always existed and glider down it's gone. Right right.

David Goyer 52:42
But then we thought the debt the debt then fits with the theme in the movie of rebuilding Gotham Ryan

Mike DeLuca 52:47
and you and you managed to get a few lines about you know, that imply that the can make improvements to

David Goyer 52:52
the debt to build a better Batcave and things like that, right? I mean, I think that the was also trying to figure out the machinations of getting Ra's al Ghul back into Gotham and in in linking Rossignol in the League of Shadows into sort of having, perhaps a presence Gotham before, you know, day was that was a tricky movie to write. Right? Also, because we were dealing with a nonlinear structure,

Mike DeLuca 53:17
right? You've worked in the same genre a lot. Have you ever like cannibalized? unproduced scripts for all their stuff became produced all the time?

David Goyer 53:24
I mean, they're yours. Why not? Yeah, exactly. I mean, I remember utilizing a bit from I wrote a unproduced script for Dr. Strange persone. And I utilize that in another bit, or sometimes they'll come up with a line or, you know, a scary sequence and cannibalize. You're allowed to copy from yourself, especially if it's never seen the light of day.

Mike DeLuca 53:45
Where do you find inspiration for the stuff you come up with?

David Goyer 53:49
I'm a voracious reader. It oddly enough, I'm not a voracious consumer of movies, right? I mean, I watch movies, and I watch TV, but not I'm not wanting to describe myself as a student of Bob. But I do read constantly in my bed table. There's four or five books that I'm reading simultaneously and I read all sorts of stuff.

Mike DeLuca 54:12
Now, I know you'd like to think on your feet. So yes, we've got a little screenwriting exercise for you. And we call it the object.

David Goyer 54:19
my loins are yearning Norris. Try

Mike DeLuca 54:25
So here's what's here's what happens here. Okay, we're gonna present you with an object. You're going to tell me its story in any way you see fit. And after that, you're gonna tell me why you chose what you chose. Other than that, there are no rules regulations or limitations

David Goyer 54:38
you bastard Okay, ready?

Mike DeLuca 54:39
Yeah, you know what's going on?

David Goyer 54:40
I'm I know it I yeah, I grok it ticket. Your objects Oh, God. Well, I mean, I see this and immediately I go to some kind of horror film. Oh, no. I mean, you know, this is just You know, some guy cop pursuing, you know, killer or something like that and some god forsaken place it's been condemned. And you know, there were the killer is taken 40 children and he's the murdered them. And you know, this little object is sort of there when the guy finally kills the killer in some.

Mike DeLuca 55:22
So you've taken a child's toy thing built well I am the prince of

David Goyer 55:27
darkness but But I look at this toy and I think this is a disturbing toy like that Jack in the Box or the monkey comes out or do that thing right and monkey II, that bed dolls, those kinds of things really scare me and this little clown and clowns are inherently scary as well and just wrong. And so you've got like an old tin toy of a clown. And it just it's disturbed romantic. And I maintain that if you put this thing in like an empty room with you know, holes in the wall and graffiti and stuff like that, and just some moonlight coming down on that. You'd be scared. And you'd say the souls of 40 murder children have been consecrated into that little toy and they're going to come out and terrify people later on. I don't know. I mean, I seriously though I look at this and I say this is like, right. This is disturbing. I don't know why, right. Maybe it's indicative of my fucked up childhood or something like that.

Mike DeLuca 56:25
I had a fucked up childhood I see a clown on a bike.

David Goyer 56:28
So this is just a benign object. I

Mike DeLuca 56:32
didn't write Batman Begins.

David Goyer 56:33
Right? Well, that's true. But you wrote in the mouth and I mentioned that. And the most disturbing thing about the object is that he I now have to have it sit there in front of me.

Mike DeLuca 56:43
You can put anywhere you want. Really? It's your object. Okay. One might say it's an object lesson. Whoo. So far, you mentioned you wanted to be a cop, a homicide detective, not even just a cop a homicide. I

David Goyer 56:58
was very interested in solving homicides as a kid. You put

Mike DeLuca 57:01
this thing at the scene of a crime not even a crime. child murder a homicide. What's eating you David?

David Goyer 57:06
What's eating? I know as a kid, I watched a lot of monster movies. And a lot of I would just inherently be drawn to you didn't get

Mike DeLuca 57:17
in the car with a group of guys.

David Goyer 57:20
Yeah, I didn't. Yeah, I didn't. I didn't have a scout mouth.

Mike DeLuca 57:25
Never too late.

David Goyer 57:26
Had you had me when a very specific merit badge? No.

Mike DeLuca 57:30
Do you like to be scared? I mean,

David Goyer 57:32
as I do, like, I love to be scared. I love the vicarious right sort of you know, I love that experience of seeing something that's absolutely terrifying. Or reading something that's absolutely terrifying any it's very rare these days when I watch a movie or television that I myself am scared right audience member and I could probably count on one hand in the last decade or two decades the movies that really scare me but I vividly remember for instance, seeing alien reverse time in absolutely losing my shit as an 11 year old and then you know another just really disturbing movie is Don't look now yes the end of Don't look now and that's a movie that movie so disturbing. I remember showing it to a woman who broke up with me afterwards futures isn't debt so terrible. You ever you say hello to that's a breakout? Yeah, yeah, that's a good makeout film.

Mike DeLuca 58:26
You're making out with freak Bala Madonna. Yeah.

David Goyer 58:30
But I think that, you know, Jacob's Ladder, scared me and unhinged me and disturbed me and I think parts of 20 days later and it's really hard to make a really scary movie actually,

Mike DeLuca 58:41
in Batman Begins. I thought it it comes close to true horror and several sequences but

David Goyer 58:47
mostly with a scarecrow. I

Mike DeLuca 58:48
think well, the one I'm thinking of is the Scarecrow has inhaled his own magenic and what Nolan put on screen is his hallucinogenic version of Batman, you know, threatening Scarecrow was truly horrific.

David Goyer 59:02
Well, that was the epiphany that you know, I when I was talking with Chris, when we were first talking about the story, I said, it always bothered me and it didn't Batman comic books and things like that, that they could be some scene where the guy would plop down a newspaper and it would be some man on the streets description of a giant bat in the artists, you know, read edition was a giant bat. And when it looked like a giant ad, saying to Chris, well, what are we going to do? Because it doesn't look like a bat, right? It looks like a guy that's going to a costume ball or something like that. So then I realized oh my god, the Scarecrow uses this hallucinogen. And I mean, the idea of adding the Scarecrow himself see is that that came later but right when we realized that we were getting gas, Gotham, I thought, holy crap. We have this opportunity to ever so briefly, show Batman VM. A fair point is to be your point of view. And he does look like horrific demon and That is what cements bad man's reputation in Gotham. where the legend spreads because hundreds of 1000s of people or at least 1000s of people, Shaw, a giant flying demonic bat, right? Because they were all high. They were all right, you know? And then we backed into the idea of the Scarecrow seeing Batman in the same way. Just a few medicine doctor what have you been doing here? He's near right now. If you'd like to make an appointment.

Mike DeLuca 1:01:11
Now that that must be a case as a writer where there was a happy marriage of your ideas and the director's execution of the ideas you discussed? It doesn't always go that way. But was there a point in the Batman process where you saw dailies or you saw assembly and you knew this, this is one of the best versions of director taking my words and US collaborating on what shouldn't be on screen?

David Goyer 1:01:36
Well, I think the two best versions of that that I've had were dark city. And, and Batman Begins. And the reason for that is because I developed both scripts with the director. And, you know, from the inception, the two of us were on board. So everything that Chris or Alex was going on to design right was coming from that as opposed to writing a script in a vacuum, and then giving it to Norrington or Guillermo del Toro even though I had a good experience with those guys different and then interpreting it in different way or coming at it from a different way, in that in both those cases, we were able to sort of approaching it from the same angle, right?

Mike DeLuca 1:02:17
Did you know When did you know when you saw the Director's Cut, that this was going to work and reinvent the franchise.

David Goyer 1:02:22
I knew before then, because we also started pre production, we brought on Chris brought on his production designer, as we were writing, and he worked in the room next to us. And we would just go back and forth. And he was coming up with designs for Gotham, or the Batmobile. And we would come in and kibbutz and then some of that would plug back into the script that we were writing so deep, this sort of visual evolution of the film was it was happening parallel to the script.

Mike DeLuca 1:02:49
I assume it's gone the other way. For you,

David Goyer 1:02:51
when I've had terrible experiences with directors.

Mike DeLuca 1:02:54
When do you know what those experiences? Is it when you see the director's cut, or before just

David Goyer 1:02:59
from you know, sometimes when you're shooting and I've had experiences with a director, you realize with horror, that the director actually doesn't understand the scene, right? Like missed the whole point of the scene. Right? And, and you try to sort of talk sense into them or things like that, and, you know, debts that's bad. Also, it's bad if you have I've a couple of times work with directors where it kind of became a free for all, and they would listen to anyone because they were terrified. So I mean, yes, my voice was in there, but it's committed to and Midian is done. It's just a mess.

Mike DeLuca 1:03:41
Where's your workspace, where you work out of and what's in it.

David Goyer 1:03:43
I have an office at home. And I do a lot of work there. And my sort of prized possession is a photograph in the 70s of Marlon Brando. In behind him is a paparazzi photographer named Ron vallila who used to stalk Marlon Brando and one point Brando turned around and punched him in the face and broke his nose so from that point on we're gone for a football helmet with his name Ron on it's the photo is Marlon Brando, Iran and the football helmet behind him and that kind of sums up Hollywood

Mike DeLuca 1:04:15
that's great completely the guy wants to punch the nose and the guys figured out what to wear to protect it

David Goyer 1:04:19
and stalking you right you know, but but most of my scripts I write the bulk of the March break the back of all my scripts at a place in Wyoming that I go up to in Jackson Hole, and I just locked myself away in this lodge for 10 or

Mike DeLuca 1:04:32
15 days. Does that evolve over time that that Yeah, I had a writer's retreat for it.

David Goyer 1:04:36
Yeah, I realized it's just better to go away and just really focused

Mike DeLuca 1:04:41
do listen to music or have little rituals while you write or I don't I

David Goyer 1:04:45
don't listen to music. I can't I need complete silence. I can't even have anyone else in the house wish list the room. So there's that I always write from about 10 in the morning till two in the afternoon. I don't write on the weekends. I don't What makes that kind of discipline unique, really important? I mean that some people write in different ways. But for me, you know, I think one of the reasons that I've been successful is that I created my own discipline. And I'm very rigid about it and I treat it like a real job and I found that once I started doing that, I became more effective writer you mentioned,

Mike DeLuca 1:05:19
you read a lot the reading does it help you write? Do you read while you're writing or just like I read before use get inspired to write a screenplay I read

David Goyer 1:05:28
while I'm writing? And inevitably I find out it's, it's usually subconsciously, but inevitably, I will realize as I'm writing, that there's certain thematic elements to what I've been reading or it's selected to read, but I don't it's not apparent to me until I'm sort of much further along in the process.

Mike DeLuca 1:05:45
You just kind of divine out the mood of what you're writing stories or books present themselves. Yeah,

David Goyer 1:05:50
yeah. Like our I'll be on Amazon and I'll, I don't realize it, but I'll be reading descriptions or reviews of books and ordering them, but clearly, in the back of my head, they're thematically linked to whatever it is that I'm writing,

Mike DeLuca 1:06:02
and you've been busy on originals for so long, but you get called on to come in and rewrite other writers screenplays. Yeah, I've

David Goyer 1:06:08
done a certain amount of what they refer to as Script doctoring. Right. And a key frankly, it can be very fun because sometimes it's just a totally mercenary aspect to doing it where you come in for a week or two or three and your job isn't to reveal the fort. Your job is to just do the notes do the nodes or you know, a one movie I was brought in nearly to rewrite Michael Caine's dialogue. That's all I did, is he played a villain and I was just making his dialogue snarky er right and it's kind of fun because I think it's very pretentious to

Mike DeLuca 1:06:44
designate the villain in that Steven Seagal movie

David Goyer 1:06:46
Why yes, he was was that possibly the that was possibly the one the ones to Steven Seagal directed right

Mike DeLuca 1:06:52
his debut his debut What is it Big Mountain Railroad or something? What was it called?

David Goyer 1:06:57
It was escaped a Witch Mountain. That's what it what it was called On Deadly Ground deadly

Mike DeLuca 1:07:01
grounds. The Indian moonwalk,

David Goyer 1:07:03
yeah, all of his movies at the time at Indian American reading that is three words right Delhi ground above the law hard to kill March per death.

Mike DeLuca 1:07:12
Have you ever turned down a rewrite job? Because you respect the original writer? Yeah,

David Goyer 1:07:15
absolutely. I was actually approached possibly to rewrite SpiderMan from David CAPP script and the new one, the new with the world of the first Oh, sorry, this is the first part of it. Yeah. And, and I thought is script was really good. And I told them, You guys are crazy. Like, you should write it. And yeah, that happens a lot. I've also turned on jobs, because I've been asked to rewrite friends were right, or whatnot. But you know, I've been rewritten by people, those many questions, and I've gone on to rewrite them. And, you know, once you're in this business long enough that that kind of stuff out why the musical

Mike DeLuca 1:07:53
chairs so much you think on scripts, and because it's

David Goyer 1:07:58
on one hand, I mean, on one hand, stuff can be developed and can be helped. But I also maintain, I swear to God, I wish one day, for one year, Hollywood would only make first drafts. Right, and I maintain them films would be no better or worse, right? And they probably see a lot of money in development. But sometimes they get better, right? But I always build it in the development process. Maybe by the third or fourth draft, they get better. But then there's sort of a law of diminishing returns, and then they're not as good again. Yeah. And I think the main reason is, well, they're it's twofold. One, it's inevitable that as an executive or a producer, read a script for the third or fourth time, it doesn't feel this pressure anymore, right? And so you get the note, this doesn't feel as fresh anymore. Exactly. And you're like pulled up because you know what all the scares are, you know what the jokes are, you're at, you don't have that experience. And there's that, but it's also, it's the only real element that can change that can be continually fuck with once you're shooting the movie, translate the statues left the station. So it's the obvious place for the studio to second guess themselves

Mike DeLuca 1:09:04
because they can and it right, it gives you that sense of security suitable, right?

David Goyer 1:09:08
And there's also a sense of, Well, this script is great. But if we bring on high paid screenwriter acts bright for a punch up, we did what we could we did what we could, and we protected ourselves. And maybe he gave that little pixie dust. But a lot of times then people just go in and kind of bone it in

Mike DeLuca 1:09:29
out of your approach receiving notes from executives, or producers or managers or actors or like, Are you pretty open minded or have the years kind of built up a healthy cynicism about it all?

David Goyer 1:09:41
I try to be open minded, even though by nature, I'm very cynical about it. But I do try to be open minded and do try to listen a lot of times it's just about them being heard, right? A lot of times you can talk people out of notes, you know, and sometimes you get good notes, but nowadays, I'm much more in the position Being able to pick the people that I'm working with.

So, the producers, the directors, you know, as much as you're gonna be rejected, right? So there's a bit more of a safety factor there.

Mike DeLuca 1:10:24
Do you think genre films have to fight to get the same respect as, even though there's this mad rush to make more genre pictures and bigger temperature, the

David Goyer 1:10:32
most successful films of all time have been science fiction or fantasy.

Mike DeLuca 1:10:36
There seems to be like a weird paradox of in a way the screenplays need to be better crafted than something taking place in the real world because you have to do so much heavy lifting to suspend disbelief and make it believable. Well, that

David Goyer 1:10:49
there is that obviously, there's a suspension, you're dealing with all that suspension of disbelief is a factor that you don't have to deal with. If you're doing fried green tomatoes, or if you're doing you know, I don't know American Beauty or something like that. Will we ever see a science fiction film nominated for Best Picture?

Mike DeLuca 1:11:07
I remember when Sauce Labs got this picture was almost out of Hearthstone, one best

David Goyer 1:11:10
pixel and also when Sigourney Weaver Weaver as actress was nominated for aliens, that was a giant deal, right?

Mike DeLuca 1:11:17
Do you think they're still kind of looked down upon? Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Do you ever look at when you're constructing a script? Do you put monologues or action description that you feel is going to help hook an actor or hook a director? I think that's able to do it.

David Goyer 1:11:32
Yeah. I mean, sometimes you have to do that right. And especially if you know that you're you know, you're going out to a certain star right? Sometimes we'll take an extra little pass and try to I remember on blade two for instance, Wesley Snipes, eight, get getting wet, hates getting wet. And we had this sequence where we wanted blade to fall into a bad bout of blood and become totally submerged and and then walk out covered in blood, right? Kind of a problem was he doesn't like to be wet. And I had this bad with Peter Frankfort and Guillermo del Toro, producer and director. They say you're never going to get it in the movie. You're never he's not going to do it. And I said I can get him to do it. So I went back and rewrote the scene and did the descriptive adjective adjective, Florida, Florida, Florida, and I said, and he emerges from the blood looking so like some primordial god of war. And I actually wrote in the description not unlike Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now.

Mike DeLuca 1:12:34
I swear to God, this means you read closely

David Goyer 1:12:37
you are Martin Sheen and Apocalypse Now you are the primordial god of war. And sure enough, he agreed to do it. Right. So sneaky, but we weren't Yeah, we do that all the time. You know, in the I joke that like every every description of like, a leading lady is always like, attractive, yet fiercely intelligent.

Mike DeLuca 1:12:56
Right? She's gotta be Mensa. She also has to know karate. Ya know, if I remember correctly, you you have a nice balance between writing the action and the descriptions in your scripts to be entertaining. But they're not

David Goyer 1:13:08
show off the like some writers. Why try not to be obnoxious right,

Mike DeLuca 1:13:12
now that you're directing your own scripts? Will you write the pros to be less? Yeah, because you're there

David Goyer 1:13:18
when I mean, partially when you're writing a script, you're trying to attract a director and or stars. But if I am the director, you know, I know what you're doing. There's less kind of Hootenanny involved, you know, verbal who nanny but I will also change my writing style depending on the movie, right? So zigzag with the independent film I did was written very sparsely the blade films were a bit more florid, kind of in your face in terms of the prose style Batman was written, I literally went back and read scripts for Lawrence of Arabia Man Who Would Be King, because we were trying to ape, that feeling of this sort of classic epic, right and try to write Batman Begins in a more sort of classic mannered style.

Mike DeLuca 1:14:03
What was the main difference between those screenplays from that time and scream even screenplays of epics today? Like were they written in a more minimalist style? Yeah,

David Goyer 1:14:11
and they weren't showing right. And there was no kind of wink wink, nudge nudge, A, we know, you're a highly paid studio executive that's reading this right. And they were approached and much more in a no nonsense way. I remember when I was first starting out. I was very impressed with Walter Hill's early scripts, like the scripts, Birth of a driver was a great driver and hard times and they were just like these, like almost haikus because they were so sparse, long riders is very sparse. And you know, I just remember I was very impressed with those scripts. And that's the direction you you were especially that's the direction I ran in and then I realized that I would change it up depending on what the movie will

Mike DeLuca 1:14:50
do. intimidate people in meetings the people that don't aren't familiar with you, they just know the body of work. And then well, who's this dark guy coming in

David Goyer 1:14:57
to see Yeah, and sometimes the tattoos it's funny that I get that because cuz I think I'm relatively affable. You're one of the nicest guys in the business. I think I am. But you know, I've had people, you know, right. Be freaked out.

Mike DeLuca 1:15:08
Just look by it's covered. Yeah. Do you use that ever to your course?

David Goyer 1:15:12
Make them fear you, right? Have you ever there's nothing that will scare them more than just not saying much. Just letting it hang. Yeah, just nodding or something like that.

Mike DeLuca 1:15:25
Aside from just having the talent itself, what's what can't be taught about screenwriting or what's what's the one piece of

David Goyer 1:15:31
tenacity, tenacity, yeah, and having a hard skin because, you know, it's not enough, unfortunately, to be talented in this business, because it's such a social business. And so much of it is not only the work, but getting in the room and convincing these people that not only are you the right guy to write this, but you know, they're developing so many movies, hundreds 1000s of movies that are given studios, and they're only going to make 12 to 25 a year, right. And so for every script of yours, they're going to make your script, they're not going to make 100 others, right. And they're going to spend, in the case of Blade $60 million on the movie in another 30 million, you know, 100 million dollars in marketing. And that's a lot of money. And a lot of people's careers are hanging in the balance turns and making the right decision. So your job is also with the script, or whatever you're conveying personally is, yeah, not only should you not make those movies, you should make mine and your career is going to advance because of it. Because to make even a smallest movie like zigzag. It's millions of dollars riding on it's not the same as just publishing some small book or something. Right.

Mike DeLuca 1:16:42
So now it's not enough to just bring in the material that's commercial and that they can say there's going to be a hit movie that has to be personalized into this will advance your career.

David Goyer 1:16:51
Yeah, you terrified guys that are because it's mostly a studio executives job to say no, because anytime you say yes, right. Your career is on the law of averages

Mike DeLuca 1:17:00
is with you if you say no, exactly.

David Goyer 1:17:02
So if you if you say I believe in this one, you're on the hook for it, right? So your job as the writer or director or whatever is to come on communicate to studio executive A, B or C do your you're gonna get a nice bonus if you do it,

Mike DeLuca 1:17:18
right. Do you think you know i know i love horror films. You love horror films. I'm enjoying the fantasy films that are getting made now. Are we in danger of burning it out? Now?

David Goyer 1:17:27
It'll be cyclical, right? I mean, it'll I think these genres are perennial, right? And everybody will jump on the bandwagon bandwagon like they are. And you know, comic book films, you know, in a year or two that the cycle will burn itself out and it'll go more dormant and then we'll come back again

Mike DeLuca 1:17:43
right I mean, now the most famous characters have kind of been adapted I guess for unless precede unless sequels to those films, you know, that launched the new franchises. Do you think people will start looking for the hidden gems like way

David Goyer 1:17:55
they will but then, you know, 20 years from now they'll probably do another cycle of Superman rhymes and Batman films and Lone Ranger writes in the you know, I think those characters are sort of cultural icons they're just here to stay right?

Mike DeLuca 1:18:08
Why do you think they endure it's a uniquely American kind of invention these these these characters that came from pulpy you know, like, nickel, escapist comic books from the during the Depression days

David Goyer 1:18:21
they have they have resonance and they've they've stood the test of time and Batman, Superman had been around for 75 odd years, something like that any of the character a survived through that and many permutations, there's something about it. I mean, Superman is is the Christ myth, right? I mean, literally, my only son save Yeah, I'm going to give you a God like being I'm going to send him down to save you, and he's going to suffer rereads Christ. So it's kind of obvious why that one endures. And Batman is sort of the ultimate kind of dark wish fulfillment that gets terribly romantic. It's got Granta scenes to vampire stories, Phantom of the Opera, stuff like that, what is the car phones are doing bigger business now than they ever have in a long time? You know, with between the garage and the jet, but I think it's cyclical, it's just people. People like to be scared. They go in and out of fashion. And, you know, I think in another couple of years that'll Abate, they will become dormant again for a while. And I just think, you know, every generation or every other generation, there's, there's going to be a cycle of these things. And people will come up also the public as a very short memory, right? No, everything old is new again, right? And people don't realize that films being made now. You know, you have all these forefathers and films being made 20 years ago and 40 years ago and things like that.

Mike DeLuca 1:19:45
Now after the film, you're about to direct the invisible invisible after that you think flash will be next for you? Probably yeah. And then when can we expect the next Batman and release?

David Goyer 1:19:55
Probably 2008 Summer 2008 We're just talking about a trend to figure out what the hell can we do it? Connect be cool again, that kind of thing. Well, excellent.

Mike DeLuca 1:20:05
Good luck with everything. Thank you. We want to thank David Goyer, director, writer, producer, thank you as well. Please be sure to check out our other great interviews. And remember, it all starts with you. The next written by credit could be yours. I'm Mike DeLuca.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:18
I hope you guys enjoyed that sneak preview of the dialogue with David Goyer. And if you want to watch this on Indie Film Hustle TV, all you got to do is go to indiefilmhustle.tv and sign up. And there you can watch another 32 episodes of this amazing series as well as tons of other courses, movies, documentaries, all about filmmaking and screenwriting. Again. That's indiefilmhustle.tv. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, head over to the show notes at bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/220 Thank you again for listening guys. As always, keep on writing no matter what, I'll talk to you soon.

IFH 604: How to Write a Screenplay Super Fast! with Jeff Bollow

Have you ever wanted to learn how to write a screenplay fast? I know I do. This is why I invited on the show award-winning producer/director, best-selling author, film festival organizer and public speaker, Jeff Bollow.

He is the author of Writing FAST: How to Write Anything with Lightning SpeedJeff Bollow began as an actor at age 12 in his native Los Angeles (credits include Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead and TV’s Columbo) before working nearly every job in production, from camera to sound to lighting — and including jobs in development, post-production, and distribution.

Jeff has worked on feature films, TV series, commercials, music videos, radio, and corporate productions for companies such as Universal, Castle Rock, Propaganda Films, DNA and the Oxygen Network.

After migrating to New Zealand, where he directed television for TV3 and co-founded the Big Mountain Short Film Festival, he moved to Australia, where he launched Embryo Films. Through his company, Jeff has reviewed over 20,000 project submissions and has edited, assessed and/or mentored over 350 projects. He has script doctored in Singapore, Australia, NZ, and the US; and has conducted over 80 live weekend workshops to over 1200 writers in 9 cities in 5 countries, with a unanimous “recommend” approval rating.

His students have been optioned, produced and won (and placed) in competitions worldwide. He designed FAST Screenplay in 2004 and began officially building it in November 2009. It was finally completed in July 2016, nearly 7 years later. Alongside it, he created the FASTscreenplay YouTube Channel, which now includes over 30 detailed and insightful free videos to encourage writers and screenwriters around the world.

In May 2015, Jeff Bollow delivered his first TED Talk, “Expand Your Imagination… Exponentially” at TEDxDocklands in Melbourne, Australia, to prepare for the next phase of the larger plan. Jeff’s aim is to build an independent film studio that inspires creativity worldwide, to help prepare humanity for the dramatic changes our future holds. When he’s not busy helping writers with FAST Screenplay, he is working on a new book, developing a television series, and planning two feature film projects. Enjoy!

Right-click here to download the MP3

Jeff Bollow 0:00
Cause I think one of the challenges we have today is you know, so many people are watching YouTube and whatever at, like double speed that then to dial it back into the you can't watch a movie at double speed you're gonna miss, like it's not gonna, you're gonna get, you're gonna get info, you're gonna get data points, you're gonna get plot twists and turns, but you're not gonna get nuance and feeling and emotional subtlety. So you can't really watch a movie and take everything that the movie is giving you a way at double speed.

Alex Ferrari 0:28
This episode is brought to you by Bulletproof Script Coverage, where screenwriters go to get their scripts read by Top Hollywood Professionals. Learn more at covermyscreenplay.com. I like to welcome back to the show returning champion Jeff Bollow. How you doin Jeff?

Jeff Bollow 0:44
I'm great. Alex, how are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:45
I'm good, man. I'm good. Thanks for coming back on the show brother. You're

Jeff Bollow 0:48
Thanks for having me, man. It's been a while.

Alex Ferrari 0:50
It's been a few minutes. It's been a few minutes. I think you were in the hundreds. If I remember correctly.

Jeff Bollow 0:54
I think it was like, right around 100.

Alex Ferrari 0:56
Yeah, the hundreds or something like that when you came on last time. But your episode, your episode is one of the more downloaded episodes in the history of the show. It's always done very, very well. So I just was thinking I was thinking the other day, I'm like, you know, it's just back on the show, I think we we need to introduce what you do to the audience to this new audience wasn't originally to a new generation. But the new the new members of the tribe that have been listening, and I've gathered since last we spoke, which is you know, substantial since then.

Jeff Bollow 1:28

Alex Ferrari 1:31
Yes, I want to introduce here's what you do, and and who you are to the to the tribe. So for people who didn't listen to the first episode, how did you? And why did you want to get into this insanity? That is the film industry?

Jeff Bollow 1:44
Well, so I was insane as a very young child. So I literally cannot remember a time when I didn't want to be in the film industry. And so when I was like, five or six, seven, somewhere around there, I was like, constantly dreaming characters for myself on my favorite TV shows. So like, at the time dating myself a little bit here. Like it was cheers was one of my big shows that I would like, I would imagine character for myself as Sam Malone's long lost kid because, you know, used to like sleep around and all that kind of stuff. So what if he didn't know that he had a kid and I would like literally dream up a whole episode of me appearing, and being the guest star of like, Hey, I didn't know that. And I would imagine the whole show. So it was a weird, like, acting slash writing fantasy that I had as this kid. So you know, I was, I'd be on my paper route, throwing papers and dreaming up various fantasies on all these different shows. By the time I got to be 12 years old. I was like, my life is slipping away from me. So I said, I gotta, I gotta do something about this. And there was a guy at my local church who had a recurring role on a soap opera called Santa Barbara. And so of course, to me, he was an A Lister, obviously, he's probably he was probably a guy like just that was one of his few gigs that year, but But to me, he was Nayla he had the golden keys of the kingdom. So I asked him, How do you get into this and I, I, he told me, here's where you go to, to it was drama log back in the day, here's where you go for casting notices and try to take a picture of yourself and get an agent and I got an agent. I was with the kids agency, who at the time represented like Wil Wheaton and mine Bialik and that kind of stuff. And, and got some gigs here and there and just fell in love with the whole process once I was actually in it and on camera and doing the child acting thing. And once you fall in love with the process, it's really hard to you know, to forget that you fell in love with the process. So you're just like, I became a sponge and I was I just did. You know, you name it. So I don't know how far down that road you want me to go with? That was the genesis.

Alex Ferrari 4:06
So then, was there any films or TV shows that we might recommend remember you from Sir?

Jeff Bollow 4:11
I mean, the only one that people recommend remind me that the only one that people will remember today is I had a big part in a movie called Don't tell mom the babysitter's dead. Where I got stoned with with Christina Applegate, brother Oh, and I say and I said to a future X file star David do Cagni pocket yourself Metallica breath to which I begged and pleaded with the director Don't make me say this line. It's the stupidest line in the world. And when we have the cast and crew screening it got the biggest laugh of the palate for the stupidity of the lungs. So Metallica breath Yeah, guys I know Don't leave. It doesn't make any sense. But it's it was a thing for a while there.

Alex Ferrari 5:05
That is a cult that is a cult film everybody. Yes, it's called is a good word. I remember seeing it in the theater I told me to. And Christina Applegate was a huge star. She was still married with children at the time,

Jeff Bollow 5:18
It was her first, it was the first sort of foray her first big move into movies. It wasn't her first movie, but it was her first big move into movies.

Alex Ferrari 5:26
Can you imagine if a movie today was called Don't tell mom.

Jeff Bollow 5:30
Well funny enough. It was not called that originally it was it when we shot it. It was called the real world. And then as we were as it was being edited, the real world the MTV first reality show came along, and they went with change the title. So literally, we're at the cast and crew screening and they go, Oh, by the way, we've changed the title. And we asked the producers kids, and they thought it would be funny to call it Don't tell mom the babysitter's dead and we all went, Oh, God. No,

Alex Ferrari 6:02
I'll tell you what that name is. That's, that's, that's the thing that sticks.

Jeff Bollow 6:07
I honestly think that that's the only reason we still remember it today. I mean, movie, it's like, but it's like you only remember it for the title, which is a good lesson for would be screenwriters and creative people. Like if you're making a comedy. Make sure your title is funny. If you're making a horror film, make sure your title is scary, you know?

Alex Ferrari 6:27
Right, exactly. And you know, we can have Bernie's and things like that back weekend. How that movie ever got made is beyond me. And it's such an 80s

Jeff Bollow 6:36
I love that it did, though.

Alex Ferrari 6:39
And not only one, but two, of course, because the body obviously does a stink after the first

Jeff Bollow 6:46
I was gonna say like how long later was Bernie Bernie's? Two? I can't remember. Two years later, there's Bernie still will be at the ad Scott. Oh, seriously. He's so funny. So much of NATO is thinking about this the other day, so much of the films from that generation don't gonna hold up today. There's no no, a lot of cringy.

Alex Ferrari 7:11
And a lot of those movies in the 80s live beautifully in my memory. And I exactly watch them again, because like I was watching, I saw the I saw like a scene from Bloodsport. Okay. And I was like, no, no, I'm not gonna watch it. No, no, I, in my mind. It's fantastic. In my mind, the action sequences were great. And some scenes are great. The action sequences and stuff were really fun to watch. But I don't need to see the story of that. No, no, it's perfect here. Right? Exactly. Most films from the 80s and 90s, where it's good to hear.

Jeff Bollow 7:48
I mean, there's a lot of like John Hughes stuff that you're like, oh, no, love. I love that movie as a kid. And now like, oh, I don't even think I'd be able to

Alex Ferrari 8:03
We all watch home alone on Christmas.

Jeff Bollow 8:05
And it's, it's just funny how this time changes in our cultural sensibilities shift. And as they do a lot of the things that we look back on that seemed relatively normal and tame culturally, back in the day, just kind of, they don't necessarily seem that way today. So I in some ways, it's kind of encouraging because it means there's always going to be this need for new fresh voices and new fresh ideas and perspectives and, and stories. What we need to do then is tell those stories in a way that gives the today audience the same feel that we had back in the day with that with, you know, movies are of the time of the moment, you look back at 50s and 60s films. And the sensibilities were different in those times. So some of those things can transcend and hang on over the years, but some of them are really relegated to the era in which they were mammy.

Alex Ferrari 8:58
You can watch die hard and it still holds you can watch Wizard of Oz and it still holds you go watch godfather and it still holds these things transcend time and space. Pacing might be a little bit slower than we're used to and things like yes, definitely. But overall, they still I mean, I still watch Casablanca and I'm just like, so

Jeff Bollow 9:16
But how much of it is because you already have that bond with it versus

Alex Ferrari 9:22
Oh, if it was fresh, you would be like, like, well, this is does this make sense here? I remember you look at something like Shawshank, and you know Shawshank is I agree. It's gonna hold from I mean, look, there might be a time where if it doesn't cut every five seconds or every two seconds. It's not going to work.

Jeff Bollow 9:43
I think one of the challenges we have today is you know so many people are watching YouTube and whatever at double speed. Then to dial it back into the you can't watch a movie at double speed. You're gonna miss like it's not gonna you're gonna get you're gonna get info you're gonna get data points. You're gonna get plot twists and turns, but you're not going to get nuance and feeling and emotional subtlety. So you can't really watch a movie and take everything that the movie is giving you a way at double speed. So that's, that's going to force the normal speed to be faster. That's one of the reasons why we want cuts every so often now, I think. And it's like, where does that end out? You know, how does that how does that change the story medium over time? I just find that a fascinating puzzle, you know, so

Alex Ferrari 10:32
So let's bring it back to what you've been doing now for a few years. Yes. Which is helping screenwriters with screenwriting development? So the first question, we're going to talk about the fast screenplay, which is a fantastic system that you've come up with. The first question is, what are the three fundamental problems with screenplay development?

Jeff Bollow 10:53
Well, so the so we have a bunch of fundamental problems, but sort of some core fundamental problems are that at the end of the day, we're making a film, when you're writing a screenplay, you're not writing it for the end reader, you're writing it for the audience, you're writing it for the people who are going to make the film for an audience. So because we're not writing for the reader, a lot of writers often get into this place where they think they think my work has to be perfect, or it's how I see it in my head is what it has to be in it. And there's this, there's this, there's this delicacy that they treat it with, that doesn't really hold in how the industry works. The the screenplay is a is a blueprint for the production process. The screenplay is the is the is the thing around which we all huddle, and decide that this is the movie we're gonna make. It's not the screenplay, it's not the, as the writer, the idea in your head, is not the thing that's going to end up on the screen. The idea in your head is what informs the ideas and all these other creative people's heads, which is what's going to end up on the screen. Right? So fundamentally, a challenge that we have, is that, that we have to create for a creative team. Right? We also have to the another fundamental challenge is that there is not the money, particularly in the indie film world to pay for that script development. So if there's not that money to pay for that script development, how do we develop projects. So let's, for example, let's say you've written a script, you send it to me, as a producer looking for material, I look over that script, and I say, Hey, this is a great idea, this is a decent story. But it falls apart in the second act, and it doesn't really work and I need to change the end, my lead is a little bit older than this, can we age it up a little bit, like I have these changes I need to make, either I'm gonna have to pay you or someone who's skilled at doing that to fix that project. Money, which I can't guarantee is going to give me the result that I want. And money, which I can't recoup, if I don't make this film. So it's very risky for the producer to say, I'm gonna go ahead and buy this or make this. So as a result, we don't and we say no, and it's much more, you're much more likely to get a no, because there it's too there's too much required on the producer side to, to make to go down that road. So as a result, what the producer needs is for the writer to be at a higher level of development, like they need the project to come in, at least on the indie level where you don't have the money for development. They need the script and the project come in at a higher caliber at a at a more at a higher state of readiness with less what I call a viable production ready screenplay. You need that? In order to be able to say yes, so that I can at least see that if there are some adjustments, they're minor, and this writer is talented enough, they can probably make those adjustments. That's a that is one of the fundamental problems. So the so those are the main kind of kind of big sticking points now fundamentally within the industry. My belief is that one of the grand challenges we have is that most writing screenwriting is taught by writers. And by being taught by writers, you don't. What you often don't get is the producers perspective, so you often don't get what the producer needs in your project. So if you're writing something and you don't understand what the producer actually needs in your project, what they need from a packaging standpoint, what they need from a logistics production standpoint, what they need from a budgeting standpoint, you have a great idea. Fantastic. But it's got a niche audience. But your budget is like this. Like, there's a mismatch there. It's misaligned. So because it's misaligned, it's always going to be a no no matter how good that idea is. And I think part of the part of the problem is that the generally within the industry, there is not this infusion of the producers perspective, and what the what that what an understanding of that is and what that means for your project. So I don't know if that answers your question.

Alex Ferrari 15:46
No one answers exactly what what it is. And I agree with you, there's so many screenwriters just come up with an idea and a story. They don't think about the product. They don't think about how this is actually gonna get produced. I have so many screenwriters that have come to me and they're like, I have this this tentpole I'm like, stop right there. Stop. Is that Yes, exactly. No one is gonna give you $200 million. No one's gonna give you $100 million. No one's gonna give you $50 million. It is not the world we live in today. No one's buying tentpole specs anymore.

Jeff Bollow 16:14
It's possible, but it's the very peak of a very specific mountain that you have to climb up to to qualify for. If you're running a 10 pole project. You're competing with other writers who have already written tentpole projects. They know the people they know. They know the pitfalls. They know how to craft a project specifically for that, think about a Tom Cruise movie or something like like he has a very clear view of and nuanced understanding of what it takes to make a big theater film, right? That big theater experience if you don't have that experience, aiming for that. It's like, I want to play in the NBA. I want to be Michael Jordan, but I really, I still need to learn how to dribble. Like what? Like, no, you that dude spent years and years and years and years and hours and hours and hours, but writers tend not to want to spend that time and energy.

Alex Ferrari 17:12
But even if they did, so let me ask you this in the last 20 years, how many tentpole movies have been I want I need one, I need one, I don't not that there's a small amount, I need one that you can think of off the top of your head. That's $100 million plus off of an original IP that had no IP prior to that.

Jeff Bollow 17:34
Oh, I I can't think of a single one myself. I don't know for sure. But I would imagine if there are any, it would be in the count them on a single hand.

Alex Ferrari 17:44
If that if there is because I if you and I are both students at the industry, I can't remember of a movie. That not a small movie that made tentpole money, there's paranormal activity and many of those things, that's fine. Agreed. But I'm talking about a movie that walked in with $100 million dollar plus project but in a studio system off of a script that no one had ever heard of before.

Jeff Bollow 18:04
In a way it's a it's a it's a misunderstanding of how the industry works at that level. When you're thinking about tentpole movies, this is a machine this is a business enterprise, the movie is almost like an it's probably a little controversial, but like yeah, a product like a like an afterthought to what the ancillary income would be from that toys. And

Alex Ferrari 18:29
For the Disney folks, some are the Warner Brothers

Jeff Bollow 18:31
When you're talking. But when you're talking about 10 poles, you're talking about Jurassic Park, or whatever this kind of thing you're going to, you know, the McDonald's Happy Meals and all that kind of stuff, right? Like there's there, you have to be thinking about all that stuff, for it to make sense, like who's going to put $100 million into a movie, or these days 250 $300 million into a movie that can't generate that kind of response, like you like I find that writers often are not thinking through the business reality of the stories and the ideas. And it's not just about genre, it's about budget, it's about marketing, it's about how the where the money comes from it. Because I think writers often think we're going to make a movie, and the box office dollars are going to come in, and that's going to be our windfall. And we're going to like, that's not where you make your money on a movie. Like that's a that's a leading indicator of sort of the possibility of the of the long tail of the income stream from a movie. But if you don't if as a writer, you're you're you're just swimming around in your story ideas, and I have this great idea for a scene or if it's great idea for a character, which is often a motivating factor to get into it. But if that's the if that's the singular drive for making that, it, it didn't it connotes a misunderstanding of how the industry works, which is going to be the thing that's going to make actually achieving that impossible, because what I found Isn't writers quit before they actually develop the skills they need to succeed in that space, because they go into it with a misunderstanding or some wrong ideas about how the realities of how it is, and they sort of keep spinning their circles in the wrong direction, you spin your circles long enough in the wrong direction, you're gonna burn out, you burn out, you go this industry, you can't succeed in this industry, this is impossible. I think today, there is more opportunity just succeed as a screenwriter than ever before. The secret is stop aiming for the top of that mountain. And aim at where the opportunity is down here. And the niche markets in the in the television, indie film realm of television, sure, but that's also its own sort of ecosystem you have to get into, you can make, at the end of the day, we have the technology today, to be able to make movies literally anywhere in the world. If we have the technology to make movies anywhere in the world, for budgets that are down here, we also have the technology today to reach anyone in the world. It's a simple mathematical equation, to be able to create a project for a specific audience, if you can figure out the pricing structure of that and whatever sort of corollary back in office, you do the film entrepreneur thing, if you have that, if you have that understanding of it awareness, we can make small movies even that can generate an income for us, oh, God, this is and because of that you can develop your skill today in a way that we never were able to previously because we just didn't have that opportunity. So I think that's the I think that's one of the biggest challenges that writers, for writers at the moment these days, they're not focusing on, on all the opportunity they're focusing on, they're stuck on that one sort of mythical notion.

Alex Ferrari 21:52
Yeah, the lottery ticket. It's it's called a lottery ticket mentality. And they're agreed that someone's going to show up and like, Oh, I see your 100 million dollar temple, I'm gonna give you $3 million on the spec spot on this. And we're gonna go call Tom Cruise. And we're gonna go to make this thing happen. And it's that's the reality of the show the reality of the world. But there is a possibility to do something with that temple script, which a lot of screenwriters because they're only looking at the one thing, if you really are interested in the story, let's say it's an original story, but it's just too damn expensive pitch, there's no, it's a sci fi epic, or there's dinosaurs running around, or whatever it is, right. But you can't create IP off of that. You can write a book based off of it, you could turn it into a graphic novel, you can you can, there's so many ways that you can build IP around it. So that when you go off and build i plsa, take a year and build IP off this, you start selling books and all this, then someone from Hollywood comes knocking like, hey, we'd love your idea. Do you have a script and you're like, hey, I happen to have one. But you've already made money with the idea. So there's other ways to make money with an with a big idea like that. That's not about getting it produced. I have friends of mine who did the exact same thing. And a year or two later, the people who said no to the script came knocking, because they wanted to produce a series. Of course, they had IP on it. And now all of a sudden, they're like, Do you have a script? I'm like, Yeah, I have a script. I gave it to you three years ago, but we'll give it to you. Okay.

Jeff Bollow 23:24
But that's changed the change the draft date,

Alex Ferrari 23:27
Because I changed the draft date and change the title if you need to whatever. But there are other options for for screenwriters too,

Jeff Bollow 23:35
For sure. And I think that's the great thing about screenwriting is that it is something that we were talking about this a little bit before is, is it's something that you can go do right now, the thing is, what I believe is you need to do it right now, strategically, it's at the end of the day, we all want to just be artists. And yes, we all just want to dream movies, and imagine snap our fingers and make them but we can do that. But we're going to be doing that at a lower budget level. And if you're writing you have to develop skills, one of the grand challenges, even at the lower budget level is that there is increasingly endless competition for eyeballs. So you need to have stories that are going to stand out in a crowded marketplace, you have to have stories that are going to that are going to reach a specific audience to develop the skill of doing that. Well, you have to keep doing it consistently. You have to it's like a it's like dribbling practice for a basketball player. You have to practice that you have to get good at it. And the the idea that we can just step out of the gate because we've seen 1000 movies and magically write a great movie is this fairy tale. At the end of the day. These are skills the story dynamics and character arcs and and how to create something actually original rather than some cookie cutter formula. And how to say something that is that we want to say rather than just tell a story that maybe says something other Ben, what we intended, like all of these nuanced abilities and skills are something that takes time to develop. And so if you're only focused on that one impossible goal, of course, you're not going to succeed at that. And I don't want that to be the takeaway, because you can succeed out of the takeaway is stop focusing on the impossible and focus on this smorgasbord of opportunity in front of you use it to develop your skills, you want that maybe tentpole project as a showpiece of what I'm capable of doing. That showpiece might get you writing assignments from independent production companies who just have not been able to find products. They were like me, right. So it's like, yeah, if we can find the writers that are able to do that. Great. And so write your passion project, but use your passion project to build your career.

Alex Ferrari 25:58
Absolutely. There's there's a lot of ways to skin that cat, sir. Yes, exact lots and lots of ways. So then we've been telling everybody, you know, the problems and how we can't difficult to get this user. You have. Can you have the solution, sir, you you've created everything!

Jeff Bollow 26:19
I have. It's true.

Alex Ferrari 26:21
So what is the fast screenplay?

Jeff Bollow 26:22
Well, okay, so fascinatingly, my challenge was this, I wanted to make a I wanted to have so I made a little independent film in Australia with a friend of mine, I should say, We nearly made an independent film we spent seven years working on it eventually had to abandon it, because of story reasons. And it wasn't good enough and all this kind of stuff. But at the time, I thought we were going to be finishing. And so I started looking for screenplays to produce found 300 Odd screenplays literally read every single one of them over a six month span found nothing I could use. reached out to everybody that I knew they had ideas, they had scripts, none of it like it was just not possible. So I thought what I need is, if we're going to take our film to Cannes or FM or something, we, we need to have other projects in tow, I wanted to say, you might not like this, because we made it on a shoestring. But here's three other projects, see, we have the talent, invest in us on these back in the day when you can get pre sales and all that stuff. And so I couldn't find projects. So I said, what I need to do is I need to be able to take a writer from this idea that they have to not just a screenplay, but a screenplay, an independent producer could actually say yes to. So I sat down. And I said, Let me reverse engineer this process. What does a writer have to do to go through this process. And I as I worked it out, initially, I thought there were six phases they had to go through Eventually, I realized there were seven phases that they had to go through. There's four key writing phases, what I call focus, apply, strengthen, tweak, it's the acronym for fast, basically, focus, the focus phase, every single person, you have an idea for a movie, you're gonna have to focus that idea into a story, right, you're gonna take all the different ideas you have and, and make a story out of them an outline or a story plan or whatever, then you have to apply that plan to the page, which is write a first draft essentially. So every one doesn't matter if you're writing the big tentpole, you're writing a little indie thing. Everyone has to go through this process. Once you have that draft, what do you have to do you have to rewrite it, you have to strengthen it until it's a solid story, the story that you wanted to tell. That's the essence fast. Once you have that, once you have lit, you turn these straight ideas into an actual story, then you need to tweak it, you need to polish it, you need to ensure that the reader experience is so compelling that when someone picks up your screenplay, they tear through it, they cannot put it down it is literally a fast screenplay, write a fast read. And that's how you go from idea to final to the screenplay. Now the problem is great, you've written the screenplay, it a screenplay does not exist for its own purpose. It's only exists to be turned into a film. So you need to also connect with the producer or production company. So what I realized there's a fundamental dynamic underneath all of it. And that is the setup payoff dynamic. And so I said, there's actually a phase at the beginning prior to all this where we set up our imagination, so that what we're creating is more in sync with that ultimate target. And then we have a payoff phase where we find and connect with this projects, ideal producer. And that's what I thought it was I wrote a book called Writing fast how to write anything with lightning speed that goes over these six phases of the process. But along the way, after I wrote that book, I realized there's a missing phase in there just because you write a screenplay doesn't mean it can connect with a producer a production company. So there is a seven phase which is six in chronological order, which is the alignment phase and what we are every every writer is going to have to send Their work out for notes and feedback, they're gonna have to decipher that notes and feedback to see if the project lands the way they want it to land so that they know who to reach out and connect with. Most people who send their work out for for feedback, do it entirely the wrong way. They're doing it to get validation. What do you think of my script? Do you like the scene? Do you like this character?

Is this any good? Do you think have a chance to stand up? And please tell me, it's like, that person's opinion is about as valuable as any other person's opinion like it one person is an opinion, a group of people is a consensus, you need consensus opinion. And you need to have the skills to be able to decipher what people are saying, I actually really liked the story. Okay, well, why like, what do I need to change, like, you need to be able to know from what they say. So when you send your workout for notes and feedback, you have to decipher that you have to figure out what the consensus it is. And it's not about validating your project, it's about making sure that your project is aligned with its target, what do you want to say, Were you trying to reach out to, if you. So those are the seven phases, basically, right, we so if you have all of this and you align your project, then you know exactly where to send it, then it's simply a matter of hooking them, pulling them in getting them excited about reading your project. And then once they do read your project, exceeding their expectations, that's the payoff phase. So the so once I realized that, I realized that once you've been through all this, you can actually use that at the beginning to make the next project even stronger. So the system itself is iterative. So at the end of the day, you will continue to loop through this process until your project improves to the point where making a sale is inevitable. And so the problem is, people don't go through that process, there's probably 200 300 skills that you need to learn things like character development, opposition, conflict, pacing, intention, dialogue, all that stuff. So what I've done is I've taken all of those skills and have woven them throughout the process so that as you go step by steps through that process one day at a time, you're learning a new skill each day. And as you're simply going through this process, and therefore you learn by doing. And so that's ultimately what the fast screenplay system and process is all about.

Alex Ferrari 32:22
So I heard you talk about the hidden story dynamic, what is the dynamic,

Jeff Bollow 32:28
The setup payoff dynamic is the hit so the when I started thinking about the hero's journey, started thinking about three act structure, start to think, you know, all of the different story theories are kind of variations on those things. Ultimately, what it boils down to is setup and payoff. In the way I started to realize was that everything in your story is going to be either setup, or payoff, or both where it pays off one thing, and then sets up another, there's actually a fourth element, which is like a reinforcement. So you set something up, you have another thing that's reinforcing that setup. So the payoff can be bigger, but ultimately, it's setup and payoff dynamic. So like a second setup. So so if you think in terms of everything being setup and payoff dynamic, you don't have to be you don't have to land on these rigid, three act structure or the hero's journey. For example, have a love hate relationship with it. It's a it's a it's a wonderful archetype, but it's only applicable to maybe 40 50% of stories, Hero driven stories. You don't need to tell hero driven stories you mentioned Shawshank earlier. Shawshank is not a hero driven story, Shawshank takes the hero character and splits it into two characters, which is what I refer to as the protagonist and the main character. So the protagonist is the character whose actions dictate the twists and turns of the story the things they do change the direction of our story. The main character is the story whose eyes we experienced the story through read and and Andy, right, so and he's the protagonist, red is the main character, the main character is the one who changes, right? He's the one who and he doesn't really change he stays. He has some change. Not not from a character arc standpoint, he has remained steadfast through the whole thing.

Alex Ferrari 34:22
Read much read makes a much bigger change from the beginning to the end.

Jeff Bollow 34:26
But if you were if you were to use the hero's journey dynamic, it doesn't make sense in Shawshank.

Alex Ferrari 34:34
But but try to do a detective story with a hero's journey. It doesn't work.

Jeff Bollow 34:37
Exactly. So my point is that my point is the hero's journey is fantastic. As far as it goes, we have the sort of love affair with these things. And here's here's my read on it as someone who's been teaching screenwriting now for 25 freakin years is that I believe that we have the three act structure archetype we have the hero's journey We have the story circle, we have these kinds of these kinds of different ideas. Because this is a ball of string that is very a amorphous, there's no right or wrong and storytelling there is only effective or ineffective. If you you can't tell me that I can't put that scene with these two characters on page 45. Of course I can do it. The question is, is that going to be the most effective choice for the story journey we're taking the audience on. And so we we do the hero's journey, we do the three act structure, because it's the easiest way to teach this stuff, not because it's the most effective way to tell the story. So what we need to do ultimately, I believe, in the screenwriting world, is find better ways to tell more effective and more original stories. If you think about it this way, if I want to build an independent film studio, which I do to make eventually hundreds of films a year like that is my grand ambition of like with production teams all around the world, like I have this huge vision. If we made hero's journey and three extra extra stories, we use the same formula for every film. How quick is the audience gonna go? Hang on? I'm seeing the same movie here over and over again. Right? We're going to recognize the unknown originality of it. So we need originality, we tell story. TV is not told in a 3x structure story, but it still works told the 4x structure story. Why does that work? Because it's, it's used, it's using the same set up pay off dynamics in different overlapping ways. Right? So if you have, you have three storylines in a TV show, you have your setup payoff arc, in the one storyline set up, pay an arc in another storyline, you can mix and match so that you're always leaving, sort of those cliffhanger hooks and elements that are going to keep that audience coming through and wanting to know what happens next in your story. So the because a movie is a self sustained, like an encompassed in one in one storytelling session, because of that, we need it to be self contained, right, we need. And so as a result, the when we analyze existing stories, we're thinking of it in terms of those Story segments, and that structure that that sort of formula, but I think the formula hurts us more than it helps us. And so my approach to it is that process based approach where we're going to take everyone through that process of formulating ideas, that process, getting it onto the page, that process of going through your whole story, systematically, big picture, whole story, at level, scene level, dialogue level experience level, we're going to go through that and see how all the details affect all the other layers of it so that we make sure it's exactly the story, what we want to tell at the end of it, like going through the process, I think is stronger than imposing some story type on your idea, you might have a great idea and go, Okay, well, now I have to figure out where my inciting incident is upon point one. And so that's going to lead and it's going to shape your idea in a way that might not be the most effective way to tell your story idea.

Alex Ferrari 38:19
So let me I want to ask you a question. I want to ask you a question in regards to story structure. Because yes, I know a lot of you know, I've spoken to a lot of screenwriters and, and I and a lot of them at the high levels, you know, even off the record, sometimes I talked to them off. I'm like, Man, that structure of that movie seems similar to this film. And many of them quietly, like, I'm not gonna say who many of them quietly have said, Yeah, because I, I used that structure as my tip my template for my script. So I always like using plain break. I mean, anybody who watches Fast and Furious, it's Point Break with cars. Right? Same exact story. Well, I didn't even try didn't even try it. It's hidden. I mean, it was so structurally the same, even characters the same, but what do you think of going into some of your favorite mystery? Like, let's say you have a story idea, like, Okay, I have a detective story. Well, let's go to knives out or let's go to some old Sherlock Holmes structures or whatever, you know, you know, detective stories there are and using those stories as that structure template to kind of lay out a template that works with the kind of story you're trying to do.

Jeff Bollow 39:42
I think that's totally fine. I think that's acceptable. I don't see any reason why not to do that. So some of those things are gonna work. Look, the reason the 3x structure and hero's journey are these archetypes that keep getting taught over and over again is because they do work. It works. They work but they work exceptionally well. For those kinds of stories, what I'm saying is that if you're just because you have an idea doesn't mean that you want to fit into the same architect, if you do use it, I teach it, I teach the React structure, I teach bits and pieces of hero's journeys. Like, you need to know this stuff. For one thing, it's the it's the common language of the film industry. So it's like, you need to be able to speak that stuff with some degree of intelligence. But that doesn't necessarily mean that that should limit the creative choices that we make, right? So it doesn't mean that a script or story is wrong, if we're not telling it according to that structure. So as a if you're a new writer, you're just starting out, by all means impose an existing structure over your current idea, see what it does to your idea, see if it makes it work and how it makes it work and why those dynamics are what they are, at the end of the day. If you go back to set up and pay up look, Mike's backing up a little bit. And probably since we last spoke, I've come to to deeply believe that all story is about change. It's not necessarily about the hero changing. But it's about something changes. If nothing changes in your story, it's going to be boring as sin, it's not really going to engage an audience. If, because we because we are so enamored of the hero driven story of that the old that we tend to only focus and maybe executives tend to typically focus on the hero's change that character arc. But that's a specific type of story. And not necessarily the most interesting take on it. Sometimes you want your character to not change, you want the other characters in the story to make a change, or the place can change or some technology's thinking like, it's in seeing the change, that we extract the meaning from a story. That's how stories give us meaning. What changed and how and why.

Alex Ferrari 42:03
So I know a lot of people listening my thinking like all heroes, are the heroes always changing like the other day they don't, I don't absolutely know. James Bond until Casino Royale. Exactly. never moved.

Jeff Bollow 42:16
But if you had genuine character change, you wouldn't have TV shows either because you can't have a character week to week with the same comic foibles, for example sitcom or something. If they were making a change each week, like

Alex Ferrari 42:29
Sam, Sam Malone and Sam Malone, exactly, he might make a change from the beginning of the series to the end of the series. And it may slight, I mean, more, or you're doing something like they did with Breaking Bad, which absolutely that will

Jeff Bollow 42:44
That is a change for sure. And that was that they knew going into it that that was exactly you're right

Alex Ferrari 42:51
They were gonna he was Mr. Chips to Scarface like that's exactly, it was, this was this thing. But you look at something like Indiana Jones and I was just thinking as we're talking, I'm like, Alright, in the end, he doesn't really change a whole hell of a lot. But the people around them do so like I'm Temple of Doom captures character absolutely changes that she went from this this actress who was very pricy and oh my god, the jungle to a badass there at the end of the at the end of the whole thing, and even short round changes to a certain extent. But he is kind of the James Bond, like he kind of doesn't change greatly.

Jeff Bollow 43:29
And so can you imagine, like script notes on that of like, well, we need to see indeed, like grow and evolve as a character, because the three act structure tells us that,

Alex Ferrari 43:38
Anything like that, but that's not the story that they're trying to tell. That's

Jeff Bollow 43:42
Exactly and, and so and so the problem becomes that then we take this stuff that we've all been taught, or that that we've studied, or whatever, and we impose it upon an idea, and possibly take out the most interesting or nuanced or audience grabbing element of that, because we're looking at it through a very specific lens that this industry has imposed upon it. And I just, I'm just trying to push back on that a little bit and say, I don't think that's I don't think that's right, I think it's the setup payoff dynamic underneath it, that if you get the setup payoff dynamic, correct. Were the things at the beginning, you can't set something up and then not pay it off, because then you're gonna feel empty or there's gonna be holes in the story, it's just gonna feel wrong some way and you can't have this big payoff without first setting it up or emotionally doesn't mean anything to us and doesn't doesn't hit us, right? So you're not gonna be able to, if a character or scene or situation doesn't change over time, we're not going to take much away from that. And so that's sort of the approach that I go in with is is that that's our sort of guiding light.

Alex Ferrari 44:53
And I'm gonna I'm gonna go back to Shawshank for a second imagine that there is no red. Exactly. Imagine that they bring red and These character and to the one Andy character, let's say, and let's say, Andy,

Jeff Bollow 45:05
I'm not sure you could but carry on.

Alex Ferrari 45:07
I'm just I'm throwing this out there. Yeah, to prove your point. So let's say we throw these two characters together. And we follow Andy and He's hopeless at the beginning. And at the end through maybe another character outside of him, teaching him hope, but the perspective of the whole story is Andy's it is not somebody else watching Andy, it's Andy, you are with Andy, you feel his pain you're in that room with, with the ladies, whatever they call them, that did all of that stuff and you following through the whole journey. And you might, they might still be able to hold off the the payoff, which if you haven't seen Shawshank spoiler alert, when he escapes, maybe you hold all that stuff up. Let's say we build that story. It's tough. It's it's it's a good story. But there's no there's it says it's not nearly as powerful as the way it was written.

Jeff Bollow 46:02
And this is the and this is kind of what I get at is, is, that story could still be a great story. But because you're telling it, you would be telling it from a different angle, the message, the point, the purpose, the theme, in some cases, that that sort of big picture idea is, is different. And so the takeaway is going to feel different, the audience is going to feel different about the movie, all of those things come from those story choices that you're making. And so so you have to understand, like, as a writer, at least, filmmakers do, you have to really understand that the the the choices that you make story structurally, the choices that you make with the character arc, the choices that you the decisions that you make, about what that whatever that change is going to be, are the thing that give the audience the feeling that they take away from your from your film. It's what it all is about, ultimately, and little details can change the entire picture and scope and meaning and message all of it, right. So it's all interconnected. Every little piece is is intertwined. And that's the big challenge of it, because you change a scene over here, and suddenly, well, this doesn't really set it up properly. And then now how do I how do I fix that? Now? It's like, that's the that's the challenge of the of the job.

Alex Ferrari 47:31
And do you know that I think originally Indiana Jones came to be because Spielberg wanted to do a Bond film. It really I don't know, I think I think the story goes that and please, in the comments, let me know if I'm wrong. But I hear the legend is that he wanted to direct the Bond movie and couldn't I and for whatever reason didn't work out. And he was on the beach with with George, Mr. Lucas. And they said, Hey, guys, I have something better for you. I've been thinking about this, this Indiana thing or this archaeologist and he's like, oh, what? So it makes sense that they would construct Indiana very similarly to James Bond, because Indiana just goes on adventures, and arguably doesn't change much. If you had a character like Indiana Jones that changes from point A to point B like let's say like an ant like a red did and Shawshank it's just not the same story.

Jeff Bollow 48:23
It's just not it's not. If you had if you had Indiana Jones going through some personal transformation, it becomes about his transformation, not about the pure escapism adventure some that the movies about. And so because they wanted to make a sort of serial adventure story, those stories that has to go front and center. And so the change over time becomes the you know, opening up the Nazis, the Nazis open getting the thing you're seeing that change over time rather than the character change over time. And that's what drives the point, the purpose, the meaning the message, all that right, and

Alex Ferrari 49:05
Flash Gordon, and those kinds of cereals, it's all based on, they don't change they did. You know, you wouldn't want them to Superman, Superman didn't change.

Jeff Bollow 49:16
You don't want Superman to change. He's super freaking man.

Alex Ferrari 49:20
Like, you're done. You're done like, and then later on, you have to do other things. But it's always more interesting. All right, so So Jeff, let's Alright, so I have an idea. I want to write a screenplay fast. Give me the bullet points of how I can write that idea, get at least that first draft out onto the page quickly.

Jeff Bollow 49:42
So so there's a couple of things. So I do I have a whole thing that I do at the beginning. It's actually currently a part I added it as a tool to the strength to the setup phase of my system, where it's really all about what I call a fast draft. And it's it's all about getting your ideas into To dress, some people would refer to it as a sketch draft or a vomit draft or like that kind of thing. But mine's a little bit more targeted in that your thinking and planning, it's not just sit down and start typing. It's a, it's a, it's a brain dump kind of thing. So the first thing that I would do is I would say, take all the ideas that you have in your head, and write one idea on an index card. One next one idea on an index card next, and you stack up all these getting, just get all the ideas out of your head, and onto individual index cards, then you're going to scatter these around, put them up on a wall, whatever, and just absorb them and see what connections you might see. And then from that, figure out what who's the driver of the story, figure out what the goal would be figure out what the obstacle is going to be, start to see some of the thematic things within that stuff. Give yourself sort of a wireframe of where you're going from what's what's the state A, what's the beginning state of the character, or whatever it is, that's going to change in your story. What's the state be, figure out what that change is going to be? change does not happen on a dime. Change happens incrementally. So a story is about the incremental change, the plot points, the twists and turns of your story are those incremental change points. So when you think about whatever is going to change, put it up on a wall, see how it sort of sketches out? Think about that. And think about what needs to incrementally change for this to be a believable, plausible change. Then think about what are those scenes that you've mapped out on your on your index cards, whatever, figure out what are the what are the scene elements that could cause or correlate to those things and just put sort of a general framework together of what that story might be. When you're outlining or you're putting your project together, your, your, your, your getting your sketch, together, the stuff that you do, what we do in detail in the focus phase, is it's not about finalizing your story. Writing is a process of discovery, always remember that writing is a process of discovery, you will never have your story, before you write it, you can flesh it out, you can say this is what I think my story is going to be. And then you're going to write that story. But then when you see that story on the page, it's going to be different to what you thought it was going to be, it's not going to be as good, you're going to have new ideas that came up in the writing of it in his brain that has a creative subconscious that spits ideas out to us. Why is that happen? Because your brain is always working in the background, piecing things together, finding connections, seeing themes, and you don't, it's like when you're driving a car, you don't think about every twist and turn you make on a journey you can get from point A to point B and go, I don't even remember driving that distance, your creative subconscious, that subconscious is just staring on autopilot. So your brain can go off in different directions. That's It's what it's designed to do. So we want to capture that we want to let our creative subconscious out. And that happens when we simply blast stuff onto the page and then see what's there. So when you're planning when you've got this, put it on a wall, put it spread it out on the tape on the floor, and for you, whatever it is find those connections, find those things start wireframing, the thing, then you want to do is you want to blast a draft out to specific road markers. So give yourself every five pages or something like that, right, just simply write to the next five pages, don't worry about the whole thing, just worried about getting to the next five pages, because you want to have a draft until you have a draft, you don't even know the possibility and where your story could go. Once you have that draft, that's when you're going to look at it. And you're going to analyze it, you're going to think about it from the different levels and layers of your story. There's the big picture, what's the what's the idea that you're trying to get across? There's the whole story, which is like how am i How am I expressing that big picture idea, the actual story. Then there's the ACT those those like major components that comprise that story. Then there's the scenes the the blocks of action, that comprise those acts that make up that whole story. Then there's the dialogue level, which is like a window to the characters and the stories we understand sort of the the machinations that are happening behind the story. And then there's the and then there's the individual beats of your story. So if you want to get stuff written quickly, throw your get your ideas out of your head, get them onto index cards, flush them out, give yourself road markers, and then blast out a draft see what you've got and then improve that.

Alex Ferrari 54:46
I'm excited

Jeff Bollow 54:49
Oh my gosh. Can you tell that I that I live and breathe this stuff every day and have done

Alex Ferrari 54:59
That's amazing. Jeff, I know I could keep talking to you for at least another four or five hours.

Jeff Bollow 55:06
Probably would keep talking your ear off for all. Just make them stop.

Alex Ferrari 55:11
But I'm gonna ask you a few questions as all of my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Jeff Bollow 55:19
Today my advice for a screenwriter would be Think Local. Because I really believe that the biggest opportunities that we have today, to launch a career are local, there are people in your neighborhood, wherever you live in the world, that have the capacity to make movies and probably want to. And so if you're what you're wanting to be a writer, right for those people, if you imagine Steven Spielberg, or George Lucas or whatever, like, how did they become so close, they grew up together, it's like they went through the film school, they were like, they were emerging talent before they were big names together. So of course, they're going to work together like not necessarily people at that level, find your own people at your own level, locally, within your own town within your own city. You can make movies today, get good at those skills, develop those skills locally. So then you have showpiece, then you have something that you can take to the studios or the bigger levels that you want to reach out to and you're not coming with a script in your hand that they don't want to read because they don't know who you are. Instead, you're coming with an indie film. That's the first five minutes goes wow, this is amazing. Oh, and what you won, you won which festivals? Oh, and so like, suddenly, this is somebody to pay attention to. And then they they liked this little indie film. And I go, what else have you got? I've got my big tentpole project, but Alex told me not to write, right like that would be my advice is Think Local, because that's going to be your key to global domination.

Alex Ferrari 57:02
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Jeff Bollow 57:09
I remember my I remember my answer last time, but I'm gonna give you a different answer this time, this time it is let it go. Let go. Don't get me started. You have an idea of where you're trying to get. And because you have an idea of where you're trying to get, you can get fixated on that, and it can blind you to what's right in front of you. And so when I say let it go, I don't mean let go of that that goal, that passion, that is your fuel. That's your motivation, let that push you let that drive you. But let go of the outcome. Let go of I needed to look this way. Or I'm a failure. If like when I was a kid, I wanted to be a movie star. At a certain point. I was like, You know what, I'm not the leading man. I'm the leading man's best friend. Like that's just my type, right? So I'm probably not going to be the star. So if I hold on to that impossible thing. Maybe it's possible maybe a could have achieved it. But what would I have to what would I miss along the way? Because I'm so stuck on that one idea. If you can let that go. I think you open yourself up to a world of possibility. And today we live in a world of possibility. I know that I know that in the film industry. There's this general sense of it's impossible. If you can find anything you love in the world to do go do that instead. Like I hate that advice. I hate I hate that people say that. No, you can do this. This we have more opportunity today than we've ever had ever. There are no gatekeepers anymore. You can go make your own stuff. If there's no gatekeepers anymore, the quality is where it all comes from, what are you capable of doing develop those skills and get there so let go of those preconceived ideas. Wow, man, I'm rolling.

Alex Ferrari 59:12
And last question. Just three, three of your favorite films of all time.

Jeff Bollow 59:17
Oh, man, I knew you're gonna ask me this and I I hate this question. I'm always going to struggle.

Alex Ferrari 59:28
Thriller come to your mind today.

Jeff Bollow 59:31
Want to find a good sci fi love inception. I know. These are all going to be cliche but I love inception. I love the mystery. I'll tell you what another one that I really like is called time crimes. We've seen that one time crime Spanish film Spanish films fantastic if you like time travel time crimes Man Mark Mark my words you're gonna like it. It's a it's a great little film. And then it since we'll just keep it all sci fi primer. I love primer and primer is not A Primer is not something that you would look at and go, that's a well written film, because it's not about the writing. It's about the end, the end film, and it's, it's cool. I love brain teasers, and I love puzzles and stuff like that. So I lean towards sci fi, just because it's a it's a, it's a, it's a fantastic. I'm a possibilities person. And I like to think through like the, like, where we're going and all that kind of stuff and bring puzzles and stuff. I think we have to exercise this thing to get us where we're trying to go. And, and I love sci fi for that reason. So

Alex Ferrari 1:00:34
That's awesome, man. And where can people find out more about you and your work and all the stuff that you're doing?

Jeff Bollow 1:00:40
I have probably half a dozen places you can find me but I'll keep it to one which I'll just say fast screenplay. Because if you if, if nothing else, join me on the fast screenplay free newsletter. I do a I call it daily ish. Daily prompt, I used to do a daily prompt thing on YouTube where it was like, here's a little prompt to get you writing today. And so I've started doing that in email. I don't do daily because like a lot going on, but, but it's daily ish. And it'll keep you posted with all the various things that I have. And I've got some really cool things coming up. So,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:17
Jeff, it has been a pleasure and an honor to having you back on the show. Thank you for the hard work that you do. For screenwriters around the world, sir. I appreciate you man. Think and keep up. Keep the hustle going, brother, I appreciate you.

Jeff Bollow 1:01:29
Thanks for listening. Thanks for indulging me and thanks for having me really appreciate it. Alex, you I love what you do. Keep up keep doing what you're doing as well.

IFH 601: What the Hell is the Nutshell Technique with Jill Chamberlain

Jill Chamberlain has helped thousands of writers find their stories. She has consulted on projects for major studios, for small independents, and for many, many spec screenwriters.

Jill’s Nutshell Technique for screenplay story structure has been praised throughout Hollywood. Producer Callum Greene (Star Wars Episode 9, Crimson Peak, and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) said “the Nutshell Technique is like the Rosetta Stone: it cracks the code behind why we love the movies that we love. It goes way beyond tired old beat sheet ‘formulas’ and instead guides you to organically write the story you want to tell.”

Jill’s screenplay story structure guide, The Nutshell Technique: Crack the Secret of Successful Screenwriting, was an instant classic upon its release in 2016. Of the over 3,000 books on screenwriting on Amazon, The Nutshell Technique: Crack the Secret of Successful Screenwriting is one of the highest rated ones. It’s on the syllabus for film schools across the world including the world renowned screenwriting program at Columbia University.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Jill Chamberlin 0:00
I really need to hear that point of no return what happens at 25%? What is the big event that makes this movie this movie? And what is the climax of the movie? And if we if you don't have those figured out, the other ones kind of don't matter until we figure if we don't have a nice satisfying climax for you. Let's stop. Let's talk about this. Let's find it interesting climax for you.

Alex Ferrari 0:21
This episode is brought to you by Bulletproof Script Coverage, where screenwriters go to get their scripts read by Top Hollywood Professionals. Learn more at covermyscreenplay.com. I'd like to welcome to the show returning champion Jill Chamberlain, How you doin Jill?

Jill Chamberlin 0:37
I'm doing great. It's a pleasure to be back.

Alex Ferrari 0:40
Yes, it's been a while I mean, you last time you were on the show. Bulletproof screenwriting hadn't been created. So you were on the indie film hustle show. And it's a lot of things have changed since then, you know, your book has blown up your your shirt, you're doing workshops, you know, your business has grown a lot, you're helping a lot of screenwriters and and your episode that was on indie film, hustle is easily one of the most downloaded episodes in the history of both indie film, hustle and have bulletproof screenwriting, which is really, I was like looking at the numbers, I gotta get you back on the show. And we have video this time videos. So that's how old we were. And your book and the way your book, which is called the nutshell technique, the way you approached screenwriting, and the craft is so unique. So we're gonna get into the weeds of that. And I could say that coming from a very educated space, because I've spoken to every single screenwriting instructor guru author that exists on the planet, honestly, over the years. So I've studied every kind of technique, and yours is one of the most interesting, and people love it. Writers love it. They rave about it. So that's why I wanted to have you back on the show to kind of reintroduce a lot of the techniques that you're talking about to this audience that stopped listening to both bulletproof and indie film hustle. So before we get into the weeds, how did you get into this insanity? That is the film business of screenwriting and all that?

Jill Chamberlin 2:18
Well, I was a frustrated screenwriter, I was a screenwriter in New York City. And I did, by the way, it did not stay in screenwriting that long, I sold a couple of things. And, and I've kind of completely gone into this direction. But But when this process began, I was a frustrated screenwriter. And I was getting a note back. That was kind of like, very often it was like, why I don't understand it, why it's this character on this journey. And I had a hard time interpreting that note. Another way I would put the note or the way I interpret it now in the language I use is that I was writing a situation, not a story, which I've discovered in my work as a consultant and teacher is a chronic problem. And the, what I did was I partially as a procrastination technique, and I personally, because I just couldn't move forward, I just, I could tell that I could understand intellectually the problem I was getting by had, but no one, no one had any idea how to fix it, or to explain how to fix it. And I had benefited very good training, I went to Columbia University, I also studied with a man named duck cats in New York City, and, but I needed something that put all the important principles together. And so I started analyzing a lot of movies based on some of the things I knew, to develop a universal technique. And, you know, I watched you know, maybe I'm not gonna say I watched 1000s of movies, but I watched a good 100 movies or, you know, in some cases, rewatched, I still take notes. As I watch movies, I'm still analyzing structure. And I was finally able to create this technique that I call the nutshell technique. And the only reason I call it that is because the first time all of these eight it's eight elements that are involved fell into place. I kind of scribbled on the page screenplay in a nutshell. And so the name is kind of stuck. But but that's the idea. It's the eight interconnected elements that are required to tell a story. And it's not I want to differentiate that it's not a strictly it's not a beat sheet method. Most of the books that you're going to find on structure, that deal structure in screenwriting are have a beat sheet approach, right? They tell you you're supposed to hit 15 or 22, or however many pre prescribed beats that appear in most Hollywood movies. And I have no I have no problem with those methods. A lot of A lot of my writers use those methods in conjunction with my method, it does not conflict with my method. But the issue is that a lot of people, writers, when they use strictly a beat sheet method, just looking at moments in time, they do end up with a situation instead of a story because they don't the the principles of what the connection between the beats is not explained. And so, you know, I would say, life is a situation. Life is this happens, then this happens, then this happened, then this happened. That is not a story. Boring, right? Yeah, a story is this happens, which leads to that happening, which makes it ironic when this third thing happens, right? There's a connection between they're not just moments in, you know, episodic moments in time, there's a connection between these methods. And I'm not aware, I was not aware, I'm still not aware of any in there, by the way over 3000 books on Amazon, on the topic of screenwriting?

Alex Ferrari 6:08
No, stop it!

Jill Chamberlin 6:12
Are you aware of the numbers?

Alex Ferrari 6:14
Yeah, I've been I've interviewed a few, probably about 2900 of them.

Jill Chamberlin 6:17
Yes, yes. Right there. You know, everybody's everybody's got a book on it, it seems. And I'm not aware of any book that comes out that explains comprehensively what the connection is. And that is exactly where my problem as a writer fell. And where I find 99% of first time screenwriters who come to me, that is where their problem Falls is that they are presenting a situation, there's proof, they might have a clever idea. They may have some great elements to wit, but it's ultimately not a satisfying story, because there isn't the cause and effect that we need. And so and in my method, I have, you know, I it's not a purely linear method, it's, it's a visual method we can fix we'll see in my book. And by the way, they can everyone can download free versions of my natural technique worksheet on my website, if they go to Jill chamberlain.com/worksheets, you can download the natural technique. And there's one form for comedy structure. And by the way, we're talking about Aristotelian comedy, the academic term, I'm not talking about a haha, comedy, and tragedy. And, and using this structure, it's way easier for me to help you fix your story, if we're looking at these eight elements on a page, than if we're trying to do with over the course of 120 Page screenplay. Because we can see visually you can see what's working and not right there. Because you can see the arrows point you and say, Oh, these things don't relate. And only four of those moments are really moments in time, you know, we have your first scene, your last scene, what happens at 25%? And what happens that 75% Other than that, there are no beats, and you know defined for you the other it's so there are eight elements that make up the technique. Four of them involve moments in time, the other four are about the glue that are what link these moments, how the you know, you know, what is the character's flaw that's behind it? And how does that relate to what happens at 25%? So it's the glue that it's looking at. And that is that is what is the difference between a situation and a story. Otherwise, your protagonist is, if you don't do this, or something like this, if you don't find a way to make the journey specific to the character, you're just making your protagonist a victim, essentially. And you know, even if your character is a victim in some senses of the word, and by victim I mean, basically just ringing them shits happening to them. It shouldn't be random shit, it is you are specifically picking this character and this thing to happen to this character for a reason. The character doesn't know that. But that is what's going to produce a story.

Alex Ferrari 9:13
So that's really interesting, because I love that originally, when you start this whole thing about the note of like, why is this character going through this story? It's really an interesting way of looking at story because you're right, sometimes you look at movies and you just like, I don't I don't there's no reason that why what's going on, but when you when you have a main character who has different stakes, different things that they're trying to overcome, and the story is allowing them to evolve as a as a character as a human being. That's what you connect to. So I mean, I always go back to Josh, I always go back to Shawshank. I mean, you know, Tim Robbins ended the frame from the moment he walked in. To the moment he left are two very different people even read is different. Morgan Freeman's characters is very different. I The End took him a lot longer to get there than it took Andy. But you see this shift and it's those specific things or happened to those specific characters in that story. It wasn't just kind of like, Indiana Jones got thrown into Shawshank. Which would be an interesting would be an interesting movie.

Jill Chamberlin 10:18
But a very different one. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And I could speak to get specifically Angie's flaw. And that's really what the journey is right is we're trying to find the right event to bring out something in the character they've never had to face before. Right. And the thing in him that he realizes in the end is that he is he has a bit of a victim mentality. And by the end he is taking, you know, he is taking charge of his own destiny that he has to and this all of this awfulness happened to him. Yes, that's awful. And I'm sure he would prefer it hadn't happened to him. But in the end, it is a comedy and meaning a happy ending, at what because he has learned and has become out come out a stronger person, despite the less suffering that he went through, and a more fully realized person, right than the person who had been cold and not present in his marriage, and was the whole reason why his wife had strayed in the first place, as you know, coming to accept that about himself and his how he will he didn't cause her murder. He, you know, taking some responsibility there actually has made him a better person in the end. And that's really what the journey is about, right? That's not the plot description at all, you probably won't see any mention of his flaw. If you look at IMDb of the I don't think it would mention that I haven't looked. But that's what makes it work. Because otherwise you could just be a victim. Right? If he was an unflawed Angel, who, you know, he admitted nothing in the end and you just broke out. It's like, yeah, that's kind of a cool thing. But I don't really care that much. You know, I don't really care versus having someone realized, oh, I need to change. It's Yes, yes, I'm a victim of the system. But the story isn't about me being a victim, it's about me realizing I actually did stuff that I need to be a better person. And and this is getting me to face and getting a deep hit rock bottom. So you finally face it.

Alex Ferrari 12:27
But that's but a good story connects with us because it's a mirror of life. Because we all go through our own trials and tribulations, whether that be in relationships, whether that be jobs, a boss, you know, an accident, a tragedy, a trauma, all of these things that happened to us are what test our mettle and help us evolve. I am not the guy I was when I was 25. Thank God. And I'm sure you're not the same person you were when you were 25. We've evolved because of the challenges and life situations that have tested us and pushed us to a place where now we can we are who we are. And I think I can I think I can speak for you is like I wish possibly I wouldn't have gone through a lot of that stuff. But at the end, when you start looking back, you're like I am who I am. Because it's literally so I wouldn't say I really wouldn't change it. Would you? Would you rather not sure, but that's a vacation. But that's not what we're here to do. We're not here on vacation.

Jill Chamberlin 13:25
So yeah, no, absolutely. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 13:28
Do you think that and I've asked this question a ton on the show. And I always love asking, you know, story experts like yourself. Shawshank is one of those stories that connect at such deep levels with so many people and, and always loved it. I've analyzed that film every which way. And I haven't had Frank Darabont on the show yet and I've been trying to so long because I want to talk to him about Shawshank for like, an hour's on how he like broke it all up in stinks. But the there's a connection there because I remember when I saw it I saw in 94 when it came out. And I was in the theater. I was in my early 20s And I had a bunch of knucklehead highschool friends still. And we were all knuckleheads. And we went to go see this, and we walked out and it touched all of us even through the knuckle headedness. You know that it penetrated something so deep. You know, at the time when you know, John Claude Van Damme was the best actor of all time in our eyes, you know, so we weren't very sophisticated, but it connected at a primal level. What is it about this story that connects with almost everybody who watches it? I always love why I always love looking at bad reviews. If I get a bad review on anything. I just type in Shawshank bad review and I feel better about my own work. Because if someone hated Shawshank someone's gonna hate anything.

Jill Chamberlin 14:51
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I'm not an expert in the movie, but a couple of things. I mean, that I can say one is the thing that I said that right that ultimately, it? And you'd have to I could, you know, especially if you're dealing with prison people wrongfully convicted, you know, we're dealing with rape, we're dealing with some very ugly, traumatic things that you're putting a character through. But again, we're putting them through it for a reason, right? It's not you know, he's a, he's a pretty nice guy, I have to say he doesn't have the most flawed flaw in my book. But ultimately, the story works because of that, if he hadn't had those if he had just been a nice guy, if he had, if he had no, then I think we wouldn't be, I don't think would have had such a visceral reaction, because you're watching someone be victimized so much, right, that we need to see that? Well, there's a reason why there's something that they learned from it. I think that's one part of it. I think it's also great because they are really following three characters. And there are three different ways that they deal with it, right, that similar journey, but three different characters and three different results. As far as read, and as far as the older gentleman whose name I forget, the senior citizen. I look, I use this character, and I use it as character intro in my class all the time, slipping or not right?

Alex Ferrari 16:23
Before the interview is over,

Jill Chamberlin 16:24
Yeah, but there are three really good journeys, right, that that complement each other to, you know, and that they mirror each other, we see, we've see how the, you know, both read and the fellow has named we can't remember, actually are in that exact same room, right and read, you know, was able to handle it on the outside. And the other guy, Brooks, thank you see, I remember the rest of his character, and Joe Brooks, the one senior citizen of the group, and the oldest resident, I remember the rest of it, right. And so, so it's dealing with all three journeys, and three different voices. And it does interesting things with the concept of the protagonist, right, that we, that red is the narrator. And they will that's typically who we think of as the protagonist. He's also I would say, arguably the one who does change the most. Because you know, from being cynical to having hope and faith, you know, from an ad it is, but it's a product of meeting Andy and the both of them change because of each other. But structurally, Andy actually is the one who makes the story. It I call it, the issue of the protagonist is a whole we could have a whole episode on that. And people, people love to question quiz me on the internet and things about, well, who is the protagonist of what, you know, this movie, because sometimes it is hard to tell. And you know, but one of the I'll tell you the easiest in there, there are a couple of criteria. But the biggest criteria is typically, who makes the climatic choice that's involved at the climax, that's generally going to be the protagonist, right? So it's Andy, who makes that what's the climax of movie is his breaking out of prison? Who makes the choice and Bob with that him, he makes that choice to make this risky move? Right. So that's usually going to point to who the protagonist is. And then there are some other factors we do look at as well. And so yeah, it's got a lot of interesting things going on it I learned I use I use say for the script. I use the character intros to this day when I teach character intros in my classes, because I, you know, the I can I can actually recite to you, the character intro for the warden. Warden Samuel Norton strolls fourth, fourth, a colorless man, in a maybe get a few words on a colorless man in a in a gray suit, with a church pin in his lapel. He looks like he could piss icewater. He, he praises the newcomers with plenty eyes. Perfect, perfect. Isn't that? Yes, it's perfect. And it's exactly right. And it is, you know, Fugo I love that you have a choice detail of the church pin that says, but that while Liam's

Alex Ferrari 19:28
Three words, three or four words, just load you up with so much information. And that's what a lot of screenwriters don't understand when they're writing is that every word they use has to have that kind of impact. I mean, Shane Black's intros or descriptions are legendary How beautifully he he's a wordsmith, the way he writes his, his, his descriptions of things I was reading was like, It's my god. It's so vivid with a sentence, a sentence. So that opening I mean you everything you You need to know about that man is going to set as opposed to four paragraphs, which a lot of first time screenwriters do.

Jill Chamberlin 20:06
Yeah, it's picking very specific details, right? It's just, you know, the church. And then then it's a little bit of the writers voice breaking the fourth wall a little bit. And to get to do that with a character, intro, and giving us a GPS. Don't be fooled by that church pin. This man is the opposite of the arc idea of Christian charity, this man is so cold, he could piss ice water, you know. So you pick one or two physical details that then you can bet are emblematic of the character. And it's a nice way to give us a heads up about the character. And it's a great way to establish your voice as a writer on the page as well.

Alex Ferrari 20:48
So So we've talked about the nutshell technique, what are those eight elements?

Jill Chamberlin 20:53
Yeah, so the, it's a schematic, I'm not going to go into the flash, a flash, this is what it looks like. That's on the camera. So there are the the obstructed moments in time is that we're we're looking at first of what I call the setup want or it's an initial want. It's not necessarily the characters biggest one. This is actually the elements that's, that confuses people the most is the want. So I wrote two chapters on that, because a lot of people get, we want lots of things in life. And there's only one want that is actually the one that comes into play, specifically, what happens at 25%. And what happens at 75%. And so it might not be their biggest want, it might not be the thing that they say they want. It's something they want. And the key is that it's connected. Remember, everything's connected, it's connected to what happens at 25%, which I call the point of no return, meaning it's an external event. And I'm sure anybody who's studied screenwriting they've dealt with, they know something happens at 25%, right, any book that you're talking about, we'll talk about that something happens at 25%. And I refer to it as the point of no return, meaning that it is a external event that happens to the protagonist. So it's not, the point of never no return is never somebody decides to do something, never, it's something happens to character, then they might decide to do something. And in that point of no return, they're going to get that want. So that's the tricky part. So it's not necessarily so a lot of times in a movie, it looks like they don't get what they want. I'm telling you, they're getting something they want it, it may not be the biggest one may not be the thing that they said that they wanted, but they're getting something they want. If you don't do that you're making your character, a victim, that the idea is what we're doing is setting up be careful what you wish for. The character asked for this, on some level, even if even if they what they asked for it in. They're gonna get it in a way that's highly ironic. So you know, they're, they get their want. But they get the third element is attached, the point of no return is the catch. The catch is an upfront problem, right? You got the thing that you wanted, but you're getting something you didn't want. And, and then I'll go through the linear and then I'll talk about to that arch. And then the next elements happen at the 75% mark. So we have other comedies or tragedies. And so it's going to be different for comedy and tragedy. But so comedy means again, I'm not talking about a haha, comedy. This, these are Aristotle's definitions. If you don't like them, blame him, look it up with him, pick it up with him. His his definition is a comedy is about a character who a hero who faces a flaw, and in the end changes and gets a happy ending. And that's the definition I'm using. And then a tragedy is going to be the opposite. It's a character who has a flaw, but they failed to change and that's going to bring their sad ending, right. So in my comedy form the we're actually going to hit a low point at the 75% Before we go back up to in the third act to the happy ending. So they're going to hit rock bottom at 75%. You know what I think Blake Schneider refers to is that all is lost moment I think and I think it's an apt way to describe it. But I would also describe it as being the opposite of where they were in the in the setup want. So that's the tricky part. Again, not every one is going to work we need a want that they get in the point of no return. It is also The opposite of what they wanted in the beginning. And then in a tragedy is going to be high point called the triumph, which is the highest moment of success. And is the also related to the one it is the ultimate manifestation of the thing that they wanted. And then the, we're gonna be followed by the chromatic choice. So the climax is the beginning of Act Three, but central to the climax is the protagonist is making a difficult choice. In a comedy, they have two kind of bad choices in the way I like to describe. So people say that a great ending is inevitable, yet unexpected.

That's a pretty tall order, by the way. That is our goal is to have an inevitable yet unexpected ending. And

Alex Ferrari 25:56
So with that said, I'll use Titanic. Okay, inevitable. But yes, some surprises in it.

Jill Chamberlin 26:03
Yes, yes. Yeah. Yeah, it happened. But yes, that, you know, that, you know, in Titanic, and I will use Titanic as my example here. Right? That is that she begins by wanting to go overboard, because she's suicidal. She's on the, on the rail there. And the I think I'm getting this, right, because, by the way, it's very hard to not show movies on command, I'm kind of I want to cheat and look at my book, because I have to watch these movies several times. It's very difficult to identify. But I believe it's in the moment when Leo rescues her, you know, she gets her want, or she wanted to go over the boat, she wants to get back on the boat, I have to cheat and look at my

Alex Ferrari 26:03
She did, she did want to get back onto the boat. And then he convinces her to get back on the boat. And then when she's about to die, because she's see trips, or stumbles, then it's like, I want to get back on the boat. So yeah, Leo does bring her back on the boat.

Jill Chamberlin 27:01
Yeah, but the one has to go overboard. The point of no return is when she actually falls over overboard. But Jack saves her. And the catch never catches attached. She got her want to go overboard, but the catch is Jack. That's the catch. Right? And by the way, the deal with Jack now Yeah, well, and that's what the story is really about is about what happens when these two people meet whatever the catch is, sets up all of act two, which is twice as long as act one or act three. Right? So it's all about what happens when this society girl who is in this arranged marriage is falling for someone who's not in her class who shouldn't be with and who, you know, can't be together. And the you know, the they actually don't hit the iceberg until the midpoint of the film. So that's actually not the primary story. And that was kind of a smart thing to do. Because we only are you. Yeah, we know the chips gonna sink that, you know, we already know that. Right? What we don't know is what's gonna happen to Rose and Jack. And so that's,

Alex Ferrari 28:07
That's the brilliance of that story. It's so like, even to this day, you go when I remember. I mean, you and I are both have similar vintage. So we both remember when Titanic came out. And everybody was like, Oh, God, Twitter. We all know it's a boat, it's gonna sink. Why are we this is a catastrophe who's gonna watch this. And then you go to see it for the first time, among many times, I went to go see it in theater. And you just look at it. And he's like, it's about Jack and Rose is so brilliant. And then the class system, there's so many layers to what James did. And that is, it's, it's truly remarkable. And you're talking about a tragic ending. If you look at Jack character, Jack changes a little bit but doesn't change a whole Jack's pretty much Jack. At the end as he was at the beginning, generally speaking, generally, rows completely different human being.

Jill Chamberlin 28:57
Yeah, so she's the actual protagonists that and that's why it's actually a comedy in my book, because her endings happy, right, we find out she's had this incredibly exciting life. She didn't end up in that arranged marriage. You know, yes, it's sad, you know, the love of her life, you know, died, but she went on to marry other people and have these exciting things happen, all because she met him, right. And he gave her the strength to learn courage to stand up to society, to not do what people are told her had she not met Jack, you know, she would have either sunk, you know, with this ship, or ended up in that arranged marriage and had this unhappy life, that would have been a tragedy. So what's unexpected and what was really smart to do with Titanic is to use this tragic event actually portray a story that's an Aristotelian comedy. And, you know, while it's sad that Jack dies, he's not the protagonist, and so But he because he is if he is a victim, you know, we can have characters who aren't the protagonists who are the victim, he is a victim. It's not his fault, the ship sank there was nothing and nothing to do with a flaw of his. That's fine. But we need a we need a protagonist who is there's a reason why they're being tested on the story, right? And she's being tested about this, which she unbeknownst to her, you know, this is going to completely change her life not so much because she's on Titanic because she meets Jack.

Alex Ferrari 30:29
Right, which is so was just so brilliant. But so continue, we continue with.

Jill Chamberlin 30:33
Yeah, so when Yeah, in that case, so the climatic choice in that one. So the crisis, for example, in that one, because it's a comedy would be actually that she wants to go back on the ship after she kind of goes off and on a couple times and goes back to get jack or something. And so she actually wants it ironically wants the opposite. She wants to go back on the ship. And then the choice the climax, right is where, you know, to to be a survivor and to save herself. Right. You know, that's so emotionally what we feel is the climax is oh, you know, Poor Leo dies. And that the the climax and chromatic choice, by the way, are are two different concepts that happen at the same time. So the most surprising moment, I think is, you know, when you know, that he's drowning, but the choice that is involved is that she chooses to save herself. So that's climatic choice. And the final step is that she, you know, throws away the the diamond, whatever that was called, because that's not you know, that's not what matters. And then the other two elements are the Florida Strength. So she started as a coward, basically, right, she's unable to stand up to her mother. And in the end, she has shown courage, right to be your own person. And, yeah, and that's what this journey got her to face. And that's what makes it a story, right, and not just a sequential events about the sinking of a famous tragedy. But that's not that interesting, right? We needed the right character, to put in that for you put could have used a different character. But this character, you know, was the choice of how to make this story. Because real life it's not a story like that, to remind people all the time because they come to come to my classes, they come to my consultancy with their own stories. And I'm not saying you can't use it, but inherently life is a situation not a story. So we're going to have to find ways to we're gonna have to find the story in there by which elements you know, we are highlighting and which elements maybe we're leaving out and some stories, some life true life stories that can't be adapted easily.

Alex Ferrari 32:54
So yeah, that was gonna ask you about that. Because that's a problem with a lot of true life stories. Sometimes you just like, it's, it might be interesting might be fascinating, but it can't it's hard to adapt those kinds of those kinds of stories. That's why I mean, I'm trying to think of I mean, there's a ton of really great life stories they've been adapted. Gandhi just for whatever reason keeps coming into my head but but there's but there are but but a lot of them are really tough.

Jill Chamberlin 33:22
Yeah. A lot of them fail a lot of biopics. Right a bore you to death.

Alex Ferrari 33:25
Right, right. Like the new the Desi the Desi and the Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, one that aren't working did. It wasn't a bio on them. It kind of was but the way he interacted, he wrote that script, about a week in their life. And use that as the backstory to tell their story of how they came up in the background. So because it's too difficult to like, how can you tell the story? Yeah. Of Desi and Lucy. Balding in its entirety in 90 minutes. But yeah, so that's the way he did, um, Steve Jobs. He, me, he just basically took four keynotes at four different times of his life, and did scenes around it. I mean, it's pretty, pretty fascinating, but it is, yeah. What advice do you have for people who are adopting true lives?

Jill Chamberlin 34:14
Yes, yes. So to be just to be aware of the fact you are inherently dealing with a situation, not a story, that's what you're starting with? Right? Life is not a story. It's a situation so to know that going in there, that means you're gonna have to figure out, strike. That's why structure is going to be really important, you know, structure really all structure means is the events you choose to show in the order you choose to show them. That's all it means. Right? And so, you know, I was I was at a party where someone introduced me, I ran into a student who was with a famous documentary filmmaker who I will not name and she introduced me as her teacher. screenwriting teacher who wrote a book on structure. And His attitude was, to me was a little bit like, structure structure. And so I asked him, I said, you know, your documentary films, just so we understand, are they 90 minutes with the camera like on one person with no cuts at all? And he was like, No, that's not a documentary filmmaking is at all we cut to different things. I'm like, that structure. If you're cutting to different things, that structure if you're not, if you're not showing me 90 minutes of real time, you're structuring things. So that's all we're talking about with structure, right. So a documentary, if you're trying to make tell a story, and you can, by the way, use the natural technique for documentaries, I know documentaries, if you used it. Or if you're telling a real life story, as you're trying to do a biopic, you're going to need to choose the moments that are going to be involved, you're one of the other key moments is Remember, I talked about a flaw was one of the eight elements. And this is hard, a lot of people are doing stories based on themselves, you may have to make your character more flawed than you feel you were because it's not going to be that interesting to see how Koroneiki work throughout it when these incredible things happen. Because that's not a story. A story again, is that, you know, someone faces something, something happens to them, which gets them to face something in themselves. So I would advise being very willing to that you better be willing to look at yourself or whoever the subject is, in the most negative possible light, because you may have to do that. And then ultimately, some stories don't completely work with that character as the protagonist. And I have a technique I talked about in the book in the last chapter called The Secret protagonist that comes in handy for a lot of things. But it can happen with biopics because you look at someone's life, and maybe they were just a nice guy the whole time. And there's no end they there wasn't a change in, in, they didn't have a tragic ending, but they had a happy ending, that's not going to fit what we need for a satisfying story. Well, maybe there's somebody else in their life, who we can hear their story through that characters framework. And so that, and that that character can follow this pattern, because this is what we need. Ultimately, we need one character to follow either this pattern, or this pattern. Right, you know, Leo's pattern was this, that's doesn't work. That's why he's not the protagonist, right?

Alex Ferrari 37:44
And for everyone listening, you're pointing down.

Jill Chamberlin 37:47
Yeah. And the end. So sometimes you have to look to you know, if you had somebody who started happy and ended up sad, and that's the biographical figure you wanted, it's going to you're gonna have to look at other events there and and see if you can find a way to make them follow the tragic pattern perhaps, or maybe that's not going to work. And maybe you're going to have to tell it through their partner or somebody else in their life who actually was affected. That's the technique, you'll see sometimes, that the actual, you know, central figure is not actually the protagonist from a structural point of view. And let me just add protagonist is a structuring device, it really is, it doesn't mean the most important character, it doesn't mean the character who has the most lines. It's the character that fits the pattern of this, or this, either, they're either they went up, up, up, and then came down, down, down and failed to learn. Or they went down, down, down, down, and then they learned something and went up. Not everybody has to follow that pattern. But we need one character to follow that pattern, or you need to find the moments in that character story that, you know, are their life that follow that pattern to make it work. Because otherwise it's not gonna be satisfying. It's right.

Alex Ferrari 39:09
Right, so so so looking at, let's say, a person's life, and there's a meet queue of the two people like the protagonist and the their wife, let's say, in a life, there are those interesting moments where like, oh, it was, you know, there was a very adorable meet cute that happened. And it was ironic because of this. And this. Those are a couple of moments you can pull out of a real life story, and included in the story, but if you actually laid it out how long it actually took all the different things, it's boring as hell. But if you take the highlights of those things, and incorporate them in a structure that makes sense for a movie, then it works. I think that's where I feel that's where screenwriters make mistakes, is that they try to like well, it didn't happen that way. I'm like, well A Beautiful Mind did not happen to wait. Ron Howard made it that that the brilliance of that movie is they changed it for for something they say for dramatic purposes. That was because real life is even the most interesting life is if you take it, you know, an hour of a very interesting life. A lot of times is still boring. Yeah, yep. Even of course of a year of of someone's life, you're like, Oh, my God, it did so much to 1000s of hours that went through is boy, you got to cut through all of that stuff to eyeline. And that's editing that's editing a movie. You're taking our documentary, you taking 80 hours of footage, and whittling down to 90 minutes of the most interesting things that tell a story. And that's how screenwriter should approach Yeah.

Jill Chamberlin 40:50
Yeah, I also like to work backwards too, sometimes. Because it's, you know, we also need not just the meet cute, right? But the other really key moment is that climactic moment, it to me. And so, you know, a lot of times people come in, and my clients or students and they, they're proud, they filled up their nutshell form. And we kind of go through it. And by the way, I put calls, put calls, cold calls, and then and then we try to build it up the strongest. But I'll tell them, I'm not too attached to what you're saying, frankly, about the want with flaw even until I hear your climax. Because I really need to hear I really need to hear that point of no return what happens at 25%? What is the big event that makes this movie this movie? And what is the climax of the movie. And if we if you don't have those figured out, the other ones kind of don't matter until we figure if we don't have a nice satisfying climax for you. Let's stop. Let's talk about this, let's find it interesting climax for you. Because that's what everybody paid their money to see. That's, you know, so those are two incredibly important moments that the whole story rests on that if they're not, you can fill out my form correctly. But if those moments aren't, you know, powerful, then it's, it's, you know, unsatisfying and surprising, then it's no, it doesn't matter that you filled it out correctly. That, you know, we need to find, let's find you more, you know, I saw that ending coming a mile away, let's find you a third choice that we find some way to set it up so that we didn't see it, and work backwards. From there. I do that a lot of the times.

Alex Ferrari 42:28
So you need those kinds of, you know, signposts, um, two pillars, if you have those two pillars, you can connect a bunch I can

Jill Chamberlin 42:37
I can get I can make anything work if I get those two. But I know what those are. I don't really know your story.

Alex Ferrari 42:45
Right! That's, that's really interesting way of looking about it. Because, because a lot of times you like when I write I'm like, Oh, I got the beginning. And I got the ending. And then once you have those two things in your in their good satisfying enough, then you can you connect them is really intuitive. Yeah, exactly. You're just this happens. And this happens. And then he falls into a pit with snakes in it. And he's afraid of snakes. Why is he afraid of snakes? We won't find that out until the third Indiana Jones and things like that. But but we just know the two ending. So if you start looking at movies we love you know, the 25% mark, I mean, the climax and yeah,

Jill Chamberlin 43:24
I like to point out like to people, you know, who like my students, they know my book, they like my method, and I sign up a movie every week for them to watch. And nutshell, and I tell them, Don't get distracted with trying to figure out what was trying to figure out this. You want to find and it's the same thing with your stories. Let's figure out what is the big event? And what is the climax? If you were to turn to your spouse while you watch any movie and ask them what was the big event that made this movie this movie? And what was the climax? They don't know anything about structure? They haven't read my book, or, you know, watch screenwriting podcast, they would be able to answer that. We should feel those two moments in our gut. They're not intellectual. Really. I mean, ultimately, there is emotional stuff going on. Right? But it is it is a gut answer that we should feel this is the thing that changes everything, and that this movie is going to be about and this is the climax. Right? So I like to start with those first really.

Alex Ferrari 44:23
So if we can analyze some of the most popular films of all time or action currently right now

Jill Chamberlin 44:29
I'm really bad with that selling on that we'll try we'll try.

Alex Ferrari 44:32
Not necessarily but just ideas, just general ideas of why things are working. Something like endgame, the Avengers endgame the last Marvel the big the big Avengers movie.

Jill Chamberlin 44:43
Okay, is that the one with Thanos? Yeah, well, yeah, the big battle, the big battle and where he sat at the end or he stood at the end.

Alex Ferrari 44:50
That's the note when he sat well, he's dead at the end. So he dies this is the the last the last Avengers

Jill Chamberlin 44:57
That I didn't see it. Okay, so I'm the one before I can come that was done before

Alex Ferrari 45:01
The one before is sad. But the last one was I can't talk to you about because I'm gonna ruin it for you. But anyway.

Jill Chamberlin 45:09
But the one before it can take no Thanasis the protagonists. That's the interesting structure there.

Alex Ferrari 45:14
Really! Yeah, it is. Yeah. The Infinity War, the Infinity War. What Yes. Thanos is.

Jill Chamberlin 45:20
So again, not not necessarily the most important character, not necessarily the character who's on screen the most, or says the most lines. It's the one whose structure whose change or lack of change holds everything together without Thanos. There's no story. That's the story, right?

Alex Ferrari 45:38
Yeah. Because there's so many heroes, that it's almost impossible to follow. Like, you could pull out a couple of heroes from the Avengers. And the story will continue. It will change a bit.

Jill Chamberlin 45:51
Yeah, but it will continue. Yeah, you can easily Exactly. The story. Yeah. Without him and it would be it's just not even that movie.

Alex Ferrari 45:58
Right. It's, it's, it's, it's really fascinating. There was one interview I saw of you that you you talked about fat Tootsie, can you talk about can I talk about fat Tootsie? Because I love that?

Jill Chamberlin 46:08
Yes, yes, this is the ease. This is kind of the best way I know to to explain what my method is addressing when I'm talking about story versus situation is that it does require that you've seen Tootsie and sometimes people are like, Why you bring up a 40 year old movie, you know, and I'm like, Why haven't you seen Tootsie? One of the greatest movies that every screenwriter should watch. So it's such a tight screenplay to Yeah, you need you need to watch Tootsie people if you have not seen Tootsie for some reason, but I'm going to talk as if people have seen it because they should have right. So the you know, the plot. So the real Tootsie the movie Tootsie is about Michael Dorsey out of work actor gets a job on a soap opera, but he has to pretend to be a woman. And at the climax, he reveals, you know, spoiler, he pulls off his wig and reveals you know that he is a man. And the and then we get into comedy he gets in the end, he gets the girl because he's learned and he's changed. So what if I have the exact same movie to see Michael Dorsey out of work actors, our protagonist gets a part on a soap. But I'm gonna make two changes. First changes is that the part he gets is not a woman it's a part is a male character. But it's it's an obese man. It's a fictional they, you know, in this fictional soap opera world, they have an obese man who's going to be a central character. And Michael really wants this part. So he's going to get his costume or friend to make them a fat suit, and a makeup artist to make him prostheses and he's going to go in and audition and pretend he's actually fat. And he's going to get the part. And then the other changes, I'll have him tell Julie, the love interest that he's gay. And so Julie can be just as comfortable with him, as in proceeds no sexual tension, because she thinks he's a gay man. Just the same way. She felt comfortable with the Dorothy persona in the real Tootsie, right. And we have a very similar movie when you think about it. You know, it's we tend to find it funny in movies. When men are dressing up as women. We find it you know, it can be funny having a little guy like Dustin Hoffman pretending to be a big you know, a big guy. You know, when he grows to hate it. He's getting in and out of its fat suit as quick as he can before people discover him. It grows to hate it so much that live on the air, he pulls off his prostheses and his fat suit, and He reveals his little Dustin Hoffman. But that Tootsie is a situation not a story. What and what is the difference? Do you think so?

Alex Ferrari 48:54
I mean, in initially, my thoughts are you're right, the basic story blocks of the story are very similar. You know, could it be as funny? I argue that him dressing up as a woman in 1980 I think it was 82 or something like that is funnier than him being in a fat suit. So there's those but that's we're talking about really nitpicking stuff here. But the difference why is this a situation versus a story? I think it's a bigger leap. A bigger transformation for a man to dress as a woman as as opposed to dressing as up as a gay Batman. That's my initial thoughts. But I know you have the answer, Jill, so please.

Jill Chamberlin 49:42
Well, you you're in the ballpark. That the the critical difference between the two, the most important and I should set of my eight elements really the most important of the eight elements is the flaw. What is the character Central flaw because remember, that's the story. That's the story not really the external becoming, pretending to be a woman or pretending to be a fat man. That's an event that sets the story into motion. The real story is a particular person being flawed in a particular way having that event happened to them. So what in the real Tutsi is his flaw? Do you think

Alex Ferrari 50:26
I think wasn't was he a womanizer? I think? Yeah. Yeah. I think it was that right.

Jill Chamberlin 50:31
Yeah. He has a lack of respect for women. You know, he's not as egregious example as the Dabney Coleman character, in fact, that cater to that comparison, is part of how he starts to realize he's not such a great guy. You know, I think he described himself as a feminist he thinks he is. But we see right from the beginning him hit on every single woman at this party with the same stupid line, right? He's friends with the Tergar character, and works with her. But the moment he sleeps with her, he treats her terribly, right. So his central flaw of lack of respect of of women, is being tested perfectly. By putting him having him have a point of no return where he actually has to pretend to be a woman. That's the perfect test. With fat Tootsie. It is a arbitrary, it may or may not be a funny situation we're putting it in, but it has, you know, unless we give him a specific character flaw that has to do with and we could do that, right, we could give him a specific character flaw, change the character and he has a problem with, you know, he is shallow about people's appearances or maybe fat people specifically, right, we could do then you could then you could do that. But the character is I presented, you know, we're using the same Michael Dorsey as in the movie. It has nothing to do with it. Here's the thing. Yeah, 99% of writers are writing fat Tootsie. Right, they may have a clever setup, but it's got nothing to do with the protagonist. Right? That's not a story. You have to find the right journey, for the end the right character to go on that journey. That's what we're doing. And that's what I think the nutshell technique breaks down in a very clear way. And that's, you know, I like it's a visual form where you can see right there, oh, yeah, that flaw doesn't work with that catch. They have nothing to do with each other. And so you can make those adjustments to so you can find the most satisfying story

Alex Ferrari 52:34
That says it's that's that's a profound statement your most, most most most Reno's writing fantasy, because you're absolutely right. The Writing Situations, not story. And I'd argue, so wanted to go back to one of the biggest franchises in movie history, James Bond. And I always love bringing him up. Because up until Daniel Craig, James Bond never changed. never changed every movie, he was the same due to the beginning as he was at the end. It was just adventures, and it was just plot and stuff. But if you it was just basically pieces of action back of it. It was at that time in history. It made sense, but things had to change. So I'd argue that Casino Royale, which was the first time you're correct film, arguably one of the best, if not the best, maybe Skyfall. You know, is it was so so amazingly good. Because of the character that I completely agreed. Just changed slightly agree. The depth of the onions you like, Oh, this is why he womanizers Oh, this is one because he was hurt. And this in you just like for the first time you're like, Oh, this is who James Bond is. But But you go back and they're fun. You know, you go back to the Sean Connery's or the Pierce Brosnan or Roger Moore once they're fun little, but they're they're almost serialized. They're almost like, like flash forward a sonic Yeah. Yeah, they're not really deep. Yeah. And that is but but but we learned so there is no flaw in the character of James Bond. Prior to Casino Royale once Daniel Dennett all flaws, and then just did he's had these fight and every movie, he's fighting something within himself, who says it's all fair statement? Yes, absolutely.

Jill Chamberlin 54:25
I completely agree with you. Right? It completely changed with Daniel Craig, as far as going for being a situation might be entertaining, right? A lot of a lot of people, you know, we'd like to see things blow up. And we liked the clever things. And we liked the bad guys, but gadgets and the gadgets and the martini and all that and it's charming. And it can be entertaining, but I think absolutely their situations, not stories. I think it's a great example to that. One of my frustration with franchises is that I think you can do what Casino Royale did and have Both will have a story and it's you know, it's fun and spectacle right in there seems to feel like there's an either or I get frustrated. I'm not a big fan of this. Why was when you through super happy hero movies and I get so bored in superhero movies because for the most part, there's not much story to me. And I don't think you'd lose your audience. If you had a deeper story, right? The the most of the people go there to see the spectacle to see the special effects to see the climax. And that's all great. But you get gain a little bit more. And I think the James B, the Daniel Craig movies did very well, I don't think they hurt. They didn't do worse. I'm not that I'm not an expert on the box office. But I don't think they they certainly didn't decline. They were there were some of the highest grossing Yeah, right. So you get both, you're gonna get both you're not going to and there seems I feel like there's some sort of idea of like, No, we've always done it this way. And this is what people want. It's like, yeah, yeah, they're more people would want it if you actually had story and not just spectacle, and you can do both. Yes.

Alex Ferrari 56:06
Well, yeah. I mean, Dark Knight. Nolan's Dark Knight is, I mean, the whole trilogy, nearly from Batman Begins to dark night, but you look at Dark Knight and you're like, oh my god, it's a crime. It's crime movie. It's it's heat. It's basically he with a psychopath and a joker. You pull out the superhero aspect of it. It's still a fascinating crime, crime, you know, crime thriller. And then you look at something like Logan, which is the last Wolverine movie, and oh, my god, the depth in that. And then they took that to a whole other place. But again, its flaws. It's what that character what Logan is fighting is so much greater than his physical issues that he has, or that he's taking around Professor X. Who's got dementia, the most powerful person in the world with mind powers as dementia. Holy cow, what kinds? You know, I'm I love James Mangold. I think he's brilliant, and what he does as well, but it's but you're right, you can't have both. And when you do, that's when things will go which whole other level?

Jill Chamberlin 57:12
Yeah, it's whole other level. And like you said, I mean, you know, we're talking about, you know, Wolverine, it's the flaw is the story. Really, I mean, it's yes, you have some sort of external event to put it in motion. But it's really the flaw in how you know, the character's flock gets in their way. That is creating what is the story, right, otherwise, it's a situation.

Alex Ferrari 57:36
So right now the biggest movie as we as of this recording of this year's top gun, Maverick, and I was watching Top Gun, I, when I went to go see it, I was just going, Oh, my God, I mean, as perfectly as you can execute a SQL for that for Top Gun for the original Top Gun, which is spectacle, it was spectacle. But the flaw and the challenges that they threw at Maverick, having to go back and teach gooses son, and, and go through the emotional trauma and there was flaws that he was dealing with, in order to and that's what makes that work was yes, it's a spectacle. Yes, the action is amazing. But I saw grown men cry. I was one of them. Because every dad went to go see. But there was but there was something else there besides just spectacle. And that's what yeah, a lot of screenwriters don't understand.

Jill Chamberlin 58:30
Yeah. And that's what hooks us, right. That's what makes us feel that is what why we care. You know, we may be entertained by the spectacle, but you could have spectacle and emotionally engaged us and pull us in. Right. And that's going to come down to that flaw. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 58:45
Now, I'd love to ask you this question. What do you think is the main difference between a professional screenwriter and an amateur screenwriter? Besides being sold?

Jill Chamberlin 58:55
Circumstances is it right is so

Alex Ferrari 59:00
Just the work how they're actually approaching the craft?

Jill Chamberlin 59:04
I mean, I don't know. There's so much that's outside that control as far as the business goes, right. So I'm not sure that I can say there's one thing that is different, you know, I know, I know, writers who, you know, who I've worked with, who are incredibly talented, whose scripts, I think are amazing, I can't believe aren't being produced and they're not being produced. And I work with some professional writers sometimes whose work does not impress me, I'll just say, and I treat all my clients equally, I'm here to help and I'm here to make everybody's script better. But it's not like there's something inherently better necessarily in the professional writer. I do feel a lot of it is circumstance. I think I can just describe better what's between the difference between the amateur writer who is serious or how as potential and the amateur writer who's not that I could maybe answer that, if I may answer a different question than the one you asked, you know, and I think that is the difference there, to me is somebody who's got one script, basically, they've got one script idea, it's one baby, they think that it will make, you know, 200 million at the box office, if only they can get it in the right hands. And they are, you know, they obviously don't know how the business really works. But they've got just that one baby. And that's it. Versus the writers who I think who are on the right track, are one, two, no, you can't just have one script that they're writing all the time. They're constantly writing, and that they're trying different things. And they're not just writing there they are taking, you know, Hollywood's not looking to discover people. I know, people want to think that they're not on there.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:57
They don't want they don't want unknown quantities.

Jill Chamberlin 1:00:59
They don't want exactly. There are plenty of of writers who are in the you know, in the WGA, who've had stuff done who are out of work and in, but are already known. And those are the people who are who are they're looking to for the next job, not somebody who's yet another unknown out of there. So you need to make your own opportunities is what you know. So that's, that's a big part of it is just you're not going to wait, you can't just wait to be discovered, because it's not going to happen.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:28
Right. And so everyone listening understands why that is, why don't they want this new untapped talent, because before Hollywood was about on tap talent. Now, as you know, it would be I bet I'm talking two years ago, like they were looking for new ideas to 70s. That's how Yeah, that's how the film Brad's got in if we had no idea what now, the whole town is run by fear. And I take a chance on you Jill, as an unknown writer, or me as an unknown writer. If it fails, I lose my job. And then I get and I have that on my permanent record, quote, unquote, that like, oh, yeah, they, they gave this schmuck you know, 5 million for that script, and it bombed. There, they rather be able to hire someone who has done a few things might not be as good. But if everything goes to hell, they're like, Hey, what are you talking about? He, she, she she wrote a script that, you know, won an Oscar. Yeah, it's just wasn't my fault. Basically, the way it is,

Jill Chamberlin 1:02:28
That's, that is a big part of it, you know, it is, you know, if you are not already in Hollywood insider, in, you're trying to get in, you know, you're trying to crash a party that people don't really want you in. And, and you need to be aware of that. I'm not saying don't try to crash it, but you need to be aware of that there are plenty of out of work, right. WGA writers with who have agents and managers already who can't get work. And so, and I'm not saying I'm not let me just say I'm not saying give up. I'm saying, you know, I wish more writers were just aware of how the business works, that the spec market script market is dead, you know, the spec script market is dead, you know, 30 some about 30 spec scripts get bought a year. 30 You know, how many scripts or 30 scripts are registered with the WGA every year?

Alex Ferrari 1:03:19
30 40,000 more?

Jill Chamberlin 1:03:21
Yeah. 50,000 Yeah. 50,000 So, and I'm not saying that bums people out when they hear it and but you need to be aware of the statistics and how the business works. And so stop trying to think if only I get discovered in and, you know, whine about the way the business works? Well, you know, what, that's the way the business works. And, and it's, well, some of it is about fear it also, just to give it a little bit more nuance. I mean, if you wanted to design cars, you wouldn't send to Ford Motor Company, a cocktail napkin where you have designed a, your thoughts on what the next best car design is and expect to get anywhere. Right, right. Right, right. There's uh, there are things you know, there are people who've worked very hard to get there to where they are, and they're not really probably looking for new ones. And so you have to realize you're crashing an industry and you need to try to take you know, most of the writers who I've worked with who've done well, didn't wait. They did not wait to be discovered. They tried lots of different things. I'm going to mention a couple of TV shows and I want you to tell I'm sure you can be able to tell me what they have in common. Letter Kenny Smith, Broad City, insecure. workaholics crazy ex girlfriend. They all have something very poor. in common, I know two of those shows. Okay, what are those two shows? What are those two shows have in common that you can think of

Alex Ferrari 1:05:06
I think crazy ex girlfriend, and I haven't seen them but I'm aware of them workaholics, I can't speak, I can't speak intelligently about it, because I don't know, I've never watched an episode just know of them.

Jill Chamberlin 1:05:18
Okay! What I love all these shows, by the way, what all of these shows have in common is that the Creator started by funding their own prototype. They were either web series, or they were short film that went somewhere, or they had YouTube videos,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:37
Like the like the Philadelphia was the one with Danny DeVito, that show within some Yeah,

Jill Chamberlin 1:05:42
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a little bit different, a little bit different, because that was kind of an internal thing. These were actually they, you know, that was something that was internally distributed, I don't think that they ever distributed to the public. These were all things people put on YouTube, they said, they did not wait to be discovered, had any of these people waited for someone to discover them and fund them. I don't think a single one of the odds are incredibly slim than any, any of these things would have been made it made. And like I said, I think these are all great, great shows, and creators with great talent. And so talent alone is not people, they're not going to find you. You need to be your own protagonist and find ways to put it out in the world that you are an interesting, you have an interesting voice. That's what's unique about you. There are a gazillion writers already in Hollywood. But what what they don't have is you and your specific voice or your specific kind of humor or your specific angle. And whether that's to do a, you know, a web series or to have a Twitter presence or to have a podcast. And by the way, I don't think you should just do one thing. Most of my writers who've been successful have done many things. They did a web series, it didn't do well. They did a short film, maybe it did a little bit they did this they did that they did lots of things, if that's what you're interested in, don't just hide in your room and write scripts and enter competitions and network, you know, in LA, if that's all you're doing, the odds are really, really going to be slim. It's not impossible, it's really slim. Instead, find a way there all these you know, with internet, they're all these ways that cost virtually nothing. Where you can show the world I'm creating great content, you know, you would be very well advised to come find me, you know, versus putting ourselves as writers in the positions of please please, please hire me. What a turn off right?

Alex Ferrari 1:07:43
You're so you're so on the on the money on this because so many of us screenwriters and filmmakers are still looking at the business as if it was the 90s, the 80s and 90s, early 2000s. And the world that we live in now you actually have to take the bull by the horns and go out there. There's a movie coming out as of this recording this week, but and the interview I did is coming out next week. Marcel, the shell with the hotshoe. Hassan, I don't know if you're familiar. I am. I saw it. It's amazing. Yes. It's amazing. A 24 is releasing it. It's this thing. And I didn't know that it started off with a short film. Well, years ago.

Jill Chamberlin 1:08:24
Yeah, I didn't know they were making feature of it. But it was great. It makes sense. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:28
Right. So they made that so that and then they did like a few years later, they did another one then Hollywood came calling and they wanted to team up with like Ryan Reynolds. And they're like, that's not what this is. So they just they released a couple of books. So they created an IP to the point where they went out and finally got the money to make the feature on their own terms, complete creative control and Final Cut. But they had this base. I mean, the first short was watched 40 million times 50 million times. So and then the second one was watch 36 million times 40 minutes. I'm like that. So they had this massive audience that they could tap into. But it was just a shell. That's a little talking of three minutes short, and it turned into this beautifully wonderful film. But there you go is and it was just to creators to just like, I got it. I'm just gonna put this out there. No masterplan, but they at least created something and they can go in and go, that is the future. That's that's the way you have to do it. And it's, it could be podcasts, it could be literally changing your screenplay into a story based podcast where an audience you could do this so many. Affordable!

Jill Chamberlin 1:09:39
Very affordable, very affordable. Yeah, but yeah, you're gonna you may have to invest a little bit, right. So people have ideas like I can't spend $1 Like one of us already had to spend $1 But like, you have to buy the mic. Yeah, you're gonna have to get the mic, you know, and put some pillows in the room and you know, and it's not that expensive, but you if you're just gonna wait to be discovered you're gonna just keep waiting until Get all the great stuff we wouldn't have today. If you know these other creators I mentioned it just been just been waiting. And you know, you're gonna have to try lots of things.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:08
Yeah, absolutely. July could talk to you for at least five hours. I know that. I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Jill Chamberlin 1:10:25
You know, perfectionist, perfectionism is, is not your friend. Yeah, that's why deadlines are great. You just sometimes you just got got to get it done. And it's, it's never, nothing's ever gonna be perfect. Deadlines are great for that they actually force us like, you gotta, you know, good or bad. You got to turn it in. And you need that sometimes, because otherwise, it's a lot of people won't get anything done.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:51
What are? What are three screenplays that every screenwriter should read?

Jill Chamberlin 1:10:56
Well, the first one, I'm gonna guess many of your guests have said before because everybody knows. I think that everyone should read it. But I'll go ahead and bring it up because it's everyone should read it. The Breaking Bad pilot, I'm sure people have brought that up. Right. That's if you have perfect breaking pilot, what is wrong with you, you need to go find the Breaking Bad pilot. It is it is a must read just an excellent example of of establishing voice of the way he's able to lead our eye. And in story just is a is a masterpiece. I believe the pilot script is another pilot, it's another pilot that I really recommend my writers read is is the pilot for the leftovers, Damon Lindelof. And it's because by the way, these are the things I'm going to run back recommend I liked the scripts better than the final product. So Breaking Bad, it's a great pilot scripts even better. The Leftovers was kind of a little too dark for my taste on the screen. But on the page, it's one of the it is probably the strongest example I've seen a voice of just out there voice of the end. And I think it's helpful for writers to see how far you can go and you know, there are a lot of moments where he stops and says You described something and then says what the fuck it like literally says that in the in the scene description. You know, this happens What the fuck? Right? He's commenting on us and keep in keeping us engaged in that story. And I think that's a really good example for writers, especially ones who are been taught you only write what's seen and heard and to understand what that really means. And the last one is is another one I'd like the it's for voice is big fish. John August. Again, it's the script I like better than the movie I think the script he just is great with vapes in the way he delights us that's what that's the word I like to use a good good voice is kind of Oh, I I didn't have to have that described that way but it delights I'm readers are human we want to be pulled along. And you know voice is one of the hardest things to teach. That's something you really have to practice to to learn. So that's why like, the primary reason I like those scripts are I think are just excellent examples of writers with really strong voice.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:25
And where can people find out more about you your work your workshops, where they can get the book and so much more?

Jill Chamberlin 1:13:30
Yeah, so my book is The Nutshell Technique: Crack the secret of successful screenwriting is on Amazon and all you know, basically all the places you buy the books. It is I don't know if anyone is able to do it, but it is available also in Italian, Korean, Mandarin Chinese is coming out soon. And there's an audiobook version. I'd recommend getting the paper back because the paperback has, has nice big diagrams. It's a larger format book, it's easier to see that. So I teach classes on Zoom, and my screenwriting school is the website is thescreenplayworkshop.org. And I have 10 week classes where you write a feature film or a TV, TV pilot. I have a special class going right on right now. That's actually only for alumni that I just want to mention because it's really unique where we are a TV writers room. It's called TV writers room. People pitch ideas for new series and one idea is chosen and the whole class. Everybody writes an episode of a season the new show, it's really one of the only classes like that. You have to be an alumni though. That's the one class you can't just sign up for my other classes all levels take them beginners to me winning screenwriters take my classes. And then to find out more about my script consultation, you can go to Jillchamberlain.com. And that's also where you can find the free worksheets that I mentioned.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:03
That's awesome. And I advise everyone listening to go check your stuff out you, you have a really unique way of looking at story. And again, again, I've become an expert on looking at stories from so many different angles over the years. And years is really one of the best. So Jill, thank you so much for coming on the show. You're welcome back anytime to talk shop. But I appreciate you. Thanks again for coming back.

Jill Chamberlin 1:15:25
Thank you. It's my pleasure. It was great fun to see you again.



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Top 25 Must Listen to Screenwriting Podcasts (Oscar® Winners)

Finding a great Screenwriting Podcast is a treasure trove of knowledge for the aspiring or professional screenwriter. We have put together the Top twenty five must listen to screenwriting podcasts from the archives of the Indie Film Hustle Podcast and the Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast.

The list below is definitely has  podcasts for screenwriters with a who’s who in the screenwriting world. From Oscar® and Emmy® winners like Eric Roth, Edward Zwick, Richard Linklater, David Chase to screenwriting coaches like Robert McKee, John Truby and Chris Vogler.

These episodes are the best podcasts for screenwriters wanting to learn more about the craft and business of screenwriting. Be sure to take notes because there are a ton of knowledge bombs that are dropped in these screenwriting podcasts.

This list will be updated every few months so keep checking back.

Click here to subscribe to the Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or Youtube.

1. Eric Roth

This week, I sat down with one of the most legendary and successful screenwriters/producers in Hollywood, Oscar® Winner Eric Roth. Over a 50+ years career, he’s well-known for writing or producing films like Forrest Gump, A Star is Born, Mank, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Munich, Ali, and the list goes on.

2. Oliver Stone

Today on the show I bring you one of the most influential and iconic writer/directors in the history of cinema, three-time Oscar® winner Oliver Stone. Throughout his legendary career, Stone has served as writer, director, and producer on a variety of films, documentaries, and television movies. His films have been nominated for forty two Oscars® and have won twelve.

3. Richard Linklater

We are joined by indie film icon and Oscar® nominated writer/director Richard Linklater. Richard was one of the filmmakers who helped to launch the independent film movement that we know today with his classic 1991 indie film Slacker. As a bonus, we will not only dive into the extraordinary career of Richard Linklater but also that of collaborator and longtime friend writer/director Katie Cokinos, the filmmaker behind the film I Dream Too Much. 

4. David Chase

The legacy of the crime drama television series, The Sopranos remains a defining art of storytelling for mob TV shows. We have the genius behind this hit TV series, David Chase as our guest today.

As expected, Chase is a twenty-five-time Emmy Awards-winner, seven times Golden Globes winner, and highly acclaimed producer, writer, and director. His forty-year career in Hollywood has contributed immensely to the experience of quality TV.

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of Chase, let’s do a brief of the HBO 1999 hit show, The Sopranos: Produced by HBO, Chase Films, and Brad Grey Television, the story ran for six seasons, revolving around Tony Soprano, played by James Gandolfini, a New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster, portraying the difficulties that he faces as he tries to balance his family life with his role as the leader of a criminal organization.

5. John August

Today on the show we have Hollywood screenwriter, director, producer, podcaster and novelist John August. He is known for writing the hit Hollywood films Go, Charlie’s Angels, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Big Fish, Charlie, and the Chocolate Factory and Frankenweenie, the Disney live-action adaptation of Aladdin and the novel Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire.

6. Edward Zwick 

We have been on a major roll lately on the podcast and this episode keep that going in a big way. Our guest on the show today is Oscar® Winning screenwriter, producer, and director Edward Zwick. Edward made his big shift from his childhood passion of theater to filmmaking after working as a PA for Woody Allen in France on the set of Love and Death.

7. James V. Hart

I’m so excited to bring this episode to the BPS Tribe. Today we have legendary screenwriter James V. Hart. James is the screenwriter behind some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters like HOOK, directed by Steven Spielberg based on an idea by Hart’s then 6-year-old son, Jake, BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND, directed by Brian Henson, and CONTACT, directed by Robert Zemeckis. MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN, TUCK EVERLASTING, AUGUST RUSH, SAHARA, LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE, AUGUST RUSH and many more.

“No one has a job in our business until you type ‘the end’.” — James V. Hart

8. Jordan Peele

Get ready to have your mind blown! I’ll be releasing a 3-Part Limited Series of conversations between the legendary screenwriter James V. Hart, the writer of Hook, Contact, Bram Stroker’s Dracula, and Tomb Raider just to name a few, and some of the top screenwriters in the game.

First up is the screenwriter that took the world by storm with his Oscar-Winning screenplay Get Out, Jordan Peele. If you have been living under a rock for the past few years here is what the film is about.

This was recorded before Jordan’s next hit film Us was released. Listening to these two masters discuss character, plot, theme, and more is a rare treat. It’s like being a fly on the wall. When you are done listening to this conversation you can read some of Jordan’s screenplay here.

9. Damien Chazelle

Today on the show we have Damien Chazelle, the Oscar® Winning director and screenwriter of La La Land. He bursted on the scene with his debut film Whiplash. The film is about a young musician (Teller) struggles to become a top jazz drummer under the tutelage of a ruthless band conductor (Simmons).

James and Damien discuss how he wrote and structured La La Land and much more. Enjoy this rare conversation between James V. Hart and Damien Chazelle.

10. Joe Cornish

Have you ever  wondered what it is like screenwriting inside the Marvel and Studio machine? Wonder no further, today we have screenwriter and director Joe Cornish. Joe was one of the writer’s on Marvel’s Ant-Man.

Joe honestly, was extremely forthcoming and transparent about a lot of things; like what really happened behind the scenes on Ant-Man and what it’s like to write inside the Marvel machine, having Edgar Wright as a writing partner, working with filmmaking legends like Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. And we also discuss his craft, how he approaches screenwriting and directing, and much more.

11. Joe Carnahan

It’s been a hell of a year so far. I’ve been blessed to have had the honor of speaking to some amazing filmmakers and man today’s guest is high on that list. On the show we have writer/director Joe Carnahan. Joe directed his first-feature length film Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane. which was screened at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, and won some acclaim.

12. Troy Duffy

I’m always looking for success stories in the film business to study and analyze. Edward Burns (The Brothers McMullan) Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi), Kevin Smith (Clerks), and Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity) come to mind. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the cult indie film classic The Boondock Saints but many of you might not know the crazy story of its writer and director Troy Duffy.

Well, prepare to get your mind BLOWN. I had an EXCLUSIVE discussion with Troy this week, and let’s say, he did not hold back. Nothing was off-limits – from his instant rise to fame to the brutal fate he met – getting blacklisted, all of it. He wanted to set the record straight because there is always another side to the story, and what better side to hear than that of the man who lived this brutal Hollywood adventure?

13. Sacha Gervasi

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

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

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

Enjoy my entertaining conversation with Sacha Gervasi.

14. Edward Burns

Today’s guest is a writer, director, producer, actor, and indie filmmaking legend, Edward Burns. Many of you might have heard of the Sundance Film Festival-winning film called The Brothers McMullen, his iconic first film that tells the story of three Irish Catholic brothers from Long Island who struggle to deal with love, marriage, and infidelity.

His Cinderella story of making the film, getting into Sundance, and launching his career is the stuff of legend. The Brothers McMullen was sold to Fox Searchlight and went on to make over $10 million at the box office on a $27,000 budget, making it one of the most successful indie films of the decade.

15. Mark L. Smith

I’ve spoken to many people in the film business over the years but today’s guest is one of the hardest working craftman I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down with. Today on the show we have screenwriter, producer and director, Mark L. Smith.

If you look at his IMDB you’ll see a list of 15 projects at various stages of development. He’s come a long way from entering the Hollywood scene some 15 years ago with his fear-striking horror screenwriting and directorial debut, Séance in 2006.

I had an absolute ball speaking to Mark. He’s one of the hardest working screenwriters in Hollywood. We discuss everything from The Revenant, genius-level tips on how to adapt a book to the screen to what it was like work with Quentin Tarantino on the Star Trek script that has yet to be made.

If you pray, please pray to the Hollywood Gods that Mark and Quentin’s Star Trek gangster film sees the light of day.

16. Diane Drake

Today on the show we have million-dollar screenwriter Diane Drake. Her produced original scripts include ONLY YOU, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Marisa Tomei, and WHAT WOMEN WANT, starring Mel Gibson.

Her original script for ONLY YOU sold for $1 million, and WHAT WOMEN WANT is the second highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time (Box Office Mojo). In addition, both films have recently been remade in China featuring major Chinese stars. And WHAT WOMEN WANT has recently been remade by Paramount Pictures as WHAT MEN WANT, with Taraji Henson starring in the Mel Gibson role.

17. Boaz Yakin

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

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

18. Jeffrey Reddick

Today on the show we have screenwriter and director Jeffrey Reddick, who is best known for creating the highly successful Final Destination horror film franchise. The franchise has grossed over $650 Million world-wide. Not bad for an idea that was first conceived for an X-Files episode.

Jeffrey has had an amazing career so far and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

19. Billy Crystal 

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

20. Larry Wilson

If you were a kid of the late 80s or early 90s then today’s guest definitely had an impact on your life. Larry Wilson is the co-creator of the cult classic Beetlejuice (directed by Tim Burton), writer of Addams Family and worked on the legendary television show Tales from the Crypt.

Larry wasn’t always a screenwriter, he worked on the studio side of things as well as an executive. In this interview, he tells the story of how he championed a young and pre-Terminator James Cameron to be the writer/director of Aliens. Great story!

21. Robert McKee

Our guest today is the well-regarded screenwriting lecturer, story consultant, and eminent author, Robert McKee. Reputable for his globally-renowned ‘Story Seminars’ that cover the principles and styles of storytelling.

I read his book years ago and refer to it often. I discovered McKee after watching the brilliant film Adaptation by the remarkable Charlie Kaufman. Kaufman literally wrote him into the script as a character. McKee’s character was portrayed by the Emmy Award-winning actor Brian Cox.

If you haven’t heard of Robert McKee then you’re in for treat. Robert McKee is what is considered a “guru of gurus” in the screenwriting and storytelling world.

He has lectured on storytelling for three decades, and his book Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE) is a “screenwriters’ bible“. It’s also become the bible for TV writers, and entertainment executives, and their assistants.

McKee’s former students include 67 Academy Award winners, 200+ Emmy Award winners, 100+ Writers Guild of America Award winners, and 52 Directors Guild of America Award winners.

Some of his “Story Seminar” alumnae including Oscar® Winners Peter Jackson, Julia Roberts, John Cleese,  Geoffrey Rush, Paul Haggis, Akiva Goldsman, William Goldman, and Jane Capon, among many others.

22. John Truby

Today on the show we have one of the most popular guests to ever be on the Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast, the legendary John Truby. John is the author of The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller.

John Truby is one of the most respected and sought-after story consultants in the film industry, and his students have gone on to pen some of Hollywood’s most successful films. The Anatomy of Story shares all his secrets for writing a compelling script.

Based on the lessons in his award-winning class, Great Screenwriting, The Anatomy of Story draws on a broad range of philosophy and mythology, offering fresh techniques and insightful anecdotes alongside Truby’s own unique approach to building an effective, multifaceted narrative.

His is former students’ work has earned more than $15 billion at the box office, and include the writers, directors, and producers of such film blockbusters as Ratatouille, In Treatment, Pirates of the Caribbean, X-Men I/II/III, Shrek, Mother Mary of Chris, Breaking Bad, House, Lost, Planet of the Apes, Scream, The Fantastic Four, The Negotiator, Star Wars, Sleepless in Seattle, Outbreak, African Cats (which Truby co-wrote for Disney) and more.

23. Chris Vogler

Today on the show we bring the legendary story analyst and best-selling author Chris Vogler. Chris wrote the game-changing book  The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. I read this book over 25 years ago and it changed the way I look at “story.” Chris studied the work and principles of the late master Joseph Campbell.

His book The Hero with a Thousand Faces was the basis for Star Wars as well as almost every other Hollywood feature film in the past 60 years using what Campbell called the monomyth.

24. Pen Densham

Today on the show we Pen Densham. Pen is a successful award-winning screenwriter, producer, and director, with an extensive track record in film and television. He is responsible for writing and producing some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters, such as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Backdraft, Blown Awayalong with some of its longest-running television series including The Outer Limits.

I had a ball speaking to Pen about his time in Hollywood, what it was like to screenwriter/producer monster hits and his screenwriting philosophy on how to make it in Hollywood.

25. Marshall Herskovitz

Our guest today is producer, director and screenwriter Marshall Herskovitz. Many of his production projects have been in partnership with his long-time filmmaking collaborator, Edward Zwick whose films, he’s produced and written half of. Their decades-long filmmaking partnership was launched as co-creators of the 1987 TV show, ThirtySomething.


IFH 599: How to Acquire Original IP for Your Projects with David Kessler

Originally from Philadelphia, David attended that city’s “Fame” high school, Creative And Performing Arts, where his classmates included QuestLove and Boyz II Men. He then graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York, and worked as a graphic designer for ad agencies, designed book covers, movie posters, and indie film titles.

He impulsively moved to Los Angeles in 2000 and became a stand-up comic for a while, performing at The Improv, The Vancouver Comedy Festival, and in sketches on “The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” and “The Showbiz Show with David Spade”. But he tired of comedy clubs after a few years and focused on writing instead. In 2006, his “Will & Grace” spec made it to the semi-finals of the Warner Bros. Comedy Workshop.

Switching to drama, he optioned the book “Minamata” (and the life rights of the author), about the experiences of journalist W. Eugene Smith photographing mercury poisoning victims in Japan. He wrote the screenplay in six weeks, and it got him a literary manager. Then Johnny Depp’s company came on board to produce with Depp himself as the star. Filming on MINAMATA completed in the Spring of ’19, with an expected release in Fall 2021. “Minamata” premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2020 and has since been picked up by Samuel Goldwyn Films for domestic distribution. It also stars Bill Nighy, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, and the singer Katherine Jenkins.

His follow up, DREAMERS (based on the