IFH 669: The Secrets of Story with Matt Bird

You’ve just boarded a plane. You’ve loaded your phone with your favorite podcasts, but before you can pop in your earbuds, disaster strikes: The guy in the next seat starts telling you all about something crazy that happened to him–in great detail. This is the unwelcome storyteller trying to convince a reluctant audience to care about his story.

We all hate that guy, right? But when you tell a story (any kind of story: a novel, a memoir, a screenplay, a stage play, a comic, or even a cover letter), you become an unwelcome storyteller.

So how can you write a story that audiences will embrace? The answer is simple: Remember what it feels like to be that jaded audience. Tell the story that would win you over, even if you don’t want to hear it.

Today’s guest Matt Bird can help you. He is a screenwriter and the author of the best-selling book The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers

The Secrets of Story provides comprehensive, audience-focused strategies for becoming a master storyteller. Armed with the Ultimate Story Checklist, you can improve every aspect of your fiction writing with incisive questions like these:

• Concept: Is the one-sentence description of your story uniquely appealing?
• Character: Can your audience identify with your hero?
• Structure and Plot: Is your story ruled by human nature?
• Scene Work: Does each scene advance the plot and reveal character through emotional reactions?
• Dialogue: Is your characters’ dialogue infused with distinct personality traits and speech patterns based on their lives and backgrounds?
• Tone: Are you subtly setting, resetting, and upsetting expectations?
• Theme: Are you using multiple ironies throughout the story to create meaning?

To succeed in fiction and film, you must work on every aspect of your craft and satisfy your audience. Do both–and so much more–with The Secrets of Story.

I dig into Matt’s story system and break down the secrets of the story. Enjoy my conversation with Matt Bird.

Alex Ferrari 0:09
I'd like to welcome to the show Matthew Bird, Matt. How you doing my friend?

Matt Bird 3:33
I'm fine. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 3:34
I'm good man. Just live in the quarantine life, sir. Live in the quarantine life.

Matt Bird 3:39
It is crazy. This is absolutely insane. It's it's hard to read. You have to remind you every will every morning. I've always had sort of apocalyptic dreams. And then I wake up in the morning and I'm like, oh, it's apocalypse. The apocalypse. I'm like, Oh no, it was a dream. I was just dreaming. It's my normal life. And now I've been waking up every morning going like, oh, it's the apocalypse apocalypse. Like no, that's just a dream. I'm like, no, no, it's not. It's not a dream. This is the apocalypse is happening. I can't shake this one off.

Alex Ferrari 4:05
No, I heard the other days like can we put 2020 in a bowl of rice to see if it could fix it or something? Because it's I mean, this is an insane insane year and we're not even halfway through yet. So as of this recording, so buckle in, see what happens but but we're here today to talk about story and I wanted to first before we get into your book and and your concepts and what you teach. How did you get started in the film industry? Because I think you had your origins in the film industry.

Matt Bird 4:41
Yeah, sure. I was always making films and I was I considered myself sort of like a punk DIY filmmaker back in the day like and I was always like working with the stuff that had just come out so I worked with a little bit with to braid and then when DV when mini DV came out, I was like this is great. I can make my own movie I made a feature film. What at first That's not that's not even true for me to feature film. That was the thing. I was always I love features I never, I was like I forget shorts, I'm gonna put in the work, I made a feature on sbhs when I was in high school, or when I was in college, and then when I was out of college, I made a feature on mini DV. And I shot it having no idea how I was going to edit it, because there was no editing software at the time, right. And then right as I finished production that came up with Final Cut Pro 1.0. And I was like, I'm gonna buy it, the first day it hits the store, and I was first community who had figured out this program, which was insane program. And then I've made a feature there. And I was just doing, I was doing whatever I could and then eventually I was like, Okay, it's time to get serious. I went to film school, I went to Columbia University, film school, and I spent a fortune that I did not have a fortune that I may never have, I'm still paying off my loans. But I went ahead and I mean, sometimes there, I shifted my focus there to screenwriting, which I think was wise, I won some awards, I was, you know, they, they basically announced at the end of every year at Columbia, we are going to pick 10 students who we are going to push as you know, people who we're gonna try to help get representation and sales and everything and the other 70 Kids are cut loose. We're not gonna help you guys, but we're gonna help you send kids. So thankfully, I was one of the 10 they, you know, I took a bunch of meetings, New York, and La got a very big deal manager was, you know, got just a few gigs. I was hired to do an adaptation of novel and that went, Okay, I was I set up, you know, I, in screenwriting, it's all about setting up, like, Oh, my God, I've had such a test. As a screenwriter, I've set up this project here, and I've set up this project here. And I've set up this project here. And I'm working with this person, and this person and this person, give her like, oh, how much did you make? Oh, nothing. Like, oh, no, no, the money, the money. That's all that's a bank account, that money is being always money is being held back by a dam, right in front of me. And but it set up. So that means that there's cracks in the dam, and the whole thing is about to flood. And don't you worry. And then eventually, I decided, you know, it wasn't the unsuccessful projects that killed me it was the successful projects, it was the ones where I got paid. And I was like, I can't stand being treated the way I'm being treated. And I can't stand, you know, just, I've just wasn't built for it. I just wasn't built for it. And then I started and then I got really sick. So that didn't help. And by the time I was better than all my heat was off me I was no longer getting meetings, and I started a blog. And at first it was just a rewatching movies blog, or an underrated movies blog. And then I couldn't, I eventually got to a point where it's like I was, you know, this isn't the heyday of blogging in 2010. So it's like, I have to watch a movie and blog about it every day. And I'm like, this is gonna kill me. And so I should start just giving writing advice as an excuse to give myself a day off. Like, instead of doing something hard today, I'll just write some writing advice. And soon that just that just built up and built up and built up. And people were like, Matt, all the stuff you've done your life. This is, this is your passion. This is what you're really good at, you're really good at giving writing advice, and you're into a book and you should do this and that. So soon I turned into a book, it was the secret, some story published by Writer's Digest. I started doing manuscript consultation, I started doing all that. And it became very big, you know, the book became an Amazon bestseller. It was, you know, I've now got the secret straight podcast of the Secret Story YouTube channel. And it's been wonderful. It's, you know, you never end up where you think you're going to end up. But this is turned out to be my passion. It's turned out to be what I'm good at. And it's been great.

Alex Ferrari 8:48
It's been your your own hero's journey, if you will, sir.

Matt Bird 8:52
It's been pretty much my hero's journey. I mean, if you in my book I talk about, you know, the great talking about stories about when I got sick, and when, you know, it was I found myself ironically living out these heroic narratives that I was learning about and trying to write about, and it'll end up being deeply ironic, but I wound up coming out on top. So maybe not on top. I can't, you know, somewhere

Alex Ferrari 9:17
above water, above a water above the water, the water. Now in your book, you talk about the 13 laws of writing for strangers, which is a just a great writing for strangers is a great idea because that's what we do. Basically screenwriters you write for strangers, generally speaking a lesser, Chris Nolan. And even then you're still writing for strangers because someone else is financing it. So you have 13 laws. Can you talk a little bit about a few of them?

Matt Bird 9:43
Yeah. Let me see. How I go. You know, I wrote this book five years ago, who knows what the rules were. Okay. So the number one was screenwriting. Well, I should say no, the number one wants story. This is for all kinds of story writers. You must write for an audience, not just yourself. Because I think a lot of people, I think the worst piece of advice people get is like, oh, you know, tell a story that you love. And then it'll be a great story. It's like, I don't know about you. But when I was a screenwriter, I loved all my stories, like it was, that was a very low bar, trying to get a write a story that I love, I would write it, I would love it, I would send it out into the world. And a vision, everybody's like, Oh, right, I'm not just writing for myself. I'm writing for other people. I am writing for strangers. And I have to figure out what a stranger wants. And guess what strangers have a lot higher standards than you have for yourself. And some people are really, really hard on themselves. And they're like, you know, you know, like, Miles Davis had a quote something like, you know, like, I, I'm the toughest audience there could possibly be, so I can please myself, I know, it must be great. But I'm not Miles Davis. And I was that hard on myself. And it was only when I realized, okay, I'm writing for strangers. I'm writing an audience writing for an audience, not just for myself. Why? Number two is audiences purchase your work based on the concept, but they embrace it, because of your characters. I think this is, you know, we tend to overvalue a concept. Concept. We're like, Oh, my God concept, it's gonna sell itself, it's gonna write itself. Like, no, it never writes itself. And it's probably not going to sell itself either. Like, yes, people are gonna want to hear you have a haircut. So if they're like, they're like, that's great concept. Now, have you read it. And then as soon as they read it, they do not care about the high concept. They do not care about any of your big ideas about your big concept. All people care about, and they're going to give you five pages. And they're going to read five pages, which road and then like, do I fall in love with this character. And if you do follow the character, and then you never get around to delivering that high concept you promise, they won't even notice. They're like, Oh, I don't really have that concept anymore. Give me a character I love. I'll go anywhere with him. Give me a character I don't love. Forget it. Even if it's the best, hottest, most wonderful idea in the world. Forget it, I'm not going to read it. So that's one, number two. Number three, audiences will always choose one character to be their hero. I feel like this is people a lot of times are like, well, you know, do you think one person see her for the first 10 pages, and then I kill him off. And then you're gonna think that someone else is there for the next 30 pages. And then you realize, now now, it's really that person in the background. Now, of course, you can always think of exceptions. Alien is the ultimate exception. You have no idea who the hero of alien is, until you're about 40 minutes into that movie. And suddenly, you're like, wait a second, that woman in the background. She's the hero of the story. Like I thought the hero was Tom Skerritt who just got killed off. But that is a huge exception. And usually, you're gonna want to convince you know, your the hardest part of writing is getting people to go like, I am invested in this character. And I'm going to follow this character through the whole story. And if you want to write in, that's fine. If you want to convince people to invest in one character, and then kill like a drug, and then go like, no, no, no, I'm gonna convince you to care about a whole nother character. You can try it, but doesn't tend to work.

Alex Ferrari 12:55
It's funny. It's funny, when you were saying when you're talking about like going with a character on a ride, you read, you watch Raiders of the Lost Ark. And you're introduced to indie. And if I remember, there was no dialogue or like a minimal dialogue, all throughout that first part up all up until almost none, I think he had maybe one or two lines. And that was it. Until the until the boulder came down. And after that sequence, you you were in like, you have no idea his backstory, you have no idea what he like, all you know is like, I wherever he goes, I want to follow him. Because this is awesome.

Matt Bird 13:37
Because he's doing awesome stuff. He's got a whip. I mean, he has a whip, the whip for all kinds of stuff. And then he gets, he does awesome stuff. But he fails and he gets humiliated. It's not about him being an awesome badass, you know, it's not like, hey, you know, here I am with the idol. And that proves how awesome I am. I just recovered this idol. Now we love Him because He does all this awesome stuff, get the idol and then fails to get the idol. And he fails in a way that prefigures the whole movie. What I mean? First one was how does he really fail? He fails because he's like, Well, I've got an idol. And I've got a bag of sand and a bag of sand in the idle way, the exact same amount. So if I switch out the handle for the bag of sand, they're the same thing. And of course, what's he doing is he does not realize the power of faith. He does not realize that, you know, there is a religious value to this idol that the bag of sand does not have. And because he is blind to the religious value, he almost gets killed. He almost gets run over by a boulder because he cannot tell the difference between a religious I don't want a bag of sand and then that takes you right through the end of the movie where it's like he finally at the end of the movie. He says close your eyes Marian because he realizes that you know Oh, this isn't just the ark. It's not just a bag of sand. The Ark is a religious thing and now God is going to rain vengeance down and melt that guy's skin and turned into milk. And that is that is it's one of the most brilliant openings movie ever. Yes, without question, but see. So it seems small. Number four, audiences don't care about stories, they only hear about characters. What number five, the best way to introduce every element of your story is from your heroes point of view. Again, lots of exceptions. I love the exceptions, some of my favorite movies or exceptions. But man, if you can just get people to care about your hero, then we'll care about what your hero cares about. And if we don't care about your hero, or if your hero doesn't care about the story, that's one of the worst mistakes you can make is like, oh, you know, my hero has a lot of onwy. And he is not invested in the story. The story is sort of going on over his shoulder, we're sort of peeking around his head going like, hey, heroes, there's a whole story going on back there, pay attention to it, and the hero doesn't care. It's the worst one. And it's very hard to get audiences to care about any hero because they're afraid of getting hurt. I think this is this was one of the big ones for me, when I realized this, it's that audiences, if you were writing the very first story anyone had ever written if you're a caveman, and you're like, I've just invented this concept of storytelling. People are like, Oh, well, that's fascinating. Tell me more. But as it is, people have spent their whole lives reading books, watching movies, and most of them have been bad. And every time people read a bad book, or watch a bad movie, then it hurts, it's painful to read a bad book, it's painful to watch a bad movie. Because though a story asks you to care, a three asks you to invest your emotion, Noah's story is not just something that you passively stare at, you're not just sitting in the theater going like, well, I could look at any one of these four walls, but I'm gonna have a look at the wall that has the pictures moving on it, you are getting sucked in, you are being asked to care. And usually you're being asked to care about a useless hero going on an uninteresting story. And you know, I wouldn't say most of the time, but a tremendous amount. A tremendous amount of stories are bad. And what do you say, when you see a bad movie or read a bad book, you say, Well, I'm never doing that, again, you say I was tricked into caring about this hero, and then he turned out not to be worth caring about. So I'm not going to care again. So every time you write a book, or you write a screenplay, or you make a movie, then your audience is people going to be like, first of all, I know, this is all wise, you're not going to trick me into thinking this is a real person, right? And then you're not going to get me to care. There's no way I'm gonna care about this person, because you're just going to hurt me, I don't wanna be hurt again. And so that is a huge hurdle you have to overcome is realizing that getting the audience to care is going to be the hardest thing in the world. Or number seven is, your audience need not always sympathize with your hero, but they must always empathize with your hero. So I talked about how like, you know, we, when we were in film school, it was like the heyday of Mad Men and The Sopranos and Breaking Bad. And they were like, Oh, these heroes aren't sympathetic. So that means these are successful here with neon sympathetic semi Do you no longer have to write sympathetic heroes anymore. So that means you can just write about anybody, and you can write any story you want to do, and they can just be the most loathsome hero in the world. And people have no choice. Now they have to care about it, though the whole rules have been thrown out the window, we did not realize how hard these writers were working. First of all, we didn't realize that all of these writers had gotten their starts on shows where you cared very much where the hero was very sympathetic. So for instance, did you know

David Chase, who created the sopranos, he had gotten a start as a writer on The Rockford Files. There has never been a more lovable hero in the history of TV than Jim Rockford on The Rockford Files. And so he knew he was not somebody coming along going, like, Gee, I don't know how to create a synthetic hero. So I'd better create a yeah, I'd better create Tony Soprano instead and create an unsympathetic hero. And, you know, hopefully people will like him. No, he knew how to create sympathetic heroes, and he knew how to get us to love Tony Soprano, even though he was an awful guy. And he knew it was because we wouldn't sympathize with them, but we would empathize with him, we deeply empathize with him. And that's why your story about a sympathetic ear. That's why people are saying, Oh, I hate your story. Because it's an unsympathetic hero and you're like, but But what about all these unsympathetic heroes out there who are great heroes, when they're really mean to say is not that they can sympathize with the hero, they're saying, I can't empathize with your hero. And that is death. That is you can have the least sympathetic ear on the world, but if we can't empathize with him or her, forget it.

Alex Ferrari 19:21
So then you look at a character, which arguably, I think is arguably one of the best television shows of all time is Breaking Bad with Walter White. I mean, his transformation from like, like, I'm gonna Gillean Vince Gilligan said he's like, Mr. Chips turns into Scarface, and, and you know, when I started watching that show, it's it just, you see him slowly turn into a monster, but yet he turned into a monster for the like when he started the journey. It was for kind of the right reasons. Kind of it's a gray area. Have you want to say the cell math, but I get it, I get it. But then afterwards, it stopped being about that. And it was all about his own ego and he literally turned into a monster. But yet you still were empathetic with him. Like it was so brilliantly written and performed as well.

Matt Bird 20:17
Yeah, if they had, I don't I don't know if they had gotten they originally offered the show to both Matthew Broderick and John CUSEC. And I don't know if Broderick in case I could have pulled it off. I don't know if we would have you know, we would have cared as much about Matthew Broderick or junkies, I could say had gone on that journey. It was really it was all about, you know, don't get me wrong. Vince Gilligan scripts were amazing. They were insane. They were brilliant. And Better Call Saul is still brilliant. I'm I'm watching the most recent season that right now. But, you know, Bryan Cranston, come on? I mean, so good on that show, he made that show. He was amazing on that show. And it was so good. But no, I mean, you know, I mean, if what might have happened sick, you know, if he had not been, you know, it was so important that he had been sick, it was so important that he had been screwed out of his previous job. I think that, you know, the best motivation. It's like, how, first of all, once you got to the point where Walter White had made an insane amount of money. And, you know, obviously, it got harder to empathize with him as the show went on. Because he had was, he was no longer sick. First of all, he had, he was no longer conceivably doing this for his family, because his family now was, you know, his wife had found out and hated him for doing it. So, you know, in order to make his wife happy, that was it. But the real, I think the hidden motivation on that show that made it that didn't justify but strongly motivated all his actions, is that he felt he had been cheated out of a billion dollars. He felt that when he had been forced out of this company, right, that he had, I think greymatter was the name of the company. And he, he felt like he had this burning resentment inside him from feeling like I was part of a billion dollar startup. And then I was forced out. And I was cheated out of this money. And so that gave him the bottomless pit. Because, you know, in the end, the illness wasn't abundant was paid for, you know, trying to trying to satisfy his family wasn't one was bad. It was that resentment of feeling like I and I think so many of us feel that way. So many of us have, like, you know, like, that was my fortune, you've got my fortune. We all have that person. We know, who made it when we didn't make it, and who she was out of the thing. And it was, I think that is one of the most underrated or underrecognized elements of that show of why people love that show so much.

Alex Ferrari 22:37
Yeah, and it's still it's still going. It's still going and it'll go on and it ended. It had a beautiful one of the most beautiful endings to a show ever. So brilliantly, brilliantly done. Did you happen to see the Colombian version of Breaking Bad?

Matt Bird 22:54
No, there's the Colombian version there is that they literally took

Alex Ferrari 22:57
the scripts and test translated them into Spanish. And then they licensed it. And they licensed it to a Colombian set of actors, and they did everything down there in Colombia, and it's a telenovela. Basically, they made it into a telenovela. If you want, if you can get just a few if anyone out there, if you can send it to us somewhere online. Right, Bradbury. He saw one of

Matt Bird 23:22
my favorite TV shows, one of my favorite TV shows of all time is slings and arrows about life in a Canadian Shakespeare Festival, which doesn't sound like it would be a great show. But and then I found out that the director of City of God, yeah, made and, and oh, and he just made another film that was really great. But the director of city Oh, God made a Brazilian version of slings and arrows. So in this case, it was my life in a Brazilian Shakespeare Festival. And that's like my holy grail of stuff I want to find. I want to find the Brazilian version of Oh, and he just made the two pups. Oh, I was watching the two pups and two pups was brilliant. I loved that movie. And I was like, Man, this guy made its own version of slings and arrows. That's what I really want to. I don't know if anybody has even dubbed it and I do not speak Portuguese.

Alex Ferrari 24:10
Right. So how committed are you sir? Will you learn Portuguese just to watch?

Matt Bird 24:17
Well, that's what Pete Buddha judge did. Right? Pete Buddha judge taught himself Norwegian because the he was reading a book series that was translated from Norwegian. And then the final books were not translated from Norwegian. So he taught himself Norwegian just to read the book series.

Alex Ferrari 24:29
God bless him. God bless.

Matt Bird 24:34
See where he ends up?

Alex Ferrari 24:35
Yeah, exactly. So let me ask you a question. So yeah, I don't want you to give all your 13 laws away. I want to be somebody who can actually buy the book. But yes, what is your process for coming up for an intriguing concept for our story?

Matt Bird 24:52
Well, I think that, you know, I don't always agree with like, Senator, but I think Blake Snyder, you know, was right on the money when he talked about the importance of irony that You know, it's gonna be, you know, a schoolteacher cooks math, you know, not a drug lord cooks math, you know, not the son of a drug lord cooks math solver, Adobo cooks met Montessori, school teacher cooks MEB. That's the story. There's got to be an ironic element to it. I talked about on my blog, I've got a whole series of how to generate a story idea. And, you know, I talk about, for instance, there's all sorts of ways into it. Like one way, you know, one of the ways to generate your idea is, you've always thought she, the thing you've always wanted to do, but you know, you would never do so it can be the the science fiction version of that is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Like, gee, I wouldn't you know, I've gone through a bad breakup, I would really love to, if I could just have a machine that would wipe out all memories of this relationship from my head, then that would make me happy. And anyway, would that make me happy, and then boom, that's the story. You're off to the races. That's a great story. But it can also be a way to get a non science fiction story. Like, you know, I've just gone through another bad breakup. Some stories begin with bad breakups. I've just been through a bad breakup. And what if I tracked down every girl who's ever come to me, since elementary school, and tracked debt and made a list of the top five girls who've ever done and track them down one by one and interview them about why they dominate? Well, again, that's something that Nick Hornby did not do. I promise you he did not do that. I promise you that no one has ever actually done that. But it's something we've all thought about doing. Like oh, wouldn't that be, and boom, that's a story that got turned into the novel, high fidelity, and then the movie high fidelity, and then the TV series, high fidelity. And that's, you know, that's essentially he's doing the same thing, that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind had going, like, you know, what's, what's an idea I had, of course, I feel like, the best way to probably create a story these days, if you want to create something big, if you want to create a big sale, I talked about the Hunger Games, how she was reading about the legend of PCs, and all of it, all of the Hunger Games in the legend, PCs, so that they were like, you know, oh, we've got an empire, we're rolling over all these kingdoms. Once a year, we're going to have all the kingdoms and, you know, they're beautiful young people too. And then we're going to put them in this labyrinth, and we're going to force them to compete. And this will be a way to, you know, to show them that we have conquered them. And that, you know, we could kill them on a times, but instead, we'll just kill their two most beautiful kids, and force them to fight to the death just to show our power. And she was like, well, she could have done three things. She could have said, Okay, well, let me just, you know, this is IP, a PCS is IP, why don't I just go back? And it's, it's the best kind of IP, it's IP that's in the public domain. I just read a book about Theseus, but then she was like, but you know, then first of all, you shouldn't really own it, because anyone can write a book about PCs. So she's like, well, what's a version of PCs I can own? And I could sell it in modern day, but that would be kind of a stretch. She's like,

Alex Ferrari 27:54
you know what, you know what? We're not too far away. I would have said that. Yes, you borrow it. I would have said I would have said that a few years ago. But now what what you thought was impossible is not possible, sir. So don't don't authority.

Matt Bird 28:06
But then she was like, why don't I make this the post apocalyptic version? And all she did was take an existing story. All she did was take existing IP. And she was able to make that into a billion dollar franchise herself. I don't know. Does Susan Collins have a billion dollars? She spent a billion dollars find out right?

Alex Ferrari 28:29
Between a couple of them shirts. I think she's she's done. Okay. So basically, she just took she just basically took Hamlet, let's say, and made it into a long sea or something that's completely in the public domain. And just made an entire IP out of it.

Matt Bird 28:42
Yeah, she she took she took free IP is what Disney spamming him with. That's my endgame. Yeah, with Disney has been doing for a long time is taking free IP and, and turning it into something they can been owned and try to, you know, force everybody else to, you know, try to, they like to pluck things out of the public domain and then suddenly claim to own them, which is a neat trick. But she that's what she did. She she took something in the public domain, plucked it out, made it hers and made a fortune. You know, I talked about but I talk about other things that aren't necessarily sci fi related. I talk about the importance of a unique relationship. I talked about how, you know, you kind of bully and a boy, a boy who's being bullied. Well, that is a story we've seen a million times, but then the bully hires, but then the boy hires the meanest body to protect him from the other bullies. Then that's the movie my bodyguard. That is a unique relationship. We've never thought

Alex Ferrari 29:38
I love that movie. I love that movie. So I can't believe you refer to that. That's it was released in 1980. I remember watching it as a kid, and I thought it was the most awesome frickin movie with Matt Dillon. Is it Matt Dillon? Adam Baldwin, yeah, Adam Baldwin and Matt Dillon with the two picks. They weren't big Stars then but those are the stars. Oh god, I can't believe you made a reference to that movie. It's like one of my favorite movies of all time. I love that movie.

Matt Bird 30:05
But that's, you know, we've seen both those characters many times. These aren't unique characters, but it's a unique relationship we've never seen you know, the week kid hired the bullied to be as bodyguard before, or you know, work at another high school movie like election, you know, about a war between a girl running for student body president and her civics teacher. And it's like, okay, we, you know, we've seen characters like this before, but man, that's a unique relationship. We have never seen that relationship before. Or, you know, I talked about paper, Moon, you know, a con man and his 11 year old accomplice who may or may not be his daughter. And it's like, okay, this is if you can, you know, you don't have to be science fiction, obviously, one of my ideas, you know, it's like, okay, I mean, these days, gentlemen, people talk about high concept. They talk about science fiction, they're talking about like, okay, you know, here's a high concept idea. It's, you know, we've got it's 1000 years into the future. And it's like, well, what's up there? You can, you know, the simplest high concept idea out there the simplest type concept. You know, the, if a pure high concept is something where you put together two words, and you sell it for a million dollars, and to me, the ultimate example of that is Wedding Crashers. Two words. Wedding Crashers, boom, done sale. Make a movie. It's a funny idea. It makes you laugh, like, oh, people are graduating and you're like, oh, you know, you just you're instantly like, I can't wait to meet these guys. I can't wait to meet these guys who crush other people's weddings. Or what if not big budget. Easy and easiest thing in the world to make?

Alex Ferrari 31:35
Yes. Like what if? What if dinosaurs came back? We can bring the answers back. That's done. Yeah. And we opened the park but

Matt Bird 31:44
it's so funny that they've never really there's never really been a dinosaurs rampaging through Manhattan movie. Isn't that strange?

Alex Ferrari 31:53
I mean, last world. They did do not in Manhattan, but they did he they did come towards

Matt Bird 31:57
Spielberg. Spielberg loves the suburbs. So you know, Spielberg is like if I'm gonna have a T Rex going through America, I'm gonna put them out in the suburbs, but it's really weird. I was working in idea for a while I never kind of done you know, obviously, that may be one reason why it's harder right than you think. But you know, it always struck me in the Thor movies. We've never really had a like frost giants attack downtown Manhattan moment.

Alex Ferrari 32:24
But you know, a lot of things if attacks Manhattan over the years, I mean, we were we're good if it's between a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man Godzilla. I mean, Manhattan's had its day don't get there's no lack of things attacking Manhattan over the course of movie history. I think we're okay. But yes, I've never personally seen a dinosaurs I think shark NATO I'd never seen any the movies. I'm assuming there must have been a shark NATO in Manhattan at one point or, like, that's a perfect thing. Shark NATO that sold. So, I love this. There's one little meme that's on around going on social media is like remember when you think you had a bad idea? Remember that one day once there was a guy in a room who said let's put sharks in tornadoes? You know, I mean,

Matt Bird 33:15
that's, that's and then and then seven movies later how many of those movies that they made my

Alex Ferrari 33:19
god so much money they've made? It's ridiculous. So then how do you so we would talk a little bit about characters with like Indiana Jones and, and Walter White, let's say how do you write that enduring character? That character that that just sticks with you like like an indie like, I mean, we can we can analyze indie we can and a lot analyze Han Solo if there's two to Harrison Ford characters

Matt Bird 33:46
to George Lucas, there's unfortunately no

Alex Ferrari 33:48
Yeah, or, or any of these characters that you just like, oh, like forever I will be with this character, James Bond is another one of those characters that endures, regardless of how he's transformed, transformed over the course of his journey in history of filmmaking. So what do you how do you do it? How do you write an enduring character?

Matt Bird 34:09
Well, when I talk about in the, I think the title of my next book, depending on how the publisher actually feels, but will be believed care, invest. And I talked about how like, you know, again, you've got they're going to give you five pages, maybe 10 pages when they read it, and what they're gonna want to do it and those five pages are going to want to believe, care and invest. And they're going to want to say, You know what, I was just talking on the next episode of my podcast about this. How, you know, Ray in Star Wars ray in The Force Awakens is a classic example of like, right away, we're seeing her and her wife is so strange. If it's so filled with like, she makes that bread, that spherical machine she's got wherever that was awesome. Yeah, that causes you to totally believe in this world because you're like, Okay, that's so weird. You couldn't make it up. You know, like, Okay, this must be real. This must be a real world like so any thought I had going on? have like, Okay, this is all going to be wise this is going to be fake button pushing manipulating character, like, okay, no, this, this feels real. And then they get you to care because the characters suffering the characters being embarrassed. You know, in this case, she's living hand to mouth, she's living this very hardscrabble life and then they get you to invest because she's taking care of herself and she is taking care of herself wonderfully. First they show you that she is doing all she can to make all this money, she's doing all she can, could work very hard. And you know, is like doing going to, you know, we see a rappelling down into a destroyed Star Destroyer, we see Oh, see, you're going to do current length, and then you get the point 10 minutes and where we've already seen her desperately trying to get money from the pawnbroker or from the scrap dealer, and she'll do anything to get this money. And then she gets destroyed. And the droid says, And finally, the scrap dealer who she's always been trying to make this money off of. So that'll pay a fortune for I'll pay a fortune for eBay. And she says, and then suddenly, she says, I'm not selling, I'm not gonna set one. And oh, my God, we love this character five now, because we've seen that she's, we believe in her, we care about her, we've invested in her, and we desperately want her to make that money. We at this point, we want her to make that money, we want her to be successful. And then she gets a higher calling. She says, No, this is about more than me, this is about bigger than me. This is about BPA, I am going to not sell him. And like what better example this could be where we talk about, you know, The Hunger Games, Why can the Hunger Games, you know, we talked about save the cat. And, oh, it's so important. It's so important. You kind of have your character save the cat right away. And it almost, it's almost always a mistake to have your character save a cat. Because we don't identify that we, I've never saved a cat, you have never saved a cat. It is a very rare thing to actually save a cat. That's not the sort of thing we see. And it's like, oh, that's just like me, I save cats all the time. What is what is the first page of The Hunger Games, I think the second paragraph of the Hunger Games, she wakes up in the morning, and she sees the family cat. And she thinks, you know, I really want to kill that cat. I almost killed that cat before I tried to kill that cat before I didn't succeed. I really want to kill the family cat today. And then she decides not to kill it. So she sort of saves the cat, right? Because she almost kills it and then decides not to kill it. So that's one version of saving a cat. But then she leaves the house and she kills a different cat. Within five pages later, she sees a noble mountain lion and she concerns landing. And it's like, no, I'm gonna kill it and cook it. And she does. So it's like, this is the ultimate opposite of Save the cat. This is like literally she almost kills the family cat and then does kill another cat. But we believe we care. We invest we believe in her life because it's filled with, you know, even just her story of almost going to family cat. It's like, oh, that doesn't sound fake. Because that sounds like because no one would make that up to manipulate me because that makes me not like her like, Okay, this must be real. And then we care so much because oh my god, she's poor enough where, you know, she would even consider that. And then we've asked because what's the next thing she does, she goes up, there's an electric fence, I'm gonna slip through the electric fence. I'm gonna take out my bow and arrow, and then I'm gonna go hunt. And oh my god, like we love her. But then so we believe in her. We cared about her, we invest in her. And then what happens on page 10, or page ad or no 25 or so is she is so good at looking out for number one and taking care of number one and making sure that she survives, she'll do anything to survive. And then she volunteers for The Hunger Games to save her sister. And she rises up above it. So we totally believe in her world. And then she rises up above it. And oh my god, we absolutely love her now. And now you're in. Now you're in

you know, it's James Bond is the perpetual exception. I just rewatched I was all prepared. The new James Bond movie was supposed to come out. And I watched all 25 James Bond movies. Wow. And then I was all set up. I was timing it exactly. To the moment the movie came out. And then the movie was cancelled. But James Bond is the perpetual exception. You know, certainly before Daniel credit comes in, he never changes. He never learns he never grows. He doesn't. He doesn't really get humiliated. He does though. Like that's such a key Amen is your hero getting humiliated? And there are key moments, you know, if you look at Gold finger, you know, he's, he's, you know, could not be more suave. And when he blows up the tanker, and then you know, takes off his wetsuit and he's got on a tux underneath and then But then he goes to the woman's house to have sex with her. And then it's it's the most ludicrous thing that he sees in reflected in the iris of her eyes. Someone coming up to kill him. And then that's a little bit of a moment of humiliation. You get just enough in the Bond movies. Okay, I I definitely you mentioned some he's getting a little bit of humiliation here. And then of course, he turns the girls so that she gets knocked on the head instead of himself, because he's despicable. Don't get me wrong. He has a despicable human being. And but he's the exception. You know, certainly you look at Indy, you look at Indiana Jones and, you know, instantly right away he misjudges the whole bag Same situation, he gets betrayed by his assistant, Alfred Molina, he then has to run through the forest. And then he gets forced on his knees to hand over the idol to duck and then add on of course, he's also he's free to snake. He hate snakes, and he gets away and there is a snake in there. So this guy who was seemingly not afraid of anything, is somebody terrified of snakes. And, you know, he can do it. He's got the skills, he does amazing work, and yet he horses and he gets humiliated. And yet he gets knocked down in a way that speaks not just to his interpersonal failings, but to his inner his intrapersonal failings into what is really wrong with his character. What is his deep personal flaw? It all speaks to it. We love him. We love him so much. That's what it's all about is you know, you you believe care, invest. And then, you know, and then suddenly, there's a moment where it kicks in. Suddenly, there's a moment where you're like, wow, okay, now I'm really on board with this person.

Alex Ferrari 41:00
Well, you look at you look to characters like the like bond pre Daniel Craig, because I think I think still Casino Royale is the best Bond movie ever. In my opinion. There's just it's, it's It's a masterpiece of the whole canon of James Bond. But you look at characters like bond or Sherlock Holmes. And they're both basically superheroes in many ways. They are godlike, and they generally didn't change. Like, you know, Sherlock generally never changed that people that change the people around him, like, Watson is kind of like the person who's learning the lessons along the way. And we kind of identify with Watson, in that sense, but Sherlock never sure looks the same violin playing dude, from the beginning to the end. And same thing with the older bonds. So there are those kind of and that's why I think it was so difficult to make a good Superman movie, other than the original Donner movies, because you can't write for a guide. It's hard. It's hard. That's why the mountain lip is all of them were human. Basically, all of them were even though there were gods, they all had the same failings of humanity. So

Matt Bird 42:11
what's interesting, both Sherlock Holmes and James Bond are addicts, you know, like James Bond, they talked about in the original movies, they talk about, you know, like, oh, you know, you've got liver problems, right, from right from the opening movies. And, you know, they talk about, you know, people always act like, oh, you know, the Bond movies were set back in a time when it was great to be, you know, this swaggering dude who had all these things. It's like, he gets criticized right away, you know, like, he was seen as sort of a monster like, Sean Connery was perceived by the people around him in those early movies, as being this sort of Monster is dude, and who had serious flaws who had serious problems. Yeah. And you know, we go today like, oh, he was a womanizer. And he was he drank too much and he smoked too much and Oh, of course back then when they made movies they didn't even realize that was problem like no they did they realize that was from and of course Sherlock Holmes was addicted to opium he would inject himself I mean, I opium he would cocaine, you wouldn't have to myself with liquid cocaine, and, you know, with a very troubled person, and in the in the stories, and I think that we tend to, we tend to women, we tend to think like, oh, they're the past, where heroes were allowed to be perfect. But as he said, even with the gods, the cons were, you know, in the Greek gods, the gods were very flawed. I mean, I think the oldest piece of literature that is still with us is Gilgamesh and Gilgamesh you know, could not you, you I dare you to find a screenwriting gurus book where anything in it does not apply to Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh could not be a more perfectly fine hero, his journey cannot fit modern story structures better. So you've read Gilgamesh, and you're like, wow, nothing has changed, like nothing has changed. And the reason why nothing has changed is because good storytelling it rise is based on human nature is based on what is the fundamental truth about what it's like to be a human because that's what stories are about stories are about what is the fundamental truth about what does it mean to be a human in this world? And even if you go back to ancient Mesopotamia, even if you go back to the, you know, 3500 years BCE, it's human nature was the same. And you read Gilgamesh, and you're like, Oh, my God, it's, it's, I it may be my favorite book. And it's the oldest book we've had.

Alex Ferrari 44:23
Yeah, and it's just you know, it's, it's, it's similar to what we're dealing with today is the human condition just with less iPhones. Essentially, exactly. Now, structure is something that is talked at nauseum about in storytelling, and specifically in screenwriting, is like you need to follow this formula, the hero's journey, the three act structure, at page this you have to have that happen a page that that happens. What is your take on story structure in general?

Matt Bird 44:56
Well, you know, at first I was like, oh, all this The writing gurus have taken that have covered that it's fine. Everybody has their structure, I don't need my own structure. And then of course, inevitably, you start giving writing advice. And everybody, you always end up with your own structure. And every, you know, I sort of ended up with sort of 14 points where I started out, what I realized about structure is that, you know, you have people you have people like Robert McKee, who are saying, well, you know, I, here's pharmakeia, you were on a cruise, you have paid for the Robert McKee cruise, and I'm going to tell you what all good stories are like, and then somebody stands up in the back and they go, my stories don't like that. And then Robert McKee can tell them, Okay, leave the boat swim home. My, my, my structure doesn't apply to you, he has to claim that all structures apply to him. So he talks about like the micro pod and the mini pot, and things like that. And that's what gurus tend to do is they drive themselves crazy trying to cover all the exceptions, I realized right away, I'm not going to try to cover all the exceptions, my structure only applies to stories about the solving of a large problem.

Alex Ferrari 46:08
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Matt Bird 46:18
So, I mean, the biggest problem you can have when you're trying to structure is like, okay, all good movies are like this. And then someone says, Pulp Fiction. And you're like, exactly, both fiction does not have a modern structure. And Polk fiction does not have a structure that matches the structure of any other movie. And because Pulp Fiction is not about the solving of a large problem, it is an ensemble film, it is about several different stories, it is they overlap, the time is crazy, but if you're going to write, but I'm like, Okay, you be you, you go off and be Pulp Fiction, you're brilliant, don't change, never change. But most stories are about an invoke an individual solving a large problem, my structure only applies to those stories, not gonna apply those others. And then I realized what story structure really is, is it is not a set of rules for that Aristotle, or Mickey, or that anybody else has said, I'm going to dictate to you what the rules of story should be. It is merely an attempt to list the steps and missteps that people go through when solving a large problem in real life. So in human nature, we tend to go through a series of steps and miss steps on the way to solving a large problem. And when you see a story, and when somebody says, Oh, the structure is not good on your story. They're not saying, oh, you know, you didn't read Blake Snyder and hit all his beats. What they're saying is that this story does not ring true to me, this story does not ring true to human nature. To me, this does not feel like an identify for believable journey from becoming aware of a problem to solving that problem. Or to succumbing to the problem if the movie ends tragically. And that's what they really mean. So you can't just go like, well, I don't believe in your stupid structures guy, I don't, you know, I'm

Alex Ferrari 48:10
an artist. I'm an artist,

Matt Bird 48:12
I'm an artist, I don't do paint by numbers, man, then you're like, Okay, that's fine. That's great. You're an artist. And that's wonderful. But your story is not ringing true. And if you want to say, okay, you know, if you're writing, there will be blood or something, if you're writing something where it's like, okay, this is about a strange person who is not interested in being your hero, who is not interested in doing that, that's fine. You know, if this is not something where it's like, I'm going to invest in this person, I hope this person solves all their problems, then that's fine. But if you are, and you probably are, then you will need to follow the steps and missteps that most people will tend to follow in real life when solving large problems. And that was how I generate my structure now. It's funny. So 13 of my 14 main steps in my structure, applied event, there's one that doesn't, and it's the one that was it's necessary to solve a paradox of storytelling. And that paradox is the break into act three, I don't refer to x one, two and three, I talk about the four corners of your story, but the move from the third quarter your story to the fourth quarter your story, or as it's usually referred to by screenwriters, the break from act two and act three, then we all know that the hero is supposed to be proactive at that point, right? supposed to have a proactive hero, the hero has realized what his problem is realized what the problem in his world is. He's confronted his flaw, and now he's ready to take on the world. He's ready to bring the fight to the bad guy. But do we actually want in the final quarter of the story? Do we actually want the hero to just show up to the bad guy's house and beat him up? No, we don't want that. So this is a paradox. Like if we want the hero to take the fight to the if we want the hero to have changed enough as a person and to have gone through the personal transformation necessary to now say I'm ready to show up at the heroes house and beat him up. But then we don't actually want to see that happen. So what happens? Why, why is the hero giving the writer conflict? Why is the audience giving the writer conflicting signals here. And of course, it all comes down to Star Wars, and even my mind in the original kind of Star Wars, that's exactly what happened at the end is they're like, we have the plants of the Death Star. And we're gonna just show up at the heroes front door and beat a pup, we're gonna find the Death Star, wherever it is, in the middle of the galaxy. We're gonna fly there, we're gonna shoot, we're gonna shoot it the fawn the Death Star, and we're gonna blow it up. And nobody likes the movie. George Lucas was showing this movie to people and they were ashamed. They were like, Oh, George, I'm so sorry. Well, you know, maybe the next one will work out for you. You know, this one's just, it's not working. And George did the number one thing that everybody should do, he went back to his wife. And he said, Honey, why isn't this working? And she said, Let me fix it for you. And she said, Well, duh, your problem is, it's good that your heroes now have the information they need. They've got what they need to defeat the bad guys. But then the bad guys show up on their doorstep. And she just we ended the movie and redubbed the movie, and shot new insert shots to create an entire storyline that was not there in the original film of, okay, yes, we know, have the plans with the desktop, but then the desktop shows up to blow us up before we can go there to blow them up. And they are about to blow us up. And, you know, you look at this in suddenly, once you see this, you see it everywhere. So that is you see it everywhere. That, oh, you know, I have personally transformed it become a productive person. But then the timeline gets unexpectedly moved up. And suddenly they're here. So it's the one step in my structure where it's like, Okay, that one is there to address the paradox that is, you know, because in, but it doesn't happen in real life anyway. Yeah.

Does, it doesn't happen that time, like, does tend to get moved up. But it doesn't. But that's not necessarily something that's based on real life, it's not that the timeline always gets moved and always gets moved up in real life, although that does tend to happen. You know, I talk about my structure, how, you know, I would, I would sit there and I'd be like, Okay, I need to master this structure. And I need to do this, you know, this writing job that I've just gotten. And I would go like, okay, so I think I've messaged the structure, I'm gonna do the writing job. Okay, first thing I'm gonna do, when I do the right job is I'm gonna, I'm gonna sell them a pitch, they're gonna like the pitch, you know, for how I'm gonna adapt their novel. And then I'm gonna come up with my beat sheet, I've got the beat sheet, and I'm going to pitch it to them. And they like the beat sheet, they go, that's good. Write it exactly the way it is on your beat sheet, and you'll make a million bucks, we'll make a million bucks, we're all gonna get rich. And then you sit down, and you're like, and they tell you, Okay, you have to determine the screenplay in six weeks. And you're like, This is fine. That means I just have to write like three pages a day, it's gonna be beautiful. And then you're writing your pages every day, you're writing your scenes. And then you get halfway through, and you realize this beat sheet that I sold them that they love, it sucks. Like it is, you know, I have my plans have unraveled. And I now realized that this beautiful plan I have, I have to throw out the window. And I have to start over even though I this is what they told me to do. Even though this is the approved plan, I have to repeat this thing. against the rules, an outward repeat that I have to do in order to actually write something that's going to be good. And then I'm gonna have to sell this to them that sell them the thing they don't want. And it's going to work and I realize like, Okay, this is what happens when I would get hired to write screenplays. And it's also what happens in screenplays because this is proof of what I was saying that the story structure is the structure of how you solve problems in real life. The when you're writing your story structure and you're creating a btw story structure, you will end up following the same storyline where you will end up having to in any good movie, they throw out the map halfway through, they get to the halfway point and they're like, Okay, crumple up these plans, throw them out. We're proactive now we're improving. We're having to solve this problem from scratch. And this exact same thing will happen to you Ironically, when you're trying to write it, you will get halfway through and you're crumple up your beachy, throw it out. You're like oh my God, I am winging it from now on. I'm running. Gotcha. And if you don't do that, it's gonna be terrible. If you just write the exact pitch that you sold them Yeah, it's gonna be terrible.

Alex Ferrari 54:41
Now one one thing I wanted to ask you is something that I guess does not get talked about very much in in screenwriting in general and I'd love to hear your take on it tone. Can you discuss tone because tone is so so important. You know if it It's just so important, especially to all the great movies have good tone, or have appropriate tone.

Matt Bird 55:07
And if and if you can master tone, then you're set. Because if you can, you know, tone is about setting expectation. And if you can set the audience's expectations, if you can tell them like, Okay, here's what to expect from me, here's what I think you should expect, here's what I think you should want, then, and then they want it and then you give it to them, then they will have no idea that you are a master manipulator, who has tricked them into liking this story that they would not actually have liked, that they would have had, you know, I always say the ultimate example of challenge is go back, I'm going to re edit Star Wars, and I'm just going to change one thing, I'm going to take off the opening frames of the movie. And so now instead of saying, Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, no, I'm sorry, what does it say

Alex Ferrari 55:54
a long time, a long time ago, in a galaxy far,

Matt Bird 55:56
far away, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. And I'm going to take that title card off the front of the movie, and instead, I'm going to put a title card that says it is the year 25,193. And then boom, and then you have the whole rest of the movie, the movie would suck. That would suck if Star Wars was not set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but it was set in the year 25,193, then we would go okay, so this is a science fiction movie. And this is going to follow the rules of a science fiction movie. So they are going to we're going to be dealing with explosive decompression every time that an airlock is opened, we're going to be dealing with supercomputers that have been programmed to take over the world.

Alex Ferrari 56:41
No sound, no sound, no sound in space. No sound

Matt Bird 56:44
in space, of course, no sound in space. Close. And then you're going to be watching this movie. And you're going like this is not the or 25,000. We've got wizards. We've got princesses. We've got you know, we've got storming the castle, we've got all these things. And this is a fairy tale. This is a story that should be said a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. And you you have not delivered the story that you promised to deliver. And that is tone. You know, I think that 90 If you're not a screenwriter and you're watching that movie, you're like, oh, that's sort of funny that it says it said a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. And you won't realize what that is doing for you that that is solving the movies problems by establishing that tone. That that is saying like, nope, not, it's not what you think it is. It's something else. It's my thing. Let me tell you what my thing is going to be. And I talked about, you know, I when I break up tone I talked about with tone, you know? So the first part tone is genre, establishing your genre establishing your sub genre, that was what that's title card was all about establishing like, no, no, no, no, no, this isn't what you're expecting sci fi. This is a sub genre. I talked about how satisfying genre expectations how you've got to satisfy some genre expectations, but not a lot of genre crustaceans. I talk a lot about on my blog about Game of Thrones, and about Game of Thrones, you know, they satisfy just enough genre expectations. And then they just didn't satisfy so many of them. First of all, they kept killing off the hero. They're like, Oh, by the way, Ned Stark's the hero. No, no, wait, he's dead. Okay, now Rob serves the hero. No, no, no way. He's dead. So that was all about upsetting expectations. But man, if you love fantasy, you still love that series. And it's, it's if you don't want to fail, I mean that that's the dream is Game of Thrones. Because if you love fantasy, you'll love that series. And if you don't want fantasy, you'll love that series. And that if you can satisfy the fans of the genre enough so that they're the ones who want that book for the first 10 years of Game of Thrones existing only Fantasy fans, only Fantasy fans barn and read it. And I don't know if you knew any of these people, but these people kept going to people who work fancy fans going like, Oh my God, you have to read these books. They're amazing. And the manager like Gone, forget it. I'm not gonna read these big, thick fantasy books. Like I am a serious human being I am an adult. I do not read big, thick fancy books, and all the fantasy fans that was driving them crazy, cuz they're like, No, you will love it. It is literature. It is great. It is entertainment and literature and everything. And so that is such a big part of it. I talked about framing I talked about obviously, the dramatic question is something that screenwriting people talk about a lot. How, you know, establishing what Frank question is establishing what the what, what you're going to address at the end and what you're not going to dress and when it's going to be over and when it's not going to be over. You know, Star Wars is not about toppling the Empire. And if you get to the end of Star Wars, and you're like, what the Empire still standing, you know, this movie sucked. That would be that would be bad. They have to you know, they establish the drain question right away and always go like We have to get we have to get these plans to the rebels in order to because we have a plan for how to blow up the destiny. We got to plan for birth or we have to get it to the rebels. And then we're going to bought the Deathstar. And that's what this movie is about. And yes, you know, they don't even kill off Darth Vader. They leave it on unclear about whether he's dead, but they don't even clear up Darth Vader, and they don't. They certainly don't, you know, conquer the galaxy. And they have to establish their dramatic question right away. I talked about framing sequences I talked about parallel characters are great if you every time your character meets. And you know, your character should be constantly meeting characters that are like, Oh, I could end up like that. I could. This is the extreme version of what I'm thinking about being like, Oh, my God, this this person I'm on the verge of becoming, do I really want to become like that, look, this other character? Or if I don't do it, look at this other character who ended up dead. And that is a great way of establishing expectations. If you establish like, Oh my God, look at all these people. I could be this person. I want to be this person. I don't want to be this person who, you know, who tragically ended up dead because they didn't do the right thing. Or because they didn't do the right thing. What am I going to be? What is that?

Alex Ferrari 1:01:12
So it's like, are you going to be Darth Vader? Are you going to be Obi Wan? If you're Luke? That's the That's the question. Because you can go either way

Matt Bird 1:01:19
towards you're gonna be hot. Are you gonna? Or you're gonna reject the force? Yeah, does

Alex Ferrari 1:01:24
exactly. So there's, there's that as opposed to the the prequels, you know, which have their place. But anagen had the choice of becoming Yoda. Or, or, or becoming who he or becoming the Emperor, essentially. And he chose poorly. If I may use Indiana Jones. He chose poorly.

Matt Bird 1:01:49
But we can see now

Alex Ferrari 1:01:51
there's a whole there's a whole episode that you and I could sit down and just deconstruct the the prequels

Matt Bird 1:01:59
for the rest of this because nobody's done that.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:04
I'm sure no one. No, no, Georgia. People, I think, I think genius character. What are you talking about? Oh, I'm sorry. But this was awkward. Like, you know what, but with all that said, when you saw the trailer for Phantom Menace, oh, my God. Don't tell me you didn't.

Matt Bird 1:02:23
I worked in a movie theater. I and we could watch it over and over. And we did it. Trust

Alex Ferrari 1:02:28
me. i We all drank that Kool Aid. And when we walked in, I promise you when you walked out a Phantom Menace? Because you're you're of the similar generation as I was. You're close to my vintage, sir. You walked out a fan of minutes and said, Oh my god. That was amazing. The pod right? I mean, I did. I did.

Unknown Speaker 1:02:50
And then I did not. You did not. You did not like it. You did like it like I did not like

Alex Ferrari 1:02:55
so you didn't talk. I drank full kool aid on that one. But then I watched it. I watched it with my daughter a year or two ago. Just to introduce her. She's like, well, let me see that. You know, Anna, and I'm like, All right. Well, Jana, so we watched Phantom Menace, and I could barely watch it. It was so bad. It was so so I mean, great action sequences, great lightsaber battle, great pod raise. That was fun. But it was mind numbing. He was he was really bad.

Matt Bird 1:03:31
But anyway, really bad.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:32
I like I said, Well, like you said earlier. It's like you said earlier, we're not the first to discuss the prequels on the internet. Now, before we go, I'm gonna ask you a few questions to ask all of my guests. What are three screenplays that every screenwriter should read?

Matt Bird 1:03:46
Oh, man, see, I listened to some of your old episodes. And I remember hearing us at and I thought, oh, okay, I shouldn't I shouldn't make sure that I that I answered it. And I don't, you know, a really underrated screenplay. When I was in film school. At one point they were throwing out a bunch of old issues of screenplay magazine. And that would always print for screenplays in the back. And I grabbed one I'm like, hey, that's good screenplay. I'll pick it up and read it. And I thought just on the page, one of my all time favorite screenplays is Donnie Brasco by Paul snazzy. Oh, no, it's great. It's great. Great movie and just brilliantly written on the page. And there's never been a better monologue in film history than the forget about it. monologue where they're talking about all the different all the different meanings of the phrase forget about it. I think that that is an absolutely brilliant screenplay. You know, if you're talking about my all time favorite movie, you know, that's Harold and Maude. And I feel like that is a perfect screenplay as well. And an absolutely absolutely brilliant absolutely heartbreaking. You know, there is no better ending, I think in film than the ending in that film. Um, let's see what I would say hard to choose. It's so hard to choose.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:01
I mean Spaceballs. Spaceballs obviously. Well,

Matt Bird 1:05:04
obviously, oh my god. On my own podcast, I just found out that my my, my co host has never seen Blazing Saddles. Oh, oh, it's just assumed it's bad and it's never seen it. So I'm gonna say so in honor of him. I'm gonna say Blazing Saddles for the third month, although, of course, let me tell you all right now, don't write Blazing Saddles. Today. You were never there amount of trouble or trying to do that.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:29
I when I saw I saw Blazing Saddles. When I was in the video working at the video store in high school, I saw Blazing Saddles. And at that point, I said, in the late 80s, early 90s, like, how did this movie get made? Like, even then, I was like, it was not nearly as taboo as it is today. And you watch it, and you just like, I can't believe you got away with it. And I'm like, they'll never be another movie to do something like this. And then bore out came out. I was like, okay. All right. That was and that was the last one and nothing like Bora has has has ever come back on screen since that. But those two specifically, they just pushed that envelope. So good, good. Good choices, good choices. Now, what advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Matt Bird 1:06:14
Well, hear is, you know, let me can I just, you know, I was thinking like, Oh, he's gonna ask me about business stuff. And that's not really my, my brand. But that's like you I do, because it's not my brand. I do have say about business that I haven't said a million times before and a million other podcast. Can I talk about the number one thing I wish that I had heard before, I had my heat and I was selling? Yeah, and that is what happens in a meeting. Okay? If you're on the counter and water tour, if you're going around, it's good. Bottles, couches, you're getting them you're getting the water. Here are the things I understand. The first thing I didn't understand is that this meeting is a consolation prize. You are getting this meeting because your manager agent sent you sent them your screenplay. They loved it. But they decided not to buy it. And they said, as a consolation prize, we're gonna meet with the guy. So if they had watched your screenplay, I always thought in like, oh, they asked me what you mean. That means like, what my screenplay, that means they're gonna buy it. And I would go in like, oh, I would go in there like, hey, you know, we're here to talk about how you're buying my screenplay. I would have this heartbreak every time of like, you're not even Why are you meeting with me if you're not even gonna buy it, because this is a consolation prize. So that's the first thing and is that they've read it. They loved it, but they decided not to buy it, they asked to meet with you instead. And then as a result, there's three phases to a meeting. And this took me forever to learn. And that's the first faces you talked about the thing that they read appears and they loved and they decided not to buy, and you maybe can talk them into buying in any way. But you've got to be very clear that that's not what you're doing. Like you understand that they loved it, that they're not going to buy it, and that you're not doing but you know, you're suddenly going like, maybe you should have bought it, maybe it shouldn't be your manager. So that's phase one. So there's three phases of beating. Phase one is talk about the thing that they read of yours that they liked, and maybe try to convince them by afterall. Phase two is open assignments. Hopefully, your HR manager has asked them in advance. What open assignments does this production company have? That that they are looking to hire writers for? What novels have the option that then they couldn't get anybody to crack? What what you know, idea, crazy ideas this producer have that he's trying to hire some screenwriter to do that. You want to find out what are your open assignments and you want to pitch them on what the open assignments are. Hopefully you found that advance with the open seminar and you prepare to pitch in advance. And then step three, is you're going to pitch them on your new one. And you're going to pitch them like then they're going to ask so what are you working on? And you're going to say Oh, I'm working on you know, it's about a cow who goes back to ancient France, you're working on whatever you're working on and you're gonna pitch them but that's the least likely thing that's going to come out of it is they're just going to buy a wild pitch from you. And because here is the number one thing I learned from selling and more importantly from not selling, and I have never gotten into reading a bunch of sales books and I'm sure there are sales books out there that say this but I've never encountered one. And to me, this is the number one lesson of sales. And then is that do not sell them what you came to Sell. Sell them with they came to buy. Oh when you were meeting with that's good when you were meeting with a buyer. They the only reason anybody ever meets with a salesman and that's what you are. You're a salesman. The only reason why anybody ever meets with a salesman is if they have to buy is if they are in trouble and they are out of product and they need new product and they're going to get fired if they don't buy new products. That's their whole job is to gather up new product and they're out of product. They're running out there in a panic they need to buy but they're not going to buy what you came to sell. They're going to buy what they came to buy, and they know that dynamic you don't you If you're just a young screenwriter, you don't know that yet. But once you have figured that out, then the game begins, you're playing a game, you're playing cat and mouse, where you are trying to trick them into telling you what they came to buy. And they are trying to hold their cards close to the vest. And they're, they want to hear your pitch and see if it's what they came to buy, they don't want to accidentally reveal to you the secret of what they have come to buy, because then you will pounce and pitch that to them. And this is true of if you're writing, you know, if you're writing specs, this is true. If you're writing, this is true, if you are doing adaptations, if you're pitching your take on a novel so that you can get hired to do the adaptation. Here's the biggest occasion I ever get hired to write, here's how I get cuz I'd worn this at this point. And I said, Oh, you know, this is an amazing novel. And it's going to be so tricky to adapt, because you can either go this way with it, or you could go this way with it. And then I shut up. And I said, Oh, it's so tricky. You can go this way, or this way or that. silence, awkward silence. Awkward silence. And they're like, Yeah, well, obviously, yeah, you got to do a, and I'm like, exactly.

I pitched them option A. Now I if they had said option fee, I would have pitched them option B. But you have to treat them that's into telling you what they came to buy. You know, the same thing is true. You know, there's a great story that Simon Kinberg told me at Columbia, because he went to Columbia. And then he came back to talk to some of the people there. And he talks about how, you know, his agent was like, I'm going to sit you get you set up, you're going to be pitching to universal. They want to hear horror pitches. And he of course is first thinking I'm going to sell them when I came to sell. I've got great horror movie. It's great. I know. It's great. They're gonna love it. I'm gonna I've got a half hour pitch for this great horror movie goes in pitches that they're like, no. It's like, Oh, crap, says, Well, I've got in the back of my head. I've got some 10 minute pitches for other good horror movies, pitches, 310 minute pitches, they're like, no, he's like, Well, I've got some five minute pitches. I'll try some of those. No, shut them all down. He's like, Well, this brings me down to I've got six different one line pitches, you know, or just titles, and he starts pitching those. And then he gets to his final pitch. He says, I just got to words, Ghost Town, and they say sold a million dollars, boom, here's the check. And he and then he said, and of course it's never got paid. And then of course after he had cashed the check, and he was like, you know, ci, you know, the other things I pitched you were so developed and they had these brilliant you know, twists and characters and, and everything that a story is supposed to have goes down, didn't have any of that watch by goes down. They're like, Well, what we really wanted is we won a horror movie that could be turned into a attraction at Universal Studios, Hollywood, and Universal Studios, Ryan, oh, and all your other movies you pitched us couldn't be turned into attractions at Universal Orlando. But as soon as you said Ghost Town, oh, it's a movie about an evil ghost town. It's about a haunted ghost town. And boom, we know how to do that we know how to build a ghost town at Universal Studios. And they and they did not tell him that at the beginning of the meeting, they did not tell him what they had to modify, because they know they are more specific than you are. They know that. If you are sophisticated, that if they tell you what they came to buy, then you're going to go well, what a coincidence. That's what I came to sell. So they know not to tell you what they came to buy. But they know in their heads, they they have come because they need to buy universal. That executive at Universal was told you have to do what nobody likes to do, which is you have to meet with sales. Nobody in the world wants to meet with a salesman. Alright, but you have to go out and meet with a bunch of salesman. Because we're out of material we don't, we need to build a new attraction at Universal Studios theme park. It's got to be based on one of our movies, none of our movies can be turned into attractions, Universal Studios in Bern, we've got to meet with some people, but let's not tell them what we want. Let's not tell them what we came to buy. And let's hope that they have something to sell. That happens to be what we want to buy. And your job as a screenwriter is to figure out what they came to buy and sell it to them.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:14
That is one of the best answers to that question ever. Now where can people find out about you and your work what you're doing?

Matt Bird 1:14:27
So, first and foremost, you can buy my book, The secrets of story, innovative tools for protecting your fiction and captivating readers. You can listen to my podcast secrets or podcasts, you can watch my youtube channel on the secrets of three YouTube channel. You can hire me to do manuscript consultation, go to the secrets of story.com I should say you could read my blog at the secrets of story.com and you could click on the top button on the upper right and click on manuscript consultation and you can hire me to do that. And also if you want to come homeschool my kids, then you could trade services then I can trade services with you. And you're just gonna have to wear a hazmat suit and homeschool my kids, and then I'll do anything for you. I'll paint your house.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:09
Fair enough, Matt, it's been an absolute pleasure having you on your show. Man, thank you so much for being on the show and dropping those knowledge bombs on the tribe today, man, thank you so much.

Matt Bird 1:15:17
Thank you so much for having me. This has been a lot of fun.



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

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

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

Read the original John Wick Screenplay:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave Bullis 17:12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave Bullis 22:30
Danny Glover.

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

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

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

Dave Bullis 25:21
That was

Derek Kolstad 25:24
crap. JOHN Grisham.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave Bullis 35:06
little little

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave Bullis 38:44
Did you see that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek Kolstad 46:48

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

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

Dave Bullis 47:21
They are phenomenal at that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek Kolstad 56:49
What's in it?

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

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

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

Derek Kolstad 58:15
I like that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek Kolstad 1:08:11
That you know,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave Bullis 1:09:44

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy my entertaining conversation with Sacha Gervasi.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 23:26
mixer mixer.

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 26:03
Oh, my

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

Alex Ferrari 26:07
living screenwriters

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

Alex Ferrari 26:37
because he's 16

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

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

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

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

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

And I said,

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

Alex Ferrari 28:31
as you know. Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 35:53
Amen, brother,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 41:48
why wouldn't you?

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

what, what are we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 52:13
the story of anthem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 57:18
Oh my god,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 1:15:01
was not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 1:20:57
Yeah. Yeah.

Sasha Gervasi 1:20:59
Fantastic British film.

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

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

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

Sasha Gervasi 1:21:25
Project snacks.



  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
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Screenplays: FREE Download 2022-2023 Oscar Contenders UPDATED

UPDATED MARCH 2023: 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 add 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 Screenplays Nominees


Everything Everywhere All At Once
Women Talking

The Banshees of Inisherin
The Fabelmans
Triangle of Sadness

All Quiet on the Western Front
Glass Onion
Top Gun: Maverick
Women Talking

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

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Best of 2013 Screenplays

BONUS: Oscar Nominated and Winning Screenplays

IFH 664: How to Create a Viable & Profitable Story Idea with Erik Bork

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy my conversation with Erik Bork.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 24:35
I don't care.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erik Bork 35:31
other action figures, they

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erik Bork 47:34
Quite a few. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 47:36
Any advice?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erik Bork 52:22
probably The Catcher in the Rye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Enjoy my conversation with Danny Manus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 26:39
Horrible mix.

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 29:54

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Danny Manus 38:37
Im scared shitless right now.

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

Danny Manus 39:19
Yes. Yeah, absolutely. It's, it's a different business than it was even five years ago, you know, 10 years ago, 15 years ago. It's a completely different business. The stakes are higher, the budgets are higher. The audiences are pickier you know, they have to make such different decisions than they used to. You know, when there was a DVD market. You didn't have to get it completely right. Because you were still gonna make another 60 million, you know, on DVDs. And you know, we made a lot of programmers at my first job at Sandstorm and they made a lot of money. You know, we did the sniper Movies.

Alex Ferrari 40:00
There are those that that franchises made so much money.

Danny Manus 40:06
So much money we did, we did sniper two, three and four, you know, and we just kept going, it's kept going, they kept going, we did, we did not there, they kept going. But, you know, we did two, three and for we did them for about five, five and a half million dollars. Plus with the rebate that we got for shooting and you know, Thailand or Budapest, you know, it's like four and a half million dollars. And they it's gross, like $50 million, you know, on DVD and, you know, package sets and stuff like that. And so those days are gone. And the days of of developing, you know, it used to be when I started in development, it was like the 50% rule, if you could get a good idea 50% There, we'll take it the other 50% narrow, it's like you needed to be 90% done with a package before we're even going to read it. And think about making it, you know, and you know, somebody at Netflix already has to want it. You know, it's with it with LOI. It is a completely different business now than it was 10 years ago. The upside is there's more ways to break it in more places to in more platforms to get your stuff made and a wider array of stuff being made. Outside of the studio system, the downside is that the studio system all want exactly the same movie by exactly the same person for exactly the same budget. And, and it is hard to crack into that system much more so than it even was. And I think because of Hollywood's attempted rebranding itself and and diversifying itself and finding new voices and new talent and new things. execs are even more careful 100 times more careful than they were three years ago, you know, they are looking for very specific things now. Whereas before, it was like look, just have a great idea and have a great script. And now it's it's not just that, you know, and so writers have to do their due diligence, and not follow the trends because it never pays to follow the trends. But you have to know what the trends are so that you can try to get ahead of them. You know, I said years ago, that very soon there's going to be a major rom com a major LGBT rom com that, you know, that hits, and that's going to be a new big thing. You know, and then love Simon came out and that I mean, there's a bunch of things, you know, in development right now that that fits that bill, especially for Netflix. So it's trying to find that next thing while knowing what, what people want to read.

Alex Ferrari 43:07
I actually you know, I know a lot of screenwriters, professional screenwriters, and I've read some of their scripts, some of their specs, and I and I sometimes I'll get done reading it, I'm like, why is it dismayed? Yeah, like, this is amazing. Like, what, like, I see Meryl Streep in this. I see. You know, I like I mean, it's just so good. Because I've read bad scripts, I write bad. I've written bad scripts. So I've read but I've also read bad scripts as well. And when you read something of quality is just obviously, they know the craft, they know the thing. They're, you know, they have credits of movies that you and I would if I said out loud, you would go Oh, that guy. And they even have a star attached. And it's still no,

Danny Manus 43:52
You know, I read just as much great stuff from writers who aren't getting produced as I read crappy stuff from writers who are getting produced. And you know, that just happens it just happens it's a numbers game. It's a referrals game. It's a budget game. There's a million reasons why good scripts don't get made and some bad projects you know, get sold or or get made. It's almost it's not usually the writers fault every once in a while but that's that's just how it is. I've had plenty of projects over the years that I was like, This is my no brainer. If this doesn't get made, I will eat my shoe. And you know, and you know, shoo,

Alex Ferrari 44:38
Shoo, a one steak sauce on it, you know, little SriRacha

Danny Manus 44:44
Yeah, it goes down easy. And then there's other stuff is like this is the worst piece of crap I've ever read. How is this getting? You know, how is this going in to every major studio with major producers attached? It's not good. That's just something you have to accept. And you can only do so much and write the best script for you for your voice that's going to help you get ahead and stop worrying about, you know, can this sell? And just, you know, worry about can this get me to that next place in my career that I'm looking to go to? You know, can this Phil you know, can this achieve for me my next goal instead of like, Can this win me the Oscar? Know what your first script it's not winning you the Oscar, you know just like trying to get read by you know, anyone three will first Yeah. And then worry about your Oscar like 10 years from now.

Alex Ferrari 45:43
Ridiculous. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Me mean people's egos people's egos gets I mean, this, this town is so full of ego is dive and funny. And we've, I mean, I've dealt with it I've had, I still have one, but I try to keep it in check. And I keep it relative. But there's some people who just I've literally had filmmakers in my post sweet. Tell me straight faced. I'll see you at the Oscars next year. Like straight faced, like not the sun at Sundance. Nothing I back up, not ask her. Like, that's where this is going. And I'm like, Wow.

Danny Manus 46:29
You know, I will say the tagline for my company is hate me today. Love me. In your acceptance speech? I saw that. That's correct. So you know, it could happen. I'm waiting. I'm gonna wait.

Alex Ferrari 46:39
Could we also win the lottery? Sure. Sure, it can happen. It can rob them. Now I want to talk about something that writers filmmakers as well. They all think that this is the magic thing that you need an agent. The agent is your face. Just kind of your eyes rolled back for people not seeing this. His eyes rolled back. I think he lost consciousness for a second as I said that. But the you already had a little mini stroke. Because Because agents and managers, all I need is I need I need Ari from entourage. I don't like I need Ari from entourage. There is an

Danny Manus 47:22
Ari has been fired in the me to movement. So you're screwed. Actually.

Alex Ferrari 47:27
I know both both the real RA and the x or Jerry pivots. But you we need, we need a Baracuda we need a shark like that to be our agent and that they're going to go out there and they're going to hustle and get my scripts read. Give me the millions I deserved. Please, let's just talk about that. Let's let that out in the air. Please tell me your perspective.

Danny Manus 47:47
It is my least it's the least favorite question I get from writers. Which, because it's the number one question I get from writers is how do I get an agent? And for 90% of those writers, the answer is you don't you know, the agent will get you if you need an agent. But most writers don't. You know, unless you have three, at least three viable sellable pinchable commercial projects, and agents not going to pick you up yet go for a manager. If you really feel you need someone, but for those writers who only have one idea, or you know, they just have that they don't want to be screenwriters, as a professional as a long term career, they just have one great idea. One script they want to write, you know, one piece of legacy they want to leave because I think this is a great story. Don't waste your time with managers and agents and stuff like that they have no use for you. Right, you know, just try to make your script as great as possible. And then try to find a producer who will read it. And you have a very singular focus. And that's almost easier, a lot easier than a writer who wants to do this as a long term career. But if you want to do it as a long term career, there are plenty of ways to find representation. But know when you're ready. And most writers, again, are submitting far too soon. If you don't have, you know, a dozen ideas that you're developing, if you don't have at least two if not 3/5. Finish scripts, if you don't have, you know, if you've never pitched before, if you've never networked before, if you know if you've never done any of the homework and the research before, you're not ready for a manager yet. Keep working on your craft managers aren't going anywhere. You know, and it's not like if you don't get them in 2019 You'll never get one then they're always gonna be there. You have to wait until you're ready because you really do Want to get one shot most of the time. But between contests and events, and pitching and social media, and consultants like myself who have good contacts with those reps, and, you know, just friends and referrals, or whatever, there's a million ways to find a manager, and they can be super helpful in your career. But know when the right time is, and as far as agents go, I don't want to bad mouth agents,

Alex Ferrari 50:36
bad mouth agents, it's

Danny Manus 50:37
okay. But you have to know what you're offering them. Right? You know, they don't. I'm like a manager who's kind of there to guide your career, and they're in it for the long haul. And they're there to help you develop an agent is there to close that deal, and get you the best terms possible. And a great agent is there to make a great writer into a superstar. That's what great agents do. If you're barely on your first project, or you're on your second script, and you're just trying to get read, you are like two to five years away from needing an agent, you know, and if you do need an agent, your manager will help you get that agent, because they have those relationships. I always say look for a manager before you look for an agent, you know, unless you have something really specific. Or you have something in development with, like a client of that agent, you know, if you got to an actor, which by the way is way better than going to an agent? No, if you if you're looking for an actor, or you think you know, the actor that's right for your project, don't go to their agent unless you have an offer. Because the first words out of their mouth is hey, that's great. What is the offer. And so if you don't have financing, don't bother with the agent yet go to their production company, where they have assistants and executives who are in charge of finding and reading scripts for their talents to produce. And there is no no better silver bullet in this industry than having a great actor attached to produce your project opens every door. So if you're thinking that, you know, Shirley's theorem might be right for your project, to go to her agent, unless you have a $14 million offer to make her go to her Delilah, whatever it is, you know, films, you know, Banner, call and get in the system on the phone and tell them that you think this would be great for her to produce. And get in that way. And then if she likes it, and once the role great if she doesn't, you know, she'll get another actress of great caliber to read it. That's way better than ever calling an agent's. But that's something on the packaging side, if you're trying to get an agent yourself, go for a manager first, have a portfolio of work that is commercial and sellable and ready to go and know exactly who you are as a writer and who you want to be, which is something I work on with my clients and my mentees constantly. Because today, unlike 10 years ago, where you had to decide like, were you a TV writer, are you a film writer, and today everybody wants both, like you have to be both or want to do both. But you also have to know your voice. And you also have, what kind of writer you are and how you're going to be sold for the next two or three years. And you know, everyone's like, I don't want to be pigeonholed. I don't want to get into a box.

Alex Ferrari 53:42
Lucky to get into a box.

Danny Manus 53:44
Yeah, friggin pray for that box, jump into that box with both feet, like like my cat does. And just love that box. Because that box is making you money. That box is getting you scripts, that box is giving you a career that you're going to be able to jump out of that box and make an even bigger career two years from now. So I get real nice and cozy in that box for two years and stop effing complaining that you're being put into a box in the studio system. That's what you're being put into.

Alex Ferrari 54:19
It's insane when I hear that like I don't want to be boxed in like you you would be so blessed and lucky. If you could be boxed in I know what I know I used to my one of my good friends was West Cravens assistant years ago. And he would tell me stories of how upset Wes was about man. I'm stuck in this horror box. I can't do anything. And do you remember that there was a movie called Music of the heart? Yeah, with Meryl Streep. GLORIA And Gloria Estefan. That was a West Craven directed film. Absolutely. And you know why he got that? Because they wanted scream too. That's the only reason he got an expense. He wanted scream twos, like you want scream to give me it was called 500 violins originally and then then a music of the heart. And and I was like, but look at that the West Craven had one of the greatest horror, directing careers in the history of cinema. Honestly, he's his name is up there. But he was unhappy about being in the

Danny Manus 55:25
box. Look, I get it. I mean, you don't want to be in that box forever. Yeah, you know.

Alex Ferrari 55:31
So don't be too good, is what you're saying. Don't be too good in that box. Like if you're really good that you're stuck there. But just be good enough to get in a box. And then you could top out.

Danny Manus 55:40
Right? But that's the conversation to have with your rep saying, Look, I love doing horror. And that first script that got you a rap and got you 40 meetings around town was a horror script. So that's the the next two projects you're going to do our horror projects. But if you tell your rep upfront, like hey, I love doing the genre stuff. But I also want to do comedy. And I also want to do an action movie, then their job is to find that project, you know, to develop with you or for you to develop that is going to make that transition for you so that you're going from horror, to horror comedy, to comedy, you know, a horror, horror action to action comedy, to whatever, and so that they have a plan for your career. And I always tell you know, when when writers are trying to find their voice, find their box, but not get too stuck. I always tell my writers to look at the sub genres that you're writing to try and find a through line. That is your voice because it's not usually in that major genre, that first genre. But if you come to me and you say, Look, I have an action comedy, a horror comedy and a romantic comedy. I was like, Okay, well, you've got a through line there, that tells me what your voice is. You're just bringing that voice to different genres. But now we know what your voice, you know, what you want to do with that connective tissue is so that we can sell you as a type of writer, even though you're doing different genres, we know what your voice is bringing to that genre. And that's how you break out of that box is by using those sub genres and secondary genres, to bring out who you are, as a writer instead of just, you know, the genre of the premise you happen to come up with.

Alex Ferrari 57:34
That's awesome. Advice, actually, is really great, great advice. And I'm gonna ask a few questions. I ask all of my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Danny Manus 57:47
There's the funny answer,

Alex Ferrari 57:48
Run. Run,

Danny Manus 57:49
Just run.

Alex Ferrari 57:52
We both go to the same place.

Danny Manus 57:54
Run Forest. The, you know, the the real answer, there's two real answers I'll give. And one is a mistake that I made for many years in my career was, I thought I was going to be an Emmy winning writer. And so for the first few years, and before I was even in the business, I didn't pay attention to the other stuff. I didn't think I had to know about financing, or distribution, or, you know, or, or casting it. Well, I loved casting, but, you know, there were other things, the business side of it, that I didn't think I needed to know, because I was just going to be writing talents, you know, and that's, and that's it, I didn't know about the development process. Until you know, I was interning and started doing coverage. And you know, and then as an assistant, you know, doing scripts I didn't know about networking, like I just didn't know other stuff. Because I was so focused on my little corner of the world. And if you are a writer today, you have to multi hyphenate yourself. If you're a filmmaker today, you have to multi hyphenate yourself if you're an actor today you have to multi hyphenate yourself. So you need to do you need to treat it like a business and do the work and do the reading and be knowledgeable on way more than just your little corner of the office. That's that's one thing is have a bigger scope in terms of the information you're taking in so you really understand the business you're getting into from all sides. The second thing is right while you can because it's not going to get easier as you get older. I wish when I you know looking back when I was 24 and I had time oh god I ever those days, but I did. But I didn't write you know, because there was probably some party I was invited to you You know, and you're like, Ah, I had so much energy at 24 What the hell did I waste that for? If you are, if you are young enough, try to break in from the inside, come to Los Angeles, get a job in the industry, break in from the inside, it will cut yours out of your journey. If you can't do that. Then at least get out of your box, wherever that box is. If you are, you know, in the middle of Oklahoma and you are writing alone, find a group find a conference find people go online social media, use it to your advantage. You know, know when this business is a marathon, and when it's a sprint, no one to ask for help. Find a find a consultant or a mentor or a person that can help you. You know, there are no shortcuts. There's no shortcuts. And I wish I learned that. Earlier, I wish I learned that nobody owes you Jack. S. And it took me a little while to to learn that. I mean, look, I'm from Long Island. I mean, I've been working since I'm 14 I worked my ass off and in college, and since I'm 15 1415 years old, but um, you know, now they now they call it white privilege back then. And we were just assholes. Like, somebody owes you a little something just for getting through college just for doing the thing that you're supposed to be doing. You're like, where's my agent? And my million dollar career? Where's my Emmy? 30? Like I saw 30 year old Emmy winners, where's my Emmy? nobody owes you anything. And to keep working your ass off no matter how hard you work on that first script. Keep working on the second and the third?

Alex Ferrari 1:02:06
Absolutely. Now, you know Daniella, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact in your life or career?

Danny Manus 1:02:14
Like what screenwriting book or what

Alex Ferrari 1:02:16
Any book book book?

Danny Manus 1:02:18
Yeah, that's a good one. I'm running book works as well. I mean, I don't know that I loved their script. Okay, this is the probably the opposite version of what the answer you're looking for is, but there were screenwriting books that I read as an executive. And starting out that I disagreed with, so vehemently that I had to write my own and start teaching classes because I was like, if people are reading this shit, they're going to have the wrong impression of what executives really want. And so I need to write my own book, you know, and do my own thing to, you know, to tell them how it really is, you know, and tell them other, the other side of it, and so, I won't, I won't mean what, what books but their books on pitching and 62nd pitching and things like that, that you might be able to figure out that I just really disagreed with, you know, at the time 1010 plus years ago that inspired me to write my own articles on my own books and then do the consulting and, you know, bring something else that wasn't out there to writers in terms of like great literature come 1984 was always a huge, great favorite of mine. It's the one I remember in ninth or 10th Grade Reading and picturing as a movie and me saying in my head I really want to make the movie version of this one day. And so I you know, that was that was one that always stuck with me and then now we're living it

Alex Ferrari 1:04:08
We laugh because we're dying inside.

Danny Manus 1:04:11
Laugh because it makes us sad

Alex Ferrari 1:04:15
Now what is the what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Danny Manus 1:04:21
I think like I said, nobody owes you anything. And you're gonna make mistakes. I'm working on a new book and book proposal now about those mistakes. Who knows if it'll ever get done but

Alex Ferrari 1:04:41
Smoking like a true writer?

Danny Manus 1:04:44
Yeah. You know, a, you know, I hate to say it, but like, passion isn't enough. But if you don't have it, you'll never make it right. Um, you know, that's good. Like, if you don't absolutely love this industry and what it does and what you know, and what you can get to do in it, they get out because it's awful otherwise, like it is. It has its moments, don't get me wrong, it is. It's fun and stuff, but it's hard. I mean, if I knew then what I knew now or stuff, you know what I make different, I'd make a lot of different decisions. But if you don't absolutely love it, if you don't feel like you were trained for nothing else, I have no other viable workplace skills, I can't do math, I not created history. But there's very little else I can do,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:44
You've doubled down, maybe you've doubled down, you've doubled down, like you're in

Danny Manus 1:05:49
it until, until it's over, you know, but but that like, passion is great, but it's not enough. But if you don't have the passion to it, and you don't love it, get out because it will eat you alive and make you and make you a worse person. Instead of make you a better person.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:11
I always whenever I speak, I always say this to people in the room, like everybody here knows an angry filmmaker or a better filmmaker. Everybody here knows an angry screenwriter, a bitter screenwriter. And if you don't know one, you are the angry, bitter screenwriter, you are the angry, bitter filmmaker,

Danny Manus 1:06:28
you know, and we all go but if you haven't been bitter for a day, you know, you probably haven't been in this business long enough. Hey, man, no, no, no, no. I mean, look, I get dinged, I used to get things all the time for being cynical, and, you know, a little bit more of a pessimist and I try to balance it out. But you know, you are what you are, but you gotta you gotta look on, you gotta try to look on the bright side of things. And the hard part about Hollywood is that the carrot is always right. Yes, you know, and some times it's right here. And sometimes it's right here. And you're just constantly following that carrot. Because every once in a while, it just gets so close. And yeah. Ah, you know, and that just drives you crazy. But, but you keep going because as long as there's a carrot in front of you. You just got to keep following it. But that is the dangerous part of this business is you always feel like there's a carrot there.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:28
Isn't that carrot. So? Well, anyway,

Danny Manus 1:07:32
three of your favorite someone to help you help you reach that carrot. Oh, and then you can't do it alone. Right? That networking and friends in this business is important. And I made a horrible mistake. And I talked about this pretty openly in my classes. Like, you know, when I was starting out, I separated I had a lot of friends from school that came out here we were all you know, TV film students. But they were my friends. And then he were my business people. You know, here were my business acquaintances, or my colleagues, or the word that I like to use a friend and says, That's a great word. Yeah, that's what my coining friends is. But I never it was quite a few years until I really started to realize that you have to make those a friend and says and colleagues, friends, yes. Because you don't, you're always going to be on the outside a little bit. And we all feel like we're still on the I feel like that every single day my wife and and most people do. I know people who are very much on the inside who still feel like they're on the outside. But make friends and treat people like they could be friends and not just colleagues that can get you something or, or someone you can do something for, or some sort of favors this. Because even though Hollywood does work on a favorite system a lot of the time it doesn't feel like a favor when it's with your friends. And so, you know, networking is great and everybody talks about networking. But and I was okay at networking when I was younger, I hate it now, but I was okay at it when I was younger, but what I wasn't good at was turning those networking moments into friendships. Fair enough. That's great. And I try to do that especially as they're coming up because the people you come up with or who you're going to be in this business with for 2030 years.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:35
Now three of your favorite films of all time.

Danny Manus 1:09:39
I knew that you ask people this and I I tried to I came up with so many things of what you could ask me writer influences that I love and like, you know, underrated scripts and topics. I've been trying to figure it out. And of course they do change you know, every year Favorite Movies. The ones I always tend to go back to are a few good men, great American Beauty. And, and a comedy that I think is so underrated but every time I say it's I wouldn't say it's my favorite movie of all time, but the original Death at a funeral. Oh, it's such written by Dean Craig it's a British one, not the Chris Rock one. The the original one with Alan Tudyk. And, and, and a wonderful cast of characters is such an insanely hilarious underrated comedy. That when I read it as a script, I had to call the agents and just be like, Can I meet with him? This is the funniest thing I've ever read. I don't I don't think I ever actually did get that meeting. But, but I love the movie. My cousin Vinnie is up there. Love cousin Vinnie. In terms of comedy, you know, I can watch heat you know all day they The Nice Guys and sort of like newer movies that I think should be classics. Shane Black's The Nice Guys is right up there

Alex Ferrari 1:11:13
All good titles. They're all good titles, not where can put all the copper. Now where can people find you? And can you list off the books you've written and what you offer and all that kind of stuff and where they can find you?

Danny Manus 1:11:25
Yeah, people can find me on my website, which is nobullscript.net if you .com It'll take you there too. But no,

Alex Ferrari 1:11:35
I was gonna say is there another noble script that we're not aware of

Danny Manus 1:11:39
Funny enough, it was taken, you know, not 10 years ago, this this year 2019. This may as my 10 year anniversary, congrats, running this company. I don't know how that happened. But it happened. When I started the company, my hair was here. And so at the time when I got it somebody another consultant friends of mine, who I didn't know at the time, oh, noble script.com. And there was nothing there, but they owned it. Now I own it. But uh, yeah, noble script dotnet. You can find me on Twitter at Danny Maness. I put tons of screenwriting stuff and other comedy news ranting, you know things.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:24
And then you get a new offer a mentorship and you also offer consulting?

Danny Manus 1:12:29
Yes, absolutely. On noble script, you can find all my consulting services and packages from I mean, I've really worked soup to nuts from concept and brainstorming, through all the different drafts to polishing and rewriting query letters, pitch help. It really is pre managing, I like to call it pre managing, because I help my writers figure out what they should write, help them develop it and write it. And if it's great, and it's ready, and it's a recommend I try to get it out there, you know, to my context, so I think we'll respond. And a year ago, I started this mentor service, I only take 15 writers at a time, or somewhere around there. And it's a five month mentor service, it's much more in depth, we do calls every two weeks. So you're getting lots of notes calls, we're going through your ideas, we're developing them, and instead of just you know, paying for one set of notes, and then you know, maybe come back for a second set and which is great. This allows us to go through the process of however many drafts it takes to get it really polished upset. So by the end of the, you know, five months, you've got at least one if not two scripts that are really ready to go. And it includes career, you know, coaching and pitch coaching and query letters. It's very all inclusive. I'm about to start my third cycle of that. Now for the spring I still have slots, so I have a handful of slots open and I'm always always looking for more because I actually really enjoy being able to mentor writers it's not for first time writers I should say that this is not for first time writers writing their first script. This is for writers who have written a couple things and really want to take their you know their career and their scripts and their next projects to the next level. But you can reach out it's on my website or through Twitter you can email me always at Daniel at Noble script dotnet you can email me and and I'm happy to help and my book, no BS for screenwriters advice from the executive perspective. It used to be it's still on the writer store website but now that the writer store doesn't exist anymore.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:44
Is it gone gone?

Danny Manus 1:14:46
It's gone it's gone gone.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:48
Like I know it's gone in Burbank, but like is it's gone on the website too?

Danny Manus 1:14:52
No the websites still there. Okay. Still there. They do still sell some webinars and books and things that you can still get my book on. on there. You can also email me for an E version, they have a hardcopy version. I do have an E version that that you can always get from me. And yeah, and I'm always looking for new groups and conferences out there. So if you're listening and I know there are a ton of great people listening to this, you know, this pod cast if you've got a conference or a film festival or a panel and you want someone to you know, bring the fun

Alex Ferrari 1:15:32
Bring the spice,

Danny Manus 1:15:34
Bring the spice

Alex Ferrari 1:15:42
Remember the whole desperation thing we were talking about? It's starting to come off.

Danny Manus 1:15:45
Can you smell that?

Alex Ferrari 1:15:47
It's a good quaff could smell it to the air. Dan, it's been a pleasure talking to you, man. Thank you for dropping some great knowledge bombs on the tribe today, man.

Danny Manus 1:15:58
Thank you so much for having me. This is great.



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IFH 662: The Coffee Break Screenwriter with Pilar Alessandra

I’ve been trying to get today’s guest on the show for months. Pilar Alessandra is an author, podcaster, and script consultant. She’s the director of the popular writing program On The Page, author of The Coffee Break Screenwriter: Writing Your Script Ten Minutes at a Time, and host of the On the Page Podcast.

Pilar started her career as a Senior Story Analyst at DreamWorks SKG. In 2001, she opened the Los Angeles-based On the Page Writers’ Studio, dedicated to teaching and consulting with screenwriters and TV writers at all levels.

An in-demand speaker, she’s taught seminars at DreamWorks, Disney Animation, ABC, CBS, and the AFM and has traveled the world teaching in the UK, China, Poland, Vietnam, Colombia, Portugal, and South Africa.

Pilar’s greatest accomplishment is the success of her students, many of whom have won top competitions such as the Nicholl Fellowship, are working on TV shows such as “The 100,” “Silicon Valley” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” and have sold feature films to major studios. 

Enjoy my conversation with Pilar Alessandra.

Alex Ferrari 0:33
I like to welcome to the show Pilar Alessandra. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Pilar Alessandra 4:42
Thank you so much for having me.

Alex Ferrari 4:43
We have been going back and forth for months because you are a busy lady and I'm a busy guy. So it's amazing that we've been able to do this.

Pilar Alessandra 4:51
I know I know. Thank you for your patience.

Alex Ferrari 4:53
Oh no thank you for being on the show. I really appreciate it. I like I was saying before we started recording we I reached out to you back When I was a young screenwriter, looking for some advice in 2010, on my first I think was my first screenplay. And we went back and forth a little bit, but it never ended. Nothing materialized about it. But I've known about you for a long, long time. And you do some really great work out there for screenwriters. So thank you for all the work that you do.

Pilar Alessandra 5:17
Thank you. It's great work.

Alex Ferrari 5:20
And you are one of the original podcasts out there.

Pilar Alessandra 5:25
I sound so old I was making, I didn't

Alex Ferrari 5:27
want to, I didn't want to say oh, gee, but since you throw it out there, you know, you're one of the Oh, geez. of the podcasting screenwriting world up there with john August. And because you've been, what, 10 years, you were doing your on the page, a podcast.

Pilar Alessandra 5:42
You know, I didn't even realize I mean, at the time, I was too lazy to blog. And so I was like, I'll do this. And yeah, I guess I there just weren't that many screenwriting podcasts at the time. And, and so it caught on. And when I realized that people were actually listening, I was like, Oh, I have a responsibility here. I better start making it good. I better start making it about something. And and and you know, since then, yeah, I take the responsibility pretty seriously. Even the show, the show can be bumpy and silly. But the whole point of it every week is that somebody should leave with a nugget of information about the craft and business of screenwriting. So

Alex Ferrari 6:27
I know the feeling when I first started out, too, I just like I you know, and then when people started listening, you start taking this seriously, oh, crap, oh, crap. Someone's listening to this, we got to

Pilar Alessandra 6:34
know what's happening. Yeah, we

Alex Ferrari 6:36
gotta we gotta bring our a game. So let's, let's start at the very beginning, how did you get into this business? Um,

Pilar Alessandra 6:43
I was, you know, I was in my 20s. And I sort of accidentally fell into a script reading job, because I liked writing analytical papers in college about books. And somebody remember that they're like, wow, and you're lit and lit classes, you wrote these really great papers, that's kind of what we need, we need this book report called a coverage at our studio are a production company, would you do it like once a week. And then when I found out, I could actually make money at it, because I had no idea. I had samples. And I was able to get a job through amblin entertainment that way, as a script reader, and learn on the job as a reader, and then ended up sort of teaching people how to be a script reader as well. They were getting jobs. And then I found I really loved teaching. And I wanted to find tools that that actually could fix certain things that I was seeing sort of common mistakes, if you will, and scripts and hated just saying pass or consider. And I thought what can I develop some tools would they work? And they did work? And and so that's how the classes were born.

Alex Ferrari 7:57
And you also worked at DreamWorks for a little bit.

Pilar Alessandra 8:00
Right. So when amblin became DreamWorks, so to speak, was kind of there for a while. Yes. Yes,

Alex Ferrari 8:08
that was a hodgepodge of stuff, right? I'd

Pilar Alessandra 8:10
been at amblin for a while. And so I became sort of a senior story analyst position, so that I was also doing notes on existing projects. I also worked for a number of other companies as well. Always analyzing material doing notes on material. But I've found working directly with writers is more satisfying, because I can say, and here's a possibility of fixing it, rather than always saying, you know, pass or consider. That's no fun.

Alex Ferrari 8:41
And when you were working at DreamWorks, you were working at a time that was pretty cool. It was early 2000. So they were at the height of their powers, if I'm not mistaken. Right?

Pilar Alessandra 8:49
It was actually again, because let's just let's just go with aging me with every question.

Alex Ferrari 9:00
I'm trying to help. I'm trying Yeah.

Pilar Alessandra 9:02
Thanks, man. I appreciate it.

You know, like sort of the the, it was the age of the rock star writer,

Alex Ferrari 9:09
where Shane Black Joe Astor house, those guys.

Pilar Alessandra 9:12
Yeah. And the idea that you would get a script at even as late as 9pm have to make sure that coverage was in by 7am. because there'd be a bidding war at 8am. I mean, if people were throwing so much money in to get the next big shiny thing, which also is why they burned out a little bit, you know, and started sort of holding back and saying, okay, we're not taking any more specs. And when the writer strike happened when they had sort of an excuse to stop taking original material for quite a while. But yes, at the time, lots of scripts, lots of excitement and lots of learning for me.

Alex Ferrari 9:55
It must have been a wonderful time. I always tell people about that time, which I wasn't around, but I did study That I mean, it wasn't round. Of course you

Pilar Alessandra 10:01
weren't for him, right?

Alex Ferrari 10:02
No, yeah. I'm 22. I'm 22. Yes, I'm just worn really hard. But no, but I wasn't in the business at that time I was in college and those type of areas, but you would read these stories of like every week, Joe Lester house to $3 million, Shane Black and all these Rockstar screenwriters. And I feel sometimes when I seek to speak, I speak to screenwriters, they think that that's still going on. And to a certain extent, there are million dollar buys still. And they're still, there are some spec stuff that happens every once in a while. But it's nothing like it was like every week, every day, there was some new stuff coming out. And these guys were making just, I mean, extra house, I think what it is, I think Esther has like 20 $25 million. And most of them were never produced, that was the thing,

Pilar Alessandra 10:45
right, we could actually make, you know, sort of a sweet living and never have been produced, you know, there were a lot of people who got development deals and got, you know, their scripts bought, and, but also, you know, along those lines, they would take things on pitch a lot. And then they'd have to hire another writer, because the the draft that they got was only me. So half of my job at that time was reading writing samples to rewrite other things that they had bought on pitch or too quickly. So now there are doubling what they have to pay even in the development process. But again, for me to sort of distinguish between like, Okay, what is a project that really, really works, you know, in terms of idea, and another project that works in terms of execution, so you can have a write a great writing sample as well. And that all helps in the work that I do now.

Alex Ferrari 11:42
So what is the biggest mistake? Do you see in first time screenplays?

Pilar Alessandra 11:45
Oh, I don't think there is one biggest. It used to be overriding, you know, I could I could have sort of an easy answer to that question. But now, you know, gosh, there's so many resources out there. writers are so savvy, they're so well read, and they understand, you know, sort of how to be spare on the page. So that's not really it. Um, I think it's maybe sometimes not doubling down on their own good idea that they'll start something with a high concept, and then they'll think it's boring. So then they start to sort of snowball into another high concept, or they'll bring in this magical character here. And then suddenly, we're in a dream and backstory. And they just kind of think that by throwing in all these things, it gets more interesting when actually it's getting more convoluted. And you're not serving your own good idea. So I really like people when they when they just lead to wonderful logline. Best rewrite they can do.

Alex Ferrari 12:51
So in your opinion, what is the screenplay that you've read? That is just like, oh, man, this they got this, like, it's this is if everybody should read the screenplay, and use this as a, as a template of what to do? And how they did it. Of course not copy the screenplay, but just like, Man, that's just good writing.

Pilar Alessandra 13:10
You know, I, first of all, you probably not gonna believe me, but I'm always the most in love with whatever clients work I read that just worked. You know what I mean? I'm always like that script, that script. So I don't really have one script that I tell everybody to read. But I do say that, you know, in the in the age where you can just type in the script title, and then script PDF, and something will magically illegally download for you. You know, you can go to like your favorite movies, and then go to the section of the script, where that favorite moment was in that favorite movie, and look at how it was executed. Like, how did they make you feel that way? Whether it was it feeling romantic or surprised or horrified. And to me, that's the best thing you can do with scripts is find those moments in those great scripts with movies you love. So I'm kind of throwing it back not going like there's this one script? Because I think every script has has its moment. Yes, yeah, every every scripts work. You know, Oh, I love this part of it. But it also there there are dead moments and every great script.

Alex Ferrari 14:25

Pilar Alessandra 14:27
copy everything that your favorite writer does. every writer does is not perfect.

Alex Ferrari 14:32
It's like like in a john Ford film. The Indians take the fort like that. You know, that's one line but it took 20 minutes on screen. Now what what is your process structure do you do you suggest creating a beat sheet of some sort or how do you like do structure?

Pilar Alessandra 14:51
Well, though, in my classes, I do have them everybody create a beat sheet but not two beats that I think they should have. So I'm not sitting there going on page 12, there needs to be this. And on page one, there needs to be that. Instead, I first asked them to think big picture in terms of beginning, middle and end. And we usually take that middle and divided into two parts. So we've got beginning middle part one, middle part two, and and so you sort of have four equal parts that you can play with. Then I asked them to divide those up a little bit into beats of story. And I just asked them to think of every beat in terms of what somebody wants to do, what they actually do, and what gets in the way. And if you have those beats of story with the, you know, sort of fitting into those four equal parts, great look, you got to structure what story you want to tell, or how you want to tell it is completely up to you. But it helps people at least organize so that they can see the big picture, have some kind of map to follow and then start start writing.

Alex Ferrari 15:51
No. character building is always a very difficult situation. What What do you how do you build an interesting character? In your opinion? What are some, what's some advice that you can give for screenwriters to build interesting characters? Because I've read a lot of screenplays, and I've watched a lot of movies and the characters are just like, there's no depth. There's no, especially in a big studio movies, too. I always beat up on the DC Universe. But, you know, there's a reason why Marvel's done very well in DC has not because the characters, you really feel Iron Man, you really feel Spider Man, and you don't feel as much for the other side of the fence at times?

Pilar Alessandra 16:27
Well, I think I think if you look at the Marvel characters, they're always paying off their own particular character rules, so things that they always or never do, you know, you know, Tony Stark's philosophy of the world, you know, his flaw in the fact that he is always going to sort of try and grab the attention of the room, right, he's always going to try and alpha lead, right, um, you know, what his soft spot is. And they're constantly mining these things we already know about them and bringing them through the scenes. So he doesn't stop and talk about his past. Instead, his past is always shining through in the choices that he makes. So when going back to my classes, when we're talking about character development, I really love it when we are learning about characters on the job, who, how they were raised, who they are, comes through, and the choices they make and the behaviors that they exhibit. So it's what we see, rather than what they stop and talk about, I am not a big one on stopping and discussing things that happened before page one,

Alex Ferrari 17:39
you associate. So you meet. So you'd be basically you shouldn't have two characters goes, Hey, Tony, I know that you had a bad childhood. And that's why you're an alcoholic. Now, like, that's not what you do. And that's it. But a lot of screenwriters do that, unfortunately,

Pilar Alessandra 17:53
all the time. I read it all the time. There's always that, you know, stop and talk scene, you know, and it also comes from a battle of backstory, like you think you had a bad childhood, you know, did the character character

Unknown Speaker 18:06
you know, like,

Pilar Alessandra 18:09
why are you doing that, you know, but if I saw someone, you know, look at an object and start shaking, okay, know that there is some kind of traumatic incident connected with that object or that that object trigger something from the past. And I will find out more with with the choices that character makes. And if at a certain point, they've earned their cathartic moment of revealing the backstory, fine. You know, but at least you've shown it for a while. And now I'm getting just what I need to sort of fill in the blanks.

Alex Ferrari 18:45
It's kind of like Indiana Jones, where he he's afraid of snakes. And he didn't he does never says let me he does say he's afraid of snakes. But you never know why until the third movie, where he actually explains the backstory of it, which is such a great payoff for that character. And even that even that little cut that Harrison Ford has, is when he was a kid, and he whipped he tried to do the whip for the first time and he's hid himself, like those little nuggets are so it just adds like a tapestry, if you will, on the characters.

Pilar Alessandra 19:11
about all we cared about in the first one was, wow, this guy who isn't afraid of anything is afraid of this one thing. We all have fears. That's all we had to know. And then once that's in we can also see it pay off, you know, in a pit full of snakes. So it's, it's it works there. You know, you're right, as you build that build out these trilogies then you can find out more and more and it's it's what keeps us coming back to the movies.

Alex Ferrari 19:37
And that's why that the the payoff I mean, with endgame as of this recording endgame came out a few weeks ago, and it is just the crescendo of 22 films as it's no one's ever done anything like this. And, and again, I'm not I'm a Marvel guy, but I'm not like, oh, everything's great. They have bad movies, but this was such a wonderful way of just wrapping it up. And in payoffs of the characters over 20, over 10 years, it is amazing. I mean, when you I mean, I'm sure you've been watching these stories, as they've, you know, come out over the years. And to see this kind of crescendo of these characters. It's there's just nothing like it I've never seen.

Pilar Alessandra 20:17
It was so great. And you're just sitting there going, you know that that last moment if I say it, you know. And you know, and to be honest with you, there were moments in that battle when I thought, Oh, that's a great way to end it. And then they would bring into something like, Oh, no, that's a great way. Oh, of course, they have to, you know, they they finished off everything was still leaving room for whatever they're going to do with the next series of Marvel movies, Spider Man, etc.

Alex Ferrari 20:47
What I find? No, no, it's okay. What I what I found also fascinating, and I heard this from the directors and the writers is that they actually when they got to the battle scene of endgame, that was going to be a three act structure of that literally of the battle. It was such a mess, it was like 45 minutes. So it was such a massive part they were going to do a three act structure of the battle itself within a giant or strip because it was just so I mean, the screenwriters for that film and the directors how they were able to work in so many storylines, so many characters, so many like giving everybody because every single one of them literally is the star of their own franchise, right? And yet, they're giving everyone their moment they're giving Miss Marvel the moment they given the spider man that moment they give me an Iron Man and Thor and oh, how do you like with people who are writing very, you know, a lot of characters in a screenplay. And I know that there's not many films like endgame, but out there that have a lot of different characters that have like, like, let's say, a suicide squad or a Guardians of the Galaxy, that have a group of characters. Any advice on how to balance that? Because that is an art in itself?

Pilar Alessandra 21:53
Well, I think first of all, step back, Think big picture in terms your major act breaks, so that you know, at least where this is all landing, okay. And again, when we're talking about act breaks, it doesn't have to be prescribed, this must happen at this point, right. But if you imagine that you have at least three turning points in a project, okay. You know, what leads into that second act? And what feels like that midpoint? And what's the end of that second act before you're really going forward? And the third act, just knowing those things? Okay, that first, then look at your ensemble of characters, you know, what is driving tour, but they're all having sort of their mini stories along the way, see if you can now tell what tell each of those stories in three to four scenes. So again, thinking like what's the that beginning, that middle, part one, middle, part two, and just for that character, okay? Because sometimes when it's heavy, heavily populated, that's all you're you're going to get? Or even look into your favorite ensemble movies. And, you know, pluck out one character, and just think about the scenes that you're seeing them and you're gonna see, it's really not that many. So how are they telling that one story? And how do they sort of jump in, so that you're focusing on that major story beat even though it's only a scene? So I think that that would be my advice.

Alex Ferrari 23:24
I hope that makes sense. It makes perfect sense. Makes perfect sense. Now, do you have any advice on how to find the voice of a character because so many characters are so vanilla, and they just, they just don't have any flavor to them? Like, you know, let's bring back Indiana Jones. Boy, that man has a lot of flavor, and you pick up that character and within the first five minutes of the movie, you know, you know who that character is. And then you start developing the voice of that character. And like you were saying with like Tony Stark and these other characters that there's rules within what they do and their actions that they stay true to? What do you do to find the voice of a character?

Pilar Alessandra 24:00
Well, I have a couple of tips that I sort of have my, my my writers run through in class. Number one is what profession or stage of life are they in? And therefore what language do they speak? So we all speak English maybe right? But some of us speak surfer and some of us speak comic book geek and some of us speak lawyer, right? So that profession or stage of life, that becomes a language. So that's one way to find a unique voice. Another is a verbal rule. So this is not what they say but how they say it. So some people curse some people give one word answer some people ramble, right? So their verbal rule that's another thing to think about. A third is what region or country are they from what what phrases do they use? You know, so Thor is going to use you know, phrases From where, Where's he from? What? Well, he's

Alex Ferrari 25:04
from a magical land. But generally Norse is kind of like that kind of vibe.

Pilar Alessandra 25:09
And and he speaks the language of the gods, right? So he will say things that nobody else would say, right?

Unknown Speaker 25:15
and get away with it and get away with it. Absolutely. But

Pilar Alessandra 25:18
including those phrases like, that's just this is normal world, right? And then the fourth one is to actually magically cast in your head. Be Okay, about having the voice of Harrison Ford in your head? Okay, that will be a completely different voice on the page than say, Chris Pratt. Right, right. So, um, so so having it right will help you express the line, nobody has to know that that's living in your head. And if you were doing a spec of a TV show, you would have the advantage of characters that we already know that your chat channeling, so why not do that with original material. So those are my four ways of finding voices.

Alex Ferrari 26:05
I really love the stage of life idea. That is a I've never heard that that idea is a really great idea because it really sets you're there. You know, I'm a 45 year old comic book geek who lives in the basement of his mom's house, that pretty much gets the voice of that character pretty quickly. Now, is it a voice that we've seen 1000 times too? Yeah, that's another thing. So you could start tossing it around and start adding other things on there. Also an archaeologist? Oh, okay. Well, there you go. So they start adding like little flavors of things that, but the but that's a good starting point of how you can kind of brainstorm ideas. Have you?

Pilar Alessandra 26:40
Have you seen booksmart yet?

Alex Ferrari 26:42
I'm dying to I really looks fantastic.

Pilar Alessandra 26:45
So good, right. So if you said, Well, she speaks high school senior, well, we have these sort of stereotypes in our head, right? But if you say she speaks over achiever, okay, that's different. she happens to be a high school senior who speaks over achiever, right now she's got an interesting voice, you know, so that's interesting. Everything about that, that movie I just adored, because every time you thought it was going to make a certain choice, based on all these movies you've seen, it makes it a slightly different one, doesn't mean there has to be the opposite, but it's just different. And it works for the character. It's in keeping with the rules of the character that we've come to know very quickly. With the characters. It's, it's, it's lovely.

Alex Ferrari 27:34
A good example of that is like you just said high schools clueless, like it's either not just your general, they're Valley girls, basically, you know, Valley girls in that time period, not like valley girl, like when valley girl came out back in was in like the late 70s or early 80s. With Nicolas Cage, that that was the first time anyone had ever heard valley girl talk, like, Oh, for sure. And all that kind of stuff. And that was you, but it would they were all high school kids, or Fast Times at ridgemont High. And so how many different types of high schools that we've seen on screen. So fast time in Richmond high speaks very differently than Breakfast Club.

Pilar Alessandra 28:08
Right? Right. You know, if you go even dig deeper to you know, why did clueless not feel cool cookie cutter, right? You could go for you know, the lead is, you know, she speaks matchmaker in a way that that is everything, she looks at everything in terms of who to fix up who you know, who should be with whom, who's the projects, right? And it speaks to her control issues. So her voice matches what she needs to do. I have to be I have to make a confession, right? So I'm in my 20s reading. And I misread that script as just another valley girl script. And I passed on it, because I was always and I thought these girls are dumb. They're just Valley girls. And I really wasn't looking at No, wait a minute. They've got their own rules. They've got their own ways of looking at things. I was actually probably too much of a clueless valley girl myself at the time. To really have the perspective. It haunts me in Hotspur

Alex Ferrari 29:14
Yeah, it almost almost got you fired because he was like you passed on the script and it made a god gazillions amounts of money.

Pilar Alessandra 29:20
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 29:24
But the thing is to it was also a lot of perfect storms in that situation with Alicia Silverstone was perfectly cast and I was Penelope. Who's it? Not until on appeal Miller, who was the director of that.

Pilar Alessandra 29:36
It was oh my god. She's amazing.

Alex Ferrari 29:38
But not Beth. Miller.

Pilar Alessandra 29:41
were so bad.

Alex Ferrari 29:42
Oh my god. No, it's it's a female director. Okay, I forgot who she has everyone someone.

Pilar Alessandra 29:49
Thanks for thanks for making me feel better. I really appreciate it. It was just me being an idiot. So

Alex Ferrari 29:56
are there any other

Pilar Alessandra 29:57
anything else that I passed on? Sure. I mean, it was a long time ago. Yeah, but nothing

Alex Ferrari 30:04
has stood out like that.

Pilar Alessandra 30:06
But you know what one thing I have to say, I do think that, you know, it does say something about, you know, getting older, having some experience, we're also, you know, having a bigger picture view of the world, that, you know, if you're just reading scripts from your own little bubble, right, you're gonna miss some really valuable material. You know, a, you have to sort of think like an audience, for one thing, a really wide audience, and you have to kind of be open to characters and situations that may not necessarily be you or any choices you would make, you know, which is why I get like, prickly when people go into this unlikable note. Because it's like, well, that might be unlikable for you, right, you know, but it's, it's, it could be fascinating for someone else, you know, that doesn't mean we shouldn't sort of look at this life on screen. And, you know, and dig into that story

Alex Ferrari 31:02
was kind of like clueless for you, like you knew those girls, because you were probably close to you, you were too much of a valley girl yourself. So you're like, this is stupid.

Pilar Alessandra 31:10
I was judging them. Exactly. And it had nothing to do with me. You know?

Alex Ferrari 31:16
Do you have any other advice on developing a good protagonist? And what they need to do to kind of move that story forward? Are you Oh, by the way, are you more character driven? Or plot driven? Or is it a combination of two? Because I know I've spoken to a lot of people on the show, and some people like it's all about character, you need a good plot, you need a good structure, but it's all about character and other people like no, it's about plot, it's about structure and characters are in addition, where do you fall on that, that pendulum,

Pilar Alessandra 31:42
I'm gonna, I'm gonna say something wishy washy and say is what the project needs. So in, in the first, in my first day of the first draft class, I have my writers brainstorm in three different ways. Because they may be coming at their project in three different ways. And they have to see what's really going to work for them. So the first thing that we do is brainstorm around character, sort of throwing that character into uncomfortable situations and seeing what choices they make and seeing what structure emerges. The second thing I have them do is actually brainstorm around event. So if they have this one key scene in their head, what happens? Where is it on the timeline? Is it in the beginning, the middle that end and that that way? What comes before it, what springs after it? And the third way I have them brainstorm is just Okay, let's, if it's just your big high concept idea, let's make it the most killer logline possible and see if that really helps you brainstorm. So I really go with what's going to serve the writers intentions the most. I don't think there's one way to do it

Alex Ferrari 32:51
yet because there's certain movies like I was just thinking of Wayne's World, like that's a character based kind of film, The structure is in the plots. It's fine. But you're just going on the road with these guys to work crazy. Cheech and Chong. Let's put that out there. You know, it's like,

Pilar Alessandra 33:06
those book came out of sketches, right. So we have these guys, who we just laughed at the dynamic between them, you know, this one little world that they were in and then did a lot of one thing to find a story. So what if, you know, I think Wayne and Garth, are they trying to get to their ultimate cause I don't

Alex Ferrari 33:25
even remember, I don't even remember what the plot is. I remember Bohemian Rhapsody. I remember Bohemian Rhapsody. And that he had a crush on a girl and they like and then basically all this good stuff. That's basically what I remember from the movie.

Pilar Alessandra 33:39
You know, as long as they're, they have like one goal and they're making choices along the way that are specific to them. You know? Great. You got you got to film.

Alex Ferrari 33:50
It's like a Muppet Movie. I mean, it's like you're just all you're hanging out with the Muppets and then just they're all doing this one thing we got to get to the show. We got a we got a break in and steal that diamond. We got it. You know that kind of that kind of thing. It's it's fascinating now.

Pilar Alessandra 34:04
An emotional turn somewhere in a Muppet Movie at some point, right? They always Miss Piggy is is gonna break up with Kermit or Chrome is gonna break up with Miss Piggy or there's a misunderstanding between, you know? Yeah, there's always something that sort of reinvests you emotionally. So even though we're saying, Yeah, you take these characters put them in gold. There's always also that sort of emotional,

Alex Ferrari 34:27
even even with the Wayne Wayne and Garth that was at some sort of, you know, emotional thing doesn't make you cry. But there's something I just loved that this this this interview went to the Muppets, and now we're using the Muppets as a structural exam.

Pilar Alessandra 34:41
We can learn many things from the Muppets.

Alex Ferrari 34:43
Yes, amen. Amen. Sister, though. antagonist creating a good bad guy is so I mean, there's such a problem. I think it's a it's an epidemic of really bad foreign bad guys in action movies. Like it's always The guy who has the accent and all this stuff and then you, you look at some of you know, some of the greatest bad guys of all time and I'll go just at the action genre, you know, hands from diehard who also was a foreign dude and all that stuff was so wonderfully written so wonderfully directed and played, you know, and you you look at, like Mr. Joshua from Lethal Weapon who's so you know, amazing and of course like Darth Vader and and those kind of characters what do you what are some advice you have for creating a really great antagonist, the Joker, I just came to me with one of the greatest

Pilar Alessandra 35:35
one, it was the Joker from the Dark Knight you're talking about

Alex Ferrari 35:40
the 1969 Adam West version?

Pilar Alessandra 35:44
You never know. Right? So. So if there is, I wish I could quote it right now. But I actually show the logline of the Joker from the Dark Knight in one of my classes because his love line is that he's somebody who is who is trying to bring fun back to the city and stop this horrible masked men from from ruining all of that fun. He believes what he is doing is is a good thing. You know, if you have to kill people to do it, so be it. So every bad guy has his or her own logline. And the you know, my first my first piece of advice is what is their logline? What's their movie, right? So as they're looking in on the scenes, how do they feel they're the hero. And I'm certainly not the first person to say that. But it does it is worth it to actually go in and go, what is your antagonist logline. They don't think they're evil. They think they're right.

Alex Ferrari 36:55
Right, isn't it? But isn't that the truth for every bad guy in history? You know, every dictator, every mass murderer, and in one way, shape, or form. They're not they're twisting, twisting, twisting their mustache, they truly believe that they're doing something If not, you couldn't really go to sleep at night. So you truly believe in a psychotic break of some sort. Obviously, that breaks from societal norms, that you're doing good from your perspective, because I always tell people, the bad guy is always the hero of his own story. He's not the villain, you know?

Pilar Alessandra 37:26
Yes. So the writer, it's like, we can say this for days. But if the writer doesn't actually know what that story is, if they just go I'm, I believe you right? And still write them in this cookie cutter way. They haven't really gone into the the writers into the bad guys psyche, you know, why are they doing what they do? Now, that does not mean that you stop the script, and you go into a flashback of what made the guy evil. That's different. That's their backstory, and we don't need it. We just need to what is their point of view? Now, in this moment? Why do they think they're right? And it will humanize them in terms of how they express their lines, some of the choices that they make, things like that.

Alex Ferrari 38:13
So two great examples. I was just thinking off the top of my head was a Thanos, obviously, because it's an unmined is, you know, in his mind, he's just trying to it's the universe is overpopulated and it's just, there's just too many people so we're just gonna get rid of half of the universe. That's that's his point of view. He's like, I'm just I'm just trying to help. And then, right is that basically, that's basically kindness

Pilar Alessandra 38:35
to the actor's gentle voice that he uses, right? He doesn't know even though he's huge. He's always kind of explaining this like he's a philosophy professor.

Alex Ferrari 38:47
Yes. Yes. Just Brolin. Yeah,

Pilar Alessandra 38:49
right. And and so I think it goes with again, he the the point of view is very clear. So the actor is able to now interpret it with more depth than than usual.

Alex Ferrari 39:00
Yeah, and a lot of the Marvel movies is that's one of the weaknesses of those Marvel movies is that the antagonists always a lot of times wasn't as strong as the protagonist. The protagonist was so well developed, but the antagonists weren't. That nose is a good one, but the other one in black and black panther was wonderful because you just felt bad for him. You know, cuz he was so you remember Black Panther Black Panther. Manga got his name? warmonger. But it's warmonger thing. His name was but he was he's basically his. He's like a stepbrother or cousin. He's a cousin to Black Panther. And he never got raised in Wakanda. He was thrown out in the street and he was rejected.

Pilar Alessandra 39:42
And we do see a little of his backstory, right, Trey that triggers that.

Alex Ferrari 39:46
Yeah. And he just wants to come back and take what's hit me because it's obviously wrong what he's doing, but you get it like you like if I was put in that position, would I make those choices if I had that set, you know, and that's what really humanizes that character. Like you The main character feel bad about re spoiler alert when he doesn't win at the end. You know if he feels bad when he asked to, you know, finish the job, if you will, because he's like, I feel your pain. I do. And those that was what made I think that they that made that movie such a hit as well as all the other cool stuff that happened in it. But without that great antagonist. I mean, what a Star Wars without Darth Vader, like,

Pilar Alessandra 40:23
Hey, I'm looking I'm going to Devil Wears Prada, Miranda sight. So like, you know, what's fun is how beastly she is through most of it. And then we're starting to see her point of view. And this is a you know, a busy working mother like, this is like, sorry, you know, sometimes you need to get stuff done. Plus she has an expertise in fashion. So when she's cutting your protagonists down to size, she's not just saying you're stupid. She's saying you don't understand the industry you're in. And this is why, you know, and she's right. Yeah. So I you can't help but go. Oh, yeah. I wish you hadn't been so mean to the protagonists. But you were right. I get it.

Alex Ferrari 41:11
Yeah. And that's what makes that movie so wonderful. And Meryl Streep, of course, but, but that character is so so wonderfully played. Yeah, agreed. 110%. Now, do you have any techniques for brainstorming? brainstorming scenes, you know, sometimes you like you have a story. But like, I always find that the beginning of the end are very easy to write. It's that it's that middle stuff that gets a little, a little rough how they get to point A to point B, creating those scenes in a wonder in a good way, or in a entertaining way or in a way that we haven't seen 1000 times. I feel sometimes the screenwriters in the 50s and 60s and 70s had such a leg up because audiences weren't nearly as sophisticated. And they and a lot of stuff hadn't been done yet. You know, nowadays, how much content are we making? How many things how many things have we seen? I've seen 10s of 1000s of movies, probably in my lifetime, let alone TV show episodes and stuff. So I'm extremely literate. You're extremely literate on like, my wife is even going oh, this storyline on that one didn't work. The character arc didn't work. Like she's even pointing out green screen bad green screenshots. And she's not in the business. So we're so sophisticated. What do you do about coming up with some original ideas? And what kind of brainstorming techniques to suggest

Pilar Alessandra 42:27
a way, you know, you can flip what you just said and make it an advantage for the modern day screenwriter, because the audience does have so much context now, right? But you can drop into a scene at a specific point without setup, because the audience already knows the journey that led there because we've seen other versions of this story in other movies. That's the first thing I would say is drop it. Okay, maybe drop in at the least hand holding part and see what it looks like. Okay, another is if you do that, does that work within the context of the movie in terms of something that you set up earlier on? Another is having a fresh take on an old trope. So it's absolutely fine to have troops that we I mean, like with genres

Alex Ferrari 43:28
will scream, like scream, for example.

Pilar Alessandra 43:30
Yeah, yeah. But I mean, that was very self aware and sort of calling it out. But like, if you look at I always use an interrogation scene as an example because immediately you know what that looks like right?

Alex Ferrari 43:42
light bulb light bulbs flowing in. I mean, you got the two guys good cop bad cop. Yeah, the rooms dark. Yeah, we get it.

Pilar Alessandra 43:48
But change one thing, change up the setting, and go it's not an interrogation, there is an interrogation in a park. It's an interrogation in the ocean, it's interrogation at an amusement park. It's an interrogation in a kitchen, and suddenly there's a fresh take on it. So you can do one little thing, even just changing upsetting and that will give it a fresh take. So again, I'm going to book smart to have everybody like when you're watching it, look at the fresh take on certain things, certain scenes you thought you knew

Alex Ferrari 44:25
exactly in I was thinking of the and now of course my my juices start flowing interrogation seem like, well, what if one of the cops like always eating like constantly while he's while he's talking to somebody, he's just eating and it's disgusting. And you're focusing on what he's eating, but yet, he's tearing this guy apart? I don't know. I'm just throwing things out there. But right. It's just a new way of doing it.

Pilar Alessandra 44:45
Right. What is it one of the cops is a clown, instead

Alex Ferrari 44:49
dressed dressed as a clown because he was undercover somewhere. We're writing something together. We need a co writer credit on this on the scene. Now, tell me a little bit about Coffee Break screenwriter, which has been around for a couple years. Oh, that book? Yes. Yes. The coffee break screen writer, I want you to, I want you to tell me first of all, how can you write? How does a writer write a screenplay? 10 minutes at a time?

Pilar Alessandra 45:17
Well, kind of like, if you look at the answers to the questions you've asked me, right, if you actually applied all those things that we just talked about, you could you could make progress in 10 minutes on a character. For example, let's say you wanted to go back to voice, okay, I'm going to do a pass on 10 pages, making sure that my character is now speaking his or her stage of life or profession. Okay, so I've now rewritten 10 pages, just with that one technique that could take you 10 minutes of time that could take you your coffee break time. You know, I think we spend this much time on like, updating Facebook or tweeting something, or whatever, you know, you could just go like, I'm just gonna take, I'm going to do one thing to rewrite or make progress and the script and really can do it. And I know you can do it, because I do it in my classes I make make people like, I don't even give Kevin 10 minutes. Again,

Alex Ferrari 46:21
you know, isn't isn't I always tell people. This is one of the pieces of advice I always give people when they want to write screenplays, I'm like, just set up a goal of one page a day, you know, and in 90 days, you'll have a screenplay. If you if you're feeling Froggy, do two pages a day, and you'll be done in 45 days, do three pages a day, and you've done in a month and you've got a you got a first draft of a month, in a month. You know, it's and I've actually had people come back to me like, oh, Alex, thank God, you told me to do that. I'm doing that now. And I'm like, but it's, it sounds so simple, but yet, it's not. And it could be a 10 minute to do to do and you're done.

Pilar Alessandra 46:56
Now, now, what will kill your 10 minutes is when you go back in and you reread that page first. Because you're going to go in and rewrite it, you're going to struggle over it. And then just getting your second that I have to go back to work, you know, or back to my kid, you know, or school. So So yeah, try and do these things, knowing you will be able to go back in and make it all perfect. But don't try and get it perfect right away.

Alex Ferrari 47:26
What are some of your suggestions for the dreaded rewriting process,

Pilar Alessandra 47:30
dreaded rewriting process, it goes back to something that we talked about a little bit earlier, which is first lean into your own good idea. The first pass I have everybody do is making sure they're honoring their own logline. Because it is the common thing that I see with my own clients that they backed away from it. And I kind of give them certain tools to sort of check in on certain areas, make sure that they're honoring at least sort of the two main hooks that come through in their log line at certain stages. Another thing is being, you know, if you have these sort of behaviors that come through these character roles, right, turning up the dial, in certain key scenes, making sure that those behaviors are constantly paying off for entertainment value, or even breaking one of the rules to show change later on. So instead of going back in and sort of redoing all of your characters just turning up the dial on, on who they are. So So those are some tricks I would I would do for story and for character dialogue, you could do one of the things that we talked about. For your ending. This is where a lot of people have problems with the first draft is they, they thought they could cheat the ending. Okay, so, yes, somebody may have found the treasure, but how did they do that? Make sure that there's a trigger moment, like what was the event that triggered the solution to help you find the treasure, go back in if that scene is missing, that needs to be there, that's really important for your re re

Alex Ferrari 49:15
know, we've been talking a lot about craft, and this but I want to talk a little bit about business, about the business of screenwriting, because it's something that people don't talk about. And it's all wonderful when you have this perfect Oscar winning screenplay in your hand. But if you don't understand how to pitch it, how to get it into the system, how the system works, you know, that's so I see so many I mean, I've read screenplays that I'm just like, how is this not produced? Like how is this not made it? And and it also and I've read screenplays from you know, million dollar screenwriters. And they just like here, this is one of the 30 that I have in my drawer that I had never been able to get the bruise and I'm like, Oh my god, how is this not being produced? He's like, I just can't. So it's tough for even established screenwriters later. alone for screenwriters coming in. So what advice do you have on the business side of it? I know that's a very large, very large question. So you know, whatever, whatever areas you would like to discuss?

Pilar Alessandra 50:10
Well, you know, it's funny, because that's not my area of expertise. Mine is all sort of in the in the writing and development stages. But I'm from No, I'm going to, the first answer I'm going to give is going to be an eye roll answer, because it is also about having a lot of content and really good content. And the reason I say this is because on my podcast, got over 600 episodes, I try and have successful screenwriters and TV writers. And we're always going back to what was that moment that that triggered your big break? And it's completely random? It's all random. Like, there's never one answer. It could be, you know, I was at this party, and I'm a friend of a friend. And like, we ended up bonding over skateboards. And then we found out that I mean, it could just be rad, right? Or it could be that, you know, they tracked this one producer, and they were able to really like get in the room and sell them on something. But when it all came down to it, it was when they had the opportunity, it was the content. So I would be remiss if I didn't say it's all about the content first. But as far as what's going on in the industry right now. There's so many things that are happening, because this agent wda thing is actually creating new opportunities. You know, people always get creative when certain things are cut off. That's why like with a writer's strike, right, we started seeing other platforms develop or independent producers rise back up and things like that. So I would say right now, you know, get on Twitter, look at what's happening in the writers community, there are opportunities there that weren't there before. Another is, and don't be mad. But I do think that competitions have become the new vetting ground for managers and agents. They, if you if you place or win a prestigious contest, they'll go, Oh, I want to look at that material. But you as the writer have to vet some of these contests and make sure that you're not just throwing your competition money at willy nilly at things that are unproven, or don't have industry connections at the end of it. So those are that's some advice.

Unknown Speaker 52:42
I hope that

Alex Ferrari 52:43
hope that is helpful, but also, you know, speaking to so many screenwriters, I'm sure as you have as well in your life, you realize that screenwriter, a professional screenwriter is a one that's not six years on one screenplay. You know, that is the biggest problem I see with so many young screenwriters. I'm like, hey, how does that screen right, but yeah, I mean, what have you done? I'm like, Oh, I'm still on that script. I've almost got it, almost that almost cracked it. And it's five years later. And they're still on that one screenplay, where the professional screenwriter in that time has gotten 10 1520 screenplays done. And they're in their drawer. So when you do have that opportunity, like you were saying, that one script is not going to be they're gonna go up, they might take that one, or they might go, that's nice. It's a great example. But do you have anything else you should have three or four other samples? or other projects waiting to go? In a lot of ways? Would you agree with that?

Pilar Alessandra 53:31
Absolutely. Absolutely. And, and think of it this way. Um, if you sell your script to a large studio, you don't own it anymore. So why would you be married to that? No. scripts, but don't marry him, okay? Because somebody else is gonna is going to actually pay the money to marry that thing. You're gonna have to give that bride away. You know. Another thing is if you rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite and rewrite, rewrite, how open Are you going to be to notes? You can be exhausted by the time somebody actually takes it and gives you notes, and then it becomes your job to do the notes. So

Alex Ferrari 54:08
protective and protective of it, too.

Pilar Alessandra 54:10
Yes. So my, my advice is sorry, I'm

Alex Ferrari 54:17
notice a bird behind you. There's a bird behind you in the window. Don't worry. Yeah, I see her in the background. It's all good.

Unknown Speaker 54:22
So cute.

Pilar Alessandra 54:28
Is is read till it meets your own intention. Okay, if you've read written and go, you know what this is, this is what I kind of had in my mind when I started when it was just in my brain. And there it is on the page. You're done. Okay, time to send it out. If somebody wants to pay you to rewrite it. Awesome. You don't need to go around chasing notes. You've met your intention.

Alex Ferrari 54:55
That's awesome. And do you have some big do's and don'ts when writing a screenplay?

Unknown Speaker 55:03

Pilar Alessandra 55:05
do Don't chase the market? Oh,

Alex Ferrari 55:10
yes, I'm gonna start doing superhero movies because it's hot. Like,

Pilar Alessandra 55:14
and by the time you're done, it's not right. Oh, yeah. So so I don't chase the market. Do these days, try and think why you're the best writer to tell this story actually no, go the other way, find a story, where, really, you're the best writer for it. So this matches a little bit with your personal brand. You've probably heard other guests talk about this, the idea that that, you know, draw from something that's happened to you or some expertise you have don't turn up your nose at maybe even the job that you do. You know, um, like, for example, I had a client who was coming up with this courtroom thriller, and I was like, have you been in the courtroom? No, you know, are you uh, are you a woman? No. And you know, have you experienced sexism? No, it was like, all about like, sexism in the courtroom. And. And I was like, not that you're not allowed to write that. But the the, the project didn't feel authentic. And we thought to the fact that at one point, he was a lager in the 70s. Oh, yeah, he was a lot. He was in his 20s. He was a hippie who had to go into logging to support his family, and into that logging company came these ex cons that were hired from the local jail. Yeah, exactly. So he wrote an original pilot around that it was awesome. And guess what? It's, he's really the person to write that

Alex Ferrari 56:52
he's the only person to write that. Yeah,

Pilar Alessandra 56:54
yeah. No, did it have to match verbatim his own experience? No, it was inspired by his own experiences. So you don't have to find something that that is like, where you have to protect the rights of all the people around you. It's more the idea that you have some authority in this world, it feels authentic, and it pitches really well. That way you're connected to it.

Alex Ferrari 57:15
It's kind of like if Tarantino would do a Pixar movie, which I would go see. But that's truly not on brand, is it?

Pilar Alessandra 57:23
Well, but if he does, if he did a Pixar movie, you know, you know, he's, he's, you know, King of certain genres, right? So in a way, if you were going to animate a certain genre, he'd be the person to do it, you know, plus, you know, you know, what if he did something about, you know, a mouse, who worked in a video store and became an iconic film director?

Alex Ferrari 57:49
It's a bit on the nose? A BIT bit on the nose, bit on the nose, but yes.

Unknown Speaker 58:00
Do it, man.

Alex Ferrari 58:01
He'll do it. Um, and can you actually, you know, for everyone who's listening, because we have a lot of first time screenwriters who listen to this? Can you just describe what on the nose is because that's a note that a lot of people get, and they just don't get what that means. They just really quickly explain that.

Pilar Alessandra 58:14
Well, I think that you the way that you just sort of critique what I said was on the noses, I was being awfully literal, right? You know, it was like, well, that is definitely his story. And literally, it's not, it's not taking maybe an experience and nuancing it right. So that's one version of on the nose. But when we're talking about dialogue being on the nose, it's often when someone's speaking their thoughts or feelings out loud. So they're saying things like, Oh, I'm,

Unknown Speaker 58:43
I'm so angry right now.

Pilar Alessandra 58:45
But I'm experiencing this this mixture of entertainment and embarrassment right now. to Alex, right. Like that kind of thing.

Alex Ferrari 58:54
Yeah, there is. And that is an epidemic as well, a lot of times when with with first time writers as well, I did it when I started writing, I was writing right on the nose. I would that was the note I would get back from studios when they would see my scripts and they would say it's on the nose. It's on the nose. I'm like, What the hell is I got the look on the nose meant and I was like, Oh, it's called about nuances, subtext, you know, a look. You know, always show don't tell it whenever you can.

Pilar Alessandra 59:19
And it goes back to what you said about the audience has educated themselves in movies and TV, they're really smart, savvy audience, so they get the context. All they have to see is that visual clue, and they get it a whole story is told.

Alex Ferrari 59:36
And now you have a new book coming that just it just came out a little while ago, right?

Pilar Alessandra 59:41
It's it's a little thin. There you go. But I guess we could call it a book. It's called coffee breaks, screenwriter breaks the rules. And it's about you know, you know, those rules you all think you're supposed to follow because all those other books and stuff. It sort of goes like well You know what, you should break those rules. But if you break those rules, here's why the rules there to begin with, here's how to break it creatively to actually make your script a little more original. Right? But here's also how breaking that rule can break bad if you go too far with it. So it's it's looking at all those things that should be educational and fun. And gives you a Yeah, it gives you permission to to do something a little nuts.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:32
And when you said break bad, I just Walter White just flew into my head. It was such a good show.

Unknown Speaker 1:00:37
Everything around Walter White, obviously, obviously, What's my name? anyway?

Alex Ferrari 1:00:46
So I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all of my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Unknown Speaker 1:00:53

Pilar Alessandra 1:00:57
what advice would I give? Um, again, start with your own experiences. Look around you right now. Where are you? What can you mind from who you are and what you know? Okay,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:10
now, can you tell me a book that had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Unknown Speaker 1:01:14

Unknown Speaker 1:01:15

Unknown Speaker 1:01:18

Unknown Speaker 1:01:18

Pilar Alessandra 1:01:21
guide, I wasn't prepared for these.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:25
That's why I do that.

Pilar Alessandra 1:01:28
As far as I as far as Linda Aronson's a book god what was it screenwriting reconstructed or Oh my god,

Unknown Speaker 1:01:41
Okay, got it. We

Pilar Alessandra 1:01:42
look it up about nonlinear screenwriting, her first, her first screenwriting book, Linda Aronson, and I really respected the fact that she was trying to find patterns outside of conventional structure. Oh, screenwriting updated, sorry. As we establish the answers screenwriting updated, you know, I really, really admired the effort to really dig in and find out why. unconventional storytelling works.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:14
Got it. Now, what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life,

Pilar Alessandra 1:02:19
guy, guess I'm still learning it? You know, what lesson took me the longest to learn is that I'm always learning is that that you are always learning on the job that you never know, everything you are, every day, there is something new to learn, you know, and so be open to it. So that's what I'm learning is that I'm still learning.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:42
Now, what was the biggest fear you had to overcome to achieve one of the biggest goals of your life?

Pilar Alessandra 1:02:48
Oh, gosh, people think because I have a podcast. And

Unknown Speaker 1:02:54
I feel you.

Pilar Alessandra 1:02:56
I teach publicly, you know, they think I must be a very sort of public showy person. I really don't like social media. I don't Google myself. Every day is kind of some wrestling with the anxiety of how, how open everything is right now. advantages to it, there are disadvantages as well. And every day, I think you have to be a little bit brave if you want to communicate to a lot of people so that's, that's my, my daily fear is, is I don't know.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:38
It's social media. Basically.

Pilar Alessandra 1:03:40
I have a little bit of anxiety about it. I hate being on camera. I hate being on video. I hate it.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:46
But you know, fantastic. You've been fantastic. And I i've hope I've made it easy for you. But it's been fantastic having you on camera. You know, I think this is a this is a something that happens to podcasters because, you know, I've been podcasting for almost four years now. My two podcasts and you know, when you're a bass I do it basically alone in a room with a mic or I'm doing it like this over a Skype call with somebody. And you know, it's very different than being out like a YouTuber. Like you know, like getting out there and like Okay guys, we're gonna go do this like I'm not that dude either. I A lot of people think that I'm very, and I am to a certain extent but I I'm happy at home. I don't need to be out at a club somewhere. Those Those days are gone for me. I'm very happy.

Pilar Alessandra 1:04:36
introverted extrovert, right. I

Unknown Speaker 1:04:38
feel that introverted extrovert

Pilar Alessandra 1:04:40
those categories.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:41
Yes. It's the extrovert who enjoys being an introvert. Right?

Pilar Alessandra 1:04:46
Can't wait to go back to their introverted like, Oh, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:04:49
I'm just vege at home with my wife and watch Netflix tonight. I don't need to go out party anywhere. And now the toughest question of all three of your favorite films of all time.

Pilar Alessandra 1:05:00
Oh, I'm paper moon.

Unknown Speaker 1:05:03
I love it. Yeah, good movie.

Pilar Alessandra 1:05:06
It's one that I can watch over and over again. And you're gonna you're gonna laugh at me.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:13
I've heard it on the show.

Pilar Alessandra 1:05:14
It's such a script writing teacher thing to say. But Citizen Kane movie I really really love. You know, it's, it's different points of view. I was one of those people that was like, what that was.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:32
Shows spoiler alert. Hello. I thought you were gonna I thought you were gonna say Chinatown?

Pilar Alessandra 1:05:40
Yeah, no, I'm really. No, I'm not in love with Chinatown. Don't tell anybody you know. Um, and then, um, gosh, I again, I always go with sort of like that my latest boyfriend and my latest boyfriend. I keep going. That's fine. Yeah, I just really I was so happy about that movie for so many reasons. So, yeah, so I would say those three movies off the top of my head.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:12
Cool. Now where can people find you and your work?

Pilar Alessandra 1:06:16
I'm on the page.tv that is my website for classes. I love it when people show up in classes. And now I'm also doing online video classes again, try not to be afraid of the camera so that I can I actually teach in real time to people all over. So check that out in the books there and links the podcast and all that kind of stuff. Awesome. Pillai,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:39
It has been an absolute pleasure. I'm so glad we finally got to do this. It was great talking to you. Thank you so much for dropping some major, major knowledge bombs today on the tribe. I appreciate it.

Pilar Alessandra 1:06:48
I really appreciate you inviting me and for being so patient with the scheduling. Thank you so much, Alex.

IFH 659: RAW Confessions of a Hollywood Blockbuster Screenwriter with Ted Griffin

There’s no con more satisfying and lucrative than finding a way to make a living as a screenwriter. And Ted Griffin is a man who knows a good con.

Anyone who tried to follow the clever criminal head games he built into his screenplays for Ocean’s 11 and Ridley Scott’s Matchstick Men knows not to trust this guy – except when he talks about screenwriting, which he does with great humor and insight in this enlightening interview.

The conversation ranges from his early work on Ravenous and Ocean’s 11 through the unexpected pitfalls of trying to direct his first filmRumor Has It. He was scheduled to make his directorial debut with Rumor Has It…, for which he had written the original screenplay, but was replaced by Rob Reiner 12 days after principal filming began.

He did a rewrite of the Ashton Kutcher film Killers. He moved into television by creating Terriers for FX. Griffin played Agent Hughes in The Wolf of Wall Street.

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

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

To watch Ted Griffin’s amazing episode go to The Dialog Series on IFHTV.

Alex Ferrari 1:40
I like to welcome Tisha

Ted Griffin 3:33
Oh, Fuck you! NO! All right, start over.

Alex Ferrari 3:36
No, sir. We were gonna get what keep rolling. We're gonna keep rolling. I expect nothing less from you, sir. Mr. Ted Griffin. How are you my friend?

Ted Griffin 3:47
I'm terrific. Very, very nice. Happy to be here. Happy to be alive. Thank you, man. I was in New York stories. Any any day above ground is a good day.

Alex Ferrari 3:57
Amen to that brother.

Ted Griffin 3:59
Tom Waits impression. I don't know.

Alex Ferrari 4:01
But I appreciate you coming up. Joe. Man. I've been a fan of yours for a while. And I saw your interview years ago on the dialogue which is one of the rare interviews I looked you don't do these very often. I noticed or if they don't,

Ted Griffin 4:13
Can't find ask really. Maybe because of that one. Maybe because I wore shorts. on a on a gone camera. Somebody said Jesus. Well, you can deal with the drooling, but shorter

Alex Ferrari 4:26
And the cursing and the drugs and alcohol Excuse me. Yeah. But anyway, so my friend, thank you so much for coming on the show. My first question to you is why in God's green earth did you want to get into this insane business called Holly doll?

Ted Griffin 4:43
It was it almost feels like it was never a choice. I interrupt me if I get too long winded with family history because any biography you ever read is like, oh god, he's talking about his grandfather. My grandfather and my grandmother came up to Hollywood in the 20s. And were a very prolific director on my grandfather's side and a fairly successful actress on my grandmother's side for a number of years. They show up on TCM a few times a year, sometimes in a sort of the graveyard shift. And they both have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which started around 1950. So there was a lot of sidewalk back then. So it's, they are those names you kind of pass by and go. Alright, that's a they were they were pioneers on the sidewalk, I'd say. Anyway, he directed a lot of movies with almost everybody famous from back then John Wayne, Shirley Temple, the Marx Brothers, Astaire and Rogers, his maybe not their best films, but you worked with them all. He did make a very celebrated Laurel and Hardy movie called sons of the desert, which is in the Library of Congress. So that's his sort of claim to fame. He was named his name was William a cider. And the only person I've ever met who actually knew who he was, was Martin Scorsese, because that's just smarting. And my grandmother's name was Marion Nixon and she was sort of a clinical bear type type worked with a young Spencer Tracy and a young Joel McCrea and Jimmy Cagney was in a couple of John Ford movies. And but retired when she married my grandfather and started a family. So I grew up with the lore of Hollywood, around me, my parents were not in the industry, but my father was, who was not involved, had no relation to the industry was a cinephile and took me to a revival theater at the Rialto Theatre in South Pass, which is where Griffin mill in the player goes and kills the screenwriter. Yes, yeah, is a harbinger of things to come for me. Anyway, so I was seeing movies very young. And then, luckily, two things I think happened at a special age. I think there's something about 1011 12, especially maybe for boys where they kind of get into story and movies. And when I was that age, Steven Spielberg got sort of coronated, meaning he was on the scene with jaws and close encounters. But that was like, that's the Raiders Lost Ark et poltergeist sort of hattrick that along with the proliferation of the VCR, so all of a sudden, I had access to movies besides revival theaters. And so from that point on, it was I was just moving nuts. And there was sometimes unfortunately, no looking back

Alex Ferrari 7:58
In other fields,

Ted Griffin 7:59
Hopefully the not too long winded answer to your question.

Alex Ferrari 8:04
So then, so I've so I think you and I come from the same similar vintage as far as age is concerned. And I grew up in a video store as well actually worked in a video store for so many years. So I mean, that opened my eyes was set to cinema, watch video source. So at what point did you say you know what, I think I want as much power as I can in Hollywood, I'm gonna become a screenwriter. And you start bumping around as a screenwriter, because I'm assuming you said you'd have no connections in the business at this point.

Ted Griffin 8:35
No, my last living connection was probably Ernst Lubitsch. It was that who was apparently a good friend of my grandfather's he had died by dance distance for I was born in 70. So everybody, I had nobody to call and and because at 1112 Let me turn off so that doesn't make that noise. I started emulating Spielberg and making backyard movies with on Super Eight and then and then beta, and then have VHS so so my so he was my role model. And then probably like a few years later, when I got snarky or Billy Wilder, and but there were always sort of writer directors, who were my heroes or who I aim to be. So I had absolutely no interest in being a screenwriter in the business and but I wanted to write my way into the chair so to speak, which I I kind of made the mistake of going to a liberal arts college college back east because it was it was off track, but I you know, I did it. It happened. It's my claim to fame from that is that I was a in the first incarnation of the comedy group broken lizard which has gone on Yes. So I was like a freshman when they were juniors and seniors.

Alex Ferrari 10:13
So Jay was on the show was on the show. I love Jay .

Ted Griffin 10:15
Yeah. So that so for like a year I was there Terry Gilliam I was like making the movies and, and then they went to New York and I ultimately went to LA and anyway, so what's my story? Oh, yeah, so I was gonna write myself my way into the chair. But I was also very poor and living in LA in a hand me down Mazda with pretty much all my clothes and possessions in the back of it going from couch to spare bedroom to sometimes sleeping in the car. And not really kind of refusing to take a job because I was just intent on writing my way in I mean, a permanent job I was a dry cleaner for a while and worked on a construction site for a little bit. And, and then three years of that, and I got lucky, somebody got a writer named Neil Tolkien read one of my scripts and gave it to his agent lawyer who became my agent lawyer. And there's one script called best laid plans that I thought this is my thing to direct like, this is the right size movie. And no it it's like a good first film. And then somebody. Then Mike Newell, sorry, I was like debating Okay, do I name names? Yeah. Mike Newell company read it. And Mike Newell, who was coming off move. Who had just made Al Pacino Johnny Depp gangster.

Alex Ferrari 11:46
Oh, Danny Braska

Ted Griffin 11:48
Thank you, God. Just making that said, oh, I want to direct this next and on this level with these people. And I said, well, she's, I guess I gotta say yes to that. So I sort of sold the script, and literally turned around Donnie Brasco, open big and he said, I can't do this movie. I need to do a bigger movie. But we'll we'll find a director and I was like, Whoa, he would river I want to, but I couldn't. I'd sort of taking the check. His next movie was pushing 10 So serves him fucking right. And, but I got I got bait and switch on the movie I should have directed first. The other movie that I'd written that sold was ravenous, which was not a good first movie because it's up in the mountains with snow and turned out to be a completely calamitous production.

Alex Ferrari 12:37
Is that Is that the one with Guy Pearce? Yes. Yeah. Guy was on the show. I think he I remember him saying, Yeah, ravenous. That was a rough situation.

Ted Griffin 12:44
Yeah, it was a rough situation. But strangely enough, a movie that has a lot of fans and like, oh, yeah, fun criterion channel and like, survives, in a way basically plans very, like, terrible movie. Lots of nice people involved very easy production. Lots of very good actors, all in the wrong roles. And after that, I was like, I took six months off, I was so bummed out about the industry.

Alex Ferrari 13:15
Well, let me ask, let me ask you this. So how many scripts did you write before you got the first one sold?

Ted Griffin 13:24
I'd written four or five.

Alex Ferrari 13:28
How did you? Did you take any courses? Or did you take any anything to like learn it? Or did you just pick up a book format

Ted Griffin 13:35
As a kid I was I was already so nuts about movies that I was reading Adventures in the screen trade. By the time I was 12, or 13. I was I think, at 14 Taking a Syd field class where he distributed the first 10 pages of body heat by Larry caston, which is how I learned not only about screenwriting, but about heterosexual sodomy. That's a joke I have with Larry. Oh, we can laugh about it now. Anyway. So I was I was already sort of reading scripts, which was a lot harder in the pre internet days. Like he really had to go find him. So I was sort of like, to some degree, self taught and college I talked to a professor into letting me take write a screenplay for credit one semester. So that was the first one I like, feature length one I had done and then and then those three years of sort of like living hand to mouth. I churned out three, three more, and I also tried my hand at a couple of t like half hour TV scripts, and which taught me that I should not write for friends or the Simpsons or Seinfeld, because I gave them to my friends. I had friends who are basically running Seinfeld. I thought, oh, they'll give me a job and they read them and said, You're feature guy, which was a nice way to say this. Good.

Alex Ferrari 15:07
But this is a your you were in a car basically, living basically, day to day. I just want people listening to understand like the kind of tenacity that takes for three years running around LA, did you just have a laptop and you were just trying to use squeezing in stuff at coffee shops or doing it in your car? Like how do you mentally deal with not knowing where your next meal is coming at? And then that and that maybe that that extreme, but still, like, really not having a place to live or jumping here and they're really struggling, and yet still be creative enough to write.

Ted Griffin 15:43
I'm trying to remember actually, like when laptops came on the scene because it may have been like lugging around a modern

Alex Ferrari 15:49
The typewriter.

Ted Griffin 15:50
Yeah. I mean, there were, there's a great injustice in Hollywood, which is I would say, from my experience, not systematically, systemically racist, but systemically favors those who have a trust fund or who can be in a mailroom, unpaid, or who can survive for a while. And while yes, I was working hand to mouth, like I had a, my mom was in Denver, and I could like escape and go and live in our basement and churn out a script. And so I had, I didn't have any money, but I did have a diploma from an overpriced University and sort of like, more of a safety net. Even in that existence, then, like, I knew I wasn't gonna be, like, aimless the homeless. So it's a good story, but it's also sort of like, and I'm glad I went through it, because there is something to pay, you're paying your dues, besides being able to go on a podcast 25 years later and say so. But that said, there is something that is there's there's a reason why kids from liberal arts colleges or reasonably well to do backgrounds, do well in Hollywood, because they can kind of survive those questionable years. Oh, what's my point? So yes, it was. Also, I mean, there's something about the you don't realize you're gonna miss about youth that is very, very known about music, meaning if you're in rock into rock and roll, and you're not kind of making traction by 25, like, you got to like your that energy is musically like you need that for rock and roll. It's not as true for movies, but it's kind of is meaning. They're novelists who probably start at 50. You cinema is like a little younger than that. And so and there's a certain energy that in which you, you're coming up a lot of stuff younger than you are older. Agreed. And so. So while I really wish, I'm really glad I'm not living in my car anymore, I really would love to sort of get back to that

Alex Ferrari 18:32
That guy, that guy, that guy,

Ted Griffin 18:34
And also the, the, you know, doing anything artistic is a leap of faith, you've got to have to have a dream and believe that dream could possibly come true. Well enough to pursue it, and you have enough experiences where things get completely rad Focht and you've sort of ate and it becomes a greater fight to have that, to keep that dream alive. And so it's like, oh, God, I gotta do this. I gotta, I gotta suffer the slings and arrows again. Geez,

Alex Ferrari 19:03
but yeah, but as you get older you eat I mean, I don't know about you. But you know, your level of what you put up with just goes down like things I put up with in my 20s I would never put up with in my 40s Yeah, just it's just you just, you will do so much more when you're younger, to get to where you want to be. But after two or three decades, you're tired and you're like numb. I just don't, I don't want to do that anymore. I won't. I just won't do it anymore. So I agree with you. Like there's things that I remember myself and the torrent might take my early, late teens, teens and 20s that I was just the things that would just be flying, the energy was different. You're not as beat down as much at that point by the business.

Ted Griffin 19:41
I guess I'm proud that at that time, I took all that energy and suffered and put it towards writing and trying to get things going as opposed like I I really had no very little social life. So And I'm sure there are people who can like juggle both and and maybe not happen but people who I know people who had more fun in their 20s than I did. But it's, it's sort of what you have to do you can either choose life or career at that point.

Alex Ferrari 20:28
So alright, so after ravenous, you know, and and that other script that you wrote, how did you get this job to writing Ocean's 11? Like it doesn't there doesn't seem a direct line to that.

Ted Griffin 20:44
Moving from a cannibal Western black comedy doesn't

Alex Ferrari 20:53
With with with the biggest movie stars in the world, and Steven Soderbergh, right.

Ted Griffin 20:57
Well, so as I said, after, after those first two experiences were bad, because I kind of broken in the fall of 96. And for about a year there, I was, like, the shiny new screenwriting boy in town, and, and I had two movies going, and it was like, very heady days, and then ran into the brick wall of those productions of the reality of the business, took six months, six months off, and had sold another idea and was so either bummed out. Or, also, I'd learned the lesson of like, I sold something because of the excitement of agents in the business to sell this thing. And I just didn't have any idea of how to tell the story or what the story was. And I learned a valuable lesson there, which, I guess I could maybe help out anybody out there, which is, there are a bunch of reasons to write scripts, the money, the who you can get to work with the cocktail value of saying, Oh, I'm working with this or on this. And those are all great. And if you don't know what you're writing, or you have no enthusiasm for that all those those three reasons will not help you out when the rubber hits the road, like you need to care, like, have some kind of excitement about what you're writing, or else you're in trouble, hopefully. Or you're just a sociopath, mercenary, and you can pump it out good for you. I've met I've met them as always, so I so I had given back like, a lot of money. And also realize these two movies were going to come out in the next year. And that wasn't going to do me any favors, presumably. And a friend of mine worked for Jerry Weintraub who had a deal at Warner's, his name was Chris Buchanan. And he sent me oceans that it had been one of those movies that they had been talking about, Oh, is there a way of bringing out the word reboot? Bring it back somehow. I think back then it was even still just remake and worry, having grown up cinephile and, and also a guy who really kind of knew old movies and classic Hollywood better than my contemporaries, and who was heavily influenced the Great Escape was a major movie for me growing up Magnum and seven this sort of John Sturgis number movies, slightly less so Dirty Dozen, the professionals I thought was terrific. I had somehow missed oceans just never seen it. Probably because it was never recommended to me. It's the Scorsese loves it I think, um, for personal reasons. And I actually we we never talked about it he's never seen the remake and and Marty's never seen it has never watched it. He I that's a story for either later in the podcast or another day, but I fell into Scorsese's life because he saw ravenous. Which kind of makes me wonder. But I've always thought it was more of an infamous movie. Like, watch these guys phone it in and snot for wearing sweaters. And so and when I finally watched it, I sort of thought Yeah, boy, that's a disappointment. Like it has the kind of the concept, generally for fun movie and that and it's the in the genre, but I really don't care about this movie. And I think I passed on it a couple of times. Basically, they developed a script by a guy named Steve Carpenter, who had written a directed movie called Soul Survivor with Casey Affleck, I think, and that script was pretty faithful to the original and that the it was it was a bunch of army buddies who thought hey, we should apply our military skills to this and they reassembled and There was a guy who is very close to Sinatra's character a dino a Sammy like that. And and I kind of read that and I said this is sort of feels like what I just saw updated and I can remember. Sorry, Tang long winded version. But so I passed it on a couple times. And I think I was I was driving around and I was either listening to the Touch of Evil soundtrack because I was a nerd by Henry man Seanie which is kind of a cool like, or David shires music from taking a Pelham, which is awesome also saw and I just sort of thought, oh, like, I get the vibe of what this movie could be like, it has that. Because there's something about music. That especially for me, but I think a lot of people like music can be an inspiration for movies, just because it's a feeling like you're gonna get this movie is going to give you this feeling this music is going to give you this feeling and that's, I think, sort of what compels us to go see things and to listen to things of like, I want to be scared right now. Or I want to be titillated, or what are its I'm all over the place. I'm gonna come back to Ocean's but there's a my one of my favorite things I've read about movies is Martin Amos wrote in appreciation of Spielberg in the early 80s. And he says that he kind of boiled it down to that Spielberg had a talent for streamlining and emotion to an audience, whether it's Jaws fear and adventure, Close Encounters our Raiders adventure again, and then et love and that and there's a brilliance in that. And I think that's still, to some degree, the secret of his of his success for whatever, along with craft and genius and some other stuff. So So I had the sense of like, oh, there's this feeling of cool that I think could be in this movie. And also secondarily, it struck me of like, the one of my comfort movies growing up on was my I have an older brother who's who's also movie crazy and also writer, and we would just watch the sting at nauseam vidro Hills film of David S Ward script. I try to include those names when I can because

Alex Ferrari 27:36
It doesn't get it doesn't happen very often.

Ted Griffin 27:38
Because the tour theory is such garbage and that all movies being identified by the director is calamitous, or even I'm sorry, I just like the sight and sound list that just came out where everybody like, obviously they've chosen things because to diversify the directors, but that doesn't mean that the movies they're choosing the like, the whole crews were different genders and stuff. Anyway, sorry, soapbox. Ocean's 11. So I hear that music. I love this thing. So I tell Buchanan, okay, I'll meet but I don't know about this. I don't know if I'm the right guy.

Alex Ferrari 28:16
Are you like working at this point? Did you have another job? Do you have another job? Or it's like, because it says,

Ted Griffin 28:20
No, I quit the other gig that I had given. You're looking for work, but you're still saying I don't know. And I'm also trying to get like, I feel like I got off track because I gave up my directorial debut. And so I'm trying to figure out okay, how do I get back to disillusions? But it's like, okay, I need to make some cash. Or, like, I have this potential do this. And I, and I don't want to, like, there's opportunity. And I know, I can't just piss it away. So I go in with Chris I meet weintrob, who's a character who is you know, I won't go through his whole history, but he's, he can be could be extraordinarily charming. And he came in, he said, you can go, I gotta play 7k bunk boy right next to President Bush. You're gonna live next to him. Again. Again, cook and UMaine you can work out in Maine. It'll be great. Which, by the way, an offer that never came through. I never heard another word about like, oh, yeah, you can have to Kennebunkport estate. So I sort of tap dance around like, like some ideas, but for some reason, like they think I'm right for this. And at the time, also, Brett Ratner was attached to direct this is our I'm certainly what else he had. sort of been, you know, he was a extraordinarily successful young director at the moment, and I met Brett and he was a full of enthusiasm. but nobody was saying this is this is what we want. which was actually great to hear, because I just, I, and I've since learned, it's very hard for me to say, to take somebody else's idea and say, Oh, let me execute that for you. And there are people who I've met who are really talented as a talent. But, but it's difficult for me. Anyway. So I went off, I got the job, I went off, and I sort of, I actually worked with my brother Nick a little bit on this and sort of thought, this whole army idea gives me no motivation for a highest like, it's just like, it's a reason for them to make money. Whereas I love the sting. And in the sting, or in the Magnum seven, or the professionals, they're sort of that code of this is what we do. Like it's it's a sort of professionalism. And I thought I'd rather make a movie about guys who do this, and this is the Mount Everest of that and be pretty unfaithful to the original. So wrote about 40 pages of that. I think I've told this somewhere else, but I'm just now I'm just, you can edit all this, right? I give the pages to Chris Buchanan, who's the VP at wind drops, one of two. Just to say, look, I'm working, like as proof of life, progress, and while he's enthusiastic, someone else at the weintrob company who's a little competitive with Chris steals the pages, reads them, takes them to Jerry and says, Griffin's completely off. roading. He's written this thing that hasn't that is not Ocean's 11. And you need to call him in so I get summoned to the woodshed by Jerry Weintraub, who says, This isn't this is all wrong. These guys. They got to be friends in making them thieves. Danny Ocean's coming out of prison. He's a loser. You got to start over. And I say, I understand now. At this point, Chris, God bless him has given the script to basil iguana, who's the warners executive on the project who's read it? And basil calls me and says, don't listen to Jerry. Just keep going. So I do. I'm I, I turned it in. And at that point, because of like this, all this nonsense, I'm sort of like, again, sort of sick of Hollywood and I moved to New York. I think this is like fall of 99. In the interim, oh, and what's happened in the interim is that Brett Ratner has got the movie family man going with Nick Cage and to Leone and is now is no longer available. So Jerry's pissed because he's lost his director because I didn't write the script overnight. And but What has also happened in the interim is that Warner's has made this deal with Soderbergh and Clooney, they've started a new production company there. And so when I do turn the script in, I think the first move is they offered it to Damon and Aflac to star which I think is a rotten idea because they're too young, like they're too green. It's the it's the young guns version of, of oceans. And, and very thankfully, Matt agrees with me. And they pass. So then they go to Soderbergh and Clooney, who sign on, which is like, January of 2000s,

Alex Ferrari 34:01
By the way, but George Clooney at that point, he had done, he had done out of sight

Ted Griffin 34:07
They'd make out of sight and 98 I think his Clooney movie movie was Peacemaker with

Alex Ferrari 34:14
No no movie movie was from dusk till dawn that was his first movie. That was the first time he made a feature of that as an action star. Then he did then he brought him in, but he's still not a megastar. He's He's a star, but he's not a megastar. At this point, Ocean's 11 cents into

Ted Griffin 34:32
In 2000 the perfect storm but all that's right. Yeah, he's that which is debatable because it's like, is he the star or is the wave?

Alex Ferrari 34:41
I would agree with you and mark that as well. Mark Wahlberg is in that and yeah,

Ted Griffin 34:46
But there's the perception of and three kings did well, but not mega well. So it's certainly the perception of like that he can lead a movie star in a movie but whether he's like a And I would say there are very few people who are movie stars. And just because they're in the movie, it's ahead and I'm not even sure if you could say George was ever got to that in the way that Julia Roberts was like, who came? I don't know what the title is. It's the movies called Julia Roberts. That way Nicholson was that way cruises that way. It's it's rarefied air. Anyway, so. So in the January 2000 days, sign on, I'm in New York, but Soderbergh just has Erin Brockovich coming out, which actually proves to be is like, the movie that really kind of restarts things outside got cred but flopped. Erin Brockovich, any wants to make traffic first. So in this irony of like, the Warner Brothers is in too much of a hurry to wait for Brett to do family man. But then when they give it to Steven, and he says, I need to wait a year they say okay. And so we're not going to start until 2001. And, but then, like, the I had, like some of those notions of casting. And for the rest of you, Ryan role I'd always had like, what I would say is like, the really terrific actor who isn't quite a movie star, whether it's the equivalent would be God. I don't know like, went to a movie star. At the time, like Jeff Goldblum, Kevin Spacey, there are certain people who are like that who are like, Oh, I would almost say that I've not seen Ocean's eight. But Ocean's eight sort of does this in that it's Sandra Bullock, and Cate Blanchett. Like Cate Blanchett is like a really interesting person to put in that, but she's not a movie you put in. She's not the star. She's on a movie star of that kind of movie. Anyway, so Brad Pitt comes aboard. That's a surprise to me. Like that's an elevation. The rest of the cast. I always knew it was going to be like, had it. And the one rule I did write for a specific actor was I wrote Saul for Ellen Ark and, and we do cast him. And he does a table read, which is one of the funniest two hours I've been in a room like he's so spectacularly funny. And then had to drop out two days later for because of a medical crisis, which happily 23 years later, was no big deal. So Karina replaced Why am I still here? Anyway? So I guess your original question was, how did a guy with two flop movies coming out? That's, that's an answer. Turned into that, which was like, step by step, meaning it was like, it was a, it was sort of a broken development thing. I barely squeezed by what? Like, I'm not sure maybe I didn't know enough just to say, Oh, I'm gonna throw out your concept and start over. And then also look, because lots of I mean, not just like family men could have not come together. It could have been Breton movie and he could have cast Charlie Sheen. Sucker, Christopher, and Christopher, which would have been a different thing. And who knows, Matt and Ben could have said, Yes. There's at some point. I asked if somebody at Warner's, who do you think is going to direct this movie as I turned it in? And they said, Brian Robins, and that's Brian Robins are running paramount. And this is where like, oh, you see, this is really broadly comic like, and, you know, to some degree, I'm jumping ahead of myself, but same thing happened. This is what on tower highest, which in some ways, there's a version of that which I like more than oceans. So all all the you know, it's the reverse decision meaning. Again, I like I don't think they cast it the way I would have cast it. Like I think it was the ultimately pursued who to comedically, got it. And if they had if they'd kept it real, I think and and not cast comedians. It would have been an hour or at least that's more of what I had my head.

Alex Ferrari 39:30
Alright, so now so Ocean's 11 gets made, you know, basically sets up George for the rest of his life as a not only a megastar, but a tequila magnate.

Ted Griffin 39:43
Without OSHA's original dream.

Alex Ferrari 39:45
Obviously, at the beginning, he's like, I'm gonna make this movie and then eventually sell that tequila company for obscene amounts of money.

Ted Griffin 39:52
But the whole representative,

Alex Ferrari 39:54
Exactly, exactly but to be fair, though, without the coolness of Ocean's 11 That pretty much sets up George for that cool vibe that he had. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. I mean, the Vegas vibe and the other movies that he made and everything is all set up off of ocean. So he owes you a check. I'm just throwing that out there. It's called Giorgio.

Ted Griffin 40:24
I saw him that he gave a million dollars to all his best friends. When I looked at my phone, waiting for it to ring

Alex Ferrari 40:32
Didn't happen. Alright, so after Ocean's 11 comes out, I mean, it's a mega hit. It's a massive, massive, massive hit worldwide. How does the town treat the guy who wrote ravenous and that other movie? After after the fact like, could you're in the middle of this hurricane, I always love asking screenwriters and filmmakers to get caught up in kind of this cyclone of a movie, how does the town cheat you? What lessons did you learn during your waterbottle? Tours? Because at this point, you have a golden ticket if I'm not mistaken, or is Am I wrong on that? Like, I mean, there's

Ted Griffin 41:07
A change not only in like, you know, certainly people are a little nicer to you. And then when you're in rooms, talking about something, you have a credibility that from success that you didn't have before as opposed to have credibility from doing a good piece of work, to different things. And jumping ahead again, I made 12 years ago, I made a TV series called terriers, which only lasted a season because it was commercially disastrous. Like it just didn't get washed by anybody. However, it was like got a lot of political love. And like there now a podcast or two about it. And for a one season show. Like it's, like ravenous, it's still like, it's a thing that won't die. And I talked to a lot of people say, who always volunteer, not always sorry, but who often volunteer how much they love it. I've never however, it didn't. Because it was good. In a lot of people's minds didn't make my phone ring. Like it would have been successful. I'd have a TV career now.

Alex Ferrari 42:21
Right, you can get a bad script that made $500 million, and the phone's gonna rank but if you write the best script ever, and it doesn't make any money, okay,

Ted Griffin 42:28
So it is better, in ways to be lucky than good. But but so Ocean's is is, is quite successful. And I sense it, and even before it's come out, I've been able to set up this project Matchstick Men at Warner's that is making oceans with my brother to write with me, sort of to get him because he had helped out considerably on oceans on sort of figuring out because they were the one of the challenges of oceans stepped backwards. The second is, is that there's just a lot of plumbing, there's a lot of structural work of you have 11 guys you have to take care of, and there's a balance, and you have to keep them all active. And

Alex Ferrari 43:17
It's a juggling act. It's a juggling major

Ted Griffin 43:19
So, so it's just sort of like, there's a lot of work that should be unseen, or reasonably seamless, if this movie is going to work. And that was just a little, like, little daunting. So So I write Matchstick Men with my brother, and which as its own, sort of, and I'm, I'm attaches producer as well, because coming off the experience of the first two movies, I didn't want to where I was left out of rooms about who's going to direct this, who's going to be in it. How do we promote this? And I was furious at times of like, the producers who had really never produced anything. Were were in rooms that I was not allowed into because of I was the writer, just the writer. I made that point and and haven't yet. And yet, the same thing happened in that Robert doesn't make us reads the script. And for those who haven't seen magic, man, I'm gonna spoil it because it's been. It's been 20 years, you've had

Alex Ferrari 44:30
Spoiler, spoiler alert, fast forward.

Ted Griffin 44:33
It's based on a book and in the book, there's a con man who finds out he has a daughter and he tries to start a relationship. And it all goes everything goes sideways. And at the end, he realizes that he's been conned that it's not his daughter and and the book ends with him being like, Oh, I got taken. And when I read that, I thought, Ah, there's a lot I liked this story. I just I actually kind of hate the twist for a guy who likes twist movies. I like it's unfulfilling, maybe I saw it coming. I don't know. So when I pitched to Warner's I say, I want to do this book but I want to actually take the twist out and just make it like an authentic emotional drama but it was with crime and the stuff in it, but it should be. Not a tear jerker, because that feels but going back to this billboard thing, it should deliver a motion machine. It's about a relationship. And we write that script, and we actually get Alfonso Koran is interested. Fortunately, this is Alfonso Kron coming off of great expectations for Warner's, which was not a success. So it's pretty easy to mama, Alfonso Crone. And so even though that's really enticing to me. We also get a call from Robert Zemeckis, saying, I love this, but I read the I heard about this twist, and I'd like to put that back in and Warner's is. Lorenz's bond matures, the head of Warner is the saying you should do is go as Americans and make the change. And so while I may be a hot, dry, hot writer, I'm a baby producer. And so I go to a meeting with Zemeckis, who by the way is about as smart and director was story as any I've met, like he does come from a writing background and he is like, all of the directors I've worked with in talk in script meetings, he's probably the sharpest because he

Alex Ferrari 46:39
That's saying a lot. You've worked with some amazing people.

Ted Griffin 46:42
Yeah, but he's really the, like the writer of the I mean, when you look at Back to the Future, that's a it's a perfect script. is incredible script. So So basically, he says, like, I'd like to make this twist work and I say okay, but if we put the twist in, I need an epilogue of with this, these two characters come together again, like something like briefing cat or something where you see like, oh, he may have been bullsh. He may have been taken. But there was, it wasn't all alive, meaning there was the religion. There was something there. So we write that script. Does it make us his great, I'm gonna send it to Tom Hanks right now he does Tom entry just goes. Let's do Polar Express instead. So the MC MC is off the movie. You want to make Polar Express? And just like Mike Newell, it's sort of like, okay, now he's gonna drag this thing.

Alex Ferrari 47:35
But you find you find that you find that young and up and coming, Director Director? Was his name Ridley something or other?

Ted Griffin 47:40
Right! Yes. He was a very exciting young guy I went to. And here's a lesson I learned. And I feel like I may have told this story again, too. But now I'm just playing this. I'm just like that old guy. Like, I stopped but Baedeker interviewed once and he's just told the same or twice and he told the same stories and both interviews, because he was old. And anyway, so I get invited to some cocktail party during award season in honor of David Lynch, because I think it's the year of Mulholland Drive. But that also means that Ridley has been nominated for Black Hawk Down, and he's there and I've met his girlfriend now wife, Jen, Nina, Basilio, one of the great, whirling dervish phenomenal women of all time, and I'm petrified of meeting readily and but she drags me across and says me down with them. And I'm just like, not quite sure what to say, except what are you doing next? And he says, I'm got this movie Tripoli, but it's gonna take nine months to prep. All this tells me the story. And I say, Well, I got this little movie, you could shoot, like right here while you're doing all that. And then he says, we'll send it in the next day. I send it to Janina. She reads it gives it to him. The next week, we got Ridley Scott, which teaches you always go to that cocktail party.

Alex Ferrari 49:14
If lessons learned,

Ted Griffin 49:15
If there's a if there's an opportunity to celebrate David Lynch, go do that. And then meet Ridley Scott.

Alex Ferrari 49:22
I kind of I gotta say the so for people listening in this is something that's so underestimated. The universe works the way the universe works. And you just happen to fall into a lot of it seems like from the stories you've told so far, you fall into these things like opportunities kind of present themselves, you're doing the work, and you've got the script and you're doing things but like what, like how do you plan that you can't plan that cocktail party for David Lynch that you happen to sit at a table with Ridley Scott and he happens to has a window of opportunity. There's a lot of luck involved, but the point is that you have to kind of keep working and keep moving forward to be rare. Ready for that luck when that luck shows up. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Right? Because if you wouldn't do that, if you would have gone there without a script, you would have been like, I've met really Scott that night. That's kind of cool. But if you had another

Ted Griffin 50:20
And there's good luck and bad luck, and then it was great luck that I really did it and that Matt and Ben said no, and that, whatever and then there's bad luck that what have I already said that yesterday plans just went to the wrong people or did like, like, every movie you can kind of look at and say it is it is a consequence of these planets aligning, or not aligning. And they're all the stories of that, like how Casa Blanca almost was Ronald Reagan, which it really wasn't, but

Alex Ferrari 50:56
They were writing that as they were,

Ted Griffin 50:58
That year was that person was hot. And so that's why that movie was with that like. So there's yes, there's a lot of luck involved, I would say this as a, my usual piece of advice is that. And this is probably true, a lot of things. But in Hollywood, if it's like, if Hollywood was a roulette wheel, it actually allows you to make as many bets as you want to meaning you can kind of cover or that you can generate, meaning it's. So try to get as many bets on the table as possible, which means try to write as many very good scripts as you can, or something just go to that cocktail party or take that meeting because you like because you don't know. And so this the this is an example of that of like, it's like, alright, I'll go to I'll go to that. And that's what happened. Now. I've also been to probably 25 Other unmemorable cocktail parties. Sure. Oh, yeah. So anyway, so So then that leads me into a year of making magic man, which is probably my maybe one of my favorite years of making a movie because really was so much fun. And it was like a delightful time, and we're on town. And like, if I could like relive a year just for the fun of it, it was great. The movie doesn't do great. So and I begin to sense of like, oh, I don't have this. Like, it's not I'm not quite oceans. Like, you're only as good as your next one. So it's not like,

Alex Ferrari 52:48
You're not as shiny anymore. You're not shiny anymore.

Ted Griffin 52:50
Yeah. And, but during the process of making that one, I've also are actually going back to even to Ocean's 11. I'm, you know, it's on my mind, always of like, okay, can I direct this thing that I am writing whatever I'm writing and on oceans, it's obviously not a chat, like it's just too big. It's not a first film. Matchstick Men, it sort of strikes me like well, it's contained, but it really needs a movie star like it's it's not a if you look at the great first films, which I would go with, let's say Blood Simple. Reservoir Dogs body heat, you look back and say well, it was William Hurt and Kathleen Turner but really blue Kelly in general, but it was her first movie and William Hurt was like not a star yet. I said Blood Simple, which is pretty much unknown. I feel like there's another good example of like, this very smart, usually crime based. Right. The irony is that like that Spielberg's first movie, if you consider it Sugarland Express. Not exactly duels his first movie. Yeah, but Chiclana sure, at its best is actually like, kind of a good idea for his first movie, but because like only Han was a big star, so it's like, and it actually that's the one that doesn't do it for him.

Alex Ferrari 54:20
But the shark that with the broken shark movie is the one that

Ted Griffin 54:25
Anyway, so I finally I have an idea for a first movie, even though like I'm still living in the past of wishing I had best laid plans back as a first movie, but I think of this one and I, when I'm working with Soderbergh on oceans, I mentioned it to him and he says he has this company with George and that they're, they'll produce other people's work and they have final cuts. So basically, that means I'll have final cut, and that sounds phenomenal. And and we're like getting along great. So we set this movie up with She's a comedy, female lead comedy. And then I take too long to write it because it's sort of like I'm like, I'm being too careful about it overthinking it. Yeah, overthinking it, but ultimately, in 2003, I'm done. I turned the studio and, and we've sort of, they seem to support it. And I go, but they're only a few people. Because it's a Warner Brothers movie, which, and it's the Warner Brothers movie because I, because it's a Steven George's company, it's there. It really shouldn't be it should be an independent movie, or it should be like, Fox, Searchlight, Fox Searchlight, something like that, which Warner didn't really have that briefly was independent, but it never really took. It just was not the culture that place. And so really, like we have, there's kind of one name that they think they'll want to make it with. And that's Jennifer Aniston, who's not had a very successful film career to date, but is has made them so much money on friends because it's same company. So we sent it to her. She says yes, but let's wait until we're done. I'm done with friends and like, six, seven months. And I say great. So we're waiting on that. I'm continuing to push things forward and we get some ultimately we get a sort of a dream or my dream cast of Kevin Costner and Shirley MacLaine and Mark Ruffalo for this movie. And Richard Jenkins, and not leave anybody else. While I'm waiting for that to go, I forget how much to tell about this, because this is sort of one of those. I'll tell you later. While I'm waiting for that to go. Akiva Goldsman who i is, has an office down the hallway from me, calls me up one day and says, I got this script. Brad's going to do. We had Halle Berry, but she just walked off. And he's getting cold feet. We read it and come to a meeting tomorrow, because you just did oceans and he's gonna listen to you on blah, blah, honestly, a great seminar script was called Mr. And Mrs. Smith, oh, and who's so who's taking Halle Berry as part Angelyn is really great. So I go on to the next day in a meeting with Doug Liman and Akiva, and Brad meets Angelina, at this meeting. And oh, geez, Foster is also the producer. We spent two days going through the script, page by page, this assignment script, right? Simon script. It's got some names on it already. Like Carrie Fisher, I can't remember who else. So you never know, what's been done. And you don't know if what's been done has been for the better. Like, it's always,

Alex Ferrari 57:59
But it was on But Simon's the first one who wrote the script.

Ted Griffin 58:01
He was yes, it was. Anyway, so as a favorite of the pit family, I do a couple of weeks on this. And, and also just dry. I think it's, I see what this one generally to talk about scripts you've written on that you don't have credit on some because there's a reason why they have the credit things. And, and it's, there's some people who say, Oh, yeah, I did a couple of weeks on that. And now it's sort of like it because you're really kind of taking away credit. So I don't like talking about I'm telling you about this, because it's part of my story. But there are other there's other Script doctoring, I've done, that I don't talk about because it's bad form. It's bad form, that form of you know, if you go in the change one line, suddenly people are saying, Oh, well, wasn't really his script, it was because somebody did something. And anyway, so I, I do some time on this. And which is one of those sorts of things where doing the really right thing turns out to be kind of doing the wrong thing for yourself in that way. And without getting into a lot of details, because this is also sort of the omerta part of show businesses. You can't talk too much about what actually goes down, because you won, even if you've never worked with these people again, and there are a few people here I will never work with again. Like you don't want to have the reputation of like the guy who taught who kisses and tells

Alex Ferrari 59:40
You not to be a rat, rats or you don't want to be a rat,

Ted Griffin 59:43
Right! But just just short stories. I started writing my first movie, and at the same time, Mr. Mrs. Smith is doing reshoots, and it's really complicated. Everybody's relationships

Alex Ferrari 1:00:09
I'll just do the second you brought those names in. I was like, I know where this is going. Rohloff got it. And

Ted Griffin 1:00:16
So so I've got a lot to deal with.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:20
Oh, God,

Ted Griffin 1:00:22
I also have like, I'm an, even though I've written some movies and produced Ridley Scott movie, there are some, like I'm in a different chair and figuring out a relationship with a DP for the rest of my life, which is also not going well, I have a very bad relationship with the DP that I've been hired at Soderbergh suggestion, which is basically the one thing he sort of suggested was, Oh, this guy's good. And however, I'm really every day, I'm waking up and saying, Oh, God, this is Christmas morning. Like I'm finally directing a movie. And while there's a moment every day where I'm absolutely terrified, like, I'm finally living the life that I have been aspiring to, since I was 10. And these are running long, but we're making them. And I'm not hearing from the studio, because from having now made two movies from them. I know like when they're, when they show up on set, that's a sign and they haven't shown on set. And then two weeks in, Soderbergh and Clooney show up on set, and they say we've just come from the studio, and they're really unhappy. I say, well, they haven't told me this.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:38
And well, you shot too, which you've got two weeks on this movie. I've shot two weeks on this. Do you want to? Do you want to name do you want to say the name of the movie?

Ted Griffin 1:01:47
At the time? It was called Untitled Ted Griffin project. Okay. And it was set in my hometown, Pasadena, and based on a real rumor that I grew up knowing that involve the movie The graduate. And oh, yeah. Yeah. So so they say this, I'm a little confused by it. But they say we're gonna, we're gonna shut down per day, you're gonna change DPS. And I say, Great. I'm fine with that. They'll give us both take Friday off, so forth. And so I shoot one more day, still haven't heard from the studio. And, and then somebody comes to me and says, When I add wrap, they say, you have to defend your job tomorrow. Now you're on the chopping block. And I say, all right, but why? Like, what's the problem here? And they say, they say Stephen went to the studio and said, None of your footage is usable. I say, well, he told me that they didn't like it. And part of that there's a long Soderbergh story leading up to this, which I'm not going to tell here. But basically, I go in to meet Steven the next day, with 20 minutes of cut footage, and he won't look at it. He says you're out. I don't need to see this. And that's. And so a project I had started, which was about my hometown, which I had sort of worked on years to get going, is suddenly taken away without a note, literally, without never heard from the studio. And nobody, Besides, my editor had seen any of the cut footage. So there's, it's not really sort of about that. If you want to fill in the blanks, we can, yes, thanks. And, but and so at that point, it's sort of like, it's like 2.0 of like, oh, this town. Yeah, I'll do and, and also, again, like this is for the studio that I started this franchise, four, I'd said no to 12, which is a whole story we'll get into if you want. But I'm now running into Albert Hughes land of blank, this is gonna be the longest podcast talking, our

Alex Ferrari 1:04:26
Will hang for a little bit longer, because we still gotta get to Marty. And that's a whole other conversation.

Ted Griffin 1:04:32
And so, so from that point on what happens next and yeah, and then then I'm just like, for a while I'm just like a boxer who's been like, punched, punched in the back of the head, who doesn't know what corner to go to, like, I spend like, the months or, you know, arguably a year just sort of like what just fuck just happened?

Alex Ferrari 1:04:57
You were blindsided. You were blindsided.

Ted Griffin 1:05:00
I'm able to do some fun work on some other movies. And at some point I get hooked up, we'll get right to it. I get hooked up with Scorsese. Because

Alex Ferrari 1:05:14
Real quick before you get to Marty, you did work on up in the air a bit

Ted Griffin 1:05:21
Before this happened, I had been sent the script by Sheldon Turner. Yeah, up here based on based on the book by Walter Kern and, and come on as producer and potentially director had sold to Ivan Reitman, his company at Paramount, I think, Andre marks I forgot, I forgot. And I had developed that my brother had written a draft of it. I had done a bit. And then in the aftermath of my getting fired, there was like, it was not a good one. It was not a good first movie. And it was not, not a good. It was like a better second movie because it really didn't need a star. And it was like now with the asterisk next to my name have fired. It was like, Oh, this is not like Georgia, Brad. And so I sort of say Go with God, and I step away from it. And I think it was then four or five years passed before I get a call from Ivan Reitman saying Jason has rewritten and is going to direct and I say with Clooney, I say great. There's a JSON made it very much his own. There are a lot of bones from Sheldon scripts, and a couple of remnants from my brother's rewrite, which are still in there. But But I was a 100% a see at the premiere producer or executive producer on it. Okay. So I've, in fact, I've never met Jason.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:00
That removed that removed from the project. Got it? Yeah. All right. So

Ted Griffin 1:07:06
We'll say that it was all a success was because of me, and no one else. Obviously, sir. magnanimously. I will take full credit for it. Oscar nominations.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:17
So I mean, that I mean, you've gone through so much crap. And I mean, we're just scratching the surface. By the way, I know that you've got days and days of stories about what you've gone through. And I really hope people listening understand that this is stuff they don't teach in school. This is stuff that generally doesn't be it's not talked about out loud. You know, these are the things this is the thing is you and I were at a cocktail party. These are the you we have a drink, and we tell these stories, and I just that's why I love doing the show, because I hope these stories get out there. So people understand what the reality of this business is. And it's not. They don't play by rules.

Ted Griffin 1:07:55
It's rough. Right? It's it's, and by the way, a lot of this stuff can't be taught meaning i There's a great story and William Goldman's book about Lisa icorn getting fired as the star of this movie all night long made in 1980. She was starring in this movie with opposite Gene Hackman. And overnight Oh, no. And over a weekend, somebody gave us rice and the script, the movies two weeks into production, somebody gives Streisand the script and Streisand said, Oh, I would have done that or would do that. And the studio goes, Oh, we could have a Hackman Streisand movie. The next day, they fired Lisa icorn, who's doing a great job. They rewrite the script, they resume production with Streisand, and it's a fucking massive bomb, which you can't, like barely can find anywhere. And Lisa Acorn's, I've actually met in the aftermath of my experience, she very sweetly called me up and gave me her perspective on some of the people who were involved. And some of her wisdom, her hard earned wisdom from this, you know, had a really terrific career going and that was like it, it throws you of course, it's even knowing that story going, like having read that story. It's like there's no way you can there's no there's no teaching, there's no way to learn that other than to have a lot of experience and sort of have a sense of people.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:28
Well, the thing I was telling you before we jumped on is you know, my whole story with the mafia and almost made that big movie and met all these big movie stars. I never got to the level of your production of like working with these movie stars and you were already done a bunch of stuff and it'd be yanked away from you like that is so for me heartbreak and I wanted to I was in depression for three years and it completely destroyed my my subconscious mind about the business till recently, like within the last five years, I figured out out. Oh, that's why I've been doing sabotaging myself for the last 25 years because I didn't want to go through that pain again. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. And these are the kinds of talks that I want people to listen to because it's not all you know, like I always tell people I always tell people this. I know you want to know what Hollywood is like, watch the Oscars on Oscar night right? And that's on Hollywood Boulevard. And on the on the camera, it looks great. But the second The Oscars are over. You don't want to walk down that street. Right there.

Ted Griffin 1:10:38
You really night when I'm gonna say briefings, and again, I trust that if anything's boring, you can cut this out. Sir. Just one. The movie is called rumor has it which I call Reiner has it because Rob Reiner took over the movie, too. In the aftermath, somebody started internet rumor about how terrible Kevin Costner was to me and berating me and how he insisted on me getting fired. I had not started working with Kevin Costner on the movie yet he was actually an enormous champion in the in prep, giving me all sorts of advice about directing, which I was not getting from anybody else on my team because he's an Oscar winning director Oscar winning director but was like it was extraordinarily helpful and was a great guy and in the aftermath Am I getting fired? Like lonely is beachhouse to like recuperate in invited me to his wedding was just an all star. Just to put that to bed. Not Costner. Other people lovely people involved rough. Hello, McLean. Just blast still friends, Jenkins, one of the I think one of the great actors, so and then and also in the aftermath. My, my trapezium was my first assistant director on the movie, terrific guy had also worked with Phil Kaufman and set me up with Phil for a cup of coffee up in San Francisco. This is 2005. So I've been fired the year before. And Phil, famously, was fired off the Outlaw Josey, Wales in 1975. Jesus, okay, movie came out somebody sick. So I'm not sure when exactly but and he was directing for two weeks when he got tapped on the shoulder. And that night was like, on a plane back from Montana or whatever. And is Eastwood, Clint Eastwood, the star took over directing, which begat the GGA rule, these would rule which basically says nobody on a crew or in a cast can take over directing, basically to prevent the director from getting sabotaged from with them. And so, Phil, and I had this cup of coffee. I think he asked me not to repeat the story. So sorry, Phil. But basically, you know, went through the how similar our experiences were. Not that I think it's like it happens all the time. It this is sort of rare, they're replaced directors, but but people because Phil had written that script to to have this happen. And I asked Phil, one had he spoken that used word in the intervening 30 years. And he said, No. I asked him if he'd ever bothered watching Outlaw Josey, Wales. And he said, No, that he went into a video store once in the 80s. And it was on the TV there. So he just left. And then I sort of I said something else that was like, now what? And he said, Ted, I don't want to go like I was obviously irritating him or he was still 30 years later, rah, rah rah about it. And for me, it's now coming up on 19 years, and it's sort of like, oh, go fuck yourself. Like, I

Alex Ferrari 1:14:02
Ohh no, you're gonna go to your grave with it. I understand. I get it. Trust me. I get it. i If anybody gets it, I get it. But my experience with that was the I get it. No, I can't believe that it's there.

Ted Griffin 1:14:13
So I've never seen rumor has it? And I and they're, they're three people I have not spoken to since.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:25
Fair enough. So then, so let's let's turn to page. There is this other guy that you worked with? By the name of Martin Scorsese? Yes. With all of the stuff that you've gone through. How did you get hooked up with Wolf Wolf of Wall Street with Martin?

Ted Griffin 1:14:45
I went another it's a it was a dinner party this time and I knew I said, Yes, right away. I had an agent in common a guy named Chris Donnelly continues to represent both of us. And he invited me to a dinner a week For the Oscars for the department, and it was a big table like 10 or 12 people. And Mario is going to be there and I just, I decided I'm going to impress, I'm going to try to impress this guy, because I know all I know, movies, and of everyone I know. I'm the Martin Scorsese of everyone I know. And then I started talking to him, and I said, Wow, do I have a long way to go? Like, instantly, like wildly impressive of like, oh, there's a mind at work on unlike any I've experienced thus far. And it and when people you know, misuse the word genius. It's because like it's a it's a different level of intelligence, but also extraordinarily extraordinary passion. And that is unrelenting, both in preserving movies, obviously, making movies and teaching about movies. So we had a very nice dinner, I tried to not go to too much smoke or tap dance too much, but and then he won the Oscar the next week, because you know, he could never

Alex Ferrari 1:16:21

Ted Griffin 1:16:22
And God, just a few months pass and I got a call from Chris Donnelly saying that this Spanish sparkling wine called kava fresh in a does a an annual Christmas ad. And they back the money truck up to Marty just saying make us a short film, which was sort of in vogue, then BMW was making those Yeah, the dividends. Yeah. And so so. So this was like, and so they're saying, Do you have any ideas, and I wrote one up, which I thought was a blast, which was that the conceit being that Marty has been approached about redoing the Copa shot, the Copacabana shot from Goodfellas, the long one, or which ends with a bottle of champagne being brought out. And so I thought, okay, he's got to redo that shot. For this ad. Only, we see all the things that can go wrong in a winner. And then we see him respond to this in a film that begins to replicate, like the part of Goodfellas, where Ray Liotta is losing his ship. And the last third was brilliant, some voiceover and stopping and things like that. And I thought, the first like, eight to 10 minute movie that can be lost. And I write that up. I think I pitched it to him over the phone, write that up, send it to him, Marty says, This is terrific, like, come out next week, and we'll start to get to work on it. And I by the time I land, or I get there, and I get word of like Marty doesn't want to do that. It's too self referential. I say I totally get that. But oh, God, I'd love to see it. But I totally get that he says, But he must see if you have any, like, come and talk and have if you have any other ideas, so we then spend like three full days in his office in New York. I'm now 36 about to be 37 and like three years, kind of, I would say off trying to get it back together again after my beheading or Deepan saying depending on and but but but three days of like being able to play tennis against whoever, your Bjorn Borg, or whatever the absolutely top person you've ever done anything with and being able to sort of like, Hey, I'm in the room with this person, and we're hitting the ball back together. And not only is it a dream come true, but it's also a sort of restoring confidence restoring of like, oh, yeah, I can I can I can play in this league. And we're more or less we hit on an idea of like, kind of a because Hitchcock used champagne as a MacGuffin, and notorious, we think, Okay, is there something to do with Hitchcock here? With who's obviously a big influence on Scorsese, and we ultimately come up with this idea, and then a few weeks later, shoot it over the course of three days, called the key to Reserva which we make it premieres in Spain and Madrid that Christmas we go out we both get food poisoning at the premiere and, and fly home, like dire like vomiting and pooping out of all ends with but with Martin Scorsese, so it's obviously it's a trip. But I would say it's my favorite thing I've ever done. Short Form.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:52
Vomiting and diarrhea.

Ted Griffin 1:19:54
Yeah, that too because that was reducing. So I knew that it is available on The Internet, if you Google, go to YouTube. Good reserve a, it should pop up, keep reserve Scorsese. It really works better if you know the works of Alfred Hitchcock but and I'm in it with him for a little bit. And it's sort of like the if I just if I can if I gave her go to heaven and St. Peter says, I got 10 minutes. What do you got kid, I will play this form. And it's also the one thing I would say I've written where it's sort of like, across the board, everything was a little better than I imagined, which is, as opposed to everything else was like, wow, that worked out great. I wanted something different from that, blah, blah. This was just sort of like so. So it's sort of this, this great experience, and also kicks off a beautiful relationship in which weirdly, like, because I can kind of hang with them and talk movies, I get pulled back into things. He's done two projects with friendly Boyd's documentary called public speaking, which was HBO in 2010. And then Netflix series called partenza city, which was a couple years ago. And if you watch those, it's sort of he's interviewing friendly bullets. And there's a guy sitting next to him that you occasionally it's sort of here that's me. And what unlike I've supplied my voice or delay in some other Doc's and weird stuff, and then Wolf of Wall Street, about a week before production, Terry Weiner, who written the script, like it had to get back to Boardwalk. And so but there were like things they, they, they just had this massive production was so many days, and they just needed somebody around to make sure like, they could make their days. And so I was again, this is not, I'm talking about something out of school because I was not a writer on it. I was a co producer. But part of that was saying, we can combine these two scenes or do this they're at just to keep the machine learning. Unreal. So and because I was there for all of that they threw me in as Kyle Chandler's FBI partner, where you never hear me speak. But I stand around a lot on a boat with him, Leo. And then in another scene, where Leo's selling stocks to some poor sap on the phone. I'm the poor sap on the phone. Who is pretending to pluck up the ass. You may remember that. Leo's thinking about me while he's talking that guy up the ass. So

Alex Ferrari 1:22:57
So So you weren't you're on? You're on set most of the time on that on that project?

Ted Griffin 1:23:01
Pretty much. Yeah, for the first definitely. For that first half. I was there. And then a hurricane was the sandy like, Yeah, shut everything down for a week. I went back to LA and then was sort of like coming back.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:16
In and out. Yeah, that Yeah. So so on that show. I mean, what was because you were on that show? What was the craziest day that you witnessed that you were like, how the hell is Marty gonna get out of this? Is there a day like that, that you're like, This is insane.

Ted Griffin 1:23:31
I mean, there's some. And it was actually a lot of answers that there are days that I just didn't want to be there. Like, the origin on the plane is just sort of like it's a lot of extras. We're about to get naked. And it's just, it's awkward. It's awkward. It's awkward. It's not like there's there's still a craft service table. Like it's not fun. Like it's just filming. Filming an orgy is not true. But I can imagine having read Barry Sonnenfeld 's book that you can end up with a face full of feces.

Alex Ferrari 1:24:07
What am I, by the way, one of my favorite conversations I've ever had on the show with Barry. That was that was the first five minutes by the way. He told that story. Yeah.

Ted Griffin 1:24:16
So but there are a couple of moments. I mean, I was very impressed. And this by the way, I'm one of my favorite stories about Mari is on key reserver because it was a two day shoot. And at the by the end of two days like we were we needed, like a lot more and so we were able to get a third day paid for. And Marty put in a 23 hour day. Now this is a guy who's won every possible award who's at that time. 65 years old, has nothing to prove to anybody. This is a commercial that won't be seen in the States. But he works his ass off for 23 hours. They didn't make it right. Like to make it the best possible thing it is. and not and not in a profligate way. But but because we had gotten out 50% over schedule that in a third day to a two day shoot. And there was something so inspiring about a guy who's just can't allow himself to do anything. Any less any less than his best. And, and there, you know, without going naming names. There's some bad mentors. In my career, people, I thought, oh, yeah, I don't want to be that person or that filmmaker. And Marty is like the Pope. He's both the guy who says, Who is what he says, who isn't? Cardinal McCarrick, who's the priest who raised a bunch? I gotta be terrible if there's libel issues here. So but on on so on, Wolf of Wall Street. That scene on the boat with Kyle Chandler talking to Leo and Maeve standing looming around in the background, that's a six page scene to lots of that's a lot of stuff. He did that on one day. Daylight dependent and something even a three persons, you know, two and a half person seeing like that, to get that much done is very impressive. I was also there's a lot of one of the very complex Steadicam shots when they the FBI raids, the Stratton Oakmont and I'm part of bizbash with the most fun I had, because I got to run and yell at people as an FBI agent. But it was fun watching them put that together, because it's one of those things where the first take was so terrible. And, um, um, I do it. And then I go back to the monitor sitting with them. And I go, Oh, I know this, because if I'm here in the director's chair, I feel all the pressure on me right now, because that's terrible. And I've got to fix it. And I sort of learned I watched him was like, Alright, let's do it again, and make this one change. And then we did it again and get a little better. And then maybe five or six more takes, and then it was and it was done. But it there's a lesson of, especially in directing of your, at some point, things are going to be unsolvable and terrible, and you won't know what to do. But you will have to one, not freak out to make some suggestion to like, try it again. And then because you're surrounded by professionals, it'll actually suddenly kind of click and Oh, you'll be fine. But it's just sort of like you have to, like breathe through that. That's, and again, it's one of those things that you would think you would be somebody would stop and tell you before directing your first movie, or going into the industry. Or when you get signed by an agent, I always thought that there would be some day where somebody would say, sit down, say, Okay, you're about to go into a meeting with this producer. Keep this in mind. Think about this, blah, blah, blah. You just get thrown into the deep end of the pool. Yes. In Hollywood, like it's purely learning by experience, you can. You can talk to a lot of people, but nobody's going to ever sit you down and say, or at least nobody ever sat me down. And I don't think anybody else. Nobody's ever volunteered the great life lesson speech they got from somebody else. So

Alex Ferrari 1:28:39
Well, so. So I mean, it's fascinating that after this, this whole, this whole gambit of stories you've told us and your adventures in, in the in the screen in the script, screen game as a script game, as you say. You even when you went to the lowest point, you still kind of come up from the ashes in many ways and get to work with your hero, one of your heroes, Marty, and not only once, multiple times on different things. And it's just I feel like that was the universe just going you know, he's been through some stuff. Let them let's let's give him an Attaboy.

Ted Griffin 1:29:22
I don't know, man. Pretty good. Boy.

Alex Ferrari 1:29:25
I mean, because at the end of the day, this isn't magical. It's I mean, yes, the throwing up in the diarrhea. That's one thing which was magical in its own right. But that you're able to work with, you know, it'd be the equivalent of you know, somebody working with Steven Spielberg. Or or Cameron or school brick or Hitchcock. I mean, you're hanging out on the set watching the master work, people someone who you idolized growing up, and and I've heard from people who've worked with Marty he's absolutely a genius. There's just his mind works at a completely different I'm like you I'm Martin Scorsese of my group of friends, we'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. And so you either meet Quentin, or you meet Marty. And when those two get together, that's fascinating to watch there, because they just have such an encyclopedic knowledge of film. Like, I'm like, Oh, I'm pretty good. Like, you're like, Yeah, I've seen a lot of movies, but you'd like No, that's

Ted Griffin 1:30:32
Right. And there's also something about either making Marty laugh, or a good idea that impresses him. And you kind of feel like, you're just on top of the world, for the rest of the day is sort of like I like it's like I Please dad, and because he's getting older in this business, there are fewer and fewer dads, and not about a it's not even about age, this is more about like, oh, that person didn't turn out to be what I hoped or you realize, you walk into some rooms, and they're, the people aren't as smart as you'd hoped they'd be or aren't as passionate about movies, they're there for the wrong reasons. And they're in Hollywood attracts people for a lot of the wrong reasons. So when you find like that person who can be who really impresses you, it's sort of like, there. It feels great to sort of impress them.

Alex Ferrari 1:31:31
What if you had a chance to go back to your, to your, to yourself, when you were just about to come into this business? What would be the one thing you wish you would tell yourself? Like, watch out for this? Besides, rumor has it

Ted Griffin 1:31:44
Again, it's sort of like, every step of the way. I made a, I think a really smart choice. I went with a company that would was announcing that they would give me Final Cut. I'm not absolutely the actress who I thought it was gonna give me the the student that was going to please the studio. And, and so and they're like, yes, there's some rotten luck. And there's kind of some things I didn't see about people soon enough, which is tough to see meaning it's out there. I've been fooled since it's not like and I know other people who've not seen it common. Despite a lot of experience. My regret, I think is going to college or going to college for four years. Like there's something about I can't remember what Orson Welles his education was, but it was I'm not sure if he graduated high school, Spielberg dropped out of his freshman year. I'm here I'm hearing to an actress, which is probably a mistake, but it was in the Broadway theater. And and she dropped out of Carnegie Mellon after a year and it's sort of like, you know what, nobody in this town checks your diploma. And it's not necessarily that I should have gone to film school but it's sort of like the ages from 19 to 22. We're sure by I didn't need to be on a bucolic college campus I could have taken that that tuition and done something else with it. But I guess the you know, the lessons the besides the don't take a job for any reason. Other than you see a movie there that you would want to see. I would up and add to that, like, don't write a movie for you, which you're not the audience for I produced a movie called for Disney because I had an idea that I thought would be that they would probably love but I would never go see and I then so I should never have been the producer on it or what other and it's weird. Yeah, there's no, no, there's no Hollywood judge. There's no court system or laws. Like there's no one to appeal to. It's it's

Alex Ferrari 1:34:22
It's brutal, man. There's no referee man. There's no referee. There's no referee in Hollywood. There's no referee. There's no one like, you know what? You did this guy wrong. This is not right. We're gonna we're gonna rule on this. It's not the way the game is played. And you know what, that's a surprise for a lot of people as it was to you and you and arguably you'd have been in the business for a few minutes. When when those things are starting to happen to you.

Ted Griffin 1:34:44
Yeah. So, one day I'll publish the book about all this but I need to either be bulletproof or dead. I do feel like everybody should You'd write them their Hollywood memoirs not to publish necessarily, but to go into the academy when they're gone. So that if you want to know, okay, let's find out what really happened on this movie, then you can you can start reading these people's memoirs and go, Oh, my God, these people were screwing, and that guy was talking the whole time. I have no idea.

Alex Ferrari 1:35:25
What you need to do is this, you write it. And then you, you, you were on your debt, the day of your death, it gets released and published.

Ted Griffin 1:35:33
Yeah, it's like the way that Jerry Lewis put in his will that the day the Clown Cried, can't be seen until 10 years after he's dead. Like it is just sort of like, it's there. It's it's an evolved and it will come. I can't remember how many more years, we have to wait for that one. It's been a few.

Alex Ferrari 1:35:55
Alright, so let's I'm going to ask you, I mean, we keep talking for another two, three hours easily. But I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Ted Griffin 1:36:08
Well, today is cookie, because not only movies are at a low tide. And I think that could come back. It's a form and it's and I think watching a movie in a theater is different than streaming it and I it worries me a little bit that there is a there's a generation of the of an audience that is going to be watching movies like TV, and that movies will become more like TV. And it's in their pacing in their spare they have they have already. Yeah, but like die hard. It takes 20 minutes for anything bad to happen. Like that's a that's a tough movie to make for streaming or for TV, because it's sort of like, we got to get to it, we got to get to it. And that's a, you know, I'm representing a very commercial piece of wonderful filmmaking. So So anyway, so it's such a confusing time. And it's hard to say definitely what's, you know, where the industry is going? And so what I would normally say is, what I would have said, is read a lot of scripts. I think it's really good to see a lot of movies, but I think if you want to be a screenwriter read a lot. Anyway, I think the reason why I suggest sometimes reading scripts, instead of just watching the movies, is because the act of reading, lets you stop and examine and realize how something is being done. Whereas movies being a temporal experience, it flows right by and you're not. It's harder, just studying away. I mean, you can press pause and say, Oh, we're 20 minutes in to Die Hard and the first got it. The first gunshot is shot. But I would say reading scripts is a better way of studying them. And also just figuring out what's working in scripts was not working. And wonder being one is the writer being too verbose or the characters and and because they are so accessible now. Online especially. It's there's no excuse for not reading all of William Goldman all of Walter Hill, the Coen Brothers, Kazdin. I'm trying to people who were there. I remember their individual scripts that were big and black,

Alex Ferrari 1:36:09
Shane black, Shane black.

Ted Griffin 1:36:47
Yeah, and just as far as finding your voice, like Shane Black has such a distinctive voice, Walter Hill is such a, like, who writes the haikus play for him? And so So ultimately, you know, your, as a spinner, your strength your superpower is being very good at what you do. And probably being the smartest person in the room and hopefully not letting them think you know that.

Alex Ferrari 1:40:48
Alright, fair enough. Fair enough.

Ted Griffin 1:40:50
What are the I would also like, I think the UCB is gone the Upright Citizens Brigade. But there was, I was trying to just send as many writers as I could to that to their improv classes, because it does teach you better than anything, I've experienced the craft of collaboration, of listening to somebody, and having to agree with them and building on that, which is extraordinarily good for television, writing, or writing in any group, which is becoming more and more of a thing. And it also, I think there's it, there's things that would advise us like, Okay, here's how to develop your craft and your ability to do it. And then there are things I would advise with like, Okay, now, if you're doing it with other people, things I advise, which is, take a moment if you hear a bad idea, to think about where it's coming from, because it's not just a political advice of shining somebody on but usually, there are a lot of people who have good instincts who cannot articulate them. And it's your job, especially. Just sort of hear that instinct, and see if there's anything there. And I don't think I can publicly give a an example.

Alex Ferrari 1:42:22
Fair enough. No worries. No worries, I won't. I won't make you liable, sir. What is the lesson? What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Ted Griffin 1:42:31
I'm still learning God, I'm still beating the shit out of me. I'm gonna give his answer I don't think it's necessarily the right one. But it just came to mind. So there's the Goldman has the line about nobody knows anything. And you can, depending on how you deliver that line, they have different groups. Nobody knows anything, means we're all a packet of idiots. And I don't think that's true. He knew a lot. Or nobody knows anything. It also supplies like it's a complete crapshoot. Nobody knows anything, is what I finally realized is, I think what he's saying, which is there really isn't 100% certitude that anything will actually work or is, you know, completely right in the sense of and the more you do it, the more you kind of go into that gray zone of uncertainty when I think when you're younger, you go like Oh, yeah, this is like, and you can really stick to your guns in a great and a terrible way at the same time. And so somebody else gave me a piece of advice, which is I think along the lines of if you want to persuade somebody of your opinion, keep tenant 10% of your mind open to the possibility that you're wrong

It and you have to do it authentically. But but if you if you come in with a this is absolutely absolutely it. You're setting yourself up for getting your head handed to you which I by the way don't really think I was that guilty of but when I got my head handed to me, but it is certainly something I've had to be better at. And And what's my ultimate wrap up this? Because there you're gonna run into a lot of people who you realize don't know much, but um, You're gonna have to, you're gonna have to appease them somehow. So what in Hollywood stop, we'll get into the practice of taking somebody's bad idea and turning it into a good one. As opposed to simply opposing that logic or argument will win the day because it won't.

Alex Ferrari 1:45:21
It will not it will not. And final question and arguably the toughest question, I've asked you this entire time, three of your favorite films of all time?

Ted Griffin 1:45:33
My I'll give you a fast answer, because I have one with the caveat that you asked me again next year, but I my my quick answer is always rear window jaws and singing in the rain thru window I find to be the perfect Hollywood entertainment because it actually does everything movies are supposed to. There, it's it's sexy, it's funny, it's scary. It's emotional. It actually has scope because that's such a great set is also looking through that window is the same as looking at a screen. I think it's extremely extraordinarily well written and plotted. There's it's a perfect movie except for one terrible shot 10 minutes in of a helicopter over some bathing beauties, which is like a dirty old man joke that just sort of there there's a difference between great movies and perfect movies, ruin no is not a perfect movie. But it's a great movie. It's not a perfect movie because of that one shitty shot. Singing in the Rain, also a great movie because there's nothing more joyful or rewatchable. It's not a perfect movie, because the Broadway Melody dance dream of the last 10 minutes is just sort of like a third act. I don't know what a great act structure that is that then he just pitches a dance sequence in our third act and there's the movie, but and jaws and JAWS is a, I think is a perfect movie. I don't think there's anything I would change about that. And and that's all I gotta say about that.

Alex Ferrari 1:47:12
So that's all I got to say about it. So the one other thing that because you've mentioned it a little bit, and it's something that I think is really important for people to hear. The the landscape has changed so dramatically from for the last five years even. And you said it's the generation coming up behind us. I mean, when these great masters are gone, Spielberg Scorsese, you know, these these these legends, they're the ones holding the torch right now. And yeah, there's, you know, there's the Nolan's and the finishers and other masters out there who are doing good work. But the generation coming up, like you said, diehard won't go today, that hurts arguably one of the greatest action films ever put to Sally Lloyd. And yet this generation coming up, they're much more involved in YouTube and in and out, and I hear myself saying it, and it's the same thing they were saying in the 80s and 90s, with MTV showed up, you know, but I think this is different though. This is really generational. Because they're not even they don't even care about cinema the way you and I do. What do you what's your thoughts on that and for for future generations listening to this like screenwriters? Is it TV? Is it other other forms of storytelling? What do you think?

Ted Griffin 1:48:34
Well, it's been happening for a while, if you look at the generation of directors, let's say of the 70s, that terrific generation, that's Scorsese and Coppola, and Spielberg and two. But they all grew up in movie cultures. They were all born in mostly in the 40s. And the film was the primary medium. And, you know, the I think there's, there's like a next generation of directors who all came up through TV and everything gets a little bit a little softer. Ron Howard, Rob Reiner, Gary Marshall. But what I guess, concerning me is sort of like I guess, and my generation there are some guys who broke young and who are sort of wonder kins PT Anderson and Wes Anderson, notably, some other people who maybe didn't fulfill their early promises much. But, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:49:52
But that's, that's the 90s indie vibe. That was that was the 90s indie names. We'll be right back after word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. You know, the Tarantino knows the Robert Rodriguez

Ted Griffin 1:50:11
Tarantino was sort of like if you think about it, post Tarantino, how many? How much do youth is there been? This sort of shown up and like wow, in the way that Scorsese and Spielberg

Alex Ferrari 1:50:28
But there's more competition though, when such games were coming out there wasn't as much competition meaning that for our eyes, like it was cinema and like three channels of television, and they were the television wasn't that great back then? Give or take. So it's a little harder to make noise nowadays, you know, I don't think there's a possibility for a Spielberg to show up. Now. Even if he did show up, he would be drowned out. Does genius would show up, I think, but it's not as easy to make that Oh, my God, this is undeniable.

Ted Griffin 1:51:00
That coupled with I think the talent, there is something the talents gone somewhere else? Or is or because now because of all the other things, meaning there may be video game designers who are brilliant, who? Yep, 30 years ago would have gone into movies or YouTubers. I haven't seen anybody come in and say and be like, a television wunderkind the way that some of you guys. Like, obviously, there's a lot of excellent television. There's also still a lot of crap. But it's a slowly evolving medium because it's it is ultimately a dumbed down medium, and, and there aren't citizen canes of TV. There are good, but but there's nobody kind of reinvent the wheel the way in a show.

Alex Ferrari 1:51:59
How about Chase? I mean, David Chase, what Sopranos?

Ted Griffin 1:52:02
Julian's a great show, but I wouldn't say

Alex Ferrari 1:52:06
And, or events, or even Vince Gilligan.

Ted Griffin 1:52:09
Again, I think it's a terrific show. But it's it's there's something about the medium that I don't think that he changed the way we watch TV. Okay, is there any in the way that Tarantino really influenced or Spielberg did? And so it's, I'm excited about television, because I think it can continue to get better. It's like, there's so much volume that I think that actually sometimes make us makes it hard. causes so much. Because it's, you have to make something great at 13 hours a year as opposed to two hours. That's just just the dynamic that tends to lower the water level. But I guess my concern is that my concern is the audience. And that is that there won't be an audience for certain storytelling after a while. And then also my sort of generationally. It's like, who can you name under? 40? Who's. And I'm not going to name like some people come to mind. But there's, there's nobody under 40. Right? They're very sorry. They're very few people under 40. That are feel like are doing things the way previous generations have broken younger, if that makes sense. Yeah, absolutely. And I can't tell you exactly why other than either. The with the advent of tech, like, wouldn't be cooler to be. And wouldn't you be richer, doing a startup or a video game?

Alex Ferrari 1:53:55
Being a YouTuber is yes, there's less barrier to entry, you can make start making money, you can start telling your stories. You could it's a whole other thing, like I was talking to this, I was talking to somebody the other day about this. It's like, in the fifth in the 50s and 60s, everybody wanted to be a rock star. Like that was the thing is that the rock star was a thing in the 70s 80s, especially the 90s. With Robert, when quitting showed up. Everybody wanted to be a movie director, because he made it was he was the first rock and roll kind of director. And now it's really everybody wants to the new generation. They want to be content creators. They want to be influencers. They want to be social media, they want to tell stories in those mediums. And I've been watching some of these like big, big YouTubers and big social media, and I'm like, I see what they're doing. And I see how they're doing it. And boy, are they getting rich? Like obscenely rich, it's insane. So it's generationally. I see my kids to growing up like I tried to get them to sit down and watch a movie. Like we were going to we actually my wife and I over Christmas, because diehard is the greatest Christmas movie of all time. sat down, started watching Die Hard and they couldn't they couldn't didn't make it past those first 20 minutes. Were like, Jesus. I don't know. I don't want to. I don't want to end on a depressing note.

Ted Griffin 1:55:09
Yeah. Because it gives me run me of those documentaries about the Golden Age of Hollywood that I grew up watching like in the 70s 80s, where there's like, oh, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is saying the film makers today are just about smut. And there's no romance and it's not like I don't want to turn into like, that guy. That guy though. Oh, you kids get off my lawn. But to some degree, it's it's it's sad because like I different, because I guess I don't I don't watch YouTube influencers. So I don't know, even what the form is, and and if it's two different worlds, and whether I'm just it's impossible for me to appreciate because I'm too old, or because it just sucks. And there's that.

Alex Ferrari 1:56:05
There's, there's that there's, there's both in everything and not that I'm saying I'm gonna even please everyone listening, I'm not comparing you to, you know, YouTubers to Scorsese. That's not a thing. They're two different mediums. But on a financial standpoint, being a YouTuber that has much more financial success, in many ways easier for more people to get into then, being a screenwriter is tougher. But you got to love what you're doing. And I just hope that there's an like you were saying, I hope there's an audience. For the kind of films that we grew up with. I hope some

Ted Griffin 1:56:36
Movies started as one reelers, or as penny art, you know, and yeah, and they were terrible. You know, as for all we can say, like, yes, there was there was a very slow learning curve on how to make movies. And it took a while. And there have been, and maybe YouTube is the beginning of a great great new medium. But it's still in

Alex Ferrari 1:57:04
Yeah, absolutely Ted brother. I listen, man, I appreciate you coming on the show so much, man. I knew this was going to be a hell of a conversation. And you did not disappoint my friend.

Ted Griffin 1:57:13
I appreciate that. Uh, hopefully, I didn't ruin my career by too many names. But I'm just leaving it to your imagination. Trying to if there's any last thing I would. Yeah, what is listening and you want to be a screenwriter, please. Like I'm, we we need you. Like, I want to be as surging possible, like, the culture needs it. And I have an audience, the audience needs it. And I'm, we're all begging for better film and television. And please, we want you to work your ass off to bring great stuff it would it would be terrible. If the medium died.

Alex Ferrari 1:57:59
Yeah, and I don't think I don't think it will. I think we'll have a form of it in one way, shape or form moving forward, but it will be different than what we grew up with. There's no it like it was Douglas Fairbanks. You know, he would have looked at a music video and said, What what's much, you know, but look at look at the amazing crop of filmmakers that came out of the 90s music video. And you know, Ridley forgot to and Tony came out of commercials and music videos. It's insane. But Ted brother, I appreciate you coming on man. And thank you again for all

Ted Griffin 1:58:28
Thank you for having me. It was a joy and a pleasure.



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IFH 658: My Script Can Beat Up Your Screenplay with Jeffrey Alan Schechter

Today on the show we have million-dollar spec screenplay writer, director, showrunner, and author Jeffrey Alan Schechter. Jeff has been beating up stories for over twenty years. He is a WGA, WGC, Emmy, and BAFTA-nominated writer, a Gemini award-winning producer, director, and a million-dollar spec screenplay writer.

Jeff’s first credits were in action films such as BLOODSPORT II, THE TOWER, and STREETKNIGHT. Turning to his love of family films, Jeff sold his spec screenplay LITTLE BIGFOOT to Working Title Films and then did a rewrite on THE AMAZING PANDA ADVENTURE for Warner Brothers which led to him working on DENNIS THE MENACE STRIKES AGAIN.

Jeff followed this with another rewrite, this time for Warner Brothers’ IT TAKES TWO. Following this, Jeff’s spec screenplay STANLEY’S CUP was bought by Walt Disney Pictures in a deal worth over a million dollars.

Jeff next rewrote I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS for the Walt Disney Company and wrote the TV movie BRINK! For the Disney Channel and for which he was nominated for the Writer’s Guild of America Award for Outstanding Television writing. Jeff also wrote THE OTHER ME for the Disney Channel as well as BEETHOVEN’S 3RD for Universal Studios.

In television, Jeff has written and executive story edited dozens of episodes for series such as THE FAMOUS JETT JACKSON, ANIMORPHS, MARTIN MYSTERY, TOTALLY SPIES, TEAM GALAXY, GET ED, FREEFONIX, DI-GATA DEFENDERS, HOT WHEELS BATTLE FORCE 5, and JANE AND THE DRAGON. He’s written both DTV productions for the Care Bears; JOURNEY TO JOKE-A-LOT and THE BIG WISH MOVIE, the latter for which he was nominated for a 2005 Writer’s Guild of Canada Award.

Jeff was an executive story editor and director on the Hit Discovery Kids/NBC series STRANGE DAYS AT BLAKE HOLSEY HIGH (aka BLACK HOLE HIGH) for which his work was nominated for two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Writing as well as a BAFTA Award for Best International Series.  Most recently, Jeff created and was the showrunner of the sci-fi procedural drama Stitchersfor Freeform which ran for three seasons and which took place in the proverbial ten minutes in the future.

In publishing, Jeff is a co-founder of the award-winning ebook publisher PadWorx Digital Media, and his book My Story Can Beat Up Your Story: Ten Ways to Toughen Up Your Screenplay from Opening Hook to Knockout Punch was published by Michael Wiese Books. Jeff is hip-deep in several other screenplays, television series, book projects, and software ventures. In his spare time, he’s married and has 4 kids.

Enjoy my conversation with Jeffrey Alan Schechter.

Alex Ferrari 0:52
I'd like to welcome the show Jeff Schechter, man, how you doing my friend?

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 3:58
I'm great. It's so good to talk to you. Yeah, man.

Alex Ferrari 4:01
It's been we've been playing even Skype tag for quite some time. So I do

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 4:07
well, it's apparently between the two of us. You're the busy one. I'm sitting here like like this for months going. When's Alex gonna call? Yes, I'm

sure that's exactly Schecter.

Alex Ferrari 4:20
Obviously, that's what I picture all my guests do it. No, I'm joking. No, but when, when we when we logged on to Skype, you know, we're like, you know, brothers from another mother because you've got all this amazing geek stuff in the background for people listening. He's got Star Wars statues and Marvel statues everywhere. And it's just, it's, it's nice. It's nice to see, to see that as well. So, before we get into, how did you get into the business, um,

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 4:48
it was kind of one of those things where I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I mean, I made which was really, I mean, you know, I've got four adult kids and they both asked me like, when did I What I wanted to do because, you know, they're on various phases of the summer figured out exactly what they want to do some haven't. And it's like, I don't know, it's I don't remember a time when I didn't want to be a writer and didn't want to write for television. And you know, so it was sort of just like everything I did. Starting even in junior high school. Going into high school, I was writing stuff, I was writing my own plays, I was directing them I was making short movies, you know, with my friends in the in Brooklyn, and and then ultimately came time to go to college. I just knew I was going to go to film school I applied to State University of New York College at purchase. So SUNY Purchase. were, you know, had back then I was late 70s. You know, they're the people who came out of purchase were people like Stanley Tucci and being rains was nice was there for a while, you know, in the acting world. They're acting I think Hal Hartley came out of SUNY Purchase, Charles lane. Parker Posey was there. So you know, there was a sort of an up and coming kind of vibe to the school, and just went through film school there, got out had a great mentor at school who helped get me into into editing. And so I worked in editing for a couple years in New York while still writing screenplays and then just moved to LA I read them. I mean, Goldman's book adventures, a screen trade, great book, right? It's a great book. It's any anyway, he had a chapter. He, you know, the, the early parts of the book, before we started talking about his specific movies, the early parts of the book, how chapters are broken up, like, you know, producers, directors, actors, right, you know, and then as the chapter is called, you know, LA, and the chapter begins, and I'm paraphrasing in perfectly, but something like, I find Los Angeles to be a dangerous and potentially very harmful place in which to live. And I suggest that anyone seriously considering a career as a screenwriter move there as soon as possible.

Alex Ferrari 7:06
2023 or

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 7:08
24 year old me reads that and like, okay,

Alex Ferrari 7:11
where's my ticket? Where's my ticket? Yeah.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 7:14
Then everything add into a Buick lesabre and drove cross country.

Alex Ferrari 7:18
Before I got before I got here. I've been here about 12 years and and I lived on the East Coast as well. And friends here, we're like, the only thing you'll ever regret about moving to LA is you didn't do it sooner. And it's it's it's true. Once I got here, I completely understood what they were saying.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 7:33
It's industry town. You know, it's like the whole town

Alex Ferrari 7:35
was built. Like I always say, you could take the film industry out of New York and New York, still New York, you take the film industry out of LA. I just not the whole infrastructure is built around the industry. Right?

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 7:47
Yeah, for sure. For sure. That's how you want to go if you want to go into auto manufacturing probably still have to go to Detroit. You know, right. If you're

Alex Ferrari 7:55
if you're if you're me, imagine a Silicon Valley left San Fran. The whole the whole, the whole town would just collapse on itself.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 8:03
Yeah. Yeah. You know, that would be the time keep keep your eye on that. Because that's the time to buy in Palo Alto.

Alex Ferrari 8:09
Yes, exactly. Buy as much as much real estate as you possibly can

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 8:12
as market my friend.

Alex Ferrari 8:15
At that point of the game. All right. So So before we get into your your awesome book, I need to ask you a very serious question. Bloodsport to

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 8:24
Bloodsport to the Citizen Kane, Bloodsport franchise.

Alex Ferrari 8:27
I mean, obviously, I actually am not only a huge fan of Bloodsport one because I'm from the 80s though I'm sure if I watched it again right now. I would not think it was the best movie ever made at the time. So it lives in my mind as what it was when I saw it. And when I saw that you wrote the sequel to that because Bloodsport one was a fairly big hit. At the time.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 8:55
It was it was a big hit. And then you and then they call you up and go. And they call it an ATM. I mean, it was Yeah, it's it's it's one of those cult classics. I mean, I haven't watched it in I don't know 20 years or something like that. But it's it's definitely one of the I mean, I still talk to the you know, the the producer mark this out. You know who you know who produced the movie. I don't think he's directed at either I think kickboxer but I know somebody else directed, Bloodsport one. Anyway, and you know, he's still like, a blood sport. Yeah, blood sports, still paying the bills.

Alex Ferrari 9:32
It's amazing. It's amazing. It's one of those things. And so then how did you get the call because that and then that's it. That's a pretty big first because I saw it was like one of your first writing credits, right?

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 9:43
That was the first thing that was the first like, that'd be ga guy. How'd you get that? How'd you get that is a crazy story. I had an agent at that time. Who? Well, I was studying karate. I was a black belt in Taekwondo. back then. And I guess, technically, I'm still a black belt though I can I could demonstrate one kick for you. But then you have to call 911. right afterwards.

Alex Ferrari 10:09
In your mind, in your mind, you're a black belt.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 10:12
Oh, wait, let me do it again. Yeah, that was a good one. Okay. So I was a black belt, and I, I was just quit my, my regular job, I had a, this was going 89, I want to say. So maybe just going into 90, and I've gotten out to LA and 84. So I have here six years and writing a bunch of scripts. And we've got, you know, finally got a good agent, and some good specs, features. And then I was working, I was working like full time at something. I was managing the karate studio for a while. And then I was doing industrial videos. And, you know, when I was working for a sales company, I was doing these industrial videos and sales training. And, and the guy that I worked for, had this, he had all these interesting business theories that were actually Yeah, don't get no hate mail, please. But there's actually stuff that was distilled down from L. Ron Hubbard, who had a lot of business theories besides his Scientology stuff, right? He was used to business organization.

Alex Ferrari 11:24
I mean, as you can tell, obviously, because Scientology is a very powerful organization. financially.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 11:29
Yeah. The run organization, right. So nice. But so so one of his principles that he had was that if you do something part time, you get part time results. If you want full time results, you should do it full time. So I've been, I felt that I had achieved much like as, as a successful part time writer as I could possibly be, I had an agent, I was kind of optioning scripts for $1 or $10. I was able to go on meetings every once in a while, right? So I felt like doing it part time, I'm getting my part time results. So So I quit the job doing these industrial videos, and decided to dedicate six months to nothing but writing. Um, so the guy gave, I gave them two weeks notice the guy says, hey, look, you know, we need some more time for releasing, you can give me a month, send me a short, right. So that was like around Thanksgiving. So I gave him the month and in that first month, I write a script, I'm going this is amazing. I can I can I knew I could support myself for six months, you know, without having to find another full time job. When you go Yeah, I'm going to support myself for for six months. And and you know, this way I can write a script a month and it's going to be I'm gonna be

Alex Ferrari 12:43
a big festival. It works. Absolutely,

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 12:44
yes. Right. So, so wrote that first script in that first month, you know, had my last day at work. And then right around that same time, I started getting involved in Orthodox Judaism, because I was I was conservative, Jewish, Jewish, but getting involved adopt Judaism. I spent the next six months just learning about you.

Alex Ferrari 13:04
So you were procrastinating as a writer, what a shocking, shocking

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 13:08
religious procrastination mode.

Alex Ferrari 13:12
Instead of Netflix, you went down the Orthodox Jewish route. Okay, fine.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 13:16
I was able to say yes, I'm procrastinating, but it's because God wants me to. Exactly. So. So anyway, so the six months so five months goes by I've now like almost completely depleted my my account. And I'm like, Okay, this, I'm just gonna have to go get another part time job. Right. And which I wasn't worried about a single living on my own. It was in the

Alex Ferrari 13:37
ramen, ramen noodles.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 13:39
freaking out. Anyway, so my grandmother at that time did your story.

Alex Ferrari 13:45
I mean, you can get to Bloodsport whenever you want. I've always been

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 13:51
Okay, I'm gonna get there. But it's just it's you asked. So, I hope you've learned your lesson about asking me any question.

Alex Ferrari 13:59
Yes. Fair enough. Fair enough. I'm seeing the pattern sir.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 14:04
I've lost track of where we were. Okay. Let me start again, grandma. Anyway, so so your grandma so Grandma, grandma had always threatened to take me on a trip she was not well off to travel says okay, here's here's a you know, small bucket of money. Why don't you go on a trip so I said, Okay, I'll take I had friends in England friends in Sweden. Okay, so I'll go to you know England for a week Sweden for a week and then I'll go to Israel for two weeks and then I'll come back find a job and you know, keep pursuing this as a part time thing. I do my one week in England, and I literally am walking through the apartment door of my friends in Sweden when their phone is ringing right now. This is pre cell phone pre now. Right so their phone is ringing and it's like you know, I I apologize in advance to your Swedish viewers. But you know, real quick and talk or whatever the hell they say in Sweden and and stuff like that. Yeah, hold on one second. And they hand me the phone. They go. It's your agent. cracking down on it because I gave her my itinerary. She tracked me down. And she said, she said, there's an open writing assignment for Bloodsport to the producer hadn't read one of my spec screenplays, which was sort of a cop, you know, a cop action kind of screenplay. And any would like to meet you to see if there's a fit for Bloodsport, too. I'm like, I'm just starting the second week of a one month trip, you know, will this job be available? When I get back in three weeks? She said, No. I went, Okay. So I will come back in a couple of days. Alright, so I took literally whatever little money I had on the trip and whatever money I had in the bank and bought the only took ticket I could from Sweden on short notice, which is a one way business class ticket if you want to style. Oh, my God, well, yeah, we're gonna go out go out big. So. So cat got back to LA and met a couple of days later. And she just said, there's no way I'm not going to get this job. There's no way I have to get this job because I spent more than the money I actually even had. So I got to meet the guy. And, you know, my, my Brooklyn accent is behaving itself. Well, at the moment, but, but the guy I met with great guy named Mark de sal. He's from New Jersey. So and he has not gone through the pains that I have to get rid of the accent. So I sit down in the offices, yeah, it's really nice to meet you. I'm going, Hey, it's nice to meet you, too. my accent starts coming out. And we're talking and we joke and we just immediately hit it off. It was just like one of those things. where, you know, we just just really clicked right in the eye, like, you know, to who, you know, two guys from back east? And, yes, backgrounds and stuff. And so all throughout the meeting was going yeah, this is great. I really loved the script. But you know, I gotta, you know, I got to talk to some of the writers. And I'm like, leaning in, I go, No, there are no other writers. Three or four times throughout the meeting. Yeah, no, no, this is fantastic. But you know, I'm still talking other writers. No, there are no other writers. And then, so the meeting finishes, I'm feeling really good about it. But then I raced over to the karate studio that I was, you know, been training at and because I had helped the, the instruct the the master at the studio, right, some karate books. Yeah, which is, I think also helped with the Bloodsport, obviously. And then there was some picture in one of the books of like me doing this, like 12 o'clock sidekick back when I could lift my leg over my head, not by another couple of guys off of me. And I literally wrote in the gap between my bottom leg and my top leg, there are no other riders and ran it back to his office and left it for him with his assistant, that's a man got the job the next day.

Alex Ferrari 18:03
That's awesome. That's an

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 18:05
awesome car. It's a combination of, you know, serendipity. Yeah, yes, Deputy two boys from back east, but but I think the, the little if I could presume to make a learning moment, out of that incredibly long, potentially boring story, it's that I was I was just willing to do whatever it took to do it. I mean, literally, like, Oh, I gotta buy a, you know, $3,000 ticket with money, I don't have to get back to LA, well, this is what I want to do. This is what I got to do. Right? So it plays into this. And that you got to be willing to commit, you got to, you know, a lot of people have, you know, dreams, you know, and you know, a lot of people have goals. And there's a difference between a dream and a goal. Right? So, you know, I had a job, it wasn't my dream to be a writer, I had a goal of being a writer, and this is what you have to do. That's what you have to do, you know, and you have to just suck it up. And, you know, and put in

Alex Ferrari 19:11
extra risk and take the risk and take it because it was a it was a risk, like, you know, in general, it's a massive risk. So you had no guarantee you were gonna do it and you were like, Look, I'm gonna lose the rest of my European vacation. And, and then I'm also gonna have to spend $3,000 I don't have for the bear the risk. Also, it was a different time. There was it was a different time. And you know, I wouldn't do that today.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 19:35
Right. And that's, and I was I was gonna say that it's not like I was there. You know, I was what 2829 you know, you know, single, right, my monthly expenses, were maybe 12 $100 a month. You know, it's like, you know, it wasn't, it wasn't such a thing like now it's like if I was on a European vacation or one of your big European vacation with my with my wife. And that my kids and I get the phone call, you know, it's like, you know, I'm not saying Honey, you know, I'm going to go back to LA you You stay here.

Alex Ferrari 20:09
Yeah. I mean unless obviously unless Kevin fee and then

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 20:13
yeah then it's right that's a much different I did on a we're on a cruise, you know, last summer and and there was a you know a showrunner position it opened up on a on a TV show and I had to talk to the show creator and you know and I said it's a guy I knew I didn't get the job but that's because like I'm in the middle of like, you know the Baltic Sea or wherever the hell we were trying to do a Skype call with like international Sure Sure. Sure. Like he couldn't hear me I couldn't hear him suffice it to say I did gotcha. I did not get I did not jump off the ship, swim to shore and take a plane back.

Alex Ferrari 21:00
So let's get to your book because you know, one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the show was out of the in the screenwriting space of screenwriting books, yours definitely sticks out by its title, my story can beat up your story. And it's a fairly violent title, sir. It's a you're obviously so obviously, all that karate is seeped into your screenwriting, and your Bloodsport

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 21:26
just welling up.

Alex Ferrari 21:27
So why did you write first of all why did you call it that? And secondly, why did you write this? What what caused you to write because there's a lot of screenwriters in Hollywood, there's a lot of people who've worked in television, but there's 1000s of them. But very few actually decided to sit down and write about the craft or tried to pat paid forward in whatever they've learned along their their journey.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 21:45
Right. It's a great question. The the desire to write the book came from now a bit of a gearhead, you know, like, like a bit of a science, you know, not honestly, science background, I think that's, that's giving myself too much credit, but certainly a huge interest as an amateur in science and physics and, and how things work. And, you know, my favorite fondest memories, when I was a kid was getting, you know, some broken piece of electronics and attacking it with, you know, a screwdriver and just dismantling it and trying to understand how it works. So, so I've always was fascinated with how do stories work? Just how do I reverse engineer a story? And I had a friend, guy named Gil Evans, who's also writer, and he and I would have these conversations back and forth. You know, how about this happens? Oh, somebody has this theory. Oh, there's this seven act structure? Oh, it's a sixth structure. Oh, there's 22 steps. So there's that. So we would just go back and forth. And, you know, and try to figure out sort of the structure stories. And I think the biggest aha moment I had was Bloodsport to all roads lead back to Bloodsport obvious that they said okay, well, you know what I want to you know what I'm going to structure Bloodsport to let me let me take two movies, you'll get them from blockbuster, put them in my handy dandy VHS player. And just just do like bullet points, you know, plot points, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So I did 48 hours, and I did lethal weapon. Right? So I write it down. I wish I had those papers. It was kind of fascinating. So I wrote down blah, blah, blah, that plot points, 48 hours. And again, it had 44 plot points. And well, that's interesting, then I did leave the weapon, but below the 44 plot points. So I Whoa, that was interesting. Right, the 44 plot points. And they said, Well, can I set it divide those other? Was there a sort of a commonality on how those were laid out? Right. So I started saying, Oh, well, the first section is kind of this. And the second is the four act structure with the biting point that yes, so things started making themselves known to me, and then I would bounce it off my friend Gil, and he'd be like, Oh, this is really interesting, because I just read this book, called the hero within from Carol Pearson, that talks about the ark types that, that go into storytelling. And then I started examining films with these, from the lens of these art types is like orphan wandering war and martyr. And, and, and it laid out, you know, on those films, and then I started breaking down other movies and you know, 43 plot points 47 I was all in and around 44. So So I think in your case, I'm really onto something here. So, so just from my own writing my own benefit, I just tried to codify it in some way. And better that ultimately led to me. You know, I was kind of dabbling in programming at the time. And by programming I just mean like, database programming. So to access I said, let me see if I can create for myself a little template that I could use for story structure with Microsoft Access, just kind of from my own streamline my own process. So Did it and we had this like in the, for arc types and the 44 plot points, and what's the nature of those first 12 plot points?

And the reversals that happen after the end of Act One, and the central question that comes up, and just everything that that I had learned, and you'll find myself in, in conversation with the, with my friend, Gil, and develop this, this kind of like interactive database that was sort of fill in the blanks and, and you have a well structured story, because because the structure wasn't just working for Lethal Weapon and Bloodsport to and and, you know, and 48 hours, it was working for Star Wars, and it was working for, you know, I was writing, you know, kids movies at the time was working for Dennis the Menace to and you know, the Wizard of Oz, and it just, it seems to just, you know, it started feeling, you know, if I can, you know, in my spirit of self aggrandizement, it started feeling like, like, I might have actually accidentally stumbled onto like the unified field theory of story structure. Okay. And so, so I developed this piece of software for my own use, and then moved to Canada going, you know, towards the end of the 90s. And because the whole immigration thing, I couldn't, I couldn't work for the first nine months for Canadian companies. So I'm saying I'm going, what am I going to do, I had still had some contracts from the States, I was writing a picture for universal. And I was like, Well, what do I do with all my extra time on waiting to qualify for Canadian work permit? I said, Well, you know, I had the software, let me figure out how to distribute it. Right. So you know, so that became like, my side project, I was gonna market this story structure software. But it is any good piece of software, you know, comes with a instruction manual. So I had to now write down the instructions for it, you know, which meant that I had to start explaining the theory behind the instructions. And so suddenly, I had this instruction manual, which is like 50%, of a book on screenwriting. So ultimately, you know, about 10 years later, or so, you know, I was thinking, I should just turn this into a book, because everybody who got the software loved it, and everybody who was just even read the instruction manual, and be like, wow, this is cool, you should make this into a book. So this is kind of it started from my own lazy ass, you know, I don't want too much when it comes time to work. So I went from that to you know, here's a structure I can use for myself into, you know, something I can sell to others versus and then they just, they turned into a book as well.

Alex Ferrari 27:47
So then, so now you have the story structure, you have this, you you've broken the unified theory. Right? You, you've gotten to black matter of story. Essentially, I am I am also an amateur science geek as well, a little bit. So it's, I understand. But so you started I'm sure you've read a handful of screenplays in your day. So you've probably read a bunch what are the most common mistakes you see in screenplays and And specifically, from first time writers but also from even experienced writers, people just writers in general? Because, you know, not everyone hits it out of the park every time.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 28:28
Yeah, for sure. No, no, nobody does the, the I think the biggest mistakes that try to say it in a way that's that's not that's not offensive,

Alex Ferrari 28:42
be offensive, it's okay.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 28:43
The barrier for dialogue, right? Or their ideas, you know, are not commercial or you know, to be harsh, they just suck. Right? That that's not a mistake, that's just taste, is it not, it may not even be taste, it's just, you know, you just you've hit the wall on whatever your natural ability is, you know, I, you know, if somebody if somebody says, you know, what's the biggest mistake you see with amateur amateur mathematicians, you know, and I be like, Well, you know, my inability to do any sort of high level math is not a mistake. It's just, it's a limitation, right? So, so stuff that can't be learned, you know, you'd kind of just stuck with so taking that out, I would say, oh, bad characters or, you know, bad dialogue. I mean, everything could be improved, but, you know, you have to cross that threshold and to something unique and different. But the the kind of the unifying mistake that I see a lot is bad structure. Because part of what my study on the subject has shown me is that we are wired we have a biological imperative. Storytelling, and stories that are told in a way that our brains are physically constructed to understand have a better have a deeper resonance to us than stories that come that try to, you know, like, if our brain has circular story receptors, and something's writing, you know, plot points that are squares, they're not going to get into our story receptors. And yeah, I mean, we've all had that experience, you see a movie or a TV show, you know, something like that, that really didn't sit right where I didn't like that. I'm not even sure I can even negotiate why I didn't like it. I can tell you why it's because because the structure, some of that some aspect of the story was trying to force its way into your brain, and it blew everything up on the way in, you know, and then your brain starts trying to churn and understand what the hell was that all about. And, you know, and and it just leaves you with a very unsatisfying story experience. So the biggest mistake I see is people just don't understand structure well enough and structured doesn't have to mean formula. But I haven't done this exercise yet. I mean, I was crazy about the movie parasite. But I can assure you, that, that if I sat down and ran, ran it through, you know, my understanding of structure and the whole, my story can beat up your story approach to telling, it'll, it'll all film, it'll fall out in, in line. So and nobody can accuse, you know, parasite of being like a formulaic movie in any way. So what structure does is it just, it gives you a, it gives you a wrapper around which you can let your creativity and your innovation and your, your, your personal flair for storytelling shine. But you don't have to reinvent you don't reinvent structure. Every time you sit down to write a screenplay,

Alex Ferrari 32:05
it's, I always use the analogy of, of a house being built, it's the frame. So you, you know houses are going to be houses, you can't build the foundation on top of the roof, it's, that's just not you need that, there is a basis of how you build that house. And it's always going to be the same no matter what you do, there's a foundation, there's walls, there's a door, there's a roof period, what you do inside of that is where the magic happens, that's where the architect comes into play, that's where you could do other things within it. But those basic building blocks cannot be adjusted, because that's just the way the way it is you can try to put the foundation on top of the roof, let me know how that works out. And then you get you know, some some other movies that we will remain nameless, that tried to change the structure. And you're very right, like you watch. You know, you watch a film, like the room. And, and you you watch that, and obviously that that movie is so far beyond any sort of the foundation is on top of the roof on a film like that. And also, the dressings inside are all thrown around and everything. So it's upside down. But he's transcended, he's walked into the multiverse, he is now in another dimension and is now because entertaining on a completely different level for for many people, and that's very rare.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 33:32
Well, it's, it's interesting. I mean, it's the the analogy with the foundation and the roof, and everything is a good, good analogy. Because even like in my book, you know, like going back to those 44 plot points. It's the first well make up act one. And those are the ones that get really specific about the, you know, Hero villain or stakes character, you know, you know, it's a very specific flavor. After you get past those first 12. Like the, you know, the remaining 32 are much more generalized. You know, it's like, you know, you know, seven pairs of Yes, no reversals, and I don't say, you know, this Yes, no reversal, the, the stakes, excuse me, the stakes for the tertiary characters increased by 14%. You know, it's like, I don't I don't drill into it. Because that that's mind numbing. Right. And you're an unhelpful, but the first 12 are super important. That's the foundation of the house, and then you know, and still, we even listen that, you know, it's still gross. And I should just add, you know, that, that the, my approach to storytelling is not like, you know, because it's, I would hear a lot. It's like, Oh, so every, every movie has to every movie, you know, you know, is

Alex Ferrari 34:48
your page on page 16. This happens on page 18. That happens.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 34:52
Yeah, actually, I try not to get that specific, but it gets pretty specific, right? Yeah. So yeah, so no, not there are a ton of really good movies out there that probably have nothing to do with my system at all. So my, my, and this is I know this is yo yo, indie film hustle. Right? So, you know, indie films, you know, can be a little bit more freewheeling, you know, and experimental that what I'm talking about, you know, my goal had been to be a Hollywood hack from day one. So, you know, so what I'm describing is a very specific, here's how commercial movies you know, work. And the, the reality, you know, it's sort of a chicken and egg type of thing, you know, am I saying that, you know, all, you know, all good movies are all well structured movies, follow my system? No, no, probably not. You know, do all movies that follow my system, end up with good structures? 100%. Yeah. And then then it's, you know, now you're stuck with your dialogue and your character,

Alex Ferrari 35:59
theme and plot. And, at

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 36:00
least at least, we took the biggest stumbling block off the table, which is structure.

Alex Ferrari 36:06
You know, the one there was one movie I saw years ago, and I haven't seen it since because it was, so I found it to be just absolutely horrible, which was up but it was a huge monster hit, which was Twilight, the original Twilight film. When it came out, it was such a big hit, I just needed to go see it. And I watched it. And I found it to be horrendous. And I because the the main villain didn't show up until 20 minutes before the movie ended. Like, there was no even conversation about this guy. Until then, it was all about the love, you know, the back and forth pining? And then I understand why it made so much money because the girls that went to go see it, they wanted to do that. And they it fed into that demographic perfectly. But the villain, like the villain, and shelf is like literally 20 minutes to the end, he showed up I'm like, What? Am I the only one who sees this? Like, there was no antagonists for 80% of the movie, so I couldn't relate to it. So that just that we wiring thing that you were saying it was like, short circuiting My mind was that I just kept seeing like, why did everyone like and I'm like, okay, not everyone but you know why it was such a big hit? That's

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 37:13
right. That was that's kind of like a there's a two part thing with that which is that the you know, like when doing my analysis of movies, I never do sequels or movies derived from pre existing material us because you can't learn anything because they have such a built in audience

Alex Ferrari 37:33
and there was a twilight books Yeah,

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 37:34
yeah guy you know, you know if if George Lucas you know, released though, I guess the Star Wars was originally Yeah, is getting a little bit you know, long in the tooth you know, at least you know, as far as critical success but maybe not. But, but but you know, if if another Star Wars movie came out, you know, it's going to make a certain guaranteed amount of money no matter how bad it is. And I mean, you know, it's just it's got a built in audience so I find for educational purposes you can you you want to you know, you can learn a lot more from analyzing Toy Story than you can from analyzing Toy Story for right now. What you get out of it, boy, sorry for man, for all I know, may maybe made more money than it did or so right. So he said, Oh, well, therefore, let me learn from Toy Story for now. It's got a 30 year built in audience right. You know, it's like God,

Alex Ferrari 38:35
is it that launch Jesus? It is as close to five I think, yeah, so like 25 years

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 38:41
Jesus. So it's like, so you can't you can't learn anything from Toy Story. Or it's like

Alex Ferrari 38:47
a while but Wally, but while you can.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 38:53
Yes, exactly. Exactly. Correct. Right. So something like that. Right. While he too. You wouldn't be able to learn as much from I don't think it would I wouldn't say Bali too. But

Alex Ferrari 39:01
I actually I would practice

Unknown Speaker 39:03

Alex Ferrari 39:04
to the Electric Boogaloo.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 39:08
Yes. Okay. So, so a lot of the you know, whenever I know, that was like another real big, real big in it, not innovation. But the aha moment for me was looking at like a I go through Internet Movie Database and look at the top 50 grossing movies of all time. And but parse the list. So I took out sequels, I took out reboots, I took out anything that had any sort of brand awareness, and said, Now you know, these and those, those top 50 of all time might have been distilled from the top like 300 movies of all time based on box office, because I had to get down to the 50 original movies. So liar liars and the you know, the Star Wars is the original

Alex Ferrari 39:55
Star Wars. So let me ask you a question. So I always love asking about this because I avatar. avatar wasn't original concept, original world, no pre existing, fairly risky film to put out and I argue still that there's only probably one man on the planet who would have had that opportunity then I don't think they're given Spielberg 500 million to do the design and even in or Scorsese or any of these guys, so there's very few shortlist. But that movie, obviously was the biggest movie of all time, arguably still is based on inflation and all that kind of good stuff. Well, if you want to go back to Khan with the biggest one, it's Snow White and Snow White. Yeah, and you know, those kind of stilted but arguably speaking, it's one of the biggest cultural hits of all time.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 40:45
Number one for many years for Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 40:46
exactly. What was it about that story, which it did get nominated for Best Screenplay, and Best Picture, but the screenwriting community I remember just destroyed it because it's burned. Golly, it's Dances with Wolves. It's this and that, like he said, they just go back and I'm like, Yeah, it is. ferngully Yeah, it is. Dances with Wolves. I mean, it's, it is Dances with Wolves. But a much cooler version of Dances with Wolves

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 41:14
I've ever seen ever seen the analysis the side by side analysis of Star Wars and Wizard of Oz? No. It's fascinating. Star Wars is Wizard of Oz.

Alex Ferrari 41:23
What's to say? It's a hero's journey is basically it's the hero's journey. My favorite is my favorite. My favorite is one of the biggest franchises in movie history Fast and Furious. What's that? That's just Point Break. It's Point Break. It's the literal story instead of surfers their racecar drivers. Right? I mean, essentially the exact same story. anyone listening please go online and look it up. Point Break is the original Fast and Furious.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 41:55
One of my first agents, you know, quote, infamously said this to me, you know, when I asked his advice about you know, what should I What should I be writing? He goes, I don't care. Just make it derivative and make it quick.

Alex Ferrari 42:09
Wow. Wow. All right. So back to the original question avatar. What was about that film specifically that you feel that story? That that caught on? Or like what's going through your system? What is it?

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 42:22
Yeah, I think it was, first of all, structurally perfect characters journey. Perfect. You know, it hits you know, undeserved misfortune, orphan wanderer, warrior martyr, you know, on a, on a on a huge canvas. It, it was a cultural event, a cultural event, which you can't find it. Yeah, right. You know, look, you know, it's an imperfect analogy, but you know, you can talk about, you know, the abyss of the abyss. Yeah, I like the Abyss a lot, you know, the character stuff. But, you know, same filmmaker, you know, took us to take us to another world we've never seen before. Also fantastical creatures, and then do a fraction of the business of

Alex Ferrari 43:13
different time to different time periods, different time,

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 43:16
but, you know, within 567 years of each other, no, so

Alex Ferrari 43:21
no, it's not. That was in 19. I was in 1990. And the avatar came out in like, 2000. And something This

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 43:27
was 1990. Yeah, cuz

Alex Ferrari 43:29
it was during my time at the video store, so Yes, I remember. There's a, there's a short window of time. 87 to 93 I'm pretty much unstoppable with movie trivia. That's, that's my that's my sweet spot. I can knock it out there

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 43:44
was avatar.

Alex Ferrari 43:46
avatar avatar was if I'm not mistaken, was either it was cuz Titanic was 97 are in 90 See, I was 97 matrix was 99. So avatar was I think 2000. And it was 2007. But 2007 2008 around there are a little less. All right, hold on. While we're while we're speaking, continue speaking and I'll look it up.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 44:16
Anyway. Yeah. So it was just it was it was just a you know, it was such a complete journey into this fantastical world. And, and part of it also was a little bit of a dog and pony show, you know, it's like we've never seen, you know, creatures, you know, in that, like that ever portrayed before. As well as they were

Alex Ferrari 44:39
so that it was 220 and it was 2009. So it's right around there. So it's 2009. So but the thing was with with Avatar, because a lot of people are like, Oh, it's paint by numbers. It's the stories rehashed as Dances with Wolves and all this kind of stuff. But the big thing that made that story go is that keep an eye saw it when I was watching. It was like he hit Every point perfectly Oh, he execute. He basically made the perfect apple pie. Like it like it's a recipe that we all know. But he hit everything perfectly. And then you add on the spectacle and the technology and the event and all that stuff. And then it's an unbeatable combination.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 45:19
Yeah, it doesn't. Things don't have to be, you know, spanking new. Yeah, it's not, you know, any rocket science. You know? No, you know, I mean, it's like, you know, like, you know, yeah, it's always derivative. Nobody's ever, ever claimed that James Cameron was the most brilliant, you know, dialogue writer, you know, in the world. He gets characters really well, he, you know, directs them, you know, effectively, you know, dialogue wise Quentin Tarantino is better than James Cameron. Sure. But Cameron knows how to paint on a very big canvas and and he hits all the beats it's you know, he made it derivative he made a quick you know, it's it's funny. You know, it's interesting seen the movie The Big Short?

Alex Ferrari 46:15
No, of course.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 46:17
This is great. was important, Ramzan remembers, who is the chef? No, was not what was his name? He just died. Very sad.

Alex Ferrari 46:26
I forgot. Yeah, I think I remember I forgot what the for chef is. But yeah, continue.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 46:30
Yeah, but anyway, but he's explaining, you know, tranches of you know, short selling. Right. It says, you know, he goes here to see Oh, here's fish. You know, I bought it, you know, I bought it, you know, for the weekend crowd. But I have some leftover, it didn't sell, so I can't sell it anymore as fresh fish. But I cut it up. And I put it into the stew and now it's a whole brand new thing. Right. So yeah, you know, so derivative storytelling. It's like, yeah, okay, I'm taking I'm taking some old fish, but I'm putting it into a brand new stew, you know, and that's storytelling.

Alex Ferrari 47:03
But that's storytelling from The Epic of Gilgamesh. I mean, it's like,

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 47:08
well, that's a larger segment, you know, there are only 36 dramatic situations. Right? So you go, okay. Yeah, that's, that's fine.

Alex Ferrari 47:16
Yeah, and I think and I think a lot of screenwriters and filmmakers in general, they all get caught up with, like, I need to create the brand new thing, I gotta create the new thing and, and I got to create something that's never been written before. And the thing is that everything has been written in one way, shape, or form, all you could do is put a new twist on it or combine certain elements to make it fresh and new. And you look at even if you look at Pulp Fiction, which is arguably one of the more original films created in the in recent history. If you look at it, and you put it up against the hero's journey, and the points that that lays out, it all it hits, but he just what was brilliant about that is he just changed the the timeline, but the thing still hit, which is the genius behind that film. Like it's like, it's it's

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 48:04
my favorite examples from from Pulp Fiction as far as like, how does it follow the hero's journey is, you know, towards the end of, you know, act two, there's a there's the the death and resurrection. Yeah, moment. That was part of it. But it's Vincent Vega gets machine guns. Right, right, in the bathroom. So right. And then the next scene is alive again, because it's just, just the timeline was, you know, was the the conceit of the movie was playing with the timeline.

Alex Ferrari 48:38
And that was the brilliance. But that's the brilliance of that film.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 48:40
That's the brilliance of right. That's what I'm saying. You know, people feel like, Oh, I can't follow the structure. I'll make it formulaic. Because in your formulaic hack, you don't know how to do it better. You know, I'm, hence hence my story can beat up your story. I'm just a little too antagonistic. I should have been nicer.

Alex Ferrari 49:00
So talk like,

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 49:03
last night, it was a much nicer person. Yes, yes. Yes.

Unknown Speaker 49:05

Alex Ferrari 49:09
Just save the cat. Just save the cat. Don't beat up the story. Just save

Unknown Speaker 49:12
the cat.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 49:17
sweet guy, you know.

Alex Ferrari 49:19
So. So we're talking about structure. But I found that a lot of times you I just saw a movie The other day, that the hero. I couldn't identify with him. There wasn't anything really that really interesting about him. And I'm watching this cop drama. And I'm just going and he's a great actor. And it's a and I love him and the cast is fantastic. And the production values great. 21 bridges, the one with with chat chat, chat chat with Black Panther, and I'm watching it and I'm like it's just so good. And like his character had no real depth, there was no history to it. He was just like this. There was some that the screenwriter tried to do something there with his dad and like he's a cop killer, or he's a killer of cop killers, as a cop and all that, but it wasn't anything good. What advice do you have for making you know, for for constructing a good hero? What are some tips?

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 50:24
Well, it's you gotta you gotta go back to the sources, you got to look at the hero's journey. You know, it's like, you know, there are a couple of, you know, a couple like super handy, kind of like,

Alex Ferrari 50:36
Swiss Army is like, Swiss Army Knife kind of

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 50:38
army knife. It's like, yeah, you know, it's, I always ask these questions when I'm writing or trying to sort of coach people with writing this, you start off simple, you go, what is your hero wrong about, you know, at the start of the movie, that they're going to become right about, you know, at the end, your heroes got to be the best at something. Right? That's why, you know, you read it, you know, it's sadly like, you read a lot of screenplays or stories, you know, written by people and, you know, the Heroes is like schlub, who's the loser. He's the joke at the office, you can't do anything. Right, you got it, I get it. I know why you're trying to tell that story. But, you know, it's, you're short, you're new, you're not getting the audience in, in, you know, into the character. And, you know, you, you know, if the guys, the guys such a loser, you know, he's not good at anything, you know, then you're not interested. You're not interested? Yeah. What do you what do you what do you want to accomplish? Right? So it's like, you know, what we like, so, you know, and then and then you have to put the hero through the paces of the of the journey, you know, you've got a, you got to make it really clear. You know, by the end of Act One, we know, what's your heroes? You know, I think it was Syd field used to refer to it as like, professional, personal and private, right? professional goal, right? What's his personal goal? What's his private goal, right? So we lose our professional goal is, you know, what? Yeah, is no professional goal is he wants to destroy the Death Star. Right? Right. The personal goal is save the princess private goal is he wants to become a Jedi like his father. Right? And, and the way you can get in the way you think about that is when looking at your hero and your main character, you're saying the professional goal is what's the thing that means the most to the most people that your hero was involved in? Right? Then the personal goal, His goal is, what's the thing that means the most to the hero and a couple of his or her closest, you know, associates, right? allies or friends or family? Right? And then the private goal is what's the thing that means the most of the hero? Right? So it's, it's so it's just sort of a holistic way of looking at your hero's whole life. And, like, going back to your very good question about like, what are some of the big mistakes? You see, you say, sometimes, you know, in a poorly told story, the hero only has a professional goal, right? Or you're the hero is not, you're not, you know, gives up on the private goal to cylinder with a private call becomes insignificant. Right? Because that's how, you know, that's the other problem, you know, that I often see a lot in movies is, you know, we've all seen it. You watch a movie God the movies over and they go on a wait a minute, it's still going on? Oh, it's still going on? Right? It's like, yeah, the people don't know when to finish telling the story. Your movie is over when you've taken that, you know, go back to Star Wars, you know, will Luke destroy the Death Star save the princess and become a Jedi like his father? When you are each of those three questions? Oh, that's when your movies over. Right. So it's, you know, and then the whole the whole film is dedicated to answering those questions. Yes or no. You know, you know, it's like, you know, he goes to moss Isley with Obi Wan. So that's Yes, is by going to my cisely he will be you know, he will be helping to destroy the Death Star, he will be helping to save the princess and he is taking a step closer to being a videojet. I like his father. And but they get stopped in stormtroopers. So now it's all a no, then it's Yes. And so that's why, you know, it's like so then you start playing the reversals, but you got to know the question. Well, you got another question that's driving your hero.

Alex Ferrari 54:27
So much did. Did you did you watch office space?

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 54:32
Not much. Did the movie Yeah. Yeah, I saw it a long time ago and then sort of bits and pieces of it more.

Alex Ferrari 54:38
Okay. All right. That was a wonder I was gonna have you kind of break that that carry that mainecare because he was a schlub. But then I was like, as we're talking, I'm thinking, I'm like, what would what is his professional goal? Well, his professional goal want to do this and his personal goal he wanted to get with Jennifer Aniston. And his private goal was to do so he's like, okay, you start thinking about,

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 54:56
right what you know, but some movies You know, some movies just don't work. I mean, you know, like, you know, you can't break it down like the guy took the liberty while we were talking about Jennifer Aniston. Looking at how much the movie gross right so the budget was $10 million in the movie gross $10 million. You know so but

Alex Ferrari 55:16
uh, but uh, but it built into this massive follow afterwards.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 55:21
True, but that's not the movie that that's the movie that might judge could make. Yeah, of course, he was coming off of you know, Beavis and Butthead. Right. Yeah, that's not the movie that you necessarily could make.

Alex Ferrari 55:31
I mean, there was also a different time.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 55:33
Also a different time. You can't say it's a different time, every time we talk about a movie that wasn't last week,

Alex Ferrari 55:37
because it's a different time, like our entire industry is so ridiculously different now.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 55:44
And it really goes a different because it's a different,

Alex Ferrari 55:46
it's a different, obviously, different times.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 55:49
But there there there are, we would be remiss if, if I didn't, if I didn't bring up this point, which is that we're really talking about two different types of screenplays here is the screenplay that gets bought. And then the screenplay that gets made. So you know, anybody who is an aspiring writer has to focus on the screenplay that gets bought. Right? Which is very different from the one that gets made. So the corollary to that is, is the screenplay that doesn't get bought, but helps to launch your writing career. Right? So if we, if you really want to get reductive about it, you know, most people, you know, like, you know, you've written the screenplay, What's your goal? Sell your screenplay, or have a writing career? Right, probably having a writing career. Yeah. And selling the screenplay would be part of that. But it's not the exclusive part of it. Right? So. So there's all sorts of radical ideas, I'm gonna go into them in the book a bit, and the whole, you know, the, the smart writers business guide, where it's like, if you Ideally, you want to write a movie that that can get bought. Right, so you got a, you know, you got parts in there that, you know, it's like, there's a, there's a, somebody can read it and feel all there's a star that's, it's perfect for Brad Pitt. Right? Or, you know, like, you can you can see it, you can throw it in the description. Hey, think Brad Pitt, you know, but there's the, from Thelma and Louise days, or, you know, what, however, you want to specifically say, you know who this person is, but then the the other side of it is, you know, is, you might also want to write something so outrageous, and so on. producible I know, it's a weird thing to hear me, you just described himself as a Hollywood hack, you know, say that you're trying to break in, write something wildly, and producible. But make it super memorable. I mean, I remember sitting with a producer. And, and we were talking about this, because I think the meeting was over, I said, Hey, you know, I've just written the book, I'm interested in your thoughts on some of these things. And, you know, and he said, Yeah, you know, we write something and producible it goes, somebody gave me a script once about a dog who wanted to commit suicide. But his owners didn't understand that this dog was depressed and wanted to kill himself. So every time the dog tried to do something, like it was laying out, you're like, grabbing the toaster, and trying to jump into the bathtub with it. The owners would be like, Oh, boy, are you hungry? Let me get you some food. Yeah, like, they. It's brilliant. It's brilliant. I promise you if we have a conversation, 20 years from now, and I hope you do as I'm enjoying speaking 20 years from now and say, hey, what was that? Um, producible movie I talked about wanting to make that movie. But you don't you you but it's, you know, I never knew the name of the writer, I'm sure the producer wherever he is. Mo can still tell you the name of the writer, you know, or at least remembers the screenplay. So it makes you memorable. It helps launch a career. I'd love to find that. Oh, that was oh my god, I would so watch that movie.

Alex Ferrari 59:07
Can you imagine if it was? Imagine if it was a Pixar Animation? Ah.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 59:16
Yeah, so so there is a certain aspect of the business about new rights, something

Alex Ferrari 59:21
that's really so it's really yeah, it's really a great it's a really great idea. And I've read I've actually read scripts from screenwriters, who then got deals because of it was basically a writing sample. I read I read a script about it was a mash up between Alice in Wonderland and Sherlock Holmes. And it was just mash up and I read the script. I'm like, this is completely unpredictable, but it's very memorable. Really good writing tight. An agent of mine gave it to me one day to read I was like, Oh, this is great. I can't wait. No one's gonna make this. And it was right before Sherlock Holmes got released, and a TV show and all that stuff. So it was still a little early, but it's a little out there for the mainstream. But it's a great but it's a great. It's a. It's a great, it's a great, memorable piece. Now you do talk about one thing in your book that I wanted to bring up before we before we go is what is the unity of opposites?

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 1:00:13
the unity of opposites. I love the unity of opposites. It's my favorite thing in the whole world. Yes, it's this idea that it's and I didn't even invent it. I wish I did. But it's this principle that that characters are connected at some thematic level. And, and they they represent opposite sides of a moral or thematic argument. So yeah, so it ties very cleanly into theme. I will go back to Star Wars, I guess. It's like imagine like a, you know, a wheel, right? And you put Luke as the hero in the center of the wheel. Right? The villain is actually not Darth Vader in that piece. It's really, you know, Peter Cushing's character, you know, Vader works for him. So he's, he's the big bad guy. Right? So, you know, and then you you create these characters that go around Luke. Right? So Luke in the villain, so the hero in the villain are connected on this thematic line. In first Star Wars. The theme is what's more powerful faith or science, faith or technology? Right? Because that's this whole thing shut off the targeting computer, Luke, ready doesn't distract. Right? So that's the theme, right? What's more powerful faith or technology? Right? Then you have the unity of opposites. So you have to do so you have your six characters circling Luke, right? You have at the top, you have Obi Wan and Darth Vader. Right? they're connected? Because they're both old jet eyes. Yeah, they've trained together, they understand the power of the force, right? But they're opposites. Right? Once the darker ones the light. So you know, and if you ask them, what's more powerful faith or technology, if you asked, If you asked Obi Wan, what's more powerful, he'd say fair, vs. Darth, he'll say, well, fates really important, but technology is what's keeping me alive. And you know, the Death Stars is big ball of technology, not big ball of faith. And that's where he's currently working. Right? You know, so it's like, so he's representing technology. So So Lucas? Oh, cheese, I wonder what's more powerful faith or technology? He taught me Oh, he understands from Darth and he understands from Obi Wan. There are two perspectives, right? And on the other, then, you know, on this side of Luke, you have Princess Leia, and you have Han Solo. So these are young, you know, self actualized people, right? So if you ask Leah, what's more powerful faith or technology? She'd go with faith, right? Trust, you know, help us Obi Wan, you're our only hope. Right? She has faith that you know that people will do the right thing. You ask consolo, what's more powerful faith or technology? He's going to say technology, you know, hokey religions are no match for a blaster kid. Right? technology. Then at the bottom, you've got the last two of your heroes main characters, and that's c threepio and artoo D to write. Both of them are, you know, are big chunks of technology. Right? But you ask, see, threepio what's more important, you know, what's more powerful faith or technology? He'll tell you technology, right? He has no faith, right? versus our two D two, which you know, is going on missions. And you know, he's got to help the princess you know, he's, you know, he's the best friend character. Right. So, so the unity of opposites. So these, you have two robots, you know, are connected the, the unity, but they're opposites. You have the two self actualized young people, you know, older than Luke, but younger than Obi Wan and Darth, you know, opposites. But you know, there's a unity to them. And then you have Obi Wan and Darth opposites. But there's a unity to them. And it's all about the theme. So the thing that the thing I love going back again, to the question of you know, one of the mistakes I see I say, you know, in screenplays, the themes are muddy. You know, you don't know what's what's your story really about? What's the argument? You know that? What's the thematic argument that the villain is making? What's the magic question the hero was asking? What's the thematic synthesis? What does the hero learn about the theme by the end? Right? So So unity of opposites is a cool way of, of identifying your characters, but also tying it to the theme would you know which which becomes super important?

Alex Ferrari 1:04:46
Now I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 1:04:54
Don't write a screenplay. Okay. Okay. Yeah, TV. TV, write a an original pilot, don't write a spec episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Don't write a spec episode of 911. Right? Because you're never gonna, you're never going to match what? You know. 911, you know, has, you know, can afford the best writers, you know, in the business, and they all sit around together and they bounce ideas off each other and they distill out an idea. So you versus the entire writing of Yeah, the room at 911 you're never going to write a script even close, right? And if you do, they're never going to buy it. And and if they don't, if they really impressed me, maybe you get a job, they average and I'm going to get a job elsewhere because it's 911. So if you don't get your 911 job, you got nothing, right? You write an original pilot one hour drama, right? You write a an original pilot it, they have nothing to compare it to. So already, you know, it's not like well, it's not as good as our 911 script is not as good as our original pilot. But still it's an original pilot and it's really good. People will pay attention to it. You might accidentally sell the damn thing right because if it's any good and it's a solid writing sample, right you know so it's and there's so much you know, so many more opportunities in television and it keeps growing I mean number of original movies that get made I mean here so go to Internet Movie Database right now go to the homepage. Let's see films in development Thor it's a NO SEQUEL Jurassic World three sequel Fast and Furious 10 Raina in the last dragon I know what that is. Oh, DreamWorks must be based on material animations. Animation, Bad Boys for sequel? You know, pre production Doctor Strange. Guardians of the Galaxy last tool is an original Shang Chi legend is something Mission Impossible seven. You know, it's like, you know, in production minions, Suicide Squad, Batman matrix for avatar.

Unknown Speaker 1:07:03
They're all

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 1:07:05
Yeah, right. You know, this is all material you can never get your hands on, you can't get access to but you come up with an original thing. All of my point was via movies or going for the big 10 polls and just the budgets have gotten so big. The TV you can come up with something kind of new and interesting and different, you know, get in

Alex Ferrari 1:07:23
and get in have an I have a fighting chance, I have a fighting chance.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 1:07:26
And you can actually in TV writing you actually have a trajectory, you know, I can get in I will start you know, my my, my personal assistant on my last TV show stitchers guy named Matt Kane. You know, he worked for a season as my personal Savior for two seasons as my personal assistant, you know, produced production producers assistant, second season I said, Hey, you know, you're really good writer. Let's let's work on it. Why don't you write a script with me? You know, so I got him script writing. On the second season. He worked with me. He just texted me last night that he's officially in development with Netflix on an original pilot that he wrote, right? That's a trajectory. Right? You haven't TV? It's a trajectory film. It's It's It's a never ending series of winning the lottery.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:17
Right? That's a really great way of putting

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 1:08:19
up TV is such a better business. And to be candid, I think the best writing is on television. It's not in films anymore. Right? Yeah, you know, it's it's the people who knows these things have said that if you didn't like whatever that Metacritic kind of algorithm that you have to look at to say oh, here's a good TV show by by all objective standards, this is considered a quality television show that there are so many of those shows that have crossed that threshold into being a quality show that there are there are no longer is the first time in history. There's there are no there aren't enough hours if you did nothing including sleeping and pooping and you did nothing but watch quality television shows that a objectively considered quality you could watch them more and more coming out every week.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:15
Oh no, it's it's awesome. That's

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 1:09:17
my best writing is television. So you want to break into the business. Don't write screenplays. Write a one hour drama original, not a not a spec. You know, 911 or Game of Thrones?

Alex Ferrari 1:09:28
Very, very great advice. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 1:09:36
Wow, the lesson that took me the longest to learn is that I don't know everything. I'm still learning that because I have a problem that I actually do think I know everything.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:50
We are in the film business. So this does.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 1:09:52
I can't possibly know everything yet. I still think I do. So y'all I'm sorry. grappling with that, and I know I know, I don't know everything and then I'm being a little bit tongue in cheek. But you know, but it's, I think to try to make it make me sound like less of a moron and more thoughtful about it. You create something brand new, right? You a script, the pilot, whatever. You have to be willing to believe. I think that nobody understands it the way you do. Right? And, but you also have to be willing to think that people can help it. And the lessons try to figure out, what do I get the help that I need? versus how much do I hold on to what I think it is? And it's, it's a particularly challenging bit of math. If you become a showrunner, right, because as a showrunner, you're responsible for everything. And I know talking about television again, but but the idea is that as soon as you start, you know, as soon as you start making changes that you don't agree with, right, just based on you know, some enemy, some, it's, there's politics involved in studio notes, it's, you know, notes for your partners. But as soon as you start making changes that you don't feel, right, then you become useless to the entire endeavor. Because, you know, you don't know, you know, if you pitch me an idea for an episode of our show that we're working on, and I'm show runner to suicide

Alex Ferrari 1:11:31
dog by about bow suicidal,

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 1:11:33
exactly, right, right up between idea I can react, instinctively go, Yeah, I don't know that that's not sitting well with me, you know, wherever this pilot, or this TV show came from, that idea is not living in that same space, I could try to elucidate it over let's just reject it and come up with something else. So that's me thinking, I know everything and rejecting help of good ideas coming in. So you have to be able to figure it out. It's kind of parse that calculation is how much do you defend your material? Like it's your own child? versus how much are you willing to look at? And go? Yeah, my kid could use a little therapy.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:10
Fair enough. And three of you.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 1:12:12
That's the hardest lesson, I think, for me personally,

Alex Ferrari 1:12:15
and three of your favorite films of all time.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 1:12:18
Ooh, they're their favorites for all sorts of different reasons. Star Wars, because I saw it and said, Oh, my God, you know, I was 17. Like, it was just such a complete journey and trip. That was pretty amazing. 2001 Yeah. Because I, I saw it in my teens. And I was like, wow, that's, you know, film can tell a bizarre is linear and nonlinear.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:43
It's Kubrick. It's just too

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 1:12:45
quick. Right? Yeah. And, and then probably, you know, for historical reasons, Citizen Kane, because it showed, you know, it showed what the what you could do if, you know if you didn't listen to anybody. You just ran with it. And you know, then the movie almost killed him.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:06
Very much.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 1:13:06
So it Citizen Kane. So some movies I like for like, you know, Mike Lee I like it, because they really touched me. And there's all sorts of movies, you know?

Unknown Speaker 1:13:17
Right? You know,

Alex Ferrari 1:13:18
like so many are then where can people find you your work and in your book.

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 1:13:25
The book is on Amazon calm. And my story can be a pure story. I do have a poorly used website, which is my story can be up your story calm. But, but if we have a moment or two, I'll make a plug for a brand new venture that I'm involved in that were started a company. And we put out our first product called writers room Pro, which is taking escar cork boards and the handwritten whiteboards that are commonly used in the writers room and saying This is nuts that this hasn't shifted over to a digital equivalent. I know why it hasn't because the price of big monitors used to be too expensive. It's not anymore. So the time is now ripe for for rhizomes to know like editing switched over from you know, from film and trim bins with avid and, and cameras switched over from film cameras to to digital cameras, it's time for the writers room to switch to a much more secure and much more robust solution. So that's the new venture so it's a check it out at the writers room proz.com. And it's it's really designed for professionals but we have a lot of individual writers who using the whole system and it's not a story system, right? It's not we're not trying to teach you here's how you do a plot out a television show. It's really it's just if you could put it up on a board with index cards, but if you wanted to make it certain And you can output everything and import it into Word and final draft and stop it.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:05
And the madness. stop the madness madness,

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 1:15:08
right. So that's that's the thing I'm kind of most excited about these days, you know, it's very, very into my TV business. So writers room cro.com.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:17
I'll put that all in the shownotes. Jeff, thank you so much for being on the show. It's been an absolute pleasure talking to you. Thank you. It

Jeffrey Alan Schechter 1:15:22
It was so great talking to you too.



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