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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy my conversation with Erik Sommers.

Right-click here to download the MP3

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 14:46
They will recognize my genius,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erik Sommers 17:10
Yeah, maybe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erik Sommers 18:42
The first one was Jumanji,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 22:56
I remember it

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 24:25
Say that to you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erik Sommers 35:06
Work hard.

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 35:43
Good advice

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

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

Erik Sommers 35:54
So many predator

Alex Ferrari 35:59
Oh, thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 36:48
No.

Erik Sommers 36:50
Old tendencies I have.

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

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

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Screenplays: FREE Download 2021-2022 Oscar Contenders UPDATED

UPDATED January 2022: If you want to be a screenwriter you need to read a lot of screenplays. And if you are going to read film scripts might as well read some of this year’s best. Below is an active running list of 2021-2022 Oscar Contending Screenplays. I’ll be adding new screenplays as they become available so check back often.

PLEASE NOTE: These Screenplays Are FREE And LEGAL To Download For Educational Purposes. The Studios Will Only Keep Them Online Throughout The Awards Season So The Clock Is Ticking. Enjoy. 

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

2021-2022 Oscar Contending Screenplays


2020-2021 Oscar Contending 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

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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

Netflix has removed its scripts, though some of the links work. I will keep you updated…

2018 Oscar Contending Screenplays

SHORTCODE - SCREENPLAYS

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

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

Screenwriter’s Screenplay Collections

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

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

Best of 2016 Screenplays

Best of 2015 Screenplays

Best of 2014 Screenplays

Best of 2013 Screenplays


BONUS: Oscar Nominated and Winning Screenplays

IFH 528: A Writer’s Guide to TV Development with Kelly Edwards

This week I had the pleasure of sitting down with writer, producer, former studio executive and diversity thought leader Kelly Edwards. Many of us want to be able to pitch our shows to a network or studio but just don’t know how the game is played. Kelly not only knows how the game is played she wrote a book on how to do it.

Her new book is The Executive Chair: A Writer’s Guide to TV Series Development. 

To make compelling television, our industry depends on enthusiastic new voices with fresh ideas. While there are plenty of books about the mechanics of writing, this is the first time an insider has detailed the invaluable TV executive perspective. As key pieces of the entertainment puzzle, executives hold institutional wisdom that seldom gets disseminated outside network walls.

The Executive Chair breaks down the business from the gatekeeper’s point of view, illuminating the creative process used by those who ultimately make the decisions. Whether developing a project for the entertainment marketplace or merely probing the executive mindset, The Executive Chair dispels myths about the creative process and takes the reader through the development of a pilot script.

There are a million ways to break into Hollywood. Your journey will be unique to you. Meet all the people. Work all the angles. But most of all, enjoy the ride.” – Kelly Edwards

Kelly Edwards recently transitioned from inside the network ranks into a writing and producing deal with HBO under her Edwardian Pictures banner.

In her former executive role, she oversaw all of the emerging artists programs for HBO, HBOMax, and Turner. The pilots she produced through the HBOAccess Writing and Directing fellowships have screened at major film festivals including Tribeca and SXSW, and garnered multiple awards.

Prior to HBO, Edwards was a key corporate diversity executive at Comcast/NBCUniversal for over five years where she oversaw over 20 divisions, launched employee resource groups, and introduced diverse creative talent to NBC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and Telemundo.

Edwards’ career spans both television and film. Early in her career, she worked as a creative executive in features at both Disney and Sony under such talents as Garry Marshall and Laura Ziskin.  After moving to television, she served as a senior executive at FOX where she developed LIVING SINGLE, CLUELESS, and THE WILD THORNBERRYS.  While heading up UPN’s Comedy division as the SVP of Comedy Development she developed GIRLFRIENDS, THE PARKERS, and MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE.

In 2000, Edwards co-founded the non-profit organization Colour Entertainment, a networking group for diverse creative executives in TV, Film, Digital, as well as assistants, all designed to connect current and future industry executives with one another.

Kelly and I had an amazing conversation about the business, how to pitch a television project to a studio, and much more. Enjoy!


Right-click here to download the MP3

 

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I like to welcome to the show Kelly Edwards how you doin' Kelly?

Kelly Edwards 0:14
I'm doing great. Thank you for having me.

Alex Ferrari 0:16
Thank you so much for coming on the show. I'm excited to talk to you because you've got your new book coming out the executive chair, which is the executives point of view for of the entire television process, and actually what it takes to make a television show and all of that, and I really wanted to kind of dig in, because that's kind of the mystery that's like, the man or woman behind the curtain for a lot of writers. Yeah, they want to know what's going on. They all want to go to oz.

Kelly Edwards 0:44
Everybody wants to go does everybody thinks they want to go to oz?

Alex Ferrari 0:49
Oh, I understand. Everybody wants to be in the film business.

Kelly Edwards 0:52
There are a lot of wicked witches in Oz.

Alex Ferrari 0:56
And there's not nearly enough houses dropping on them. Anyway. So how did you get started in the business?

Kelly Edwards 1:04
Oh, well, let's see, I got into the business right after college, I came home. And my dad's like, you've got to, you've got to get a job. And I'm kicking you out of the house. And so I knew I needed to work. And I always wanted to be a part of the industry. I just didn't know in what capacity. And I ended up getting a sort of a hookup from a friend who was working for a very well known manager, talent manager. And he was leaving the job. And there was another person coming in a month later. And they said, Oh, would you bridge the gap between, you know, him leaving and this new person coming in, and it was only a month. And so I went to work for this manager. And then I proceeded to be terrible at it. I was just an awful assistant. And I screwed up more things than I care to admit. And before I got fired, there was another job across the street working for a casting company called the casting company. And I went I worked work there and vowed to be a better assistant that I had been before. And that was sort of you know, I was off to the races it was. I've always said that every job that I've ever had in this business has been a hook up for a friend from a friend. So one thing has led to another and led to another. I've never gotten a job as a cold call. I've never just blindly sent my internet my resume in and it had an interview. It's always been there's been some connective tissue from the last job to the next job. And so I got on this road working through as an assistant for this casting company. And one of the casting directors who was their days champion happened to be friends with a guy named Jerry was again, who was just coming off of a deal. He's just been writing with Don Segal on the Jeffersons and they were looking for an assistant. So I went to work for them. And that really was the real, I think, kickoff to what I'm doing now because I was a writer's assistant, and we were in development. And then there was a they had a show on CBS. And they weren't development on a number of projects. And I got to see the real nitty gritty of not only being in production, but also the develop development process from the writer side. And I really thought I was going to be a writer than but looking around the landscape of television at the time, there wasn't a lot of black women on shows. And, and so I decided, well look, I've got to get a job because my dad's breathing down my neck and I've got to make some money. And and so I ended up I end up going into the into the executive route, which I loved. And, you know, it was still working with the written word, it was still working with writers it was still being super, super creative. And I I went on that road for many, many years, I started in features, and then went into film, and I'm sorry, pictures. And then when I went into television and rose up the rings on the television side and then watch it at Fox worked at UPN as the head of comedy development and then decided that I needed to have another skill set because you know, there's a life expectancy to every executive and I could see my expiration date coming down the pike. And I left UPN to go have my own production company, I partnered up with a guy named Jonathan Axelrod, who had a deal at Paramount And together, we were in business for about six years, we had a show on the air, and I got to see, you know, the selling side of it, which was an incredibly important piece of the puzzle. Because as a buyer, you know, you're in this reactionary, you're receiving pitches, but you're not really in it. And then as the as the seller, and working with the studios and then going out and pitching. I was learning a whole new skill set that was really, really important to having career longevity. And so I did that for about six years and then We founded the company in 2007. And, and I went to work for NBC Universal on in the diversity capacity. And it was a very big corporate job. And I had 20 networks reporting to me and did a lot of work with the presidents of all the different divisions. We did a lot of diversity workouts and a lot of big, big gigantic projects in the diversity space. And then I went to HBO, to work for to set up their their diversity efforts, which really consisted of the writers and directors, programs, a set of topics and some photographers programs, and a lot of emerging artists programs over there.

And then, and then at the top of last year, they came to me and said, there have been a big shift, because, you know, the at&t merger had happened. And a lot of things were changing. A lot of people were, were changing chairs over there. And they came to me with a with a big offer and said, Look, you could have this, this huge, huge increase in pay, we're going to give you worldwide diversity. And you know, don't you want to do this. And I said, I said no, because by that time, over the last couple of years, I had gone back to, to school to get my MFA in screenwriting in TV writing. And also I had gotten into Sundance and the experience of those two things together really showed me that I had really been living in the wrong skin for a long time, I was probably supposed to be a writer all along. And I had poured all of my energy into making other people's dreams come true, and helping them and really learning along the way as I was teaching them about television writing. And this was my chance to do it on my own. And it was a huge risk, because, you know, you've given up a 401k and a Cush paycheck every other week, and great healthcare to, to go off on my own and start my own thing. So that was a long story. That's the that's the whole that's the whole megillah about how I got from here. But it's been a crazy, crazy, fulfilling last 12 months that I have been on my own. I do this, I'm gonna say it's a first look, HBO deal, but also I'm on a staff of a show. So it's, it's my dream has really come true over the last 12 months. And I feel like I feel so renewed where I feel like you know, many people get to this part in their career, and they just kind of go well, let me just write it out until retirement, I only have a few more years left for me just sort of enjoy it. And I'm just getting started.

Alex Ferrari 7:38
Yeah. And you know, what I love about your story is that, and this is only because of age, because as we get older, we don't realize this when we're in our 20s or even our 30s for that matter, is that your I love the comment I was in the wrong skin the entire time. And we don't kind of realize what makes us happy, too late or some people are very lucky they get that right away. But most of us don't. And but we played in the arena. We weren't the gladiators but we but we help the gladiators put their armor on. Right We were next to it. We could smell it. We organize the the the battles, if you will, if you use this analogy, but we really wanted to be in the arena. And I did that for a long time. I mean, I wasn't sure I wanted to be a director. And before I started directing, was imposed and I lived in post I was like I'm close to it. I'm adding skill sets. And that's great for a year or two but then you fast forward 10 or 15 years just like am I I'm not happy anymore. I'm like I'm not happy at this. I got to do what I love and then when I start doing what I love, then that's what made me happy. I think that's a big big lesson everyone listening should really understand is Be true to that voice inside of you. Because you can you can muffle that voice for years. It'll come back, it'll come back out. It'll come back out at one point. But you're like I've turned down my God when I was I only had two staff jobs ever in my life and I got fired promptly from both of them because I was so miserable in them, but they were Cush jobs, obscene money for the time, and I just let but I'm not happy. So it's not about the money and it's not about this it's like you guys very seductive though. Oh, so I said oh man not having to hustle for that check every week. As you know, freelancing you gotta hustle. But when you got that check coming in. oh 401k oh, I don't have to worry about healthcare. Oh it's it's it's very seductive. But it's something

Kelly Edwards 9:37
Your soul could die a little every day inside. Oh I was feeling I was feeling after a while that my soul was dying. And I knew that if even if I got out and did it for only a month or two months or I you know if I had to go back and you know, you know work work for McDonald's or you know, scrape tar For somebody shoe or something after that, that that, however many months I had would have been worth it. And that's when you know that you just have to do something, it's sort of like when we get what I think of. I'm not even sure if I'm going to articulate this well, but it's almost as though you have this light inside you. And you know that if you keep keep trying to patch it over, you know, you keep trying to sort of put something or said it doesn't really shine, but then eventually it's going to eke out somewhere, it's gonna burst out somewhere. And you might as well just open up the bag and just let it burst out everywhere. Because I've literally never had this much joy in my entire life in any job. And I loved my job. I loved working, you know, in development, it was a great experience. But there's nothing that compares to what what I've been living this last year.

Alex Ferrari 10:50
And we were talking a little bit before the before we started recording about the angry and bitter filmmaker and screenwriter. And, like, I always think the joke is, you know, in front of a film of an audience, I'll go everybody here knows an angry and bitter filmmaker. And if you don't know an angry, bitter filmmaker, screenwriter, you are the angry and bitter screenwriter, those angry and bitter filmmakers and screenwriters are the people who are not doing what they love to do, and they're in a job or in a place, that they're not fulfilling what they want, generally speaking, right? They're probably variations. But because I was, I was pissed. I was so bitter and angry. And I used to be in an editing room. And I used to see like a 25 year old walk in with a $3 million movie I'm like, and I'm looking at the movie. I'm like, this movie sucks. I'm fixing everything for this guy. And he does. He's never even seen Blade Runner. What's going on? Like, it's

Kelly Edwards 11:43
So so what changed for you then

Alex Ferrari 11:46
40

Kelly Edwards 11:49
Okay,

Alex Ferrari 11:49
40, I was 40. And I launched Indie Film Hustle. And the film also was the thing that really took me to a place of happiness, because I was able to give back I found my I found my calling, my calling is to be an artist, and to be a creative, but in the film possible, affords me the opportunity to do that, whenever I want, when and, and also, my joy comes from writing a book, doing a podcast, writing an article, show a movie, shooting a movie, uh, speaking in front of people, I found all of that, and I was like, Oh, great, I don't have just one outlet anymore. Because if I can't, because that sucks. When you only have one outlet, if that outlet closes, you're screwed, I found five or six or eight different things that make me truly happy that gets me up in the morning. And, and they all work within the same world for the most part. So that's what kind of, and then when I turned 30, I was like, I gotta I gotta go shoot a movie. And I want to try to film my first feature, sold it to Hulu, and, you know crowdfunded into the whole thing. And that was that that was a turning point, really. But it was the audience that really gave me the strength to do that I was, I was scared to do that prior to having any film hustle. So for me, it was just like, you know what, I'm gonna go do this. And if it doesn't work, I got I got my show, and come back to my show. You know, and, and also just the joy I get to meet meeting people like yourself, you know, to sit down and talk to someone like you for an hour, there's people out there that would kill to have that opportunity to get that kind of access to someone like yourself, or any of the other wonderful guests, I get on my show. And I get that opportunity daily or weekly. And that is massive. And I get to talk to people at a very high level in the industry, and very high level executives and high level writers and Oscar winners and all this kind of stuff. And it just, it gets me jazzed.

Kelly Edwards 13:48
Right. So well you know, you said a couple of things that I think are really interesting. First of all, you didn't really wait for anybody else to give you that opportunity. Correct. You made that opportunity and not only that, but you said you found many avenues for that. And I love to tell people sometimes your vision you can't have such a myopic vision of what success looks like that you think oh I need to work at x like if you said you know to yesterday tomorrow whenever I want to go work at ABC you would then work you would then completely miss working for Hulu and working for you know, audible like your your creative muscle might might be doing something completely different. That still gives you that same satisfaction. And I think you did that you found the speaking you found the book, you found the podcast, you found the film. All of those are creative endeavors. And you're able to get that satisfaction of that love and that joy in your in your life through things that didn't necessarily look like well, I had to do my $50 million universal picture. Because I think that's what we sometimes when we when we think about oh we want this career. That's what it looks like.

Alex Ferrari 14:59
Oh

Kelly Edwards 15:00
All the things that can give you joy.

Alex Ferrari 15:02
Oh, there's absolutely no question. And I know people listening right now are like, well, what is what is success for you? Well, I have to go win an Oscar, I have to work on $100 million movie, I have to go work for Marvel or I have to go work for HBO. And do you know a game of thrones spin off and have to be in the writers? Like that's, it's a very specific goal. And my experience I don't know about you is, whenever I've made goals like that, the universe laughs at me. Because it's just does it does it never falls into, if you would have told me 10 years ago, and I would have a podcast. And that podcast would give me access to some of the biggest minds and highest big powered people in Hollywood. From my little room in Burbank, at the time when I was starting this now I'm in Austin, I would have laughed at you. Of course, it sounds ridiculous. Oh, and because of that, you're gonna be able to do this and this and this. And this, none of which were in my none of which were my plan. But you have to be open to what the universe gives you. And that's the thing that I always find. I found in my in my elder years because I'm geriatric now because I just broke my foot. But But no, in my in my years come is being open to what comes. And as a young man, I was not I was closed off. It had to be I had to be tweeting Tarantino had to be Robert Rodriguez had to be Steven Spielberg, do you have any directors walked into this? Because like, I'm going to be the next Steven Spielberg like No, you're not. Not because you're not capable. But you're talking about I'm going to be the next Michelangelo, like, that's who you're talking about. Like, there's a hand there's a handful of masters, who we all look up to. And even Spielberg was looking up to Kurosawa and Kubrick and all these other, they all do it. But you have to be the best version of you. And whatever that takes you. It's okay, as long as you're happy, and you're helping people and you're expressing yourself as an artist, and you're making a living. That's the goal of life. And that was the other thing. I don't need millions of dollars. And that was another big thing. Because a lot of people think filmmaking is about millions of dollars and fame and fortune. And when you're young, that's what you think about. But as you get older, you're like, you know, what, can I pay my bills? Can I support my family? I think I'm good. Like, I don't need, you know, $10 million a year, it'd be nice to be able to do some fun stuff with it. But it's not gonna make me happy. What makes me happiest,

Kelly Edwards 17:33
Right! I do so and it may or may not come the millions of dollars may or may not come? Who knows? And that's fine. If, if you're enjoying it. Yes, exactly. Exactly. And I think you're, you're you're just as much of a fanatic about film as I am. And I listen to your podcast. And I love the fact that you do these deep dives that you have the screenplays that you can sort of dissect on line, that I never get enough of just having conversations about content. And I think that for me, if I if I had to go work at a desk job and push paper, I would just shoot myself in a little ball. Absolutely. So any chance that I get no matter where it is, being in touch with other people who love this is life giving for me.

Alex Ferrari 18:17
Absolutely, it is a it is it is a joy to be able to do what I do every day, and I have the privilege and I tried it. I try to take advantage of it as much as I can every day. But it's about giving back Honestly, I mean, so much of our conversation, I'm asking you questions that I want answered personally. And then everybody gets to kind of listen into our conversation. These are conversations that you would have at a bar at a festival, or at a commentary or on a set. And I was like, you know, I want to have those. I've had so many of those in my career like Man, I wish I would have recording that one. Or always, you know, like that little gem that would have been great. And that's what I do for a living and I'm able to jazz myself up, but also give the opportunity to millions of people around the world to listen to to our conversations and hopefully help them along their path. Because I would have killed for an opportunity to have a podcast like mine to listen to when I was coming up in my 20s exactly Oh my god. It would have saved me but we've gone off

Kelly Edwards 19:16
Dealing with JVC tapes and you know,

Alex Ferrari 19:19
God don't don't go How old are we? Oh god Stop it. Stop it. I was cutting out a three leg. I was cutting I was cutting on a three quarter inch. Sony raises them putting putting reels together for a commercial house back in the night. And I was there I was there sell old I am. I was I was there Apple tech. For all the whole production company. I was the tech for all the computers which were all the little Macs and a little boxes. Yeah, axes. And there wasn't a Wi Fi. So in order to network everything you had to use appletalk and that was cable that you would cook and it was just like a long daisy chained cable across the entire company. And if somebody had to have I swear to God, if someone kicked one open and knocked the entire network out, and I would literally have to go and hunt down, where did they get kicked out and then plug it back. It was seen, but we have

Kelly Edwards 20:17
Okay, all right. Well, I when I was first, so I used to work on a Selectric typewriter when I was doing my first thesis and my you know, working for my, my two writers. And then I was so excited when we when we converted to Wang computers. So that was the big thing. And I loved typing on it because it made a little clicking sound. And I thought, Oh, this is so cool. So yeah, I'm gonna go toe to toe with the only person on the planet.

Alex Ferrari 20:45
Hey, listen, the struggle was real. The struggle was real. I just want to put that out there for everybody. And everyone listening is like, okay, Alex, enough with the old telling the two old farts. At least one old fart. You look much younger than me. Yeah.

Kelly Edwards 21:02
Sorry. I'm just I'm saying we're right there. This is this is the good news though. I just made a transition in my life and my career. And I'm I 30 plus years into the business. So I just turned 58. And I've just gotten stabbed for the first time. So if anybody does out there listening, go, I don't know if I can make a change. Absolutely. When I'm, you know, an adult. I've got three kids. They're all adults. They're all legal, then, you know, you can't you absolutely can't you just have to put your mind to it. And you have to make a plan. But don't ever let anybody tell you you can't make a change, man.

Alex Ferrari 21:39
Amen. Amen. Now, the executive ranks which is is a mystery to me. Executives get a bad rap. As a general statement in the film side and the television side. It's the evil executives, this is this is a lot of writers think this way. It's your evil executives who come down with their notes, they have no idea what they're doing, they don't understand what's going on. What First of all, what are the executive ranks? Is there like a specific kind of pert? You know, like, I have no idea what the ranks are. I mean, obviously, I know the studio head and head of television and things like that, but the hierarchy. And then let's first go into the hierarchy, what is the hierarchy of a standard, you know, executive ranks at a studio?

Kelly Edwards 22:27
Well, I delineate this in the book pretty early on, in laying the groundwork, because it is important for you to know what the levels are when people come in. Usually in the executive ranks, you start out as an assistant, sometimes there's a level lower than that, like an associate some of the programs that they used to have it I don't think they have any more use to start with associate, then you go to assistant and then coordinator, which is interesting, because years ago, back in the 80s, coordinator and assistant were were reversed. But now it's assistant coordinator. And the coordinator is really the junior executive on that track. And they they go from, you know, just answering phones to and creating, you know, coffee meetings, and you know, lunches, and all of that and scheduling. Travel to, okay, now you're a junior executive, and you're probably getting writer's list together, you're doing a version of notes, you're sort of you're in the meetings with the executives, and then you've got a manager. And that's even more on that scale. So as a manager, you're really fully an executive, but but you're still a junior executive, you're not necessarily running the meetings, you're not necessarily the person who's giving the notes to the higher the higher ups. But you are absolutely a utility player, you're reading a lot of scripts, and you're in the game. And then there's director level, sometimes there's an executive director level, that's really just a half step. You know, somebody, somebody HR is trying to squeeze in another steps that you don't have to get to VP, you can't be top heavy in your department. But then after director, it's VP and then Senior Vice President, Executive Vice President, and then you're going to sort of get into the, you know, the president ranks of the of the company, and then you get up to CEO. So there are there are steps in there, and you learn different things at different places along the way. By the time you're a VP you are, you can be heading your own department. Usually a director is not heading their own department, but a VP would be SVP for sure. EDP is in charge of a division most likely. And then present year and taught in. And I think, also what's interesting is that the more the higher up you get, the less creative sometimes it gets. So if you're a president of the network, you're not necessarily in the creative meetings all the time. You're not necessarily hearing the pitch you you've sort of aged out of the fun stuff. And I know a number of people who, who can get to that level they go oh gosh, I really Love the process of being in the middle of it with the with the writers. And now I'm dealing with marketing and sales and

Alex Ferrari 25:07
Ratings.

Kelly Edwards 25:08
And ratings. Yeah, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 25:11
So how So how has the when I said the evil executives, because I mean, I mean there it's been infamous like that's in Hollywood for a long time. Can you just from the point of view of the executives now you've been on both sides of the of the table? Wow. I've heard from many writers, and, and filmmakers, there are some excellent executives out there that give great notes. And really, they have an outside perspective, and they really have an understanding of story The and to have that understanding of character, and they really do help. And then there's the the egocentric, you know, climbers who are just there to like, I can't, I gotta get I got to stick my nose into this. If not, why am I here? Kind of executive? How do you deal with that kind of an executive as a creative? And how would you, because they have the power, they have the keys to the car that you're driving. But yet, if you let them drive, they're going to run it off the road. So there's this balance of creativity versus politics, which is, there is no book that I know of, there is no course that I know of that talks about the true politics of this industry. And it is yeah, it is important to understand

Kelly Edwards 26:23
It is there are a lot of things. And I think a lot of little pieces to this, because you have to remember it's not just on the executive side that you're looking at, you're looking at the status of the writer. So if you come in and your baby writer and you're getting notes from somebody, you pretty much have to take them. If you're a baby writer who's paired up with someone who can help, then you have a different level of influence. If you are coming in and you're the you know, the top eat me Shonda Rhimes, you're not necessarily taking anybody's notes. So you're depending on what you're what you're, you know, you can listen to them or not. So I think it depends on where you are as a writer on the food chain as well. Here's the thing about executives, though, if every executive comes into the business, as someone who is a fan of entertainment, the way that we are, they hopefully they're doing the work that we are, they aren't always but they love content. So they love television shows, they love film, they love books, they love the creative side of the business, just like the writers do. They're just a different part of the process. And hopefully a good executive has taken the time to figure out you know how story what you know, they read all the good books they read, you know, the hero's journey, they read, they, they know what they're, they're talking about, some people don't do that work. And I think that's when you see a bad executive, when you see somebody who's come in who hasn't been on the production side, you can always tell I can always tell somebody has or has not been in production, because you see that they give notes that aren't doable, or workable or even make sense. But they don't know that because they're they're dealing with limited information. But the executive who is a really good executive, is trying to help you realize your dream, your goal, you have a story to tell. If you've gotten to the place where you're having a conversation with an executive, it's because they like your work. So already, that's a good thing. It's not like they're coming in and saying, Hey, I read your script, and I hate it. And let me you know, tear it apart for you. That's not the goal. Everyone's goal is always with good intention. So they're going to see your material and say, This is how I think you can make it better. Sometimes the way that they deliver those notes is not great, is it can be demoralizing. I think, again, that's part of the executives journey on trying to figure out how do they become the best executive they can be. And they may be. I was telling, I was talking to the director on our show this today, who happens to be Joe Morton, who's who's in our show. And I said, I just cringe at some of the notes that I must have given as a junior executive, back in the 80s. I want to apologize to every single person that I ever gave a note to back then because I am sure I came with so much arrogance, thinking Oh, I know better than you do. And I'm going to help you make this better. Not realizing that that's not the way to to anybody's heart. And I say now I actually don't give notes anymore. I I asked questions. Because I realized along the way that the writer had a goal in mind. If they didn't make that, that if they didn't hit the mark, then it's not because they didn't try is that there's probably some missing information you probably haven't earned those moments. You probably haven't given us enough information about The character you haven't done it done the hard work, but there's something missing. That's that's not connecting. So I ask questions because usually through a process of asking questions there's a revelation that happens for the writer it's not I'm dictating the note to you but it's I'm helping you discover what you want to say and how to say it better and that's how I put things down but people don't come into the business to be horrible to be to be to be negative and they're the goal is let me help fix it. And I think that's sometimes where the disconnect is between writers and and executives in a writer can can receive that information in a terrible way if it's not if it's not given with the spirit of collaboration

Alex Ferrari 30:49
Right and there's always that thing called ego as well that gets thrown into the mix on both sides of the table this is the deal and as we get older we you're right when oh god the arrogance when you um I couldn't even sit in a room My head was so big when I was younger oh my god and my 20s oh my god it was I will fix it you have obviously you people who've been in the business for 20 years you don't understand I'm here to exactly I'm here to fix this Just listen to me I know that we will guide you right to the promised land now how has how has streaming changed the game because you You came up in a time when there was no internet no streaming there was no Netflix there was none of that stuff both of us did. So in the 80s and 90s you know we were still you know, there was cable and then there was more shows but now there's literally how many how many scripted shows are there now the 1000 a year?

Kelly Edwards 31:44
Yeah probably a gajillion I'm sure

Alex Ferrari 31:45
It's insane how is the game changed and it's a lot of the stuff that we're talking about still apply in the streaming world as well as the network world or has streaming completely changed the paradigm

Kelly Edwards 31:58
It has changed it in very significant ways. And in some ways it hasn't changed at all. You still need a camera at a script and an actor so that doesn't change it's not like the it's revolutionized to the point where we don't recognize what we're doing. It's it's very similar in that way. You still call cut you still call to action and but it's changed it in obviously how the business works. monetarily change Did you ever zoom in on the executive residuals well yeah residual Exactly. But if you think about it even on the executive track you know if you go from working at a regular network to going to work for Netflix you all of a sudden become a millionaire in a couple of years so it's changed a bit a big way you know every no how's that work? No.

Alex Ferrari 32:47
So how is that work holiday let's back up for a second so if you're an executive working at CBS, then you jump over to Netflix why at Netflix is your what is the compensation difference? Why is it it's just because Netflix is just giving money away? Like it's water? Oh, yeah.

Kelly Edwards 33:01
Oh, yeah, it's it's many times just putting a time is next to that number. It's double, triple, quadruple what you can get paid at a regular network. But they also don't have contracts, they also don't have the same kind of titles. So things are different. You know, I don't think that they have pension plans in the way that you know, you have a 401k at an at another network. So I do think that there's given take a little bit but yeah, you are getting paid. Some nice, nice paychecks are coming into your direct deposit. But it's changing also in a lot of other ways in that if you think about the way people are developing content, obviously when when we went to from broadcast and a certain number of act breaks now let's go let's let's actually jump back in time, let's back in the time when I was coming up, and I was working for Don and Jerry, you know, we were working in for camera tape shows, you know, and we were looking at quad splits and we were and the directors were in the booth and they were you know, she kept the shots. It's very, very different that we went into more when I was working at UPN in particular we started to work in more of the single camera area and by that time you know Seinfeld was around and so shows became have our comedies were not just two acts with a you know, a teaser and a tag. All of a sudden it's three acts. It's you know, when Seinfeld came out the scenes were so much shorter. They were a lot of you know, comedy stings. And there's just a lot of things that change in terms of the, the way that we made shows if you watch the the pilot of Sex in the City, they have these little Chi rods in it, there's a lot of DIRECT address. There was a lot of gimmicks that were happening around that time. We don't see those necessarily as much as we do we did then. So things are always changing the evolution of television, always changing the boundaries in terms of what you can and cannot say, are always changing. When you get to streamers, we're now dealing with no act breaks. You know, we had that it. We had that at HBO, we had the HBO and Showtime and all that. But now we're dealing on a massive scale with no act breaks for your, for your, your shows. So you have to make sure that you are keeping a structure to it so that things are moving forward. Oh, there are you have to do, you have to find a way to get people to push next episode in a way that you didn't have to before. So in broadcast from before, you'd show up every Thursday night for mercy TV, or you show up every Monday night for whatever you're showing up for. And it was one episode at a time. And now we're in bingeing. But in order to get somebody to binge on the writer side, my goal is now to get someone to binge. Well, I then have to figure out what is going to get them to binge. That means a more serialized kind of storytelling. And that means I need to find a way at the end of episode one to get you to press episode, you know to get to next episode. So that changes storytelling quite a bit, you have to figure out a whole new paradigm for telling a story that might have been really successful as a one off. Let's just say you're doing lawn order SBU and everything is self contained. Well, the good news about lawn orders to you is that you might want to do next episode, just because you love Mariska Hargitay, but there's no reason that you need to do it next episode. Unlike watching queens Gambit, I have to get to the next one because the story's not finished. So we're dealing with very, very different ways of storytelling that we didn't have before.

Alex Ferrari 36:57
Yeah, like, you know, watched castle that was, you know, that was on forever on an ABC. And that was a procedural show. It had a small arc through the season, but it was a procedural show a fun, procedural SBU. So every week basically, it was a self contained episode, but there was a small like, will she ever find her mother who killed her father or something like that? There's always that one little arc that carries throughout the entire episode, or the entire series a season. But then something like Queen's gambit. Like that's just crack. It was absolutely it was absolute

Kelly Edwards 37:31
Or squid game. If you watch squid game

Alex Ferrari 37:32
I have not seen it yet. I my wife says no, because that means I have to do it on my own now and that's gonna take me more time to do because she saw she's like, that looks violent. I'm like

Kelly Edwards 37:43
It is so it's terrible.

Alex Ferrari 37:46
I've been hearing nothing about it. I have to but I have to watch it. I have to watch it right, or Narcos, when Narcos was the first three seasons of Narcos was just like Jesus every week he just wanted to keep every week every episode you want to keep going. And it just changes the whole way. You look at story structure. You were saying evolution? You know there was one. There was one show that really changed the game. I'd love to hear your point of view on it. You know when the sopranos showed up? And David chase created the sopranos. It really just changed everything. Like it changed. storytelling and television. And you know, you had you know, Breaking Bad Mad Men, Dexter, Game of Thrones, right? All of these the lineage goes right back to the sopranos, pre Sopranos. a show like Breaking Bad would have never even It was tough to even get breaking up the air.

Kelly Edwards 38:41
I really wanted a shield Come on, it was that just before it was around the same time it

Alex Ferrari 38:46
It was I think it was either around the same time or a little bit after this a little bit after I think the sopranos was the first time that was that anti hero. In a way. It was the episode The episode. It's fresh in my mind now because I just had the pleasure of talking to David chase on the show. And and that was a that was a trip. There was an episode five, I think it was episode four or five. It was happening. It was Episode Five was called college where Tony strangled a rat. On Air, like full blown. The rat didn't do anything to him. It wasn't like the guy what? And HBO had a major problem with it. They're like you're going to destroy this character before he even gets off the ground. Nobody's gonna want to follow this guy. He's your little and they murder him right on, like a glorious daylight like it's bright and everything. And that was the moment it shifted. Because prior to that, you just saw instances of that, but you never saw the brutality of Tony Soprano. And that moment, after that episode came on, everybody was even more jazzed about seeing the show. And the executives were like, oh, things are changing. We we don't need to have a hero anymore. We don't need To have a guy who has moral a moral compass, we can root for the pet guide. And that was right. It kind of just shifted everything. And movies have been doing that for a while. I mean, I mean, Goodfellas. You know, if you want to go into that genre, I mean, we were all sure we were all rooting for Scarface. I mean, you could I mean, we are all falling, but in television that would never done never ever prior to that. So what did you What's your opinion on the legacy of the sopranos and then also these other shows that kept pushing the envelope after the sopranos like a Breaking Bad like a madman, like, like, Dexter for serial killer. We're rooting for.

Kelly Edwards 40:42
Yeah, and I remember being out there, I think around the time that Dexter came out with something similar. We were pitching something with a with a couple writers under my deal at Paramount, and yeah, it was a it became a big thing. I think, I think a couple things happen at the same time, which is, when you think about the sopranos, it was remarkable. And I would love to I did not hear your David Chase.

Alex Ferrari 41:07
It just came out. It just came out, as of this week, as of this recording. Came out right there. So you can listen to that, like,

Kelly Edwards 41:13
Where is he? Like, what is he doing now? Because I, I mean, he dropped,

Alex Ferrari 41:19
He dropped the mic. That's basically I dropped the mic situation like he he's been in television for what 40 years braved the rock for files and all this stuff. But then he was given that opportunity to do the sopranos. And when he was doing the sopranos, he literally just like, I don't care. I'm gonna do it my way. And I'm gonna be bold, and I'm gonna fight for whatever I want to do. And that's and they just let HBO let them do it. It's an it's a weird. Just everything aligned. So perfect. Right at that. The timing for a show like that. And I think and I think HBO was really trying to get into television, and they're trying to make Yeah, big swings, right? And they took that. And I actually said that to David. I was like you I'm so glad you took the swing at the back because we need creators on the on Bay at home plate, taking those swings. And I go, what would what would have happened if you would have missed because it Sopranos could have absolutely missed, right? And he's like, Oh, no, I would have just gone back into something else.

Kelly Edwards 42:19
I don't care. Yeah, it was low stakes for him, I guess. Because Yeah, for I and correct me if I'm wrong, but my guess is, I think the story was that he had it at Fox first. And they didn't want to do it. Well, it was

Alex Ferrari 42:31
It was a feature. It was a feature. And, and he he wrote a feature first and he still tried to go around town with it. Nobody wanted it that somebody at HBO pitched him an idea about it wasn't a feature about the mob. It was about. It was about a studio executive who had an issue with his mother, his psychotic mother, because it's based on his life. That's his mom. The Sopranos mother is his mother.

Kelly Edwards 42:58
So when they say right, which, you know, right, which you know, it's

Alex Ferrari 43:01
exactly that, but then someone's like, hey, do you want to do a mob, a mob show? And then he then he connected the two. And that's how, and that's how the sopranos game. And then he did pitch it. I think, I'm not sure who who paid. I got to HBO somehow. And then HBO said yes, to whatever I mean, I mean, the episodes the first season was, and they just kept going with it. But then it was just this, this magic that you can't, as a writer, as a writer, and a creator, you could do so much on the page, but then the actors show up, then the director show, then the location show up, and then you're rewriting there. And then on the edits, you're rewriting there, it's like it's, he said, it was like when you saw Tony talking to this other character, you're like, Oh, I didn't see that before. Why don't we try this? That's a magic that it's lightning in a bottle. You can't get the free, you know, this as well as anybody having the freedom that he had, at that budget range on a network like HBO is unheard of, especially at the time. Right? basically let the the lunatics run the asylum for a minute. And then by the time Yeah, and by the time the show was off, the lunatics completely, do whatever they wanted. Along the way

Kelly Edwards 44:17
Exactly. But that But see, here's the thing. Remember that? When I went to HBO, they make you read a book, at least they write made me read a book about the history of HBO, and they talk about the fact that it started off with, you know, sports and movies and Fraggle Rock, would you go that doesn't make any sense amazing Fraggle Rock, and then you've got Dream on and some of those shows that we're trying to burst out, then didn't make it really, you know, for the long haul. And by the way, where is Brian? Ben Ben, because I think three years Thank you. So I feel like then, and then they had to court. big name. They had a court people, they did court people because they didn't just like when I was at foxing UPN. We were the also RANS and Everybody wants to go to NBC and ABC and CBS because that's what everybody knew. And so when you're building a fledgling network, you need to, to entice people and so we we kept going out to people and saying, you can do whatever you want. Why do you want to do just push the envelope? We can't look like a ABC and CBS, we have to look different than they do. What? What would you like to do? We'll, we'll let you have creative freedom. I think that's probably what HBO was doing at the same time, which was like, let me bring the Michael Patrick kings over, let me bring the Darrin stars, we bring the David chases, let me bring the people who would like some creative freedom who have the ability to run a show, and who have something that has, that's a big swing, and let's just give them the keys to the kingdom. And then they had, you know, the David Simon's of the world and they they took off with that model of let's let the creator be the Creator. So I do think that there was probably an evolution to at HBO that was saying, how do we entice people over here because we need to be not the weird thing on the side of

Alex Ferrari 46:09
They were not able they weren't cable they're not even Fox or UPN whether they were networks. This is cable, it was like oh,

Kelly Edwards 46:18
How do you do that you make it really really enticing and you take a big swing on something that nobody else is going to do and what's that well nudity, it's going to be violence it's going to be pushed content and it's going to be freedom for your creatives to come in

Alex Ferrari 46:33
And as an oz came out before Sopranos which was also a very big show as well but it was different than the sopranos how they they worked it and it's it you know doing doing the research I did on on that episode just as you look at us it's just it's one of those moments that just changed television forever and and and we wouldn't have i mean i'm a big Breaking Bad fan like I love Vince Gilligan and I love everything he does and and you would have never had a show like that it barely got on yeah get right they got on to a network a network a cable network like AMC that like what do you don't you play like Citizen Kane and Gone with the Wind you want to make shows now. So that's the only reason again let the lunatic in. Let's but

Kelly Edwards 47:22
I think madman's the same thing. Yeah. Matt was like, you know, he was on the sopranos, he he was right. He had this thing that he loved and, and then somebody allowed him to do the thing that he loved. And he just went for it. 100%. And he asked, Where do you get those?

Alex Ferrari 47:38
Sorry? No, no, no, I'm sorry, Matt. They asked Matt, like, would you have been able to make madmen without Sopranos? And he's like, no, first, I wouldn't have been able to make it because it didn't exist. Secondly, I wouldn't have been able to make it because I didn't get to sit in that writers room for as many years as I did, and see how David broke it down and break down his stories and stuff. One other thing that was really interesting about and I'll get off the sopranos kick in a minute, but it's, it's just good. It's just a good educational television conversation. He now he loved doing singular stories episodes, that literally didn't really feed the plot of the series. Just like character development, just like right episodes of just like, Hey, we're just going to talk about these three characters that have nothing to do with the overarching arc of the scene. That was also new. That was something that was it's not a procedural it's it's it's the right so it was like a weird I

Kelly Edwards 48:30
Love that. Don't but don't you want more of that? Yes. I feel like I want more of that. And I don't feel like I get enough of that. I feel like sometimes we are. There's so much of a draw. And again, it gets back to executives who's got the courage to just let you have a two person conversation between you know what to do a play. Why don't we do more of that? Why don't we just sort of sit in the moment

Alex Ferrari 48:53
It takes it takes a it takes some courage. It takes some courage and he was able to do it early on like episode like Episode Five college is that is that that episodes his favorite. And that's the one that really changed. That's when the sopranos became the sopranos was Episode Five. And it was that whole episode had nothing to do with the story. It was about his relationship with his daughter, and this rat that just came out of nowhere. And the executive forced him to make an scene to make the rat look a little bit worse than he did originally, there wasn't even a scene. It was just like, Tony just killed a random guy that he says because they were scared that they were really scared. It was such edgy stuff at the time. And now you look at something like Dexter, which is like you're literally following a serial killer. And, and you're rude,

Kelly Edwards 49:42
But a serial killer with a moral code. That's the thing right? And you're invited into his thought process and you understand why he got the way he got. They were very, very smart about how they constructed Dexter I think, and how you really went along for that ride because you're just killing the bad guys. And who wouldn't want that.

Alex Ferrari 49:59
It's Yeah, it's when you're writing like that. And when you're creating a show like that, or a character like that, it is such a razor that you're dancing on. It's the bullet the blade of a razor, you're just like, at any moment, you can slip and get your head cut off. I mean, it's great, because if you're if you do one scene the wrong way, or you break that code that you've created, just just a smidge, you lose your audience. So you're on the creative, bloody edge of writing. And it's this is a terrible visual, but it's all visual. It's a horrible visual, but it's but it's you're really our omens dexterous, that's why I was bringing this horrible visual into mine. But your, as a writer, you you are dancing, a very, very thin line. If you if you just go a little bit off, you can lose an audience. And that's why I think in that episode of Sopranos, the executives were like, I think, I think you're going way off the reservation here. And nobody's like, well, no one's ever gone that far. Let's see what happens. And oh, right there with us. They're still with us. Oh, they want more. And, and you keep going. But again, Tony Soprano as a character, his, his, he had somewhat of a moral compass. And he wasn't just a horrible bad guy. He was a horrible human being. But yeah, you fell for him because of his mother issues.

Kelly Edwards 51:21
Right! Well, he was but again, you know, go back to the Godfather. Everybody has a code. And they he followed the code. And so what he was doing, he had completely understandable reasons for what he was doing, even though we wouldn't do that. It made sense in his world. And I think that that's when you when you do misstep is because you completely got out of the work. Here's a perfect example of that. I was just having this conversation yesterday was somebody about walking dead when they killed Glenn. Oh, and they said they crossed the line, because that's not the world they'd set up for us. That's they completely took our trust. And then they bashed it when they bashed his head in. And I stopped watching I was a rabid rabid fan, yes, loved every moment of it. But when neguin did that, I said well, that they have betrayed my trust, and I will no longer I will no longer give them my time. So I think you have to make sure that you're working within the rules of the world too.

Alex Ferrari 52:15
So can I also say I was a rabid Walking Dead fan, until Negan showed up. And it wasn't for me it wasn't the moment that he hit Glen that was pretty horrible and painful. But for me, it was a whole season because they made a cardinal mistake in that they created a villain that was too powerful. He they never gave him any wins. You didn't I don't know if you saw that scene or not, but they never gave any wins to our heroes that we loved. The problem with a villain is they have to be able to be balanced with the hero the hero has to have the ability to beat the villain. If not, it's a boring show, or a boring game story and that's the mistake they did because there was no the whole season it was just they were just getting beat up and be rocky was getting pummeled again and again by Apollo play and he never got a shot and and at the

Kelly Edwards 53:10
Lost battle every single episode exactly right. And then at

Alex Ferrari 53:13
The end of this at the end of that episode that season, they're like, Oh, look, you got to punch in FU. Screw you, man. I am angry. And we and we stopped watching. So even a show like that cuz and then you start and when neguin showed up, you saw that the ratings just go. They start dropping, because before walking dead was like the biggest show on television. Right. But neguin showed up and they handled it. That was that bloody edge I was talking about, right and mishandled it and the zombies had got cut off, I'm sorry.

Kelly Edwards 53:48
It was such a beautiful, beautiful show up into that point, it went really well.

Alex Ferrari 53:52
It was a wonderful show. Before that, I have to ask you, you've probably seen a bunch of pilots, you've written a few pilots in your life, I'm sure what makes a good pilot,

Kelly Edwards 54:01
That's like, wow, you just completely you want to be with that

Alex Ferrari 54:05
I just making you with that. I just love from cutting zombies head off to bam.

Kelly Edwards 54:12
Obviously, there are a number of things that make a good pilot, it's not just one thing, but it's a confluence of things you have to be you have to be timely. So even if that thing does not take place in this time, it needs to be relevant to that to today. So I think you have to be seeing something that makes a really great pilot, you need a great character with a new very unique point of view. And you need a construct or a world that they are in that is antithetical to who they are. So that makes the world hard for them to navigate. And I think if you have those things, you have the makings of a great pilot. So if you think about any of your, your favorite pilots, let's get back to Breaking Bad. He is a very nice chemistry teacher and he gets into the most violent world possible. So he is a very, he's got a very specific set of skills, just like Liam Neeson does. And taken, he has very specific set of skills, he is ill equipped to handle them against a very formidable world that he is entering into. So it's completely antithetical to who he is. And I think at the time, it was very, it was a, you know, we're dealing with, you know, epidemics constantly in terms of the drug world. So, I think it's incredibly prescient kind of television making. Think about any of your favorite pilots think about if you think about scandal, I talked about scandal in my in the book, and you've got a, a woman who is a hard charger, she's a badass from the very moment that she shows up on screen. And even before that, because there's a scene before she shows up on screen. And you have a character telling another character, don't you want to be a gladiator and a hat? Gladiator for this for, for Olivia? And the woman goes, yes, of course, I want to be Gladiator. And then you cut to Olivia Pope. At the time, I think it was a different name, but cut to her coming in. And she's she the way they described her in the in the, in the script. And on screen. She's just a badass. And then she comes into a scene where she's negotiating basically a kidnapping, and then you realize the kidnapping, they've kidnapped a baby. And you just go, I'm so sucked in. And I cannot wait to see what happens next, because I've never seen this character before. So she's a very, very great, amazing character. And what what world is she in she's she's a rebel, a rebel, she's a cowboy. She's in one of the most highly regulated rule. I don't know. regimented kind of businesses in the world. She's in politics, and only that but she's in love with the president united states. So we've set everything up against her she's gonna have to come up against the most formidable foes we tweet. And it's exciting and we're, we're leaning forward. And we're all into politics. We've all been in politics and you know, Brock, Obama's president, maybe it was, even Bill Clinton, where there were really charged, you know, sexy men. And then in the, in the White House, like, there's a lot of stuff that that you can sort of glean from probably the time that it was it came out along with his character and this particular place, but you want to then lean forward into character and into the world. So if you have those things, you're going to have a really great shot at pulling a pilot together.

Alex Ferrari 57:50
But so from what you've just said, the one thing I grabbed on to was that unlike movie, because you only have 90 minutes to two hours in a movie, you generally have a villain, you have one villain, maybe two or three or group of villains. But there's, there's a very specific, you know who the bad guy is. Whereas in those both those shows, yes, there are some adversaries, but there are brand new adversaries that can come in on a weekly basis, season wide basis, that will constantly give the character the leader that lead character issues. So I'm breaking bad. He's basically you're you're entering a new world. And in that world, there is 1000 things that can kill you. And that's what's exciting, as opposed to on Batman, you're the Joker. And that's the series that doesn't work that and I think that's where a lot of pilots make mistakes, if they lean you up against a villain and that could be one villain across a season, maybe even two or three seasons. But there are also others come you really should be. And correct me if I'm wrong, in Intellivision that we're talking about and we could talk about the sopranos, Mad Men, Dexter, all of them. They're not against one person or even a small group. It's generally an environment a world that they're entering, that there's 1000 places where they can get they can get their heads cut off. And absolutely, that's what makes really interesting television. Is that the fair statement?

Kelly Edwards 59:20
Yeah, they have to have many photos. Because it's if you whether you do it it's one it's like an SBU we go back to SBU or you go back to you know, whatever those procedurals are they're going to be it's going to be the bad guy of a week. Sure. But then there's got to be Yeah, a system in place it's the world is a is a dangerous place. So I have to fix the world. So yes, it's you're absolutely right.

Alex Ferrari 59:44
And it just keeps in that and that opens you up for many seasons. You can keep going. Exactly. Like with with Heisenberg, he, there was a point there was an end point there was a certain point where like You there was even even my wife when she was watching it with me. She was like, he's he's starting to cross the line a bit. He's not the guy I started liking. I'm not rooting for him anymore. He's turning into why am I Why do I like why am I following that guy? And that that it took us off the show still was a genius, so, but there were moments that you're just like, he's not a good guy anymore. He's not doing what he's doing. And he even said, He's like, I don't I'm not doing it before I first it was for my family. Now is because I like it. And you're just like, Oh, this is awesome. He's so is. It was like what it said, is turning Mr. Chips into Scarface.

Kelly Edwards 1:00:38
And Right, right. And it's and I think that that's also the beauty of Now, again, when you talk about dreamers, and how are things how have they changed, we're no longer necessarily going to 100 episodes. So we don't have to keep it open for forever, you can have a story that does arc like a movie over, you know, five season eight episodes, or whatever it is that you can tell the story that that needs to be told in that amount of time. And you don't have to belabor it, and you can see an end game, which I think is it actually makes our content better. You know, when you think about something like lost and you go Oh, lost was probably trying to figure out Hey, let's throw another monster.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:20
They were lost. They were lost. Yeah, they were definitely go.

Kelly Edwards 1:01:23
Well, it was probably a factor of Well, we've got a we've got another 22 episodes. What do we do now? We have to figure it out. Let's bring in what were those characters the three characters that nobody liked, and everybody wanted to kill off a monster. It's like the same

Alex Ferrari 1:01:39
Monster. It was I stopped I couldn't. The pilot was fantastic. It was wonderful. But at a certain point, you just like what's going on? And you're absolutely right. They needed to fill air. As opposed to the streamers you don't like I know Stranger Things has, I think they're going to do five seasons. And that's it. And I think Cobra Kai, another big show on Netflix. They're only going to do five seasons. And that's it. Like there's an out like there's only so many more seasons, we can see how many more characters you can bring back from The Karate Kid universe. Like at a certain point you're like, Ah, okay, so now Daniel and and Johnny are okay, they're fighting together against the ultimate bad guys. Okay, they're bringing back the guy from Karate Kid three. Okay, we ran out after Karate Kid three. So how many more seasons do we got here, guys? And they know in the Creator, Mr. Miyagi is not coming back. It would have been Mr. Miyagi would have been amazing magic Pat, was still alive. Oh, my God, I know, I would have made that show even better than it is. But anyway. Let me ask you, what are you up to now? What do you What's the what are the new shows you're working on now.

Kelly Edwards 1:02:44
I am a staff writer on a new show that just premiered on Fox, Tuesday nights at nine called our kind of people it is amazing. I have had the best time of my life working in this writers room. And it was again, it was a goal from when I was first in the you know, coming out of the gate, and never got a chance to get in the writers room. And this has been an amazing, an incredibly fulfilling ride for me. So we started in May, at the end of May. In the writers room, we are now shooting Episode 107, we have an order for 12. So we're writing episodes 910 1112. And it's I learned a lot I've learned a tremendous amount. I thought I knew a lot about the business and about development before I got in here, which has helped me quite a bit. But also just being in the writers room and seeing how stories are broken, and how things change and the reasoning for certain things and how to protect characters in the show. And it's been just phenomenal. And every single day is like Christmas. I cannot wait to get to work every day.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:57
Isn't that a great feeling? It's like we skip to work. Yeah. It's like you. Yes. It's like you skip to work and a smile on my face every day. And it's it's hard for people to understand, and I'm not doing it to rub into anybody's noses here that listening like Hahaha, no, it took us a long time to get here. And now we're like, oh, I'm happy. And you know, I'm like, it's just such a fulfilling feeling. As opposed to like, Okay, I got some money, but I'm miserable. I got that big paycheck. But I'm miserable. I'm like, Oh, the paycheck might be smaller, but I'm happy. And as you get older you realize happiness is a really big thing. Much more than money. Well, it's much I mean, you need money to live but at a certain point like okay, what's, where do I have enough? And I don't have to great doing something I don't like just to get more money to do what it's like happiness means so much more. And being creative is even. And being creative is even more than that. Now I'm going to ask you a few questions asking my guests. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life

Kelly Edwards 1:05:00
I will say this, this sort of ties into what what you were saying and what we're talking about. I got. I was married for 23 years, the last five, we were separated. So my big lesson was that I deserve joy. And I wasn't living in joy. And didn't I deserve to live in joy. And so I had white knuckled it for quite a while. Now this is granted, I'm best friends. I love him so much. My ex husband is an amazing person. We are besties, we talk multiple times, we're always on. We're always texting. So I don't this is not about him. This was about I think this was really about being in the right place. And being the right being the right me being 100% mean. And when I found the right combination of what I needed in my life, my joy level just shut up. Incredibly. And I think it was all precipitated by the divorce because the divorce in 2015, when we started divorce proceedings, the year of 20 2016 was I did a year Yes. And I just say yes to every single thing. And I ended up on six different continents got a tattoo met, the Dalai Lama was at the White House twice. I was I just had a complete I did, I asked twice, I just had this complete, let's just busted open and do all the things that I felt like I had missed along the way. I had kept living in this very, very tiny little box and thinking that I was like, Oh, I'm an executive, I've got it all, whatever it is. And I thought to myself, what have I not tried? And why have I said to myself, that I needed to do certain things in a certain way. So I just started living a bigger life. And part of that was I needed to not be attached to my ex husband. Because I felt like he was part of that rigidity of you have the kids, you have the house, you have the dogs, and you don't do certain things. So I kind of went off the rails a little bit in 2016, which then snowballed into, let's go back to two to get my education. my MFA, I was almost gonna say High School. Let's get out of high school, it kind of felt like it. But I went back to school, I applied to Sundance and again, it was I was thinking, Well, what why? Why would I ever move out of this executive box? Because I'm, everyone's gonna know me in a certain way, you can't switch? I always have that mindset. You know, I was I was drinking that Kool Aid. And then I went, well, why? Why was I thinking that? So why not change that thinking, just start to challenge, everything, every assumption that I had made about my life, and get back to what I wanted to be and who I wanted to be when I was 15 and 1413 years old, loving content and movies and wanting to be a writer. So it really did take 35 years for me to get there longer. But it was so worth it. Because again, it's about living enjoy. And why was I why was I okay, not living in joy every day.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:22
Oh, because we could talk ourselves into a lot of stuff gateway. Oh, God, can we? Yeah, yes. But actually, when that check shows up?

Kelly Edwards 1:08:29
That's right. But if there's one, let me be honest, you know, I, my transformation, let's just say my becoming the butterfly out of the cocoon. I don't know, for everybody, I'd like to think it is. But I have friends who complain about being where they are, and just and never make the move and don't change. And I then have to say, look, I I appreciate that you are feeling this way. But I can't listen to this anymore. Because either you do something or you don't. But not everybody is equipped to make that move. And I completely understand that. And that can be their journey in their life. And that's okay. So what I say I went out and I made a big change it just not to mean that everybody needs to go out and quit their job and completely go off the rails and do something different. It worked for me because I think I had I had set myself up for it. There was a chain of events that made sense for it. I did go back to school and might get my degree. You don't have to do that. But I was working and I was writing and then I was starting to show my stuff on social media. And I was getting positive feedback that they gave me courage to go back to school that gave me courage to go to Sundance that they gave me courage to be to say no to a big opportunity at HBO. So there was a very specific chain of events. I didn't just walk in and quit and say I'm just doing this I was financially ready to do it. I had saved some money. I was rolling into a first look deal at HBO. So I Have a support system. So there were things that happened that made it possible. But as you started off talking about the universe, the universe making plans, you make plans, and then the universe blows them apart. The universe also will catch you if you're living in that truth. And I had a perfect example of that, which is not only was when I said, I'm going to leave HBO, and when they when Christina Becker had kept coming to me, and she said, Do you want to have this big motion? I said, I really don't I'm, I'm content to sit here for another 18 months off my contract. And I'll just write and I'll just enjoy it. And I know the job, I'll just write it out. And she said, Send me your script. She read the script within 48 hours, and she called me back and she said, No, you have to do this. Well, that's part of the universe say, there's support there in a big way. And by July, I had my deal in place, I was rolling out. And I was rolling into a deal. So the universe was then providing funding finances for me. Now, did I take a big hit? financially, yes, it's half of what I made at HBO. But it was still it was enough. And that's all I needed was enough. So I got this deal. And a week after I left HBO, so it was a Thursday. That was my, my last night was a Thursday, July 17, something like that was my last day at HBO. The last day I was gonna get a paycheck from, from my regular job, and I was rolling into this deal is gonna pay me half. And a week later, I had the book deal. A week later, I got the call that I had the book deal. So again, it's the universe saying, You think you're going to fall off the face of the earth, you think you're probably going to drown, you don't know what's going to happen, you may or may not sell anything, you may or may not get on staff. Guess what I'm going to give you I'm going to show you this book, this book is going to come and be part of the next part of your life. And I had that book to deal with, deal with to write over the next four or five, six months or whatever. And it was, again another another piece of the puzzle. So I do feel as though even though we sometimes feel as though the universe's is kicking us in the teeth constantly, the universe can also bring us some of these blessings and joy that we are expecting that can help nurture and satisfy us in a different way.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:18
And where can people find your new book executive, the executive chair

Kelly Edwards 1:12:24
It's going to be released on Amazon next week, on Tuesday, the 12th so that's, so by the time this comes out, it might already have been but it's gonna be on Amazon, it will be on mwp.com. The Michael weezy Productions website, it will eventually be at Barnes and Noble. I think you can probably search for it online and probably find other booksellers that that will have it but but if you like it, please leave it. Leave it out. Yeah, a nice review on Amazon. I hope people get something out of it. My goal with the book is really to give people the tools that they might not have otherwise had about how to navigate some of the ins and outs of the industry and to know what's an executive head so that you can navigate that more effectively than you might have not otherwise had the had that advantage. So it's with good intentions but I put that out there in the world.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:23
Kelly It has been an absolute pleasure talking to you on the show today. I know we can keep going for a little while longer for sure. We could geek out about television for a while but I appreciate you coming on the show and thank you for putting the book together. And I wish you nothing but the best in your new endeavors and I'm not to sound condescending, but I'm proud of you. I'm proud that you that you took the you jumped it's the it takes bravery to leave a cushy job and to leave a good paycheck and and and as you get older it gets even more risky so that you did it and you've landed on your feet and you're happy is a hopefully an example that everybody listening can can take to heart so thank you so much Kelly.

Kelly Edwards 1:14:04
Thank you for having me. This has been amazing. And I appreciate what you do. This is what you do is is is just gives me like it really does I love with your podcast. So thank you for having me.

 

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IFH 525: The Art of Creativity and Wonder with Jeffery Davis

As we get older it seems that we lose tough with our inner child. We lose touch with that remarkable creative engine. Filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro have figured out a way to not only stay in contact with his inner child but also not lose his sense of wonder.

Today’s guest will be helping us tap into out own sense of wonder that can help you on your creative path. We have on the show author, entrepreneur and human potential expert Jeffery Davis.

Jeff approach’s life and work as a quest. Everything he does – from building a thriving business to writing books to serving as a branding strategist to designing live Brand Artistry Labs to delivering keynotes to guiding his two girls’ through childhood – are part and parcel of the same quest for integrity, meaning, and making.

But like most quests, mine has been neither easy nor straightforward.

He has deliberately sought a life of meaning and making since he was 19 and declared in his private notebook that he would become a writer and preserve my imagination.

In his 20s, he co-founded The Walden Institute, devoted to studying  human potential through the intersections of neuroscience, existential psychology, and the literary arts. By age 31, though, he was all intellect and drive with a shrinking heart and vanishing imagination.

I get to work with top-notch change-makers, and that includes our team of creative renegades at Tracking Wonder consultancy – our boutique consultancy focused on brand story identity, strategy, and asset development.

Tracking wonder is not kid’s stuff. It’s radical grown-up stuff.

Jeff lives with these burning questions that shape his days:

  • How does Story change us?
  • How is creating a signature brand with integrity a meaningful, creative endeavor?
  • How is wonder the source of every human being’s original creative genius?
  • How are building a family and building a business part and parcel of living a life of making meaning, projects, a livelihood, and a difference?
  • The result has culminated in this quest for tracking wonder.

His new book is called Tracking Wonder: Reclaiming a Life of Meaning and Possibility in a World Obsessed with Productivity.

Discover how the lost art of wonder can help you cultivate greater creativity, resilience, meaning, and joy as you bring your greatest contributions to life.

Beyond grit, focus, and 10,000 hours lies a surprising advantage that all creatives have—wonder. Far from child’s play, wonder is the one radical quality that has led exemplary people from all walks of life to move toward the fruition of their deepest dreams and wildest endeavors—and it can do so for you, too.

“Wonder is a quiet disruptor of unseen biases,” writes Jeffrey Davis. “It dissolves our habitual ways of seeing and thinking so that we may glimpse anew the beauty of what is real, true, and possible.” Rich with wisdom, inspiring stories, and practical tools, Tracking Wonder invites us to explore how the lost art of wonder can inspire a life of greater joy, possibility, and purpose. You’ll discover:

The six facets of wonder—key qualities to help you cultivate the art of wonder in your work, relationships, and life
How wonder can help us fertilize creativity, sustain the motivation to pursue big ideas, navigate uncertainty and crises, deepen our relationships, and more.

The biases against wonder—moving beyond societal and internalized resistance to our inherent gifts
Why experiencing wonder isn’t really about achieving goals—though that happens—but about how we live each day
Inspiring stories of people whose experiences of wonder helped them move through the unthinkable to create extraordinary lives
Practical exercises, tools, and reflections to help you begin your own practice of tracking wonder

A refreshing counter-voice to the exhausting narrative hyper-productivity, Tracking Wonder is a welcome guide for experiencing more meaning and joy in the present moment as you bring your greatest contributions to life.

If you are stuck or just need a jump start to your creative process then get ready to take some notes.

Enjoy my “wonder” filled conversation with Jeffery Davis.

Right-click here to download the MP3

 

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I like to welcome to the show, Jeffery Davis, how you doing Jeffery?

Jeffery Davis 0:15
Doing great. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:16
I'm doing great, my friend. I'm doing great. I really wanted to have you on the show. Because I need some wonder in my life, I need to track some of that wonder. And I need to use it to, to help me in my creative path as well as not only creative path, but honestly, your soul's path in so many ways just like your your life's journey. So I have to ask you, how did you get started? In this field of work?

Jeffery Davis 0:43
Yeah, yeah, this field of work, you're tracking wonder, right? Company consultancy? Like, do that? Yeah, I'll just start off briefly, we can talk about, you know, more more what is wondering what I've come to discover about the nature of these experiences of wonder after 15 plus years of deliberate research into it. You know, currently, I'm a I'm a strategist and consultant and. And that's often been my line of work for for quite some time. And over 15 years ago, I was researching another project related to creativity and the creative process came across a book, little known book of yoga philosophy. And it kind of really opened me up. And I'll just say, briefly, that was kind of the moment of inspiration. Because it just it the commentary said something about the nature of reality might be like this ordinary waking world, and this world of the interior world of the dreams and mind that we have. And when you can experience ultimate reality. Right here in this ordinary world, then you're characterized quite often by Wonder, or a sort of joy filled amazement. And so when I read that, that was a moment of inspiration for me, because I realized, I had been looking for much of my life, for those sets of experiences, the sets of experiences where you feel fully alive, and like this, is it in this ordinary world, without having to seek transcendence or some other reality? Yeah. So that was a moment of inspiration, I then devoted a lot of my work toward researching. And taking some deep dives into these experiences of wonder this is 2004. So there's very little science of Wonder available.

Alex Ferrari 2:41
So I didn't know that there was any there was any period

Jeffery Davis 2:44
There was actually some science of odd just starting. And so I was talking with some of those psychologists like Dacher, Keltner, at UC Berkeley, who actually confers with Pixar Studios that make science of all now. So there was a little science involved, but very little, yes, on the science of wonder. And so but I was taking some deep dives in some other areas, trying to make some, some connections, about wonder, kind of an intellectual journey. And then a few years later, after experiencing just a set of personal adversity. Within a year, my wife and I, getting married and buying our dream house, farmhouse in the Hudson Valley of New York, we had a house fire, I had Lyme disease, that the that fire put us out of our house for 15 plus months. We ended up having a baby and that 15 months, baby, there was just like a number of things that was just like a domino effect. But I did what I did. And I got really curious about what was going on with me in tandem with my explorations of wonder. So this is kind of the defining moment, you know, to your question, this was the set of inflection points for me. And that period, I got really curious about the relationship between our experiencing adversity, constant challenge, constant change. And whether or not experiences of wonder could help us not only navigate that adversity, but ultimately flourish in that adversity. So I committed a lot of my research and a lot of my delivery to my, my clients. With that framework in mind, and I'll just say in brief part of my discovery, and part of the premise of the book tracking wonder is that when we look at what I call fulfilled innovators, people who have really contributed to their fields, but who described their lives as being fulfilled, not burnt out, There's surprising advantages, not necessarily 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, or grit or wealth or some DNA, genius talent. It is actually they have maintained an abiding sense of wonder. And that's what I've continued to test out. And further now with the emerging science of wonder in the past six years, I've corroborated that hypothesis.

Alex Ferrari 5:25
There's there's one director that I always look at that that has that sense of wonder is that Steven Spielberg? Oh, yeah. Yes. Steven Spielberg is one of those guys who, who just you could just tell even though he's not making his his, I mean, his films that he's been making recently, in the last, let's say, 1015 years, have been more serious, more grown up tackling like Lincoln and Munich and other things like that. But there's always a sense of wonder and the stuff that he does, and he's maintained that wonder throughout his career,

Jeffery Davis 6:01
You're absolutely right. So Spielberg's early work is definitely wonder driven, very specifically, and just with what I said, it's wonder in this ordinary world, right, so I'm curious about the Harry Potter movies, in part because I have a 12 year old daughter who's really interested in them, and the Harry Potter stories. But what I the reason I'm less interested in those is because there's some other sort of Warlock world out there. You know, I'm really interested in the magic among the Mughals. Here, you, people, but you're absolutely right. Steven Spielberg, Wes Anderson, is another one who is constantly full of wonder who can sometimes take on serious subjects satirically, but also wondrously

Alex Ferrari 6:45
Yeah. And it's interesting as you start going down the list of filmmakers, or just creatives in general, in whichever field, the people who are at their highest level, they all seem to have a sense of wonder of what they do. Of almost and Pixar is a great example of that. I mean, Pixar is, you know, without without a doubt, one of the best track records in history of Yeah, of Wonder within their, their storytelling. So when you said, oh, yeah, we I think we were talking about earlier that you've interviewed people. I've talked to people from Pixar from animation, that world seems to have so much more wonder than normal Hollywood or normal storytelling, in many ways,

Jeffery Davis 7:31
In many ways, and yes, so part of my Interviews With Innovators in so many different areas in my research, including filmmakers, like Mark Osborne, who directed Kung Fu Panda, he also directed the audacious remake of The Little Prince, the most adored story in all of France. And he and he had to do it very different was beautiful, as beautiful as a shot. Credible remake. You know what I just saw this beautiful, so beautiful. And I asked him, so he said, You know, every animator making every animated film is like a nightmare, which is not unlike what Ken Burns also says, so can you know, amazing documentary filmmaker, says, Every documentary is like a million problems. So if you know that, right, so let's just pause there for a moment because one of the premises of the book tracking wonder in my body of work, this is what I tell everybody I work with. Every big idea begets a series of challenges. So you have a great idea for a film, it's like, yeah, let's make this film that sounds great. Well, that's fine. But just know that that's going to beget a series of challenges. So you normalize that. So the question is for Mark Osborne, or Ken Burns, or Alex or anybody is like, what is going to get you and your team through those series of challenges without burning out? And without burning bridges.

Alex Ferrari 9:12
Now, one thing I one thing I remember about myself when I was younger, is my sense of wonder was a lot more than it is today. And I'm not talking about when I was a child I was talking about like, even when I was in my early 20s at film school, or, you know, have my new first job and everything seemed wonders to me like, oh my god, is that a machine that edits? What is that? What is that camera? What is it? Every little part of the process for me was wonderous. And yet, as you get older, you become more cynical. Can you kind of lose that wander a bit. And those moments that I've always found happiness is when I reconnect to that wonder wherever that that wonder might be, and I think it's something that comes in We're born innately with that and the world beats it out of us. Is that a fair statement?

Jeffery Davis 10:05
It's in part true. So I appreciate that you that you acknowledge that about your earlier self. I think that's true for most of the people I work with. Certainly it's been true for myself. So if I could I'll elaborate just a bed on. Yeah. What? Why does wonder Wayne, right? We, every human being is born, wide eyed with wonder and certain can cultural anthropologist corroborate this, that we human beings, in part uniquely, are born wide eyed with wonder we're perhaps here, some evolutionary biologists are suggesting to wonder. So the question is, why do we lose it as you're as you're saying? It's important neurological, at about 12 or 13 years old. You remember that? Time? It was like the time I called like, the lowest ring of the inferno. For myself. It's like really hard years.

Alex Ferrari 10:59
Puberty. Puberty.

Jeffery Davis 11:01
Yeah. Yeah, it's hard. My 12 year old daughter is navigating get Grace graciously, so far, but far better than I did. So. But what's happening neurologically, even for her, his her synapses are paring out. She's not making as many synaptic connections and so not everything seems so amazingly new anymore already, right? That just is natural neurologically. The other part is, in part social and cultural, we start becoming self conscious how we're being sized up with other people. It's also cultural Alex, I mean, we swim in a culture in this country, that prizes productivity to a fault. And daydreaming and wondering doesn't appear productive. Although, I could argue and demonstrate why it ultimately is, but it certainly doesn't appear that way. So that's a part of it, too. Now, what you identified as a young filmmaker is the novelty part, that wide eyed wonder, right wonder as several facets that I explore in the book, but one is that wide eyed openness, right? When things are new, when the ideas are new, when the equipment's new, and like, oh my gosh, I'm going to be a filmmaker. And you're right, if we're not careful, we can become jaded. We can become cynical we can become we can approach the world has been there, done that? Oh, yeah. Tell me something. I don't already know. That whole mindset is self defeating. And it's clearly wonder defeating? Yeah, so So to answer your question, yes. It's all of that and, and more, right. It's not that the world beats it out of us. It's that the the world we've inherited does not necessarily support us, as wondering grownups. And but I will argue that wonders, not kids stuff. It is radical, really important grownups stuff.

Alex Ferrari 12:58
Yeah, absolutely. And I've had friends of mine, very good friend of mine who worked at Disney animation. And I would walk into Disney animation. And I would just see people playing video games, they would have like full room setup, with video games in arcades, and whatever your basketball net the things that are absolutely nothing to do with productivity. Because it allow their juices to flow and allow that guest sense of wonder that creativity, to want to come through. And when I saw that, I was like, This isn't me This is remarkable. And now they have that in the tech companies in the you know, Google and Apple and those they have those kinds of environments now where it's not the cubicle, sit down, do your job nine to five, yes, those worlds exist. But those companies I find don't, aren't nearly as productive as I mean, I just mentioned at Google, Apple, I mean, Disney, these are these are top of their industry kind of companies. And they're letting their their employees just kind of goof around, quote unquote, goof around. But they realize the benefit of allowing yourself even if you're working at home, allowing yourself time to wonder time to reconnect with that child. And and I go back to Spielberg because he said, it's so much I've talked to so many people who've worked with him over the years. And they said, It's like seeing a child on set. And a lot of these big directors a lot of these big screenwriters and filmmakers, and other people in other in other fields. They seem to be able to connect to that at will. And that's their superpower.

Jeffery Davis 14:36
Boy, you just set it. So I love that you're making these connections. Ron Howard, I think is another one.

Alex Ferrari 14:43
Oh, all right. Yeah. What Ron is, he's yeah, I've spoken to a few people who've worked with him. And he's just like this child on set, and you could see it in their eyes and the actors love working with these because they start feeling like Oh, I'm at home. dressing up for my parents to put on a show. And when you can connect to that energy as an adult, it's extremely powerful because we all watching that on a subconscious level yearning for that, that those good times if those were good times for you, but to go back to that moment of wonder to go back to believing in all the things that we believed in when we were children, it was just such a, you know, not nostalgia, but it's just something that connects you to that source. Whatever you want to use it

Jeffery Davis 15:35
Know, you so hit it and, and right, yeah, our childhoods are complicated. And I do watch my two girls and my younger one, I think wow, childhoods actually really confusing. Oh, nothing's nothing's at your scale. Nothing sized for you. It's like it's really good for you, you're learning these crazy roles that these crazy giants have set up you. So you've hit it on so many tracks. So there's actually a, an assay I often go back to is written in the late 1800s by a poet and art critic named Charles Bode lair, and he was looking at the artwork of this artist Constantine geese who had just started painting in his 60s, I think, you know, started pretty late, and was naively trained, not formally trained, exhibiting some of his early work in Paris, like the art center of the world. And he's writing this essay about Constantine GIS as sort of like a portrait of the future modern artists, sort of forcing the 20th century. And what he was recognizing and GIs who GIS wasn't drawing or painting the sort of common romantic figures of the heroic past, he was painting ordinary women and people on the streets and sidewalks right around him. And so, so bowed lair, to like something you said a minute ago, Bowdler says about GIS and about painters in general about us in general is that genius is the capacity to retrieve childhood, at will. Jazz is the capacity to retrieve childhood at will, which is exactly what you're getting on. And so not to get too philosophical for your audience. But I'm sure there are a lot to you know, if this is a film audience, I can go a little fill philosophical. So genius. So I've studied philosophy for a long time too, and in Greek philosophy among Aristotle and others. Genius, the word the Greek word for genius is de Amman. And so Aristotle and others contended that we're each born with a damn on this unique force of character. That is unique to every one of us. You know, Steven Spielberg has his Ron Howard has his Alex as his I have mine. The thing is, we're born forgetting what that unique force of character is. And occasionally, in certain moments, you will remember it. Occasionally, in certain moments, maybe a mentor will reflect back to you something innately talented in you that you don't quite see in yourself. So one thing I have teams do is actually recall moments when they might have been seven or eight, nine or 10 years old, before some of that neuronal pairing. And recall certain moments when you felt alive and free to be distinctly you without regard for reward or recognition. And when you really delve into those memories and sensory ways, maybe even write about them, you will remember certain traits about sort of your young genius, so to speak. And the evidence is showing that when you do that, when you actually recall those moments, share those moments, and then actively bring forward some of those traits to your work at hand. I just imagine if you recalled that young genius every morning, and wrote down say three of those traits of your young genius every morning and then looked at your schedule and said, How am I going to bring one or more of those traits with me today at work? Things change, and I've seen it happen over and over again that somebody feels like they've lost that sense of wonder. Starts to up there wonder ratio. It's not like you go through the whole day like Peter Pan, God forbid. You do up your wonder ratio and you maintain some of that idealism but in a pragmatic way.

Alex Ferrari 19:46
Yeah, there's, there's, I always say, when I'm when I'm speaking, I, I always tell people how many here know an angry and bitter filmmaker, and then people would people would raise their hands screenwriter and they would raise their hands. And I go, Whoever didn't raise your hand, you are the angry and bitter filmmaker that everybody else knows. Because it's just the way it is what in your opinion causes? You know, you know, we're using the we're using filmmaking as a as an example. But they're in any field, whether it be opening a business, writing a book, you know, being an actor, or a painter or anything. What is it that causes us to lose that hope, lose that wonder of what God has started in the first place? And turns us into those angry and bitter souls walking around the planet? Who we have to deal with on Twitter?

Jeffery Davis 20:43
It's a tough question. It's really a tough question. You know, part of my job, I feel like is to keep opened and wondering about our fellow human beings, especially the ones in the behaviors that so puzzled me like the trolls, right? And, and yes, very bitter people. And I've had some of them. And I'm like, How can I? How can I get through a little bit, and I often will succeed by just like, acknowledging, okay, they're coming from some, someplace some place?

Alex Ferrari 21:13
That has nothing to do with you. It has nothing to do with you

Jeffery Davis 21:15
Nothing to do with me, right? Oh, it's nothing to do with it's not personal, like, how can I get through here, you know, through Twitter, which is, you know, this strange, medium, and sometimes, you know, sometimes that can succeed and get a little opening and connection between us. That is a complicated question. I don't know if I can answer it. But I will say this, certainly, excessive trauma, betrayal, crisis upon crisis leads to it. But one of the facets of wonder, one of the six facets of wonder that I lay out and tracking wonder, and this comes after a lot of research, is the facet of hope. And I have to admit my own bias against hope, before I really dug into the science of Hope was Shane Lopez and some other psychologists, I had a bias against him, because it sounded sort of like, oh, you're just hoping you know, you got maybe false hope you're delusional, something like that sort of wishful thinking. It turns out that the facet of hope is not wishful thinking. It's very proactive. So I can't completely answer what it is that leads a certain individual to completely lose hope, after crisis after trauma and so forth that I will maybe tell a story about Nick Cave, since we're talking to a creative audience here. Nick, for those listeners who don't know is a phenomenal he's probably the most renowned musician and all of Australia. He's a bard singer songwriter. The bad seeds have been his band for a few decades. I think one of his musical scores has been on a Harry Potter film again. So So Nick, I guess Muse just doesn't stay near anyone lane. He I think he's, he's published novels as well. 2000 he married his wife Susie. And they had twin sons. And he said in an interview around 2000, that he became a nine to five man, his muse, like we'd come to work at nine was off at five because he wanted to be full on as a father and husband and so forth. Habit kind of integrated life was very successful that way and kind of operating that way. It's quite often how I function and flourish to I have to, like, bring my muse on at will. So 2015 his son's are 15 years old, one of them falls off a chalk cliff while they're on vacation and falls to his death at 15 years old. And as somebody who's a father of a 12 year old daughter, like that is just I can't really fathom what he went through. So what, what, what possibly gets us out of that crisis out of that darkness when the world has gone so bleak and dark. And as it did for him, as you can imagine, and for Susie as well. He said he was just completely off centered, and completely, of course, self absorbed, like they couldn't just imagine why this happened to them. And it took a while to get out of that. There are a couple of, I think, central pieces to his story about what brought him hope, again, one was community. His community of fans reached out to him. So he started a blog called the Red Hand files where he writes these intimate letters to people who are asking him questions, and that support network is really important for us when we're experiencing crisis and adversity or trauma. Just surround ourselves with other hopeful people, genuinely helpful. People give us real encouragement, not just bad advice. And so the other piece though, Alex, he says in the very first blog and read and file, somebody says, How are you getting through this incredible grief and mourning? What's getting you through? How are you able to create again? So he says in that opening blog, he said, you know, we had lost our center, what was our center? Well, for me, and probably for most creative people, if not all human beings, it's a sense of wonder. And the trauma completely divorced us from that sense of wonder, he said, and so we had to go through our mourning and through our grief and gradually find our back our way back to the creative process. He couldn't stick to a nine to five process, it was messy, so messy, but he gradually started to string together a few chords, a few lyrics, and ultimately created Alex an incredible album that I recommend to all of your listeners called Ghost teen. And it really illustrates how wonder can meet you on the other side of grief. So was a long way of not answering your question. I can't say what leads somebody to be so dark and, and cynical, and so forth. But I suspect and it's been my experience with such people, that there's still a glimmer and a desire for Wonder on the other side. And if they can surround themselves with other people who are hopeful, and if they can just move a little more forward towards something creatively, they will have more light than dark along the way.

Alex Ferrari 26:40
Now, when when we talk about wonder, we're also talking about connecting to creativity, creating in that creativity could be obviously in the arts, but that also could be in business that could also be in any, you know, in architecture could be in million different fields. How do you use wonder to tap into creativity? Or does creativity just begin to flow I always, I always talk to a lot of these high performing people who, who are able to get into the zone, it's a fascination of mine, I've been there a couple times, and I've been there many times in my life, especially when you're creative. Like you just lose track of time and, and you just flow and you're in the flow. You're just there, you don't even see what's coming in. Sometimes. When I write my books, I'm sure you feel this as well. When you're writing, you'll stop writing and you'll go back the next day and read what you wrote. You're like who wrote that? Like, I don't even that this is good. Like, I don't even remember writing it. When you get to that place in your, in your think How does wonder you how can you use wonder to tap into that creativity?

Jeffery Davis 27:47
Yeah, yeah, they're, they're intimately related. And so maybe a couple of definitions are useful. So and I do address creativity full front. In the early chapters of the book, creativity, we could define in the field of psychology as the capacity to generate and act on ideas, novel and useful ideas from fantasy to fruition, right, you've got a new idea for a film, you've got a new set of problems for the film or for the book or for the business, you're going to meet those challenges all along the way. Creativity is being able to face and finance each of those challenges and generate novel and useful solutions and then move forward with them. Right. So that's part of the creative process, and it's not always so flow. Me Hi, Chick sent me Hi, actually, the you know, the one who coined flow just died last week at 87 years old. And so he, you know, he did not define flow as being in a state of relaxation. No, no, no. He, he clearly acknowledged like it is often involving taking on voluntary challenges like filmmaking, or starting a business or up leveling up leveling and business. Right. So the creative process is like, how do we face some finesse those challenges, more expansively with a broader range of resources, both cognitively and socially, to generate and move on those novel and useful solutions. Okay, that's creativity. Wonder. Let's define wonder, right. So, wonder is a heightened state of awareness that's brought on by something that's unexpected that defies your expectations that either delight you disorient you, or both. And for a fleeting moment, right, whether it's a bald eagle that suddenly lands in your backyard, which actually happened here last week, we couldn't believe it. That certainly was delightful and disorienting. Whether it's Something a colleague of yours says, that helps you see that colleague in a new and beautiful way. You're like, wow, I never saw that part of that person. That's a moment of wonder as well. These moments of wonder, disrupt our biased ways of looking at a project disrupt our biased ways of looking at a collaborator disrupt our biased ways of seeing what we think is real. And something happens cognitively in our minds. And neurologically, that opens us up right to another possibility. So it turns out that these moments of wonder, are essential, both to starting the creative process, right with a brand new idea. And moving us through from curiosity to the middle stages of bewilderment, which is another facet of wonder, right? We're in the middle of a project, we're thinking, I'm never going to get out of this, like, Why did I even start this project? All the way to forming really good connections with our collaborators? Wonder happens at every one of those stages throughout the creative process. Does that make sense?

Alex Ferrari 31:09
It makes it Yeah, makes all the sense of the world because, you know, when you when I started this podcast, I'm sure you feel the same way. With your show, when I started this with all my podcasts when I start them, especially the first one I you know, was just like, Hey, can I get a guest, any guest, you know, someone who can come on, let me show, you know, let me start providing value to an audience that's not listening. Because I was nobody at the time. So you just and as you go through that, I'll use the analogy of a podcast, where you know, you just keep doing it and keep doing it and keep showing up and keep doing it. And, for me, I literally live in a moment, I live in a world of wonder every day with my show, because every day, I get an email from something from somebody pitching a show, or like yourself, or I have these amazing, ridiculous people who I've admired all of my life, who call up and like, I'd love to be on your show, and I get to talk to a couple hours with a hero of mine. It's become almost, it's almost become normal now on the show, and everyone listening will understand why because I've had these amazing guests coming on again, and again and again and again. And he's been going like this now for the last I don't know, year and a half. So it's just been growing and growing. And I just never really put a name to it. But I'm in a moment, I'm in a constant state of wonder. Because I'm waiting now for Steven Spielberg's people to call me and Steve is like, Steven would love to be on your show. I'm waiting for that call. Um, that hasn't come yet. But I'm waiting for that call to happen. Because that would just you want to talk about disruptive. It would just, it would completely this, like completely shake my world. And my world has been shaken multiple times over the course of the last year and a half, by people calling me up like, Hey, can I be on your show? And I'm like, What is going on? So I never really noticed that before. And then I and then all the all those connections and relationships that I've built, open up other doors. And ever since I started this whole show, I've been in a state of wonder, because every day, every week, something would come up and be like, What the hell is going on? So it's constant is really cost. It's really interesting. I've never really put a name to it before.

Jeffery Davis 33:27
I love that you said that too. I never put a name to it. Because that was my experience back in 2004 is like, oh my gosh, I think this is what I've been wanting since I was a towheaded. Boy, you know, wandering the woods there. And and so I love that on so many levels. Alex, let me let me kind of lay out for the listeners, the six facets of one Yes, please. And how they directly relate to this creative process. And even your experience in developing the podcast. It's so so spot on what you've said. So the, I think the six facets in three pairs and the first pair are openness and curiosity. So openness is like what I call the wide sky facet of wonder. It is that radical openness to possibility that we want to foster particularly at the onset of a new idea, a new chapter in our life. When we just want to be, you know, we want to reclaim that sort of wide eyed wonder that we were talking about. Curiosity is what I call the rebel facet of wonder because curiosity is very proactive at seeking new knowledge. It's it's, it's when you you know, you got really curious once you moved into the podcast idea, like okay, what's the best equipment like Who could I really get on here? And could I just set up a minimal viable experiment to like, see if this is going to work all of that experimentation as part of curiosity. Curiosity also allows us to question the status quo, which makes it really important these days to foster True curiosity. So openness and curiosity are foundational to us being able to approach our life and work more creatively than reactively really important distinction there. The second pair are bewilderment and hope and the despair. So bewilderment is what I call the deep woods facet of wonder. We get into that world of confusion. It's what much of the globe, frankly has experienced for the past year and a half. 20 is a state of bewilderment. And if we're fortunate, and we can put language to it, then we're like, Okay, this is a normal state, can I actually fertilize this confusion instead of pathologize? It can I bring some curiosity forward into the deep woods. And then there's hope hope is the rainbow facet of wonder. It's proactive. It is when we set our sights on just sometimes small near future goals. And it's where we do deliberately Daydream to foresee a better possible future. And I saw a lot of literature on this during the pandemic that was actually advocating some deliberate daydreaming. Those two facets bewilderment, and hope are essential for us developing resilience without hardening up right grid without burning out, right, really, really important for us in our well being our mental and physical well being the third facet, our connection and admiration. These I think may be the most important facets of wonder for our times, and they're not what we typically associate with wonder, but connection is the what I call the Flog facet. It speaks to our yearning to sync up with one another on a film crew, right and a dance troupe in a band or just on a team of collaborators. And it's where we really can't experience wonder with one another when we're feeling supported and buoyed and encouraged. among one another. Admiration is the mirror facet of wondering the actual root, the Latin root of the word, I'm kind of a word geek. The root of the word admiration is EMI era, which is Latin for Wonder, it is a part of wonder, and it's kind of like what you feel for Spielberg, is what I would call maybe a surprising love for someone's excellence in craft shoring character, or both, right? It's like, wow, it wakes something up in you. That's like, oh, I want to show up a little better in my care.

Alex Ferrari 37:42
Oh, that's, that's an under that's a very big understatement, my friend.

Jeffery Davis 37:48
To possibly for you and your experience with your podcast is that it's possible that you have and I mean this in a very genuine way, perhaps you've seen yourself differently to in the past year and a half like no racket. Some things were like, Whoa, like, I can show up and do like, why are people coming to me? Like, there must be something they're seeing me too, that all has to do with the facet of admiration. So I hope that was helpful to you and your and your listeners?

Alex Ferrari 38:14
No, it was without question. I mean, yeah, I mean, to show up with that love that you said, to show up a little bit a little bit better, I promise you with Mr. Spielberg shows up. It's gonna be a different conference. No offense, obviously, with anybody else I speak to. But, you know, I'm not. The funny thing is I'm not the only one. I mean, there's a generation, you know, of people who were raised with his films, and he's one of the most famous human beings on the planet, who's not a star in front of the camera. He's, you know, he's like Hitchcock, you know, he's like, one of those names that people know. So, you know, as for, and in every field, there's that, you know, they're there. And every fifth in the tech world you want to talk to, you know, Elon Musk, or Jeff Bezos, or you know, any of these guys who start up they say, so it's me, there's always somebody for everybody.

Jeffery Davis 39:02
And I want Can I up the Spielberg thing? Well, obviously, and let it speak to what you said like it didn't have a word for it. Right? Wonder so just a one up Spielberg, you know, when you were talking about like, you didn't have a word for wonder. I recognize, too, that before I had a word for it. When I look at the people I was drawn toward from my teenage hood, like, Why was I drawn toward these musicians? What was it when I look at Spielberg that I was drawn to starting in the 90s? I recognize it was that element of wonder in his films, and I realized when I was really looking into Spielberg's history in his films, I thought, Oh, alright, remembered when I was a boy. I saw on television, his first student film duel with I think Sam Weaver.

Alex Ferrari 39:52
Yep. It wasn't a it wasn't a student film, but yes, it was. It was his first it was, it was a TV movie. It was a TV movie. Was it wasn't that it wasn't supposed to go anywhere. But it was so good. They released the theatrically because everyone was like, What the hell's going on?

Jeffery Davis 40:09
Is that right? He completely just, like changed everything. So, yeah, but I do I, again, like I do remember, like my early fascination with Spielberg. And later I realized it was like, Oh, it was his sense of wonder, right? Even. Even in Schindler's List, right. That use of color was impart his sense of where's the Wonder amidst this devastating story?

Alex Ferrari 40:36
Yeah, yeah. And even in even in his later work that he's doing now, they're still senses of wonder, even in Lincoln, even in Lincoln. And absolutely, there's just a different it's just no, it doesn't have to be Peter Pan, you know, running around. It's really interesting. Why do I have to ask you? Why do you think that wonder is looked at as being so childish, that daydreaming? Isn't that the bond being so childish? I know, specifically here in the States, but I think worldwide, it there's a little less variations, depending on what country you're in, and what culture you come from. But generally speaking, you know, I don't I don't, I don't know, at least of any cultures, or countries that are just like, you know, what you need to go do? You need to just go daydream. And you need like, that's not something that happens wise.

Jeffery Davis 41:22
You know, I've spent some time in India. And and so, you know, and I referenced like, there wasn't a lot of science of wonder in 2004. So what did I went to the philosophers, I went to the wisdom traditions of the east with and I went to the poets and I've published collections of poetry. I went to all those sources, because they, of course, were advocating wonder, in many ways, because they got it, they understood it. There are certain cultures, that actually will promote at least a wondrous state of being more so than others, I can speak specifically to the one that I have swum in all of my life and inherited, and that's, that's this one, specifically in the United States. And part of the cultural heritage that we've inherited, whether we're part of this lineage or not, it in part goes back to in this country, to a sort of Scottish Irish heritage related to the Protestant work ethic. Part of that lineage, you know, considered idleness, the devil's playground.

Alex Ferrari 42:31
Yeah, I don't have idle hands is the devil's

Jeffery Davis 42:34
The devil's playground, right? And so, so just and so I dug into this more. In Scotland in the 17th century, there was a an illness called the wonders, that was characterized by sort of numbness and just sort of gazing sort of being in a stupor. This is part of what we've inherited, like you can imagine, right? A boy out the field, and he's daydreaming and they're like, Oh, look at that, that is not going to amount to anything, right. But he turns out to be an innovator who may may make labor conditions even better, you know, a generation later for this day dreaming. So in this culture, too, so I've been looking at the history of work as I'm you know, we're questioning the nature of work. Now at tracking wonder been looking at the history of work, and, and a fellow name, whose last name was Taylor, in the turn of the 20th century, started to be one of the first organizational consultants, so to speak, who later influenced Henry Ford and others. He was, he was determined, he gave a talk at nine 1903 where he's like, you know, there's hardly a laborer alive, and you know, in this country, who's not always trying to scheme or figure out some way to make it appear as if he's working more than he actually is. So, you know, then there is this whole perspective that like to be a successful company or a successful business, you needed to treat human beings as laborers of unit as units of labor. Right. And your virtues were discipline, control and speed, right. And so then the measurement of a workers value was all related to efficiency and speed, right? Not daydreaming, not having Google's 20% off to like, figure out

Alex Ferrari 44:23
Innovate and innovative

Jeffery Davis 44:25
Right? So this is all of what we've inherited, and certainly what we're questioning it certainly in part with the pandemic and other elements of the past year and a half. It started to make us question, but I can't help but tell you a recent story related to film that illustrates this point and part of its heritage in Ireland, and part of my heritage is is from Ireland and Scotland. So apologies to any Irish Irish listeners. But they'll appreciate it I think. So my daughters and I recently watched two films last week, both set in Ireland One was Billy Elliot, and the other was seeing St. Yeah, yeah, you know, those both right. They're both set in Ireland. They're both like, you know, and they're both of a Billy Elliot is a great illustration, right? He's an Ireland, his father and and his older brother involved in the labor wars, you know, trying to get better conditions for labor. And Billy, here's Billy he's wanting to dance, dance, to dance ballet of all things. Ballet ballet, right? Yeah. And so, but it is a beautiful story of just what we're talking about a culture that does not support wonder. And yet what the most beautiful aspect of that story, of course, is how the father ultimately recognizes the beauty of his son's dancing and why it is how he really needs to flourish. So that's a long way of answering this question, right? That we, we just inherited some of this paradigm, right? That That reduces wonder to Child's Play. The other thing is what we have to do, I would argue Alex, is then test ourselves and our own minds and disrupt our own default assumptions, about wonder about ourselves and about each other, right to just kind of check in and say, yeah, what is my, what is my view of wonder? Like, what like, Could I actually see some parts of myself that are really hungering to be more creative, more imaginative, more caring? In my relationships? And, you know, have I kind of boxed myself in, over the past 1015 20 years, right to kind of disrupt my own default assumptions and not just blame? The culture I've inherited? Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 46:47
Yeah. And that's the thing we there's a look, I, he can imagine me speaking to my father, who was a Cuban, who's a Cuban man who worked in a factory. And I'm like, Hey, I'm going into the film business. And this, like, what? And to this day, vaguely understands what I do 25 plus years later, and he's been on set with me, and he's like, I don't know what he does. But everyone listens to him on set. So

Jeffery Davis 47:14
Simple, right. And so many people I've interviewed to write who often come from first generation immigrant, yeah, families, right face that, that conflict, right? Like, wait, we didn't come here to the United States for you to become a philosopher, or, you know, or a musician or something like that.

Alex Ferrari 47:33
It's, it's, it's crazy. I mean, if you look at I mean, look, Steve Jobs. I mean, he created one of the biggest company in the world who arguably was very full of wonder. And you know, he complicated gentleman, to say the least. But he definitely had vision, and was tapped into stuff that nobody else was, no one else saw a lot of the stuff that he saw, and he saw five, six steps before anybody else did. I mean,

Jeffery Davis 47:58
One of jobs, his most common, consistent muses was the 18th century poet, William Blake. Yeah, Blake, you know, I can't I can't recite it. Unfortunately, right now, I used to a long time ago. But, you know, Blake, and some of the points that jobs would carry around, we're sort of like being able to see eternity in an hour. Right? You know, Blake just had these visionary points, really being able to see wonder Blake would talk about how most of us human beings experience reality through narrow caverns, right. But we occasionally can break out of those caverns of reality to experience infinity in the present.

Alex Ferrari 48:45
Yeah, the other book that he had the only book he had on his iPhone, an iPad, when he died was Autobiography of a Yogi, you know, by Yogananda. So that's, I mean, talk about wonder that book will, that book will mess you up in the best way possible. Without question now, in your book, do you have some examples of people using wonder to kind of build lives or to do extraordinary things?

Jeffery Davis 49:14
In every in every chapter? So there are six facets of wonder that I laid out for you there's an unchecked or there is an unchecked or that we intentionally did not number that actually the designers surprise me at sounds true and published sideways. There is a sideways chapter, where you actually be the book sideways, right? They did just some radical work design wise. So that's the chapter on your young genius. And your young genius. I talked about Arianna Huffington. In other chapters, another one I talk about Tracy Fullerton who's an amazing innovator in video games. Nick Cave, I recount part of that story in the chapter on hope, but there are Both what I would call exemplary geniuses of creativity, who stories I tell in a variety of industries, and every day, geniuses of creativity, and these are people in our international community at tracking wonder they're people I've worked with, they're people like Evelyn Asher, who is 80 years old, who is still working hard. And she reclaimed her young genius, just a few years shy of 80 years old to completely revive her business, right? And it's those everyday geniuses of creativity over the years who've taught me so much about the real applications and the real necessity of wonder in our times.

Alex Ferrari 50:45
Now, what are some tools or exercises that creatives you know, filmmakers, screenwriters, anybody listening? Can can tap into to use to tap into that, that sense of wonder if you become that angry and bitter person? How do you get out of the darkness? How do you see the light Jeffrey? Wow, okay, no pressure, no pressure? How do you come towards the light, Jeffery?

Jeffery Davis 51:07
No. Yeah, no, I appreciate that. So the book, actually, every chapter also includes some specific tools. And I tried to be very generous in that aspect as well. And we can start actually, sort of foundational practice is what I call DOSE, D. O. S, E, that then we can apply very specifically. So D, is detecting your default pattern of thinking about something or of reacting to a surprise or challenge, right? So your default ways of trying to solve a problem or advance a business or thinking about your podcast? Can you detect what that default pattern is? Can you detect your confirmation bias? And can you just kind of feel right, so O stands for Open up, pause and just feel that reaction or that default pattern. And then S stands for seek out wonder seek out some different possibility. And I'll give you some examples in a moment. And then he stands for extend, which means to really appreciate and reflect upon whatever possibility or moment of wonder or surprise that you actively sought out. So this can go to the level of how you shape your days for more wonder and openness on a daily basis, your default pattern in the morning, many people I know, check their phones first thing in the morning for texts and emails, it's like a default addictive thing. That's detecting the pattern. And when you notice that just like detect it open up to like, oh, how does this feel like not so great, like it puts me in a state of reactivity? And I'm just allowing other things to stimulate my curiosity instead of me directing it. So could I just feel that and then seek out something different? Instead of checking my phone every morning? Could I just actually get up and step outside for three minutes, and look up at the sky for just a moment and see how that helps me feel? And then could I extend and like, just write three minutes about what that experience was like? So you're shifting your default patterns, this is core to being a grown up. Right? That is is really fostering wonder. There are other things you could do them to disrupt your patterns, morning, afternoon, and evening, we, we lay out some of what we call wonder interventions for for teams and for individuals. So during the day, you and I I'm sure can work really hard and just get stuck. It's not really flow. It's just like, work hard and get through your to do list. Right, right. Right. That's not real. So we know, cognitively and psychologically, we can only focus for so long, optimally. So to work well, we have to break better. So how could we break better? So we have teams actually take wonder walks for five minutes, the science at Stanford is overwhelming for why this benefits your creativity and why it reboots your focus. So is there something you could do to just kind of disrupt your work patterns? Could you take a break and just have a curiosity conversation with somebody to open up in the evening rather than default and check out and numb out? That turns out to be Alex when you are tired and fatigued the afternoon or evening when your best opportunities to generate new and novel useful ideas. So rather than numbing out or checking out, it's a time to maybe take that meandering walk but also to reflect on. Okay, what were three good highlights today. I can tell you at the end of the Z So today, this conversation I've had,

Alex Ferrari 55:04
It's been very surprising, I appreciate

Jeffery Davis 55:10
The open moment with you really? Yeah, I know, I do talk about Spielberg, right. And so I will look back at the end of this day. And I will actually write a few things about this experience. Why? Because that reflection will be will increase the meaning and my life, we make meaning in part by reflecting on these sorts of moments. And so we have teams do this sort of activity as well to recognize the meaning that happens sometimes in the margins of our work, that help us work better.

Alex Ferrari 55:42
There's, um, there's one thing and I wanted to just go a little bit deeper on on a certain thing that because we're talking about creativity, and I always love asking high performing individuals who are creative in every field, you know, that they in whatever they do, where it comes from, like, Where does this creativity come from? Where is that thing, and I was talking to someone who, on my other show, that had the I love this story it is I keep repeating the story because it's so beautiful. He was heartbroken. He moved, he went on a job to India, in the 60s 63, if I'm not mistaken, and his girlfriend broke up with him while he was over there. He was heartbroken. He didn't know what to do. And someone said, You should go try some meditation. And he goes and it goes to, to this Ashram, where this yogi is teaching meditation. He gets the front door and it's like, I'm here to learn meditation. I'm sorry, the ashram is closed. He goes, Why is the ashram close? Because the Beatles are here. And I'm like, he's like, What? He's like, Yeah, the Beatles are here. And we're close. He's like, and he tells him to stay. He's like, look, I can let you in. Now, why don't you just stay, I'll bring you food. And you can sleep on one of our tents outside the door. And he did. He stayed there for eight days. Until finally, like, on the eighth day, he just thought he would just stay there because he had nowhere else to go. And he was it obviously needed help. They let him in. They go come in, I'll teach you how to meditate. They taught him how to meditate. They taught him TM, meditation. And then right after he was full of this amazing, you know, euphoria, after meditating for the first time, he's going out and he goes, go meet the others at the table, and he's walking. And there's John Paul, George, and Ringo, with his wives and girlfriends. And as he's walking, he's still in a blissful state, but his heart rate starting to starting to go faster and faster and faster. And he's starting to realize, as he's walking towards, like, oh my god, it's the Beatles. And for people listening, The Beatles in 1963 64, were the biggest human, the most famous human beings on the planet. There, everybody knew who they were. And he was about to go sit down with them at a table privately. And, and I never forgot what he said. He said, the little voice inside of his head, you could say wherever it came from, but the word little word voice inside of it says that, hey, calm down. They're human beings. They fart and are scared of the dark.

Jeffery Davis 58:29
And they all think they're imposters.

Alex Ferrari 58:31
Right! So but what I found, what I found about found out from talking to him was when he was talking to because he actually saw them for I think he stayed there for like, eight, nine days, and saw them writing, like, hey, Jude. Like an album of theirs. I forgot which album was I think it was after Sergeant Pepper, I'm not sure. But it was, it wasn't the White Album, it might have been the white part of the lineup. I don't remember. But it was like these amazing songs. And he was just there taking pictures of them. Not that he was a professional photographer, he just happened to have a camera, I was taking a picture of him. And he noticed something about their openness, their sense of wonder, I mean, being there meditating on a daily basis with with this with this yogi. And that's a sense of wonder. But anyone I've talked to who's been around, superb, Sir Paul McCartney, or Ringo Starr, or any of them, say the same thing. There is this lightness of energy around them. There's this openness to ideas that they were able because I mean, you can't argue with the output of what the Beatles did when they all four of them were in flow for for a long, long time. They tapped into something that consistently for decades, for a couple decades, at least. That was the magical part of it. So again, there's a long question. I just wanted to tell you that story. But I always wonder, and I'd love to hear what you think about where you think your creativity comes from where, where that thing when you're writing the book, and you lose yourself in the writing process, and you don't even recognize the words that are coming out of, of your fingers. Where that comes from, in your opinion.

Jeffery Davis 1:00:19
Yeah, so I actually want to demystify flow and creativity a little bit, because a lot of my process in writing this book was like, pacing, talking to myself, sort of like knocking my head up against the wall, all of which I would describe as part of flow. Okay, so. So inspiration, you know, the root of which is like to be breathed in to breathe, right? And so, yeah, so your question was like, what are the origins of

Alex Ferrari 1:00:58
Well, the muse, like the Greeks use the the, the Greeks use the muse, that the Muse would come in and whisper something in your ear. But there's people that I've continued to study over my work over the years that, and I've been studying high performers, since I was in high school, I've been reading books about and all of them seem, even scientists seem to be able to tap into that, well, effortlessly, for a period of time. Not many do it for their entire life. But for a period of time moments, they're able to tap into that. What is what is that thing

Jeffery Davis 1:01:34
I teach a course that like 1000, people have taken around the world called deepen your focus and flow at work. Right. So it's incremental. I don't know what the source of that sort of Spark is. Because I think it can be so defeating for people who don't necessarily experience that this sort of sort of chase after it. But I will say this, I, if it's true that all wisdom begins in wonder, all true knowledge begins in not knowing, I really do think that wonder actually begins in our human relationship with the natural world. I would contend that it is our human capacity to be attuned to and to actually perceive patterns in nature, including Steve Jobs and others. That actually gives us some neuronal psychological, soulful, spiritual networking. To be able then in those seemingly magical moments to come up with some new inspired moment that then we can act upon. Yeah, yeah. Now for me over the years, and the people that I work with, who are high performers, they ultimately learn to set up conditions to be able to create at will to retrieve their childhood, it will, you know, and I mean, and that can be so individual, how do you work with the constraints of your your life circumstances? But how do you shape time? How do you redirect your attention? How do you create 90 minute blocks where you like, everything else is gone? And your mind is fully focused? And in flow, though, that requires usually some setting up conditions to make the news appear at will? Does that make sense?

Alex Ferrari 1:03:32
It makes it makes all the sense in the world

Jeffery Davis 1:03:35
To get both from you know, more of a pragmatic. Yep. We help people like actually know that it's possible for them to create our paradise.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:48
Yeah. And the thing is to that and everyone listening, I want you to understand is like, I'm not saying that you have to tap into Steven Spielberg's Well, or Steve Jobs as well. Those are their wells, their, that's their flow, that's their, that's the thing that they get that they're able to tap into. You need to find out where yours is, and how to tap into yours. And now we're getting really deep. But sometimes it's Spielberg said this so beautifully. And I think I have a print story, too, that illustrates this as well, where Spielberg says ideas float around the universe. And when they come, they'll come to you. If you don't do something with it, it will leave you and go somewhere else. And that he's had so many times where an ideas come to him. He's like, now I won't do that. And like a week or two later, someone's announcing that exact same idea. Like, why is it all of a sudden we had Armageddon, Deep Impact. All these movies show up at the same time? Why did you know the exact same sort of volcano movies all of a sudden museum hot or there was something that popped in all of us and Prince had heard this wonderful story about the late great prince, who said he would get He had he, I don't know if you know this or not, he has 8000 songs done, that were in a vault through his life that never got released, ever, ever got released. So he has an album, up into the year 3000, he'll release a new album, up until the year 3000. He will be releasing music. That's who Prince was. But he had people on call all the time when the Muse hit him. And he one day called up one of his backup singers and said, hey, hey, what are you doing? He's like, Prince, it's three o'clock in the morning. Because, yeah, I needed I need you to come down, we need to record. And she's like, but But it's three o'clock in the morning. Like, I got to get this out. Because if I don't Michael Jackson's gonna take it. It is such a beautiful way of looking at you want to talk about someone have wonder, Jesus, look at this career,

Jeffery Davis 1:05:55
People like Prince and others, they pay attention to their innate capacity, or those sort of goldfish ideas, we all have that capacity. And we all can retrieve that capacity. And there are different tools, meditation being one of them. You're constantly you know, every day, writing in the morning just to see what is in that murky mind. These are all ways of, of learning to be in wonder, with one's own mind. It's, it's a mystery, the mind does. And these people like Prince, and Spielberg and others have honed the ability to pay attention to and capture those ideas, those inspirations that's the difference. We all have them. They're a goldfish floating past the Aquarium of our awareness constantly, all day long. But have we set up the conditions to actually observe them and capture those goldfish

Alex Ferrari 1:06:56
Oh, yeah, that's an amazing analogy. I've never heard this such a visual analogy that you're absolutely right. Most of us walk through life seeing the fish go by and there's a handful of us who've been able to go Oh, no, no one sees that. Let me just grab that. I

Jeffery Davis 1:07:12
Because it's gonna swim away before I go. Forget it.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:15
iPhones. Okay, we'll do iPhones. Jurassic Park. Okay, that will be good things for you know, the because how is it that nobody on the planet thought of an iPhone? Yeah. Nobody on the planet thought of an iPhone and and had the biggest and the brightest minds in the world thinking about stuff like that.

Jeffery Davis 1:07:35
Ofcourse, before Apple, there was somebody who had thought of the iPhone and what what, you know, Jobs was really good at was coming up in seconds. And then doing best, but somebody had innovated actually before him.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:47
Yeah, right. But But Oh, yeah. I mean, the Macalester I mean, from Xerox, of course, the famous story, but the ability to take that goldfish and then repackage it and rebuild it and redo something with it. And there was a kernel of an idea there. But how many people walked by the Xerox it labs and saw that technology? And actually, the owners of Xerox saw that technology and said

Jeffery Davis 1:08:13
That inspiration is only about 3% of the whole creative process, correct? Yeah, they're 97% requires ongoing experiences of wonder, to move you through from that inspiration to like, is this going to work? Who do we bring on board? You see what I'm saying? It's like, that's like, that's what requires ongoing experiences of wonder to get you through all of the hell that I know they experienced in finally making the iPhone work.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:42
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And, as a writer, I found that and I've talked to so many writers over the years and authors. For everyone listening who wants to write wants to be a creative in whatever field, they are able to turn on the muddy water. And they have to let the mud come through first. And you just have to write and write and write and write and write. Because if not, once you have that, then the mud starts in the water starts clearing up little by little, and eventually you can drink it

Jeffery Davis 1:09:14
Completely. Yes. It's what Annie Lamott calls the SFD or the shitty first draft, you just have to,

Alex Ferrari 1:09:20
You got to get it out. Got to get it out. I've got to get it out. So I'm not going to ask you a few questions asked all of my guests. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film in the film industry, in your industry, or in life?

Jeffery Davis 1:09:35
The longest lesson to learn? That's the question,

Alex Ferrari 1:09:37
What is the longest lesson that you've that you've taken you to learn? Like, the universe kept beating you with it and you were like, No, not yet. Patience? That's mine. That's fine. Yeah. Yeah. It's taken me a take. And I'm still learning that I'm still learning that lesson. Yeah. What advice would you have for somebody who wants to find that wonder what wants to be able to connect to that creativity and is having trouble.

Jeffery Davis 1:10:04
I would say recognize that wonder is the most pervasive yet evasive emotional experience we have, it's all around. And the first thing you could do is actually relax your eyes from hunting so much information to step away from a screen and actually just let your eyes rest and pause. And then gaze upon something very ordinary, right around you for just a few breaths just to really let your eyes gaze and then maybe praise. Maybe just find the words of praise for that doorknob or the window pane, whatever it is, really, I can almost promise you if you do that, if you pause, gaze and praise, something's going to shift for you. And you say, oh, yeah, actually, there are moments of wonder that passed by me potentially every day.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:54
Jeffry, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, thank you so much for for writing the book and making me think about wonder a little bit more than I normally do and actually being able to put a name to what I've been feeling this these last years. And, and hopefully I can tap a little bit more into that myself. But thank you so much for what you do. And where can people find the book and find out more work about what you do.

Jeffery Davis 1:11:18
Yeah, well, first, thank you too. For the conversation you really do illustrate that wonder can happen in conversations when most beautiful places where wonder can happen. So tracking wonder reclaiming a life of meaning and possibility in a world obsessed with productivity comes out with sounds true, probably by the time this airs. And you can go to trackingwonder.com And you also can go to trackingwonder.com/podcastbonus and we'll have a couple of bonuses for you.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:48
Awesome, Jeffery, thank you again, my friend and be well.

Jeffery Davis 1:11:51
Thank you, Alex.

 

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What is Black Comedy? (5 Steps to Write the Perfect Dark Scene)

black comedy, dark humor, black comedy films, black comedy movies

We are often asked for advice on how to write a successful black comedy scene. Here’s a quick checklist that will help you get your feet wet with this genre of fiction.

We live in a society that thrives on black comedy. From “The Office” to “Black Mirror,” TV and film shows are full of comedy scenes that make us laugh at ourselves—and with each other. But what makes these scenes tick? Why do they work so well?

In this article, we will share five tips on writing a perfectly dark, yet funny, black comedy scene.

What is a Black Comedy Scene?

A scene is a dramatic situation in which the protagonist has a dilemma. A black comedy scene is a dramatic situation in which the protagonist has an extreme emotional reaction to the dilemma. The protagonist makes a choice that causes a chain reaction of consequences, which ultimately leads to a solution or a disaster for the protagonist.

Determine the Audience

Black comedy is about the absurdities and pitfalls of human nature. Think Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” or “The Office.” The most common setting for black comedy is in films, but it can also be used to make fun of situations in our own lives.

In your first draft of a black comedy scene, think of what the people are doing that you find absurd and how they would react to the situation if you were to write a short story about them.

The absurdities of the human condition are some of the things that make black comedy. The funniest movie scenes are usually the ones that are set in real life, but the ones that work in black comedy are exaggerated.

You can make fun of almost anything and most things in the world that you encounter. If you are writing a short story about the people in your life, then you can make fun of their attitudes and behaviors. You can tell what they are like by looking at the way they act in front of the mirror, for example.

People often say that one of the most common examples of black comedy is the “Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” sketch. This is where Brian is put on trial for being the messiah. He is told that he has been chosen by the Lord, but no one can figure out what the Lord is trying to tell them.

They ask him for a sign, but he gives them a list of signs, but they are all signs of the wrong things.

They ask for a miracle, and he gives them a series of miracles, and they are all the wrong ones. They ask for proof of his claim, and he gives them a Bible, which he promptly burns. At this point, the audience starts laughing, and the judge asks him to explain why he is doing all this. Brian replies that he is trying to prove that God does not exist.

The judge tells him that he has proved his point. The sketch is a classic example of black comedy, because it is so obviously absurd, and we know what the outcome will be. It is also an example of a meta-situation, because we know how the story will end, and we know that the ending is supposed to be funny. So, we are both amused by the story, and surprised by the ending.

Identify Your Character

To identify your character, you need to look at who they are and what their problems are. If your characters were real people, you would know them by name. Then, you would know what their problems are. You would also know what type of humor they would enjoy.

Think of it like this: What would you say is the most fun thing about life? It’s having friends. A screenwriter writing a Black Comedy knows who his or her characters are, and they know what they like to do.

When you are writing a screenplay, you need to know who your characters are and what their problems are. If you don’t know these things, you will not be able to make a good Black Comedy. You must understand your characters so you can write the story from their point of view.

When you are writing, you need to know what they do and how they act. You need to know what kind of humor they enjoy. If your character doesn’t enjoy the same type of humor that you do, then you will need to change it. You can also change the dialogue to make it more fun to read.

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Identify Your Setting

Writing a black comedy is all about setting. The setting should always tell you what kind of story you’re reading, and it should always reflect something about the writer’s worldview. This setting must be rich and compelling enough to support the rest of the writing.

Think about what setting you are in and what the stakes are for your character. Then think about what kind of trouble he or she is in. Is it something relatively simple or is it a serious life threatening problem?

In a movie where the characters are facing a dire situation, the audience needs to be invested in the characters and in the outcome of the situation.

The setting can be as simple as the physical location of the story, such as the place where the main character’s car broke down, or it can be more complex, such as the interior of the protagonist’s apartment, or the inside of a luxury hotel suite.

In all cases, the setting must be detailed enough to provide a realistic sense of where your characters are and why they’re there.

Setting should also serve as a backdrop for the story. If your setting is a rich and compelling one, the reader will be able to imagine what the rest of the story might look like. If the setting is too complicated, however, the reader will have difficulty imagining the plot and the characters.

Write Your Script

When writing a scene for a black comedy, it’s important to know the end before you begin. You need to know the goal of the scene before you start working out the details of the setting, plot and the characters.

  • What is the goal of the scene?
  • What will you achieve by writing the scene?
  • What effect will it have on the reader?
  • What is the climax of the scene?
  • Will you use the scene to make a point?
  • If so, what point are you trying to make?

The best way to answer these questions is to write the scene. Let the words flow from your pen onto the page. Don’t worry about the dialogue or the setting or anything else until you’ve finished writing the scene.

If you can’t answer these questions, don’t bother writing the scene. If you don’t know the ending, you can always change it later.

Writing Dialogue for Your Characters

Dialogue comes with a lot of rules and conventions, and if you don’t follow these rules, you’ll end up with a bland, lifeless movie. Here are the main elements of a good black comedy movie dialogue scene:

  • The dialogue should be realistic and believable.
  • The characters should be realistic and believable.
  • Write in short, punchy phrases and sentences.

The dialogue should include the use of “sneaky little words,” so you don’t have to spell everything out. And you’ll have to think about the scene from the perspective of the audience.

The dialogue should be fast-paced and realistic. You can do this by using short, punchy phrases and sentences. You can also use a lot of dialogue tags – like “said,” “replied,” “asked,” and “told.”

These are all useful for keeping the dialogue fast and tight. You also need to make sure that the dialogue is consistent. The same rules apply to dialogue on the page as they do to dialogue in the movie.

This means you need to stick to the same style of dialogue throughout the scene. Dialogue can be broken down into these basic parts:

Opening dialogue:It should be clear that the characters are speaking to each other. This might be as simple as saying their names, or as complex as having them talk about their relationship.

Main dialogue:This should cover the topic of the scene. It may be a conversation about the weather, or it could be about something more important.

Closing dialogue:This is what happens at the end of the scene. It can include anything from a simple goodbye to a full-blown argument.

Other dialogue:This can be anything from a line of exposition to a joke. The best way to write a dialogue scene is to think about the scene from the perspective of the audience. You’re trying to make sure that they know what’s going on.

Examples of Black Comedy Movies

Dr. Strangelove

Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a black comedy that tackles a scary subject that was on the minds of nearly everyone on the planet during the Cold War: nuclear annihilation.

The film is often considered the first film of the “Mad Men” era, because it depicts the 1950s as being full of fear over the nuclear arms race. The film shows the United States and the Soviet Union developing weapons that could destroy each other in a matter of seconds.

The film is also a fun poke at world leaders by making both the head of the U.S. and USSR governments totally inept and unable to make effective decisions to prevent nuclear war.

Highlights of the film include Peter Sellers in three roles (including the President of the United States). In the 1962 film, Red Alert, the American president, played by Peter Sellers, and the titular mad scientist, portrayed by Mel Ferrer, are both ex-Nazis. Stanley Kubrick found the comedy in the stark drama of the material and wrote a comedy instead. Dr. Strangelove is widely considered the best black comedy of all time.

Delicatessen

The best French black comedy is “Delicatessen” about a landlord who puts his tenants to work by killing them. He then butchers and serves them for his own enjoyment. People find cannibalism funny under normal circumstances, but not in this French comedy.

It’s funny because it’s so French, the absurdist humor, the bizarre characters, and the absurdist situation. The movie is also about being poor in a wealthy country. This was my favorite movie of the year. It’s very dark and funny, with a great performance from Gaspard Ulliel as the landlord.

World’s Greatest Dad

Many people are familiar with Robin Williams from his family-friendly comedies, including Mrs. Doubtfire and Patch Adams. In World’s Greatest Dad he plays a high school English teacher who fakes a suicide note to cover up the death of his outcast 15-year-old son. His performance was hailed by many critics as one of his best.

Many are touched by the note, and so Lance decides to live his dream as an acclaimed writer through his dead son as he begins publishing more of his son’s “work” (really, his own).

World’s Greatest Dad is a moving, hilarious and surprisingly touching film about the relationship between a father and his son. Some critics hail it as one of Williams’ best performances.

 

Black comedy might not be for everyone. It’s a great way to give your film a distinct tone. You’ll learn how to balance darkness and humor and how to make sure it stays in the right zone of a dark comedy without going too far.

IFH 516: The Art of Story, Dialog, & Character with Robert McKee

Robert McKee

Our guest today is the well-regarded screenwriting lecturer, story consultant, and eminent author, Robert McKee. Reputable for his globally-renowned ‘Story Seminars’ that cover the principles and styles of storytelling. I read his book years ago and refer to it often. I discovered McKee after watching the brilliant film Adaptation by the remarkable Charlie Kaufman. Kaufman literally wrote him into the script as a character. McKee’s character was portrayed by the Emmy Award-winning actor Brian Cox.

If you haven’t heard of Robert McKee then you’re in for treat. Robert McKee is what is considered a “guru of gurus” in the screenwriting and storytelling world.

He has lectured on storytelling for three decades, and his book Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE) is a “screenwriters’ bible“. It’s also become the bible for TV writers, and entertainment executives, and their assistants.

McKee’s former students include 67 Academy Award winners, 200+ Emmy Award winners, 100+ Writers Guild of America Award winners, and 52 Directors Guild of America Award winners.

Some of his “Story Seminar” alumnae including Oscar® Winners Peter Jackson, Julia Roberts, John Cleese,  Geoffrey Rush, Paul Haggis, Akiva Goldsman, William Goldman, and Jane Capon, among many others.

McKee’s work has shaped the way Hollywood movies have been written for years. Particularly, Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, written in 1997. A very resourceful guide for screenwriters. In Story, he expands on the concepts he teaches in his $450 seminars (considered a must by industry insiders), providing readers with the most comprehensive, integrated explanation of the craft of writing for the screen. More than 100 big-name screenwriters have benefitted from his seminars at one point or another.

Many of you might have been introduced to McKee’s work in the film Adaptation,where the great Brian Coxportrayed him. This is how I began my journey into McKee’s game-changing book Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting.

Nicolas Cage is Charlie Kaufman, a confused L.A. screenwriter overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy, sexual frustration, self-loathing, and by the screenwriting ambitions of his freeloading twin brother Donald (Nicolas Cage). While struggling to adapt “The Orchid Thief,” by Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep), Kaufman’s life spins from pathetic to bizarre. The lives of Kaufman, Orlean’s book, become strangely intertwined as each one’s search for passion collides with the others’.

My interview covered discussion on McKee’s latest book which is linked below, Character: The Art of Role and Cast Design for Page, Stage, and Screen. And a combination of his other books Dialogue: the Art of Verbal Action for Stage, Page,and Screen, andStorynomics: Story-Driven Marketing in the Post-Advertising World, which are both linked in the show notes.

This interview felt like a free pass to one of McKee’s sold out seminars — packed with knowledge bombs.

Absorb as much knowledge as you can because it come fast and hard. Enjoy this conversation with Robert McKee.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:04
I'd like to welcome to the show, Robert McKee. How are you doing, Robert?

Robert McKee 0:08
Very well, very well. Thank you.

Alex Ferrari 0:10
Thank you so much for coming on the show. I am have been a fan of your work for quite some time. I've read your first two books, and I'm looking forward to reading your new one, which we'll talk about later character. But I was first introduced to your work in the film adaptation like so many. So many screenwriters and filmmakers were how, by the way, how, how was that whole process? I mean, it was a very odd request, I'm sure that you got when you got that call?

Robert McKee 0:40
Well, it certainly was, my phone rang one day and producer named Ed Saxon calling from New York and, and he said I am mightily embarrassed. This is a phone call I've dreaded. We've got this crazy screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and, and he has made you a character in his screenplay, and he has freely cribbed from your book and from your lectures, and he has no permission to do either. And, but we don't know what to do. So I said, well, send me a script, you know, I'll you know, see what's going on. So they sent me a script, and I read it. And I saw immediately that he really needed my character as a central to the film, because he wants me to, he wanted my character to represent the the imperatives of Hollywood. And that you have to do certain things certain ways, blah, blah, blah. And, you know, which is on one level nonsense. Such rules, they their principles, and there's genre convention, but anyway, but so I was a typical kind of need to slander Hollywood in favor of the artist. And, and they wanted me to do the slandering. So, but I realized that without my character there to provide some source of conflict. The story didn't work at all. So I said, and so I tell you what, I made two phone calls. I called William Goldman. And I said, Good, he was, you know, a student of mine. And I said, Bill, they there's a film and they want to use me as a character in it. What do you think? And he said, Don't do it. Don't do it. He said, it's Hollywood. And he said, they're out to get you don't do it. I said, Yeah, but I'm okay. But suppose I had casting rights. And he says, Okay, okay, who do you want? I said, Well, let's say Gene Hackman, is it? Okay. Okay. It'll be Gene Hackman, with a big pink bow around his neck. If they want to get you, Bob, they're gonna get you don't do it. So then I called my son. And I said, Paul, you know, and he said, do it. I said, Why isn't because Dad, it's a Hollywood film, you're gonna be a character in the Hollywood film. And he said, it'll be great. Do it. So I talked to Ed Sachs, and I said, Kenny, three things. One, I need a redeeming scene. I said, you know, you want to slander me fine. But then you can't leave it at that. You got he got to give me a redeeming scene. Right? To I have to have the controller the casting, I won't tell you exactly who to cast. But you got to give me a list because I ended need to know their philosophy. I mean, for all I knew this was the Danny DeVito Dan Ackroyd School of casting,

Alex Ferrari 4:28
you know, fair enough.

Robert McKee 4:31
I said, and very importantly, the third act sucks. And I cannot be a character in a bad movie. So we need meetings, they're going to have to be willing to rewrite. And, and those are my three conditions. And, and they agreed to them. And, and so they sent me a casting they gave me my redeeming scene and then they they they sent a list. Have the 10 best middle aged British actors alive? You know, everybody from Christopher Plummer to Alan Bates and I, and and I looked at the list. And I said, I want Brian Cox. And they said, Who's Brian Cox? And I said, He's the best British actor you don't know. Because Brian had been a student of mine up in Glasgow, and I'd seen him on stage in the West End of London and, and what I didn't want, see all those actors. They're all wonderful. But there's always actors have this Love me Love me thing, no matter what they want to be loved. And there's always this subtext like my heart's in the right place. And I really, you know, and I don't want to be loved. I really don't want to be respected, I want to be understood. And I want to inspire people and educate, but I do not want a bunch of people following me around like a guru. Right, loving me, right? And I knew that Brian would not do that. And, and then we had meetings and about the Act Three, and eventually got to a never got to a perfect accuracy. But it got to a point where I could sign off on so and it was, so they took my son to a screening at so at Sony and I said, you know, we think ball, and he said, Dad, he said, Brian Cox nailed you. Which I thought was great. So you know, and it was, it was, but that's not the, you know, I was I put myself in a funny date. So it's not just, but yeah, it was, um, it was a difficult choice. But I think William Goldman was wrong, that, you know, there was a way to you have your cake and eat it too. And I think an adaptation is loved. Oh, and millions and millions of people. So, so it certainly didn't hurt my brand.

Alex Ferrari 7:20
It didn't hurt your brand or business, I'd imagine. It's the term irony comes to play where you would be working with Charlie Kaufman, on a script, where your character is the establishment that he's trying to get away from and to give art but yet you are working with him to put the script together and finish the third act, which is amazing. Charlie,

Robert McKee 7:42
Charlie's one of those guys. He's got, you know, a great talent. But he's a bit delusional. What he wants to achieve is the commercial art movie. He wants it both ways. He wants to be known for making art movies, but they have to make money too. And a lot of it because he knows that, you know, his career. If he loses money, it's over. And so and, and so he wants to he wants to create the commercial art movie and a salsa dance understood, you know, things, the notion of the commercial art movie, you know, the, the, the English Patient and films like that. And I you know, in the meetings with a spike and and, and, Charlie, I, you know, I pointed out to Charlie, so you can't have it both ways. It's a you, you know, you if it's a true art movies have a very limited audience period. And art filmmakers understand this. And they budget accordingly. You want 30 million

Alex Ferrari 8:59
for an art film?

Robert McKee 9:03
Was 5 million we could, but Okay, so anyway, but it was. Yeah, the irony of it is wonderful.

Alex Ferrari 9:10
So, so you've worked with so many screenwriters and filmmakers over the course of your career, what is the biggest mistakes you see screenwriters, new screenwriters to the craft make?

Robert McKee 9:24
Well, it's not mistake so much. Yeah, I guess it is a mistake. But, uh, there's two problems. One is cliches. And they think that it that they want to be, you know, like an artist, they want to be original, but at the same time, they want. They want to be sure that it works. And so they recycle the things that everybody's always done. And they've tried to recycle them with it. difference and which is absolutely necessary, I mean, that's I get it, you're not going to reinvent the wheel, you have to just spin it yet another way. And, but then they get very easy once they sell their soul. It's hard to get it back. And, you know, you can pour on your soul for a while, but you've got to get the cash to get back. And, and so that's the war on cliches is not some, you know, it's not a fault, it's just a problem everybody faces. And, but there's a greater problem. And it's the willingness to lie. In an effort to tell their story to get it out, somehow they get it together. And they will write characters and scenes, and whatever that that lack credibility that they know perfectly well, in their heart of hearts is pure corn of some kind. And it's a it's, they're bending the truth. It's not it's, there's something false to some. And, and, and to, to, to get to something that is really profoundly honest. And it doesn't matter what the genre is, from action, to comedy. to, to a you know, as an education plan, something very interior doesn't matter what the genre is, there's truth, and then there's lie. And somehow they think that because it's fiction, that gives them a license to lie. But but they don't have that license, they have a an obligation to express the truth of what it is to be a human being and in whatever genre, they're they're writing, they have a, they have a an obligation, if they're writing comedy, to really stick a knife in some sacred cow and expose the bullshit of society. I mean, they, you know, it's not enough to be amusing. comedy is a is an angry art, that savages, all those things that, that that that are false in life, and starting with politics. Right. And, and so there's they, there's a willingness to, to fit and lie and in order to please that, okay, let me take a step back. I bulldozing cliches and truthfulness are all the byproduct of the young writer, especially the young writers desire to please they want to be loved, they want people to love what they do they want to please people. And so they write what they think, is pleasing for people, whether it's all the cards in fast and furious. Right, or the sentimentality or whatever they want to please people and and which is fine, but you can't please everybody and so you're going to write for a certain mind a certain audience a certain mentality and an educational level and taste and whatnot in a certain group of people that you know, are out there, they're like you pay and and you can't please everybody. And and so, a film like for example, Nomad land is certainly not trying to please there's an audience for it, that will get it and enjoy it and and recognize this as a deep truth about our society and about human nature.

But it's, it's not going to have a mass audience. And because it will turn off more people than it will turn out. And, but it's, it's a excellent film is an honest film. So that's the I think it's fishing around here. Because when you open the door and say, you know whether

Alex Ferrari 14:53
you're wrong, there's 1000s of things

Robert McKee 14:57
to bring up, but if I can do it down, it's that it's that the willingness to please results in recycling cliches, and basically not telling the the, the, the dark truth of things. And so you have to be it's tough, you have to be disciplined not to copy other people's success, but to, to write what you honestly believe to be the

errors in the central new genre.

And, and be rigorous about that.

Alex Ferrari 15:36
Now, one of the the hallmarks of a good story is conflict. How do you create conflict in a story?

Robert McKee 15:46
Well, depends on where you start. If you start with a choice of genre, let's say you're going to write a thriller. Right? You know, the source of conflict immediately by that choice. I need some kind of psychopathic villain. Right? I need Russell Crowe, in unhinged. Why? And so that's done for you. So that the genre sort of automatically tells you, right, on the other hand, if you're telling a family story, and that will be called domestic. Until the characters are a family and it's a family with problems, wow. The conflict could come from any direction. Who's with? Is it the mother? Is it the father? Is that rebellious children? Is it Whose is it? Some some, you know, older grandfather grandmother figure that's pulling people strings, and you know, whatever, given a family what's wrong with this family? And so you have to figure out what is it and is it social, or psychological? Is it instinctive is a deliberate you have to think your way through all that. And so you, you you start with a family and you create a little you know, a cast? And then and then you ask the question or what's wrong with this family. And a million different things can be wrong in human nature inside of a family. And that requires knowledge, you have to understand people, you have to understand that you know, the mother, daughter, mother, son, Father, daughter, Father, Son relationships, and, and you need to dig into your own experience. And ask yourself, you know, what was wrong in my family? What What do I believe, to be the truth about families? And, and, and that the genre doesn't give you that answer. And so, you have the answer will come from your depth of understanding of human nature, human relationships of a certain personal kind in this case. And, or if you're writing comedy, so as mentioned, the starting place of writing a comedy is to ask yourself what is pissing me off? What in this world is pissing me off? Is that relationships? Is it men women? Always it? Is that the is that the the the the social networks? Is it is it politics? Is it the military? Is it the church? Why what what is what what do I hate? What's pissing me off? Because the root of comedy is is anger. The comic mind is an angry idealist comic comics are idealists who want the world to be perfect or at least and when they look around the world they see where sorry, sick one place it is. And, and they realize that they're complicit, they're part of it too. And so what spacing me off then it points them in a direction to an institution or behavior in society. me like I think that great comedy series. Curb Your Enthusiasm. You know, and, and, and yes, you know, what is pissing me off and he will finds really egregious fault in, in, in people's lack of propriety. Or, or logic or clarity of thought, you know, why should there be a handicapped stall in toilets? Right that no one can use except the two times a year that a handicapped person comes into this particular toilet. Okay. Right. That is

Larry David, that is an egregious absurdity and it infuriates him. And so he goes into the handicap stall, and sure shit, this is the day

a guy in a wheelchair. So, um, so that, you know, that that's, those are the various things, you know, you, you look at yourself, as a writer, and you you have to understand your vision of life, you have to understand the genres. When you make a choice, there's certain conventions. And, and a, you can bend those conventions, what breaker if you want, but not without an awareness of what the audience expects. And so somehow, it'll between picking the setting and the cast, the genre, and then looking inside of yourself, like your comic wouldn't ask you what's pissing me off? You find your way. If I if you're in conflict, and the the most importantly, you know, it has it that you know that that conflict has to be something you deeply believe in. Now, or, or you will do what we were talking about earlier, you will fall prey to cliches because you'll you'll create false conflict, false antagonist empty, a cliched antagonisms. And like that. So it's a very important question. Now.

Alex Ferrari 22:28
So as far as one thing a lot of a lot of screenwriters try to get away from is structure, saying that structure and trying to fall into side of a structure is, it's like holding me back as an artist and I need to be free and I need to run free like a wild stallion, I personally find structure to be very freeing, because it gives me a place to go. How do you approach structure?

Robert McKee 22:55
Well, in this day, people have a course accused me of imposing structural rules in my teaching, and it's nonsense. When

I am opposed to structure, it's inhibiting my creativity do not know what the hell they're talking. They just don't they use the word structure. But they wouldn't understand or know story structure, if it fell from a height under their foot, okay, they just don't know what they're talking about. structure in every scene, ideally, is a turning point of some magnitude, the character's life, they go into a situation wanting something. And something in that moment, kind of prevents them from getting it. They struggle with that. And they either get what they want, or they don't get what they want. Or they get it at a price or they don't get it but learn something. Change takes place. And it's in a simple scene is minor. And then these changes per scene build sequences in which moderate deeper change wider change happens, these sequences build x in it. And then that climax is a major turning point that has greater depth or greater breadth or both have impact on a character's life. And so minor moderate major changes are building a story progressively to an absolute irreversible change at climax. Now, why would anyone object to what I just said? Why would anyone think that you can change Do concrete scenes in which nothing changes. And do that three scenes in a row and people will not be walking up. They come there, they come to the writer, they read a novel, kind of trying to have insight into life as to what forces in life positive and negative, bring about change outwardly or inwardly in characters lives. I mean, that's why we go to the storyteller. And so and so why would you not want change? Or why would you want repetitious change? Because the same change degree of change, that happens three times in a row, you know, we're bored. So because it's not giving us what we want, it's not giving us the insight that into character that we want. And so people who say they're opposed to structure don't understand what structure is it they don't understand, it's a dynamic and a progression of minor moderate major changes. And so I have no patience with that kind of ignorance. Hear the people who say that are the very naive, ignorant, really, people who think that if they just open up their imagination, emotion, picture will flow out of it.

Alex Ferrari 26:30
Very true.

Robert McKee 26:32
And, and they are childish in that way. I mean, you open up your imagination and see what flows out, then you have to go to work on it. And you have to step back from every, every time you you know, or let me put you this way. What in truth is it to write? What is writing actually, like, as an experience, you open up your imagination, and you have an idea for a character or two or three, and you write a page, things happen? Action reaction dialog, that when you write a page, that takes 20 minutes, then what do you do? You read that page? And you could take it does this work? would he say that? Would she act like that? would this happen with it? Is there a better way to do this? And is this repetitious? Is there a hole does it make sense, you constantly critique what you've written, and you go back, and you rewrite it. And then you read it, again, you critique it again. And this goes on all day long. And so you go inside to create, you go outside to critique, you create, your critique you curate, and the quality of your critique that guides your rewriting is absolutely dependent on your understanding to make judgments, when you ask the question, does this work? You have to know what works and what doesn't work. And, and so that on one level, everything you do is structure. Its structured to have a character say x and another character respond with y that structure action reaction, that the person who said x did not expect to hear why

Alex Ferrari 28:36
right exit Exactly.

Robert McKee 28:39
And that structure that beat of act reaction and human behavior, that structure. So is I said, People say this, say it out of out of emit amateur understanding of what the creativity, what the act of writing really is.

Alex Ferrari 29:07
And I, whenever I've come up against that, when I say no, every you know, every movie has some sort of structure. Most movies, especially popular movies have structure. And your definition of structure is wonderful. They always throw out Pulp Fiction, and I'm like, no Pulp Fiction is an extremely structured film. Do you agree?

Robert McKee 29:28
Yeah. I've when I was we were talking about when I was when they were doing adaptation, and I was working with Charlie Kaufman. Charlie had exactly that attitude. I said, the third act doesn't work. We have to restructure it. And in the end is his face went into a panic mode. He didn't want you know, scared the hell out. He said, I know. I know that. It needs some, you know, just it'll come to me it was a clo and whatnot. And it's as easy as I don't write with structure. He said that I don't write with structure. I said, Charlie, would you like me to lay out the three act design of being john malkovich as because it's a three act, play, want to hear them, act 123. And, and he almost ran out of the room. He didn't want to hear it. He wants to live in the delusion that it somehow flows, and there is no structure. And when in fact, subconsciously, at least being john malkovich is a three activist

Alex Ferrari 30:48
is a great, it's

Robert McKee 30:50
a model, it's a model, BJ Mack is a model three act design. But it's but to the romantic like, Charlie, he doesn't want to hear it. Because he thinks that that's going to constipate his creativity. And I have to agree with it. If he wants to write out of this notion that it's all a flow. And if he is aware that there's a, that there's a design happening, it would, it would inhibit him. So it's because he's a good writer, he's very talented. So it would be better for him to live in that delusion, and let it all pour out. And then he goes back, and his taste guides the rewriting and so forth. And, and, and so if you're talented, like Charlie and, and the idea of structure is frightening, then you should listen to those feelings. And not think about structure and just, you know, do what you do, and hope it works.

But

that's rare.

Alex Ferrari 32:10
Very, very, very rare. But yeah, but and so for everyone listening, you have to understand that someone like Jeff Hoffman is writing. And as he's writing, he's subconsciously working within the three act structure, honestly, on a subconscious level. And even the great writers is like, Oh, I never even think about outlining or plotting, is because they have such a grasp of the craft, that it's already pre wired in them. It's like me building a house, I wouldn't even think twice about how to pour a foundation, or how to how to how to lay out the walls, because I've done it a million times. I don't have to sit there and think about it, it's just done. But that is rare, and it takes sometimes years to get to that place or you're a prodigy, which happens once in a generation or twice in a generation.

Robert McKee 32:57
And and you're absolutely right. That's very, very well put and, and in fact, it goes beyond that you have been watching the stories on screen you have been reading them in novels, you've been to the theater, that form form is a better word than structure that form of action, contradictory reaction and reaction to that and a giant dynamic of action reaction building to change that is so built into you as a as a reader as an audience member from I don't know two three years old. Mother read your little you know, bunny rabbit stories, right? Your bunny rabbit goes out and something happens that not happy for the bunny rabbit and then you know of bunny rabbits mother comes along and pictures things whatever it takes, I mean that that form is ingrained in you from from the earliest. And so you do know it?

Alex Ferrari 34:08
Without question. Now you do more dialogue is something that is you've wrote an entire book dedicated to dialogue. Obviously, your first book is story. But your second book is dialogue. What are the three functions of dialogue in your opinion?

Robert McKee 34:25
Well, there's many of them and certainly one of them is is the obvious one of exposition by various means. So for examples simple in writing dialogue, a character has a certain vocabulary so for example, you you've done construction on houses, right? Some sure I And so how many different kinds of nails Do you know? From spiked to tact of,

let's say 10? Yeah. Okay. Now most people may know, to me one nail on a screw, basically, that's all they know.

Okay. So if if in there, if a character in their dialogue uses the, the carpenters terminology. And even metaphorically, you know, call something a five, many nail, right? The fact that he knows the difference between a temporary nail and pipe and whatever it is, his exposition is it tells us something about the life of this character, by the very word, the names of things that that this character uses in their vocabulary helps us understand the whole life of this character. So if somebody grew up, you know, around boats, and they use nautical terminology, right? And so that they the language inside of the dialogue, all that just the vocabulary alone gives us exposition, it tells us who is this character? What's their life been like? Etc. Okay, then, at the same time, the characters talking about things that are happening, or have happened. And when somebody says, you know, you're not going to leave me again, we are to instantly know, that's it, she's already left them once, at least before

Alex Ferrari 36:46
it says it says volumes with one word.

Robert McKee 36:49
Yeah, there's no word again. But so we have an insight into what their life has been like, in this relationship. And so that's number one is is, is exposition. And number two is action. When people speak, what they say, is an action they take in order to get what they need and want in the moment, but underneath that is what they're really doing. And it's what in the subtext, the action they take in the subtext is what's driving the scene? So when somebody says, Well, I didn't expect that. Right? What they're really doing, perhaps, depending, right, is attacking, criticizing the other person for doing something that's completely inappropriate. What they say is, well, I didn't expect you to say that I didn't expect you to do that. I didn't expect that. But what that is, is a way of attacking another person for inappropriate behavior. And so it's right. And so and so the dialogue is the text by which people carry out actions. But underneath the dialog, is the true action. And it that's based on a common sense, understanding that people do not say out loud and do out what they're really thinking and feeling. They cannot, no matter how they try, if they're when they're, when they're pouring their heart out and confessing to the worst things they've ever done. There's still another layer, where they're actually begging for forgiveness, let's say, right? So by confessing, actually, you're begging for forgiveness or whatever it is. And so dialogue is the outer vehicle for interaction. And, and the great mistaken dialogue is writing the the interaction into the dialogue. stead of having somebody confess, did they beg Please forgive me, please forgive me, forgive me, forgive me. Right. And, and if somebody is actually begging, there's got to be another level of what they're really doing underneath the baking. And, and so you have to, you know, the writer has to think to that by begging. What that dialogue is actually a mask for manipulating that person. Do what you have to do, right. And so, exposition, action. Okay. And then, you know, just beauty. Just Just wonderful dialogue, in character, and all that, but but a way of creating a surface that is that it draws us. Because, you know, we just love to see scenes where characters speak really well. in there. And even though even if we're using just gangster talk, good gangs, your dog, it's right to talk to each other and that kind of rap and that kind of unite. Right? That's, that's a form of beauty. It's wonderful, you know, it's pleasurable, right. The dialogue ultimately ought to be pleasing, and in his sense of kind of verbal spectacle. And so that's just, you know, that just three off the top of my head functions, but there's is there's much more right and I, I like I'm sure like you, we all love. Wonderful, memorable quotable dialogue.

Alex Ferrari 41:24
Yeah, very much like it's so obviously Tarantino and Sorkin and Shane Black and these kind of screenwriters, their dialogue is just, it's poetic in the way that they write something, certainly is, certainly, and the genius of them is they're able to do the first two things you said, within that poetry, as opposed to just poetry for poetry sake,

Robert McKee 41:46
which is, you know, that is that just decorative. They all happens all at once. You know, you're getting exposition, see who these characters are, whatever actions or reactions are driving the scene, and it's a pleasure to listen to.

Alex Ferrari 42:03
Now, one thing I've noticed in years and even in my own writing descriptions, in a screenplay, a lot of screenwriters, when they starting out, they feel like it's a novel. So, they will write a very detailed description about a scene or about something, where from my understanding, over the years, less is more and it becomes more of a of an exercise in Haiku is than it is in the novel writing. Can you kind of talk a little bit about the importance of of compacting your description?

Robert McKee 42:37
Well, it does need to be economical. Of course. On the other hand, it has to be vivid,

Alex Ferrari 42:44
right?

Robert McKee 42:46
And that's, you know, where does that balance strike you that the ambition is to project a film into the readers head. So that when they read their screenplay, they see a motion picture without camera directions without you know smash CUT TO for transitions and, you know, Dolly on and you know, and you know, pull focus, whatever nonsense, you got to use the language and description to create the effect of a motion picture, then you only use ideally, you only use the master shots, it you you only the the the shots, the angles, the setups, camera setups that are absolutely necessary. And no more you do not try to direct the film. And, and instead, you project a motion picture into the readers head. And, and, and so you need to it over, often in overriding and when, in fact, was not only overwritten, but it's not vivid. It's because writers rely on adjectives and adverbs. And what they need is to know the names of things. You know, he, he, he picks up what we're talking about before a big nail. Well, you know, big is an adjective. And so, put an image in the readers head, he picks up a spike. Spike is a vivid image. A he, he walks slowly across the room, will slowly is an adverb. Right? Right. And so you name the action of verb is the name of an action. He pads across the room he ambles, he strolls he saunters. He you know, Waltz's is an active verb without an adjective, adverb, concrete nouns without adjectives. And we see things and we see actions. And it becomes vivid. It reduces the word count. And, and here's here's something a good it's a good note for writers take your screenplay. And, and search the verb is or our urge is an are throughout your descriptions and eliminate every single one of them. know things are nothing is in a screenplay. Everything in a film is alive. And action. So you know, a name the thing. So a line like a big house, there, there is a big house on a hill.

Okay.

And what's a big house a mansion or a state? a villa? What's a, you know, a hill, a mountain. At add and add and turn it into a villa sits just that verb sits is more active than is a big house sits with a spectacular with this spectacular view. And so easy, a big house up high with a great view. And it's an image and it's active, it sits sprawls across, whatever. And so active verbs concrete nouns, and and make us see a movie. And every writer finds every good writer finds their own personal way to do that. And Paddy Chayefsky wrote elaborate descriptions. Harold Pentre described, nothing, nothing. He would just go interior kitchen dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, describe nothing. And because his attitude was, we all know what a kitchen looks like. And they'll probably play it in the garage anyway. But if they mess if they mess with my beats of action reaction and you know, in dialogue, then they're in trouble. Okay, so every writer has to find their own way to accomplish the task of a vividly projecting emotion picture in the imagination, as you turn pages who make them see a movie.

Alex Ferrari 48:23
Now, your new book is called character. And I wanted to ask you a couple questions in regards to character because, arguably, I always like to ask the question, do you start with plot or you start with character I always say to people, you don't like Indiana Jones, his plots aren't nearly as memorable as Indiana Jones James Bond's plots aren't as memorable as James Bond. Like I don't you throw me the plot of thunder ball. I don't remember. I remember scenes, but I do remember James Bond. And that's what draws me back to his stories. So, can you talk a little bit about the difference between roles and character?

Robert McKee 48:58
Well, a role is a generic term. And so hero is a role villain is a role victim is a role. You know, sidekick is a roll. goon is a roll. shopkeeper his role in the role is as a position in a in a cast. as defined by its relationship to other characters, and or a profession. Like waiter, asked driver. And, and they're generic, they wrote something waiting to be filled by a character. And as a character comes into a story to fulfill a certain role but it's a it's a You know, it's it's a, it's a generic to that to that genre. And so if you have a family, the roles are mother, father, children guide, they're okay, those are roles, characters are our unique human beings, we inhabit those roles. And and there's a design of a cast, such that the protagonist, and the central character at role is the most complex character role. And they are they, they're, depending on the genre, they are the most dimensional character of all. And they are ideally, they, they are the center of good, there's a, there's a positive human quality, not every way certainly, but there's, there's some quality, within the complexity of that character, with which we recognize we empathize, we recognize a shared humanity, the character is then in orbit around that character that protagonists are less dimensional, but they can be dimensional as as well, then you go all the way out to the second third circles, where you have people only playing a role. cashier, restaurant cashier, okay. Now, even when you're writing a scene where your character goes up to the cashier in a restaurant, to pay a bill, and discovers that his credit card is cancelled, right, you have a clerk standing there, at the at the take, who takes the credit card and finds that it's, it's been rejected that clerk character, he be very useful to imagine that role, very specifically, what kind of human being, you know, is she or he, it because it does the, the way in which that clerk that roll says responds to your card is canceled. Your card didn't go through the, the, the way you write the words and gesture for that character gives her a trait. And so roles have traits and, and to make, even that moment, when there's a human being behind that, that trait. And so if she's sarcastic, if she's fed up with with the job itself or with with people whose cards never work, or she's sympathetic because her cards don't work.

Alex Ferrari 53:19
So,

Robert McKee 53:21
so, even in a in a simple role like that, you try to write it with a as a specific trait in the way in which he deals with that moment. And it creates a character for an actor. And so the actor come in there and realize, Oh, this is an antagonistic clerk or this is a sympathetic cleric, or an indifferent or bored or falling asleep, or glancing at her watch constantly, she just wants to get out of here, whatever it is, you give her a trait. And that makes her a character, she sends the GM to life and it gives the actor something to hang their performance on. And so dimensions the protagonists, the most dimensional of all dimensions are contradictions within the nature of the girl. And so you populate that with in my book on character, I look at characters everybody from from Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey has an eight dimensional character, all the way up to Tony Soprano, as a 12 dimensional character Walter White, as a 16 dimensional character. And so and so the complexity of character today given long form television, especially, is at is becoming your astronomical And then you have to give all the, that every one of these dimensions if a character is, is kind and cruel, okay? Sometimes they're crying, sometimes they're cruel. Therefore, you're going to need a cast of characters where the protagonist, when they meet character a, they treat them kindly character B, they treat with, with a slap with cruelty and, and so you need to design a cast around each other characters. So that when, whenever any two characters meet, they bring out sides of their dimensionality or traits of behavior that no one else brings out of them. And so, every single character is designed that whenever they encounter any other character, they bring out each other's qualities in ways that no other character does. And, and when you have a, you know, when you have that kind of cast, where every single character services, every other character, and no redundancies every relationship is unique. every relationship develops a different aspect or a different dimension. Then you have a fascinating group of people that creates a world that the audience can really

Alex Ferrari 56:38
dive into,

Robert McKee 56:39
dive into now, you know, when characters when and carrot one characters behave toward each other in the same way, no matter who it is. That, you know, that's it's a boring and do it's false. People do not treat other people, different people the same. Everybody behaves in a uniquely subtly but uniquely different way, depending upon the relationship. And it takes a lot of concentration and imagination in the writer to realize that every relationship brings out different sides of the character's nature.

Alex Ferrari 57:21
Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests. Robert, what are three screenplays every screenwriter should read? You see? I don't answer that question. Okay. For this reason, I don't want people to copy anybody. Okay, fair enough.

Robert McKee 57:46
And so if I say, you know, if I named my, you know, my favorites, like, say, trying to tell people you know, then run to study Chinatown and emulate it. And that's a mistake. The really important question to ask people is, what's your favorite genre? Because they should be writing the kind of films they love.

Alex Ferrari 58:15
It's a good point, what

Robert McKee 58:16
I love, what are my favorites may have nothing to do with their favorites. And so the first question is, you know, what do you love? What kind of movies do you go to see what kind of things do you read? What do you love? And then seek out those? And the second thing is that if I name favorites, and, and that they, you know, they're in their pieces of perfection. Okay. What does that teach the writer? They got a model of perfection. Great. Okay, that's important, you should understand you should have an ideal, what you're trying to achieve. But one of the ways to achieve it, is to study bad movies. break them down and ask yourself, why is this film so boring? Why can't I believe a word of it? Why does this fail? and break it down and study it? To answer what this What does it lack what went wrong, etc. Okay, and then rewrite it.

Alex Ferrari 59:37
Just thing,

Robert McKee 59:39
rewrite it. fix that broken film. Because that's what you're going to do as a writer. Your first draft is going to suck. And you're going to go in and try to fix your broken script. Try to bring it to life. Try to cut edited shape and rewrite it reinvented, you're going to read it over and over again, right? Having fixed broken films, not just one, but many, many, many take bad movies, studying them and make them make them work is practice for what you're going to have to do with your own screenplay. Because it's not going to work in the beginning, it's going to need a lot of work to work. And so having rewritten bad films to make them work is, is a real learning experience. And so I say, study good films are of your genre, so that you have a an ideal that you achieve, rewrite the bad ones to teach yourself how to fix broken work. And so, and that's a personal choice. I can't say what that should be for those people. For every one of them, loves whatever they love, which may or may not be what I love.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:00
Now, where can people find out more about you? And where can they purchase your new book character? Amazon? It's pretty much it is pretty much it nowadays, isn't it? It's pretty much it nowadays, isn't it? Amazon.

Robert McKee 1:01:17
bookstores, I'm sure are opening up. And if you know if you love bookstores, as I do, you know, you can go to a bookstore and get it. But the most direct way that will be there in your budget for the next morning. It's incredible what they do, what Amazon does, and bash, you know that the other other Barnes and Noble stew or whatever it is, but yeah, it's very simple. You just go to amazon.com. Right? Just write the word McKee. And comes story, dialogue, character, in hardcover, in an audio and in Kindle,

Alex Ferrari 1:02:05
and everything else? And then how can people read it? And how can people learn more about you what you offer?

Robert McKee 1:02:13
Ah, the go to make peace story.com. The key story.com will take you to our website. And we have a upcoming. We've been doing webinars now for a year and a half since the plague hit us. And they've been very successful, very, very pleased with it. And in July, we're doing a series on action. Nice on the action genre. And so these, these are every Tuesday, three Tuesday's in a row. And they're two hour events, hour and a half worth of lecture and a half hour of q&a. Then on Thursday, I I give an additional two hours of q&a.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:01
Fantastic.

Robert McKee 1:03:03
And because I realized how important it is for people to get answers to things they're working on. So So Tuesdays and Thursdays for three weeks in a row. And there's you know, four hours of material each week. So and we will we will look at the action genre in depth with lots of illustrations and examples of an adage and I love giving these acts. webinars. And it's a favorite of mine. Actually,

Alex Ferrari 1:03:38
I love a good action movie is it's hard to come by nowadays. So I appreciate it. Robert, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to to my audience and I appreciate all the work that you have done over the years and help so many screenwriters as well. So thank you so much for everything you do.

Robert McKee 1:03:54
It was a lovely chat. Great chat. Nice talking to you.

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Top 25 Must Listen to Screenwriting Podcasts (Oscar® Winners)

Finding a great Screenwriting Podcast is a treasure trove of knowledge for the aspiring or professional screenwriter. We have put together the Top twenty five must listen to screenwriting podcasts from the archives of the Indie Film Hustle Podcast and the Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast.

The list below is definitely has  podcasts for screenwriters with a who’s who in the screenwriting world. From Oscar® and Emmy® winners like Eric Roth, Edward Zwick, Richard Linklater, David Chase to screenwriting coaches like Robert McKee, John Truby and Chris Vogler.

These episodes are the best podcasts for screenwriters wanting to learn more about the craft and business of screenwriting. Be sure to take notes because there are a ton of knowledge bombs that are dropped in these screenwriting podcasts.

This list will be updated every few months so keep checking back.

Click here to subscribe to the Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or Spreaker.


1. Eric Roth

This week, I sat down with one of the most legendary and successful screenwriters/producers in Hollywood, Oscar® Winner Eric Roth. Over a 50+ years career, he’s well-known for writing or producing films like Forrest Gump, A Star is Born, Mank, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Munich, Ali, and the list goes on.

2. Oliver Stone

Today on the show I bring you one of the most influential and iconic writer/directors in the history of cinema, three-time Oscar® winner Oliver Stone. Throughout his legendary career, Stone has served as writer, director, and producer on a variety of films, documentaries, and television movies. His films have been nominated for forty two Oscars® and have won twelve.

3. Richard Linklater

We are joined by indie film icon and Oscar® nominated writer/director Richard Linklater. Richard was one of the filmmakers who helped to launch the independent film movement that we know today with his classic 1991 indie film Slacker. As a bonus, we will not only dive into the extraordinary career of Richard Linklater but also that of collaborator and longtime friend writer/director Katie Cokinos, the filmmaker behind the film I Dream Too Much. 

4. David Chase

The legacy of the crime drama television series, The Sopranos remains a defining art of storytelling for mob TV shows. We have the genius behind this hit TV series, David Chase as our guest today.

As expected, Chase is a twenty-five-time Emmy Awards-winner, seven times Golden Globes winner, and highly acclaimed producer, writer, and director. His forty-year career in Hollywood has contributed immensely to the experience of quality TV.

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of Chase, let’s do a brief of the HBO 1999 hit show, The Sopranos: Produced by HBO, Chase Films, and Brad Grey Television, the story ran for six seasons, revolving around Tony Soprano, played by James Gandolfini, a New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster, portraying the difficulties that he faces as he tries to balance his family life with his role as the leader of a criminal organization.

5. John August

Today on the show we have Hollywood screenwriter, director, producer, podcaster and novelist John August. He is known for writing the hit Hollywood films Go, Charlie’s Angels, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Big Fish, Charlie, and the Chocolate Factory and Frankenweenie, the Disney live-action adaptation of Aladdin and the novel Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire.

6. Edward Zwick 

We have been on a major roll lately on the podcast and this episode keep that going in a big way. Our guest on the show today is Oscar® Winning screenwriter, producer, and director Edward Zwick. Edward made his big shift from his childhood passion of theater to filmmaking after working as a PA for Woody Allen in France on the set of Love and Death.

7. James V. Hart

I’m so excited to bring this episode to the BPS Tribe. Today we have legendary screenwriter James V. Hart. James is the screenwriter behind some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters like HOOK, directed by Steven Spielberg based on an idea by Hart’s then 6-year-old son, Jake, BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND, directed by Brian Henson, and CONTACT, directed by Robert Zemeckis. MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN, TUCK EVERLASTING, AUGUST RUSH, SAHARA, LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE, AUGUST RUSH and many more.

“No one has a job in our business until you type ‘the end’.” — James V. Hart

8. Jordan Peele

Get ready to have your mind blown! I’ll be releasing a 3-Part Limited Series of conversations between the legendary screenwriter James V. Hart, the writer of Hook, Contact, Bram Stroker’s Dracula, and Tomb Raiderjust to name a few, and some of the top screenwriters in the game.

First up is the screenwriter that took the world by storm with his Oscar-Winning screenplay Get Out, Jordan Peele. If you have been living under a rock for the past few years here is what the film is about.

This was recorded before Jordan’s next hit film Us was released. Listening to these two masters discuss character, plot, theme, and more is a rare treat. It’s like being a fly on the wall. When you are done listening to this conversation you can read some of Jordan’s screenplay here.

9. Damien Chazelle

Today on the show we have Damien Chazelle, the Oscar® Winning director and screenwriter of La La Land. He bursted on the scene with his debut film Whiplash. The film is about a young musician (Teller) struggles to become a top jazz drummer under the tutelage of a ruthless band conductor (Simmons).

James and Damien discuss how he wrote and structured La La Land and much more. Enjoy this rare conversation between James V. Hart and Damien Chazelle.

10. Joe Cornish

Have you ever  wondered what it is like screenwriting inside the Marvel and Studio machine? Wonder no further, today we have screenwriter and director Joe Cornish. Joe was one of the writer’s on Marvel’s Ant-Man.

Joe honestly, was extremely forthcoming and transparent about a lot of things; like what really happened behind the scenes on Ant-Man and what it’s like to write inside the Marvel machine, having Edgar Wright as a writing partner, working with filmmaking legends like Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. And we also discuss his craft, how he approaches screenwriting and directing, and much more.

11. Joe Carnahan

It’s been a hell of a year so far. I’ve been blessed to have had the honor of speaking to some amazing filmmakers and man today’s guest is high on that list. On the show we have writer/director Joe Carnahan. Joe directed his first-feature length film Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane. which was screened at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, and won some acclaim.

12. Troy Duffy

I’m always looking for success stories in the film business to study and analyze. Edward Burns (The Brothers McMullan) Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi), Kevin Smith (Clerks), and Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity) come to mind. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the cult indie film classic The Boondock Saints but many of you might not know the crazy story of its writer and director Troy Duffy.

Well, prepare to get your mind BLOWN. I had an EXCLUSIVE discussion with Troy this week, and let’s say, he did not hold back. Nothing was off-limits – from his instant rise to fame to the brutal fate he met – getting blacklisted, all of it. He wanted to set the record straight because there is always another side to the story, and what better side to hear than that of the man who lived this brutal Hollywood adventure?

13. Sacha Gervasi

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

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

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

Enjoy my entertaining conversation with Sacha Gervasi.

14. Edward Burns

Today’s guest is a writer, director, producer, actor, and indie filmmaking legend, Edward Burns. Many of you might have heard of the Sundance Film Festival-winning film called The Brothers McMullen, his iconic first film that tells the story of three Irish Catholic brothers from Long Island who struggle to deal with love, marriage, and infidelity.

His Cinderella story of making the film, getting into Sundance, and launching his career is the stuff of legend. The Brothers McMullen was sold to Fox Searchlight and went on to make over $10 million at the box office on a $27,000 budget, making it one of the most successful indie films of the decade.

15. Mark L. Smith

I’ve spoken to many people in the film business over the years but today’s guest is one of the hardest working craftman I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down with. Today on the show we have screenwriter, producer and director, Mark L. Smith.

If you look at his IMDB you’ll see a list of 15 projects at various stages of development. He’s come a long way from entering the Hollywood scene some 15 years ago with his fear-striking horror screenwriting and directorial debut, Séance in 2006.

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

If you pray, please pray to the Hollywood Gods that Mark and Quentin’s Star Trek gangster film sees the light of day.

16. Diane Drake

Today on the show we have million-dollar screenwriter Diane Drake. Her produced original scripts include ONLY YOU, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Marisa Tomei, and WHAT WOMEN WANT, starring Mel Gibson.

Her original script for ONLY YOU sold for $1 million, and WHAT WOMEN WANT is the second highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time (Box Office Mojo). In addition, both films have recently been remade in China featuring major Chinese stars. And WHAT WOMEN WANT has recently been remade by Paramount Pictures as WHAT MEN WANT, with Taraji Henson starring in the Mel Gibson role.

17. Boaz Yakin

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

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

18. Jeffrey Reddick

Today on the show we have screenwriter and director Jeffrey Reddick, who is best known for creating the highly successful Final Destination horror film franchise. The franchise has grossed over $650 Million world-wide. Not bad for an idea that was first conceived for an X-Files episode.

Jeffrey has had an amazing career so far and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

19. Billy Crystal 

There are performers that impact your life without you even knowing it and today’s guest fits that bill. On the show, we have comedic genius, multi-award-winning actor, writer, producer, director, and television host, Billy Crystal. We’ve seen Billy’s versatile work across all areas in the entertainment world, stand-up, improv, Broadway, behind and in front of the camera, feature films, television, live stages like SNL, and animated movies.

20. Larry Wilson

If you were a kid of the late 80s or early 90s then today’s guest definitely had an impact on your life. Larry Wilson is the co-creator of the cult classic Beetlejuice (directed by Tim Burton), writer of Addams Family and worked on the legendary television show Tales from the Crypt.

Larry wasn’t always a screenwriter, he worked on the studio side of things as well as an executive. In this interview, he tells the story of how he championed a young and pre-Terminator James Cameron to be the writer/director of Aliens. Great story!

21. Robert McKee

Our guest today is the well-regarded screenwriting lecturer, story consultant, and eminent author, Robert McKee. Reputable for his globally-renowned ‘Story Seminars’ that cover the principles and styles of storytelling.

I read his book years ago and refer to it often. I discovered McKee after watching the brilliant film Adaptation by the remarkable Charlie Kaufman. Kaufman literally wrote him into the script as a character. McKee’s character was portrayed by the Emmy Award-winning actor Brian Cox.

If you haven’t heard of Robert McKee then you’re in for treat. Robert McKee is what is considered a “guru of gurus” in the screenwriting and storytelling world.

He has lectured on storytelling for three decades, and his book Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE) is a “screenwriters’ bible“. It’s also become the bible for TV writers, and entertainment executives, and their assistants.

McKee’s former students include 67 Academy Award winners, 200+ Emmy Award winners, 100+ Writers Guild of America Award winners, and 52 Directors Guild of America Award winners.

Some of his “Story Seminar” alumnae including Oscar® Winners Peter Jackson, Julia Roberts, John Cleese,  Geoffrey Rush, Paul Haggis, Akiva Goldsman, William Goldman, and Jane Capon, among many others.

22. John Truby

Today on the show we have one of the most popular guests to ever be on the Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast, the legendary John Truby. John is the author of The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller.

John Truby is one of the most respected and sought-after story consultants in the film industry, and his students have gone on to pen some of Hollywood’s most successful films. The Anatomy of Story shares all his secrets for writing a compelling script.

Based on the lessons in his award-winning class, Great Screenwriting, The Anatomy of Story draws on a broad range of philosophy and mythology, offering fresh techniques and insightful anecdotes alongside Truby’s own unique approach to building an effective, multifaceted narrative.

His is former students’ work has earned more than $15 billion at the box office, and include the writers, directors, and producers of such film blockbusters as Ratatouille, In Treatment, Pirates of the Caribbean, X-Men I/II/III, Shrek, Mother Mary of Chris, Breaking Bad, House, Lost, Planet of the Apes, Scream, The Fantastic Four, The Negotiator, Star Wars, Sleepless in Seattle, Outbreak, African Cats (which Truby co-wrote for Disney) and more.

23. Chris Vogler

Today on the show we bring the legendary story analyst and best-selling author Chris Vogler. Chris wrote the game-changing book  The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. I read this book over 25 years ago and it changed the way I look at “story.” Chris studied the work and principles of the late master Joseph Campbell.

His book The Hero with a Thousand Faces was the basis for Star Wars as well as almost every other Hollywood feature film in the past 60 years using what Campbell called the monomyth.

24. Pen Densham

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

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

25. Marshall Herskovitz

Our guest today is producer, director and screenwriter Marshall Herskovitz. Many of his production projects have been in partnership with his long-time filmmaking collaborator, Edward Zwick whose films, he’s produced and written half of. Their decades-long filmmaking partnership was launched as co-creators of the 1987 TV show, ThirtySomething.

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IFH 502.1: Oscar® Winner Eric Roth: From Forrest Gump to Dune


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This week, I sat down with one of the most legendary and successful screenwriters/producers in Hollywood, Oscar® Winner Eric Roth. Over a 50+ years career, he’s well-known for writing or producing films like Forrest Gump, A Star is Born, Mank, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Munich, Ali, and the list goes on.

Read Eric Roth’s Screenplay Collection

The critically and commercially acclaimed American drama, Forrest Gump is an adaptation of Winston Groom‘s 1986 novel of the same title, adapted by Eric Roth in 1994.

The story depicts several decades in the life of Forrest Gump, played by the incomparable, Tom Hanks, a slow-witted but kind-hearted man from Alabama who witnesses and unwittingly influences several defining historical events in the 20th century the United States.


The $55 million budget film grossed $683.1 million at the Box Office and won the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, and three Golden Globes awards.

With a dream to pursue writing, he got his start working crew on a bunch of independent movies being made by some experimental filmmakers at a local studio (the Millennium will film workshop) while studying at Columbia University and later transferred to UCLA Film School.

While on the climb up, Roth got the opportunity through his good friend Stuart Rosenberg, to rewrite the script for the Paul Newman movie, The Drowning Pool, at the tender age of 20 years old.

Last year, Roth co-produced the multi-award nomination biographical drama, Mank. mank earned ten Oscar® nominations and six Golden Globe Awards nominations.

1940. Film studio RKO hires 24-year-old wunderkind Orson Welles under a contract that gives him full creative control of his movies. For his first film, he calls in washed-up alcoholic Herman J Mankiewicz to write the screenplay. That film is “Citizen Kane,” and this is the story of how it was written.

A Star is Born, co-written by Roth became a 2018 phenomenon. Director, co-writer and lead actor, Bradley Cooperand Lady Gagabrought steaming chemistry to our screens in a way that had been lacking. The film grossed twelve times its $36 million budget which is more than any of the other three versions of the musical romantic drama film.

Seasoned musician Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) discovers, and falls in love with struggling artist Ally (Gaga). She has just about given up on her dream to make it big as a singer – until Jack coaxes her into the spotlight. But even as Ally’s career takes off, the personal side of their relationship is breaking down, as Jack fights an ongoing battle with his own internal demons.

A must mention amongst Roth’s screenplays is the 2008 screenplay adaptation of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Academy winner Mahershala Aliand Taraji P. Henson.

The film tells the story of Benjamin Button, a man who starts aging backward with consequences. 

I could go on and on, through the extensive list of incredible writing Eric Roth has given the world, but you can listen to our conversation to hear all about them. Even his Television writing and producing on shows like House of Cards, The Alienist, and the upcoming remake of the science fiction classic Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve.

I’ve been a fan of Eric’s work since my days working at a video store. It was truly an honor to sit down and talk shop with a master of the craft. Enjoy my conversation with Eric Roth.

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I'd like to welcome to the show Eric Roth. How you doing, Eric?

Eric Roth 0:14
Good. I'm doing good. Thank you.

Alex Ferrari 0:16
Thank you so much for coming on the show, as we were saying earlier, before we got on, I am a huge fan of your work over the years. And, and during my formative years in the video store. Some of your early works. I've watched, like suspect and wolfen in a couple of those things. And I just had Whitley on on a on another show that I another podcast. A wonderful writer. Yeah. Oh my god. Wonderful, wonderful. Humans.

Eric Roth 0:46
That was a special job for me. I mean, I came on to rewrite it. And Michael Wadley directed it and have a quick story. And stop me when I tell too many stories that relate to my age. I think more than anything, I'm Michael. I remember. I was remember watching a movie called The man who skied down Everest. And when he got a captain as a true as a Japanese guy who went to climb Mount Everest and ski down. It wasn't really so much skiing down he, after a bit, he opened a parachute and the parachute. But I said wait a minute. Somebody had to be the cinematographer on this who filmed this. Michael Wadley. And Michael went on to do Woodstock. And and then I met I met Michael on this, which Alan King was a producer was really an interesting movie. The whole movie was kind of interesting. Albert Finney and everything.

Alex Ferrari 1:42
Oh, yeah, it was you know, it's it was a remarkable good movie. Yeah. Going back to going back through some of the older films they do. At the beginning of your career. I started seeing the cast. I'm like, Oh, my God, is that said James Earl Jones. Is that is that that's it? It's like, it's like they're young. They're their kids. It was amazing to watch. Um, so how did you get into the business?

Eric Roth 2:04
Um, well, I, I think a few routes one. I went to let me see which way I could tell the step tale. I went to Columbia University as in graduate school as an English major. And I, I started to find myself gravitating towards kind of making short films. And so I switched over to the film department. And still, I still took a lot of English classes, because writing was what I wanted to always do. And I got to be crew on a bunch of very independent movies like literally with like Bob Downey senior movie called Baboo 16. They were very busy. A lot of movies being made from a place called the Millennium will film workshop, a guy named Adam schwaller. And a lot of experimental filmmakers, real New York, guys, you know, and we everybody sort of switched off crews and things on those and I was busy. I was making some shorts and I thought I wanted to be a director. And I actually had an opportunity to do a kind of compete for something that I had thing that was going on at USC with a little short I made and it got me a little bit of a cachet in that sense. But the thing that was a big difference in my life was that I was at UCLA and I entered the Samuel Goldwyn writing award. And I'd written a script that I actually tied was Collin Hagen's, who wrote Harold and Maude and then went on to write that was his that was his script. And he went on to write nine to five. And I think he died of AIDS, I'm afraid to say but he was a wonderful writer, and literally was the day after my first child was born. I was quite young, and the $500 paid for the baby. So I wanted a COBOL award. But more importantly, it got me an agent. Got me an agent, and I must say, that was 1970. Basically, I've been working ever since you know,

Alex Ferrari 4:20
the business has changed a bit over the years.

Eric Roth 4:24
Yeah, I mean, some some of it I've been either I can't say for good or for real, but like House of Cards was mined with David Fincher. And that's certainly changed the business, you know,

Alex Ferrari 4:35
right. And we're gonna get into into house of cards in a bit.

Eric Roth 4:39
But uh, yeah, for a while I was kind of treading water. I got a couple of little movies made and did some rewrites. I mean, I went to I always tell the story, which is a lovely story that I was friendly with Stuart Rosenberg, who directed Koolhaas Lu can, it worked together on later on? We worked on the onion field, but it's like my work as a young writer, and he brought me on to rewrite the Drowning Pool, which was a Paul Newman movie. And I was literally I think 19 or 20, maybe 20 years old. And I had on No, I mean it so amazing out this for good, you know, 50 odd years.

Alex Ferrari 5:25
So let me ask you a question when you're 19 working on Paul Newman film because I mean, at that time, Paul Newman was Paul Goodman. He was falling so when

Eric Roth 5:36
he called my house people against quit fucking around Alan a friend. I went down there and I bought a new HP I always tell the story the same way. So I've told this before, but I bought a new pair corduroys and I had a new briefcase. And I walked on the SAT and Newman said there was him. Joanna Woodward, Tony Franti, OSA, a couple other people that were mean no known actors, and he said our saviors he felt that there was a was a wonderful experience. I got to know Paul quite well, we remained friends for the rest of his life in a certain way. And Stewart had a kind of up down kind of career, but was was a nice man. And when he hit he was really a good director. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 6:26
So So what would So would you consider that your first big break?

Eric Roth 6:32
I think I think winning that award and getting me the agent was a huge thing. I was on a tiny little movie that was only released in America for like two weeks. But it was an original piece that I wrote with an oddball interesting man who was a director for Billy Graham, religious leader. Sure, he made his religious films and he wanted to do a les film set in Israel. And we I wrote a little love story for him. And we went to Israel that was then that was shot in 1970, I guess. Yeah. 69. And that was one and the other break I had was after the gold one where I'd written a script called the dead time. 5050 which was a oddball kind of, in keeping with the times the kind of they make a lot of and kind of, say anarchistic kind of movies or movies that were, you know, they were in keeping with that on this not anywhere as good as mean streets or something or easy, right, you know, these movies that were like, abstract, I guess better words. And I wrote a movie called 5050. That Bob Mulligan signed on to do and Bob Mulligan was famous for Kill a Mockingbird, and fear strikes out and he made some wonderful movies. He's a real kind of old timey director, and George C. Scott was going to do it and the premise was about a guy who is in a dangerous profession is turning 50. So I'm looking at that point, at whatever age I was, I thought 50 was so old is beyond. petrified and it was an odd little movie. And we Scott decided eventually not to do it with the star who was a guy named Jason Miller, who is in Exorcist as the young priest and also happened to win the the Pulitzer Prize for a play he wrote called the champ that championship season. He also was, he's married to Jackie Gleason's daughter. He was an interesting man, he had some drug issues. He was a father too. I'm trying to think of the actor's name now who doesn't have the same name as him but he was married to the father the son was married to try and think Anyway, my name is old man's memory. He's a pretty well known actor and the father died young from some drug problems I think but he's an interesting guy a wonderful actor kind of look like Garfield, I guess, you know, a little bit and the movie was movie was briefly. Tarantino loves a movie thought was one of the most interesting war movies and, and it opened a can and, you know, lasted very small time in America. But yeah, that one, I think got me a little more on the map in that sense.

Alex Ferrari 9:29
And then used and then you were off and running now. Yeah.

Eric Roth 9:32
Then No, I mean, yeah, I mean, I would get I was I was a good bargain for people for the price that I was charging and, you know, things that didn't get made and things are disappointing. You know, one of the one of the decisions I made that was not a good decision, I went back and did work on it as rewriting but I was asked to do the onion feel. I mean, I'm sorry, I was asked to Cuckoo's Nest. And my agent as also at the same time asked to do the onion field, which is A huge book at the time. And my agent said to me, they'll never make the Cuckoo's Nest movie. And I said, Oh, really? Okay. And so I decide I chose the other one. I was friendly with Michael Douglas. And I actually came back and did some work on it, but it's one of the great movies ever made. And it sure, yeah, I'd say probably, even though the guy who wrote it, I think is probably one of the greatest screen writers, whoever is Bo Goldman, won an Oscar for it. And he also won an Oscar for Howard Melvin. But he, he was a wonderful man, we he and our close friends from both like the race track, so we used to go to the racetrack. But anyway, he that was a movie I wish I had started from scratch.

Alex Ferrari 10:45
Now, you, you obviously, you know, had a successful career as a writer. And you know, as writers listening know, writing is not easy. It is a it's a it's a tough thing to have to come up every day and go in, what is your writing routine? What has kept you going for all these years at such a high level?

Eric Roth 11:04
Well, I mean, I the high level, I guess he had to thank God for something, you know, I don't know. Whatever, whatever alchemy makes up. What makes you may be good and not believe me not so good in many places. I've had real failures where I thought they were good. And, and most I think I could blame me in most respects. One, I think I blame a director on but I but I always tried to pick things that would have some lasting quality. I mean, I may have been wrong, you know, but I thought these things I can that will kind of attribute to me. Well, when I'm getting to the end of things, you know, when you look at the credits I have so I've been lucky that way. I've worked with everybody from Kurosawa through Marty through Spielberg, you know, so I've been lucky with incredibly talented filmmakers.

Alex Ferrari 11:50
What did you work on with corsola

Eric Roth 11:52
I did a little movie called Rhapsody in August that I just I wrote, you wanted to, and I think is one of my bigger claims to fame quite honest with you not because it's, he want there's a part in it for Richard Gere, who was friendly with and, and criticized wanna meet, it's a guy who is supposed to be an American who's marrying the main characters, a Japanese man's granddaughter, and, and there she lives in Hawaii. And Richard, he wanted me to write his part, which would be an American, and he felt uncomfortable quite getting that written through translations. And so I wrote all the scenes between the daughter and the Son and

Alex Ferrari 12:35
I have to ask you, what is it like working with course,

Eric Roth 12:38
was like, you know, really fascinating, mostly was, you know, we had many conversations, he spoke, I don't think he spoke much English and so translated. And then when he sent me the script, I just was so taken with it. If it was, it was written like a haiku. It was just, you know, he'd he'd write the answer the anteil. I mean, you just do two or three words. And it always gave me gave you the sense of what he wanted. And then you had me when I wrote my prose, which is very sort of Jewish, intellectual, psychoanalytic garbage, maybe, but, you know, it just was so different, you know? And, but it was like, a wonderful, yeah, it was like, we never matched, you know, they didn't have zoom or anything, then, you know, so we just talked on the phone, and he invited me over, and there's some reason I couldn't I think I just had a baby or something. And so I could go and, you know, but it's a great honor to have even been in the same breath of him with him. And he gave me a lovely, thank you on the movie and all that, you know,

Alex Ferrari 13:39
that's, that's remarkable. So So as a writer, what is your daily writing routine?

Eric Roth 13:45
My I sort of looked at writing as a job in a good way. I mean, I'm always thrilled to be able to sit down if I can create and I look at as a great adventure journey, you know, all those things, all those kind of cliche things, but it's always true. And I get to be alone and you know, sort of dream and try to make those dreams come true. I I do it like, I mean, I'd read once and I don't know if I this is what I didn't copy this, but I read this about john Cheever. And I've told this story many times he would get up at like, let's say eight o'clock and take a commuter train in from New York, Long Island. And he would go to a basement, little tiny basement room that he had it he rented his his office and quotes with the boiler and everything and he take off his pants, and he take off his dress shirt, and he'd sit in his underwear and work. Okay, so he worked till 12 o'clock. This is a story whether true but I like his pocket

Alex Ferrari 14:47
visuals are fantastic. Yeah,

Eric Roth 14:49
he'd get a 12 o'clock he put his pants back on his shirt ties tight but his jacket on go out and have a one Martini lunch. He'd come back at one you work till five, with his clothes off, he can put his stuff back on, you know, neatly fold and put it back on, go and take the commuter train home. That was his as if he went to work came in for a job, you know. And that's how he looked at it, I think you'll find most writers, not all. But most writers have some schedule, you know that whatever it is, could be goofy, they might write in the middle of night, they can write things in a month, they can write things in a year. But there is some kind of if somebody scheduled, I started about eight o'clock, and I'm done by noon or one and I dig around the afternoon, then I go back to work in the evening, not for very often, unless I'm really feeling it. And sometimes I don't sleep much I get up in the middle of the night and do it, you know, so, but I find it I find it mostly a joy in a way. In other words, I love that. And then and obviously, if you're successful, it makes everything so much easier. You know, you actually can not have to judge yourself against everybody else and start feeling the pressure. What's the next job and all those things? You know, so it's easier for me to say, you know, but that's my schedule. I mean, I've talked about this a lot. Also, I work on a, an old, an old movie, I don't have final draft, I have an old old program that requires me to have a das base per computer. So it's that's how old it is. It's called movie magic. Movie master. I mean, it's it went out of business. Like when it couldn't it couldn't figure out how to the people who made it couldn't figure out software, so you could email it. So they went out of business, but it's exactly the same function nasality as final draft is mine uses function keys, and they use tab keys for the exact same process. And but I like it, I mean, for a number of reasons is I'm superstitious. So I don't need to change. It's a pain in the ass. But it's good. In some ways. It runs out of memory after 40 pages, he had to open a new file. But that's a good way for me to sync Are you done with this app yet? Because you very good. And so it's also very safe because it's not on the internet or anything. So because I've had stuff that they've come to take out of here that they were worried with on my hard drive and all right, but it I and I and the other funny thing about it is and I don't know why I did this as this because I'm such a Luddite, you should have a white piece of paper that you're typing with black type on right like a typewriter on to look like against. And I for some reason have a black background with white. And I'd like thought I'm now I'm used to it now. So you know and so at some point, the thing goes over to the production company and they're gonna make the movie. And they they turn it into their final draft and and then I really don't even have the script anymore. I any changes I make they have to go retype them or I have somebody retype them into final draft you know,

Alex Ferrari 18:05
very cool now, do you when you start beginning when you begin to write? Do you start with character or plot when it's something original?

Eric Roth 18:16
Even was not original? I start with actually what I call theme. Okay. What What is this really about? You know, I'm saying don't not the story, but what is what's going on here? You know, what is this? What is this? And then after that, I'll think I'll lock up the story. And then I'd say character and story would be the same to me an incredible importance and I'm very I'm very diligent with character because I think they all should sound different. I always tell a story about how I rewrote a little movie from Michael Cimino called. Was it with Mickey Rourke? You're the drag. And I got to be friendly with Michael and, and I saw that he had given Mickey Rourke a wallet, which had everything that was, you know, the character would have in a wallet like photograph of a daughter, he supposedly had his draft card, whatever it was, and even down to like the detail of like a fortune he got from a fortune cookie, you know, that he kept like some people do. And I bet I'll bet you that probably Mickey Rourke never looked at it, but he had it in his back pocket and he knew it was there. And that that's how I look at character so that you have to have every understanding of the psyche, a psycho psychological portrait of the guy what does he sound like? What does his background I mean, you know, even down to smaller characters in the piece, so that each everybody's voices different. So any that's Yeah, so character, character, I don't know which is a B and C but character, gods in the details of all the reasons To do so you're using the stuff that's right. And then then the most important facility to be a really great writer and very few reach this, and I don't think I've reached it, some great novelists do is to be able to write sub textually. And that's to be able to write not about what's going on in the scene, which most people find themselves doing. Because it's just, it's, it's what we know how to do. But it's, you know, sort of earning the explainer. And you're telling things that people already know. And if you can avoid that and do it metaphorically, in a way, it's very hard writing, but it's a, it's what really good writing is. And there's and when you see a good movie, normally, you'll see a lot of really good metaphorically metaphorical writing, or the subtext of it. And some directors, I think, Marty Scorsese is a subtextual. Director. He doesn't need to have use, sometimes it's obvious what he's doing. Other times, it's not. And so it's, it's a real gift. And when the great playwrights can do it, you know, Shakespeare, I'm putting myself in company, but he didn't need to write about you know, that on the third, three weeks from now we're going to go do X, Y, and Z when people all know, I know, we'd have some other big concept. And that's what steam is, right? What is the concept of this movie? I was told once by Elvis Mitchell, the ex, who's who does the NPR show on film, and he's really, I used to be a New York Times film critic. He thought my movies were about loneliness. And I when I thought about, I thought he might be right, because I mean, if I started thinking of all the films, I wrote that, that might be the most pervasive theme, and main, and maybe sort of underlying all sorts of things about my own life, you know, so so I have that. And I also, I've never written a novel. And I keep thinking I should have and I want to, and I think I'm a frustrated novelist, because I write very, I think, pretty good prose. And I'll tell you a quick, sweet story. I tell. Brad Pitt was doing we were doing a read through of Benjamin Button. And I had what I think is pretty good prose. And Brad says, after someone read the pros, the narrow, you know, what the stage directions and you know, what people are supposedly feeling and what's going on? Brad says, look, Eric's got a pros Boehner.

Alex Ferrari 22:28
And I can imagine him saying that, actually. And I can imagine him saying that that's,

Eric Roth 22:35
it would be free. I was like, 30 people in a room doing a retreat with Fincher and everybody, Cate Blanchett, and whoever else?

Alex Ferrari 22:44
It's funny. Now you you have adopted some amazing novels over the years, how do you approach adapting someone else's work?

Eric Roth 22:53
Well, I mean, I think some things you have to try to be a little bit sacrosanct with because the work is great. And if the work seems like it's not, maybe not, it's not about great or bad or good for the thing, what what lends itself to be dramatize, you know, so, you know, I've done just recently, this killers of the flower moon, which is, was it you know, it's a really herculean kind of task not because, but to tell the story in this head, give it the size it deserves. Plus do it with some grace and elegance, that I didn't have to really change very much the dramas, basically all there, that's more the thematic of it about sort of, Marty and I agreed to about this the disappearance of sort of making the Native American invisible and that we're all culpable in a way, but also, the characters were all laid out, and, you know, how do we have shadings with each of them? And then, and then I but I didn't have to invent protect. I mean, I had to dramatize certain things. But other other books are more problems were problematic and different, like Doom was kind of

Alex Ferrari 24:01
how it's almost unadaptable

Eric Roth 24:04
Yeah, it's voluminous, you know, but you start eventually coming down to what the size of the thing hopefully should be. I mean, my scripts are usually too long. And a lot of it has to do with me, as I say, writing all this prose about what's going on, but if it's not, if it's not a book, that's particular, I mean, I've done a number i a lot has been, but I consider a lot original writing. So Benjamin buttons a good case, because that was a short does the art magazine article of Scotsman sherald of Genesis art wrote, and it was an article really wasn't very good. He did it for Colliers, and he, he just did it for the money, you need the money and but he had the idea of a guy going, you know, aging backwards. It's great. Yeah, which is a wonderful concept. And what does that mean? And then you can get into the theme of the piece, which I think is for me, it was like, well, who are the people you meet along the way of this journey? You know, either way, you're going forwards or backwards, but he But that I started just from scratch and inventing what the story was, you know, because the story he had was nothing that worked for me, you know, I'm saying and it really anybody who reads it, no matter how much you love us, because shall will say maybe my story is not any better. But his story was not something you write home about really was just a job for him. as best I can tell, Forrest Gump the book was kind of farcical to me in certain respects. And so I, I made it and it failed a couple times other people tried it and had no luck. So I had sort of free rein to do what I want it with it. And so I just took my imagination where it went and came up with a bunch of things that he said that seemed people seem to latch on to, you know, and and I looked at that as like doing candy, you know, it's, it's a journey of this guy through life. I'm trying to think what else in the main, though, is like, being a dramatist? In other words, you have to and I think we said this, I don't know, David said, his father said, or I said that which is relevant on manque that when they're talking about, you know, about Citizen Kane, because you can't, with the line we have is, to the extent of you can't show somebody's whole life in two hours, all you can do is give an impression of their life. Right? That's, you know, another part of it. So no matter what the book was, if I adapted it was to try to do the best to tell the best story you know, and, and yeah, summer dad stars born I think is adapted. But we started from scratch on that one. You know, we'd have to go roll whatever movies Munich music, Munich was pretty close to book, I don't think it would step for adding some more, kind of some ingredients that weren't really dramatic, per se will be more dramatic in the sense of the way Steven can do things with stucks trucks being stuck by little girls on the phone and stuff, which is not wrong. But it's so you have to count that that stuff was event invented a lot of that.

Alex Ferrari 27:11
Now, you mentioned Forrest Gump because I mean, obviously, you know, Forrest Gump by the time you started writing for his computer already been 20 years in 20 odd years in already. So you weren't, you know, you're you weren't a kid anymore. So you were a very seasoned writer at this point. But I think that Forrest Gump, at least at that point in your career, was a hurricane. I mean, it is it is a cultural milestone, it is in the Zeitgeist. I mean, people still constantly say all those lies you know, you never know what it like, you know, all the chocolate like, life's like a box of chocolate and everything, all those wonderful catchphrases and for people who weren't around to experience it and 94 year younger screenwriters in 94 I mean 94 was an amazing year Pulp Fiction, and yeah, it for us. I mean, it was a thing.

Eric Roth 28:02
Yeah. I mean, like, you know, talk apples and oranges. But if you want to talk great art, I would I would go with Pulp Fiction, you know. I mean, I love Forrest Gump beans obviously the world to me and world to a lot of people and has sentiment and heart and you know goofiness and but fiction was a pretty, pretty lasting movie that of its kind and, and ours is lasting in a different way.

Alex Ferrari 28:27
Right? They're very so different in so many ways, and both you and quit and both won the Oscar that year for original and, and adapted, but they couldn't be more different films and so different. But yet both of them are everlasting, and completely timeless. But what was it like even at that stage in your career to be in the middle of that hurricane? Because, I mean, it's

Eric Roth 28:51
obviously you can't expect that you don't know. Right? I have no clue I had met. I had met Tom Hanks. pretty early. And we were gonna do something else together. And then I was offered that book and I said, What do you think he said, Let's go for it, you know,

Alex Ferrari 29:09
and that was Tom woods. It's not that was before Robert Zemeckis jumped on board or was wrong? Oh, yeah.

Eric Roth 29:14
Yeah, it was actually there are two or three other directors that looked like they were going to do it. One was Barry sonnenfeld. One was a penny Marshall. And and Steven Steven was very interested in doing it at one point. And but I had the advantage of knowing Tom was going to do it if he was a music star, but not anywhere. He's not he wasn't quite Tom Hanks. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 29:37
it wasn't posted post Forrest Gump. I post Forrest Gump columns.

Eric Roth 29:41
This is pre Forrest Gump and he was actually I think when I met him. I think he was filming.

Alex Ferrari 29:49
Didn't you do Philadelphia wasn't doing Philadelphia?

Eric Roth 29:51
No, he's done that but even before when I met him, he was doing the Ron Howard movie with You know about the mermaid?

Alex Ferrari 30:02
Oh, yeah. Oh god splash splash. Splash. Yeah,

Eric Roth 30:06
I think that was his. I think that may have been his first break from television Bosom Buddies or something,

Alex Ferrari 30:12
I think was it close to but that was his big break, then splash, splash blow. But,

Eric Roth 30:18
but as big as he was he was I mean, Forrest Gump was hard to get made. Because if we wrote a script, I wrote a script that Warner Brothers wasn't keen on didn't quite get it. And fortunately for us, the producer, when do you find them a very good producer, she was like 24 years old. She was married to mark Canton who ran the studio, and was able to get it in turnaround, otherwise, I don't think they'd ever put it in turnaround. And we took it to paramount. And Brandon tartikoff, who's one point the president of MVC, really nice man and really smart. He was in the head of paramount, and he, he agreed to do it, I mean, develop it. And Tom came in and pitched the whole thing. You know, so it's easy for me having to sell it with Tom sitting there saying, because I'd say and he's sitting on a bench and whatever we had envisioned at that point, we hadn't written, right. And he Tom acted out what we'd talked about. And Brandon said, Great, you got to deal and, you know, I did whatever work I had to do. And then we went out looking for directors and and then Zemeckis came along, you know, he read it and said, this is for me, you know, and he was a big, obviously, wonderful, big director. And that was amazing. You know, so

Alex Ferrari 31:37
yeah. And then and then it was off and running. And, I mean, obviously, it was, it was just such a cultural cut that you were such raising, you

Eric Roth 31:44
know, you know, no, of course not. No, but and also, because there's a lot of fights about the money about what we could film and not I mean, because there's, you know, there's fights with the studio, I remember Bob saying, there's a lot of blood under the bridge, he said on movies. And he did everything known to man cleverly, to get around some of the budgetary restraints, he would take a crew on Sundays, just literally four or five people, which would be Tom cinematographer on making up himself and, you know, a couple of production people and they'd fly off to go to that whole run was done on Sundays. They fly to Maine from we were in South Carolina, they fly to Maine, shoot him running to the lighthouse, get back on the plane and come on back.

Alex Ferrari 32:33
I was wondering how they did that. Because I mean,

Eric Roth 32:36
we didn't really have the money for it, it was more about the money for it. And we we thought this was pretty special. But we also thought we could just be drunk, you know?

Alex Ferrari 32:47
It's tough. It's tough. Yeah. When you're in the middle of

Eric Roth 32:50
all this movie, I mean, another one. I've done substantial movies where you can kind of get a sense of, you know, what's, what's solid about it. And you couldn't tell on this one. So when we got done, we started, you know, when Bob was finished, and he started preview it. And we had, he always did previews for his movies in a very small theater, Paramount, and then a little bit larger theater somewhere, I think, in the valley, and then a big big theater in San Jose. And we had incredible reaction in a little theater, and with whatever, got, you know, a test screening and they were like humongous numbers. We went to the one in the valley, I think it was as my memory serves me, well. It got to incredible numbers. And everybody started getting a little nervous now this week, and there was really almost no criticisms of the movie. And everybody just was delighted with it. And, you know, had 18 million favorite moments, all kinds of things, you know about feeling good about Forrest Gump. And then we showed it up in San Jose to a huge theater that had like a balcony, and I don't know, it must have seemed like hell, 3000 people probably didn't. But I remember sitting on the balcony, and you can see down It was one of those theaters that didn't have a middle row. So anybody getting up to a bathroom at a walk across, like 30 people, you know, 50 people. Anyway, we were flying home, we were on a paramount plane. And either Sherry Lansing, or who is president then in the studio, a wonderful woman, or john Goldwyn, who is her second in command was looking at the cards, you know, and he did percentages and all I said, you just went into Raiders of the Lost Ark land. Because there was like, 98% 99 Yes, favorable. And we they knew how that we had something that was a monster, you know, they know but they, they did a magnificent marketing job with that poster. You know, things like that. And then I knew I knew I was in business. When I went in the race. I was in a race track, like getting in line to bet. And I heard someone say like, you know, starting to do the accent. I won't you know, he's doing Forrest Gump. Right.

Alex Ferrari 35:04
Now, I've heard I mean, over the years, I mean, I've talked to every screenwriting guru, so many different screenwriters, and one constant thing that it's always talked about is in order to have a story, you need conflict. That's what gets the story across. And I remember one day in film school, my screenwriting instructor said, you always need conflict, except for one movie that pulled it off. And it's Forrest Gump force doesn't have any conflict. And I want to ask you the question what it because force just seems to be the world around them is conflict. But he himself, and you start analyzing towards the end, there is a little bit more conflict, but I just want you to kind of analyze

Eric Roth 35:45
your pay, if you want to. Yeah, I think that's true. I mean, it's a it is Candide, I mean, there's been a number of other things that are like candy, where people take a journey in the conflicts within the journey. But it's also a sort of the conflict is he going to get from point A to point path. And also, I mean, the other thing, I always felt there was a conflict was about the fact that he wanted this girl to love him. So he right loves. So the love story would be the center of the peace, I guess. And then these other things, he believes in his mother and God, you know, and where's God betraying him? And, you know, I mean, it's, it's like, I would say, a more sophisticated version, I'm not saying better or worse, but was like, being there was conflict and being there, once he steps what you know, there's a potential conflict of a guy who, you know, is having, you know, certain issues, you know, so he has mental issues, you know, intellectual issues, and he steps into a world that he's just fine with, where, you know, he says things that everybody thinks what he's saying is, you know, the most genius thing ever said, and they all run out, but, so being there was like that. No, we didn't have the normal things, you're gonna get thrown out of your apartment, and that his mother, you know, was gonna, you know, lock them up, or we didn't have any things, you know, so that, and that those were mostly from the book. I mean, nothing was different netway from the book. I mean, that was his his story. And, and I think there's, I mean, I think that's, I mean, the other thing I you know, the other rule was never use voiceover. I've been one of those guys who keep those things. Well, all the great filmmakers ever, including, if you like Forrest Gump, he uses voice over Marty, his voice over and every movie,

Alex Ferrari 37:33
Shawshank Redemption, not so bad.

Eric Roth 37:35
Not so bad. I'm saying that I always found that funny. There was a guy that famous, co wrote the whole screen. The books got,

Alex Ferrari 37:43
I think it was Robert McKee, Robert McKee. And he said, Never use voiceover. If you ever use voiceover in your script, it's all relative. I mean, because voiceover is a crutch sometimes,

Eric Roth 37:53
but conflict is I mean, I remember saying I won't mention who it is who's always a pretty well known actor who wrote a script and sent it to me. And I said, it's really well written. And I think you've, you know, you've got work to do some of the characters in this, but you're missing the one I agree, the big C, you have no conflict in this. So I mean, I think you do need to know what the conflict is how you show it, how you do it. I think there's probably varying degrees. And I probably have to, you know, probably ask somebody else who's smarter about these things to me about what would be the conflict in Forrest Gump? I don't know. Well, good now. Well, maybe it's him versus a universe in a way the irony is in the universe. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 38:38
I would agree. I would agree with you. In other words, look, I

Eric Roth 38:40
mean, all these ridiculous things, you know, which we always we always were taken by, you know, how ironic or sort of ludicrous the absurdity of rah Reagan getting shot or, you know, john, I mean, of john or Bobby Kennedy, I mean, all these things, all the assassinations, and, you know, wars we entered into, and I mean, in other words, it's all slightly insane, you know?

Alex Ferrari 39:04
Well, the whole story is, is the whole story is slightly insane. In many ways. It is, but one of my favorite lines in the entire movie, and it's not one of the famous lines is when he opened up the letter and he goes, I invested in a fruit company. That's right. And I didn't need to learn I didn't need to worry about money anymore. One less thing.

Eric Roth 39:26
Yeah, well, I don't know why I don't know why I came to me I said it'd be kind of funny if he owned Apple

Alex Ferrari 39:32
because we all say that they

Eric Roth 39:33
actually say if he you know, he would have to cap the stock but that by whatever the price was, then they figured out that next to like Tim Cook he would he would be the second largest stockholder of Apple if he didn't sell it you know, he just kept it

Alex Ferrari 39:48
yeah him and jobs were like they're neck and neck. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, cuz everyone always jokes like I should have bought Tesla. I should have bought apple at eight bucks. You know?

Eric Roth 39:57
Why the same thing with when we did house a car For Netflix, not one of my genius, financial people want Netflix. She said buy Netflix stock. It was at like eight. I didn't buy a nickel. I mean, I would have done. I'm not. I don't invest much in anything, but I would have probably, I don't know, a couple

Alex Ferrari 40:17
bucks. bucks in there. Exactly. Now 900 hours, something ridiculous like that. Now you have you have collaborated with some of the most amazing filmmakers in history. We were just talking about Kurosawa, obviously Fincher Spielberg, Michael Mann, like, how do you collaborate with such established and then sometimes even legendary, like a Kurosawa or Spielberg? Or

Eric Roth 40:45
was it was less of a collaboration in the sense that he trusted me to write this character? And he, he didn't like he told me just could we not have him say this? Or was Yeah, sure. That was a little easier. It's very long distance, you know, Michael Mann or Spielberg.

So it each was different, because as some of them were writer directors, right. So Michael Mann was a writer also. So we had a shorthand together. And he's a tough guy, and we fought like cats and dogs about stuff, but I can't hold my own. And I always I also believe, to just be honest, that it's not capitulating, but I think you'll find a say you have my way, and you'll have Fincher his way. And it doesn't have to be the highway, then, you know, I'm saying you there might be a third path that that makes you feel you've created what you felt was accurate, and right for the material. And so does David Davis is a little tougher. Dave is very, Dave is very logical about what he wants and wants. Nothing wrong with it. Whatever one line is said that whatever comes back has some logic to it. It's a response. I'm a little more fanciful in the stuff I've done. So I've never looked at things that way. Michael Mann is wonderful writer and very analytical. And he came up with a great thing for the insider, which turned out to I think needed, and I would have never thought of it. He there's a scene early on. And we were talking earlier about, you know, trying to write some text the as, as opposed to expositionally, which is as bad writing mostly. But we Michael felt we needed to lay out for the audience quite early. What were the pet impediments to this guy? And what was what would what would needed to be accomplished. So we have a scene setting was supposed to be the CBS kind of kitchen where they're having like a lunch, and it's all exposition, which is not something I'm all about. But he said, we need to get this guy lawyer, we need to get this guy that we need to go talk to this guy, we need to get him out of his contract. In other words, and those were the kind of Michael's analytic about these were the kind of points we had dramatic points we were gonna have to overcome to become, you know, where the drop the dramatics worked for the movie succeeding. And it was a wonderful moment.

Alex Ferrari 43:06
Yeah. And I mean, I've had so many people on the show that have has worked with Steven. And I've just found so amazing how many careers he's touched. And early on, you know, Kevin Reynolds and john Lee Hancock, and like, he's the one that opened doors for people. He did. He's to me,

Eric Roth 43:26
I never had that relationship with him. I actually knew him when he was very young, he roomed with somebody I wrote a TV movie for okay. He was probably 18. And, and he was mean even that a wonderful entertainer, wonderful, a&r, dramatic director, he's, he has his own way of working. I mean, it's quite different than a lot of the people we're talking about. And he wants things in certain ways he had, one thing I liked about working with him was the Kathy Kennedy, who I adore is his producer. And she always send the pages to Stephen. And Kathy would then call me and say, here's what he likes and what he doesn't like. And I like that. So so when you went in, and I went to meet with them about this the work, you don't get your backup right away, you know, they've been getting a beef or you get insulted or your feelings hurt, or whatever it is, you know, about the work, you already know what's in you've thought about it, why is this not working? Why is it? How can we make this work for him and all that? So yeah, he was an interesting guy to work with. And it didn't come out. I mean, it wasn't holy. He felt at some point that we he wanted to have a little bit of a different voice. And he brought in Tony Kushner, who I adore, and a friend who was one of the great writers and in our lease in theater of Angels in America, he wants something a little more intellectual than some of the things I was writing. So, you know, I was wounded by it to some extent, but it all worked out in the end that we ended up having a movie that we're all very proud of, you know,

Alex Ferrari 44:56
yeah. And now you're working with Marty

Eric Roth 44:58
on Marty, Marty and I are supposed to work on two or three other things. And this was Marty's a dream. I mean, it's like to me, Fincher and him are very different in their approach to eating or char. So then Steven is too, but I mean, there's just these two guys, I know better, I've done thing to thing that Dave and I know, Marty over the years. And Marty, completely said, feels like you're a thoroughbred, and you should have your hand and just try to invent and imagine anything you want, he'll figure out a way to try to do it. And if he doesn't think it works, he just tells you in the nicest way. So he said, Let's, let's try it this way, you know, and, and he'll take you off, whatever you might get stuck on, you know,

Alex Ferrari 45:40
yeah. And he has that art, he has the ability to the almost the political aspect of being a filmmaker, it's like, as opposed to some other directors who are a little bit more hard, hard handed about it. Marty softer. And he's just knows how to play the game so well, that by the time you're over here, you're like, how did I get over here? I'm like Marty's like, this morning.

Eric Roth 46:00
I mean, it's also, you also know he, at least going in that he probably will get the money to be able to do anything he wants. It'll have the backing of a big differentiate on words. Somebody says, like, we can't do that, because it's too expensive, or something. And he'll say to you, I'll try it. You know, let's see what it looks like. If you want to, if you decide you want to run, do the whole movie backwards, or people walking backwards, they'll try it. You know, I'm saying might not work, but he'll try.

Alex Ferrari 46:28
And it's amazing how now Marty is working with Netflix. Because Netflix is basically I mean, please correct me if I'm wrong. I'm gonna say that giving them a blank check, but they're giving them

Eric Roth 46:39
a lot of leeway. He's actually moved on for the moment to go back to Netflix. But I think he he's an app. This is Apple, sorry, who's paying for this? Credit Apple,

Alex Ferrari 46:51
really, but it's going to the streamers though. He's going to streamers now now.

Eric Roth 46:55
I mean, that's where you're going to get the money from. But he does. I know that he wanted this on this that he wanted a certain amount of a theatrical release. It's not just a few days or a week. So he's gonna get that with Paramount's gonna release it theatrically. And then Apple have it part of the service and streaming service. And, you know, it's a wonderful thing for both for, you know, for Apple, I think, the idea of having Marty and Leonardo DiCaprio and Bob De Niro on this kind of big subject matter that will be wonderful fruit subscriptions and all that. And, and I think it's great when those when that when it works out that way? I mean, David has a blank check to a certain extent. I mean, I can't speak to that. But no, but in other words, anything creatively he wants to do Netflix is his home. And they they embrace David the way they should. So they're giving in a way an artist a chance to always express himself. How great is that? I think I think he's earned it.

Alex Ferrari 47:50
So without question. So you were there at the beginning with House of Cards, which it is a one of those moments in time where the business changed. The entire industry changed from the moment that Netflix says we're going to do original programming. And we're going to do and we're going to spend obscene amounts of money on an original IP. We have great people working on it. But it was when that came out. People were like, Wait, what? That was no. I mean, the story goes, which is true.

Eric Roth 48:23
I was sent in so as David the ARIA manual was, I think, trying to sign David more than me, but he wanted me as a client also at the time, and he said, I said, you know this, this is silly, Ari, I'm all for it. I've been the same agent for 32 years, but she and he said, What if I sent you a really great piece of material? He said, I'm always up for material. So he sent me house of cards on video, you know, which was the English show. And I said by Quint, I said to him, this is spectacular. I happen to know it because Michael Mann and alpa Chino, I had thought about doing it as a movie, because it's just Richard the third, you know, that's what it is. Right? So, um, within that, for whatever reason, we never, we never worked it out doing it, but it would have been great. So I said to David, if this is something you want to do, I mean, I think there's a there's a way to do this and not very difficult. Obviously, the work will be difficult, but that this would translate beautifully into an about America is politics. And so we hired a writer of Belleville men who had written a play about I think state of America, I forget the title of but it was a movie that actually George Clooney made, which understood politics quite well and, and Dave was agreed to direct the first couple of three and we got them. You know, that point Kevin Spacey was a great fine and David had worked with him and I and I helped get Robin right because she had been in Forrest Gump and all we were friends in So we've had a great package, I think, and there was an auction then and all the play all the players were there at that point, they came to David's office HBO, and I guess, Showtime, whoever it was, you know, they were We were in business and, and, and Netflix. And Netflix made an incredible offer. And I gotta be honest, I was, I didn't I understood that I thought there would be a place for this in time. But I said to David, I don't think there's enough eyeballs yet for this. And I think I would like to have the water cooler conversation like on the sopranos, they add, you know, at HBO, you know, and I thought there was, you know, the class of the field. And he said, You're wrong. He said, Those people are gonna know he did. And they said, You're a Luddite. You don't know what you're talking about. And this is going to be you know, people are going to watch this if we can make it, you know, attractive enough and interesting enough and dramatic all that. And we were, we were the second the first show is a shows TV Van Zandt did or something about called Oslo or something, a small little thing in Norway, and then then it was us. And obviously, you know, what happened that people start bingeing it and going crazy and, and all of a sudden, they got giant amount of subscriptions, which gave them money to go do other shows. And, you know, I it's a mixed blessing to me, because I'm such a movie lover and love going to movies and a 40 foot screen and everything, but I watch things on my phone, like anybody else, you know, and some things translate some things don't I liked it. It's available to everybody. I mean, one of the things I learned early on was, was not early, but we had like a 23 union of Forrest Gump at USC, and everybody was Bob and you know, Gary Sinise, the Hulk, everybody. And Bob asked the audience, how many people we showed the film first on a screening there. And Bob said, how many how many people have is this the first time ever seeing it on a movie? on a screen? Everybody?

Alex Ferrari 51:58
Of course, there's children there.

Eric Roth 52:00
Can't tell yet. though. I said on TV. So, you know, there's, you know, it's like, Alright, I understand when there's so many more people watching something how beneficial that is, you know,

Alex Ferrari 52:12
I mean, it started with cable and VHS. I mean, that's where movies now. Yeah, big Terminator was made on on cable, you know? And that's where it became.

Eric Roth 52:23
Yeah, yeah. So I was I was behind the curve on that one. And, and so but, you know, now we, I don't know, if we've reaped the wind, you'll sell the Whirlwind or if this is I think it's a mixed blessing. I mean, in the main is probably good. I mean, it was a little little disillusioning to me that they, they, particularly the way they handled it about Doom going right to, you know, day in date with being on the streaming on the streaming service, the same time was being released. But I think they're going to rectify some of that.

Alex Ferrari 52:57
I just read the article this morning, that it's going to be a 45 day window. So they are they are going to do a 45 day window. And Dude, I just literally read it this morning on. I'll call my agent when we hang up, see if I can get some money out of it. Yes, it is gonna be from what I read on on the trends. It Dune is going to be released 45 days, and then I'll end up on max. Yeah,

Eric Roth 53:18
it deserves to be seen. I've seen it as he deserves to CCI a great big screen and have the sound insight and it was so pretty amazing.

Alex Ferrari 53:26
I mean, to be honest, like how do you approach that that subject matter? It's such a,

Eric Roth 53:31
it was pretty daunting. But I mean, honestly, I'm a old hippie, done my fair share of I'm not advocating anybody do this my fair share of hallucinogenics even though I had some issues with the book, but the book is transcendent in some respects, and certainly for when I read a 15 year old boy. And I felt there's a spirit to it that I could probably capture and take you to places you haven't really thought about or seen. And I wrote a big full fat draft and it needed cutting down and Denise Villeneuve did that wonderfully. And, and then I think they brought in another writer because I was I've moved on by then to kind of even more grounded a guy named john speights is really terrific. And so three of us I think ended up creating something pretty amazing. And then Didn't he obviously, I think realized for what I saw, you know, as a piece of real work of art, and really a wonderful adventure and everything else is pretty special. I mean, I would tell you if it wasn't

Alex Ferrari 54:32
Yeah, and I have a feeling that you would have I don't think they know it wasn't when you were gonna tackle star is born. I mean, that movie has been remade with three times before you. This was before. And every time it was a hit from what I understand. And it was always like this kind of cultural touchstone when it came out. Yeah. And then you've got Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper and Bradley. Bradley is the director. as well, so first time director. So you've got this, how do you approach telling that story again?

Eric Roth 55:09
Well, I mean, it was an interesting that was that was kind of a challenge. Not the work was very, really challenging. But I don't know, I hadn't had a movie made. And I was so used to getting movies made like every two, three years. And I hadn't had a movie, maybe maybe three years, maybe a little more. And that movie, even though it was nominated for an Oscar, extremely loud, incredibly slow, was not that well received either critically, or box office. And it was a disappointment to me. And there are many reasons why I think I have some things up. And I think that there were some decisions that maybe should have made differently. But, you know, that's, that's what happened. And they offered me the stars born, I said, Is this a good idea for me to want to my Am I too old for this? I mean, not just didn't understand the culture and music and, you know, and be as contemporary as it should be. And I in and they sent me a script, which I thought needed work. And I said, I kind of feel like I've got to, you know, start from scratch. To some extent. There was many some things there, that was certainly good. And I said, I'll, I'll tell you what if they said, you got to do it quickly. And I said, in six weeks, I'll have for you something new. And I think you'll hopefully you'll like it and, and I went to work and Bradley was there every day. And we would text each other in the middle of the night. He was wonderful to work with and had his own ideas about things. And we'd fight like cats and dogs, which I do with everybody. And in the end, we had something I think which was had the humanity that I think I can bring to things and he understood and and i think was a great contemporary story. One of the really wonderful moments for me on that one was Bradley and I and Lady Gaga working her house out in Malibu and it was the first time I had met her actually and Bradley pedigo. And I was going to leave when he did and she said to me mind staying, I said no, she's just like to talk about the character. And we did that and I gave her some I said take a look at Moonstruck how Cher played and was brought you know certain things. And I said I'll do everything I can to make this easy for you because she wasn't she's acted but she wasn't wasn't her, you know profession necessarily. And so, I promised her I'd make things as conversational as possible in the scripted that didn't have to be big monologues and all that and, and now, let's get to Lisa, do you mind if I play something for you? Like, yeah, okay. So she sat down pianist, he played Somewhere over the rainbow and sang it. He was like, Are you kidding me? It's like, Oh, my God. God just walked in, you know, really? He was like, yeah, I'm maybe it was, maybe it was not so accidental. But it was like unbelievable. I mean, it's like one of those moments you'll never forget.

Alex Ferrari 57:55
I saw a private concert by Lady Gaga at her house in Malibu

Eric Roth 57:58
kind of clip some of the songs are thinking about and yeah, and it's it was when I went and watch it with an audience. I was just so thrilled that people just really loved it. And they laughed and they cried, and, you know, the kind of thing that a good love story does. And you know, and I think Brad the Met, you know, added immensely to it. He had some great ideas for storytelling, and he certainly made it feel real and yeah, I think we were we did well together, you know.

Alex Ferrari 58:26
Now, what are three screenplays you think every screenwriter should read? Hmm.

Eric Roth 58:34
Well, I guess you'd have to start I don't know. But it's one of those you know, what's your what's the best movie ever made you as probably 20 you know? Sure.

Alex Ferrari 58:41
That's gonna come to mind.

Eric Roth 58:47
Wow, this is so hard. I mean, I guess you'd have to say Citizen Kane, because it has multiple points of view of one person is probably the first time that was ever done. And that is fresh with me because a mank I would say Chinatown. Because that's a movie that is all subtextual you're saying three is so impossible. I'll give you another I mean, to me, my favorite movie ever is 2000 either godfather 2001. So I don't know how to differentiate between sort of two fairly

Alex Ferrari 59:19
different they're fairly different. But so different, but godfather two's perfect. I always come anytime anyone says godfather I'm like, I will grant you godfather one and two as a warner because it's just as a as a whole that it's perfection

Eric Roth 59:33
to me is you know, even more perfect and in 2001 changed my life in some way. You know, so as I move experience, you know, so absolutely. are there so many I mean,

Alex Ferrari 59:44
oh, no, there's hundreds there's I mean, there's exactly, but three they just kind of like to start guiding people. Chinatown always shows up godfather always shows up. 2001 doesn't show up as much because

Eric Roth 59:56
it's not a script, you would say but look at the sparseness of it and then oh, No movie it said that the use of the by now but but those things have to still be written he had to write down that there's something as to black monolith even though it's from a book I know but especially the whole light of that says the use of ideas. Yeah, I don't know. It's like you know where it is where the things leave off between what the writing is and that's where you get into a whole thing. I mean, one of the famous I'll give you a funny little thing about US Citizen Kane, which is used as a thing about Writers Guild and the whole credit to speak credit. So they say they say what if I gave you a scrip which was about a famous man you know, magnet who owned newspapers and actually helped start a war and was one of the richest men in the world. They lived all alone, you know, sort of cloistered with his girlfriend up in this place. Zana do basically and and you know, at attract his life, you know, from beginning to end and you say it sounds like a pretty great story. Yeah, that'd be great. So you get credit for that, right, Eric Roth, and then someone comes along they, they read it, they sent it to another writer. So is there anything you'd add to it? And the writer writes on page one rosebud, on the last page wrote his book? And I said they get credit to that design. So you know, I don't know. screenplays are a tricky thing. I mean, I think they're, they're a they're a great craft. I'm not sure they're a great art form. You can be artful at it. But their craft, they're you because you can get away without finishing sentences. There's dots and dashes. You're not a player. You're not a novelist. It's a bastardized form a writing of a way. And it's also something that you that you need, it doesn't really exist unless you get amazing movie, you know, I mean, it could be something to read, it might be interesting. And there are many scripts who probably hold their own. There's a famous one called heroine alley that everybody always loved about the plague that a guy named Walter Newman wrote He also wrote cat in a bunch of movies and that but that always holds up I guess, is a great piece of you know, could have been a short story or something but uh, but it's of no value whatever scripts I don't have made, you know, the bid on the floor here.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:09
They're not best selling screenplays like you could still get not

Eric Roth 1:02:11
know you, wouldn't you and you wouldn't even feel they were if you bought them and read them. They might be really interesting visually and interesting. But they're they're such as I say, bastardized form of things.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:22
I always I always, I always tell

Eric Roth 1:02:24
other people would add probably in American screenplays probably add Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid because it created a whole way of looking at, you know, it's so meta in its way. You know, it was very postmodern. So I mean, I could give you all the all the screenplays that matter, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:02:40
right, of course. But I always I always tell people that screenwriting is arguably one of the most difficult forms of writing because of the condensed amount and like the, the you can't go like a novelist and just

Eric Roth 1:02:54
try to do I mean, good writers do less is more I unfortunately, haven't quite got there. I mean, it I really do. I mean, okay, Eric, you've done okay. Oh, but the director, I've done okay. But the directors appreciate the fact there's a lot more because they can make choices,

Alex Ferrari 1:03:09
and they can cut down. Yeah, I think it's better to have too much cut down, which

Eric Roth 1:03:14
is their job. I think good directors a great editor. Absolutely. Thank you work, we've crafted refashion. I mean, I always say that it's like kind of building as the writer gets to do and then director gets to take on this journey, you know, now,

Alex Ferrari 1:03:29
what advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Eric Roth 1:03:37
I would first of all, ask them to please watch every movie they could watch and also read every book they can read. So they have knowledge both forms. I think literature is as important as film literature. Get to know what characterizations are get to know what dramatizing something isn't. Even in comedy. In other words, everything's going to come back to three acts maybe four. I don't care if you stand on your head if you do Pulp Fiction when starts to end and ends up in the being it makes no difference you're still going to have a beginning you're going to start complicating the problem in the second act and the third act you're going to come to either a conclusion by God coming in and a machine DSS Mac and or you can find a catharsis for people that they find organically amongst themselves and the movie is going to end with some conclusion or left left left inconclusive. So these rules will always apply. So I think I don't know I think I'd have everybody try to read and get a sense of what drama is what how does how to describe do this and then also to I don't know some some people and it's like anybody, anything else, some people just better than you at saying so just right to your own level. So I mean that in other words, everybody tries to, you know, say I want to be Aaron Sorkin I want to be, you're not going to be Aaron Sorkin you're going to be whoever you are. And maybe you'll end up being, you know, more valuable and Aaron Sorkin some way, but you'll, but you also may also write for the great comedies or for the most popular movies, and there's no, there's no criteria for any of this. And I think the things that I think people, if you can't write it, I think put it right into talking to a tape recorder. I tell people that all the time, so I want you to do my life story. And I said, you do your life story. You know, and, and talking to a tape recorder, have it transcribed and all of a sudden, you'll have yourself basically a basis for a screenplay, you know, and everybody has something interesting to say about themselves and about their lives. So I think it's true when they say write about what you know, but I would say don't write necessarily what you know, I think write would out what you know, but not specifically necessarily. It'll come in, in any you can't stop from whatever, you know, coming into a screenplay.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:59
And now and what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Eric Roth 1:06:09
I would say in life that I don't need to always be validated. I mean, it's like a whole world of that wanting these trophies and wanting people, you maybe don't critics or whatever you think, you know, starts sort of telling telling you who you are, that you can, you can be yourself without that, and I still haven't really quite learned it, I manage to have anxiety about things, you know, that I, why I do, I don't know, part of who I am about needing somebody love who I may not have gotten the way I wanted it all that thing was a question as either

Alex Ferrari 1:06:45
the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business, right,

Eric Roth 1:06:49
guys still think I'm learning this subtextual thing? The I mean, and you'll find that a great books have it I mean, no as you get it, right. You know, and it's not, it's not something you can quite, I just don't think I quite, I get up to the line. And in many cases, I can do it, and I can't quite always do it. I think also, I think I probably took too much time to write things before I'm a little quicker now. I was a little too, I was a little too precious with stuff, maybe, you know, I just I always wanted it to be the best version of what this was when I turned it in. Even though the next day you just start looking at and go, Oh my god, you know, this isn't so good. But I bet but the other thing is, if you can look at it, you look, it's very simple for me to say things, I get paid a lot of money, I get to live a great life, I get to be with all sorts of interesting people, not only actors and directors, but get to do research on things that are worlds I don't know anything about get to be a journalist of a kind and, and it's a struggle for luck. I have people in my family were struggling to want to be writers, you know, and it's like, and they just got to keep knocking that their heads against it, if that's what they want to be you know, and I know people who have one movie made in four years, and they still writing you know, and yet, that getting up and saying there's that blank page can be either incredibly frightening or incredibly liberating. And I think there's some, somewhere in between, and I don't think it has to do Prohm necessarily with being rewarded. But at least that you can finish it and then then see if you can get a reward out of it may just say, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:08:35
I mean, I get I get it. But look, a lot of these lead these core things that you're talking about No matter if you've won an Oscar or you've just written your first screenplay apply.

Eric Roth 1:08:44
Yeah, I can tell you this, that after I wrote for won the Oscar Forrest Gump, I was up for a job called the horse whisperer. That there Bob Redford directed and I remember, very, I mean, he didn't say it this way. But we met the first time and he basically said, What have you done for me lately? So I knew, okay, you got to start all over. You know, I'm saying you put yourself all over again. And every time I go up to the bat, you know, it's a little, it's a little less daunting now. Because you have, I don't feel the same quite pressure. But you know, it just but you still want to get these things made. And it's like, then you have to go, I have three things I'm basically working on and starting, and I have the same excitement and a little bit of anxiety about Will I be able to make this different, what is it going to make this stand out whether these voices is going to be unique and but it's like I say I'm lucky to be able to do it.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:42
And there it has been an absolute pleasure and honor to speak to you it has been great and I hope our conversation helps a few screenwriters out there. So thank you so much, my friend.

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Christopher Nolan Screenplays (Download)

Christopher Nolan is one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation. Being a writer/director really sets him apart from his contemporaries. His screenplays are a master class in the craft. We decided to put together an easy resource for screenwriters and filmmakers to be able to download Christopher Nolan Screenplays and study his unique storytelling methods.

Also check out: Christopher Nolan’s Micro-Budget First Films: Doodlebug & The Following

Before you start reading take a listen to the man himself break down Memento, the feature film that launched his illustrious career.

TENET (2020)

Screenplay by Christopher Nolan – Read the screenplay!

DUNKIRK (2017)

Screenplay by Christopher Nolan – Read the screenplay!

INTERSTELLAR (2014)

Screenplay by Christopher Nolan – Read the screenplay!

Screenplay by Johnathan Nolan (2008 Version) – Read the screenplay!

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012)

Screenplay by Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan – Read the screenplay!

INCEPTION (2010)

Screenplay by Christopher Nolan – Read the screenplay!

THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

Screenplay by Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan – Read the screenplay!

THE PRESTIGE (2006)

Screenplay by Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan – Read the screenplay!

BATMAN BEGINS (2005)

Screenplay by Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer – Read the screenplay!

MEMENTO (2000)

Screenplay by Christopher Nolan – Read the screenplay!

FOLLOWING (1998)

Screenplay by Christopher Nolan – Read the screenplay!

THE KEYS OF THE STREET (1997)

(Unproduced) Screenplay by Christopher Nolan – Read the screenplay!

 

SHORTCODE - 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.

SHORTCODE - TV SCRIPTS

Do you Want to read all the television pilots from the 2016-2021 seasons?

Learn from the best storytellers and television writers working in Hollywood today. Netflix, NBC, Hulu, HBOMax, Amazon, CBS and more.

Screenwriting Books You Need to Read – Top Ten List

1) Screenplay by Syd Field

The first book I ever read about screenwriting. Syd Field is the forefather of the how-to for screenwriting. He cracked the code of the three-act structure and paved the way for all other screenwriting gurus that would follow. As far as I know, he created the terms like “turning points,” and “pinch”, and much of the language that screenwriters use to describe elements and devices used in their scripts(FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

2) Story: by Robert McKee

Immortalized by the film Adaptation, McKee delves deeply into the components necessary for making a great script. I find his principles of “controlling idea” (which closely resembles Lagos Egri’s concept of “premise” in The Art of Dramatic Writing) and “gap between expectation and result” incredibly useful. I always turn to McKee’s teachings for guidance. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

3) The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

Vogler takes the workings of Joseph Campbell about myth and archetypes and breaks it down into easy to chew, bite-size portions. What makes Campbell so special? His writings about the universal appeal of mythological tales have inspired many other storytellers to create great pieces of work with timeless resonance — does George Lucas ring a bell? (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)


4) Making a Good Script Great by Linda Seger

Seger’s book I found as a great companion piece to Syd Field’s Screenplay. What I particularly like from this book is her method of ramping up conflict by the use of “obstacles,” “compilations,” and “reversals.”

Also, check out Linda’s amazing podcast interview here: Making a Good Script Great with Linda Seger (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

5) Save the Cat by Blake Snyder

You can see echoes of all the other aforementioned writers in this book. What I like about Save The Cat is that it’s a stripped-down, fun read with a lot of helpful information. I especially appreciate Snyder’s Beat Sheet which shows with almost page number accuracy where to place those particular plot moments that help keep your story moving. Some might find it formulaic, but I think it functions very well and points to exactly the kind of scripts Hollywood has come to expect from writers. One of the best screenwriting books. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

6) How Not to Write a Screenplay by Denny Martin Flynn

Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out on how to write a screenplay along comes this book to point out where you may have gotten it wrong. Despite the length of the title, it’s a quick read and VERY illuminating. As I skimmed through the examples of what not to do, I discovered what I was doing right, and most importantly what I was getting wrong. They say you learn from your mistakes, and reading this book sure helped to show how. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

7) The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats by Cole Haag

This book was a required textbook back when I was at film school. Some of the formatting suggestions may be a little outdated, especially if you have Final Draft or Movie Magic screenwriting software, but there’s still a ton of knowledge to be gained about proper formatting. The quickest way to spot a novice writer is by how unprofessional their script is formatted — this book shines a light on the Hollywood standard. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

8) The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier

Not only do I dig this guy’s first name, but I found his book to be more current as far as the conventions of formatting. It covers a lot of ground with how to write a screenplay and everything else that goes with being a screenwriter and Filmtrepreneur, like how to register your script and how to write a query letter to literary agents. It’s a broad overview, but one of the most informative screenwriting books. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

9) The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri

This is actually a book for the aspiring playwright, but most if not all the principles can apply to screenwriting. Egri gives examples of poorly constructed scenes and explains why they don’t work — then compares and contrasts against scenes that do. This is one of my favorite books, and one I strongly recommend. One of the best screenwriting books out there. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

10) The 101 Habits Of Successful Screenwriters by Karl Iglesias

(FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE) Have you ever wondered how successful writers do it? If you’ve reached this point on my top ten, I would say, “of course you do!” There are good work regimens and not so constructive methods. This book gives us a glimpse into how the top Hollywood writers work, how they fight writer’s block, as well as deal with the daily grind of writing. I found it very insightful and definitely worthwhile. 


BONUS: Pulp Fiction – The Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino

A must-read for any screenwriter. Tarantino…nuff said! These are our Top Ten Screenwriting Books You Need to Read. We hope they help you on your journey as a screenwriter. Remember just keep writing! 


David R. Flores is a writer and artist (aka Sic Monkie) based in Los Angeles. He is the creator of the comic book series Dead Future King published by Alterna Comics and Golden Apple Books. Website: www.davidrflores.com & www.deadfutureking.com

Transcript for Robert McKee Interview:

Alex Ferrari 0:04
I'd like to welcome to the show, Robert McKee. How are you doing, Robert?

Robert McKee 0:08
Very well, very well. Thank you.

Alex Ferrari 0:10
Thank you so much for coming on the show. I am have been a fan of your work for quite some time. I've read your first two books, and I'm looking forward to reading your new one, which we'll talk about later character. But I was first introduced to your work in the film adaptation like so many. So many screenwriters and filmmakers were how, by the way, how, how was that whole process? I mean, it was a very odd request, I'm sure that you got when you got that call?

Robert McKee 0:40
Well, it certainly was, my phone rang one day and producer named Ed Saxon calling from New York and, and he said I am mightily embarrassed. This is a phone call I've dreaded. We've got this crazy screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and, and he has made you a character in his screenplay, and he has freely cribbed from your book and from your lectures, and he has no permission to do either. And, but we don't know what to do. So I said, well, send me a script, you know, I'll you know, see what's going on. So they sent me a script, and I read it. And I saw immediately that he really needed my character as a central to the film, because he wants me to, he wanted my character to represent the the imperatives of Hollywood. And that you have to do certain things certain ways, blah, blah, blah. And, you know, which is on one level nonsense. Such rules, they their principles, and there's genre convention, but anyway, but so I was a typical kind of need to slander Hollywood in favor of the artist. And, and they wanted me to do the slandering. So, but I realized that without my character there to provide some source of conflict. The story didn't work at all. So I said, and so I tell you what, I made two phone calls. I called William Goldman. And I said, Good, he was, you know, a student of mine. And I said, Bill, they there's a film and they want to use me as a character in it. What do you think? And he said, Don't do it. Don't do it. He said, it's Hollywood. And he said, they're out to get you don't do it. I said, Yeah, but I'm okay. But suppose I had casting rights. And he says, Okay, okay, who do you want? I said, Well, let's say Gene Hackman, is it? Okay. Okay. It'll be Gene Hackman, with a big pink bow around his neck. If they want to get you, Bob, they're gonna get you don't do it. So then I called my son. And I said, Paul, you know, and he said, do it. I said, Why isn't because Dad, it's a Hollywood film, you're gonna be a character in the Hollywood film. And he said, it'll be great. Do it. So I talked to Ed Sachs, and I said, Kenny, three things. One, I need a redeeming scene. I said, you know, you want to slander me fine. But then you can't leave it at that. You got he got to give me a redeeming scene. Right? To I have to have the controller the casting, I won't tell you exactly who to cast. But you got to give me a list because I ended need to know their philosophy. I mean, for all I knew this was the Danny DeVito Dan Ackroyd School of casting,

Alex Ferrari 4:28
you know, fair enough.

Robert McKee 4:31
I said, and very importantly, the third act sucks. And I cannot be a character in a bad movie. So we need meetings, they're going to have to be willing to rewrite. And, and those are my three conditions. And, and they agreed to them. And, and so they sent me a casting they gave me my redeeming scene and then they they they sent a list. Have the 10 best middle aged British actors alive? You know, everybody from Christopher Plummer to Alan Bates and I, and and I looked at the list. And I said, I want Brian Cox. And they said, Who's Brian Cox? And I said, He's the best British actor you don't know. Because Brian had been a student of mine up in Glasgow, and I'd seen him on stage in the West End of London and, and what I didn't want, see all those actors. They're all wonderful. But there's always actors have this Love me Love me thing, no matter what they want to be loved. And there's always this subtext like my heart's in the right place. And I really, you know, and I don't want to be loved. I really don't want to be respected, I want to be understood. And I want to inspire people and educate, but I do not want a bunch of people following me around like a guru. Right, loving me, right? And I knew that Brian would not do that. And, and then we had meetings and about the Act Three, and eventually got to a never got to a perfect accuracy. But it got to a point where I could sign off on so and it was, so they took my son to a screening at so at Sony and I said, you know, we think ball, and he said, Dad, he said, Brian Cox nailed you. Which I thought was great. So you know, and it was, it was, but that's not the, you know, I was I put myself in a funny date. So it's not just, but yeah, it was, um, it was a difficult choice. But I think William Goldman was wrong, that, you know, there was a way to you have your cake and eat it too. And I think an adaptation is loved. Oh, and millions and millions of people. So, so it certainly didn't hurt my brand.

Alex Ferrari 7:20
It didn't hurt your brand or business, I'd imagine. It's the term irony comes to play where you would be working with Charlie Kaufman, on a script, where your character is the establishment that he's trying to get away from and to give art but yet you are working with him to put the script together and finish the third act, which is amazing. Charlie,

Robert McKee 7:42
Charlie's one of those guys. He's got, you know, a great talent. But he's a bit delusional. What he wants to achieve is the commercial art movie. He wants it both ways. He wants to be known for making art movies, but they have to make money too. And a lot of it because he knows that, you know, his career. If he loses money, it's over. And so and, and so he wants to he wants to create the commercial art movie and a salsa dance understood, you know, things, the notion of the commercial art movie, you know, the, the, the English Patient and films like that. And I you know, in the meetings with a spike and and, and, Charlie, I, you know, I pointed out to Charlie, so you can't have it both ways. It's a you, you know, you if it's a true art movies have a very limited audience period. And art filmmakers understand this. And they budget accordingly. You want 30 million

Alex Ferrari 8:59
for an art film?

Robert McKee 9:03
Was 5 million we could, but Okay, so anyway, but it was. Yeah, the irony of it is wonderful.

Alex Ferrari 9:10
So, so you've worked with so many screenwriters and filmmakers over the course of your career, what is the biggest mistakes you see screenwriters, new screenwriters to the craft make?

Robert McKee 9:24
Well, it's not mistake so much. Yeah, I guess it is a mistake. But, uh, there's two problems. One is cliches. And they think that it that they want to be, you know, like an artist, they want to be original, but at the same time, they want. They want to be sure that it works. And so they recycle the things that everybody's always done. And they've tried to recycle them with it. difference and which is absolutely necessary, I mean, that's I get it, you're not going to reinvent the wheel, you have to just spin it yet another way. And, but then they get very easy once they sell their soul. It's hard to get it back. And, you know, you can pour on your soul for a while, but you've got to get the cash to get back. And, and so that's the war on cliches is not some, you know, it's not a fault, it's just a problem everybody faces. And, but there's a greater problem. And it's the willingness to lie. In an effort to tell their story to get it out, somehow they get it together. And they will write characters and scenes, and whatever that that lack credibility that they know perfectly well, in their heart of hearts is pure corn of some kind. And it's a it's, they're bending the truth. It's not it's, there's something false to some. And, and, and to, to, to get to something that is really profoundly honest. And it doesn't matter what the genre is, from action, to comedy. to, to a you know, as an education plan, something very interior doesn't matter what the genre is, there's truth, and then there's lie. And somehow they think that because it's fiction, that gives them a license to lie. But but they don't have that license, they have a an obligation to express the truth of what it is to be a human being and in whatever genre, they're they're writing, they have a, they have a an obligation, if they're writing comedy, to really stick a knife in some sacred cow and expose the bullshit of society. I mean, they, you know, it's not enough to be amusing. comedy is a is an angry art, that savages, all those things that, that that that are false in life, and starting with politics. Right. And, and so there's they, there's a willingness to, to fit and lie and in order to please that, okay, let me take a step back. I bulldozing cliches and truthfulness are all the byproduct of the young writer, especially the young writers desire to please they want to be loved, they want people to love what they do they want to please people. And so they write what they think, is pleasing for people, whether it's all the cards in fast and furious. Right, or the sentimentality or whatever they want to please people and and which is fine, but you can't please everybody and so you're going to write for a certain mind a certain audience a certain mentality and an educational level and taste and whatnot in a certain group of people that you know, are out there, they're like you pay and and you can't please everybody. And and so, a film like for example, Nomad land is certainly not trying to please there's an audience for it, that will get it and enjoy it and and recognize this as a deep truth about our society and about human nature.

But it's, it's not going to have a mass audience. And because it will turn off more people than it will turn out. And, but it's, it's a excellent film is an honest film. So that's the I think it's fishing around here. Because when you open the door and say, you know whether

Alex Ferrari 14:53
you're wrong, there's 1000s of things

Robert McKee 14:57
to bring up, but if I can do it down, it's that it's that the willingness to please results in recycling cliches, and basically not telling the the, the, the dark truth of things. And so you have to be it's tough, you have to be disciplined not to copy other people's success, but to, to write what you honestly believe to be the

errors in the central new genre.

And, and be rigorous about that.

Alex Ferrari 15:36
Now, one of the the hallmarks of a good story is conflict. How do you create conflict in a story?

Robert McKee 15:46
Well, depends on where you start. If you start with a choice of genre, let's say you're going to write a thriller. Right? You know, the source of conflict immediately by that choice. I need some kind of psychopathic villain. Right? I need Russell Crowe, in unhinged. Why? And so that's done for you. So that the genre sort of automatically tells you, right, on the other hand, if you're telling a family story, and that will be called domestic. Until the characters are a family and it's a family with problems, wow. The conflict could come from any direction. Who's with? Is it the mother? Is it the father? Is that rebellious children? Is it Whose is it? Some some, you know, older grandfather grandmother figure that's pulling people strings, and you know, whatever, given a family what's wrong with this family? And so you have to figure out what is it and is it social, or psychological? Is it instinctive is a deliberate you have to think your way through all that. And so you, you you start with a family and you create a little you know, a cast? And then and then you ask the question or what's wrong with this family. And a million different things can be wrong in human nature inside of a family. And that requires knowledge, you have to understand people, you have to understand that you know, the mother, daughter, mother, son, Father, daughter, Father, Son relationships, and, and you need to dig into your own experience. And ask yourself, you know, what was wrong in my family? What What do I believe, to be the truth about families? And, and, and that the genre doesn't give you that answer. And so, you have the answer will come from your depth of understanding of human nature, human relationships of a certain personal kind in this case. And, or if you're writing comedy, so as mentioned, the starting place of writing a comedy is to ask yourself what is pissing me off? What in this world is pissing me off? Is that relationships? Is it men women? Always it? Is that the is that the the the the social networks? Is it is it politics? Is it the military? Is it the church? Why what what is what what do I hate? What's pissing me off? Because the root of comedy is is anger. The comic mind is an angry idealist comic comics are idealists who want the world to be perfect or at least and when they look around the world they see where sorry, sick one place it is. And, and they realize that they're complicit, they're part of it too. And so what spacing me off then it points them in a direction to an institution or behavior in society. me like I think that great comedy series. Curb Your Enthusiasm. You know, and, and, and yes, you know, what is pissing me off and he will finds really egregious fault in, in, in people's lack of propriety. Or, or logic or clarity of thought, you know, why should there be a handicapped stall in toilets? Right that no one can use except the two times a year that a handicapped person comes into this particular toilet. Okay. Right. That is

Larry David, that is an egregious absurdity and it infuriates him. And so he goes into the handicap stall, and sure shit, this is the day

a guy in a wheelchair. So, um, so that, you know, that that's, those are the various things, you know, you, you look at yourself, as a writer, and you you have to understand your vision of life, you have to understand the genres. When you make a choice, there's certain conventions. And, and a, you can bend those conventions, what breaker if you want, but not without an awareness of what the audience expects. And so somehow, it'll between picking the setting and the cast, the genre, and then looking inside of yourself, like your comic wouldn't ask you what's pissing me off? You find your way. If I if you're in conflict, and the the most importantly, you know, it has it that you know that that conflict has to be something you deeply believe in. Now, or, or you will do what we were talking about earlier, you will fall prey to cliches because you'll you'll create false conflict, false antagonist empty, a cliched antagonisms. And like that. So it's a very important question. Now.

Alex Ferrari 22:28
So as far as one thing a lot of a lot of screenwriters try to get away from is structure, saying that structure and trying to fall into side of a structure is, it's like holding me back as an artist and I need to be free and I need to run free like a wild stallion, I personally find structure to be very freeing, because it gives me a place to go. How do you approach structure?

Robert McKee 22:55
Well, in this day, people have a course accused me of imposing structural rules in my teaching, and it's nonsense. When

I am opposed to structure, it's inhibiting my creativity do not know what the hell they're talking. They just don't they use the word structure. But they wouldn't understand or know story structure, if it fell from a height under their foot, okay, they just don't know what they're talking about. structure in every scene, ideally, is a turning point of some magnitude, the character's life, they go into a situation wanting something. And something in that moment, kind of prevents them from getting it. They struggle with that. And they either get what they want, or they don't get what they want. Or they get it at a price or they don't get it but learn something. Change takes place. And it's in a simple scene is minor. And then these changes per scene build sequences in which moderate deeper change wider change happens, these sequences build x in it. And then that climax is a major turning point that has greater depth or greater breadth or both have impact on a character's life. And so minor moderate major changes are building a story progressively to an absolute irreversible change at climax. Now, why would anyone object to what I just said? Why would anyone think that you can change Do concrete scenes in which nothing changes. And do that three scenes in a row and people will not be walking up. They come there, they come to the writer, they read a novel, kind of trying to have insight into life as to what forces in life positive and negative, bring about change outwardly or inwardly in characters lives. I mean, that's why we go to the storyteller. And so and so why would you not want change? Or why would you want repetitious change? Because the same change degree of change, that happens three times in a row, you know, we're bored. So because it's not giving us what we want, it's not giving us the insight that into character that we want. And so people who say they're opposed to structure don't understand what structure is it they don't understand, it's a dynamic and a progression of minor moderate major changes. And so I have no patience with that kind of ignorance. Hear the people who say that are the very naive, ignorant, really, people who think that if they just open up their imagination, emotion, picture will flow out of it.

Alex Ferrari 26:30
Very true.

Robert McKee 26:32
And, and they are childish in that way. I mean, you open up your imagination and see what flows out, then you have to go to work on it. And you have to step back from every, every time you you know, or let me put you this way. What in truth is it to write? What is writing actually, like, as an experience, you open up your imagination, and you have an idea for a character or two or three, and you write a page, things happen? Action reaction dialog, that when you write a page, that takes 20 minutes, then what do you do? You read that page? And you could take it does this work? would he say that? Would she act like that? would this happen with it? Is there a better way to do this? And is this repetitious? Is there a hole does it make sense, you constantly critique what you've written, and you go back, and you rewrite it. And then you read it, again, you critique it again. And this goes on all day long. And so you go inside to create, you go outside to critique, you create, your critique you curate, and the quality of your critique that guides your rewriting is absolutely dependent on your understanding to make judgments, when you ask the question, does this work? You have to know what works and what doesn't work. And, and so that on one level, everything you do is structure. Its structured to have a character say x and another character respond with y that structure action reaction, that the person who said x did not expect to hear why

Alex Ferrari 28:36
right exit Exactly.

Robert McKee 28:39
And that structure that beat of act reaction and human behavior, that structure. So is I said, People say this, say it out of out of emit amateur understanding of what the creativity, what the act of writing really is.

Alex Ferrari 29:07
And I, whenever I've come up against that, when I say no, every you know, every movie has some sort of structure. Most movies, especially popular movies have structure. And your definition of structure is wonderful. They always throw out Pulp Fiction, and I'm like, no Pulp Fiction is an extremely structured film. Do you agree?

Robert McKee 29:28
Yeah. I've when I was we were talking about when I was when they were doing adaptation, and I was working with Charlie Kaufman. Charlie had exactly that attitude. I said, the third act doesn't work. We have to restructure it. And in the end is his face went into a panic mode. He didn't want you know, scared the hell out. He said, I know. I know that. It needs some, you know, just it'll come to me it was a clo and whatnot. And it's as easy as I don't write with structure. He said that I don't write with structure. I said, Charlie, would you like me to lay out the three act design of being john malkovich as because it's a three act, play, want to hear them, act 123. And, and he almost ran out of the room. He didn't want to hear it. He wants to live in the delusion that it somehow flows, and there is no structure. And when in fact, subconsciously, at least being john malkovich is a three activist

Alex Ferrari 30:48
is a great, it's

Robert McKee 30:50
a model, it's a model, BJ Mack is a model three act design. But it's but to the romantic like, Charlie, he doesn't want to hear it. Because he thinks that that's going to constipate his creativity. And I have to agree with it. If he wants to write out of this notion that it's all a flow. And if he is aware that there's a, that there's a design happening, it would, it would inhibit him. So it's because he's a good writer, he's very talented. So it would be better for him to live in that delusion, and let it all pour out. And then he goes back, and his taste guides the rewriting and so forth. And, and, and so if you're talented, like Charlie and, and the idea of structure is frightening, then you should listen to those feelings. And not think about structure and just, you know, do what you do, and hope it works.

But

that's rare.

Alex Ferrari 32:10
Very, very, very rare. But yeah, but and so for everyone listening, you have to understand that someone like Jeff Hoffman is writing. And as he's writing, he's subconsciously working within the three act structure, honestly, on a subconscious level. And even the great writers is like, Oh, I never even think about outlining or plotting, is because they have such a grasp of the craft, that it's already pre wired in them. It's like me building a house, I wouldn't even think twice about how to pour a foundation, or how to how to how to lay out the walls, because I've done it a million times. I don't have to sit there and think about it, it's just done. But that is rare, and it takes sometimes years to get to that place or you're a prodigy, which happens once in a generation or twice in a generation.

Robert McKee 32:57
And and you're absolutely right. That's very, very well put and, and in fact, it goes beyond that you have been watching the stories on screen you have been reading them in novels, you've been to the theater, that form form is a better word than structure that form of action, contradictory reaction and reaction to that and a giant dynamic of action reaction building to change that is so built into you as a as a reader as an audience member from I don't know two three years old. Mother read your little you know, bunny rabbit stories, right? Your bunny rabbit goes out and something happens that not happy for the bunny rabbit and then you know of bunny rabbits mother comes along and pictures things whatever it takes, I mean that that form is ingrained in you from from the earliest. And so you do know it?

Alex Ferrari 34:08
Without question. Now you do more dialogue is something that is you've wrote an entire book dedicated to dialogue. Obviously, your first book is story. But your second book is dialogue. What are the three functions of dialogue in your opinion?

Robert McKee 34:25
Well, there's many of them and certainly one of them is is the obvious one of exposition by various means. So for examples simple in writing dialogue, a character has a certain vocabulary so for example, you you've done construction on houses, right? Some sure I And so how many different kinds of nails Do you know? From spiked to tact of,

let's say 10? Yeah. Okay. Now most people may know, to me one nail on a screw, basically, that's all they know.

Okay. So if if in there, if a character in their dialogue uses the, the carpenters terminology. And even metaphorically, you know, call something a five, many nail, right? The fact that he knows the difference between a temporary nail and pipe and whatever it is, his exposition is it tells us something about the life of this character, by the very word, the names of things that that this character uses in their vocabulary helps us understand the whole life of this character. So if somebody grew up, you know, around boats, and they use nautical terminology, right? And so that they the language inside of the dialogue, all that just the vocabulary alone gives us exposition, it tells us who is this character? What's their life been like? Etc. Okay, then, at the same time, the characters talking about things that are happening, or have happened. And when somebody says, you know, you're not going to leave me again, we are to instantly know, that's it, she's already left them once, at least before

Alex Ferrari 36:46
it says it says volumes with one word.

Robert McKee 36:49
Yeah, there's no word again. But so we have an insight into what their life has been like, in this relationship. And so that's number one is is, is exposition. And number two is action. When people speak, what they say, is an action they take in order to get what they need and want in the moment, but underneath that is what they're really doing. And it's what in the subtext, the action they take in the subtext is what's driving the scene? So when somebody says, Well, I didn't expect that. Right? What they're really doing, perhaps, depending, right, is attacking, criticizing the other person for doing something that's completely inappropriate. What they say is, well, I didn't expect you to say that I didn't expect you to do that. I didn't expect that. But what that is, is a way of attacking another person for inappropriate behavior. And so it's right. And so and so the dialogue is the text by which people carry out actions. But underneath the dialog, is the true action. And it that's based on a common sense, understanding that people do not say out loud and do out what they're really thinking and feeling. They cannot, no matter how they try, if they're when they're, when they're pouring their heart out and confessing to the worst things they've ever done. There's still another layer, where they're actually begging for forgiveness, let's say, right? So by confessing, actually, you're begging for forgiveness or whatever it is. And so dialogue is the outer vehicle for interaction. And, and the great mistaken dialogue is writing the the interaction into the dialogue. stead of having somebody confess, did they beg Please forgive me, please forgive me, forgive me, forgive me. Right. And, and if somebody is actually begging, there's got to be another level of what they're really doing underneath the baking. And, and so you have to, you know, the writer has to think to that by begging. What that dialogue is actually a mask for manipulating that person. Do what you have to do, right. And so, exposition, action. Okay. And then, you know, just beauty. Just Just wonderful dialogue, in character, and all that, but but a way of creating a surface that is that it draws us. Because, you know, we just love to see scenes where characters speak really well. in there. And even though even if we're using just gangster talk, good gangs, your dog, it's right to talk to each other and that kind of rap and that kind of unite. Right? That's, that's a form of beauty. It's wonderful, you know, it's pleasurable, right. The dialogue ultimately ought to be pleasing, and in his sense of kind of verbal spectacle. And so that's just, you know, that just three off the top of my head functions, but there's is there's much more right and I, I like I'm sure like you, we all love. Wonderful, memorable quotable dialogue.

Alex Ferrari 41:24
Yeah, very much like it's so obviously Tarantino and Sorkin and Shane Black and these kind of screenwriters, their dialogue is just, it's poetic in the way that they write something, certainly is, certainly, and the genius of them is they're able to do the first two things you said, within that poetry, as opposed to just poetry for poetry sake,

Robert McKee 41:46
which is, you know, that is that just decorative. They all happens all at once. You know, you're getting exposition, see who these characters are, whatever actions or reactions are driving the scene, and it's a pleasure to listen to.

Alex Ferrari 42:03
Now, one thing I've noticed in years and even in my own writing descriptions, in a screenplay, a lot of screenwriters, when they starting out, they feel like it's a novel. So, they will write a very detailed description about a scene or about something, where from my understanding, over the years, less is more and it becomes more of a of an exercise in Haiku is than it is in the novel writing. Can you kind of talk a little bit about the importance of of compacting your description?

Robert McKee 42:37
Well, it does need to be economical. Of course. On the other hand, it has to be vivid,

Alex Ferrari 42:44
right?

Robert McKee 42:46
And that's, you know, where does that balance strike you that the ambition is to project a film into the readers head. So that when they read their screenplay, they see a motion picture without camera directions without you know smash CUT TO for transitions and, you know, Dolly on and you know, and you know, pull focus, whatever nonsense, you got to use the language and description to create the effect of a motion picture, then you only use ideally, you only use the master shots, it you you only the the the shots, the angles, the setups, camera setups that are absolutely necessary. And no more you do not try to direct the film. And, and instead, you project a motion picture into the readers head. And, and, and so you need to it over, often in overriding and when, in fact, was not only overwritten, but it's not vivid. It's because writers rely on adjectives and adverbs. And what they need is to know the names of things. You know, he, he, he picks up what we're talking about before a big nail. Well, you know, big is an adjective. And so, put an image in the readers head, he picks up a spike. Spike is a vivid image. A he, he walks slowly across the room, will slowly is an adverb. Right? Right. And so you name the action of verb is the name of an action. He pads across the room he ambles, he strolls he saunters. He you know, Waltz's is an active verb without an adjective, adverb, concrete nouns without adjectives. And we see things and we see actions. And it becomes vivid. It reduces the word count. And, and here's here's something a good it's a good note for writers take your screenplay. And, and search the verb is or our urge is an are throughout your descriptions and eliminate every single one of them. know things are nothing is in a screenplay. Everything in a film is alive. And action. So you know, a name the thing. So a line like a big house, there, there is a big house on a hill.

Okay.

And what's a big house a mansion or a state? a villa? What's a, you know, a hill, a mountain. At add and add and turn it into a villa sits just that verb sits is more active than is a big house sits with a spectacular with this spectacular view. And so easy, a big house up high with a great view. And it's an image and it's active, it sits sprawls across, whatever. And so active verbs concrete nouns, and and make us see a movie. And every writer finds every good writer finds their own personal way to do that. And Paddy Chayefsky wrote elaborate descriptions. Harold Pentre described, nothing, nothing. He would just go interior kitchen dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, describe nothing. And because his attitude was, we all know what a kitchen looks like. And they'll probably play it in the garage anyway. But if they mess if they mess with my beats of action reaction and you know, in dialogue, then they're in trouble. Okay, so every writer has to find their own way to accomplish the task of a vividly projecting emotion picture in the imagination, as you turn pages who make them see a movie.

Alex Ferrari 48:23
Now, your new book is called character. And I wanted to ask you a couple questions in regards to character because, arguably, I always like to ask the question, do you start with plot or you start with character I always say to people, you don't like Indiana Jones, his plots aren't nearly as memorable as Indiana Jones James Bond's plots aren't as memorable as James Bond. Like I don't you throw me the plot of thunder ball. I don't remember. I remember scenes, but I do remember James Bond. And that's what draws me back to his stories. So, can you talk a little bit about the difference between roles and character?

Robert McKee 48:58
Well, a role is a generic term. And so hero is a role villain is a role victim is a role. You know, sidekick is a roll. goon is a roll. shopkeeper his role in the role is as a position in a in a cast. as defined by its relationship to other characters, and or a profession. Like waiter, asked driver. And, and they're generic, they wrote something waiting to be filled by a character. And as a character comes into a story to fulfill a certain role but it's a it's a You know, it's it's a, it's a generic to that to that genre. And so if you have a family, the roles are mother, father, children guide, they're okay, those are roles, characters are our unique human beings, we inhabit those roles. And and there's a design of a cast, such that the protagonist, and the central character at role is the most complex character role. And they are they, they're, depending on the genre, they are the most dimensional character of all. And they are ideally, they, they are the center of good, there's a, there's a positive human quality, not every way certainly, but there's, there's some quality, within the complexity of that character, with which we recognize we empathize, we recognize a shared humanity, the character is then in orbit around that character that protagonists are less dimensional, but they can be dimensional as as well, then you go all the way out to the second third circles, where you have people only playing a role. cashier, restaurant cashier, okay. Now, even when you're writing a scene where your character goes up to the cashier in a restaurant, to pay a bill, and discovers that his credit card is cancelled, right, you have a clerk standing there, at the at the take, who takes the credit card and finds that it's, it's been rejected that clerk character, he be very useful to imagine that role, very specifically, what kind of human being, you know, is she or he, it because it does the, the way in which that clerk that roll says responds to your card is canceled. Your card didn't go through the, the, the way you write the words and gesture for that character gives her a trait. And so roles have traits and, and to make, even that moment, when there's a human being behind that, that trait. And so if she's sarcastic, if she's fed up with with the job itself or with with people whose cards never work, or she's sympathetic because her cards don't work.

Alex Ferrari 53:19
So,

Robert McKee 53:21
so, even in a in a simple role like that, you try to write it with a as a specific trait in the way in which he deals with that moment. And it creates a character for an actor. And so the actor come in there and realize, Oh, this is an antagonistic clerk or this is a sympathetic cleric, or an indifferent or bored or falling asleep, or glancing at her watch constantly, she just wants to get out of here, whatever it is, you give her a trait. And that makes her a character, she sends the GM to life and it gives the actor something to hang their performance on. And so dimensions the protagonists, the most dimensional of all dimensions are contradictions within the nature of the girl. And so you populate that with in my book on character, I look at characters everybody from from Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey has an eight dimensional character, all the way up to Tony Soprano, as a 12 dimensional character Walter White, as a 16 dimensional character. And so and so the complexity of character today given long form television, especially, is at is becoming your astronomical And then you have to give all the, that every one of these dimensions if a character is, is kind and cruel, okay? Sometimes they're crying, sometimes they're cruel. Therefore, you're going to need a cast of characters where the protagonist, when they meet character a, they treat them kindly character B, they treat with, with a slap with cruelty and, and so you need to design a cast around each other characters. So that when, whenever any two characters meet, they bring out sides of their dimensionality or traits of behavior that no one else brings out of them. And so, every single character is designed that whenever they encounter any other character, they bring out each other's qualities in ways that no other character does. And, and when you have a, you know, when you have that kind of cast, where every single character services, every other character, and no redundancies every relationship is unique. every relationship develops a different aspect or a different dimension. Then you have a fascinating group of people that creates a world that the audience can really

Alex Ferrari 56:38
dive into,

Robert McKee 56:39
dive into now, you know, when characters when and carrot one characters behave toward each other in the same way, no matter who it is. That, you know, that's it's a boring and do it's false. People do not treat other people, different people the same. Everybody behaves in a uniquely subtly but uniquely different way, depending upon the relationship. And it takes a lot of concentration and imagination in the writer to realize that every relationship brings out different sides of the character's nature.

Alex Ferrari 57:21
Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests. Robert, what are three screenplays every screenwriter should read? You see? I don't answer that question. Okay. For this reason, I don't want people to copy anybody. Okay, fair enough.

Robert McKee 57:46
And so if I say, you know, if I named my, you know, my favorites, like, say, trying to tell people you know, then run to study Chinatown and emulate it. And that's a mistake. The really important question to ask people is, what's your favorite genre? Because they should be writing the kind of films they love.

Alex Ferrari 58:15
It's a good point, what

Robert McKee 58:16
I love, what are my favorites may have nothing to do with their favorites. And so the first question is, you know, what do you love? What kind of movies do you go to see what kind of things do you read? What do you love? And then seek out those? And the second thing is that if I name favorites, and, and that they, you know, they're in their pieces of perfection. Okay. What does that teach the writer? They got a model of perfection. Great. Okay, that's important, you should understand you should have an ideal, what you're trying to achieve. But one of the ways to achieve it, is to study bad movies. break them down and ask yourself, why is this film so boring? Why can't I believe a word of it? Why does this fail? and break it down and study it? To answer what this What does it lack what went wrong, etc. Okay, and then rewrite it.

Alex Ferrari 59:37
Just thing,

Robert McKee 59:39
rewrite it. fix that broken film. Because that's what you're going to do as a writer. Your first draft is going to suck. And you're going to go in and try to fix your broken script. Try to bring it to life. Try to cut edited shape and rewrite it reinvented, you're going to read it over and over again, right? Having fixed broken films, not just one, but many, many, many take bad movies, studying them and make them make them work is practice for what you're going to have to do with your own screenplay. Because it's not going to work in the beginning, it's going to need a lot of work to work. And so having rewritten bad films to make them work is, is a real learning experience. And so I say, study good films are of your genre, so that you have a an ideal that you achieve, rewrite the bad ones to teach yourself how to fix broken work. And so, and that's a personal choice. I can't say what that should be for those people. For every one of them, loves whatever they love, which may or may not be what I love.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:00
Now, where can people find out more about you? And where can they purchase your new book character? Amazon? It's pretty much it is pretty much it nowadays, isn't it? It's pretty much it nowadays, isn't it? Amazon.

Robert McKee 1:01:17
bookstores, I'm sure are opening up. And if you know if you love bookstores, as I do, you know, you can go to a bookstore and get it. But the most direct way that will be there in your budget for the next morning. It's incredible what they do, what Amazon does, and bash, you know that the other other Barnes and Noble stew or whatever it is, but yeah, it's very simple. You just go to amazon.com. Right? Just write the word McKee. And comes story, dialogue, character, in hardcover, in an audio and in Kindle,

Alex Ferrari 1:02:05
and everything else? And then how can people read it? And how can people learn more about you what you offer?

Robert McKee 1:02:13
Ah, the go to make peace story.com. The key story.com will take you to our website. And we have a upcoming. We've been doing webinars now for a year and a half since the plague hit us. And they've been very successful, very, very pleased with it. And in July, we're doing a series on action. Nice on the action genre. And so these, these are every Tuesday, three Tuesday's in a row. And they're two hour events, hour and a half worth of lecture and a half hour of q&a. Then on Thursday, I I give an additional two hours of q&a.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:01
Fantastic.

Robert McKee 1:03:03
And because I realized how important it is for people to get answers to things they're working on. So So Tuesdays and Thursdays for three weeks in a row. And there's you know, four hours of material each week. So and we will we will look at the action genre in depth with lots of illustrations and examples of an adage and I love giving these acts. webinars. And it's a favorite of mine. Actually,

Alex Ferrari 1:03:38
I love a good action movie is it's hard to come by nowadays. So I appreciate it. Robert, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to to my audience and I appreciate all the work that you have done over the years and help so many screenwriters as well. So thank you so much for everything you do.

Robert McKee 1:03:54
It was a lovely chat. Great chat. Nice talking to you.