From Sundance Sleeper Hit To Blockbuster Career with Chris Sparling
It’s always way fun to have a guest who is also a fan of the show. This week’s guest is definitely a member of the tribe. We chatted up pre-interview about some of his favorite IFH podcast episodes like Ed Burns and Joe Carnahan and I knew front hen on we were on for a treat. My guest today is award-winning writer, director, and producer, Chris Sparling.
Chris has written some of Hollywood’s most original and fascinating screenplays like Buried, Greenland, Mercy, Down A Dark Hall, Reincarnate (featuring Leonardo DiCaprio), The Sea of Trees with Matthew McConaughey, etc.
One of his latest films, Greenland, which premiered in 2020 started streaming on Amazon prime this February
The disaster thriller film starring Gerard Butler and Morena Baccarin follows a family who must fight for survival as planet-destroying comet races to Earth. Butler’s family struggles for survival in the face of a cataclysmic natural disaster as the planet-killing comet races to Earth. John Garrity (Gerard Butler), his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), and young son Nathan make a perilous journey to their only hope for sanctuary.
Amid terrifying news accounts of cities around the world being leveled by the comet’s fragments, the Garrity’s experience the best and worst in humanity while they battle the increasing panic and lawlessness surrounding them. As the countdown to global apocalypse approaches zero, their incredible trek culminates in a desperate and last-minute flight to a possible safe haven.
With its reception and regardless of the COVID 19 Pandemic, the film grossed $52.3 million at the Box Office and was announced that the sequel, Greenland: Migration is already in the works. The continuation of the story will center around the Garritys’ journey across a frozen European wasteland to find a new home. STX has already acquired the worldwide distribution rights for the film at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival for the sequel with a $65 million budget.
Chris’s path to becoming a renowned Hollywood blockbuster writer begun on the actor’s path. He was inspired to take up writing after the 1997 hit psychological drama film, Goodwill Hunting which was directed by Gus Van Sant and starred Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and others.
He left Los Angeles on a home (Rhodes Island) bound to recalibrate and focus on completing college and writing because it was a challenge juggling that and acting auditions. After completing college, Sparling returned to Los Angeles. With no connections or leads, he returned to Rhodes Island with the plan to make a movie of one of the many scripts he had written by then. Though he had no formal film production experience at this point, Sparling wrote, directed, and produced An Uzi at the Alamo which is about a young writer in search of his identity, pledges to his dysfunctional family that he will commit suicide on his 25th birthday. As the fateful day approaches, he stumbles upon love and a new sense of self. Fearing family humiliation if he backs out of his pledge, he prepares for his last birthday with the feigned support of his family.
Of course, the film did not do well, but this is when things became interesting for Chris’s writing career. He dusted up and sent out about one hundred specs to studios, managers, producers, literally anyone he could contact. He received back, only three responses and one of which was from a manager who became his manager and still is till this day. That was his first open door.
When I saw the trailer for Chris’s 2010 film, Buried, and the success of it, as an independent filmmaker, I was in awe and slightly jealous of how easy (cost, and production-wise), revolutionary the film is. Buried is a brilliantly twisted suspense and original screenplay that is a nightmare for claustrophobes.
Sparling found mainstream success when his feature-length screenplay Buried was purchased by producer Peter Safran starring Ryan Reynolds.
Ryan plays Paul, an Iraq-based American civilian truck drive. After an attack by a group of Iraqis, he Wakes up groggy in pitch darkness, to find he is buried alive inside a coffin. With only a lighter, flask, flashlight, knife, glowsticks, pen, pencil, and a mobile phone.
It’s a race against time to escape this claustrophobic death trap. He is left to rely on his cell phone to contact the outside world. But the outside world proves not to be very helpful at finding a man buried in a box in the middle of the Iraqi desert. Paul must rely on his best resource–himself.
The film premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and was sold to Lionsgate Films. Buried was shown at several major European and North American film festivals. It was nominated for and won a plethora of European films awards because it was produced in Barcelona by Barcelona-based Versus Entertainment, in association with The Safran Company and Dark Trick Films.
Some of the awards included the Goya Award, for Best Original Screenplay, a Gaudi Award in the same category, and the best European feature film of the year award at the Strasbourg European Fantastic Film Festival in September 2010. This $2 million budget indie film made a gross splash of $21.3 million worldwide.
Sparling had an immediate success from Buried; between the script going out in March of 2009 and the movie premiering at Sundance in 2010, and he suddenly needed an agent, an attorney, and everything legit in between.
Intrusion, Sparling’s latest film will be streaming on Netflix in just one week (September 22, 2021), starring Freida Pinto and Logan Marshall-Green.
It is about a husband and wife who move to a small town. A deadly home invasion leaves the wife traumatized and suspicious that those around her might not be who they seem. Even though it was self-defense, it was still a homicide. However, it turns out that the home invasion was not a one-off, and there are many other missing person cases in which the invaders may be involved. Meera falls into a rabbit hole as she takes it upon herself to find out the truth.
Enjoy my entertaining conversation with Chris Sparling.
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Alex Ferrari 0:08
I'd like to welcome to the show Chris Sparling, man. How you doing, Chris?
Chris Sparling 0:15
I'm good. I'm good. How are you?
Alex Ferrari 0:16
Good, man. Good. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Man. I appreciate you reaching out and wanting to come on the show that you you've been listening to the show a bit and been our fan and you heard a couple of your friends on the show. You're like, hey, I want to jump in on this action.
Chris Sparling 0:31
Yeah, yeah, I heard I heard Eddie Burns on and he was talking about him and Aaron Lubin who I know. And I was like, man, it sounds fun. I want to do this. And so yeah, you're right.
Alex Ferrari 0:42
Yeah. And we were talking about one of one of your favorite episodes, Joe Carnahan, who's a friend friend of the show, and one of the easily one of the most entertaining episodes I've ever had.
Chris Sparling 0:53
Without question, well, it's easy. I don't I don't know Joe is easily one of the most entertaining episodes I listened to for sure. That guy was like, I'm like, that guy's fucking cool, man. I don't meet that guy.
Alex Ferrari 1:02
Joe is arguably one of the coolest filmmakers I know and I've ever met. He is he is definitely a force of nature without question. Now, before we jump in, man, how did you get started in the business?
Chris Sparling 1:14
So my thing was, I started as an actor, like eons ago by this point. And so I did the struggling actor thing and, and I was gonna stay in Rhode Island. That's where I'm from in LA for a couple years. And I mean, that's a tough, tough racket, man. I don't I mean, a lot of credit, people do that and stick to it long term. I did it for about two years. And it was during that time that goodwill hunting came up. And so between like anyone honestly talking about it like that, I think macmullan had come out a few years prior and everything. So it's like, between that, and then Good Will Hunting come out came out. It was like the worst thing in the world. And best thing in the world that could have happened to an actor, because all of us started to think we could write our own shit. And so, you know, thinking would be that easy. Okay, so that's what I did. I started writing when I was, you know, as trying to go on auditions and etc, etc. And so after about two years, I headed back home to to Rhode Island, which is where I was from, because I had left I would not tell us, I was really fucking young. I was like, 20 years old. So I left college midway through, to do this to chase the dream, as it were. And I was kind of, like, Man, I'm doing too much. Like I was taking acting classes I was working. I was, I was taking school classes, you know, and doing all these things. I'm like, I'm not really excelling at any of these things. Because I'm doing all of them. Let me just focus on getting school done at least, kind of recalibrate, regroup, see where I'm at, you know, with the plan of going back to LA, which is exactly what I did. So I went back to the east coast, finished my degree, and then spent the summer here, then drove cross country back to to LA and arrived the night before September 11. So, yeah, so I mean, it was like, as you probably remember, I mean, you know, as it pertains to our business, here, we're not doing for like months and months. Because this is the part I think a lot of people forget about that time is that's also when the anthrax scare happened. It was right in that same window. So it's not like now where I would imagine everything is you know, it is everything's digital, you know, just you've had shots or whatever else all gets all reels or all digit back, then you were sending a hard copy headshots. And during the anthrax scare, no one was opening mail, because they were afraid to. So I mean, if that's the way you get auditions is you know, by your headshot resume going out and no one's open. So I was like, I'm doing nothing out here. So four months passed. And I was like this, this ain't it. This is I just felt completely had no control no agency in my own life. So I'd started by that point, I'd written more. I was like, You know what, I'm going to move home. I'm going to write a movie that I'm going to direct produce star in. I've no idea how to do any of those things, really. But even with the only way I can see this working, and that's what and that's what I did. Frankly, that's that's what happened.
Alex Ferrari 4:18
And that movie was the is that the one that Uzi at the Alamo? Yeah,
Chris Sparling 4:22
yeah. Which is a total fucking shit show. It's like, I mean, it's, it's like looking back to your high school. Like ninth grade High School picture and going cheese. I thought I was alright looking. I was like, No, you are not. You are not at all good looking.
Alex Ferrari 4:40
You know, listen, I have to interrupt for a second on the side. But I just went back to visit my mom and then in my mom's house. As my high school picture in a giant frame in the front, circa 1992 blue like glamorous Shot picture like your blue like stripes in the neon stripes in the back and you had the whole Oh my God, my daughters are like, Daddy, what? What is it? Man? I have no idea you know, right? The cavalry cheese all day all day. Every guard Absolutely.
Chris Sparling 5:24
So anyway, that movie, you know, I'm gonna I'm gonna add context in just a second. But I mean I had never made a movie I had no business making a movie. I barely I didn't even know how to write a movie. Honestly, I at least written at least one or two screenplays by that point. But I still didn't know what the hell I was doing. And it's a mini miracle the movie even got finished. It really is. And so that's why I'm saying on add some context. So I imagine you and I are roughly the same age. So like you and I kind of straddle the analog and digital world. We were there when it all started to change. Right. So this was at a time when the digital world started to kind of become a thing. But it still was expensive to make a movie. You know what I mean? It wasn't expensive. Maybe it was to shoot on on film. But it still was expensive. Oh, right. And so I think I made that movie all in for like, $20,000 which, nowadays, if you say that to someone, they're like, $20,000 that you made this free piece of shit for $20,000? Like, what? Just you, that's all you can do.
Alex Ferrari 6:34
And when did you shoot out
Chris Sparling 6:35
on the GTX? 100? So dv x what was the 100?
Alex Ferrari 6:38
Acer or the 100? Because obviously there's a difference. You know,
Chris Sparling 6:42
it wasn't in the a it was the GTX 100
Alex Ferrari 6:44
all you got the first gen you got the first gen I got my. Yeah, my first film was on the 180. Which, by the way, arguably best little independent film camera ever. It was. It was gorgeous looking. Yeah, it was the first 24 P. And of course, and when we saw we're like this is looks just like film.
Chris Sparling 7:02
No, it looks like a movie is amazing, right? But it still wasn't cheap.
Alex Ferrari 7:08
It was not it was not.
Chris Sparling 7:10
So it took me about two and a half years to finish the movie, because I shot it in about two weeks. Again, I had no business making a movie. I mean, I'm I don't know how people just didn't leave. organized, it was organized enough to happen, right? And I obviously were treated well. And people were paid a little amount of money. But I mean to ask people to show up day after day. And these are again, I'm shooting this in Rhode Island. The people that are actors, but they're not. They're not full time actors. They are people that maybe do like community theater, or this this is like kind of a hobby or maybe a little more than that for them. Anyway, it it's a fucking shit show. But I love it for what it was at the time. I would not have a career had I not done it.
Alex Ferrari 8:00
Right? What how so what did that do for your career? Because as you're just saying, it's like, it's I can't believe anyone even looked at that thing. What did that do for your career as a writer and and or director.
Chris Sparling 8:12
So it was, again, going back to the time it was, you know, back in the day, it was like, Well, if you had if you wanted to contact anyone who's like the Hollywood representation directory, big book, you know, just scouring those books, trying to find representation, trying to find basically just querying everyone under the sun that I think is right for this, say, will you watch my movie? That's, that's really what I was doing. And I guess the benefit of the time was that unlike now, because it's so easy to create content, the barriers of entry are basically gone. There wasn't as much content. So to reach out to someone, if you had a film that actually was meant something.
Alex Ferrari 8:50
It's like I've been saying to people a long time, like in the 80s All you had to do was finish a movie and it was sold, it was sold. And you made money the Toxic Avenger got made during that time. I mean, it just it was theatrically run, there's the 90s was a watered down version of that. Now, the the waiter or the Uber driver has a feature.
Chris Sparling 9:10
Right? No, so true, but it and so, you know, I don't know how many queries I sent out. Maybe 100. I have no idea. But I think I heard back from maybe like five people that said, Yeah, sure. Send me your movie. And of course, in the meantime is doing trying to get in this festival. But of the five I heard back from maybe three and of the three I think two said they liked it and all the two. One said it was a manager and he said he goes I liked it man. I laughed out loud. And then the word you always want to hear it what else you're working there right and so that was it. I mean, I was a kid from Rhode Island man. I didn't know anybody. I didn't know anyone in business. I didn't have any connections. So, so that was my first open door. And it was like that's it. I'm fucking going that's it. I'm this door which will open the door. Excellent. And now just fast forward. That's my manager. He's my manager still, to this day still.
Alex Ferrari 10:06
That's awesome. That's great. All right, so then, you made you wrote a film in 2000. We came out in 2010, called buried. Now, I was telling you before we can afford, it's like when I saw that trailer, and saw the success of that film, and everything. As an independent filmmaker, I was like, God dammit, why didn't I think of that? That's like, the easiest, cheapest thing you could shoot like, it's a dude in a box. Oh, my God, why didn't I think about? And it was it was, I mean, it was kind of revolutionary when it came out, especially for for Indian, and that you got Ryan Reynolds and all that stuff. But how did you come up with an original concept of yours?
Chris Sparling 10:50
Yeah. So that was a basically, the lesson learned from that feature that I make Where's. So I made that and that movie had all these locations of all these actors. And it's like, things you don't I didn't know, man, I didn't know like that stuff. Like, I shouldn't be doing that on the budget and all the time for all that stuff. I just didn't know any better. And like I said, thankfully, no one just left the project, which could have happened. But anyway, so this time around, I'd made a shorter to be in between. And I mean, I think it's worth pointing out I didn't go to film school. So I had, like, I had no other practical knowledge of how to do this. But the thing I learned from making that first feature was like, Man, this time around, I can't do it that way. Like, I can't have all these locations. I can't have all these actors because a that shit cost so much money and time. And and on top of that, it's like, again, I could run the risk of people just not showing up for work. So I was like, Alright, well, I have about at this point, I was working like a regular job again. And I'm like, I have like five grand that I can save. What movie Can I make for five grand? That's it. And I made the conscious decision by that point, Paranormal Activity come out. You know, I toyed for a minute about like, well, the found footage thing seems like that's an affordable way to make a movie. As I don't really think I want to do that right now. And so then it just really became what movie Can you make for five grand, so naturally, it gets smaller and smaller, and literally, your people. And I was like, I was left with a guy in a box on the phone. And I was like, fucking man, if I need to do half of the voices that on the phone, I'll do half of the voices. And then who was going to start it? I don't know. You know, here's something that I'm talking about buried is at one point. So like, this is like very early on. You know, I've written a script, and I'm thinking I'm gonna shoot it in my apartment for five grand. And I'm like, Well, I want to try at least to get some food and some semblance of a name. Right? In this movie. I'll try. I don't know if it'll work. And I was thinking like, I was actually thinking like, maybe like, thinking about the some dude from days of our lives. The guy that plays bow, I don't know why. Maybe I can get him I mean, not to not like, disparage him as if he's like, I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel but I'm thinking like, I'm not gonna get a movie star there's we're just gonna face a face somebody Yes. Somebody right, just to kind of just add some sort of credibility to me, I'm a nobody, you don't mind. And, and long story short, so I talked earlier about how my other thing opened the door with that manager. And kind of what happened in the time in between is after that, I send them an I'd write a new script, I would send it to him. He would like it, but wouldn't set the world on fire for him. So he'd be like, well, I liked it. But let's keep talking. And that went on for like, three, three and a half years, Alex, where you know, and I made it made a couple more smaller contacts and then contacts in the meantime. So hustling, hustling, hustling. And so finally, it's like six months into pre production, or at least me figuring out how I'm gonna make my $5,000 version of buried in my apartment. And, and I didn't send him this script is the only script I'd never sent it. Because my thinking is, he's like this big Hollywood manager, like, why is he gonna? Why is he gonna care about my guy in a box won't be like, I don't want to risk destroying the relationship. I've now spent three years cultivating right? And you do these things. We've all been there Everyone listen to you. Like, it's like, that's been part of the struggle. You're questioning every move, like yanking everything cuz you think Oh, is this gonna be the landmine I step in? Oh, I don't know if I should do that. Right. And it's just it's, it's such an excruciating process. But anyway, one night, I was caught, like, it was like the Jerry Maguire moment where I was looking at my career. You know, I was like, What is going on? Is this ever going to happen? Is this movie gonna happen? Is my career gonna happen? And I was like, You know what, fuck it. I'm gonna send it to him. And I did. And he flipped for it. He's like, Oh, my God. Like this script is amazing, dude, like, what are you doing? What are your plans like? What my Mine was to make it. And these are our that's cool. He's like, what? I think this can be a spec that we can go around would you be? Would you be willing long short, would you be willing to step back from directing it? If we can go out with it as a spec? And macro? I was like, Yeah, man. I'm just trying to break into the business any way I can. So long story short, that's what we went out with it. And this is this is the crazy thing. So I went from being I'm sorry for being so long winded. You know, I went from being a guy from Rhode Island that had no contacts that was you know, banging his head hustling, trying, trying trying for years, maybe little progress. That script went out. I remember correctly. It was like march of 2009. The movie was in Sundance. 2010
Alex Ferrari 15:47
Yeah, I know. That's insanely fast. Yes. So Alright, so you went out and didn't get Did you get the director attached? First? Did you get a producer attached first.
Chris Sparling 15:58
So it all came like I mean, it's crazy. Like that's why I drive home the point that it was like almost like a just an overnight sort of flip where I went from being someone who tried for years to get representation tried all the different things that we do, to all of a sudden now I have a manager who gets me an agent, UTA, who gets me a high powered attorney. But the overnight success, if you want to call it that was like it, like they say is like 10 years in the making,
Alex Ferrari 16:24
right? But he's like, boom, boom, and all of a sudden, there was a switch and, and that's what the power of good content will do a good piece of material. We'll, we'll do that for you. So it goes out. You get a producer you get until At what point did Ryan Reynolds get involved cuz Ryan Reynolds was yet I mean, he was Ryan, he was a star, but he wasn't Ryan Reynolds. Yeah, he's not dead. He's definitely not Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds.
Chris Sparling 16:44
No, no, no, he his big thing. At that point, he had done the proposal when he said that it really kind of elevated him, right. And I remembered so I again, I didn't go to film school, my I my degrees in criminal justice. So I at the time, I was working, doing fraud investigation, which is a boring fucking job, it sounds. And so I remember like, by this point, I had my team around me, I knew we were you know, things were happening with my career for the first time, but you know, it, that's also a weird phase to be in your career where it's like things change, but yet they have changed, because it seems like something's gonna happen. But you're, you're still, I'm still working a regular job. And I remember I was doing a case. And I'm in my car, like you spent a lot of your time in your car and that you're watching. It's a boring job. Anyway, long story short, this is before cell phones, smartphones. So I have my I have my laptop, and I'm picking up a Wi Fi signal from some random person's house, whatever, I'm just using their Wi Fi. And I remember getting an email with a link to a variety article saying that Ryan Reynolds was on the project that he had signed on to the project. And I was like, holy shit, I'm like, This is crazy. And I remember like, the next day or so. And here's a little cautionary tale is that I remember, I put in my two weeks notice, because I'm like, I made it. I made it. I made it. Right. And thank God and like, if they got it actually happened, because it's I was so green at the time. Like, I didn't realize how many 1000s of things could have gone wrong. At that point for not to happen. I think God,
Alex Ferrari 18:19
that's, that's that's to say, I mean, I feel you because when I was coming up as well, I would have a meeting with a star for a project that was trying to get off the ground. And then I'm like, I had to go back and you know, doing my day job. And just like, there's such a disc, there's such a weird disconnect. Like, you're talking to a producer, you're flying out to LA or doing something and then you get back home and you're just like, oh my god, how am I gonna pay the rent this week? Like
Chris Sparling 18:46
that weird Limbo phase? You're still in it? He's like, you feel like, Oh, right, I finally broke in. But your life hasn't changed at all. Good. It was like that in that sort of limbo phase until the movie finally got made. And thankfully, happened fast.
Alex Ferrari 19:03
And the thing is, I've had I've had guests on the show, too, that they'd like literally, their movie was, like just released and they're still in their day job like the money has kicked in yet. Like, haven't really, you know, hasn't really started yet. But, but I do remember that when Barry came out it was kind of like an indie film. Like a little indie film phenomenon because of the writing the directing. The director did a fantastic job because how many how can you make a box interesting visually like at a certain point? He did it was it was brilliantly shot. But the story did you conceive it always as a real time movie? Like 90 minutes? Yeah.
Chris Sparling 19:44
Yeah, yeah. never leaving the box. I mean, again, but that was born out of and I always wish I had a cooler answer. People ask me a lot. Like why did you make this move? Why'd you write it this way? Because I couldn't afford to get them out of the box. Getting out of the box is expensive. Like then you have to see the desert and all this other stuff. Like, I can't afford that. So, you know, it's one of those cases where, you know, where you you have, again, I was going to direct a movie. So I vision for what this movie was going to be. And Rodrigo Cortez came in and just I was like, holy shit. Like, I would have made a decent movie out of this, I think because it does a pretty cool idea. But I'm like, he made it into something truly cinematic. And it was just like, wow, I was also as blown away as everyone
Alex Ferrari 20:26
else was thought. And that movie, and then it did did gangbusters at the box office. For the budget that it had. It was it was a really, really well received.
Chris Sparling 20:35
International Yes, it didn't, it didn't get a big release here in the US but internationally made like 20 million off like a $3 million budget.
Alex Ferrari 20:41
Wow, that's crazy. And then just continue to grow Ryan, Ryan's ya know, profile up more and more. So let me ask you that after after buried. I always love asking because you have a hit now under your belt now Now you've got a bonafide hit and you're the writer of it. And there wasn't to my understanding, there wasn't like four other 15 other writers on it that tweaked it and script doctor did or anything like that. Right. So. So the town knows that you? It's not you know, it's not a script doctor or anything like that. That's come in. How does the town treat you? What's the next step? Do you do do the water bottle tour? Like what happened?
Chris Sparling 21:18
Yeah. Yeah, I mean, that was happening. Again, it's been a long time now. But that was happening before the movie even came up. That stuff was and that was that Limbo phase again, where it's like, Yeah, right. You're like going to these meetings and meeting all these people, as producers and at the studios, and then you're like, let's go back to your normal life at home. So that stuff was happening prior to. And then after you get on, you know, the lists, everybody you know, the list you want to beyond and kind of like the incoming call business, which is great. And that was the case for a while. And so yeah, I mean, that's, that's the nature of I think that's what, you know, that's I think you learn with your maturity and just doing this for now. I've been doing this for over 12 years, I think professionally, and it's like, you learn how like people are the toast of the town, and they're the new hot, cool thing. And then it's somebody else's turn. And then maybe you it's your turn again, down the line. But in a weird way, Alex, it's the kind of thing like if I had found success, when I first started out doing this, like all of this, it may sound cliche to say, but I think it is true. It's like I don't know if I would have been mature enough to handle it. Because especially when I wasn't the flavor of the moment anymore, because it is a very fleeting moment. We're kind of within like, Oh, well, I was like, You guys made me think I was like, cool. And I was the shit. And all of a sudden I'm like, you know, come that doesn't feel like as much anymore. And, you know, I think I was settled enough in my normal life. And sure enough, those older to be like, I'm just gonna keep working. You know, I'm just gonna keep hustling and working, that's not going to change and then come with me.
Alex Ferrari 22:49
Yeah, like, like, I had Troy Duffy on the show who's obviously infamous for boondock saints. And he had all that success at the beginning of his career. And I told him straight up like, man, I don't know if I would have made a whole lot of maybe slightly different decisions than you would have made during that time. But I imagine if you had that kind of success at 2425 you'd self implode? Yeah, you'd self implode, it's it takes a strong, mature 25 year old not that there isn't any obviously. But I wasn't that guy that's for damn sure i would i would have been eaten alive myself.
Chris Sparling 23:25
Yeah, I'm sure I would have to that the fall would have was what would have hurt me because I was used to the client, like, like the trying to climb better, you know that pushing the boulder up the hill as it were like, I was used to that, and I was fine with that. But when all of a sudden you get to the party, you know? And then like, oh, what happened? You know that like that would have been tough to kind of deal with as a younger guy.
Alex Ferrari 23:49
Yeah, and there's a lot of screenwriters and filmmakers coming up, they don't understand that they if they're lucky enough to get that moment. And it doesn't have to be huge. You don't have to be like blown away at your paranormal activity. You can have slight smaller victories get into Sundance or, or you know, something along those lines that you get a little bit of attention on you. That moment is very quick, especially in today's world. I mean, it was a little longer when you happen like you know, 12 years ago that window was open a little longer because there was less competition and the world was a lot different right out now. It's your it's so short and if you don't hit when that door is open when you if you don't crash in with something. Did you have other scripts? Is that the I mean, obviously had other scripts ready, right or? No?
Chris Sparling 24:33
Yeah, I did it. I mean, my next movie, the one that came on after the one I did is called ATM which did not turn out well. I mean, it wasn't horrible, but it wasn't reviewed. Well, it was it came together fast to kind of came together in the course of kind of a follow up to bury another contained little movie. And, you know, you kind of you know hindsight being what it is you look back and say I probably should have waited instead of rushing into my sophomore effort as it were. I should have waited too. To do something a little stronger, I guess, you know, because after that, that I saw the kind of the fall off. That movie was like, all of a sudden the poster said from the writer of barity. So it was like, Whoa, like, this means it's, it's, you know, there's value there, then all of a sudden that movie didn't do well. That means like, it was, it was me that really took the hit. You know, I feel and, and I blame myself. I mean, the script I thought was okay, it was good. But again, it was, you have like this, this energy because you finally get there and you want to, you know, you want to like keep it going, because you worked so hard to get there everything else. But then, you know, after that, though, but what you realize too is the work matters, like the struggle matters. It does. Because you I always look at it this way. I don't know how you feel I was looking at as I started off with nobody in this industry, right? Like a lot of people I'm not unique in that way. It's like a lot of people. And even even up till now frankly, we're on like women now I know. Like I've been doing this for 12 years. I know all these friggin people, like why am I going to stop stop working as hard? It's like, No, I'm gonna work just as hard if not harder, because now I have more like all the sources world like I can. Yeah. And so, I mean, it's that's kind of what happened after I think my second old ATM where it's kind of like, the phone stopped ringing as much, you know, and it was like, what's going on, dude, like, What is going on? I'm not the belle of the ball anymore. And it had the struggle, I feel like the culmination of all those years are what made me realize, Oh, dude, you have to fucking get back to work, you have to create more content, you have to make turn this around. And, and frankly, it was I had now done two of these very, very small contain movies, I was like, I at least need to think bigger, I need to change the industry's perception of me. And that's what led me to write the sea of trees prize like, this is going to be you know, because no one's gonna do it for me. You know, I I've got a I've got to change the narrative here.
Alex Ferrari 27:06
Yeah, and that, and that's the thing. It's a lot of writers and filmmakers coming up don't understand that, that that Hollywood is they love to put people in boxes, because it just makes it easier to categorize and be like, Okay, he's the, oh, he's the guy who does the contained movies, if we have a contained idea, we'll call him. Or, you know, he just does action. Or he's just a comedy writer. He's a, he's a he's a Polish guy or gal who just does polishes for comedy or joke write dialogue writing or you know, things like that. And it's your job to break out of that. And it's some people love staying in their box, and they build an entire career out of their box. But it's hard. Especially if you've been in a box for a while you weren't in a box for a while. But it's hard once you're in that box, to change perceptions, and see if trees argument is a little bit different than buried.
Chris Sparling 27:56
Yeah, it is. I mean, I will I will actually push back a little bit on what you're saying. I'm in even to this day, I still find myself. People who have that perception of me are like, Oh, you write these small containers? Really? Yeah, yeah. And I mean, that's me. We'll get to Greenland, I'm sure. But that's largely where green was born. I've worked like a really? I'll show you. I've been I've been a stubborn bass. Not stubborn in a mean way. But like, if you grow like if someone told me when I was younger, like Oh, dude, you can't like playing basketball, dude. You know, you can't shoot. That's it. Fucking next day. I'm out there in the snow shooting all day long. Yeah, I mean, it's gonna go through my head over and over again. I early on. I'm sure we all have these stories. I remember very early on I talked about that. No, I call it a movie I made the first one. I remember going to a small again, this is a sign of the times to get a replication done of the of the DVD. I do that myself.
Alex Ferrari 28:57
Right. There's not duplication, a replication which is a different Yeah, you went to go get the class master made back in the day. Yes. So
Chris Sparling 29:04
so so I and I go to this, like this small little video place here in Rhode Island. Right? That I don't even know what they specialize in. But whatever, there they are. Currently, the only place I can find that does it. And there are a couple guys are, you know, they're probably honestly, they're probably my age now. But back then. And like really just kind of like, it's sort of, like cynical. And, and so I was like, you know, a young kid. I'm like, you know, I'd love to you know, this is what I hope you guys could do here. You know, I need this done. And kind of looking at me with this. Tim was like sneering sort of look like Well, so what do you want to do? And and I told him I was like, I want to make features. And they kind of looked at it. It was almost like a bad movie. See like a scene from a bad movie. Like they look at each other roll their eyes. And the guy says something to the effect of Yeah, kid we all we all like, is it to say like, it's not gonna happen. This is what you're gonna do. You're gonna be doing We're doing Right, right. And like, I clearly remember that to this day cuz I was like, fuck you motherfucker, that's not gonna be me. Because that's not you're not I mean, and, and that shit to me is like fuel, right? You know that sort of stuff people say, I can't do something and and, you know, it's I've never you know, again like a lot of people I'm not unique in this way they I've never I didn't you know things never really came easy to me like I'm not I'm not I was not a gifted writer, I was a pretty good writer growing up I, whatever, whatever it is, you know, and so this stuff has taken me a long time we're resolving people, half the time. Where was I going with this? But anyway, so So, so with when when ATM comes out again on the you take you take a few hits, because you're like, oh, man, no phones aren't ringing anymore. I was like, no one's gonna do it for me, like I have to get I have to go again and show that I can do something different and see trees was a drama, you know, I was like, I'm gonna go not at all what I've done,
Alex Ferrari 31:01
right. And it's, it's a, it's a completely different kind of drama than what you would with anything else that you've done. One thing I wanted to kind of touch on about that, that kind of, not to, not to demean it. But the spunky attitude of the East coaster. There's an there's, there's, we have chips on our shoulders I'm from I'm the I'm an East coaster, too. I was raised in New York, but but then, you know, spent most of my time down in South Florida. And when you're coming up as a filmmaker on the East Coast, or arguably not only East Coast, but arguably outside of LA, you've got a chip, because you got to struggle that much harder to get anything going like that you made a move in the 90s on a dv x 108 in Rhode Island, right? For 20 grand. That's a like you said it's a miracle. You know, I did something, I did something similar in 2005 with the dv x. And it was just like, I can't believe I look back at it. I'm like, how God's green earth did I do that? Like it's but there's a thing. And now you've lived in LA, obviously, and I've I live in LA, for 13 years. When you get out to LA, you realize it's just it's everywhere. It's everywhere. Every Starbucks you walk down to has final draft on all the laptops. You know, I always did I always say the joke when I walk into it when I get an Uber, pre pandemic, what I used to jump into when I used to world Yeah, in a different world. I used to jump into Uber and I would say how the audition go, or how's the script going? Like without even saying hello. And then like, how do you know I'm like? I mean, I don't know if this has ever happened to you in an Uber I actually had a composer like bust open, like music This time, because I told him, what do you do? I'm like, oh my god. I'm a director and like, Well, I have some music. I'm a composer here. And they would like play them. And it was so bad. I was like I didn't. And he's like, Can you give me the honest truth? I'm like, do you want to meet you want me to be honest. And I, I'll be constructive. But I'll be honest, and I gave him the honest review. And you could just see. Just deflated. I'm like, I rather you hear from me, man than if you go into a room somewhere. When if you if you get into the room somewhere, and you play that it's not ready.
Chris Sparling 33:18
Yeah, but that's the sort of stuff honestly, like, hear that you get deflated. But then you go one of two ways. Either you're like, I just you stay I guess stay deflated. Or you're like, later on that you're that guy, you're talking guy. I'm gonna make myself better. But you take the lesson, you're like, there's something to be taken from that I had that. Again, I'm talking way too much about movie that I'd rather not talk about at all. But nonetheless, that same movie, I remember showing it to some like filmmaker in Boston again, I was, I don't mean to keep using the word hustle. Because it sounds like I'm just sucking up to you. It's fun.
Alex Ferrari 33:55
It's fun. Once you send me a dime every time you say the word though, but that's
Chris Sparling 34:02
what's like in the course of that struggle, that hustle like I remember finding about finding this filmmaker in Boston. I was like, again, well, there's a filmmaker, I've tried to reach out to them. I just talked to him. And I remember I sent him the movie. And I was like, oh God, like you might like my movie this guy. And, and he I remember getting an email back. And it was something to the effect of like, I tried, like, I tried watching it, but I turned it off after half an hour. And I was just like, oh my god, like, Oh, you know, and what do you do at that point? Either you just go I guess one of three things. You say well, I'm just not cut out for this. And that's the end of it. Or you just I guess stay you accept the fact that you're not good at and continue to be not good. Or you recognize there's constructive criticism in there and and then you get better. You know, you have to keep working till you're better.
Alex Ferrari 34:52
Chris Sparling 34:53
so yeah, that's, yeah. There was something else I was going to tell you. Well,
Alex Ferrari 34:58
I wasn't okay. We'll get to it. So I, I, I don't mean to sound like I was being addicted, that poor guy in the that was in my Uber driver who was selling me the composer. But the thing is that the you and I got hit card Jesus with my films. I mean, I would send them out and I would get just, you know, people wouldn't like it, but then some people would love it. And it's like, Am I pled out for this is is this the thing, at a certain point, the universe is going to continuously throw punches at you constantly, they're going to be throwing crap at you thinking it's going to test you all the time. Because arguably, this is one of the most difficult businesses in the world to break into. Sure. It's just, it's just a very brutal business to break into. And the universe continuously is going to test you and test you to see if you've got the metal to make it happen. There's always the there's always the Robert Rodriguez story. Everyone always talks about the Robert Rodriguez story, or, or the paranormal activity or these kind of lottery ticket. Even Eddie, you know, when I talked to Adam, like a year, you earned a lottery ticket he goes, but then when you hear the story of how you got brothers with bolaven I'm like, Dude, that was brutal. as well. But you got it. I think the universe tested us like, do you have the metal to keep going? Because the people who actually make it in our business and and you know, you have you've been in the business and have had a lot of successes and know a lot of people arguably, it's not always the most talented. It's not the nicest, no,
Chris Sparling 36:27
no, it's not. Um, you know, yeah, it's not, I mean, on both sides on our side and say, the executive side, all all
Alex Ferrari 36:36
sides of all the business, but it's like, but it's about who stuck in there who write it and give up and they're the ones that make it. And there's I know some I know, some talented screenwriters man, whoever reads the scripts, I'm like, why hasn't this been produced?
Chris Sparling 36:51
Alex Ferrari 36:52
Yeah, this is great. And you just like, sometimes it pops. Sometimes it doesn't like the way the world works. I don't understand it. But like you got
Chris Sparling 37:01
talented Pete a lot of talented people that are truly waiting to be quote, unquote, discovered there. There are a lot of people out there that are, you know, they've made a career. And then you wonder how sometimes and that's, like I said, on the, on the executive side, I've met some really, really great executives. They're like, these are brilliant men and women that you're like, you know, it makes perfect sense why you're successful as you are. And occasionally though, you come across someone and you ask yourself, like, how did you even get your job? Like, how did you, you know, last this long, I mean, because it's shocking. Sometimes it is, Oh, God, I've
Alex Ferrari 37:35
seen them. Oh, god, oh, no. My post days, when I had my post house, I would get these guys come in. And it's like, you know, some 24 year old who got three or $4 million to make their first feature. And I'm sitting there like stewing as I'm color grading or editing the project. And I'm like, Yeah, do you want me to make this look like a little Blade Runner esque. And they're like, I've never seen Blade Runner. I'm like, get out of my sweet. What is wrong with you? Like, like, how did someone give you 3 million? Why did I get that 3 million God?
Chris Sparling 38:04
And it's looking, it's just how it works out for everybody, you know? Yeah. And the thing like no one listening to this is gonna say, Oh, that's what Chris farlington said, that's what I should do. No, don't like don't because it's not going to your way is going to be your way and not to sound like an old man. But it's the truth. It's like, this is this isn't, you know, this isn't. These aren't the hard sciences. Like if that's what you're looking for, if you're looking for a profession where you get concrete answers. Go become a mathematician, I guess you're you're a scientist, where you could say this is the this is the fact like, I know this for a fact that I accomplished this, and this is what it is, is settled. This is the kind of thing we're we're all doing our best and and hoping that the stars align when they do. They're certainly tried and more tried and true, I guess, approaches for sure. But at the end of the day, I think it really just comes down to kind of, you know, the amount of effort you're putting in.
Alex Ferrari 38:57
Did you make the same mistake? I did, because I when I was coming up, I you know, Robert, Robert, Eddie, Rick, Linkletter all these guys, you, you know, Kevin Smith, you I just kept looking at all their paths. I'm like, Well, I'm going to do what Robert did, or I'm going to do what Kevin did, or I'm going to do, thinking that I was trying to hack the system. And I was trying to figure out a way like, how can I get in? Okay, well, they snuck into the party this way, maybe I can go down that road. And the thing is that every one of those, the door slammed behind them. Because it just was there time with their project at that moment. You know, when I had Rick on the show, and I even I think I even asked Eddie this I go, do you think brothers Macmillan would make it today? And I think Eddie said probably not like just just too much. This is not the time for that film. It was at that moment, you know, so did you make that mistake?
Chris Sparling 39:48
Yeah, I think all of us do. No, it's like that we it's it's part of the process, right? Even say just finding your voice like at first. We're all like, we're all like cover bands, right? Like that's the way we learn to play is that we play couple songs at first. And so like, that's a great analogy. It's like you have to create eventually you want to kind of do your own thing. And so you learn to and and but what I think the takeaway is what what you can emulate or copy even what they did is that they did it. Like they went out and did it you don't you don't want to copy what they did you want to copy the fact that they actually got off their ass and did it. And I, you know, I have to imagine this is your experience as well. There's something so interesting about this business, because there are so many people that are in so many of us are always talking about the things we're going to do and going to make and that's our side, on the executive side is right, like all these projects in development and etc, etc. And it's all it's not to say that it's it's just bullshit. Sometimes I suppose it is. But like, it's these are all like desires like we want. And it's amazing thing when you are making something. It's amazing how people just lean in. And they're like, well, what, and I had that experience, I had that experience. When I did, I did a small movie called The Atticus Institute with Peter Safran. And, and so, I made that movie, there's like a $200,000 movie that we did. And there's a good movie, my opinion, but anyway, you know, I'm in post on it in LA, meanwhile, doing some meetings, etc, etc. And I wasn't really mentioning it. You know, like, they just came also, when you come in Delhi, just for the meetings, I'm like, Well, usually that's what I'll do. But I'm here because I'm in Poland. I was like, I'm and post on a movie I do. And you watch it. They're like, What movie is that? And the converse, like the, like the blinders they could put on because I think there's just something and it happens to me, a buddy of mine just made a movie. I'm so proud of them. He's been in LA and actor friend of mine. Like he, he's been in LA for 20 something years, or whatever it's been. And he just he went out and produced and wrote and produced his own movie. And I was like, Yeah, and I was like, and I find myself I'm like, holy shit. And
Alex Ferrari 42:02
Can I see it?
Chris Sparling 42:04
Yes, because it's real. Like, it's what separates you from a lot of people who in our business, just talk about making movies, or talking about making district that. And I don't know, that's what I think that's what I think you can take from people like Robert Rodriguez and Eddie Edwards. And I said this. I've actually spoken to Aaron, Eddie producing partners since hearing them on the podcast. I told him, I was like, Yeah, I was I reached out like, Hey, I heard it on the podcast, etc, etc. And I told them, you know, those guys, that story inspires me all over again, every time, you know, where I hear what they did and what they're doing currently. Because, believe me, I'm not I'm not I'm not dumb. I recognize that I'm talking from a pretty privileged position now where I am a morning writer, I get, you know, hired to write and rewrite stuff, etc, etc. So it's easy for me to kind of make this Cavalier statement of like, fucking man, I was inspired. I'm gonna go make something my own. Well, it's Yeah, it's like, Yeah, dude, you because you're already making money. You're lucky, right? But, you know, to be fair to myself, I was the guy on the other side for a long time, a very long time. You know, just trying to hustle trying to whatever my point is. I heard them like, what would they always call me Marlin? 2.0. Yeah, right. Yeah. Yeah. And, and it's just inspiring every time I hear them where it's like, you know, and I've talked to him over and over about it to where it's like, man, tell me about Tell me about how you guys go out and you're making movies or whatever else for very little money all you know, relatively speaking and, and, and, you know, something they said early on, which I thought was really, really interesting is like, just like, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter ultimately, how many people are in front of I'm sorry, behind the camera. People don't know. They if it looks you know, you want to make something professional but they don't know they see what's in front of the camera. So don't get caught based. Don't be caught up in missiles that maybe we now know, it's like you need this you need that it was like remember, go back to the beginning. No, you didn't. And and you end up not doing stuff because you think you need all these extra things. And the same thing with you know, we were talking before about like maturity and certainly what happens if we were successful? Or look look at a night like m night was she called the next Spielberg and like, what 26 years old or whatever it was. Now I did I know night fairly well I did a project with him. And I got to know him and I got to know like his producing partner cousin Ashwin, they're just fucking great people you know without you know, like I was working remember that project the movie devil that he did? Okay, so that was part of something called a Chronicles that night was going to be kind of godfather three projects that he wasn't he was going to produce but he wasn't writing or directing. But they were his ideas. samples. The first I was brought on to do the second one it just ended up Never happening. Long story short, it was this was all occurring like he brought me out to his chicken ranch in, in, in Pennsylvania. Whatever it's occurring at a time when he was like I think he had done last airbender. He was about to do After Earth, it was a tough time in the night sucks. And so like, I saw that and I saw him just on a human level kind of being like, you know, this is kind of the shit we're talking about now. It's like the same conversation of like, fuck man, like what's going on? Like, how do I? How do I get, you know, get the engine going again? And what my point is like, what fast forward a few years after that, he puts up a visit, where it's like a self funded found footage movie. Now, to do that, to step back from being the next Spielberg, right, who made arguably one of the best movies at least of our generation with the success and breakable right? to step back, check your ego. And say, I'm going to make a small found footage horror movie for like, whatever amount of money, no one full Well, people are going to be like, what this is what you've become like you've been reduced to this. Because it's like, he's like, No, I'm a filmmaker. So this is what I'm going to do. And I don't know I give the guy all the credit in the world. I'm so glad that it worked. Because now his career is where it is again. I don't know I guess I'm just saying like, I'm so endlessly impressed by the an Aaron doing it by night doing it. And it's just so inspiring of a thing.
Alex Ferrari 46:19
I mean, I'll tell you when I I've been a fan of night since since success, like everybody who saw success was just like, you know, unbreakable, arguably one of the best superhero movies of all time, as well. And I saw I saw the decline, you know, with Last Airbender, and then after Earth, you know, where we're, everyone's like, he's done. It's over. It's over. And what he is, but he is single handedly reconstructed his career to the place where it is today. And it is a success story that is not spoken about enough. Because people love to crap, everyone loves to see, the Giants fall, they all love to see that. I was you know, I remember, you know, in 9091 90, after hook Spielberg is over, it's done. He's good. He had a great run. It's over. I'd love hook, by the way, but you know, it didn't it didn't perform as well as everyone wanted it to perform and all this kind of stuff. And he's like, Oh, really? Okay, I'm gonna do the dinosaur movie. And I'm gonna do Schindler's List on the same year. And then, as Spielberg showed up, but I'm not I mean, now like his new movie old, which looks, you know, terrifying. It's like he's again, he's again tapped into a fear that every human being on the planet as you know, it's it's it's amazing to see what he's been able to do with his career. But it is that thing that you were saying. It's like the, you know, Edie is is a filmmaker Rick is a filmmaker Roberts, a filmmaker, at the at their core, and they're indie filmmakers, no less. They come from a generation. They're like, they're their indie guys. And I love like when I used to watch at nights, behind the scenes and special features on his movies, he always put short films is like high school short films on duty. Yeah, you would see him like acting out in his own little short films. I'm like, he's a filmmaker, man. Like, right? He's a filmmaker, you edit. And no matter who you are, and I've had the pleasure of speaking to amazing people on my show. At the end of the day, I don't care if you've made $200 billion, or you've made $2 filmmakers, a filmmaker, and it's and you connect at that level, even if it's Spielberg, or if it's a new film student that just came out of out of film school. It's, it's the same thing. And is that hustle no pun intended? Is that hustle that you can't you can't let go. So I wanted to go back to see a trees mad because people who don't know about see of trees, it was directed by a young up and coming director. Gus Van Sant, dude, what is it like writing for Gus Van Sant like, if you like we're referring to Goodwill hunting. Like, right?
Chris Sparling 48:54
I know. What's that like deal in that way? Because it started, like I said, it started me off as a writer was Google hunting is you know, that had movie. And so I remember. I remember telling him that and Gus is Gus is a very nice guy, you know, but he's Gus Van Sant. He's kind of eccentric, eccentric. You know, not no crazy way. But like, you know, and I remember telling him I was told that story. You know, it's, you know, you're not doing this right now as you're going through the script, etc. I'm like, it was your movie that inspired me to become a writer. I think it's kind of cool that you know, he already kind of looked at me He's like, why didn't write it? I was like, Yeah, dude, I know that. When you when you cool? movie.
Alex Ferrari 49:37
Like Gus Crockett, whatever, man. Let's just talk about the scripts. I guess I i understand that Gus. Because I saw the Oscars like everybody else did. And and Matt and Ben and Ben Ben wrote it. We know that. But you were a big part of that film, which inspired me to become a writer, sir. Because without you, Ben and Matt. God knows what would have happened to them. Right. Right. So
Chris Sparling 49:59
So I mean, that was Wild that project was a wild ride because, again, kind of what like, prompted me to write it was again trying to break myself out of this box, no pun intended. And, and, you know, and then it got into Cannes and it was a, I was like, holy shit like I have a project going to can That's amazing. And this is obviously after the movie, you know, shot with Connie and Naomi and Gus and Ken Watson episodes like, and as a producer on it. So it was like, Wow, this is amazing. And then it got to can and they did the they did the I don't know why they do it this way. But they do it can they do with the press screenings before the like the real screening like red carpet screening whatever, in the press fucking destroyed it. They booed it they like and so I met my wife and I. And again, this is still fairly early in my career. I mean, it's like, you know, I had done very, and I didn't especially, you know, this was like a big thing, you know, to go to can with a big movie star. Big director. Yeah, right. Like, so I'm like, I'm like, wow, this is fucking cool. And I remember being out to dinner and a friend of mine, producer friend that got prepared actually one of the producers. He's sitting at dinner, any Spanish and he just kind of, he's just not having to look in his phone. And he just looks at me goes all preseason. I am so sorry. And I was like, what, what are you sorry for talking about? And he just showed me the phone and it was just said, like, buried gets booed at can screaming. And I was like, Oh, my God, like, No, No, this can't be happening. And, and, and that night was tough. It was kind of like I remembered going for a walk and, you know, um, it's it's the sort of thing and maybe this is like, a, an East Coast thing. And like, I mean, look, I grew up working class, and you're used to kind of taking your hits, it's just the way it is my friends and I, to this day joke about it's like The Clash of the Titans. That's what we call it. It's like, Clash of the Titans bends like your little figurines that the gods played with. They see you doing a little too good. They have to knock you down, like and I like and it felt like that more than like, I told my buddy, Clash of the Titans, man. You know, it's like, I got to I can but they fucking said nope, nope, you're not gonna you're not gonna get that far. We're gonna knock you down. And you know, so it sucked in that way. But thankfully, I think it was the next night or two nights after was the the screening screening. And I mean, we got a we did a four minute standing ovation. And it was nice. And did the movie deserve a four minute standing ovation? I don't think so. I think some people I think it was kind of like, it definitely didn't deserve to be booed. So we'll give you I think it was a little bit of that built into it. You know, but the movie, I think the movie turned out fine. There were, you know, it's interesting to see it now. Because it's found a new life in recent years on amazon prime, where it seems like it's found its audience. But if people like there's a certain audience that loves love that that movie, you know, and I think, again, there are, let's be honest, there are certain there are definitely like critics, like high minded critics that, you know, they just oh, you know, like, it doesn't meet their, their, their, I don't know, whatever it is their threshold for them or doesn't cross that threshold, or it doesn't reach a certain level for them. And so they're gonna have to just destroy it. I think there were those people for sure. And I think maybe people who just appreciate the movie for the movie, and the message and the themes, etc, etc. I think it's like, and the filmmaking Don't get me wrong, but filmmaking as well, I'm not discounting that. I think it's been a nice journey. It's kind of by this point.
Alex Ferrari 53:36
So yeah, and it and don't feel too bad. I mean, the press the press account is infamous of being just brutal. Like they, they those press screenings, I've heard legendary stories of them just destroying things. And yeah, it is what it is, man. Like, if it was me, if it was me, dude, I'd be like, EFF you guys. I'm in cash. That's it. I'm happy. No, I did a movie with Gus Van set, starring Matthew McConaughey. Go zombie. And you're just like, still, it's not for everybody. But I'm having a I, uh, you might be like you had sent yet Sundance with Bert buried. So you hit like, you know, double, basically at Sundance at can. And not only a can but with, right, with an amazing cast. A legendary director. It's got to care what anyone says at that point. I'm, I've already I'm just happy to be nominated. Yeah.
Chris Sparling 54:31
Like I said, it was another instance Alex of where like, it's the gut punch. Yeah. I take it No, but then you have to decide what you're going to do. Do you know what I mean? Are you going to say that's it? This was my Big Shot, let's just say, Yeah. Or, you know, or you're gonna say, fuck you.
Alex Ferrari 54:50
I'm gonna get better. I'm gonna at least try to get better. I'm gonna do you know, maybe the next one you won't hate. And though and that is that's that. I hate to say it. That's it. That's an East Coast mentality. That really kind of like a working class East Coast mentality. You know, because, you know, it's just the way it is, especially when you're working class and you're coming up, you know, I was definitely the same as you. I mean, I was, you know, I was I was raised in Jamaica, Queens, you know, lived in an apartment, it was probably, I think, 500 square feet, you know, and, you know, you just take, you get used to getting hit, not physically but like the world just pounce on you. And that's just, that's, that's your your path in life. And that's nothing wrong with that. But you get stronger, your skin gets harder, you get more shrapnel on you, from the stuff that you go through. And those are the people that make it in this business. Not the walk right, this this way, Mr. spurlin. Come right on. And how much do you pay for your project? Oh, 100 million, here's 100 mil rat, that kind of scenario, if it does happen, and that's the only thing you know, the second you get tapped, you get flicked, you're, you're on the floor. Not now. Yeah, you're fragile. You're very fragile. And I think that's, I personally, as a filmmaker I've enjoyed, I can't say I've enjoyed the struggle. But I appreciate the struggle that I've gone through throughout my career throughout my life throughout everything I've done, because it has made me who I am today. And arguably, when I do get punched, which I've said this 1000 times on the show, we all get punched, I don't care who you are, how big you are, you're gonna get punched by this business. You learn how to take it, and you just keep going like insane people that we are. This is insanity.
Chris Sparling 56:35
Because we like you were saying before, it's like because we love it. We love doing it. It's like if it were something we hated, we'd be like, Fuck this. Why? Why am I going to keep taking these hits?
Alex Ferrari 56:45
Did you ever try? Did you ever try quitting? No,
Chris Sparling 56:48
when buried when buried happened, though, I was approaching kind of that turning point where I was getting to be a certain age, my wife and I were shoes, my shoes, my actually the girlfriend becoming fiance at that stage. You know that it's that's all part of life, you know, where you kind of re evaluate where you are. It's easy when I was a 20 something real kid living in LA by myself with roommates as an actor, it's like, you know, and then and then even to say, you know, I I just like who you know, your friends and family around you like life changes always changing. They can find yourself in different circumstances. And I think that really does your decisions. And that being one of them. Where I was at a stage I was like, man, is this time to throw in the towel? Like I've given this a go? Like I can't, I can barely say to myself I that I've tried, right? He's it would be one thing if I was like, and I kind of have fasted, and I was like, No, I've tried, I've really worked at this. I guess the difference is I was like, well, as a writer, there's really no reason to stop, I can continue to write, you know what I mean? It's like, if that, you know, the acting thing is, as I said that almost the outset of this, that's what makes it a particularly difficult struggle is like, there's really no other version of it. It's like, you have to be there, it's you. It's like, that's your are the professional you want. And it's a it's a very inconsistent profession, and so on and so forth. Like, as a writer, even though I was at that crossroads, I was kind of like, I don't know, if this is going to happen, I don't know if I can continue with the level of output that I've been trying, you know, at for the past X number of years at that point. But I think I can continue to write because I like doing it. And I still think maybe there is a glimmer of hope in there for me somewhere. You know, and it's interesting, because I look back at when varied happened. And, you know, it's easy to add add meaning and symbolism to shit, you know, you know, like, it's it really, if I can, there's, you know, in a way, I felt like trapped in a way I felt like I needed to break out in a way I felt like time was running out all of those things, and whether it's subconscious or not, or whether again, I'm just like retrofitting it to make it sound cool. I don't know. But it's all it's definitely true. All of those things are what I felt at the time I was writing it. And, you know, when we talked before about the stars aligning right at a certain time now. I don't I personally, I don't believe in fate, or deterministic or determinism sort of thing. I don't teach there. Oh, that's not what I'm saying. What but what did certainly happen is that this was around 2008 that this all kind of started this process was buried, you know, I mean, between starting to write the script and figure out how it's gonna make it, etc, etc. That was around the time. That was the financial crisis. That was right after the, you know, 2008 when the the world was,
Alex Ferrari 59:39
yeah, the world's upside down.
Chris Sparling 59:41
Yeah. So that I think, factored into, you know, talking about the stars aligning, all of a sudden people were crunched for cash, you know, and I don't mean just people I mean, companies and you know, studios and this, so all of a sudden it wasn't, you know, it was like the heyday of writing checks and big make it wasn't happening as well. Because people were really, you know, paying attention, their bottom line and their Ledger's. And along comes a movie, where it's like, fuck this movie could be made for like next to nothing. And I think that helped. I think the timing of it helped it, because, and it happened again, during the pandemic for me, where I can get to a project called Lakewood later, but again, I didn't set out for it to happen for it to be, and I hate the term but a COVID friendly movie. But it turned out to be in this, you know, just happened to be in it. The stars aligned again, in this case for, you know, particularly bad reasons. But, again, that's not that's stuff that's out of your control. I don't know if buried if I had come along with Barry even a year earlier, people might have said how to what my thinking was at the time is that no one's gonna give a shit about my guy in a box movie. Why are people in Hollywood in the care about that?
Alex Ferrari 1:00:50
Right? And I'll tell you what, I feel you 100% in regards to symbolism in your script, at the time and you feel trapped and all that stuff. I wrote a script that literally you it was a revenge movie. And it's you I I think I almost it was the DNA of that film is my anger towards the industry. The anger towards not being able to make it and I'm like, I'm seeking revenge and the bad guys the industry for not giving me a shot because God dammit, I you know, I might not be the next Spielberg. But I could definitely roll you know, I could definitely Exeter movies, I can definitely I proven myself why like God dammit, Evan, I got in the whole script. And that energy was in the script. And I've gone back and read it a while ago. And it's just like, you can just sense the anger in it. It's really weird. But it was cathartic to get it out there. And I think you know, sometimes that works well like you with bear in mind. My script didn't get made, but it's still like, it was just really interesting. And I think writers sometimes have to pour that energy into you. You have to switch between anger and bitterness and I think there's a little bit of bitterness I think you've heard me say this on the show it everybody knows an angry bitter filmmaker screenwriter. And if you don't know an angry or bitter screenwriter, you are the angry one that everybody else knows. So you you were talking about being in a box again, this is coming back around to this box. No pun intended, but you weren't a boxy energetic. Okay, so you're the, the the small location, you know, one location kind of writer, okay, now, you've done sea of trees, and I knew the drama writer, but you really is still small. It's a small movie. You're not big and you're like, Oh, yeah, well, then I'm gonna make a big movie. And then you wrote Greenland. And tell me how that came about? And what how that whole project came to be because I just recently saw it. Because I've been dying. I was dying to see it. When I saw the trailer. I was like, I love those kind of disaster. disaster movies. And I loved Jerry, I love Jerry Butler. And I wanted to see it. So I was like, when I found out you wrote it, I was like, Oh, God, I left I want to get the story behind it. How did I get it done? Because it was it's a it's, it was a runaway hit for what it was.
Chris Sparling 1:03:12
Right? Yeah, it was, it was the purpose of it. Really. I mean, I should I should back up. So I try to write at least one if not two specs a year still. And, you know, it's To me, it's just, it's just the stuff I like doing more because it's, you know, they're my, they're like my babies as opposed to me taking care of somebody else's baby which, again, I, I, I'm endlessly grateful for being able to do that for a living to write screenplays for a living and, you know, people hired me to do that. But at the end of the day, I just do like writing my own stuff, too. So, um, so I was like, Alright, how do I really kind of really just convinced the town frankly, that it's like, I don't just write small and not even contained, but just like small. I'd gone from being the guy that for the very small, small movies, right? Yes. to like, I write these kind of smaller in scope
Alex Ferrari 1:04:10
character character pieces. Yeah. characters. Yeah. Right. Character pieces,
Chris Sparling 1:04:13
right. And, and so are what end of the world moving really. And so I came up with the idea. I was like, you know, what did then at that point, and because you can't help but go back to when you hear things like an asteroid or comet hitting the earth, or then it's like, Alright, well, there's Armageddon, and there's you can't help it do. It's like jaws anytime you mention a shark movie can help compare, but I was like, What didn't been long enough. I feel since that kind of that movie, those movies has come out. And so, but I wanted to approach it in a way that still felt like my, for lack of a better word brand. And someone recently talked about Greenland to me in a way and they they use the term that I'm totally going to steal going forward and I will right now called a keyhole epic. And I was like, I was like, Yes. That's like that. What I wanted to do, and that is, you know, effectively having, you know, this epic thing happening in this case at the end of the world. So this, whatever it is, but in this case that, but we're seeing it through the keyhole, we're seeing it through a very specific lens. In the case of this movie, it's just we're following this one family, as opposed to checking on the president and checking on this, these people that people like the rolling average version, again, which I find interesting and fun, but it's a different movie than than Greenland. And so what I tried to do in writing Greenland, I like, I was like, No, I want to write the impossible. Like, what is the more fun version of the impossible? were fun. It was a great movie. I loved it.
Alex Ferrari 1:05:41
Oh, God. Yeah.
Chris Sparling 1:05:44
So like, you know, what is the more entertainment I guess, base version of that. And without going too far in the other direction, either though, like, I didn't want it to become ridiculous and over the top, but I wanted to, so I kind of just stuck to what I felt like by this stage in my career, I'm pretty good at which is again, just focusing more on like, the characters seem very specific lens, and through a specific lens. And, yeah, and that was it. And then it was just a matter of like, what is going to make this different or potentially unique? And, and, you know, Greenland's like, why not that you're asked the question, but you know, I'm sometimes hesitant to say it, because it's weird how these days everything can be spun out, like, become either political or like this or that, or whatever, you know. But the truth is the like, this isn't why I wrote the movie, but it's the the, what's the word? I'm looking for? The allegory, the allegory that's built into that movie? is about it's about climate change. Yeah. And that's why I named it Why is why it's named Greenland, why they should go to Greenland is not by accident. That's where I chose of all the places on the planet. Because I wanted to basically say, look, you know, with climate change, this is happening, this is happening, especially now as we say this, is we have this conversation like this is happening fast. But just because if it were an asteroid that was coming in like five days, we would be reacting accordingly, we would be, you know, we would be meeting what as best we can the moment to save ourselves. But because it's not happening that fast, we kind of act like we have all the time in the world, even though we know we don't even without even without an asteroid or climate change or whatever else. Our lives are finite. And for some reason, I know if it's a defense mechanism as a species, but like, we generally don't think about that, and we just go about our day, probably to keep us from going crazy. But But the reality is, we don't have all the time in the world, and we do know it. It's only when kind of your world gets rocked by something. No pun intended. That, that like sometimes you wake up and you realize that you know, and that's not to go on to on a tangent or try to sound too fancy. But like, that's the beauty of cinema at the end of the day, is that movies take us to a place where we feel something, and we walk out of it. And we have the lived experience that we would have had if it actually happened was real life. Right. But we don't have to suffer the negative consequences of it happening in real life. We still get the message, we still get the wake up call.
Alex Ferrari 1:08:13
Right? If it's if it's done if it's done. Right. If it's done, right. I think the I think a good analogy would be what smokers do, or what people who eat fast food everyday do. You know, it's killing you, you know, in 510 years, 20 years, you're gonna have problems if you keep down this road. But you just Oh, it's it's so far down the line. And that's what's going on with climate change right now until you either have that moment, which is heart attacks, heart attack, you're like, Oh, I better stuck, or, you know, one of the lungs collapses or, or something like that drag attic. And he name your analogy. But that's where we're at right now, as opposed to, you're gonna die in five days. You need to do something. And that's basically what Greenland is. And you're absolutely right. If there was a comet coming, we would react to save ourselves. But yeah, because it's so far down the line in our minds, even though we literally see the world burning around us. Sure, literally, you're seeing the world burning around us right now with egg freezing around us like that freeze of last year. sanity sucks. 60% of the country was frozen. You know, right. And then and no one's like, and no one's like, that's okay. No, it's not man. I don't remember that. I don't remember. I don't remember growing up when it hit over 100 anywhere. Other than like, Death Valley. It was it was a rarity. Now it's like that's a common place over 100 is common. I was in Palm Springs. I was in Palm Springs in the day was 117. I don't know if you've been in 117 270 117 is literally like walking out into into an oven to hell. I had like I think I even got a little heat stroke because it was just it was insane. So hot. And people in Palm Springs are walking around like it was 90. I'm like you all savages, your animals, I
Chris Sparling 1:10:06
have no doubt you do this. I don't know about you. And that's not to hijack this and make this about climate change. Also, just one quick thing. Since you grew up in the East Coast as well, the thing the indicator for me over the years has been when I was a kid, I remember going on Halloween, it was always freezing out the whole guild cold on Halloween, right? you'd end up with all the best intentions of wearing your cool costume. But you'd end up wearing like a winter jacket and on top of it right and ruin the whole thing. Sure. In the I just in the past 10 years, and again, this is just just anecdotal, obviously. But in the past 10 years, man, Halloween, it's been like you walk around and like kind of like what I'm wearing now. Yeah, where it's like, this is just
Alex Ferrari 1:10:51
7580 Yeah, so yeah,
Chris Sparling 1:10:52
it's like, it's a nice night, you know, it's like, you know, whatever it is comfortable. Like that. That was not the case when I was a kid. And again, merely anecdotal doesn't actually mean a thing. It's just something that I picked up on personally. book to your to your thing about like saying, What would we do with if we knew in five days that you know, it was all going to end? Like, yeah, I mean, there's the version, obviously, not only would be trying to scramble to save our lives, but we'd be trying to do it, we'd be doing what we need to do to settle our to settle our kind of emotional debts, if you will, like we would, we would tell the people that you've been wanting to tell that you love them, and you have it for whatever reason, because we all do it, you know? And then or you would tell someone you're sorry, all those things like you would recognize, I can't keep kicking the can down the road. I can't do it. I have to do it now. And that's what I'm saying like that is and I'm not talking about Greenland here. I'm talking about all movies. It's like when they when they they do it, right. Great Ones do is that you walk out of that movie theater and you end and you remember that stuff like that. I'm saying like you it happens, it feels like it happened in real life to you. But the benefit is it. You don't have to suffer the consequences of it actually happening to you in real life.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:05
Right. And that's Yeah, and if Yeah, absolutely. There's no question. And before we move on, we can we just Can we just touch upon how wonderful Armageddon is in the cheesiest? Wonderful, goddamn wherever, oh, my God, it is a god. It's like I love Armageddon. so far. It's like one of my guilty pleasures. It makes no sense. I think I remember I remember listening to the commentary, where Ben Affleck asked Michael Bay like, hey, wouldn't it be easier to teach astronauts how to drill than teaching to learn how to be astronauts? And it's like, right, and Michael Bay's like, shut the fuck up bet. And at that point, I just kept quiet for the rest of this. But no, if you guys haven't seen Greenland, you absolutely have to watch. What are you working on? Now? What are your next projects? Isn't there a sequel to Greenland? I saw someone I'm doing it,
Chris Sparling 1:12:56
there's a sequel. Yeah, so so that was announced it can screw up the market this year. So that's happening, which is super exciting. So I've already written the first draft of that. So I'm sure in the next kind of at least the next month is probably going to be a lot of doing the rewrite on that. And then I have two projects, you know, is weird, like this is obviously it's been a weird year and a half for everybody. Just speaking only for myself here. It's been we've been pretty locked down at my house. Up until you know, we get vaccinated my wife and I it cetera, et cetera, kind of ease back a bit, but prior to that, we were very locked down. And, and so but thankfully, during that time, I've managed to have two movies. Well, both of which I wrote produced. And so one is it is a smaller movie, and that's okay. called intrusion the sets in Netflix original was free to Pinto. So that's coming and I think September, I sold but don't don't quote me on that just yet. And then I did a movie called Lakewood with Naomi Watts. And that was the one I referenced earlier where it was a movie we're setting out to make. And it just the way it was written it was it's very much in that very model where it's like, you know, kind of one person more or less, the movie occupies and you know, shoulders the movie. And, and then COVID happened. And it just became like, well, this is still a very magical movie, given what COVID restrictions are. And so the movie still got made, and it just was surreal. Because these things are happening. I'm watching live feeds from the monitor as if I was in video village, but I'm watching them from my home office here. And so it's you know, my kids are running around in the background, etc, etc.
Alex Ferrari 1:14:35
Chris Sparling 1:14:36
Yeah. And I'm just and you know, I'd be calling the director on my phone we could to communicate and, and seeing it, you know, just the COVID protocols in and of themselves are just like at the time especially, you know, fully mass full peepee with some people to gowns on some face shields and just watching it from the somewhat voyeuristic perspective. It's like if someone walked in and saw that they were like, what the hell is this? Is it No, no, this is a movie being made. But what? Like, yeah, this is it looked like I don't know, like is if you were in a hazmat tent somewhere or if you were,
Alex Ferrari 1:15:10
you were an outbreak and you were an outbreak,
Chris Sparling 1:15:12
you were an outbreak, right? But this was a movie, this was just what it looks like behind the scene making these movies. It's a it's a huge, huge credit to the people that were there physically on the ground, and I was getting intimate. So my wife is high risk so going to set which is simply not an option for me. And, and so it was just, it was just amazing to see happen. So those that's what's next those two projects and then
Alex Ferrari 1:15:36
well, so I'm gonna ask you a few questions asked all my guests are. What are three screenplays every screenwriter should read?
Chris Sparling 1:15:46
Can I say Michael Clayton three times? That's a good script. It is the best. It was a great script. Let me see. That one for sure. That's just to give it the universe as far as I'm concerned. I'm trying to think of things I've read recently. I remember I read the screenplay for the post, which I thought was really great. Oh, yeah, I was trying to think what else? I like the screenplay from mud. I mean, I'm not saying these are like the end all be all screenplays people must read, but they're just ones I remember reading big. Really good. I thought I thought the screenplay for what the fuck was named in the movie. Let's try the book that he wrote. Oh, honey, boy, boy. Yeah, yeah, I was I was blown away by that script. I was like, you know, because again, you think like, Alright, so child about decided he wanted to write a screenplay. We'll see how this is. And I hadn't seen the movie at that point, or whatever else. And, you know, in the script came in during award season, I was like, let me and I was hooked on like, like this good script, man. This guy is good. He can write. So again, I'm not saying those two are necessarily the ones that everyone must read. I'm just they come to mind is really great scripts. But Michael Clayton, and
Alex Ferrari 1:16:58
what advice would you give a screenwriter or filmmaker trying to break into the business today?
Chris Sparling 1:17:02
The same advice, you know, like, it's the, again, the cliche things thing of saying what would you say to your younger self? If you could? I would say yet, and this is gonna sound weird. At first I'll explain. Get a job that pays you well. Okay, now, if that's in the industry, great. But if it's not like it, probably as for people like me in Rhode Island at the time, you know, I early on, had far more success, when you know, in that in those incremental ways, when I had a good paying job, because we I especially I think, because I started as an actor. So there was like, a fear of this was before you could work as Uber driver and stuff like, you know, it was like you were waiting tables, and like, God forbid, you had to have, you had to go to an audition. It's like, Well, shit, I might have to end the boss isn't gonna let me go. Well, audition or waiting job waiting table job, I guess I have to quit my waiting table job and then go to the audition. Hope I get it. And But either way, I'm out trying to find a new job again. And it's like you're barely scraping by barely scraping by. And so, you know, I think early on when I transitioned to kind of just say, I guess I'm a screenwriter now is that I still had that mentality of like, I need to be available. And I would take, you know, I would take just jobs to pay the bills, right? Because I was like, and I would say, unless the job is completely occupying your time where you can't write, that's not great. But if you find a job where you can make a good living, we have money in your pocket. Because then you can do stuff, then you can go make shit you can go like, you know what, like, like I was saying, I was able because I had a pretty good job was nothing a great job probably make at the time, like $30,000 $35,000 a year was enough to pay my bills and put a little bit extra money for me to save. To say, I'm gonna make a $5,000 movie, I'm gonna save up for it and make it because if you if you don't have anything, if everything is like hand to mouth and you're struggling, it's tough, man. It's tough to think creatively. It's tough to get it so. It may sound like yeah, no shit dude, that that's what kind of advice is that? But if you can, but but some where if you're like to not only can you get a job that pays you what, what did you get paid right now all of a sudden, man, you have a lot of options. You can you know, we all know that. That rich Dude, that fucking decided they wanted to be in the movie business and sit inside they want to be a producer. It's like, well, no shit. You can write a check for a million bucks. You know, it's like, what's what's stopping you? You know? I mean, so I'm not saying like fines paid like that. My point is more. It's especially when you're young. You think like the struggling actor or the struggling performer or the struggling this this struggling artist. I don't I don't know. I don't I don't know if it's a good thing. I mean, it's not hungry.
Alex Ferrari 1:19:50
No, yeah, no, no, no, no, I got an I was lucky enough and smart enough, young enough when I was young to get into post and I was I was an editor. I just was an editor and I just big and that helped me become a filmmaker. Because then I had always had post production when I went out for commercial shoots or something like that I would throw in post production. But that's how I made a living. I never had an outside job ever. I always had a job in the business always had a job in the business. But the problem was, and this is the only kind of pitfall of having a good paying job in the business even is that you're focusing so much energy on the good paying job sometimes that you don't have enough energy or time to chase the real dream. Because my dream wasn't to be an editor, that's I just did that to make a living. And I loved it. But I wasn't going to just be an editor for the rest of my life. Not that there's anything wrong with it just wasn't my path. And I literally had to break, I had literally had to just retire from editing, just because at a certain point, like even when you're, when you're making money, like, you know, someone shows up, like 30 grand for you to post my film, you got to be in a special place in your life to just turn around, turn off, turn off 30 grand, you know, just like, I don't want that. He started grants or grants. But if you have kids and a family and all this stuff, but at a certain point, you just like either I keep going down this road. Or I start following where I need to go and be intelligent about it. But that's exactly what I did until I finally closed down my post house. And I haven't done post since after indie film muscle and all that stuff, you know, took off. But there's that, but I was 20 years doing that.
Chris Sparling 1:21:24
So it's it took me a long time to get to that place. Yeah, but the thing you did clearly is that it afforded you the opportunity to, you know, maybe it kind of at times was like causing mental burnout and created an obstacle there. But at least a forgery the opportunity to do stuff you want to do short. Again. Yeah, yes. Right. I mean, right, we all have, but it's a different world. Now, obviously, the technology is there, you can do stuff very, very inexpensively now, which is great. Which is even more the reason why people shouldn't could be doing it. But what I would add to on top of the hopefully worthwhile thing I just said about the job is I if you if you get a job in the industry great. And I think there's obviously 1000 great reasons why you should. If you don't if that's not the path you take, I would have told myself again, my degrees in criminal justice. I've yet to really use them in a meaningful way. I would have, I could go back, I would say Chris, alright, tell me what you want to do. I want to be a filmmaker. Okay. At the time film, school wasn't an option for me. Okay. Well, then what I would say is, go major in business. Go learn how business Oh, God bless. Yes. Yes. And, and go and then take take, what courses you can take and film, whatever ones are available, go take filmmaking content. But if if you can get an understanding of how business works, it won't just be you just map that understanding on to this business, because that's what it is. And it'll just kind of like create this. Almost like a it's like, it decodes it for you, in a way I feel. Because if you don't, if you look at it strictly from the view of the artists, and you look at it strictly from the view of like the why, like the pie or wide eyed kid that wants to get in the candy shop, but you don't recognize that there's a that candy shop is a business and the people that run that candy shop want to make a profit. And it's not just about you know what I mean? So it's like it's not to to pop the balloon for people and to take away the the Hooray for Hollywood stuff. That's, that's what makes it a cool business. Right? But it's still a business, it's still a job. And I think I would have to do it all over again, that I think would have helped me immensely, and probably would have shortened the journey if it will that if you will, like it would shorten the time it took to finally get there.
Alex Ferrari 1:23:51
And last question, What lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life? This is no this is exactly is that I forever did not
Chris Sparling 1:24:03
read screenplays. So like, I'm talking like maybe five years into thinking I'm a screenwriter, where I you know, I, I would once in a great while, open up someone else's screenplay. You know, and read the books, etc, etc. But it wasn't until I remember I was I got a job. Working at a production company in New York. I was living in Connecticut briefly at the time and as a reader, you know, I get paid like nothing and then I did for a screenplay competition at certain point. And so now all of a sudden is my job. Like I had to read screenplays and read screenplays. And I was like, you could just start to see why something works and why it doesn't. And it just I feel just took my writing from wherever it capped out at to somewhere new. And I mean, to be fair to myself when I again, starting out probably presumably around the same time. It's not like today where you can just find any scripts you want like that online. You know Like you had to actually go find physical scripts somehow someway in being in Rhode Island's like, how do you do that?
Alex Ferrari 1:25:05
Chris Sparling 1:25:07
So, so again, people listening to this now might be like, yeah, no shit dude, why would I but at the same time, I still find it's amazing to me where I talk to a lot of writers young or old with kind of coming up. And I can't impress upon that enough upon them because it's amazing how many times people don't where it's still like, Oh yeah, I
Alex Ferrari 1:25:28
do once in a while. It's like no man, read like one a week, at least, at least at least. And read and read and read the Masters you know, Shane Black and Sorkin and Tarantino and watch what these guys do and how they, like I've said so many times the Haiku of writing a screenplay, screenplay writing, because you got to do so much in such a little amount of space. And see how they describe a scene in a movie, watch the movie and see how they wrote it. And, and you Okay, so I don't need to tell you about the cover of the book on the shelf in the back. And the description.
Chris Sparling 1:26:03
Because you don't you don't know. I mean, it's like you don't write that shit. You just think all right, I just have to describe what's going on. So I'm going to write everything and new Yeah, that is the lesson for sure thing or whatever the question was that
Alex Ferrari 1:26:16
lesson. And I have to ask you, this is out of morbid curiosity, three of your favorite films of all time
Chris Sparling 1:26:23
to graduate. Excellent. Predator. Oh, God. Amazing. And probably Star Wars fan of the day.
Alex Ferrari 1:26:33
I can we can we just take a moment to appreciate how predators arguably one of the best action movies ever written and never shot ever shot. Just hold it holds today. You can watch it and it's not dated. Because it's basically all in the jungles, even though it took place in the 80s. Yeah, that's true. It's still guns and a bunch of muscle bound dudes just and the predator still looks good. There's nothing janky about it.
Chris Sparling 1:26:57
Nope. No, it is the movie that anytime. If you catch it on, I'm watching it. It's like what it's no matter what I'm watching that movie. It's Yeah, it's phenomenal. I mean, it's in the graduate. For me, though, I may kind of just elaborate a little bit. I remember when. So my very, very first year of college, I went to Providence College part time because I didn't know I'm giving you more efficient use asked me but I was like, I love like the question. I wanted to be a filmmaker or this or that. And I didn't want to do that. And I looked at Rhode Island School design at the time, which is afterward government school, but there really weren't many film classes there yet. And they were kind of art school film classes, which I'm not knocking but they weren't like, how do you make a movie film class? And I saw the Providence College had a film, I think like film theory class, or whatever it was. And, you know, up in that point, I was like a typical 18 year old kid and you know, like most kids, like I'd watched movies like predator those like the movies. That's what I watched all the time. had no real film literacy beyond that. And, and we had to, you know, that's not obviously what we were watching in this movie. We were watching like black narcissists. And the quiet man and right, you know,
Alex Ferrari 1:28:13
Raphael red shoes, red shoes. Yeah.
Chris Sparling 1:28:18
So, I'd like doubling down today, like, cracking up my world a little bit, but none of those movies. Even Citizen Kane, honestly, none of those. Did it for me, like watching the graduate were changed my rock my world as an as like an 18 year old kid watching this sitting there in this classroom, and it was night classes with all adults. Right? And I'm like this kid. And I'm like, Oh, my God, like, I've never seen a movie like this before. Really like this, to me was where, you know, I was never a fan. And again, teach there when I was never a fan of older, older Hollywood films, where the acting is so stilted, and it felt so unreal. utricle Yeah, right. Yeah. I felt like booth. But seeing the graduate even though it's, it was like, Whoa, what is this what was going on in this era? And that kind of cracked open my world and then wanting to see all the great 70s thrillers then and then like then getting close to like French New Wave, which would follow and Godard and like, it just kind of changed the game for me. So I'm sorry, really, really going on with a long winded
Alex Ferrari 1:29:22
answer. But Well, two things one, I remember watching the graduate on LaserDisc Criterion Collection. And I remember because it was before. There's no film school for me at the time. I was listening to a college professor who was on the commentary track explaining and analyzing graduate which is one of the best commentaries I've ever heard. It was brilliant. It was such a brilliant film. And for me, that film was Seven Samurai. I saw seven. Yeah, I saw some Samurai I was like, what what's going on here? Like how is this how I still argue that No one could frame an image just frame. Nothing as a camera movement, just the composition was at a level that you just can't grasp. That's why Spielberg, Lucas and Coppola all stole from tours, because they all like bow down. Of course I was feet because you just look at Seven Samurai and high and low and you know, and Rashomon and you're just sitting there going, what's going on? It's just it was it was, oh my god it was we can geek out for at least another four or five hours. I'm sure it is. But man, listen, bro, thank you so much for coming on the show. It has been awesome talking to you. And I hope this I hope this out this conversation inspires and terrifies people all at the same time. In a good way. So thank you so much.
Chris Sparling 1:30:51
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