Today’s guest is director Demian Lichtenstein. I had the pleasure of being on a panel with Demian at a film festival a few weeks ago. His generous approach to sharing his experience, knowledge and Hollywood war stories was breathtaking. I had to have him on the show to drop some knowledge and truth bombs on the IFH Tribe.
Demian has amassed a vast body of work in the music video industry since receiving his BFA from New York University in 1988, leading to his current status as a feature film director. Some past projects include directing Music Videos for Sting & Eric Clapton, Grandmaster Caz, Shabba Ranks, Queen Latifah, West of Eden (Best Independent Video/MTV 1987), Cypress Hill, Gloria Estefan, Sony, Warner Bros, Columbia Pictures, MCA, Epic, Island, Atlantic, Tommy Boy, IRS Records, World Hunger Project, and the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Demian is a member of the DGA (Director’s Guild of America) and was Chairman of the New York Independent Film Coalition for two years and has directed, produced, written, photographed, taped and/or recorded audio on over 225 features, short films, music videos, commercials, and concerts.
Demian Lichtenstein directed the cult classic [easyazon_link identifier=”B00005LDDB” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]3000 Miles to Graceland[/easyazon_link] starring Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell, and Christian Slater.
He also shadowed James Cameron on the set of Avatar for a bit but we’ll get into that as well. Enjoy my conversation with Demian Lichtenstein.
Alex Ferrari 1:29
I have director, filmmaker, entrepreneur Damien Lichtenstein. He is a director that I met on a panel I did on a film festival a few weeks ago. And I gotta tell you, Damian blew my mind when he was sitting next to me what he was, you know, telling these kids that were in the audience. And you know, we were there to scare the hell out of them. And I think we did a good job. But Damien was just a wealth of information. He was so generous and kind, but yet harsh and real about his message. And I said, I got to have him on the show. And Dmian has been directing for years in Hollywood, and he has been inside the Hollywood system, has worked with amazing people. He was also director of the cult classic 3000 miles to Graceland, starring Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell. And Christian Slater was such a fun movie. And I really wanted to talk to him about how he got a project like that off the ground, how he got, you know, arguably, at the time that he made this movie, Kevin Costner was one of the biggest movie stars in the world, you know, and how he was able to get Kevin and Kurt Russell, he's legendary actors to work with him and get this project off the ground. So we do talk about that in this interview. And he really talks about the inner workings of Hollywood, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And we'll also talk about his new company, futurism entertainment, and the world of creative VR, and all the cool stuff he doing with that, and he also shadow James Cameron on the set of avatar for a little while and and there's some wise words that he talked about with James as well. So this is just a really information knowledge bomb packed episode. I'm so excited to bring it to you guys. So while any further ado, here is my conversation with Damien Lichtenstein. I like to welcome to the show, Damien Lichtenstein. Thank you, man, so much for being on the show. I really appreciate it.
Demian Lichtenstein 4:48
It's my pleasure. I'm happy to be here.
Alex Ferrari 4:51
Yeah, we were doing that panel at that film festival a few weeks ago, and you were you were blowing my mind when you were sitting next to me. Some of the stuff that you were spouting out to the audience, I'm like, I have to have you on the show. You have to say these things to my audience. So I do again, appreciate you dropping, hopefully going to be dropping some good knowledge bombs, and some truth bombs on the on the foam tribe.
Demian Lichtenstein 5:16
I'm all about truth bombs and knowledge bonds. On occasion, since you know, I'm in Hollywood, I've been known to be completely full of it. So I'll do my best not to be.
Alex Ferrari 5:30
Thank you, man. So how did you get into business in the first place? Why? Why did you want to get into this crazy business?
Demian Lichtenstein 5:35
That's a great question. There are multiple answers. I have always been fascinated by the frame. There was an image of me when I was a baby like one and a half years old sitting on top of one of my father's freshly just sewed paint canvases. I had crawled onto the canvas that was still drawing with a white, you know, background paint that is applied to almost all canvases. And then I had picked up a brush and I had started painting around me. And I had a very early relationship to the frame. Both of my parents were artists, both of them painters and sculptors and puppeteers so I, I grew up in this, this world of art and creativity and bore witness to it at a burly very early age. Skip to my parents were divorced and my mother lived in Vermont, my father lived in New York City. And I found myself growing up in the art community and Soho in New York City. And my mother in Vermont ran the Vermont Council on the Arts, which included everything from painters to filmmakers, and musicians and everyone in between. So every weekend, my mother's home was like, kind of like the who's who of artists that were in the state living or visiting and hanging out. So I was surrounded by art and creativity at an early age and in New York. A similar with my father. You know, I found myself in a lot of the, you know, in my early days and my youth surrounded by extraordinary artists. Um, you know, a side note, I crashed Andy Warhols Painted Jaguar on my prom night, just to give you an example of how embedded in that world I was. The but if I'm really going to just, you know, take pieces of it. I was an off Broadway child actor, professional paid at the age of eight. And I got into an argument as a, you know, precocious punky child actor with the director. And because I didn't agree with his direction for my character, and he pulled me aside and quite harsh tone said, you know, one day when you're the director, kid, you can do it any way you want. From now on, and for the rest of this show, you'll do exactly what I said. And I went home that night and announced that I was now a director. Because they got to tell people what to do, which I think is an eight year old kid is quite fascinating. The and then filmmaking, the my mother, one of her hobbies was photography. And she would take me on top of the mountain in Vermont and she had a Canon and that's probably why I like Canon cameras today. And she would tell me to pick a lens and from that lens, she would tell me to pick a shot. And then I explained to her that I wasn't really clear what the difference in the lenses were and what it meant. And she started educating me on this issue. And I had one really incredible moment with her that she I'll never forget probably because she told me never to forget it. Which is that I picked an 85 millimeter portrait lens and we were sitting on a sun dappled mountainside with ancient moss covered rock walls and tall pine trees and you You know, huge, beautiful maple trees and birds and deer in the meadow and the old farm on the other, you know, mountain side and cows in the distance. And it was just incredibly beautiful. And I was looking and looking and looking and looking. And I put the camera down and I didn't take a picture and she said, What's wrong? I said, I don't know which picture to take. And she said, What do you mean? I said, it's also beautiful, what if I take the wrong one. And she said, Ah, she has, you know, I want to tell you something as an artist, and I want you to never forget this. And I said, Okay. And she said, it's just as important, perhaps even more important, what you leave out of the frame is what you put in it. And in that moment, the wind kind of blew and kicked her hair back, and she turned her face up to the sun, and I swung my portrait lens around, and took what I think was my first best shot of my life, which was a close up of my mother's face turned to the sun. You know, and that I think, on many levels has driven my life and my career. Always looking at, it's just as important what I leave out of the frame is what I put in, and that has held true. And all of my endeavors especially when I forget that great wisdom, and I find myself or in the past had found myself in a heap of trouble. And then remember, you know, what, am I not choosing to leave out of the frame? You know, and in Hollywood and other places in life, that can mean a lot, right? You know, what are you leaving out? What what situations people's, you know, do you choose to leave out of the frame? And what situations opportunities and people do you choose to put in your frame. So I think as a filmmaker, it's super critical to have a real clarity on what you're putting in your frame. Now cut two, I was very fascinated with model building. And I built a lot of diagramas that's like a, you know, two feet square board and on it like a, you know, like a French, you know, hillside with a German tank coming through the stone wall and, you know, a p 51 Mustang on a little steel rod coming in, you know, to shoot the tank, etc. Like I really got into it. I mean, I would paint the little color of the eyes of the tank commander and the pilot and I was really, really, really detailed. And then I would look at it for a while and then when my mother or my stepfather weren't around, I would remember this is Vermont. So I go to the gun closet and I would empty out, you know, some shotgun shells of the gunpowder and tie it up in a little bag, put a fuse on it, like blow it up, right. And several times my mother had to pick the chunks of shrapnel out of my face because I stood way too close to make sure I had a good image in my mind what I just blew up. And when I built a really big diagram, my mom said to me, before you blow this up, I'm like What are you talking about? I'm not going to blow it up. But right before you blow this up, I have a present for you wait till I get home. And she came home and she unwrapped a bell and howl super eight film nice. And she showed me how to use it and how to click that super eight cartridge in and explain to me the process of a zoom lens and showed me how I could stand 1015 feet away have a friend of mine light the fuse and runaway and I could film it. And I did and I watched that one film, probably, I don't know, two 300 times I don't remember until the film literally shredded and the projector and from that moment if you cut to a year later I've got like eight farm kids, you know, letting be 17 that are stuffed with cotton balls and lighter fluid on fishing line flying through the trees. We've got a bunch of firecrackers lined up in front of a bunch of tanks and fish fuses and like the plague like the fuse and I back then I didn't understand that you could get separate shots. I just tried to take
Alex Ferrari 14:59
No wonder I got it.
Demian Lichtenstein 15:03
And that really began my filmmaking career. Because it was the fun thing to do. And, you know, I had ready accessible, you know, talent and crews and kids and people that would do crazy stuff, you know.
Alex Ferrari 15:21
That's, that's an awesome story. And you've been, you know, the one thing I found so fascinating about you, and I can, you know, I can almost smell it and feel it off of you when I was sitting next to you. And when, and we had a chance to sit and talk later, is that you've, you've been around the block a few times here in Hollywood, and you've, you know, you've seen shrapnel, without question. And that's what I found fascinating about you that you were one of these guys that have gone through the system have been in the systems to work in the system. But yet you were still very giving, and you were still very kind with your knowledge. Can you explain a little bit about your journeys? And that's a very large question, your journeys through Hollywood? And kind of like, what are what are some of the things that filmmakers need to look out for, especially when they're starting to, to kind of walk into the Hollywood system? And if they're lucky enough to ever walk in that door? But what are some things you got to kind of look out for in your opinion?
Demian Lichtenstein 16:22
I think what you should look out for is can be, you know, phrased into what should you as a independent filmmaker, a new filmmaker, even a seasoned one be looking for? The, the reality? You know, I think the panel we were on was kind of like how to break into the business.
Alex Ferrari 16:48
We scared the hell out of them that day.
Demian Lichtenstein 16:50
I think we scared them good. And and I remember saying, if you can think of anything else that you would rather do in the world than this, yes, then go do that. No harm, no foul. Like, you know, I'm being a filmmaker, so that one day I can buy a fishing boat and live in the Bahamas and go fishing every day. Yeah, then go to the Bahamas, and go to work for a fishing boat. Work your way up to the system until one day, your boss offers you the boat. And then one day you buy it from him right? That go do that don't be a filmmaker, right? There is this be a filmmaker. Because there's nothing else you can do with yourself in your life, because you're driven to be a filmmaker, or an actor or cinematographer or director or producer or writer, you can be an you know, a hyphenate filmmaker, or you can specialize, if you you know, have a specialty then specialize quickly. And what you love to do. You know, if it's cinematography, or if it's costume design, or whatever it is, there are so many specialized things within the industry. But if your passion is to be a director, then as an I'll use director as an example. Then go and, you know, look at all the great movies of the past the great movies of today. And what you think you know, would be the filmmakers you would follow in the future, and then go to those filmmakers and offer yourself as a mentee as an intern. And while you're doing and I'd literally mean that if you if I I don't want to take away from a university degree or college education I, I have mine and I want to give it back for anything, I think they're really important. Yet at the same token, if you're going to find yourself coming out of school only $100,000 in debt and student loans and discover, discover that the world is not your oyster in this arena and not open to you that the kid that you rolled out of high school with, you know, is now a senior executive. You know, the Hot Shot producer directors company that you wish you could get a foot in the door at because he or she went and spent four years in the ditches in the dirt proving themselves and this is kind of like I don't know if it's time for the dojo analogy.
Alex Ferrari 19:50
Yeah, I was gonna I was gonna be there. My next question actually.
Demian Lichtenstein 19:53
Yeah. My example that I know you brought it up to me again, was that you come to me My studio, I have a small studio, if I look out my office right now, there are four extremely competent people working, you know very hard on one project we've been developing for over five years. So when you walk in my door, you know, it's great that you, you have a script, the likelihood of that script being something I'm interested in doing are pretty close to zero. Even though I might get lucky, and you never know, and it might be the most brilliant thing ever written. And I can't believe that you brought it to me. But regardless of that, the people that are actively working in the business, the way I reference it for either professionals, or newbies that come into my space into my studio is like a dojo. And what I specifically mean by that, you know, kind of like, you know, The Karate Kid with the wax on wax off conversation, I actually spent, you know, decades in a dojo, literally, and what did that look like, it means I came in as a white belt, and I paid the master money to teach me how to become initially competent. And then if I wanted to, eventually a master, in that particular form of martial art, I had to wipe the floor with my hands, you know, I had to sweep, I had to clean the toilets, I had to, you know, it's kind of like I referenced the Kill Bill, when you know, you wanted to go like Chinese kung fu master, and you're carrying rocks and water upstairs and you're being you know, abused and beaten. And you're having a punch your knuckles against, you know, a tree or a wall until they're cracked and split and bleeding. That's kind of what it's like, it is a dojo. And when you come into my dojo, I am a 12 degree Master black belt, in my particular discipline, I have been training and developing myself, literally, since I was eight years old
Alex Ferrari 22:25
As a filmmaker, you're talking about that,
Demian Lichtenstein 22:27
Right! as a filmmaker, since I was a as a filmmaker, and if you really want to, you know, slice it to the core, okay, since I was 10, okay, but I consider my professional acting career essential to myself as a director and a filmmaker, as a child actor, I really understand actors at the core level, which is that they're all children inside looking to express themselves in a way that brings them closer to their original source experience of life, you know, um, but regardless of that conversation, the in my office, you are in a dojo, you are speaking to a master of this discipline, and this particular style. Often, it's funny, because as a master, I'm paying you to train me instead of you paying me, most people would be better off going to a filmmaker production company, and saying, I would like to offer my services as a free intern for one year, I will pay 100% of my own housing, my own costs, my own schooling, etc. And I will be of service to this company. And if I survive the year here, and you believe that I am a value to this company, then I would like you to give me the first available and, you know, lowest paid position, so that I can work my way up and learn from the ground up. That's like entering with the mindset of a white belt, who's intent on becoming a black belt. So it's important for filmmakers to understand that when you're talking to someone who has actually made feature films at the studio level or independent films, or television series or whatever, they have mastered a discipline and they deserve in principle, your respect. If they do things that no longer deserve your respect, as we see happening in Holly today, yes, the Weinstein's and some of the other people that And trouble, then don't give them your respect. But you know, not for a microsecond, you should not put up with any form of harassment, I'm not talking about harassment, I'm talking about the discipline of being of service to those who have been in the trenches, and have been on the mat and have been in full contact knocked down martial arts tournaments, mostly longer than most of those new incoming people have been alive.
Alex Ferrari 25:35
Kind of like that analogy used, which was a great analogy, as well as a, you know, you're the season guy who has been in the trenches for the, you know, in this war for, you know, a year and then the new recruit comes in, bouncing, bouncing away. And the first thing you said, like, you stay away from me, cuz you're gonna get me killed. Exactly. There's a difference between enthusiasm, you know, and stupidity, there's a fine line,
Demian Lichtenstein 26:05
It is a fine line. So, you know, the, the, the dojo analogy is really good, from the perspective of, you know, understand that you're entering a Masters space, and that that master has 100,000 things they could teach you, right. But the first one you want to learn is respect, discipline, commitment. And, in turn that respect, you know, and that commitment, will, will come to you, I, and at the same time, that you're being of service to a very qualified, creative person,
Alex Ferrari 26:57
And then that and that's I didn't mean to cut you off. But that's something that's very, you should make a point of is like, whoever you do do this with, they have to be, you know, you should be not giving it to any schmo off the street, you should do your research.
Demian Lichtenstein 27:09
Do your research. Yeah, that's why I said at the top of the conversation, well, you know, watch the great films, you know, it's really hard for a qualified filmmaker to be sitting there in a conversation and talking about movies. And they might reference something like, well, for example, in Lawrence of Arabia, and they go, Lawrence of what
Alex Ferrari 27:36
I've got I, I was I was years ago, I was I was working with a music video director, who was like the hottest music video director in the world at the time. And I said, Oh, and I was color grading something for him. I'm like, so you want me to do is kind of like Blade Runner? And he's like, blade? What? And I'm like, Are you kidding me?
Demian Lichtenstein 27:54
Exactly. And that's, that's one of the problems of today, is that you? You were in a new culture, by the way, okay. And the culture we're in right now is the instant gratification culture of Give it to me on my, you know, iPhone, instantly. And I only have time to absorb, you know, three minute clips. Okay. If that's the case, for us, a wide section of the global marketplace, then you have a very unique opportunity. That unique opportunity, is that, you know, I'm not even talking about the iPhone 10. That's just coming out. But you can take an iPhone, or you can take, you know, any other camera phone, if you will, and you have enough sound and image quality on there to shoot a short two minute three minute project today, absolutely. You know, and at the same token, if you want it to be more professional, with a laptop and $1,000 cat, you can get a camera that shoots 4k for $1,000. Now,
Alex Ferrari 29:16
Demian Lichtenstein 29:18
So you can go out and you can shoot a 4k short film, and cut it on your laptop and do music and sound effects and titling and basic color grading, etc, etc. You can do all that right now and then deliver that content. And by the way, there are a lot of people that are doing it. So the tools to creation have never been more accessible than ever before. That's why I used to lead a seminar called shut the EFF up and shoot because, um, you know, my my example is I would stand actors And I would ask them, when's the last time they had any sort of significant role in anything?
Alex Ferrari 30:09
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Demian Lichtenstein 30:20
And then I would ask them, How many hours a week, then a month, then a year? Do you spend going to auditions? And there's nothing wrong with auditioning? It's a great learning tool. And how much gas money does it cost you? How much parking money does it cost you? How much food money does it cost you because 99.9% of time, you have to park yourself, feed yourself by yourself. And if you aggregate that time and that money, then I say to that actor, instead of having done all those auditions, auditions for one year, you could have shot an extraordinary short film. And if the group of you gang up and do it together, then you could shoot a feature. So I really what I tried to dive into for you know, filmmakers, is and people all other ilk is, you know, two things. What do you what do you want to look out for? Well look out for bullshit artists. Look out for people who specifically are doing nothing, but using you to advance their agenda and have zero interest in you. Okay, it's, uh, that that is something to look out for. Look out for, you know, all the and hopefully, there'll be a shift a change in Hollywood with what's going on right now. With all the misconduct allegations that are coming to the surface, and look out for you know, having your creative heart or soul, you know, abused in any way. You're better off. Now, this is real critical, you know, on the street advice, you're better off finding a great young attorney, becoming friends with that attorney. And having that attorney, then you are with having an agent or a manager, the attorney is more important than the agent or the manager want to be very clear about that. Okay, the attorney, remember, even on the panel when the people were talking about Wow, if I'd had an attorney?
Alex Ferrari 32:51
Hmm, yeah, you're right. You're absolutely right that people always forget about the attorney, because the agent and the manager get all the spotlight.
Demian Lichtenstein 32:57
Yeah. But they're not the ones that protect you. I don't move very, very rare that a agent or manager will protect you, I'm sorry, to my agent and managing friends to say that but very rare. Who's going to protect you in any contractual situation, as your attorney, even if you go and make that little film, I'm highly suggesting that you go out and make. You want to make sure that you pay for that project. You want to make sure that the script is copyrighted with the United States Copyright Office. By the way, everybody w ga registrations don't mean anything in a court of law, nothing. Nothing, nothing. mailing it to yourself. doesn't mean much either. Right? What mean something? Is the United States copyright form P a registration of that material. But mean something is that anybody who touches that material, ie, well, let me just work on the script over the weekend for you. I know you're tired. Anyone who touches the material has a contractual agreement with you that their creative work belongs to the material, not to them, right. Otherwise, the answer is, look, I really appreciate your help. But if I if you can't sign off on something called a CFA, that's a certificate of authorship. Okay, and that you waive all your droit moral rights, ie, the this belongs to the project not to you. All of these things become super critical that your actor sign off if you're using sag actors then, you know, you get a SAG new media agreement in place and if you're paying everybody you know $10 a can of coke and a slice of pizza then that's what you're paying them. But you have everything In writing, because that little project you make, hits it in any way. And suddenly you have an offer out of, you know, not left field ever, it's out of the hard work that you as a filmmaker, or a group of committed filmmakers created. And then Netflix comes along, or Apple or Amazon or any of the other people that are now becoming movie and television studios. That if you don't have it buttoned up legally, then you're in trouble.
Alex Ferrari 35:35
Right? They won't,
Demian Lichtenstein 35:36
They won't touch it. So this is like a critical thing. Yes, it's, it's, it's great to have agents and managers. They're nowhere near as critical as your friendly attorney.
Alex Ferrari 35:52
Now, you talked a little bit about, you know, mentoring, and you know, walking into the dojo as a white belt, you did mention that you happen to shadow James Cameron on avatar. So can you please tell me what that was like? And I'm assuming you walked in as very much as a white belt in that scenario.
Demian Lichtenstein 36:12
I did you know what, what happened is, I'm in the Directors Guild of America, which I highly recommend.
Alex Ferrari 36:21
I would love adjust me I'm waiting for the moment to get in
Demian Lichtenstein 36:25
The end, it is possible to get in the Directors Guild wants the you and other directors to come in. Or they don't want you not to be a part of it, because they know that it's the new voices that matter, right. That's why I'm on the board of new filmmakers of La because they're you we have to get back into the community of creators, our knowledge and etc. But it's also the same at the DGA at the Directors Guild of America, I'm a co founding member of the Leadership Council of the DGA. A lot of the Leadership Council work is in the political arena now, literally meeting with, you know, the biggest politicians in the United States. And discussing the issues that concern creative rights, intellectual property rights, filmmaking, runaway production, etc, etc. And it's a nonpartisan group formed by Republicans, independents, Green Party Democrats. What we all have at core is that we're members of the Directors Guild. And we're committed to providing the structures that policy level that support filmmaking in the United States and abroad. So it's a you know, it's a weighty group. And so that helps
Alex Ferrari 38:00
Demian Lichtenstein 38:01
Yeah, so the answer is there is that being a part of all of that. One of the things that happened was that Steven Spielberg and James Cameron, also, Jeffrey Katzenberg, at the time came to talk to a large group of assembled directors about the necessity for everyone to learn how to create 3d films The right way, because if we do it the wrong way, it'll become a fad rather than a new form of art. Right, like a resurgence of an old form into a new form of avatar. You know, and I stood up and I said, Look, that's really really easy. No offense, Jim, for you, and Steven, for you. And Jeffrey, for you to sit there and say that to us. But you're James Cameron, and Steven Spielberg. Most of us sitting in the audience are just figuring out how to pay our rent or mortgage, you know, and put our kids through school or you know, the alimony bill, so to speak. It's like we have to be trained and educated by you as the Masters in this, because we're all white belts. That's what I said your black belts were white belts. Right? And, and then Jim said, well, then why don't you come to school and learn that?
Alex Ferrari 39:35
And I'm sure everybody in there was like, why didn't I stand up?
Demian Lichtenstein 39:39
Yes. What, which then began a relationship with Jim that I'm not a close friend of gyms. It is we share By the way, the same business manager and I and I'm in the middle of potentially really helping his team out with some really radical new technology that would help him and would help Peter Jackson in the pursuit of the movies. They're creating Avatar and beyond. And but if i that is years later, right, this is almost a decade later, right? But if I hadn't done that, if I hadn't stood up, stood up, and I hadn't said, Look, I'll be a white belt in your school. And I have gone and And literally, you know, you have to strip away all your ego, all your knowledge, all what you think, you know. And stand the not in the shadow, but in the light of a master who's at the forefront of creating, which is what I had the honor and the privilege to do with Jim.
Alex Ferrari 40:54
So how, how was that experience? Because he was literally creating the technology as he was shooting almost, wasn't he, the avatar?
Demian Lichtenstein 41:03
He was and what happened, I think what's, you know? I mean, it's the one thing I can tell you is that it's difficult to be in the presence of an actual genius, when you suddenly discovered for yourself that you're not one.
Alex Ferrari 41:24
You know, what, Russell carpenter who was on the show as well, he said the exact same thing about Jim, after Titanic, the True Lies.
Demian Lichtenstein 41:31
Yeah, I mean, that's, that's what you're dealing with the gym that the man is operating on another level. So multiple levels he's playing, you're playing single board chess, and he's playing holographic chess with 20 levels. And, and remembers every single chess move he made on every board instantaneously. Right? The It's an extraordinary thing to watch. Now, I think what really happened for me was I had a sudden, they call it a sea change or a shift. And where I suddenly understood that I really needed to understand technology, that I needed to understand how the movie industry was going to be shifting, where technology was going to come into play, at a level beyond my current capacity to understand. I had to look at what were the problems being faced by filmmakers, when Jim was making avatar? And what were the problems I was experiencing as a filmmaker with new technology. And at the same time, as all that was happening, I was also looking at, in the world of entertainment, where are the biggest gains? Where's the most money being made? where, you know, and I started getting a lot of those answers were pretty easy to understand. And, you know, for me, it was like, you have to understand that everything is shifting towards AI, artificial intelligence and quantum computing, I better start understanding a little bit about AI and quantum computing. We have 3d, I better start understanding a little bit about 3d, digital camera systems. And then you really discover for anyone that makes films and really deals with post production work. You understand that rendering is probably one of the biggest issues. So rendering technologies and where was all that shifting? And then also, again, where were the biggest gains being made financially, and they weren't in movies, it was in gaming, video gaming, specifically. So then, and I and Jim was making a video game of Avatar and I was putting together a big 3d action movie and I decided I wanted to make a video game out of it. And I wanted to do a 3d video game and then you suddenly understand you're not just rendering a second camera I it's more like you're rendering four separate eyes at the same time. So all of these things started culminating in shifting my perspective into something of I would say, I'm as much a futurist now,
Alex Ferrari 44:42
Because I am a filmmaker. And this all came about purely because you shadowed James Cameron on the set of avatar for a handful of days. Correct. And you told me on the set on the set on your last day, I think you said when you tell Jim Hey, I've got to go gym, I'd stay here forever, but I got to go make a living. He what was the best advice you received from James, if you can recap that for everybody.
Demian Lichtenstein 45:12
We broke for lunch. And he and I sat down alone. The whole crew was out there and, and he really he said some really great and empowering things to me. But what I said was I said, Okay great with with, with everything that I've seen, I'm learning that I can interpolate with everything that's going on. And, you know, knowing that I have to get back to you know, my creative life, and you've got a huge endeavor in front of you. What, what is your single greatest piece of parting advice? And he said, Well, I'm gonna answer your question with another question, Damian. But first, I think I'll start with a statement. And what he said was, which felt good, even though I don't know that's true. But he said, You know, you're as good a filmmaker as any of us. You're a filmmaker, is what I need to ask you. Is, since Lucas discovered his, for all intents and purposes, Steven, and he met Spielberg discovered his Peter was really his partner on the avatar shows Peter Jackson. Peter certainly had discovered his, and even with all my success, I finally discovered mine. The question is, what's yours?
Alex Ferrari 47:05
What are those things that he was saying that he found?
Demian Lichtenstein 47:10
What his vision was for himself as a filmmaker, for his life for Lucas was Star Wars. Right? As an example, for Cameron. It's avatar? Yep. What's yours? And I looked him right in the eye and quite sheepishly and maybe intelligently said, you know, Jim, I have no fucking idea. And he looked at me and nodded his head. And he said, when you figure that out, when you discover for yourself what yours is, then everything else you need to do will be self evident.
Alex Ferrari 48:01
That's amazing advice.
Demian Lichtenstein 48:04
And we chatted about some other things. And then he got up and, you know, did his thing. tosses played out and was walking back to set and I was standing watching him go, and then he stopped. And he turned and he looked at me, and he said, and one more fucking thing. I said, Yeah, he goes, make sure it's a love story. And then he kept walking.
Alex Ferrari 48:31
That's brilliant. That's because you know what, and I think all of his movies, he has some sort of love story. And everyone, every single one from aliens to a BIST to everyone through lies to terminators. They all have a love story,
Demian Lichtenstein 48:48
Avatar, all of them. They all revolve around the essential need of a human being, to fall in love, or to be loved, be loved, or to rediscover that, who they really are at the core of their being is love. So that's an enormously powerful message that he imparts into pretty much everything he does.
Alex Ferrari 49:24
And he's done pretty well with those. He really has not done bad. Not bad at all right now. You directed a movie that I was, I'm a big fan of 3000 miles to Graceland. I saw when it came out back in the day, and I was just a huge fan about it. A huge fan of it. And I wanted you to talk a little bit about because I remember when it came out, and it was a big hoopla. At the time it started Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell Christian Slater. And at the time, you know, I think Kevin was still at the peak of his powers at that point, if I'm not mistaken. How it still is another way? Oh, absolutely. I'm a huge Kevin Costner fan. But you know, there was that peak where he was he could get anything greenlit just by walking on the just walking in the room? How can you discuss a little bit about the process of putting together a studio project like that, because you're the producer and a director on it as well. And I know you've done prior to, to getting it going, you had to done other feature films, and directed other features to get to that point, but when you how do you put a project like that together, so the audience understands?
Demian Lichtenstein 50:36
Well, I'm going to tell you what, what Kevin said to me. He said, If you come to me, and you want to produce one of my movies, then you better have either one, a few Academy Awards as a producer, or you have to have a series of movies that have grossed, you know, $100 million plus in a row. If you're a cinematographer, same thing, you need to have had some Academy Awards or, you know, had big movies that have been very successful. And you're obviously brilliant at what you do. And then he kind of went down the list of all of the different primary crew positions and his his thoughts that he said, however, if you have a script, and I think that script is great, and especially if I want to make that script, then I don't care where you came from, what awards you have, what you would ever have done, or have never done. If that story is a story, I want to be a part of, or a story I want to tell, then we've got something to talk about. And so it comes down to a couple things. It comes down to one having a great piece of material that other people make their own. Okay, this will come back to this but I want you to remind me to talk before we're done about the understanding of being a filmmaker means you learn how to let go and let everyone else got it you own what you're committed to doing
Alex Ferrari 52:42
Got to cut
Demian Lichtenstein 52:44
But that's that's really what it came down to now we 3000 miles to Graceland got made for one reason, one reason only Other than that, we had a great story to tell was that Kevin Costner said, I want to make that story. And that's that's why of course greenlit. Be greenlit it but by getting to Kevin Costner. Okay. pretty fascinating story, how I ended up, you know, at his home, having dinner, talking, and then being invited back again, again and again. And then I think was on the fourth dinner, that he said, You know, I hear that you have a really cool idea for a movie. Would you pitch it to me? Sometimes.
Alex Ferrari 53:36
So what am I but you were meeting with Kevin Costner about? Like, how did you get those dinners prior to, it wasn't about this movie was about something else.
Demian Lichtenstein 53:44
It was about the movie, but it was about something else. Okay. And this is again, where kind of understanding the importance of certain things early in life, and why they matter. And again, it's very much in the current lexicon of what's going on in Hollywood today. So back in New York City, when I was in house director at Sony Music Studios knows one of the top music video directors in the world for a period of time. You know, look, I had a great time. I had like, you know, 25 girls on the payroll for dancing that you could always turn to for you know, dance videos and things like that. There was like, you know, it was a lot of fun and everyone different time, different time. Everyone was having a great time. But you know, I hired an assistant. For two reasons. She was super smart and extremely beautiful. And that assistant is still today. extraordinarily intelligent. She's a doctor, by the way, when I told you she's brilliant, she's a doctor today of Chinese medicine. brilliant woman, Sharon. And Sharon is the especially back then was the kind of girl that every guy dreamed of having as his girlfriend. Okay. I don't know how else to say it. Sure. That's that simple. And And I'll never forget one night we were editing a crisscross music video in the bowels of sell music three in the morning and came into the Edit studio really upset and leaned over the table and watched her hair kind of cascade past her face with the light from the monitors kind of making it looks like it was stop motion is it like, through and I even had that moment of literally thanking God, that girl is so beautiful. But she was really upset. And I said, Let me guess you're just had a big fight with your boyfriend. She's like, what are you psychic? I said, No, you're you. And you're with a director in a dark room and a highly secured facility that no one else can get into. If I was your boyfriend, I would be deeply concerned. Right? So I'd like to meet your boyfriend. And let him know he has nothing to be concerned about. She said, Wow, you really do that? And I said, Yeah. And that guy became a friend of mine for many, many years. When Sharon moved out to California, you know, I followed, you know, not following her. But a couple of years later, I came out with my girlfriend. And when I called Sharon. She said, Hey, what are you doing? And I said, Oh, we've moved on here. Let us meet you for lunch chat. She's great. What are you here for? I said, I I've got a script. I've been working on that directing. And she's what's the call? They said 3000 miles to Graceland. She's a cool who's in it? I said nobody yet. But I really want Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner. And she laughed. And I said, I know. I know. It's that I'm shooting pretty high. But you know, they're two of my, you know, heroes. Those are the guys I want in the movie. Great, good. Let's have coffee. And you know, do you have the script? And I said, Yeah, bring me a copy. She called me the next day. And she said, Hey, I'd love you to come up. Have dinner with me. And my boyfriend. I said, Sure said, Bring your girl and I look forward to seeing you. I said great. And a couple days later, we drove up into the hills and drove up to a nice house and walked into the kitchen. She said, Honey, my friends are here said all right. And outlaw Kevin Costner. You got to be kidding me. Yeah, yeah. Now. Now I'm going to tell you something interesting. Yeah. And again, that's why I think it's so important the environment of day. And look, I've been good. I don't think I've been perfect my whole life. I'm sure I've made mistakes. But you know, I Kevin said, two critical things to me. One, three things. He said, You know, it's really interesting. You're here in my home, you've watched movies in my theater, and you've held my golden statues in your hand. I know you're a filmmaker. And I know that, you know, you have a project. And I'm really impressed by the fact that you never once brought your project up to me that you were interested in who I was, as a human being not just the movie star. I said, Yeah, you're not just a movie star. You're an Academy Award winning filmmaker, Kevin. And I just want to know, I appreciate that. I said, Thank you. I, you know, I appreciate you having me over to your home. The next thing that he said that that that mattered was he said, we were actually sitting alone. The remember very well and is really cool, kind of jumbly hot to just talking about filmmaking and about the great filmmakers that we love to have the pet you know, from the past. And they turned to me quite directly and he said, You know, I'm, my girlfriend told me that, you know, you're the only guy that she'd ever worked with, who didn't try to sleep with her. And I said, Well, you know, she's brilliant. I have a lot of respect for her. And you know, quite frankly, that's not what I hired her for. I am I hired her to, you know, bring her intelligence and her skill set to helping you know me push my life and my career long. So I just want you to know that, you know, as her boyfriend, you know, I know, that always impressed her, and then It impresses me. That's where I said, well, thank you.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:14
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Demian Lichtenstein 1:00:24
And then the third thing he said, that mattered after I pitched my project to him, as he looked at me, and he said, You know what, I said, what he goes, That's literally the best pitch I've ever heard in my life. And if I ever made a movie like that, I wouldn't play the hero, I play the bad guy. When you have the script, let me read it. I said, I have the script in the trunk of my car?
Alex Ferrari 1:00:51
Of course you do. I'm surprised you didn't have a waterproof version of it in your pants.
Demian Lichtenstein 1:00:58
And I gave it to him. And you know, and the rest is history. Now. The The, the thing to understand there that I think is missing on a lot of people that want to be get into the business is that they're so focused on themselves, that they forget to listen. Mm hmm. It's like being in a conversation with someone who's completely uninterested in what you're saying. They're just thinking about the next best thing they can say, right? You know, or it's about that person who at the party, which, by the way, my wife has accused me of being on occasion. So now let everybody know, I've been that guy, apparently, you know, such an arrogant bore, that the only thing a he or she dominates the entire conversation, with their stories about their stuff. And it's quite frankly uninterested in anybody else, his story or in any one else at all, because narcissism is ruling the day. And personal, you know, grandiosity, rather than a level of humility. And understanding of human beings can look Sometimes you'd like now you have to be the person talking and trying to make a difference, right. And I think that it's, it's, we're at a really, really critical time and creativity where we need not just the established, but the upcoming and new voices, to you know, tell important stories about humanity and about the planet and about the animals and about the universe and consciousness and spirituality and love. And to really get the depth of the gifts that they have inside of them, and figure out a way to express those gifts without being complete dominating assholes to everybody else. Right.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:28
Amen. Amen. Now, when you when you work on when you work on 3000 miles of grace, and I'm assuming this is the first time you worked with arguably legends, you know, Kurt Russell, Kevin Costner
Demian Lichtenstein 1:03:41
First time with acting legends. Prior to that worked with people like Eric Clapton, sure skinning them, you know.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:53
So how, yeah, exactly as a musical director, but let me ask you a question. How do you direct an Oscar winning director? How do you direct someone like Kurt Russell, who's been literally he was born and he just right off the womb he was act they can Disney movies, like how do you direct those kind of actors?
Demian Lichtenstein 1:04:12
You know, Kurt Russell's first acting gig was as a kid kicking Elvis Presley in the shins. And the movie it happened at the World's Fair. And in 3000 miles to Graceland, Kurt comes around the corner of his Cadillac to find a kid stealing his public eye you know, his air valve caps. And then he promptly kicks Kurt Russell in the shins off. So there most people would never know that and the album that Kevin signed, sorry, Curt signs in 3000 miles of Graceland in the elevator scene with the girls. Is it happened at the World's Fair Of course. I kept telling Kurt, we only have one copy of this album. It's literally the only one we could find. I make sure when you sign it, you sign it as Elvis Presley, not as Kurt Russell. So watch, you literally see he starts to sign and K and then turns it into an E and then it's pretty funny. He's like, Ah, man, you know,
Alex Ferrari 1:05:26
But like how do you direct guys like that?
Demian Lichtenstein 1:05:30
It comes down to this. You listen. You listen to their ideas about the character, you listen to their ideas about the story. You come to some understanding of what's driving and motivating them as a character. And to say simply, as a director, you as a director come prepared. People have to understand that, you know, two groups decide whether or not you make your day, big movie, to the crew and the cast. The cast can think You're such an idiot that they refuse to come out of their trailer and work another minute with you guess what, there's not a lot to shoot, right? Or some other issue of keeps them in their trailer, they can move like molasses super slow, because you're such an ass and they have no interest in helping you in any way. Because you're unprepared. You're unprofessional, and you don't treat people with respect. So be become prepared. And literally what I mean is read your script, block out your shots, write down your shot list, make quick thumbnail storyboards, and hopefully have a storyboard artists that can turn them into storyboards, but stick figures will do. Your floor plan is really critical the set where your cameras are placed, and what shots you plan on getting from that direction, have an understanding of that and really work that out with your ad team. rector's team, that's why the DGA is so important, because they really understand the importance of the director's team. It's a team of people, it's not just you, about directing, to Team teams make movies, you know, teams, you know, there's very, just, it's a team effort. So in talking to the actors, when the actor knows, they can they know, because guys like Kurt Russell, have worked. And Kevin have worked with 100 directors, and they've had the 33% of them that are 100% prepared, the 33% of them that are completely unprepared, and the 33% of them that, you know, are maybe figuring it out in the moment to some degree, but their skill set is so high, that you know, they've got a certain level of movement and velocity that is unique to them. You know, it's I'm not worried whether or not you know, Spielberg has storyboarded mass, but they have not worried if they have but they have. So the point is, is that when the actor sees that you are technically prepared and in communication with your crew, and that your crew is respecting you because you understand what you want. Right like I and I'm answering your question because you'll notice it goes both ways for the crews as well. When I'm on a set, you know, there's a certain period of time people show up for breakfast. I have a rule my rule is first shot is off within the first hour period first shot no matter what, no matter how big the day is how big the setup is, you know totally got it you're prepping you know camera, but you know, give me camera be on a you know, on a hi hat right here. I want it why but not super wide. You know, I'll take a 35 millimeter lens. Right here. If you think 18 is better, we can do that. But you tell me Dave, my VP, what you think but that's what I'm thinking of and I want to see my lead guy, you know cresting over the hill as the sun is rising. Let's, I know I didn't have that in my initial shot list and boards, but I really want that shot. Let's get that right now. And then you go over to your cast, which are typically in a big movie, they're in makeup in the trailer. Right? Right. And then you go in and and, you know, you spend time making sure that they're, that they're clear. And what I mean by that is everyone has their own bag of tricks. But for me with guys at the level of Kurt and Kevin, my thing is to check in with them. No, I call it clearing clearing the way for the day. Okay, ie, it's helpful for me to know that you got into a huge fight with your wife this morning on the phone or your girlfriend or, you know, it's helpful for me to know that your high school best friend just died in a car wreck. It's helpful for me to know that you're leaving the set to go to a funeral? You know, it's just I need to know, regardless of how much of a professional you are, what is influencing your state of mind?
Alex Ferrari 1:11:15
And how do you how do you do that? When you check in? Do you actually ask them? How are you doing today?
Demian Lichtenstein 1:11:21
Yeah, I actually I actually asked, okay, it's kind of like, my wife will ask me, you know, how my day was, you know, sometimes I'll just grabbed out an answer, you know, but often I'll go into a little bit of a dissertation of the day and level blah, and then I'll get up and go do something. And then she'll be like, you know, you didn't ask me how my day is. I want to you didn't ask. I was like, wow, sorry. I mean, you know, to come back. And I say, not, you know, just like, I apologize for that. And I actually really want to know how your day was. So literally checking in with the other human being, rather than just like, once again, to be out of makeup. Good. You got those lines memorized yet. Right. Cool. So remember, today, you're the happy guy. And walking out, right? actors are taught by coaches and acting teachers, they're trained to be prepared to get nothing from a director.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:27
Demian Lichtenstein 1:12:28
They literally call it doing your own work, right? Like, you know, I tried to give have had meaningful conversations with them before we try to understand what's motivating them what's going on, where they're out in the process. If they're upset with me, I tried to clear that upset out of the way. So it doesn't influence the day, you know, you know, an example would be, you know, you know, you just check in what's going on with space and then great. And then. Anyway, yeah, and it just depends. It's more of a knowing like you don't it's not like you lead every conversation with Are you pissed off with me about something or? But you might go like, Hey, is there anything you've been really wanting to tell me or something? I feel like I missed something. And I didn't hear something you're trying to communicate to me is, and they might be like, Well, yeah, actually, you know, yesterday, you promised me at the end of the day that I'd get to run that scene the way I wanted to, and then your line producer came in and pull the plug. But I never got to do it the way I really felt that needed to be done. Right. Now, I'm a big boy enough to know, I can't go back to that location. But I still feel like that's a critical thing that has to be in this show. So I was like, Well, you know what, first of all, let me apologize for that. I did say that. And I have this idea for the shot of you walking out of the Sun of the Hi Hat as you crest over, you know, the hill and you're coming down. And I really believe that, you know, that idea you had, um, we could work into that shot in this way. What do you think? You know what that would really work. You know, if I if you pushed into the close up on me, you know? And I turned and I said, Well, Sally, you told me I'd be back one day, and I guess you were right. And I wasn't because I'm coming home would do it. Okay, great. We're gonna do that first up. Now, I'm just giving you an example. But as an actor who now feels like they're in relationship with the director, that the director is listening to them that the director cares about what's going on for them. Not just about them parroting out some good lines for them, that understands that there is a co creative relationship happening with the person who's embodying this character on screen. You know, who would you say is the greatest living actress today?
Alex Ferrari 1:15:20
No, well, Meryl, I'm assuming
Demian Lichtenstein 1:15:22
Meryl Streep, right? Right. So Meryl said something great. Now, she didn't say it to me. But what she said Is she said, as an actor, I give voice to a soul that doesn't have one. That's a great line. And you really want to think about that. Because that, that when I heard that, that never left me as a director. As an actor, I given voice to a soul that doesn't have one. Because the actor and bodies the living breathing soul of the character that has been written, you know, on the page, either by another writer or yourself. And they are as an actor, doing everything they can to embody the soul of that being and give voice to that character. As a director, I'm sorry, I cut you off,
Alex Ferrari 1:16:23
No, Im sorry to cut you off.
Demian Lichtenstein 1:16:25
As a director, it's my job, or the job of a director to clear the pathway so that that voice can be fully realized from the depths of the soul of that character. And as a director, it's always good to check in to find out if you're the biggest roadblock. I can tell you, as a director, I have discovered Holy shit, I'm the biggest roadblock here. Because I'm so consumed by my idea that I'm not open to what the soul of this character is trying to say.
Alex Ferrari 1:17:09
So can you go back, you told me to remind you about letting go and to go back and talk about that a little bit about letting go of the process and letting go of other people that taking it on their, you know, take making it their own? Can you talk a little bit about that?
Demian Lichtenstein 1:17:20
Yeah, that's perfect lead in Thank you. The IE at some point in the process, you discover, okay, that you are just part of the system. Right? You were part of you are in a studio level project, you as a director, if you've noticed of late, by the way, if you're paying attention, you are a essential replaceable part. Exactly. Okay. And when you understand that you are an essential, therefore you need to be operating. Like, you know, a wheel on a race car is essential. And it's a replaceable part. Okay, so you want to be aware of it, that when you move into a larger project, you're an essential but replaceable part. You want to start to get into the concept of CO creation. You want to look at how can I check my ego at the door and bring my competence, my commitment, my compassion, you know, and my creativity to the party. You want to learn how to be a extraordinary listener. Another thing Kevin said to me, Well, long before we went into production, he turned to me and he said, You know, I've worked with a lot of directors. I said, Yeah. He said, I have never worked with a director that listens to me the way you do. It's really unique. And I said, Thank you, I really appreciate it. He said, How did you learn how to do that? I said I actually went to school, where you learn how to listen. I literally trained and developed myself in a leadership capacity and listening multiple different schools of thought and going back to the dojo and to the Masters, you are listening, you are not talking. Right. All right. Higher education, higher consciousness. You know, you talk at one point but you your primary job is listening. When you're there as a director and you're watching a performance What matters is the depth of your listening. There is a profoundly different experience for the actor. If when they look over to the director's chair, they see a guy texting, while they're in the middle of their rehearsal, as compared to a guy leaning on the edge of his seat, like the words that are falling out of his mouth, and the twitch of his eyebrow, and the swipe sweep of, you know, his hand gesture is potentially the most miraculous thing you've ever seen. Because you're listening for greatness, you're listening for creativity you're listening for, does that truly move this character in this story forward? So Kevin said, well, however you learned how to do it, I promise you this, if you continue to listen to me the way you do, I promise you that on set, I will be your greatest listener, I will listen to you in a way that I have rarely listened to other people. And I said, Thank you that I will do everything I can to continue to earn that level of trust with you. And that's also the next thing that it comes down to, is that People need to trust you, as the creative. They can disagree with you, they can be angry with you. You know, you know, but it's very simple. You know, if you say, you know, I'm going to show up on set 7am, and meet you there tomorrow to go over shots to your dp. And you say that five days in a row and all five days in a row, you don't show up until 11am. Because, you know, we're on a split schedule and call is until 12. And, look, I'm busy Dude, I got shit to do. You know, I got problems I got politically, well, guess what? That dp no longer believes in you as a director. Right? Because they can't trust your word. And they know you're not interested in showing up to honor both your word and to co create with it. Right. Okay. He's no longer making the movie for you or with you. He's just making a movie. Have you ever been on a big set? With you know, the hire crews? It's really fascinating. Round the if let's say you're on a eight week shooting schedule. Around the sixth week, on every break or downtime, you see every crew member on their phone, or their iPad or whatever, because they're all all busy lining up their next gig, right? You're just a guy or a girl, a man a woman. Let me not say, girl, you're just a man or a woman that happens to have the gig that's paying them today. Right? And it's really fascinating. I've seen it multiple times. Like they're just they're not checked out of their job. They're just hustling. Yeah, they're hustling their necks. Good.
Alex Ferrari 1:23:28
Now, can you discuss a little bit about what you're doing with futurism entertainment.
Demian Lichtenstein 1:23:35
Okay. Um, I've spent the last seven years of my life as a white belt, learning how to become a black belt in the world of video gaming, virtual reality, and quantum computing. I believe that the future of entertainment is going to be instantly accessible, let's say via you know, we'll call it the smartphone for now. And through VR and AR technology, you're going to be able to transport yourself instantaneously into the holodeck. There's even the company is now registered themselves as the holodeck, by the way, where you your avatar of yourself will be photo realistically if you choose to play in that world or you could be a Pokemon character. If that's your choice, we'll be transported into that universe. You know, we could be like avatar your you are now on the planet Pandora. And you are now a NaVi or you're a soldier or your You know, a winged giant, forget the name of their birds.
Alex Ferrari 1:25:06
Demian Lichtenstein 1:25:08
That you, you get to become a part of the story that you're watching, you're in it, you're experiencing it, we're moving out of, you know, you know what I could call third party experiential experiences, observable experiences, you know, you're sitting in a theater and you're getting the communal experience of sitting with other people watching a story unfold. Now you're in the story. And your communal experience may be the 100 or 1 million other people that are in that story with you. Clicking in globally, all being run by advanced artificial intelligence coming from the mind of a creator, like a Cameron Spielberg. But it's all focusing into an entire new way of absorbing not only information, but entertainment. And, and it's still the Wild West, and people are still figuring everything out from VR to AR to Mr. mixed reality, augmented reality, virtual reality, of there still advancing, you know, in cinema, you know, there's a whole new way 3d is coming, we'll probably see with Avatar where you, you still get 3d, but you don't even wear glasses in the theater anymore.
Alex Ferrari 1:26:45
That would be entertaining. That would be interesting when that happens,
Demian Lichtenstein 1:26:48
Right! So the all these technologies are advancing. And as these technologies advance, you know, futurism is positioning itself to be one of the creative groups of people that understand the radical embracing of new technology and art, which is really what futurism means. Like, if you look it up as a concept. So that's, that's what futurism is about. And it's, it's awesome. And I have figured out that one thing, by the way, it took me, you know, two years after that conversation with Jim to figure it out. And it took me another five years to write the first three drafts of the script. And now we're redrafting as we speak. And to figure out the the, the game, the massive multi online player games, figure out the virtual reality scripts to figure out the augmented opportunities to figure out the AI and quantum computing technology required to execute on it. You know, we're all forging our pathways. But at the heart of it, if you ask me what I like to do, I like to put a regular 2d camera on my shoulder and take some material that I've written or someone else's written and get out there with some actors and create some magic on screen.
Alex Ferrari 1:28:33
Now I have a few last questions, you have some time to ask all my questions, really rapid fire, if you don't mind? Sure. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business to go make a movie? I get that a lot on the show.
Demian Lichtenstein 1:28:49
Literally, yeah, go, go. Go do it. Go sit down. If you don't know someone that knows how to write and someone that knows how to shoot, and someone that knows how to edit and someone that knows how to act, then you write, shoot, you know, direct edit and act in it yourself. And music is important as well, so composer, etc. But you know, go make one.
Alex Ferrari 1:29:15
Can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?
Demian Lichtenstein 1:29:25
What book had the biggest impact on my life or career? That's a loaded question. I'm reading books all the time. I think I think the one that had the biggest impact on my life and careers, the one that I co wrote myself,
Alex Ferrari 1:29:49
Okay. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Demian Lichtenstein 1:30:02
And I mean that from the perspective of who, who I had to discover. I was. And by the way, I didn't like what I found out about myself. And then, and the people that I interviewed for the book, or that I came into contact, because of it, you know, from the Dalai Lama to, you know, jack Canfield, who sold more books than anybody planet, Marianne Williamson to Reverend Michael Bernard Beckwith to use the books called Discover the Gift, the that book, and the documentary that went with it probably had been one of the biggest impacts on me, because I actually had to make it. With that said, there's a really brilliant little book by a Buddhist monk called the diamond cutter, okay. And it's, and it was one of the, the few back in the day you call it books, manuscripts. conversations that Buddha himself said was, you know, critical to understand and it was essentially about the combination of consciousness and spirituality with business. A lot of what we see happening in the world today is business trumping consciousness, humanity, or spirituality. Rather than coming to the fundamental understanding that business and consciousness go hand in hand, the the simplest way to understand that is that if you have a huge company, and the leadership of that company are conscious and enlightened and care about humanity, than the impact on the 1000s of people that work for that company, is, you know, radically different than someone who's running a big company that thinks it's only about money. And you know, that the people that work for them are basically slaves. Alright, so
Alex Ferrari 1:32:43
Any pharmaceutical company, any pharmaceutical company, or you know, almost any big oil company, but never mind.
Demian Lichtenstein 1:32:54
So, even though I don't think, you know, I could go on with a big list of books, but the diamond cutter to sell that one book is a good read, a good read and an important read it will teach you something about yourself and creativity and business and spirituality and consciousness. I don't know why that comes to mind. Another book that had a great impact on me it's not about filmmaking at all. It's called the way of the superior man by David data. That's really worth reading for men, specifically. And, and I think the things I don't know if you're gonna ask the question, but the things that have had some the biggest impact on me directly and supportive in my career has been my being a student at landmark education, which is a higher consciousness, self awareness seminar company. My deep work with my Lakota Native American spiritual work, the ceremonial leader within that work that I work with and so that's that's been very profound. And you know, the the greatest teachers in my life today, bar none. are my two children. Romeo, Luke, two and a half, roughly one and a half. And my wife because they are the ones a bit Teach me every day. What really matters Yes. Secondary to my ego wants or needs.
Alex Ferrari 1:35:07
Hey, Ray Mansur what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Demian Lichtenstein 1:35:28
You know, I was sitting up at a house right underneath the Hollywood sign. I mean, literally, under the sign just you can't get much closer. Sure. And the house across the street was like a cliff house and and it used to be James Dean's house. house right across from it that perched on the other side of the cliff, which is literally one street across, right. Was my production designer Robert, for 3000 miles.
Alex Ferrari 1:36:05
I know Robert. Yes. Robert vikos. Yeah, he was my production designer. A bunch of commercials. I did. Yeah. He's amazing. I love that. I've been to the house. I thought the house was amazing. Yeah. Incredible house, right. And he moved by the way. Yeah. So he's in Europe now. Right? In Spain
Demian Lichtenstein 1:36:20
It's thing he couldn't,he couldn't take America anymore, and what was happening and didn't want to raise his twin daughters here. And left. And that's, by the way, that's a lot of what's been happening is some of the greatest, most creative people that literally been saying, I'm done and literally leave to go live the life they dream of living. Sure. And he's doing that. But so I was at Roberts house, and a art director. That was a friend of his who was a Vietnam vet, and had been shot and had killed people in combat was an older gentleman. These saw me sitting there in a really deep, mopey, upset mood. And I just had another big movie that I'd spent like two years developing and prepping. Have the financing polled right before we before we went into production, of course. So now my creative life was upside down, my financial life was upside down. And I really felt like my career was over. And he said, What's, what's wrong, Dan? And I said, Well, you know what, my son at that point in my life, where I'm pretty clear, it's all over. And he goes, Well, what do you mean all over? It's it's done, when you might as well just jump off the cliff. It's done. And he's like, well, sort of jumping off the cliff, what do you really upset about? He does? And I said, well, that, you know, even with all my things that you would have thought would have no, you know, catapulted my career and it's just, it's taking so long. So long.And he looked at me and he quietly, he had this like, leather pouch on his belt. And, you know, he had like the studded leather jacket, and long hair and black arley. And, and he looked at me, and he quietly pulled out his little tobacco pouch and rolled himself a cigarette and, you know, looked at me for a minute, and he kind of looked like Merlin the magician, you know what I mean, right? And he was a wise, wise man. He'd seen a lot of the world and a lot of life and a lot of the ugliest parts of the world and a lot of the most beautiful parts of the world. And he said, Do you know what the beauty Damien is of your career? Taking a really, really long time. You know, the beauty of that is, you know, like, quite frankly, No, I don't. He said, it means that you are going to have a really, really long career.
Alex Ferrari 1:39:31
Demian Lichtenstein 1:39:33
And what I've learned from that, and that moment, is something that all the great sages say, but you have to discover for yourself. Is that it is a journey is not a destination.
Alex Ferrari 1:39:50
Yeah, man. I preach that all the time.
Demian Lichtenstein 1:39:53
And if you think that you're getting in this for the hit it and quit it, get Rich get famous fast, huh? That's not going to happen. That's about as much chance of you winning the lottery. Sure. Okay, there happens to a rarefied few. But that's why you know about it.
Alex Ferrari 1:40:18
You never, you always see the winners of the lottery, you never see the millions of losers.
Demian Lichtenstein 1:40:23
That's right. So the critical piece of advice is to understand and you know, and bear witness to, and, and be fascinated by that each and every step along the way, is in and of itself, both a great learning experience. You know, I saw this quote the other day, from my literary agent, by the way, was a manager and does agency and stuff, but he's really a literary manager, books and, and he's had many movies made from the books he's represented, etc. But his quote is, I never lose, I only learn or succeed. And I think that's the one that I'm really coming to understand that if who you are, is committed to a long and varied and at times, deeply painful, at times, extraordinarily exhilarating. But in principle, a long a lifelong career, then become a perpetual student of the moment. You know, I mean, relearning things about myself in this interview with you. That, you know, this morning, quite frankly, I forgot.
Alex Ferrari 1:42:13
Right? Right. It's, it's fascinating when you when you get down when you start going down certain paths or doors open up again, they've been closed for years.
Demian Lichtenstein 1:42:21
Yeah. So this is, that's, that's really what it is that I'm, I'm learning that every day right now is a miracle. And every day is an opportunity to learn. And every day is the opportunity to make a difference for somebody in your life. That's, that's really it. You know,
Alex Ferrari 1:42:51
Damien it is That's a very great answer to a very tough question. Sometimes where people can you tell people where they can find you or find out more about futurism entertainment? What you do?
Demian Lichtenstein 1:43:05
Um, Yes, I can. I mean, I'm on Facebook, obviously. Sure. futurism we are in our early stages. You could call it a startup company. We are currently working out of I just built a new home studio and Encino at my, my home. Because I don't want to miss my children growing up those formative you know, first five years. Yep. So this is where I typically AM. Or, you know, traveling somewhere I have to travel to talk to the people I have to talk to you. futurism is not fully open for business yet. From the perspective of that, you know, I'm hiring beyond the staff I have or that I'm currently, you know, in production. We are currently completing our business plans, our financial modeling, we are really looking at you know, how to be a essential and critical part of the new creative, a world that is opening up for everyone right now. And, and I guess I want to remind everybody The other thing too, it's just really critical to remember that, you know, this is the film business. This is the business of entertainment. There, it's an important thing to understand that it's not only about your creativity, it's about how can you build a sustainable model that generates revenue that hopefully creates a profit that allows you to continue to engage in the creation of your dreams. How do you do that? You know, a good idea is to model or find some way to be mentored by or connected to people that have been radically more successful at it than you have.
Alex Ferrari 1:45:45
No. Absolutely not. This has been an epic interview. Damian without question, thank you so so much, for I know you're a busy guy and taking all this time out to to share your knowledge and experience with the with the tribe. So I really, really appreciate it.
Demian Lichtenstein 1:46:03
It's my pleasure. And I will promise that if we ever do this again, I'll have a good microphone set up. Ritchie boomy setup hollow and echoey.
Alex Ferrari 1:46:18
Not a problem at all. And it has been my pleasure being a white belt in this conversation. So thank you so so much, my friend.
Demian Lichtenstein 1:46:25
Thank you. I look forward to seeing you.
Alex Ferrari 1:46:29
I want to thank again Damian for taking the time to to come on the show. He dropped some major knowledge bombs, and just a wealth of experience. And I knew he would, from meeting him and talking with him that day. And I hope you guys got a lot out of it. Because it's some of the stuff that Damien talked about in this episode. You will not learn unless you go through the hard way. And in a small way, I hope this podcast helps you guys trying to avoid a lot of mistakes that my guests have made and I've made, and people I've talked to have made. So hopefully this this, this helped you. And again, Damien, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to the drive. Now if you want links to anything we talked about in this episode, just head over to indiefilmhustle.com/209. And Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. I've got some presents to go wrap. As always keep the hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.
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- Futurism Entertainment
- Demian Lichtenstein – IMDB
- [easyazon_link identifier=”B00005LDDB” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]3000 Miles to Graceland[/easyazon_link]
- [easyazon_link identifier=”B0044XV3QY” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Avatar[/easyazon_link]
- [easyazon_link identifier=”1622038320″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Way of the Superior Man[/easyazon_link]
- [easyazon_link identifier=”038552868X” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Diamond Cutter[/easyazon_link]
Where Hollywood Comes to Talk
Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
(Platoon, Wall Street, JFK)
(Brothers McMullin, She's the One)
Oscar® Nominated Writer/Director
(Boyhood, School of Rock)
Emmy® Winning Writer/Director/Actor
(City Slickers, Analyze This)
(Smokin' Aces, The Grey, Narc)