IFH 752: How to Make People Laugh & Cry with Your Screenwriting with Eduardo Cisneros



Top Apple Filmmaking Podcast

20+ Million Downloads

Today on the show we have screenwriter, Eduardo Cisneros. He began his screenwriting career in his home country of Mexico. Working on countless television series including Saturday Night Live: Mexico. His career took an upward trajectory when he began working with one of the biggest comedy actor/writer/producer and director in the Latinx world,  Eugenio Derbez.

Eduardo help develop the massively successful crossover smash Instructions Not Included.

Eduardo Cisneros’s latest project hits close to home. Half Brothers, who he co-wrote and produced with Jason Shuman, is based on his experiences as an immigrant from Mexico in America. His father was the basis of the main character’s father in the story.

Renato, a successful Mexican aviation executive, is shocked to discover he has an American half-brother he never knew about, the free-spirited Asher. The two very different half-brothers are forced on a road journey together masterminded by their ailing father, tracing the path their father took as an immigrant from Mexico to the US.

Half brothers is about bonding. It’s about empathy. It’s about the challenge of developing the ability to put yourself into somebody else’s shoes and realizing that you have more in common than things that separate you.” – Eduardo Cisneros

It was an absolute pleasure speaking to Eduardo and discuss how he approaches each story, what it was like work on SNL Mexico, how it’s like writing with a partner, and how he hopes his films change the conversation on how Latinx people are perceived in our culture. He wants to bring his Spanish-speaking audience a greater representation in Hollywood.

Enjoy my conversation with Eduardo Cisneros.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:49
I'd like to welcome the show Eduardo Cisneros. How you doing my friend?

Eduardo Cisneros 3:33
I'm pretty pretty good. How are you doing?

Alex Ferrari 3:35
I'm as good as I can be in this upside down world that we live in today.

Eduardo Cisneros 3:40
Yeah, isn't it wonderful?

Alex Ferrari 3:42
It is it's something it's something it's something like I like I said the mole people haven't risen up and Atlantis hasn't hasn't risen either to take over the world. Yes yet. But that's the only thing missing from 2020 honestly. Alien aliens Meteor. Yeah, what else is there?

Eduardo Cisneros 4:02
Well, they found this big sculpture of like a Buddha and then has had like a dead person inside Did you see that? And I might not leave that leave that alone. This is not the year like please put it back in the ground like bury that stuff like I don't think we can handle any more of that stuff.

Alex Ferrari 4:20
Don't open that today

Eduardo Cisneros 4:22
Just. Like dont

Alex Ferrari 4:25
Just let Indiana Jones just close the door and walk away slowly, slowly.

Eduardo Cisneros 4:31
Brendan Fraser closing

Alex Ferrari 4:36
A Brendan raise your friend Brendan Fraser reference. I appreciate that. Old School mummy.

Eduardo Cisneros 4:44
All sorts of stuff under my sleeves man.

Alex Ferrari 4:48
Well, listen, man. Thanks so much for being on the show. Man. I'm so excited to have a screenwriter but also a Latino screenwriter because we don't get many of those on the show. And as as a lot You know, filmmaker. When I found out about you, I was like, Yes, yes, I'd love to have him on the show. And let's, let's talk screenwriting from, from your perspective, sir. So before we get started, how did you get into this ridiculous business?

Eduardo Cisneros 5:16
Good question. You know, I was born and raised in Mexico. And in Mexico, and I would say in the Spanish language, world, radio is a big thing. So I always wanted to be a filmmaker, but we have less avenues, you know, to get to that goal. So my first opportunity was as a radio DJ. And specifically, because a lot of the radio there is very driven towards like comedy and humor would not so I would write sketches for radio, but that's basically what you would call it. So when I moved to Mexico City, which is the bigger hub of entertainment in Latin America, and the springboard in, I first started going around the radio, radio stations, who produce a lot of content, but it was all comedy. So I started writing the, you know, I took my tapes and my scripts and, and people liked what I did. And they hire me. And I happen to cross paths with one of many other business staff writers, and no henio was already at the top of his career. And he hasn't climbed down since he was it was, I would say, the first peak on the series of peaks. So I was fortunate enough that because of the funny stuff that I've written for radio, then I was then brought on to write TV. I'm summarizing it. It was a little bit of a trek, from very, very baby junior level writer to a full time staff writer for tenure. But that's, that's that's how it happened. And

Alex Ferrari 6:53
yeah, generally, it's not the overnight like, yeah, just one day, I got this. And the next day, I'm a staff writer, I just kind of worked out. Yeah. Now what is it like being a staff writer for at Haneul? And in also in just a staff writer, because your staff writer basically for anything he does or was a specific show? How

Eduardo Cisneros 7:10
does that work? Now, when you're, it's a weird system. And I rarely, I mean, I don't think that I will experience anything in my life like that as a writer. And I also think it's a very different experience for any writers. I don't know how many people in the world would have a situation like this, but because he is, but even more so at the time, he was a big commodity for fertility. So which is the biggest network and the only game in town for decades. And he was their biggest star. So they let him hire two or three writers. Full time it was job was only to write for anything that he did. So he was always surrounded by a team of two or three writers, which meant if he had a TV show that you would write for a TV show, if he was dubbing a movie, then you would add some jokes. If he was going to do some kind of public experience appearance even as a speech, then you would have to help him write the speech like you were, you'd be at his best 24 seven for a full year round. Didn't matter if he was shooting a show or not so but the reason why I think it's also unique it was because he, he basically was an artist who shaped pop culture in Mexico. So it was a very bizarre experience with you a write a sketch, and sometimes it was like a one off thing where his show was on hiatus, but he wanted to make fun of something that happened. So we would write a sketch, shoot it and put it in some morning show or something. And it would be water cooler conversation. This was pre Twitter kids. This was pre social media days. So you would go out on the street, you would go to the supermarket, you would go to the gym, and everybody was talking about this thing. It was like Game of Thrones,

Alex Ferrari 9:11
or something or Seinfeld back in the day.

Eduardo Cisneros 9:14
I always tell people that it was it was the most important thing was Seinfeld because ohanian was not only very commercially successful, but he was also admired because his brand of humor was very different and very observational and smart compared to other comedians in Mexico. So that was very bizarre. And we had another taste of it when instructions that included came out and we get to that in a minute but I was in Mexico City working on another project of henio when construction and include come out of Mexico, and I decided to live a more New York style way of life. I ditch my car and I would take public transit to the office every day and from my like from my door like my house. public transit during the gym to go to the office, everybody was talking about me. So it is it's a very weird and also very gratifying as a writer that you create something. And you put something on a sketch show where he shows up at an award ceremony and he does a funny thing. And everybody's talking about it the next day. It's also a big responsibility, but it was it was a great experience.

Alex Ferrari 10:23
So for people who don't know, Daniel is he's, he's an annual. He. He's like, like you said, a cultural icon in Mexico. And then he has crossed over he's done movies, like construction is not included like overboard. Who was with what's her name?

Eduardo Cisneros 10:41
I know Ferris.

Alex Ferrari 10:42
Thank you Anna Faris Yes. Which is, which was a remake of an old Kurt Russell Goldie Hawn film back in the 80s. And he's actually done a he's been in a bunch of American movies. So he has definitely crossed over. So the equivalent so for everyone listen to it's the equivalent of you getting a staff position with Seinfeld in the height of his powers in the 90s. Basically, where he is anything you wrote, people saw, and you were talking about, and you were just there in that, that hurricane in the center of the storm.

Eduardo Cisneros 11:15
And it was it was a weird experience. Because the truth is, I was I was barely out of college. I was very young as in my early 20s. I did go I mean, I did get the what I call a media degree in Mexico for my bachelor's degree. So I, I studied everything. I then I took a specific production workshop for like NYU, I went to New York Film Academy in New York, I shot I shot a bunch of short films. So I was always geared toward filmmaking and writing, but, but to have a job like that within a year or two, graduating college is insane. And it's why only so much that I thought, Oh, this is what life is gonna be like, this is the life of a writer. It's gonna be amazing. This is the first two or three years of my career. Wait until you see. But it didn't work out though. It didn't pan out.

Alex Ferrari 12:12
Yeah, generally, when when when I had a small amount of success when I came into the business, and I was making crazy money as an editor. And I'm like, Oh, this is just the way it is. Right? You just you just roll hard like this until one day, the gravy train stops.

Eduardo Cisneros 12:30
Yeah, and you have no control. You're, you're waiting there for the phone to ring and it's not ringing. And you're like, Oh, I guess I'll find a way to pay the bills. So it's Yeah, it's a very eye opening.

Alex Ferrari 12:45
humbling. humbling. It's a humble,

Eduardo Cisneros 12:46
It's very humbling, very humbling

Alex Ferrari 12:49
This business. This is what this business will definitely bring you to your knees. Every and I don't care who you are everybody that it happens to every mega star in the world, every success story, they all get humbled to their knees at one point or another in their career. Right? You know, it's not only the

Eduardo Cisneros 13:06
line, never too big. You're never too big to fall in your house. You're never too big to to eat humble pie. So, and by the way, the first person who told me that was when you know, can you tell me he wanted to warn me. He was saying he would always say there's always gonna be someone around the corner. Who's funnier than you? Who is more charismatic than you? So don't coast don't, you know, don't don't take these things for granted. Like, always make sure that you're always putting out the best version of the work in and I might Yeah, yeah. You know, he's like, You're like a kid. And you're like, yes, that you know, like, but he it worked for him. So like, Oh, I guess it should start paying attention. to it. This successful man is saying

Alex Ferrari 13:55
to be yes. Oh, yeah. I know.

Eduardo Cisneros 14:00
I learned my lesson.

Alex Ferrari 14:02
So uh, so you you were you were Tell me how you were involved with instructions not included, which was, I think, his first big hit here in the States. And I you know, was released by I think Lionsgate at the time. So it was a it was a big release. It's a big release for the film. So how did you get involved with it?

Eduardo Cisneros 14:21
Well, I was it was we started writing the movie at that point precisely in the early aughts, where we were writing this show and we were writing about I was writing a bunch of stuff for you. But it within that team of two or three writers, I just happened to be the person who had studied more of me when regards to screenwriter who is more interested in film, so when he said, You know, he called us to his office and he said, You know, I'm the most successful comedian on TV, but at the time, there was no real commercial business in Mexico was all art house a mortise barrows eat mama tambien. We've made they made like four or five movies a year. And he said, like, all those directors Don't take me seriously. So I'm going to have to come up with my own script of the movie. And he talked about his idea. And I was one of the one of the only people who was like, Yeah, I really would like to do that. Anyway, it was it was, at the time, it was kind of like a vanity project, he might as well have said, I want to record an album. Like, it was one of those things where you're like, Alright, sounds like, I'm sure. And then we talked about so him and I got a little more time to talk about the movies we liked. And at the time, we're very, we're very inspired by all this. movies that came from Italy, right? Oh, in cinema part of it. So Life is beautiful. And pristine, like all these movies that were very unabashedly emotional and cheesy and corny, but they were also had like a, they have paces and depth. And they also have a streak of comedy. And that kind of jive very well with the Latino sensibility. Um, so he wanted to do that he wanted to show that he could do, he uses comedic chops, but also make people cry. So we started watching those movies. And then we he partnered up with console as compared to produce comedy sparrows. And he brought on like a more seasoned screenwriter to kind of, so we can break the story together. And then eventually, after a couple of drafts where there was a bit of a story, then ohanian, I and another of his writers cope with MP, we worked on the script for another four years after that, again, because of him, he is a perfectionist, and he will do draft after draft and we would get every scene to his liking. And even then, after five, six years, if you could believe this, still, we can find people to Who would think that Daniel was a movie star. And I laughed because there's really nobody bigger than him at the moment in the Spanish language world. But at the time, it was more like now who wants to put money in the hands of the movie. But the thing is, like, I would spend so much time with him, that I would see firsthand how people responded to him and how the effects I was like, I think that I think there's a little bit of snobbery going on back then. So, but long story short, we got to make the movie and it came out and was a great experience. At the time, I had already moved to LA, I had learned my lesson I had, I just think that I decided to cross over before the movie came out. So by the time it came out, I already had an agent and also was in a position to kind of like capitalize the success of the movie. But, you know, I'm thankful that it came out when it did and it did the way it did.

Alex Ferrari 18:14
Yeah, it was it was a huge success, especially in the in the Spanish speaking world here in the States, but it also found a bigger audience. It's not just that Latinos who went out to see it. I mean, a lot of other cultures have seen it because it's just such a beautiful film. It really really is a beautiful film. And I my wife, and I just loved it when we saw it. Now you you also worked with SNL, but Mexico's SNL, right? I I've never spoken to anyone who's worked with any an SNL outside of here in the state. So what's it like? Like, is it just another sketch comedy show? But with a obviously with a Mexican twist to it? How is that how's the whole thing work?

Eduardo Cisneros 18:55
Well, so at the time, I was telling you that I was in Mexico City at the time, the reason why I was there, because I was already in LA, but Ohio called me and said, we're doing this now. And I was alright, I'll be there. So I, you know, he relocated me to Mexico City to work on this project, and he got the rights you have the rights to do the SNL franchise which I didn't know existed by the way. I didn't know that SNL had turned into this thing where they had an SNL and in Korea, Brazil, and one in Spain, which Funny enough, it's on Thursday night. I hate each one. That's amazing. Yeah. But it's so they because they've done this a few times. Now Broadway video has the whole way. This whole system to kind of train you to do this and they explain the process to you. And then you sit down and watch this video, of like behind the scenes of step by step how to put the show together. And then when we turned around and tried to put it together, they sent horatia stance to work with us along the way. They also sent somebody from Second City to make sure that we were kind of building upon all these tenets of improv comedy. They're the core of SNL. And it also happened that. So when I moved to the US, and I try to cross over, I was hoping for things to go as, as quickly and as well as they did when I moved to Mexico City. That was not the case. And so I, I said, You know what, I have to prepare as much as possible. And I went to NYU and took a bunch of screenwriting classes. I took every class that I could, there was a thing called media Bistro. I don't know if it still exists, but I would like went through, like, simulations of writers room that they did with like real writers from like the Simpsons and whatnot. But one of the most important things that that I did was take improv. And I went, I joined UCB. I completed the program. I joined a couple teams. So I was one of those annoying people that would go Hey, you're gonna come watch my improv show. I was I was at La guy.

Alex Ferrari 21:21
At least it wasn't a one man show. I mean, this is an improv show. Because there's, there's the improv show. And then there's like, Hey, can you come see my show? Are you right? And I have, and I have been to an LA one man show or one woman show. And it is. It's, it's, it's kind of like a rite of passage of Rites here in

Eduardo Cisneros 21:42
LA. Yeah, I think I would still, I think if I have to choose, I would rather do the band because at least you're like words. It's music. They can it can always play up Converse. But yeah, there was one man show. It's like the one man on stage and other just another one men in the audience. And that just show for one man.

Alex Ferrari 22:05

Eduardo Cisneros 22:07
Not no woman show. So so because I had that training, I was also able to transmit some of that too, because there was very little improv comedy. In Latin America. And in Mexico, it's growing more. But at the time, this was a few years ago, there were very few improv companies there. So I had improv training. And I used that so that was a great experience. And, and a lot of it was being truthful to to the brand, which is being topical, which is being political. You know, knowing how to cap, you know, capitalize on whatever is happening at the moment. So it was a great experience.

Alex Ferrari 22:53
Yes, it sounds awesome. Now, you've been you've written a lot of different, you know, comic comedy and characters, what is it, especially in the future world? Or even in scripted television? What is how do you create a memorable leading character for comedy?

Eduardo Cisneros 23:14
I think one of the things that was that heard that was more helpful, was, more often than not a script problem is a character problem, right? And I realized that was a very helpful thing to learn in general, but specifically for comedy, because when you have a character in comedy that has a strong point of view, and that you know, what they think about the world, and you know, what they do in the moment of crisis, then it's, it becomes easier, all of a sudden, to, to, to write and then I used to, you know, because when, when I was in Mexico, after I've been part of my, what I call it, the, was kind of like my Karate Kid training, which I was kind of training without really knowing that I was training but I was working as a consultant for Sony television in America. And part of my job was to do something like you see the ad Everybody Loves Raymond documentary with Phil Ruffin. Oh, yeah. Russia.

Alex Ferrari 24:25
Yeah. So great. So great.

Eduardo Cisneros 24:26
So I was working exactly with that with that company, doing exactly that. But for Latin America, it would take the nanny or what um, you know, what have you right? So a lot of I went through a lot of character Bible series Bibles, and I was exposed in a short amount of time, to a lot of, of the engines of very different shows. And in the process, I had to train writers and some of the exercises that I would give them, one of them was you Ask a question. And then write the answer according to each one of the characters from the Simpsons, right? So the characters on The Simpsons are so well defined that you know what the answer is gonna be, like, you know, what Homer is gonna be, you know, when this is gonna say, you know, what Bart is gonna say. So that's a great example of what do you want to do in comedy, you want to make sure that every one of your characters has such a specific point of view, that the audience knows what that point of view is. But also, they will be surprised, and kind of looking forward to see how they're going to express their point. So it's more about what how, Karen on willing Grace is expressing what they have to say how its array, like how each person on TV, you know, what they think you you're just waiting to see how they're going to express that point of view that you know. So as a writer, I think creating a TV show, or creating a feature comedy, where the character has strong point of view is essential. You really need to know that before you start doing any more writing. And I would say in TV is even more important because characters are even more important than story on TV, like people will forgive a bad story. But if it's a character they love, they will watch them do anything. They will watch them make coffee, if it's an interesting character. So from a community point of view, I think that's that's, that's very helpful.

Alex Ferrari 26:40
Did you ever watch Breaking Bad?

Eduardo Cisneros 26:43
I watched the pilot.

Alex Ferrari 26:44
You watch the pilot, okay.

Eduardo Cisneros 26:46
Yes, sorry.

Alex Ferrari 26:49
There is no reason why we can't we have to end the interview Now, obviously, no. Um, so there was an episode in that series, a very famous episode where they basically sat around and followed a fly the entire episode. And they like talked a bunch and they just and it was, it was honestly the worst. It's like a legendarily worst episode of the entire series other than bad and maybe a couple of other episodes. The it's almost a flawless series. But the reason why you stick with something like that is because you love the characters. Because if that was a new show, you're like, Oh, hell, no, I'm out of here. But you die. You know? Yeah. But I never thought of it that way that with comedy specifically, you know, you go through all of television, especially comedy and television, not as much in because it features the character can change. They have a point of view, like Axel Foley has a point of view. But he changes, you know, he

Eduardo Cisneros 27:43
you want them to change. It's a transformation machine. Right? Right. So movie, that's the distinction by television

Alex Ferrari 27:50
character. But Seinfeld is Seinfeld and Kramer is Kramer and, you know, Monica from friends is and they're they don't change, they might change a little bit. But overall, that point of view of who that character is never leave. So if you are writing for television, especially comedy, you definitely have to hold on to that point of view. Yeah, when is it? Not with comedy to? You know, I don't know if it's as much I'd love to hear your thoughts about it. The villain or the antagonist. You know, a lot of times comedy, the antagonist is not a Darth Vader style figure. It could be the situation, it could be, you know, odds or things like that. But, um, like, airplane, you know, which, all I have to say is the word airplane, and everyone just laughs because if you see that it's just such a brilliant film. But there is no villain there is the planes gonna crash that is the antagonists the plane almost as becomes the antagonist. So when you're writing comedy, either for television or for, or features, what's the key to a good antagonist, whether that be a situation or actual character?

Eduardo Cisneros 29:00
Well, there's two things, I think the key to any antagonist in any particular format is you just have to be able to see the story from their point of view, because everybody's the hero of their own story, right? So you have to understand why this person nobody does thinks to be evil, right? unless you really write a nutshell or writing that cartoon. If tonally, that's what it is. All right. But for the most part for a TV show, you would probably want something that is more grounded, unlike what is what is the why is this character doing what they do? What what why do they see themselves as the hero of the story? But even going further than that, I think that in comedy, The, the main antagonist is always that the main character, they usually in comedy, The reason why we laugh Because we see that this person is undermined by their own character flaws, right? So if you think about the comedic version of to your point like the the, you know, the airplane is not the airplanes fault that all these people are idiots, right? So it's the same thing that, that if you're in a car with four comedic characters with strong point of view and they get a flat tire, you know that because they're incompetent or because they have such character flaws, that this thing is just going to snowball into anybody walking three hours. Like if they didn't, if they didn't have these character flaws that were undermining them at every step. They would, it would be jack Bauer, right? It'd be like 24 B, people who are like fiction. I think usually comedy is a way for us to highlight how in life, we are the first person to step on toes, right? So yeah, so that I mean, it's the Road Runner story, like he's case, in the end is like, yes, the Road Runners can be smart, but this guy's like, so stubborn and in such an idiot. And just we laugh at that.

Alex Ferrari 31:17
Right, exactly. And I always thought I always thought the road winner was the villain personally, and that fill in those shorts, because I feel for Wiley so badly. Actually, the other day on Facebook actually saw a meme where there was a coyote who actually had a road runner and there's mouthy, like, Oh, my God, he finally did it, it was just finally did it. But that's really it. That's interesting, because I never really kind of thought about the point of view. I mean, the flaws, you know, if you look at a movie, like hangover, which is a classic now, you know, each of them have a very distinct point of view, each of them have a belief system. And what's exactly Zach Galifianakis his belief system is just brilliant. But the combination of those those points of views is when you get thrown into and those point of views, they kind of change a bit, but they, they, they stay, they are who they are, at the end, they may definitely have changed a bit. But those point of views have stayed pretty solid. But that point, but those point of views is like you said that the flat, the flat tire, like, okay, that's where the comedy comes in. I'm trying, I'm trying to dissect the comedy a bit more, and I just want to kind of dig into your brain a little bit. But you're, you're you're bringing it up in my head now that it? It is, it's just coming clear to me, I hope the audience is getting clear as well. Are they picking up a couple of nuggets along the way about what makes what's funny, because, you know, a dude stepping on a banana peel and falling? Well, that's funny. But when you but when you actually get that point of view of who that guy is, and a backstory, then it becomes even funnier. And then that's, you know,

Eduardo Cisneros 33:02
when it comes to movies, we think about the best comedies out there, what I consider classics, and if you are of those people who believe, like I am that, you know, after the midpoint in the second act, and I'm glad I can take talking to specific terms for all the nerds out there. But like after your midpoint is specific, the second act, you want to, obviously raise your stakes, right? And if you are writing a superhero movie, that's what they call the bad guys close and like this is more like an external villain coming in. And, you know, coming closer to where you are in a comedy, it's more about like, how can I put this schmuck in or how can you bring this all the all the look character flaws in this character that they're gonna just, you have to face them with those shortcomings to the point that you're going to push them to that turn. So one of the best examples out there is Groundhog Day, right? Which I think is one of the best screenplays when it comes to comedy. And he is really leaning into almost like the worst of him in, in the second act is really coming out and it just gets to a point that but what happens like pushes him so hard that he can't over. It's not until he is able to see those shortcomings that he's a jerk and selfish and uses everybody to his to his own agenda. And that is able to change as a character but before that he's blind and he's going he's repeating the same behavior literally the definition of insanity, right like repeating the same behavior and and you know, he wants to kill himself he can. So that's that to me, like look at every comedy with a with has a strong comedic point of view and you will find that that's the part where you're really challenging your main character because that that With the comedy, the first half, we're going to have all the laughs But then the second half is going to turn a little more challenging because this person is going to make everything very difficult for themselves. Yeah, what I love and then that's, that's only when they will change. Right? Yeah, I

Alex Ferrari 35:16
mean, what I love about Groundhog's Day it is it is, by the way, top five comedy scripts ever written. I mean, it's and performing at that movie is an absolute masterpiece. But put yourself in that scenario, which I know everybody in the world who ever watches that movie puts themselves in that scenario, like what would I do if I had to do everything again today? And a lot of us would probably just do that, like we would go down those kind of those places, especially, I mean, especially the younger you are, absolutely. But you just got to he gets to a point where he's like, I've, I've eaten everything I can eat. I've enjoyed every spoil I can enjoy. I've I've slept with every woman that's in this town that I want to sleep with. I've stolen all the money, I've had all the experiences. And it's not fulfilling me until he finally gets to a wall where he hacks to actually just gives up and it goes, I got it. I gotta change. I got to do something else. Because this thing is not letting me get off the hook. I can't kill myself. I can't go anywhere. That's the brilliance of that script. And that story, that character until at the end, he does finally he's like maybe I should do something to better myself. So I learned how to play piano I you know, I learned how to I sculpt that starts in this dish helping people on the way it is such a wonderful, wonderful, I'm sorry, I'm geeking out about Groundhog's Day with you. I'm sorry.

Eduardo Cisneros 36:31
About Groundhog Day, groundhog day all day. But as I think I don't know if it applies to every genre, because I've had the opportunity now to do but I think when it comes to just straight comedy pure comedy. You I like the idea in Mexico, we have the same no Kaito Kaito Kaito salir de la tonetta means like, I don't want any more cheese, I just want to get out of this mouse trap. Right? So to me, that's the moment where the characters like I don't want to chase anymore. Just get me out of the mousetrap. And I think Groundhog's Day is an example. And when you watch everybody goes in watch to watch half brothers, you will see you know you in even the trailer, you get an idea this, this character that we set out of the place is very judgmental. He thinks he's like a higher level than everybody else. And we found a very external manifestation of that he's an aviation engineer, right? He's literally flying above everybody else. So when you without spoiling much, but I think in that after the midpoint, you'll find him really trapped in this place where he just, he doesn't want anything else. But to get out of the mousetrap. And his biggest enemy is not even going to be this half brother is just going to be its own shortcomings as a character. Right. So I'm hoping that you get to watch it soon. And then we'll then I'm really happy to geek out and yeah, the mechanics of the script.

Alex Ferrari 38:02
So so so that's a wonderful segue, sir into your new film. It was very subtle. No, no accident. But no half brothers is your new film. Which can you tell everybody a little bit about what the movie is about? I saw the trailer of it. It looks it looks fantastic. I am dying to see it. I really am. It's definitely a Friday night, Saturday night, you know, movie night with your with your spouse kind of film, at least for us. But it's funny, it looks great. So tell a little bit of everybody about what it is.

Eduardo Cisneros 38:33
Half brothers, I'm very proud of this movie. I'm very happy with the work that everybody did in the movie. Obviously, not only myself, but like I think we got a really, as a team. And this movie is was a chapter right? Because Robbie and I feel like the road movie is often seen as low hanging fruit, right? Like, oh, it's good to be on a car, get them from A to B. How hard can that be? Right? And it's it's precisely the simplicity of it. That makes it super challenging. So I approached this the way I start approaching everything. Since ohanaeze words were resonating in my head I just prepared along with my writing partner we just prepared even before we wrote the first scene to be as familiar with this genre as possible. And we watched every version as from the most biggest commercial comedy to the smallest, more esoteric, indie porn like we watch everything to see what worked, what didn't work. So that went behind the brand. I think it was worth it. The other circumstance that was very special about this movie was that in a world where, you know, we know that the studio's are more more inclined to buying IP and superhero movies and this and that this was an original pitch, we presented it to Focus Features who and who don't get into producing that movie that easily, right. They're very, very picky about what they produce in house. It's normally either co co production or just an acquisition. So we were very lucky that they believed believed in the pitch. They bought the pitch and they developed it with with us. And that was also extremely helpful. Because these are people who have excellent taste in, in movies, who very experienced and who were again, because I was kind of coming off the Actually, I literally started fleshing out this idea. Right after around the time instructions included came out. So it was in this wave again, of thinking about all those 90s movies from Miramax that inspired me. And I was like, well, you don't really see those movies anymore. And part of it is because you know the people.

Alex Ferrari 41:15
Yeah, exactly.

Eduardo Cisneros 41:17
But leaving that aside, I think that, you know, there was there was something not cynical at all about those movies. And I think that the pendulum right now still in a very darker cynic cynical side of the spectrum. But I think because of the times we're living in, I'm like, I think it's time for a movie that wears its feelings on its sleeve. So well, long story short, we developed a script. And we were aiming for a similar thing, if you watch destructions, they're difficult tonal shifts that might look seamless, because we work very hard, but they're very tough to everybody to people who love and enjoy the movie. And luckily, it's been the majority of people who watched it. Even in script form. They said, I just loved that. And one minute, I'm laughing my ass off. And then the next one or two minutes later, I'm crying with this character genuinely going from and I'm like, well, that's life, right? Isn't that where we live? Like, we started out storytelling with tragedy and comedy. And I think it's become more and more more and more complex. I think we start need to start making mixing the sweet with a savory, you know, we need to start mixing one thing with the other and see what comes out of it. So this is all to say that that was a way to try and do that. And apparently, we did something good, because people are responding very positively to to the movie.

Alex Ferrari 42:46
And how was it working with your, your writing partner, Jason because Jason was on my show indie film hustle with his film, his Sundance Film, back in two, three years ago, now, Catcher in the Rye. And I had the pleasure of talking to him. And he was when I was speaking to him, he was starting to take writing seriously. He's been a producer for a long time. And he wanted to start writing. He's like, you know what I'm going to start writing. And this is what I'm going to do. So how did you guys get together? And then what is the process? Because I've only written? I've written with partners before, but I generally they didn't work out. Because I have I have since I've realized that I write well by myself. I can I can recall it. I could collaborate, but like the actual writing part process. How did that work out with you?

Eduardo Cisneros 43:37
Well, I again, this happened right around the time that instructions not included, came out and luckily sanfur panitch, who ran Fox international at the time, the International production division of Fox, he I said luckily he he knew what my role had been shepherding instruction on included creatively. Even before the movie came out, he was familiar with the process. And so when the movie came out, it was a hit. He offered me a to picture deal. So I I wrote my first movie for for them. And then when it came time to write my second movie, out of my two picture deal. He said you have to meet this guy pieces. Shuman, he's a producer. He wants to be a writer, etc. So I think you guys have a similar sensibility. And I was like, all right. Why not? So we, I you know, when you're in Hollywood, you have like, 100 meetings like this. Yeah. So I'm like, Okay, I guess one of those general meetings where you're like sitting there, awkwardly, it's almost like one of those,

Alex Ferrari 44:52
Like blind date. It's a blind date is essentially

Eduardo Cisneros 44:56
a blind date. But to me, it's almost like a play date where you're like, Your mom and this other woman are really good friends with you. Now you have to play with this kid. You might not even like them, you're stuck here with the sucker. Where do you go? Right? So, but in this case, it just, we started talking and he came, he came very well prepared, he came with like 10 log lines that he had, it was going one after the other in a minute now. And then, at the end, he's just started telling me this story that happened to him once and I'm like, oh, that that could be, that's a good, you know, jumping off point for a story, and we started fleshing it out. And we sold it and we're rooting for Fox, and that script has changed hands, and now it's now a searchlight. But I don't know what's going to happen to that story with it. But, you know, regardless of what happens to that script, we found that we just had a, you know, good chemistry, writing. And it's also so great, after years of being on my own, with the laptop, and inside my head, to have somebody to expedite the process where you're like, going back and forth, and ping pong, you know, mentally, and then something great comes out, I've been paired up with writers before, especially, you know, working for Hani or this and that you're always like, Alright, you two have to work on this, and I need to do your best, but you're like, I'm not enjoying this at all. Like, I have two ideas that very clear my head. Now, how would you explain this to this person, I don't understand what they're saying. I'm definitely laughing at their jokes. So this was just all I don't know. And he's a really nice person. And I also think that I, again, I keep mentioning handy, because he's such a formative person in my life, and as an artist, and professionally, but he's such a nice person to everybody. And he's the biggest star out there. And I might give, he can be the biggest game in town and the biggest person that market and be remember your name, and say hi to you, and each person in the room and treat them with dignity. Like I want to be that person to you. No, absolutely. So I think Jason shares that value. So we're like, I want to work with them. I want to work with somebody who's who shares those values as well, not only creatively on the page, but also how to behave as a human being. That's important.

Alex Ferrari 47:31
So this is essentially a buddy a buddy comedy, essentially correct? Yes. So what what is what makes a good buddy comedy?

Eduardo Cisneros 47:43
Good, buddy, buddy, come buddy, comedy. And comedy means it's, anyone makes the comedy work, it's, again, it goes back to two POV goes back to point of view. What I find useful when come when it comes to writing any story, but also comedy is just to know what you're talking about right to know what your movie is about? And to know what is the subject matter. And for a comedy, what do you want is to people who have different ways to approach this same subject matter whether is fame, or love or sex, what do you want opposing points of view, but at the same time, they have to have complimentary abilities. So they kind of need each other. And so, again, you have to decide what your your tone is, but there is Philomena, one of the movies that I watched and was very influential also right and half brothers. Steve Coogan is, I think a comedic genius. I love the old trip series. It's a road movie series on it on its own. And but what makes the movie even more than whatever their mystery they're trying to unveil as Judi Dench and her point of view and she's this very, quote unquote, simple woman who's very earnest, and she's has all this faith, and she's superstitious and this and this super skeptical, cynical, snarky British guy who Steve Coogan into the interaction of the two of them, whatever they do, they can follow them on the fly, right? The sparks that are flying from the conflicting points of view. I think that and I think that's what makes the comedy work.

Alex Ferrari 49:54
So it's something like so something like 48 hours, you know, you have very two different point of views with Eddie Murphy. acknowledge these characters and Lethal Weapon and, and and obviously half brothers as well. They're very and you can you actually like the main character when you see him? You can tell he's uptight. He's an uptight and uptight dude. And then you just put the complete mirror image of them the other dudes Like what? It's like very, very, it's so you just want to see the uptight dude get poked constantly. And it's even funnier. And the other guy, I think it's funnier to when the other guy doesn't even realize he's poking them. And look, I'm just doing, I'm just doing me, man, I didn't mean to. Yeah. What do you mean is, it's wrong to run with a goat? Yeah, just having the goat. Having the goat that was beautiful. By the way. I love that like, having a goat as part of like, walking around with a goat is amazing. Great image.

Eduardo Cisneros 50:56
Again, I think, you know, you're giving me a good, good opportunity to talk as an example of what is your subject matter? Right? We really we were really trying to keep always, in, always inner sight that this wasn't a movie about empathy, and about the ability to put yourself in somebody else's shoes. Which Renato, the main character completely lacks, right? He's very uptight. He thinks he's the smartest person in the room all the time. He thinks he's very hard working self made. And obviously, what life is going to give him is the chance to meet his half brother who is the completely opposite, or what he thinks is, is the completely opposite, right? Because Renato was born in Mexico, his father left never came back him and his mom had to fend for themselves. And he was he teased himself because he himself like a self made man, and everything that he has, like, because he busted his ass. And so he has no patience for excuses. He has no patience, we will not drive. And then lo and behold, he has what he perceives as greeneville brother, you know, this millennial kid was like, wants to be an influencer and you know, make money really quick. And he's awesome person with a lot of empathy. He's a little bleeding heart person who like loves animals and the planet and culturally sensitive like us things. So it's the right kind of person that will test his patience, and he would not be anywhere near prison like that, if it were not for the circumstances of the movie. So that was, that was a lot of fun to write.

Alex Ferrari 52:42
And when when is the movie coming up?

Eduardo Cisneros 52:45
December 4, in theaters, in whatever is safe to go to the movie theaters. And I'm, I mean, there's also drive in theaters, etc. I again, this is a movie came out of watching all those movies that we talked about all the films from the 90s. And a lot of it is a collective experience, right? Like a movie that's a little democratic, that we can all enjoy together and share the laugh. And the laughter, the the emotion, the tears. So I'm hoping that people get to do that whenever it's prudent to do so. Right? And, and that they find a way to enjoy it in a collective experience,

Alex Ferrari 53:32
and I'm gonna ask you a few questions asked all my guests. What are three screenplays every screenwriter should read?

Eduardo Cisneros 53:43

Alex Ferrari 53:45
I mean, won't be on your gravestone. So just off the top of your head.

Eduardo Cisneros 53:51
There's a few that I love. I love 28 days. Yeah. Sandra Bullock. The movie sent me She didn't write it. This is Santa grant. I think it's the writing. If I'm not mistaken, that's a great, dynamic character that I feel in this script form. They do a great job of earning every step of her turn, without hitting you in the head with anything. By using all these tools from a and recovery, it's a great it's a very smart way to show you how this character is evolving in a way that they need to evolve. Well, it turns out Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is another one.

Alex Ferrari 54:40
I mean, Charlie Kaufman is a general statement.

Eduardo Cisneros 54:44
I feel like should I say that?

Alex Ferrari 54:47
And Groundhog's Day, obviously, we spoke about Groundhog's Day.

Eduardo Cisneros 54:50
Yeah, I'm deliberately trying to not mention movies. So I can get a little bit more room but mean Casa Blanca, probably.

Alex Ferrari 55:06
And then the comedy. I always tell people like if you want, if you want good comedy to Blazing Saddles, you can't go wrong with Blazing Saddles.

Eduardo Cisneros 55:15

Alex Ferrari 55:17
I have almost anything Mel Brooks Spaceballs, even even Robin Hood Men in Tights. Stuff that

Eduardo Cisneros 55:25
Well, I think, you know, I think the South Park movie has a

Alex Ferrari 55:29
What an amazing that what anything they do is amazing.

Eduardo Cisneros 55:33
And they they're amazing, amazing writers. And here's the other thing with comedy. It's, it's, it's so personal to that and we live in a world is becoming more and more personal because you can cater so specifically the comedy that you consume to your taste. And that because the content content exists, right before you like, well, there's one studio movie in the store. We have

Alex Ferrari 56:00
five nominees. That's it.

Eduardo Cisneros 56:02
There's five comedies this year. Yeah, exactly. You're bored TV networks, and that's whatever. Now there's like all these other avenues and all these other platforms. And you can if you're like a queer, brown, Latino, bilingual, there's something for you.

Alex Ferrari 56:18
So there's a platform for you, sir. 799 a month?

Eduardo Cisneros 56:23
Exactly. With a seven day free trial. So that's why studio comedies are suffering a bit because now comedy has become so such an individual experience. Right? But But again, and again, like if you can, at some point hit gold when you find the right comedy, and people do like being a room with other people. And when, when it's normal to do so again, but you haven't experienced again, I'd say comedy and horror, that when you do get a good one, and you're in a room with other people in screaming and or laughing out loud. That's such a great catharsis, that when you find it, and it's good and smart, and well made, I think it's gone. And there will be more.

Alex Ferrari 57:08
Yes, hopefully soon, hopefully. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Eduardo Cisneros 57:18
How to keep interviews short? Answer say I don't think I've learned that lesson.

Alex Ferrari 57:28
And we'd love you for that, sir. We'd love you for that. And, and if and what do you have anything else coming out soon? Are you working on anything else?

Eduardo Cisneros 57:37
I'm working on a short circuit. I think we're talking another hour about it.

Alex Ferrari 57:42
Are you working on Short Circuit the reboot?

Eduardo Cisneros 57:45
Yes. And I want to say this, because I read this when when the mood when the news came out. This is a movie that I loved as a kid and been offered a lot of remakes after injection included, a lot of things came my way. I've turned down many remakes because out, because it's just tough to write a remake. It really, really is. And it's not that I'm like, this great amount of dignity, which I want to think I do. But it's more like, I want to do a great job, I want to do a great job writing the script is just really tough. But when I learned that the rights were available, and a light bulb went off in my head, and I was like, Oh, I got it, I know what it is. And on top of that, because I am a brown guy and Latino man, I'm always gonna tell stories from that perspective. So it wasn't like, Oh, I'm gonna brown stuff, stamp the story. And I'm gonna like just take this old story and put it which which happens a lot. In this case, I'm very passionate. I think Jason I found a very special new take on the story and even more so to see within the context of Latin x characters, which we rarely ever get to claim anything that is fantasy or comedy. So if I can call dibs on that sense. It's really amazing. So this is where we're working. We're writing a remake?

Alex Ferrari 59:21
Well, I've spoken to John on the show, John Burnham, the original director of the original short circuit many times and John's a just a treasure and a wealth of knowledge and I've told them so many times short circuits like one of my favorite 80s movie like I when I saw when I saw that when I was I was like, fifth grade I think when I was when I saw that so it was like Johnny five Johnny Oh my god, it was amazing. So I'm looking forward to seeing your your you and Jason's new take on it. It could definitely use with an update. It didn't didn't age. It definitely a movie of its time. So I'm really curious to see what you do with it. But But thank you so much for being on the show. I I appreciate what you're doing. I can't wait to see half half brothers. And I hope everybody goes out and sees it, my friend. Thank you so much.

Eduardo Cisneros 1:00:07
Thank you.



  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
  2. AudibleGet a Free Filmmaking or Screenwriting Audiobook



Where Hollywood Comes to Talk

Oliver Stone

Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
(Platoon, Wall Street, JFK)

Edward Burns

(Brothers McMullin, She's the One)

Richard Linklater

Oscar® Nominated Writer/Director
(Boyhood, School of Rock)

Eric Roth

Oscar® Winning Screenwriter
(Forrest Gump, Dune)

Oscar® Winning Writers/Directors
(Everything, Everywhere, All At Once)

Jason Blum

(Shaun of the Dead, Baby Driver)

Oscar® Nominated Producer
(Get Out, Whiplash)

Chris Moore sml

Oscar® Nominated Producer
(Good Will Hunting, American Pie)

(Menace II Society, Book of Eli)

Marta Kauffman sml

Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
(Last Samurai, Blood Diamond)

Emmy® Winning Writer & Showrunner
(Friends, Grace and Frankie)

Free Training of The Week


want to Learn from oscar® winning & blockbuster screenwriters

By David Goyer, Nia Vadarious, Paul Haggis & Callie Khouri

Want to take your script to the next level? Learn from some the best screenwriters working in Hollywood today in this FREE 3 day video series.