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The State of Indie Film for Women Directors with Jen McGowan
Today on the show we have writer/director Jen McGowan on the show. We discuss the state of women directors in Indie FIlm, her new film Rust Creek and what it is really like to be a female director, from her perspective in today’s world.
Jen McGowan is a director based in Los Angeles. Her first feature KELLY & CAL (Juliette Lewis & Cybill Shepherd) premiered at SXSW where she won the Gamechanger Award. The film was released theatrically by IFC Films to rave reviews. McGowan got her start with award-winning short films, CONFESSIONS OF A LATE BLOOMER and TOUCH, both of which played at over a hundred festivals worldwide. TOUCH qualified for the Oscar when it won the Florida Film Festival.
McGowan studied directing in the MFA program at USC where she was honored with a scholarship from Women in Film and a grant from The Caucus Foundation. She received her BFA in Acting at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, studying under David Mamet, Bill Macy & Sam Shepard at the Atlantic Theatre. She is the creator of filmpowered.com, an international skill-sharing, networking & jobs resource for professional women in film and television.
With nearly 2,500 active members, Film Powered was named Best in LA by LA Weekly, is part of the Sundance Women’s Initiative Resource and was featured in Forbes. A Film Independent Fellow, a finalist for the Clint Eastwood Filmmakers Award, recipient of the AWD Breakout Award for Excellence in Directing and one of Vulture’s Women Directors Hollywood Should Be Hiring, she was named one of 50 Women Who Will Change the World in Media & Entertainment by the Take the Lead Foundation.
The tv series she created, Angelica, about the last remaining abortion clinic in a small Midwest town was one of twelve series selected from 4,000 submissions and the only American project for the MIPTV In Development program at Cannes 2018. McGowan’s second feature film, the survival thriller, RUST CREEK, is being released in theaters January 2019 by IFC Midnight.
Enjoy my eye-opening conversation about the state of women directors in indie film with Jen McGowan.
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- Jen McGowan – Official Site
- Jen McGowan – IMDB
- Rust Creek
- Kelly & Cal
- Filmaka – $30,000 Web Series Competition (END FEB 4th)
- Shooting for the Mob – Amazon Link
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Netflix for Filmmakers and Screenwriters)
- Soundstripe.com – Find the Perfect Song for Your Project (DISCOUNT CODE: IFH – 10% discount off of a membership)
- BlackBox – Make Passive Income From Your Footage
- Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: How to Turn Your Indie Film into a Moneymaking Business
- Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: FREE AUDIOBOOK
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Streaming Real-World Film Education)
- Alex Ferrari’s Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story)
REAL-WORLD STREAMING FILM EDUCATION
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Streaming Real-World Film Education)
- Hollywood Film School: Filmmaking & TV Directing Masterclass
- Filmmaker in a Box – Learn How to Make an Indie Film – 18 Hours+ of Lessons
- Storytelling Blueprint: Hero’s Two Journeys
- The Dialogue Series: 38 hours of Lessons from Top Hollywood Screenwriters
- Filmtrepreneur® Podcast
- Bulletproof Screenwriting® Podcast
- Six Secrets to getting into Film Festivals for FREE!
- FreeFilmBook.com (Download Your FREE Filmmaking Audio Book)
Alex Ferrari 1:49
Now guys, today on the show, we have Jen Mcgowan, and she is a writer director. And she's a pretty remarkable filmmaker in general. But I wanted to have Jen on to talk about her latest film, Russ Creek, which is being released by IFC Films, but also wanted to talk about her other amazing films that she's done her Oscar qualifying film, touch, as well as Kelly and cow, which starred Oscar nominee, Juliette Lewis, and a bunch of other things that she's done. But in this episode, though, I wanted to kind of get into what it's like to be a director in independent film, and also be a female director, or minority director. And I asked her about this and she was so game and so forthcoming about talking about her experience, about being a female director, and I've had many female directors on before on the show. But I've never asked this question is generally a question you don't ask. But I really feel it's important to get this information out there for not only female directors listening to the show, but also male directors as well, to kind of see what it's like from her point of view. And again, I want to thank Jen so much for being so honest and raw, about her experience. And just the state of independent film. She's doing a lot of great stuff for independent filmmakers, mentoring film makers coming up, and creating opportunities for other filmmakers, through companies that she's working with and has created herself in general, Jen's a pretty awesome person. And I really am so blessed that she came on the show. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Jen Mcgowan. I like to welcome the show Jen Mcgowan and thank you so much for coming on the show, Jen.
Jen Mcgowan 3:36
No, thank you for having me.
Alex Ferrari 3:38
Appreciate that. Now, I've had many female directors on before, but we are going to get into some deep stuff today.
Jen Mcgowan 3:45
Oh, shit, okay. Okay.
Alex Ferrari 3:47
So it's gonna be, it's gonna be fun. It's gonna be hopefully educational, to everybody listening, but
Jen Mcgowan 3:54
Like I sat in an hour long therapy session because I was gonna
Alex Ferrari 3:57
I think it's gonna be if you were a tree, what kind of tree would be?
Jen Mcgowan 4:02
Alright, let's do it!
Alex Ferrari 4:03
Alright, so first of all, how did you get into the business?
Jen Mcgowan 4:06
Well, so my mom's a nurse. My dad worked for the government. I grew up in Northern Virginia outside of Washington, DC.
Alex Ferrari 4:13
So Hollywood all the way got it.
Jen Mcgowan 4:14
Yeah. And I kind of had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. And my parents were like, as long as you can feed yourself and pay your bills. Awesome. Um, luckily, in high school, I took some acting classes, and I was good. And the instructor, you know, she really encouraged me and I was like, Oh, I guess I'll do this. So I applied to NYU. I applied to a bunch of schools. I got into NYU. And I went and I studied acting at the Atlantic Theatre Company through NYU. Tisch schoolyards Sure. Um, I was there from 1994 to 97. And, you know, when I got out I needed to earn a living. So I that that small, you know,
Alex Ferrari 5:05
What are artists?
Jen Mcgowan 5:06
People don't leave out of their biography.
Alex Ferrari 5:08
We're just artists. Just rich and famous, they just be the famous but the rich part they forget about.
Jen Mcgowan 5:18
Yeah. So I got a job at a commercial production company as a receptionist, and you know, the day job, I don't care what it was. And that was very fortunate, because it exposed me to some type of filmmaking. So, you know, that was, let's see, I graduated NYU, I was 20. So it was 20, where it first even occurred to me that that was something I'd be interested in. And, again, I was, you know, that was my day job. I was making money, shitty money, but money and, you know, forging things away. And while I was auditioning as an actor, and I was getting little shitty roles that were super lame, and I was like, Oh, this sucks. This sucks.
Alex Ferrari 6:02
A lot of students a lot of student projects?
Jen Mcgowan 6:05
Student projects of of of of of of Broadway, you know, like, just
Alex Ferrari 6:09
So like Virginia Off Broadway. Like you weren't in Virginia?
Jen Mcgowan 6:12
Alex Ferrari 6:14
Idaho of broadway got it.
Jen Mcgowan 6:16
Um, but also the roles were like super late, you know, I was like this sweet little, or I looked like a sweet little 20 you know, 100 pound 20 year old fair complexion, red hair. I got all these nice girl rolls these Girl Next Door roles. And I was like, Oh, this is awful. Of course, looking back now honestly, that's what a lot of women's roles amount to is these nice girl wives supporting. I didn't know that. At the time. I just thought Fuck this. This sucks. Right? Um, so I was like, I'm gonna make something on my own. You know, I thought I saw people making stuff I can probably figure that out. So I made my first short film when I was 2021. You know, it was on 16 millimeter film. We read, you know, I got a vision to donate a camera. I got Kodak to give me film and, you know, took over an apartment or two for a weekend. And the film was horrible. But I loved it. I was like that. For me. That was my Goldilocks moment. I I loved every moment from conception to screening. Um, and I was like, This is what I'm doing. I went to film school.
Alex Ferrari 7:37
So then you did a handful of shorts? And how do you go from doing a handful of shorts to directing an Academy Award nominee? Shit, when you put it like that, it sounds really good. Because you literally were like, I did a couple short films. It was really not that good. But then your first feature is that hold on a minute. Okay. Not that good. Okay, the first one. That's what I meant. But that's what you stopped. I don't know, I don't know what else is left. I don't know if you just went straight from a bachelor film to directing. So you need to continue going.
Jen Mcgowan 8:09
I applied to film school, I got into USC, I'm steady directing through an MFA program there. And something that I was really fortunate. Again, I've had a look, I'm a really fucking hard worker. But I'm also really lucky. And I say that, especially you know, as, as your audience is curious about learning about the industry. As you go through your career, you will meet people who are more talented than you who are more skilled than you who have better connections in you. Um, they might not be the ones that end up rising to the top, it doesn't mean that you're better than them. It just means that it didn't happen. So that's why I you know, yes, I'm really hard working, and I hustle. And I think I'm pretty good at what I do, too. But I'm also really lucky. So to that, you know, I got into film school, I went to film school. Um, I, you know, because I was paying with student loans, I tried to stay for as short as I possibly could. I knew I only wanted to direct so I didn't take any classes that weren't directing. I took all the extra classes that let me make stuff. And that was the total strategy. I got to the end of my thesis project. And I was like, Okay, I've got a full semester of critical studies classes to take. If my thesis film does well, I'm add here, and if it doesn't, I'll stay take that semester, and I'll make something else hopefully better. And so my thesis film, what got into Tribeca, and I was like, I'm out. I had a whole semester of courses laughed that I was like, No way dude, that's like 30 grand. Are you crazy? Yeah. So that was my first short film, you know, proper short film. Sure. Then I did another film called touch, which was really the thing that opened all the doors. For me. That film is a very simple, simple film, it's two women standing on a train platform. You can find it online, I can give you the link. It did incredibly well, it went to over 100 film festivals around the world, won most of them. And that one of the wins was the Florida Film Festival, which then qualifies you for the Oscar, right? Which I did not get
Alex Ferrari 10:38
Jen Mcgowan 10:39
Did not even get into the last time I was so bummed. But I did get the get the attention of some producers who, at the time, I was pushing a project forward, which was the script called Kalyan cow. Um, and, you know, my background was my family, I don't really have any contacts, except for whoever I made while I was working. And I was like, I'm gonna, I'm gonna get this film made, I'm going to find the money for this film. And I just basically knocked on every door that was appropriate. I mean, that's really important when we
Alex Ferrari 11:17
Jen Mcgowan 11:19
Okay, here's, here's, here's my general rule of thumb. I do not ask for something from a stranger or any cold call type of situation that is not going to benefit them. Um, it's just that that's, that's the language of this business. I will ask a friend, I will ask a family member. But when you're getting into business relationships, it has to be Win win. So that means asking the appropriate person. So for example, when I was trying to get Kelly and Kalman I spoke to a friend of the family, a friend of the family, a friend of mine, and my husband's same age, not like, you know, whatever. And he's a manager. And he does, he oversees a lot of big studio, superhero movies. And I was asking him as his advice, and he was like, I have no idea how these little movies get made. None.
Alex Ferrari 12:21
I've spoken to many of these big studio guys. Did. They like you say I made a movie for five grand? They're like, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. What? That's that's not even our coffee money this week.
Jen Mcgowan 12:31
He had no idea. He was like, Jen, I couldn't I would be the one. I have no idea. Right? Once you do it, let me know. I'd like to know. I'm like, okay. So you know, you don't ask Spielberg to produce your short film. I mean, maybe you do if you know. And but that's, that's the thing. Do you know the percent? Sure. So in any case, I was I was trying to I was getting to the end of my list of producers. And, and you know, when somebody would say no, here's the other thing. I knew the script was really good. I knew the script was really good. I knew my work was really good. Because after I did touch, so I wasn't asking for a favor. I was presenting a package that was valuable. Doesn't mean it was a complete package. You know, we needed financing. We needed all these things. But what was there was valuable. And that's something I think is really cool about the film industry is we all need one another. So make that work for you. People, people look at that me aid of meeting one another and they see it as a negative. It's like no, somebody needs you to great. Whatever level you're at, whether you're making your first shitty short film, or you're making a multi 100 million dollar feature, there is somebody at every level that needs you. Your task is to find that person, people. So anyway, so while I was looking, this is where the luck came in. These two producers, Mandy tiger, and a D is running New York, I'm in LA. They called me out of the blue. And they were like, Hi, you know, where are spring pictures? And, um, a friend of ours saw your work on the festival circuit, we're looking for up and coming. female directors would love to know if you have anything you want to make.
Alex Ferrari 14:22
That doesn't generally doesn't happen.Who is it? Who is this? Who is this?
Jen Mcgowan 14:31
Ah, okay. But I will say like, be a woman in this industry. And this is a challenging thing to say. But you have to be open to paths that are not traditional, because we're blocked out of the traditional paths. So you know, so I said yes, and I was like, actually, I do know I'm not an idiot either. I looked them up. You know, I did your due diligence. I did my due diligence. And I was like, Look, I have this film I'm trying to get made. I think it's great. Maybe it'll take a read. They read it. Two weeks later, I was in New York, we were meeting. And I think a month or two later, we were shooting. That's insane. That never happens. It's the thing. It never happens. And now I'm frustrated with the world that that doesn't happen on a regular basis.
Alex Ferrari 15:24
That's like I was Oh, never. First feature. Never.
Jen Mcgowan 15:29
Yeah, it's my first feature is $1.1 million. We premiered at South by, and we won there.
Alex Ferrari 15:35
And you also starred a little actress by the name of Juliette Lewis.
Jen Mcgowan 15:40
Here's the thing. Yes, she gets so much props for starring in this film, not because and again, this goes back to how you approach people that you don't know not because she was helping me, you know, you don't go to a store and say, I think it'd be great in this movie. Of course, there'll be great in this movie. That's why they're fuckin a listers, right? They know that right? Um, but we have something that she was looking for too. And, and she responded intensely to the role. And when she and I met, we hit it off. And she trusted that I would not make her look like an idiot.
Alex Ferrari 16:16
And that takes it but that also takes an actor who's extremely comfortable in their own skin.
Jen Mcgowan 16:21
Not only that, it takes a particular type of person. And, you know, the thing that I absolutely adore and admire about her is she does want the book she wants. And not a lot of people do that. And sometimes even fewer women do that. She does but and then when she does it, she commits when she says Yes, she's 100% in, I have so much respect for that. I just I adore her.
Alex Ferrari 16:47
Now, let me ask you a question. How was it? Because I always like anytime I talk to directors who are directing a caliber of, of Juliet's of Juliet's statue. Yeah. How do you direct an Oscar nominee? You know, like, how do you walk in the door? And like, because obviously, they can act? So again, a lot of a lot of people listening, a lot of filmmakers Listen, like, you know, I had and I'll tell you the answer, I had a director on that director john malkovich in a film. And I asked them the same question. He had a great answer. I want to hear yours first. How do you direct like, you know, how do you like give notes? How does it worked for you how it did?
Jen Mcgowan 17:25
Well, here's the thing. She Yes, she's an amazing actor. And by the way, that's part of directing is making the right casting decision. So once you make that decision, calm down, dude. Like, most of the job is done. However, it's her character, but it's my movie. Right? And directors and, again, going back to directors and actors need one another. They need to know that I'm keeping them in the same movie that we agreed to from the beginning. It's your job to? Yeah, absolutely. And I need her to do that. And she needs me to make sure that I'm doing that. So it's not um, it doesn't rank or it doesn't matter. It all my notes are about, are we making the film we said we're making,
Alex Ferrari 18:14
Right. And that's an issue. That's, that's a distinction with with the first time filmmakers that I found that, and myself included is when you when you're working with actors, like you don't go to Juliette Lewis and like, give her result directing, you know, that's not what you do to her, you know, you don't like like, you don't try to do something like that. You just kind of guide her into the direction. And I think in many ways, at least from my experience working with this actors, you put them in a you put them there's, I always say you have this playground, here are the barriers, it's my job to keep you in those barriers. Well, however you want to get through, as long as we're there. We're good. Would you agree with that?
Jen Mcgowan 18:50
I think so. But I think you also have to be open to them coming up with something better? Absolutely. And look, when I, when I work with any actor, it's not it doesn't matter who you first talk about, what is the film that we're making? What are the characters, you know, you have those discussions, what are we doing, you're just like in a movie, you're setting the rules. And then you execute that. So then when I'm on set, and I am watching a performance. So you know, I think about this a lot. I think the number one one of the number one things a director does is is don't let anyone lie. Down don't don't allow a bullshit to go without speaking up. Don't allow a prop to come on your set. That doesn't make sense with the time period or the character or those are lies. And, and that adds up to meaning over the course of your film, and that's what you're there to do to protect the truth of the film, which interestingly is made up by lots of things that have come Completely imaginary and fake. Right?
Alex Ferrari 20:02
So you're really lying the whole time. But you know what? But you're lying in service of a truth, I owe it to Shay to Shay. And by the way that the add to what the other directors said, yeah. john malkovich. He walked up to john on the first day and said, john, you obviously can, you can obviously act your your, your fairly good actor, john, how would you like me to direct you? Which I thought, well, I found out and he's like, that is a wonderful, thank you for asking. And, and from that moment on,
Jen Mcgowan 20:36
And I believe I asked that I Well, the other reason I asked actors up to I don't say, how would you like to direct me? How would you like me to direct you? I say, How do you like to work? Because every actor is different. And every actor needs different things. And And the answer to that question may be more useful than you could have ever imagined. Oh, yeah. Basic from like, I give my best takes on take too, or I need 10 takes to warm up. Or I don't like people to look me in the eye when I'm on set, whatever. But they will, they will tell you what they need. And that's what you're saying. You're saying? How can I support you and doing the best job that you can do?
Alex Ferrari 21:13
And that if you don't ask that question, that's where all the headaches, all the drama, all the things happen. And then you've got a Christian Bale situation. on set. Did you Didn't you hear him when he blew up at the DP? Tell you what I agree with people walking after island? No, I agree with you. I know. But I agree with you. 100% was completely the DPS fault. But the point is that and I'm sure it wasn't just that one moment, either, I'm sure that was building and building and building. And
Jen Mcgowan 21:44
I wasn't there. I wasn't there. I just thought, who knows? He could have been building about something else. And it's this guy that gets it taken out. Who knows? Who knows
Alex Ferrari 21:52
What the situation? But no, but that's when drama happens on set. And if you don't like ask like that you like how about if you're that kind of director The only likes to take two takes but they get warmed up at 10? That's probably a good piece of information.
Jen Mcgowan 22:03
Problem. You will, you should but you would like to know that in advance. And you know, I think that's the thing is like, treat everybody on your side as a professional. Yes. If you hired correctly, you are working with people who are very skilled and are additive. That's why they're there.
Alex Ferrari 22:22
Absolutely. Now, let me ask you a question. What is the major challenges facing indie filmmakers in today's film industry? In your opinion?
Jen Mcgowan 22:30
So it's such a weird question. I mean, like, we have to say like, okay, you're asking that question on January 3 2019. Because I feel like every day the industry is changing. Yeah. You know, with Netflix, I got to say, honestly, it's mostly Netflix.
Alex Ferrari 22:45
They are. They're a beast.
Jen Mcgowan 22:49
They're a beast. And there's good things and bad things about that. It means more variety of filmmakers are getting to make films.
Alex Ferrari 22:56
Um, budgets are going down, though budgets are going down monies money is becoming thinner at a certain level.
Jen Mcgowan 23:05
Well, and you know, is it is? I don't know like, what is the process? I I talked about this the other day on April Wolf's podcast, which blade sisters, we were discussing a movie I love called under the skin? And is that the one? Yeah. With Scarlet. Yeah, it's amazing. But I really believe that process dictates product. And what we're seeing right now is this. It's almost like the old school studio system where they're just cranking them out. So yeah, that's good. In some ways. I mean, I would have liked to I would love to make a movie a year. Um, the question is, are we seeing the same filmmakers? Are they able to build and grow and make I don't know, it's too early. If you're working outside of that system, it's, look, it's easier to get money now than it was a little bit ago, you know, maybe maybe six years ago. But here's something new filmmakers don't I think, understand. The majority of money that's in the indie film system is coming from the same few people. Everybody's going after the same money. So unless you're raising it in a really, you know, low budge sort of way, which is to people you know, you're competing as well,
Alex Ferrari 24:31
With actors with projects that have bigger actors attached to have an easier way of recouping their money, genre movies, all sorts of different things.
Jen Mcgowan 24:40
And every year, there's a different trend, you know, so it's like, right now the trend is actresses stepping up to DirectX Awesome, cool. sucks for me. You know,
Alex Ferrari 24:52
You're an actress. You can direct but
Jen Mcgowan 24:54
Not a real one. Not like no, no Look, it's all about value. It's all about mitigating risk. And if you have a recognizable name, topping your film, that's, that's a risk mitigation. So that's a good thing for investors,
Alex Ferrari 25:11
Right? And in between that and genre and budget, like if you make a, you know, $100,000 horror movie with at least one or two names on it, you're gonna have a good chance of recouping your money and also making a profit. I gotta say, though, I think that only applies to genre movies, right genre.
Jen Mcgowan 25:29
Yeah. I used to think, you know, make your movie for as little as you can make it. I'm not so sure. I think that might be wrong advice, because here's the thing, if you can get somebody to invest $5 million into a movie. They're gonna make it successful.
Alex Ferrari 25:51
They have to
Jen Mcgowan 25:53
Fucking need that money back. Yeah, ritual compart with million bucks. So when the going gets tough, and your film comes out, all the sudden, okay, you know, let's
Alex Ferrari 26:06
Read off. So it's a read off. Yeah.
Jen Mcgowan 26:08
So I i think that that make your money. Make your film for as little as possible. I'm not so sure. I always agree with that.
Alex Ferrari 26:16
It all depends. It all depends on what you're trying to do and what kind of story you're trying to tell and all that kind of good stuff as well. Like, you know, I've made movies that are under $10,000. And I've worked on shows that are no, I know, and I can tell you all about it. Oh, yeah, I'll tell you all about it after after we get
Jen Mcgowan 26:32
You know, the other thing is I because I came from commercial production. Yeah, like cuz that's what I was doing when I was making my money. I always thought a film set was you know, 60 people. That's how you make a movie.
Alex Ferrari 26:43
That's what it isn't commercials. And I show up to my little indie film set within 10 15 20 people. 25-30 people, I was like, Oh, my God, you're living? Are we? Are we a real movie set? So you can't even comprehend shooting a movie with like three people? I mean, it doesn't I know. No, it doesn't. But again, it's all I always tell people this. Everyone has different brush strokes. Everyone. Everyone's like, there's some people who love to work with no script and love to do complete improv. And other I know, I know free except some people freaks out, you know, some actors, it freaks out. Some people like making, you know, five movies that cost $10,000 each, and then they can double that money. And all of a sudden they made 50 grand for the year and they're happy. That's a doable business model, not for everybody worked for Joe Swanberg. I mean, that's what Joe Swanberg did back in the day, before he got his Netflix world. You know, it all depends on like,
Jen Mcgowan 27:42
I could be totally wrong. We have to have this conversation again in another 10 years. And I'll be like working at Starbucks. And you'll be like, See, I told you, you should make a $10,000 movie.
Alex Ferrari 27:52
Like if you look at like someone like you know, Michael Bay or Zack Schneider, they can't even wake up for less than $100 million. Like it's forward to the day that that's associated that comments is associated with my name. Exactly right. I don't even get up for less than 100. I can't. How does someone function that way? As an artist, I don't understand. Art. That's another thing. I mean, this is the thing. When you're taking money. You have to earn that back. You have to it's it's such a fine line between art and commerce. And there is I always I stole this from a friend of mine named Susan Lyons who says the word show business is out. Right? But the word business has twice as many letters as the word show. It's funny, and I'm like, that's a great, great lie, because it's true. Because without that business, that ain't no show.
Jen Mcgowan 28:41
Well, look, here's the thing if you want to make, you know, I don't know what and by the way, that thing that I'm being disparaging about my fucking genius. Yeah. But you don't get to have $20 million to make it. That's all.
Alex Ferrari 28:54
That's exactly. And I always tell people, I'm like, Look, if you want to go do art, you can't make art with $10 million like that. That doesn't. Even Martin Scorsese takes it took him years to get the money for silence. I mean, literally, a decade
Jen Mcgowan 29:08
Something I think about a lot that I think this is kind of speaking to is a lot of people start in the industry and say I want to be a director or I want to be a producer, I'm a writer. You think way more specific than that. What kind of director Do you want to be there's a big difference between you know, Michael Bay and Julian Schnabel in fright there is those are different directors. Those are different careers. Oh there are different perspectives everything Do you want to be television director
Alex Ferrari 29:41
That's a whole other world
Jen Mcgowan 29:42
A whole other world oh you me television director okay you doing scripting you doing non scripted even single can do multi
Alex Ferrari 29:48
Sitcom? The drama it's it's absolutely it's it'd be very specific routes and taught you totally different skill sets. Absolutely. Absolutely without question. It's It's interesting. It's interesting to see you're right like Michael Bay and, and, and Joe Swanberg, you know, or my good friend, Mark duplass. You know, it's like a woody, exact, completely different world. Now I want to ask you something that I have not asked a female director before. And I think this is where I want to kind of get into it a little bit with with this because I feel that you're going to give some insanely good answers, no pressure. You know, we all hear about diversity, we all hear about giving females, you know, better opportunity female directors, minorities more, because it actually opens up the the palette of cinema, it opens up the palette of television and of stories that are being put out there. I do feel that that has changed dramatically in the last two or three years. And it's very, very recently, and it is starting. Right, we'll see how long it sticks. But for right now, like it is starting to move in that direction, at least here in America. What are some of the challenges that females directors have to deal with in this business? That a male director like myself, I am a minority director, I'm Cuban, and I've had to deal with other things. But as a female director, how does that? What are the things that we as outside of being a female director, have no idea that you guys deal with?
Jen Mcgowan 31:23
So it's a tricky question to answer, because I can only speak really, from my experience. Fair enough. Um, and, for example, you know, Women in Film groups, so a lot of people talk about their experiences, and sometimes I'm like, Oh, I don't have that particular problem, I have this particular problem. And, and that's kind of the challenge of talking about any group, as a group is made up of all these individuals. Sure, no. So what I can say. So there's like systemic issues, individual issues, and sometimes those overlap, sometimes systemic issues affect you personally. And sometimes the way you're you are personally contributes to, excuse me, systemic issues. Um, for me, you know, I'm think people expect me to be a little warmer than I am, when I'm working. It's like, I have a job to do I need to do my work. Um, you know, I think, and now, that comes from my bad crown, from how I learned to make moves to make movies, I learned to make film on massive commercial shoots, right? The director would speak to their heads of departments, and that's kind of it. It's not a rudeness. There's a lot of fucking people, but you know, it's
Alex Ferrari 32:47
Being professional, you have a lot of budget.
Jen Mcgowan 32:50
In that environment. That's what I'm used to. So, you know, in an indie film world, my expectation doesn't match the world. My expectation is, I tell you what I want it appears anything in the world. Sometimes there's follow up questions, or sometimes
Alex Ferrari 33:08
It just doesn't show up, or wait a minute, didn't ask for that two hours ago. Oh,
Jen Mcgowan 33:14
The words come out of my mouth, and then not appear? I don't understand. You know, um, but that that, again, that has to do with me specifically, and my background specifically. I hear some women talk about, you know, disrespect from the crew. I don't have that. However, that's because I work in indie film, and I hire my crew, right?
Alex Ferrari 33:38
It's not like you walk on a set. It's not like you just walked on the TV set or something like that.
Jen Mcgowan 33:42
That's right. And that's a totally different dynamic. And I have a lot of compassion for women who work in that environment. Um, so, you know, the biggest problem is that we women are perceived as a risk of some sort that needs to be mitigated against.
Alex Ferrari 34:02
It's silly, it is.
Jen Mcgowan 34:05
So that that is the the the undercurrent that we work in.
Alex Ferrari 34:10
Interesting. Yeah, cuz I mean, we just lost one of the one of the most successful female directors, Penny Penny Marshall, which she made two of my favorite films of all time, well, actually, I mean, she did awakenings as well, I love the awakenings but League of Their Own. I still think it's one of the best. It's I still think it's one of the best baseball movies ever made. Period. Movie a such an amazing movie, and I challenge anyone to watch it and not cry a little bit at the end.
Jen Mcgowan 34:36
Like okay, what women filmmakers are making movies like that now, I mean, now to be fair, we don't really make movies like that.
Alex Ferrari 34:43
Now, what period like a movie like that would not be made in today's studio system. It just wouldn't. It'd be very difficult to and Penny did have a little bit of juice because she's just got off big, which was the biggest you know, she was the first female director to make $100 million which was amazing. And then she got in A League of Their Own right afterwards. So she had a little juice coming in behind her. And from what I've studied about her, Gary didn't help a whole lot her big producer, brother. He's like, he said it, she said it in an interview. She's like, Look, Gary came up to me, he's like, I'm not gonna risk my career for you. So straight up, like he said that straight.
Jen Mcgowan 35:25
Funny about that, yeah, my husband does television, he does nonfiction television, he has his own production company, I cannot tell you how many things I come up with and pitch to him. And there's this one show, I've pitched to him. And he's like, I don't get it. I was like, that's fine. I just need to be clear that you're passing? Because I'm going to take this to one of your competitors and get it made. Are you going to be okay with that? He's, oh, I need a reason. Again.
Alex Ferrari 35:54
Whatever, that he's like, I'm not going to risk my career for you. So you got to come in and knock it out yourself. It was it was extremely interesting. Not but do you think the Do you think the industry is giving more opportunities now to not only to women but also to minorities? in general?
Jen Mcgowan 36:12
Um, in certain areas, you know, I think it's really wonderful that there's actual research being done on this now. Because in the past, you know, an interviewer would ask somebody like me this and we'd say, yeah, I think it's getting better. Okay, that's based on my very subjective, singular experience. The fact of the matter is, we can look at numbers, because of the research being done at USC Annenberg by Stacy Smith and Martha lousing it at San Diego and see that in in big budget feature films, so it's not chasing
Alex Ferrari 36:46
No, no, because it's because it because of the risk mitigation that you're talking about. You know, even someone like Kathryn Bigelow, who, you know, could rock it, like the best. You know, James Cameron said, at best, he's like, she kicks ass as an action director more than most boys. You know, it's true. And she had
Jen Mcgowan 37:07
A few women that get to do stuff like that. Why do they get to do it? Because they're, you know, they're Lexi Alexander. They're a fucking Olympic. Whatever, with me time, these schlubby fucking guys. Exactly. into the gym in a year. And they're directing. fuckin, you know, I don't know, action, kung fu whatever. Right? We have to be an expert. In the top, as well, we can't just be directly think some of this is because people do not even in our business know what a director does? Right. They think it's magic. It's not magic.
Alex Ferrari 37:44
It's, it's a skill. It's experience. Yeah. But they don't believe that. They think it's magic. You know, and I think one of the biggest pieces of advice I ever got is like casting is is 90% of your directing job, as well as casting your crew, hiring good people around you who know who are much more skilled in those arenas, than you are, you know, arguably the only two directors that I know of that even people who've worked with them said that you know what, these guys are probably better at what we do than we even are is Kubrick. And maybe Soderbergh. Soderbergh two, that's the third one and Cameron. You know, and because these guys are just, they're freaks of nature. They're not, they're just outliers. But it's very true and and
Jen Mcgowan 38:35
yeah, but that's a good point. Because we like to elevate the What does that word in math it's like the odd the odd thing the fluke. Yeah, like to elevate fluke and and and then make decisions based on
Alex Ferrari 38:51
that it's crazy. So though so this brings me to another topic, which I always love to talk about the lottery ticket mentality. So the lottery ticket mentality is who do they show? With every lottery drawing the winner? They don't show the billions of people who lost so the the mentality of the El Mariachi story Robert Rodriguez, Tarantino's mythical story, Kevin Smith, Spike Lee, we torture stories we like those Richard Richard Linklater, those guys would like Oh, they made the little short film and they did this or or paranormal activity that was made for 30,000. And I love anytime I see a prospectus or an investor packet every single time not repeatable. It's like, look black Blair Witch man, I'm like Blair Witch was 20 years ago. Why is this on the perspective? And then they're like, well, easy writer was like, easy writer. Are you kidding me? Because I was an independent movie back in
Jen Mcgowan 39:48
the day. Like, you have to know I really think you have to know the business. I like the business. I enjoy the business. Yeah, I like the people that populate the business. I think that contributes to some of my luck, frankly, um, you know, if you have trouble if you don't like people and you don't like the industry,
Alex Ferrari 40:12
but still want to be rich and famous, you know,
Jen Mcgowan 40:15
I'm sorry, why do I give you money when you know,
Alex Ferrari 40:20
I think it's so important. If any filmmaker listening to this right now really needs to understand that you got to understand the business. The business is not sexy. It is not the sexy part lenses are sexy. Cameras are sexy. Being on set with big stars is sexy. But when it's pouring out, and you're on your 14th hour, and you're over budget, you're going into ot that day. And if you don't understand what's going on, and then your actors giving you problems, and the DP is giving you like, I need another three hours because I need to set this shot up. I'm like, dude, just shoot the damn shot. You know, this is not Oscar winning right now, guys, let's just move it along.
Jen Mcgowan 40:57
Okay. Ah, so this is one of the things that drives me bananas, whenever they talk about to get back to Women in Film, whenever they talk about Women in Film. They're like, they're not good enough. Okay, but what bullshit that's kind of common is that, what doesn't matter? What kind of social broad comment? The point is, you know, our industry is made of like, what? 1% Oscar winning films? Right, I'm sorry, how many Oscar winning films did you make this this year? Mr. employee or employer? You? I'm fine. I'm good enough for what you're making. Right?
Alex Ferrari 41:34
They always they always set you up like, Well, you know, Spielberg or Fincher or you know, Soderbergh did this. And just like, why are you there are lots of other directors making lots of other stuff? Right and, and doing what I do now I've met a lot of them, I spoken to a lot of them, I interviewed a lot of them. And the more you realize, like, again, it's that fluke mentality, they just put, it's just easier. It's easier to it because you can wrap your head around, Culebra
Jen Mcgowan 42:02
Makes you feel good. I mean, look, this is why we tell stories to begin to tell stories either validate our own experience, or, you know, make us feel a certain way inspired, happy, sad, whatever. But But that's also why I think, who makes stories is very important. Because when we're telling when we're telling ourselves stories, which are which are essential, you know, storytelling has been from the dawn of man, we were telling ourselves stories. So clearly, it's important. I'm not a sociologist, I don't know why, but it's important. So if your story is about, you know, what does that phrase about a blonde two blind men grab an elephant one grabs the topic and one, you know, it's like, Guys, if we keep telling the same stories from the same perspectives, we are not, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and to our audiences, because we're not telling the full picture.
Alex Ferrari 43:02
Because that's not a reflection of the world we live in.
Jen Mcgowan 43:04
It's a reflection of the world we live in. And you know, it doesn't. If stories are helping us figure out who we are, who we were and who we're going to be when we leave out entire groups of the population. Is it any wonder that we have difficult relationships with those groups?
Alex Ferrari 43:25
Or even worse villainizing them? Totally. You know, I mean, you can't you can't see a an action movie without a foreign without a foreign villain. With an English accent, obviously, all all bad guys are English. Obviously. If you watch if you watch Russians now Russians are coming back Russians are coming back, coming back, but for the longest time and even still today, like it's always the British accent don't know what is about a British accent that they thought was like, that's obviously a villain to American audiences. It's I so I have a theory about the American British relationship and I in cinema, or in general,
Jen Mcgowan 44:08
General Oh, wow. Okay. It I think contributes to that. They are the only population or country on the planet
Alex Ferrari 44:18
Before you before you before you continue. I have a big English audience, just throwing it out there. They'll appreciate that. Okay, good. That Americans are deferential to Okay.
Jen Mcgowan 44:33
What other what other groups whatever would we allow to judge all of our baking shows, judge all of our all of our dancing shows, come and tell our president that it's okay to invade another country. We've given them such respect. I think it's because we come from them.
Alex Ferrari 44:49
I think there's there's Yeah, I guess that's a very good theory. It's a good theory.
Jen Mcgowan 44:54
It's one other country on the planet. Could you imagine America Ken's going. Yes, yes, Spain, so Mexico,
Alex Ferrari 45:05
Or Spain or France. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show where they are British and the only ones look up to well, and that's why we we make them villains in every single scene we got to get back, we got to get back a little bit. Now I want to also talk about mentorship. And I think it's something so important. And I know a lot of young filmmakers don't understand this, because it's not the same as it used to be with the apprentice, and the master kind of relationship, which was so wonderful. That was one of the wonderful parts of the old studio system, and old Hollywood, because you would come in work under a master in that field and apprentice under them to learn a craft. And nowadays, there is not not much of that left. And, and also this generation coming up and even just first time filmmakers or younger filmmakers, they don't understand the value of talking to somebody who's walked that path. And it has the has the wounds as the scars.
Jen Mcgowan 46:17
So understands the industry, right? And that's what we said, like, you can be a brilliant filmmaker. But if you cannot communicate your ideas to your team, you don't execute. Yeah, forget it. If you don't understand why the producer is asking you to put something in if it really doesn't hurt the film, put it in, you know, go politics?
Alex Ferrari 46:38
No, really it is it is.
Jen Mcgowan 46:41
And so, you know, I've talked to two people in the last six months at once an actress once a dp. And they they said similar things to what you're saying right now the actor said, I don't understand in the last couple of years, the DPS are running the sets. What is going on? And I was talking to my friend who's a dp and this person said, You know, I just did the show and like, this director didn't even know how to set blocking marks, like didn't know what a blocking rehearsal was. Yeah. So I don't know. I don't know if it's a lack of respect of going back to the idea of this is magic that you're talented. So therefore you're a director. The lack of this being a professional skill. I think, not having an apprenticeship contributes to that. I think this might be the bad side of the coin of everybody having a camera in their hands. Oh. There's lots of great things about it. But this might be one of the great things about it.
Alex Ferrari 47:44
No, no without question. And you also do you're part of a program that does mentorship for female directors. Correct?
Jen Mcgowan 47:51
Are you talking about we for sure, yes. So we've Rishi is a program that I am a mentee in.
Alex Ferrari 47:57
Jen Mcgowan 47:58
I'm I'm very wonderful director Mary Lou Li is basically vouching for me. Okay, the program is to get women directors who have not directed episodic television, their first job directing episodic that's and the way they do it is they choose eight or nine directors, and each of those directors has a bigger director vouching for them. Basically, she's acting as my insurance. I'm eternally grateful. Because the first class of directors that went through this program, the first nine, who had never directed a single episode of television, I think in two years, I've directed combined 65 episodes.
Alex Ferrari 48:39
Oh, that's amazing, huge.
Jen Mcgowan 48:41
That's a huge for culture. It's huge for those women's pocketbooks, which means their families, it's huge. And it's one of these programs that
Alex Ferrari 48:51
Doesn't get a ton of press, but it's extremely effective. So I'm very grateful to be a part of it. That's, that's amazing. And episodic TV is, is very, very lucrative, if you get into it. But it's also it's, it's kind of like a closed off club. It's such a closed off club, because it's a lot of people that don't under the industry is like a lot of people like when we go into direct tv, it's like you're walking into a really well oiled machine normally, and you're in there and you're just kind of gets kind of slid a slide in, and then you just do your thing. It's not like you're gonna create these insane new shots, if it doesn't go with the style of the show. That's right, it's out. So it's fairly a little bit. I'm not gonna say the word easier than directing a feature film. It's different.
Jen Mcgowan 49:37
It's different. It's different. My understanding is you do not work consistently until you have done three episodes, three or four episodes, right?
Alex Ferrari 49:49
Yeah, because and it's also because it's such a lucrative thing and those puzzles because there's only what not 15 episodes a season if you're lucky. You know the the long 25 episode there are out But they're rare. I know. And the showrunner or the EP directs half of them, right? And then if you and then they have to like you. So it's like literally ever have to talk to TV directors like if you've got a good personality and the cast likes you because the cast is so powerful on those kind of shows, especially that the higher you know that the leads, and the EP, if they like you, like, you know what, Jen's kind of cool. Let's bring her back. She was really cool to work with. But if you have an attitude, and you're not,
Jen Mcgowan 50:25
Which is so funny, because I feel like sometimes I'm the indie film world rewards the wrong. Not the wrong things. But But what the what the indie film world rewards directors for is not always what the studio and network is looking for in directors. Oh, absolutely
Alex Ferrari 50:47
I agree with you. 100%. Absolutely.
Jen Mcgowan 50:50
Which is unfortunate, because because we think that indie film is training ground is the road to I don't know, no, no
Alex Ferrari 50:57
Indie film is I think a road to either building your own career and doing your own films is one time a debt is chasing and chasing your own money building a production company doing a bit. I mean, there's that or it could leapfrog you into a studio film. You know, kind of like what Kugler did Ryan coogler did with Black Panther. And, you know, because I was an indie movie, and then but that's a big indie movie, but still an indie movie. And that kind of catapulted him into and now he's in the stratosphere after after that movie, and that's what happens. And then, like starnberg Soderbergh did sex lies and videotape. And then
Jen Mcgowan 51:32
Yeah, when Soderbergh did sexualized videos 20 years ago, no,
Alex Ferrari 51:37
no 30 it was 89. We're getting old. 30 years ago, it was 89. It was 80. We're getting you look like you're 25. I look like I'm 55. So I appreciate that.
Jen Mcgowan 51:48
But that was a very different time. They had no idea what to do. They like what, what,
Alex Ferrari 51:55
What and then it wasn't an amazing though, let's talk real quickly about the 90s. Then we're gonna reminisce about but I have to remember I have to remember I have to reminisce about the 90s because I was I was in high school and college during the 90s. So it was like, fucking awesome. The 90s were amazing. And for the film industry, people listening who weren't around at that time. Basically SATA Berg started it off with in Sundance became some Sundance Sundance became Sundance in 89. Really, because before it was like the USA Film Festival, and it kind of, but that's the moment where it became Sundance was what step size of videotape. Yeah, then every year, there was a new, just prodigy that show up. So Robert Rodriguez, Linkletter Tarantino, Kevin Smith, anything that Christie vashaun touches. Yes, I mean, exactly. These all these, these filmmakers are just start showing up. And handful of them have kept, you know, have a lot of them just fell off.
Jen Mcgowan 52:55
Yeah, I think about the difference between then and now. But there's not not just the criticism of Sundance or any of the film festivals that have any influence. I don't know. I don't know what the percentages are. But how many of those are coming already with distribution?
Alex Ferrari 53:09
Oh, it wasn't yet back then. There was very little of that.
Jen Mcgowan 53:13
It was nothing. It was absolutely indie film. And then the studio's caught on and they're like whoa,
Alex Ferrari 53:18
Fox, searchlight, Fox, searchlight psone classics. All of a sudden, is this good for our PR campaign for Oscars? Yes. Let's do this film festival thing. How much do you want 3 million tickets? Take it. Yeah. It was a wonderful time. And yeah, and then I kind of towards the end of the 90s. And then when we got into the 2000s, everything changed. But that was that was a really interesting time for for it started the independent film movement, because technology had finally caught up.
Jen Mcgowan 53:48
And also keep in mind at that time, that was like the beginning of gay cinema being popular.
Alex Ferrari 53:55
Yeah. Gregor Rocky. So there was something unique for that. audience.
Jen Mcgowan 54:05
Yeah, bring to audiences like Sundance was and still is, in a lot of ways. The heart of gay cinema.
Alex Ferrari 54:12
Gay cinema now transgender, man,
Jen Mcgowan 54:14
All of that. Absolutely. It's not as novel now, but at the time, it was like, mind blowing, what is this? You know? Um, so it was it was a real leader in cultural conversation.
Alex Ferrari 54:27
It's not as because because before like, at that time, when there was no internet, there wasn't as much media hitting us.
Jen Mcgowan 54:35
I remember applying to Sundance on a on a form that they had to mail you and you mail it back.
Alex Ferrari 54:43
And you would send your VHS VHS or DVD What? Exactly, no, it's, it was a different it was a different time. But the but now there's so much more. There's so much more competition like this year. 14th 1001 and 200 submissions two Sundays. Okay, however, half of those were probably fucking horrible. Well, of course, of course. So okay, let's locate so 7000 good films,
Jen Mcgowan 55:12
even if it's only 7000 that that's a big job for screeners. So that explains why they're nurturing relationships more, they're looking to their labs more.
Alex Ferrari 55:24
They're overwhelmed. Right and it is and also I think a lot of ways Sundance south by Tribeca there's a handful that actually mean like, you know, that there's there's a monetary value attached to being in the festivals in, in the north in North America. Yeah. Toronto, it those kind of places. Yeah, yeah, tell you ride those kind of things that actually mean anything for a distributor. But their influence is not nearly as powerful as it was in the in the 90s. Like Sundance, Sundance is still Sundance. Yeah, CO, culturally, and like, Look, Sundance is still Sundance, but I've, I've worked on Sundance films. I know a lot of that. Well, no, but listen, I've worked with Sundance winners. So understand that I've I've interviewed Sundance winners. I've worked on Sundance films, that and I seen it from the inside, before you would get into Sundance and you were off. Like Yes, you were done. Hart Harvey lack of a better term, Harvey would show up. Yes, Harvey mirum amerimax, Miramax would show up with a check with a lucky stick with a lucky stick you have now you come down from the mountain, you've been anointed, you now can come in direct. And but it would literally be almost everybody that would get in would have automatic in now. The hell it like maybe one or two of them three, four out of the festival will get that that kind of treatment if their film is like,
Jen Mcgowan 56:48
Yes, I don't know. I mean, honestly, I think those would be interesting numbers to see if i think that that would you know, because we filmmakers tell our tell souls tales about these things. I think those would be interesting numbers to look at. But I do know that in terms of the conversation, you know, the strategy is like, do we really want to premiere there? Because we're going to be, are we going to be able to raise the bar? Like,
Alex Ferrari 57:10
Yeah, yeah, no, no, it's, it's brutal. It's absolutely brutal. And like, and they're all fighting for the best films, and it's, it's programming and then that, you know, it's like, and then if this film, where am I going to get the most love? Am I gonna get into Sundance itself by at Tribeca? Who's gonna give me the most love?
Jen Mcgowan 57:27
I'll tell you, what is handy about that, for people to understand is that comes to the point of understanding your audience. You know, each of those festivals is an audience, each of those festivals, taste, yes, as a specific brand. You're an idiot, if you don't inform yourself about those things.
Alex Ferrari 57:47
So like a genre film will probably have a better chance of South by than it does at Sundance, depending on what it is
Jen Mcgowan 57:53
Generally. Yes. I mean, obviously, there are exceptions to everything. If your genre film has Brad Pitt in it, it's going wherever the fuck you.
Alex Ferrari 58:05
I remember I remember watching old boy, at Sundance with the director. It was just the most amazing and that was a midnight movie. And it was the most amazing experience ever, because no one knew anything about you've seen that. I'm assuming. Yeah. Oh, such that was that was what year was that? Because the 1004 or five or six or seven? One of those times it was all about this, but you would know did they always have the midnight? No, they didn't have no that was something that added later because they started. It's new. Yeah. And like Toronto has the midnight showings and yeah, that became a thing. It became a tool to get people get other kinds of films that they would not normally get. And now they have what to Sundance next show or the there's another category of
Jen Mcgowan 58:50
Interactive and they have television and they it's it's a lot
Alex Ferrari 58:54
It's it's definitely is definitely a lot. Now, I want to talk about your latest film real quick, which is Russ Creek. Yeah. I haven't had the pleasure of seeing the film yet. Because Because no one sent me a trailer. But I'm just saying I'm just throwing it out. I'm just throwing it out there. No one sent me nothing. I'm just saying. I'm messing with you, Karen. I'm messing with you, Karen. Karen, Karen is an anon joking. No, but I did see the trailer and it looks fantastic. I actually, I get sent trailers. Every day, every day, I get 10 trailers. And it's a rarity that I want to see an indie movie like it's because it's just generally the trailers not well put together. Or it's just like us not that interesting. Are you seeing it before? We've seen it before? Your film, which you'll talk about in a second? I really didn't. I really like I would not mind watching that. Like I really I wouldn't. I said I didn't mind watching it. Not bad.
Jen Mcgowan 59:53
I always think it's really funny cuz I have a dark sense of humor that you could work your ass off for years. Just your blood sweat and tears into a movie. It premieres. And there's somebody in the audience, it's gonna go.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:10
Well, because that's because they have no idea and we're so bombarded with media that they don't understand what it takes to actually put something on that screen. But no matter to the audience, all joking aside, it does look phenomenal. So please tell the audience what it's about and, and any interesting stories behind it.
Jen Mcgowan 1:00:27
Yes. So the film is called rust Creek. It opens in New York. And IFC center tomorrow, January 4, nice. Yeah. And then it opens a bit wider. So select cities January 11. And it'll be on demand as well. It's going out through IFC. Midnight, there's there's two answers to the question, what is this film about the first is about plot. So it's about a young woman, in her last year of college in Kentucky, she gets a job interview in DC over Thanksgiving break. And you know, she's kind of tight base. So she doesn't want to tell anybody in case she doesn't get the job. In order to get there, she has to drive through Appalachia and shit goes down the plot. For me, what it is about is, it's about the hope you know that you feel as a young woman coming out of school, you think all you need to do to be a grown up is good to get a job and an apartment. And actually, you need to take the whole system down. To me, and that's what you know, what I'm looking for when I'm looking for movies, I'm always thinking, can I make something interesting out of this that the audience will enjoy? Can I keep myself interested? For two years. And that's on this, this, this is a project that I that I pitched on I interviewed for and I was hired to direct it.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:52
And that's excellent, which are rare nowadays, these these open assignments for directors are a rarity in general, so that you got and that's a testament to you.
Jen Mcgowan 1:02:02
Because I really want to be those that old school director that I go in, and I pitch and I don't have to write I you know, I love the process of bringing a script to life. More job, but that's your job, your director. That's what we do. More and more. They want you to be a writer, director. And I don't find that as interesting.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:24
And now you have to be a writer, director, actor or actress. That's a whole other story happening. And any interesting stories of making it because I'm assuming Appalachia is it's wonderful, Sunny all the time. It's wonderful all the time as far as weather is concerned. So anything, anything go wrong? Well, let me ask you a better question. What was your Let me ask a better question. What is the what is the most challenging thing that happened to you on the set of making that film?
Jen Mcgowan 1:02:54
Honestly, this is the set probably the same answers to the previous question, which was whether we were shooting in Kentucky between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Kentucky weather which I did not know. I'm notoriously Moody, in that, you know, the beginning of the day can be 40 degrees, the end of the day can be 80 degrees, and there's a rain storm for five minutes in the middle. We had every type of weather it was extremely cold. We had days where it was seven degrees. We were primarily shooting outside we were shooting in water. We one day we were rushed to the basement of a building because there was a tornado coming. Yeah, it was. The weather was quite challenging. Not Southern California film, film stable weather.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:46
Oh, God. Yeah, I forget because we live here and it's hard to when you go outside of the state you just like is that? Is that a storm cloud? And you forget what they look like
Jen Mcgowan 1:03:58
What I really, really forget is the bone chilling cold. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Huge difference between 32 and seven. Oh, huge shimmer. When it's so cold. That hurts. That's just God telling you you need to leave. Yeah, go inside. We invented heaters for a reason.
Alex Ferrari 1:04:17
Just go just you shouldn't be outside. And then also, you're also part of a website called film powered, is that that's your site. That's my site. I created that. So tell me a little bit about that.
Jen Mcgowan 1:04:28
I started film power three years ago, with the goal of then and still the goal now of increasing gender parity in working towards gender parity in the industry across the board. So it is a membership of vetted professional Women in Film and Television from scripts to criticism. So the members are writers, directors, lawyers, crew, film critics, distributors, youth International, is free and what it is, is pure appear classes, social events and jobs. Because what I realized, working up the ladder is that the higher I got up the ladder, the more isolated I was becoming, the more frequently I was the only one in the room unless I was insisting on hiring in a certain way. And you hire the people that you know. So it becomes a reinforcing phenomenon, where if you're surrounded by guys on this project, you're probably going to be surrounded by guys on the next project. By the way, nothing wrong with guys. I've worked with a lot of great guys. And there's a lot of great guys that worked on West Creek, but nothing wrong with women either. Right? And they they are skilled and professional and deserve a job and deserve to be paid, and deserve to be held up to the standards that everybody else's.
Alex Ferrari 1:05:47
Fair enough. Fair enough. Now, I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. Okay, what advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?
Jen Mcgowan 1:05:59
Today, that's that's the important part of the question, actually,
Alex Ferrari 1:06:02
Yeah,not 1991 not 1977. I'm not gonna jump on the universal tour, and then jump off and open up a little bit. And I got my I got and this is, by the way, for people who don't know this story, there's a Spielberg story where he jumps off, he finds an office somewhere, sets up shop and starts making deals for like six weeks until someone finds out who he is. And then Sid sheinberg gives him a seven year directing contract.
Jen Mcgowan 1:06:29
Yeah, cuz that's how reality works. Mmm. Nice story. So, look, I think you need to find your people. I think you need to make stuff. And I think you need to test that stuff out on people who are not your family. out on people who don't like or dislike, you just want to see stuff, got it. And then do it again, and do it again, and do it again. And in the meantime, you need to sustain yourself as a human being, which means you need to have a job that pays your money so you can pay your rent, you need to take care of yourself. All of these things are important if you're going to sustain long enough for the time that it takes to turn it into a real career.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:16
Yeah, it's a long term play. It's not a short term play.
Jen Mcgowan 1:07:18
No. And if you're lucky, hallelujah, you got hit with the lucky stick. Chances are that's not going to happen. So I wouldn't depend on it.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:29
Right? If you have a six month plan, you're probably not going to make it.
Jen Mcgowan 1:07:32
Yeah, no, your six year plan? Yeah, you're probably wasting six months, quite frankly, go to the beach.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:37
Exactly. Yep, you should have a six year plan. A 10 year plan is what I always suggest to people. Now can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career? Tell me again, I you broke up. Can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?
Jen Mcgowan 1:07:57
Oh. So because we spoke about the 90s I used to read. She was called shooting to kill. That was the killer films book. And she did another one which is on my bookshelf. And I cannot remember. Basically, Christine was shown of killer films had this book about indie filmmaking. Oh, wow. That was phenomenal. Okay. I haven't gotten a very long time. So I don't know if it's any good.
Alex Ferrari 1:08:29
But at that time, my time is very, very transformative. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Jen Mcgowan 1:08:44
Probably I don't know. I'm so many lessons. I tend to need to call on a little bit.
Alex Ferrari 1:08:52
I don't know what you're talking about. I don't know what I'm actually have to fix you in post because you're very anatomy. Did somebody have to bring you up in post?
Jen Mcgowan 1:09:00
Right? Yeah, I get really impatient like, I want things to happen now. And it's hard for me to like, take a moment and not feel like I'm wasting my whole life.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:13
Fair enough. And three of your favorite films of all time?
Jen Mcgowan 1:09:17
Okay, so I love E.T.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:20
Okay, great, great movie.
Jen Mcgowan 1:09:24
I love the ice storm.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:26
Oh, that was a good movie. Yeah.
Jen Mcgowan 1:09:28
Um there's so many
Alex Ferrari 1:09:35
Just today what comes to mind today?
Jen Mcgowan 1:09:37
I hate this question. Any. This is a really like douchey film school answer but I love three colors blue.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:47
Oh, nice. Just blue or all three colors. Blue is my favorite. I if I remember red is my favorite. I love red. I personally love red. I love blue to blue smile. Good and, and anyone who doesn't know that movies by Krzysztof kieslowski is asking kieslowski who was an amazing director? The deca log? double double life of Veronique is a masterpiece. Yeah, he was a wonderful JVC. Camera man. Yes. With the documentary. No, it was it was his movie The he may call it was like, I went deep into Kozlowski when I was in film school. And he said,
Jen Mcgowan 1:10:27
It's kind of a douchey. Film School answer. But wait, so which one was camera man? Um,
Alex Ferrari 1:10:32
It was it was a guy who just take photos. It was I think, it might have been a short, but I'm almost positive. It was a feature.
Jen Mcgowan 1:10:38
I feel like I've seen it, but I, I'm gonna say no, because I can't speak to it.
Alex Ferrari 1:10:43
Okay. I don't know. I'm gonna I'm just gonna ask if you've ever seen this movie. I haven't spoken to many people who have seen this movie, but it is a Criterion Collection. film. And Oh, God. It's called nervous is called man bites dog. That, Who did that? A couple of I think I don't remember if there was Swedish directors was a team. I've never heard of them again since. But now you have to look it up. But I know Did you see my hand? Yeah, I saw the man and the hand just move over. So I was like, Oh, she's looking it up. Man bites dog, which is about a documentary team following a serial killer. Okay. That's why I thought it was a documentary. But it's a mockumentary. I. Huh. It's a mockumentary Kind of,
Jen Mcgowan 1:11:29
Yeah, I um, okay. All right. Here's it. Here's an obscure one from me. Did you ever see the movie I want to I want to say this is actually one of my weaknesses. I am not a great film. Like, I don't have a good film knowledge because of my path that I took. Sure. There was this film called. I'm gonna say it's the I don't know if the film was called this, or Oh, the five obstructions. Did you see that?
Alex Ferrari 1:12:03
I did not see the five obstructions.
Jen Mcgowan 1:12:06
It's kind of awesome.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:07
All right, I'll put it on my list.
Jen Mcgowan 1:12:09
Oh my god, I'm gonna send you my list. I'm gonna send you my master list.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:14
I'm so glad you see this. What happens to film geeks get together. We just start talking and talking. It's been an absolutely amazing interview. Thank you so much. I want to ask one last question. Where can people find you your work websites and anything else about your films?
Jen Mcgowan 1:12:29
Cool. So you can find me on my website which is JenMcGowen.com you can find film powered at www.filmpowered.com. I'm on Twitter at IamJenMcG. And my movie Rust Creek can be seen in theaters and on demand starting January 4th.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:47
Fantastic. And I'll put all those links in the show notes. Jen, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you. Thank you for your
Jen Mcgowan 1:12:52
That was fun!
Alex Ferrari 1:12:54
Your raw honesty and dropping some major knowledge bombs on the tribe today. So thanks again.
Jen Mcgowan 1:13:00
Okay, thank you!
Alex Ferrari 1:13:02
Again, I want to thank Jen for being so honest, so raw, and so forthcoming about about everything that she talked about in this episode and dropping some major knowledge bombs on the state of independent film, and, and all the other cool stuff we talked about. So Jen, thank you again. So so much. If you want links to anything we talked about in this episode, please head over to indiefilmhustle.com/296. And there you'll be able to find the links to her new film Rust Creek, which is pretty pretty badass, I have to say. And if you haven't already, please head over to shootingforthemob.com. shooting for the mob is my new book about my experiences, making a movie or almost making a movie for a gangster and hanging out in the mob hanging out with movie stars and, you know, meeting Batman and all sorts of other cool stuff that happened, and actually horrible stuff as well. But it's an extremely interesting book. And if you're a filmmaker, you're going to want to read this book. It is an allegory of what not to do when you're chasing your dreams. And if you want to get access to the book early, head over to shootingforthemob.com and sign up to be part of my launch team. The book comes out February 22nd everywhere. Thanks again for listening guys. And as always keep that also going keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.
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