Have you ever had writer's block? We all have at one point or another and it sucks! Today's guest, Matthew Kalil, has the cure. He has written a new book called The [easyazon_link identifier=”1615932860″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Three Wells of Screenwriting[/easyazon_link]. Working from a writer’s perspective, the book explores these Three Wells and helps you consciously draw from them to develop new scripts, or strengthen old ones. It includes 29 exercises and techniques that help you to write stories that contain fresh ideas, intriguing characters, original scenes, inventive dialogue, unique locations, and important themes.
Here's a bit on Matthew.
Matthew Kalil is a writer, director and script editor. He has written and co-written over 40 produced episodes of TV and has received various grants, development funding and awards. Matthew’s productions have been screened and broadcast in Canada, Denmark, Morocco, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Kenya, South Africa, Thailand, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Since receiving his MA in Screenwriting, he has been teaching, writing and mentoring students for close to 20 years.
Matthew has developed a unique system of screenwriting theory that helps beginners, as well as established screenwriters, get in touch with their creative cores. His workshops have touched and inspired thousands of participants. His gentle and insightful script editing guidance has helped many writers realize the stories they were always trying to tell.
Some books you read, some books you live. This is one of those books you live…a breakthrough in the writing craft. – Christopher Vogler, author of The Writer’s Journey
I had such a ball with Matthew that I had to make it a crossover episode with the Bulletproof Screenplay Podcast. Enjoy my conversation with Matthew Kalil.
Alex Ferrari 2:02
And today's guest is no exception. We have author screenwriter and filmmaker Matthew Kalil, who wrote the book The three wells of screenwriting. And I have to tell you, my mind was blown after reading this book, it is it is just a really, really, really smart way of getting your creative juices flowing. This concept of the three wells and Matthew and I go deep, deep into the weeds about the creative process and being able to fight through writer's block and, and get those ideas that are going to help you tell the story that you want to tell. And I was just so blown away by this conversation and by the book that I wanted to share it with the entire tribe. So get ready to take some notes. And if you are having struggles with breaking through that creative barrier or writer's block or not figuring out what to write next. What kind of story to tell. This is the episode for you. Please enjoy my conversation with Matthew Kalil. I like to welcome the show Matthew Kalil. How you doing brother?
Matthew Kalil 3:10
Good. I'm really happy to be Alex. Super excited!
Alex Ferrari 3:12
Man! Thank you for being on the show. I know you are. I love doing international calls. I love it. I do international interviews. You are in South Africa as we speak,what time is it?
Matthew Kalil 3:23
Right now it's about 9:30 in at night. So you're like all awake and you're like, I'm like, okay, I go to bed now.
Alex Ferrari 3:32
I'm always I'm always excited to do international calls. I just did an Australian call a little while ago. It's It's so cool that too. It's amazing. The technology, how it works.
Matthew Kalil 3:42
Yeah, it's incredible. I love it. I love it. I love it. I'm sitting here in Johannesburg. And it's like really hot. And it's a lovely day. So yeah,
Alex Ferrari 3:48
I'm dying. I'm actually one of the one of the places on my bucket list is I got to go to South Africa. I do definitely travel. I love it. I would love to go down to South Africa really is one of my favorite countries in Africa that I would like to want to go visit. And
Matthew Kalil 4:03
You must, you must Cape Town. So I'm originally from Cape Town, which is down south and it's so beautiful. You'll love it. And great to shoot an ever any excuse to shoot in South Africa. You should do it.
Alex Ferrari 4:14
Well, it is on my list. Maybe I'll do a workshop next year, something like that down there. And maybe I get to fly down there. That'd be great. So first of all, man, you have an amazing book out called the three wills of screenwriting, which is one of the reasons I wanted to get you on the show. And like we were talking a little bit off air. I'm always fascinated when new techniques or new angles are created to try to tell stories. And at the end of the day, we're all just trying to tell a good story. And there's different flavors and how we get there, whether it's hero's journey, whether it's you know, troubies way whether it's save the cat whether the million ways and sometimes certain ways just click with certain writers. Absolutely. So I was really interested about your book. But before we get into But how did you get into this crazy business?
Matthew Kalil 5:02
Wow, that's a great. It's a great long story. I'll start from the beginning when I was
Alex Ferrari 5:07
A young boy.
Matthew Kalil 5:09
I was young boy I was 13 years old actually was. And I remember wanting to be a film director from the youngest age. I don't know why I just love movies. My dad used to tell me stories. But movies, I used to watch a lot of movies with him. And I remember about 13 walking into the headmaster's office. And it was that careers day where you had to like choose a career. And this was a long time ago, because I'm much older than I look. And I walked into into his office, and he said, and I said, I want to be a film director. And his response was not in this country, you weren't choose something else. To do so I went back and looked at the map of South Africa. So there were a lot of game farms. So I went back and I said, Okay, I'll be a game Ranger. And he said, much better do geography. And he ticked me off my list now is that so I've wanted to make films from a young young age, you know, like, from, from as far back as I can remember. And I remember the first movies I imagined in my head. And I've always been fascinated by it. And I guess, you know, once I left school in, and they weren't many film schools in South Africa at the time, so I kind of wandered around and did a whole lot of other things, which you won't get into, because there's not enough time. But eventually, I studied a master's in screenwriting in Leeds in the UK. And that was after doing. Yeah, after doing some work here in South Africa, I'd read some scripts, I just found that I, I don't know, I just found that I could do it in a way. And then and then when I came back with my Master's in screenwriting, I started writing sitcom for South African television. And then it just took off from there. And at the same time, as I was working as a working writer, I was also teaching. So it's kind of as a parallel teaching, writing and working in in the, in the writing in the writing world, I guess. Yeah. And I always try to make one film as well as a director. So it was used to try and make one short film a year. And that's, I guess, that's how I got into it. In South Africa, you maybe it's a bit like this in the independent scene in the US, you've got to be doing many different things. You got to be having like many different hats. So I'll be doing like edit, editing, directing, writing as many things as I could. But writings been there all along, and teaching writing as well as being them being there all along. So yeah, I think that answers your question. This crazy. And it is crazy. It's even crazy over here.
Alex Ferrari 7:24
No, I could only imagine. I mean, I come from a small market as well, in the US, I came in from, from South Florida. And during in that area, you have to do 1000 things to survive. Like just to be able to make a living, I made a living in south and South Florida for 10 years as an editor as a director as all that stuff. And it's it's very difficult. And if you are smart filmmaker, if you're smart, even screenwriter who wants to get into the business, you need to be able to do more than one thing. So you're in I'm imagining that's the way it is in smaller markets that are not Los Angeles. And even here in LA, the indie scene. If you don't do everything, it's going to cost you money. That's why I could go out and make three or $4,000 feature film because I have a lot of hats that I could wear.
Matthew Kalil 8:09
Exactly. Yeah, yeah, I think you have to I think you have to. So yeah, that was the way I got in many different ways. But screenwriting was the kind of through line all the time.
Alex Ferrari 8:17
Yeah, well, that'swhere it starts. It all starts with it all starts on the page,it all starts on page.
Matthew Kalil 8:22
You know, it starts with a blank page, which is kind of what I talk about in my book and talk about this blank page that we face as screenwriters. And it that's it, it's you're facing infinity, every time you write, you're facing that flashing cursor. And that version goes is looking at you saying you can write anything, but what are you going to write, you know, this is what we face every time as writers. And it's always fascinating to me that the writer is often the last person anyone thinks about, you know, like, down the line. It's like, you know, the screenwriter, God, we got to pay him rarely. Meanwhile, we're the ones that have like, made something out of nothing to start with. So yeah, it all starts with a story.
Alex Ferrari 8:59
You know, it's funny, though, like, I think that goes back to the early days of Hollywood where screenwriters were literally just treated like absolute crap. Not that it's changed a whole lot. But I think because of the the studio system in the in the glory days of the Hollywood studio system, where they were literally just technicians, and they were just treated like whatever it didn't matter. Like, it still kind of resonates like that today, where writers aren't treated with a lot of respect in this genre. And john screenwriting as novelists is different than in other areas. But I think that's one of the biggest mistakes we make as as filmmakers and as an industry without question. Now, let's get into that. Let's get into your book a little bit. So let's discuss your concept of the three wells of screenwriting.
Matthew Kalil 9:44
Okay, cool. So it's really as simple ish concept and I'm going to explain it and then I'm going to ask you to do a little exercise so we can all experience the absolute that's the best and then your your listeners can also do the exercise. So it's really simple. As I was saying earlier, you know, when we creating we facing this flashing cursor of infinity, which, you know, and and we've got to when we write we draw from three wells within us this is what happened to me is I, I've kind of been teaching this for a very long time, screenwriting and I've taught it in the very traditional form. So I've taught, you know, Bre x structure, you know, writing major turning point documents. And I've looked at all the kind of theories of writing, but a lot of the the kind of theories are writing in terms of structure, etc, is, once you've written the thing, you know, you've got something out there not now you can structure it, or in the pre planning phase, where you're doing a lot of planning and planning and planning, you get stuck in the plan forever and ever. But when you're facing that flashing cursor, and you got to write something, what's happening in that exact moment of creativity. And what I did is I kind of slowed down that creative process, which is why the cover looks very zen, like this cap, Meadows of three wells, because it's about slowing down the creative process, and actually thinking, where do my ideas come from? And when we start on the creative process, we find that we draw it from three different worlds within us. And the first one is what I've called external sources, Wells, this is all the movies you've seen any media, you've consumed, anything that you've watched, that's the external sources. Well, that's Well, number one, then well, number two is your imagination. Well, you just kind of make it up. So it's like a lightning bolt from above, it comes down bam, and get well where did this idea come from, or what's unique original, and you and you write it. And in the third world is your memories, your unique lived experiences, which you can draw from, and I think you from what I can see from some of your work, you draw a lot from the memory, while I've seen some of the features you wrote, you know, a lot of memories that you've just told me about something else, which is certainly coming from the memory. Yeah. And those are the three wells that we draw from. So to experience those when the idea with the book is that there are 29 exercises, I call them exercises, they also experiences and explorations more than exercises, which you use to dig these walls deeper. So the idea is that you're never stuck again, because you can draw from these walls at any point when you're facing that fashion. Because the idea is you don't really face writer's block anymore, which is, you know, the ideal aim of the book, hopefully. And also that you can draw ideas that are unique to you, that you as a writer, can only access and through drawing from those wells, because they move you in, they resonate with you, once you put them on the screen, they'll resonate with the audience. And so there's all sounds rather abstract. And the best way to experience that is to do an exercise. So you opt for an X. I'm all about it. Awesome. Okay, good. Fantastic. Cool. So the best way to explain it is is to do one of the exercises in the book, which is, I call it the graveyard exercise. Also known as like you guys call them. cemeteries more than graveyards. I think it's Africa. We call them graveyard cemeteries.
Alex Ferrari 12:46
Yeah. cemeteries, yeah.
Matthew Kalil 12:47
Okay, cool. So we can go to the cemetery exercise. And in this exercise I asked people to think of, first of all, if you have to write a scene, right, so it's x exterior cemetery, say day, and you're sitting there and the first thing you think about I'm not done, think about it. Just any images that pop into your head when you say cemetery scene. Just listen for me.
Alex Ferrari 13:08
What comes in a cemetery scene? zombie zombies popping? zombie? That's your imagination. Well, it's great. But if you went straight there, yeah, what else? cemetery my, if you want to go into the memory stuff, when my Okay, okay, just just keep first thing that popped into my head. Okay.
Matthew Kalil 13:29
I love the fact that you went to the imagination well, and the End The End The memory Well, first, but like, generally, if you had to write a scene for the images that come to mind,
Alex Ferrari 13:38
If you think about a theme, so I'm going to go zombie zombies coming out of out of the graves. This is all very trite. And we've seen it a million times, but I'm just getting it out there. Yeah, go for zombies. there's a there's a, you know, a little girl walking around and a zombie on the leg. Yeah. And she's yelling, and then the hero comes in who's not a really hero. He's kind of like an anti, he's just a normal dude thrown in a weird circumstance. And all of a sudden, zombies are popping out and he's gonna grab it and help this little girl who he doesn't know. And the moms already dead. Who was visiting her her dead husband, it's all crazy. So I'm just rolling up so that's kind of like that's
Matthew Kalil 14:15
That's fantastic. So what you're doing man I love the fact that your imagination is going but but but a lot of people when you say like cemetery seem they're gonna say like, you know, trimmed grass you know mass on graves raining, maybe it's raining. Story, which I love, and we'll get into that, but that's cool as well because you were tapping into other zombie type movies. You know, so your your mind went to the movies that you've watched maybe and the movies that you love, which is you know, clearly horror and answer. So that's what you fold your external sources well with. So it's quite interesting. There's normally when I say the cemetery scene, people will say things like I've said trim grass, gray, maybe someone reading from Little Bible, you know, a little group of Mormon. standing around the grave with one person standing aside. So there's all these movies we've seen in our minds being sort of colonized in a way by all these external sources that we've watched. So when you write a scene, especially if you have to write quickly, you just kind of draw from that stuff. And that stuff is it's unique to you, in some ways, because your external sources was full of zombies.
Alex Ferrari 15:19
And well, yeah, the first thing that came to my mind when I thought of graveyard, I was like, well, zombies, obviously, of course.
Matthew Kalil 15:27
So that's what you fill your external sources. Well, it's like all these aren't stories. So which is why your external sources, Wells, is kind of unique to you as well. But that's the external sources well, so now we're going to try something something different. And this is the next while to try and experience this. And I want you to notice what it feels like drawing from these wells, because this book is very experiential. So you kind of experience these wells when you when you read the book. So that was the first one was quick, it was easy. The ideas came, I was just kind of pumping out. Let's try the next one, which I call the imagination well, so now I want you to imagine a graveyard totally made up.
Alex Ferrari 16:07
Totally made up graveyard.
Matthew Kalil 16:08
Yeah, something that you just making out anything images, it can be a scene in a graveyard, it can be anything totally made up just invented out of the blue
Alex Ferrari 16:17
Graveyard that has been designed by Leonardo da Vinci. So all the, all the architecture around it, the gravestones are all in that kind of DaVinci style. You know, design. It could be very peaceful, we're humble or walking around, enjoying the park ask kind of things, the grass is trimmed, there is nice mass, the way people are dressed, could be a little bit more unique than than you'd normally do, which would be lean towards the da Vinci design. I'm just using the core idea of the da Vinci I love it design. And they'll kind of make a make it a world around it. antastic that's kind of like,
Matthew Kalil 17:03
You know, Alex, you're you're a natural at this. It's actually quite I've done this exercise often, people really struggle with you just like slide into each one. And the what you've done there is quite amazing is you've tapped into your your imagination. Well, most people when you say. So I'm hoping that your listeners are also doing this when we when we doing this. So if you guys are listening out there, hopefully you've done the external sources well, and now you try to imagine a unique graveyard. A lot of people struggle with the imagination, because they feel like suddenly they're being almost tested. They're like, Oh, is my imagination good enough? Have I imagined something unique, and there's a lot of pressure on us. And our imaginations often, like suppressed. And we've been told, like when we were kids, like stop imagining, stop playing. So people don't really access their imaginations that easily. What you've done is something quite cool. You've taken an idea, which is Da Vinci, and you've taken graveyards, and you've collided them together. And you've sparked off this whole amazing idea of like, Da Vinci's graveyard. And what's cool about that is in the book, I've talked about this thing of colliding ideas. You've jumped ahead, in a way sorry. Yeah, you know, the idea is, with the imagination, well, is that you can just, you can make things up by colliding ideas together, that's one way of tapping your well deeper, but the imagination, you know, you can sort of graveyard in space, someone's buried in the glass coffin, maybe, you know, the imagination is just you kind of make it up. And it's interesting. There's normally a moment of pause, where you waiting for the idea to come in, I saw you did it, you kind of look down. And then devinci came. It's quite amazing. So that's, that's the imagination well, and tapping into that, when we write feels different to tapping into the external sources, which was just like ideas, ideas, ideas, ideas, easy, easy, easy,
Alex Ferrari 18:48
Because it was, it was interesting if I may stop you for a second because the external Well, when I when I did the exercise the external Well, I went straight to movies, I went straight to stories, because those are all reference points. And I have a vast reference library in my mind, of millions of hours of content that I've consumed in my life. But then when I went to the imagination, I was like, Okay, what would be really cool? I was like, oh, Da Vinci. I've never seen that before. About how about an entire graveyard designed by Da Vinci with those kind of insane designs he did. And then Collider, those ideas, it just automatic. And the one thing I want to touch before we move forward is and you said this, which I think is something that everyone needs to listen to, is when you said like most people get tests, they feel like they're being tested, or they're, they feel self conscious about it. I've now gotten to the point that I don't give a crap anymore. I don't I don't care. I mean, you know, doing a podcast doing what I do with indie film, hustle. I get bombarded with negative and positive all the time. So I just don't care anymore. I've gotten to that point in my life as an artist. I'm like, I don't care what other people think I'm just gonna do what I want. But if you would have asked me the same concept five or 10 years ago, I would have had much more difficulty, and I would have been much more guarded with how I put put things out. So it's releasing yourself to become free. It's so helpful.
Matthew Kalil 20:11
Absolutely. You know, one of the things in the book I talked about as well is play, and just have fun, you know, and like, and when you see kids playing, and they're just imagining stuff, they're just going, I'm like, how, where, what is this world you created? That's the kind of ease with which they're creating, because they haven't been like, you know, shut down by all this judgment and negative energy and like, you know, things are just like, you know, just Yeah, like, like, you feel the world's assessing your ideas. Whereas I can see you don't you know, you don't give a crap anyone just gonna do it? No, that was great. Well done, uh, reaching that phase in your life. You're Acadian involved, filmmaker,
Alex Ferrari 20:42
I try try try, man. It's not easy sometimes. But I try at least
Matthew Kalil 20:47
Tell me about it. Tell me about it. Anyway, so I'm just gonna go on to the last well, and then we can talk about about, you know, more, more things. But so the last well, and again, this is an experience. So again, I want your listeners to try and experience this is, is the memory Well, now this well is I want you to try a graveyard exercise or, or, or a cemetery exercise. And I want you to scan through your life. And so and think about graveyards assemblies you've actually been to. And and, and think of some images, or people or encounters or stories that have taken place there.
Alex Ferrari 21:19
Anything coming tomorrow, absolutely. When my grandfather passed, which was a very difficult time for me. And I was at a cemetery and he actually got into the mausoleum. And I'll never forget the sound of the coffin being dragged over the concrete, they had a plastic, they had a plastic kind of like, tray, and then they put the coffin on it, and then they slid it in and the sound is still in my, in my head. And when they actually closed it off and sealed it, you know, finally, I remember all that so vividly. And I wasn't very young, I was still probably my 20s, early 20s, or late 20s, when that happened, but I still remember it so vividly. And the emotion that I was feeling that day, because it was such a powerful thing. But I can sense it, I can smell it, I actually remember looking in before they put them in. So when they opened it in the hole, and I saw the concrete hole before they put them in because I was curious on what the final resting place of my grandfather was gonna be like. So that's a memory. That's it straight memory.
Matthew Kalil 22:28
That's amazing. I love it. I love it. That's, you know, can I this is the feeling Can you feel right, I know that suddenly the emotions are in the room is like, you know, and like things are moving. And there's like, there's like this is this resonance that I talked about in the book. When we tap into our memory wells, we create scenes that are just unique. And they resonate with that memory, our unique memory. And interestingly enough, you again, you've jumped the gun yet, because you're talking about the sounds. And and what happens when we when we ride from our memories is that we can we can activate all our senses. And of course, film is all about senses. You know, it's about the sound, it's about, it's not just about writing, you know, the visuals, it's about trying to paint a scene for a reader and eventually for an audience that's got all the senses activated. And so what I what I do in the book, as well as we talk about memory, writing and senses, so we've got, you know, we've got these five senses activated, and you've got the sound that stays with you. And I mean, can you imagine trying to even as a filmmaker, even if, once you've written the script, trying to describe that sound? As it scrapes in, you know, with the plastic on the concrete? Oh, yeah. And that's, and that's just the kind of unique, fresh take on a graveyard scene, right? So we so that's, that's what the memory while gives us when we write. And you can see in the book, I do tend a little bit more towards the memory well, because I think people are really afraid of tapping into that. But yeah, that's that's, that's the wall that that's really unique and has got some really, really fresh things in it. And some really, really exciting stuff that you can draw from. So yeah, so that's it. So those are the three wells, the external sources, well, other movies, you've seen imagination? Well, you make it up memory? Well, you tap into it. And what's really important to remember is I'm not saying that you got to write a scene about your, your grandfather's passing. Sure you you may want to, but at the same time, if you're writing a scene where a superhero is, you know, I don't know, maybe Superman's died. And if they're burying him, and you're right, the scene, you can still tap into that memory and just have that sound of, of the things shifting into the concrete. And if you draw from that one moment and stick it in your feature film script, it's going to pop and someone reading the script will go like, oh, oh, what is that that's unique, that's fresh that that's interesting. So you can draw from your memory wall and sticking into any kind of thing you're writing, which is quite, quite cool. Actually. You don't have to write your story. And that's not what I'm really getting at with the book. It's that you can you can draw from all of them. So you can write a zombie movie, except in the zombie movie. Suddenly you state you're taking the sound and you're sticking it into the zombie movie and suddenly you've got this unique moment. I also really loved what you shared about the lack, looking into the grave before it went in that moment just seemed really fresh and interesting to me. And, yeah, so so that's, that's the kind of power of writing from the memory.
Alex Ferrari 25:12
So those well, so I can see how these three wells can really spark ideas. Yeah, very easily. If you if you're, if you're open and free, you know, we've, you know, just right here doing this, we've written a scene about if we come in, if we collide all three of the walls together, actually, we have a zombie movie that takes place into the finnsheep designed graveyard with authentic sounds of real have a real graveyard inside of it unique things that I've never seen anything like that.
Matthew Kalil 25:45
You know, what I find amazing about this exercise is when I do it, and we find these unique ideas. And I think what's great about it is that they're just everywhere, you know, they're always around. And often writers are struggling. They're like, how can I write a screenplay that's going to be picked up? How can I write a screenplay that's going to be unique and fresh? And I mean, I've read a lot of scripts in my life, I've been a script reader a lot. And you know, you're waiting for that moment where something pops, and you're on the page, and you're like, whoa, wait, what is this? And when we do these kind of exercises, we're just always popping and ideas are just always coming. And they always then the idea with the book is that I'm I'm really hoping that people can not be stuck anymore, because I think writers, we get stuck, you know, there's so much we're facing with so much we're facing, we're facing the infinity, but we're also facing all the pressure of the industry, you know, is this thing gonna make money? Is it you know, am I going to get you know, is it going to work and, and so people can get really stuck. And the idea with a wells is people can just tap into them, and they can dig them deeper. That's the other thing. So the second part of the book, once you've identified these wells, is you can dig them deeper. In really, I mean, just to give you a really simple idea, do your external sources. Well, you dig deeper by either reading more scripts, or watching more movies. Simple, easy as well to dig deeper. But obviously, you watch movies that are interesting to you and unique to you. And then your your well becomes unique. The imagination. Well, you do a lot of play, you do a lot of reading, you read about the Vinci, you you know you you kind of you just kind of open yourself up to this, this imagination and then you can dig deeper. And then your memory well. Well, there's a lot of exercises in the book, which I won't really get into. But there's a lot of exercises around your, your fears, your your happiness, your happiest memory, your sadness, memory, spend some time digging into your past and see what what lies there because there's probably gems there with everyone.
Alex Ferrari 27:27
Isn't it funny that Luis, Luis Manuel, Luis Manuel from Napoleon, Napoleon, Hamilton, who wrote who wrote Hamilton Yeah, yeah. I mean, who in god's green earth would have thought that a book about Hamilton, you know, would do would be a worldwide phenomenon as it was. And he took from his own experience as an immigrant, his father, he actually tells his father, that's his father's story, coming from Puerto Rico, and they just put it all together through hip hop and mix and he just literally collided 1000 things. Absolutely. And when you watch it, you're like, well, this is the greatest thing I've ever seen in my life. It's just it's just such a you want to talk about unique? I mean, and there was no on paper. It does not make sense. Yeah, it Yeah. It doesn't make sense. And if you don't know if the best story is when it was first introduced, it was at the at the Obama White House, where he was invited to do like, talk poetry. What did that talk was? Yeah. Yeah, like, like, spoken word spoke. Yeah. Spoken word spoken word poetry. Yeah. And he's like, Listen, I would like to do this little rap I did on on Hamilton. And Obama goes, Well, good luck with that. He says, like, Well, good luck, because it doesn't sound like I mean, come on, who who's gonna listen to a rap album hammer. And it just exploded. And when you you saw it when I saw it, because you see it on YouTube, you could see it on YouTube, that moment. And you could see everybody in the room just just, it's just you just oh my god. And when you when you and it's really digging into these kind of wells, where he felt he digged into his external he digged into his imagination, a dig into his memory, and combined them. And I think if you are able to combine these wells, you have something extremely unique. And something else you said earlier, which I want to touch on, is, you know, there's a lot of pressures on writers and was it gonna make money and all that stuff? And I feel that and I would love to hear your point of view on this is writers, if you asked us The question is is going to make money, you're dead in the water? You can't I mean, unless you're being hired to write something for a studio for $100 million. That's a different ballgame. And even then you shouldn't think is going to make money. You should. Yeah, what is it going to be in service of the story? What can I do? You know, that's how that's how certain movies in the studio systems kind of sneak through, like, like, the whole Batman trilogy that Nolan did. Yeah. You know, they all made a lot of money, but boy, did he sneak in a bunch of stuff that normally he's not at a studio movie. So would you agree with that? Oh, sorry, was that would you would you agree with that in regards to like, ask?
Matthew Kalil 30:06
Definitely, definitely. I think it's sorry. It's breaking up a little bit lower. That's, can you hear me? I can hear you. Oh, fantastic. I couldn't I just heard some. Hey, it's so. So yeah, I think I would agree with that. 100%. And actually, one of the things in my book is that I'm hoping that writers can write stories that kind of really matter to them. And they don't have to think about like, Oh, is this gonna make money? Because, look, okay, this is a really big game, but I've got a feeling you may have similar names, is that I feel that a lot of the stories, especially feature films that we see nowadays, not all of them, but a lot of them are just like, you know, the next, let's make the next Look, I love the Marvel movies. But you know, let's make the next Marvel movie, let's make the next thing people don't always kind of scared of walking on a limb and telling something that matters to them. And the stories that we create are quite fragile. And, and often these stories, the fragile stories are the ones that I'm hoping that the book will help tell, because we all have these stories that come to us sometimes. And they're like these little golden chickens, they come in, they're like, we got to tell you, we got to, and we got to kind of make this little chicken grow. And it's it's kind of fragile thing that we create. And then we kind of, you know, we're afraid. And as soon as you start, like you said, as soon as you start thinking about money, it's you know, is this gonna make money? Is this gonna, you're already in service of something else. You're not in service of what the Hamilton guy was in service of when he wanted to make Hamilton, that was something totally different. I don't think at any point, he was like, is this gonna make money? because he'd be ready for that before he was gone? No. And you were to start? Right? Right. But he was he was in service of something else. And this is kind of what I'm hoping the book will help is, is people who are in service of the stories that matter to them. And that matter to the world that the other thing about the about the Hamilton stories was so tinius because he was resonating with his own truth in that moment. And bam, there was an episode time. Yes. It was just kind of kind of kind of perfect. Yeah. So so it's a long kind of answer to your question. But I but I do think that that gear, it's not, you can't ask, Is it gonna make money, it's just gonna, it's gonna kill you guys. If there's something, you're done, you're done, you're done.
Alex Ferrari 32:11
I think you're putting too much pressure on the on the actual art. If you cannot allow the art to grow and be what it's going to be. To a certain extent, look, if someone gives me $200 million, I'm not gonna just like, hey, let's figure it out that no, I'm not that there's a responsible fiscal responsibility. But at the end of the day, if you are honest to the story you are in service of the story and what you're trying to do. Money comes, regardless of what you're trying to do. Without question, I feel so many filmmakers and screenwriters put so much pressure on the art, like, this is the script, it's going to blow me up. This is the this is the movie that's gonna take get me that agent that I've been wanting to do that. And but but because I've been, I talked to so many filmmakers. And I see so many screenwriters and I, and I see the guys who succeed and the girls who succeed, and none of them asked the question, is this going to be making money? They did it just because they didn't really wanted to do it. And that's where you need to, and it's hard to be there. It's hard to get there. It really is. Oh, yeah,
Matthew Kalil 33:16
yeah, that's right. I mean, I yeah, it's really readable. I think it's like, you know, like you said, it's not like a fragile. I'm an artist. It's actually the almost the opposite of that. It's like, it's like I'm working hard at these wells. I'm digging in them all the time. I'm making them available. And he has my ideas. And he has my script. And it's great. And I love it. Oh, and here's another one. Let's do this one. And it's kind of like constantly working at being freer and loosening yourself up so that the stories come and that you can kind of keep on doing them in a way. Because Yeah, otherwise it's just you know, it's this one script that you're holding onto for dear life and hoping
Alex Ferrari 33:47
For 10 years. Yeah, anytime I see I meet a screenwriter. He's like, how many scripts Have you read? He's like, I've got this one. And I'm like, is that it? is like, yeah, that's the one I'm like, Yeah, yeah, that's the Yeah, that's that's that's a rough that's Yeah, yeah. You've got what you're basically telling you that Yeah, man. Yeah. I thought that one short film, I've had that one script. And it's like, then you're telling me you only want one swing at the bat? When you go up to base? You got one swing? And that's it? Yeah. You got no other swing?
Matthew Kalil 34:17
I think Yeah. If there's one thing that I think you'll be your podcast also communicate really clearly, is is not one swing at a bat. No ways, man, you got to stand up there. You got to hit that ball constantly. And then when you when you'd really exhausted and tired and do you think you can't hit this ball anymore, and you want to give up? But you still want to hit it, then you know that you're a baseball player, or a screenwriter, you know, if you if you know you still want to write a story. I mean, I've had you know, I've written quite a lot of features. And I've written a lot of television, and I keep thinking to myself, when is this going to end? But but the stories keep coming? Do you want to keep telling them
Alex Ferrari 34:53
And that's and that's a wonderful, that's a wonderful place to be. Now I want to also talk to you about because I think this I think your book really touched Upon this is authenticity, authenticity as a writer, and how and I would love to hear what you think of how writers can be more consciously write more authentically, as opposed to only digging into the external well, which a lot of writers do. They just rehash old stuff that they've seen again and again and again, where I think the combination of the three and the end because when you watch a movie that's authentic, you know, you watch something that just comes from a place, you can just feel it that the writer, director, you know, you watch Schindler's List, and you go, well, that Spielberg doing what he like that is really personal, it just oozes off. Absolutely, absolutely. So what's your thoughts on that?
Matthew Kalil 35:48
So my thoughts on that are that, you know, when I, when I started teaching, writing, sort of about 20 years ago, I've been teaching this, and a lot of people when they first start writing their scripts, I don't know why. But I mean, I guess I did it to actually probably is like, you know, I'm gonna write a story about a prostitute who meets a gangster. And then they're and you know, and and, you know, I'm in South Africa so but in New York, and I'm like, I know nothing about New York and and I think my prostitutes for gangsters, right. And but yet, I'm gonna write this thing. And then so what I do is I draw from the external sources as well. So I get this half remembered idea of a prostitute from like pretty woman. And then this half remembered idea of gangsters from like Goodfellas. And then like, I kind of what I know of New York. And it just, you know, it's fun. It's really fun. And you know, you can structure it perfectly. You can even make characters that are kind of okay, but it's lacking something. And this is this authenticity thing. It's just lacking depth. And so I always thought to myself, how am I going to teach this to students? How am I going to teach people to like, get depth? You know, is it something you just born with? or What is it? And so what I realized is, I used to do these exercises with him. And this is kind of where the memory thing came from. I used to do this exercise where I was like, Okay, so in your life, there's been one moment where everything's changed. The one moment something happened in your life where everything changed, and students started and they started looking at their lives, and they'd go back and they'd go, okay. Oh, yeah, there was that time I was mugged. Yeah, that wasn't so nice. Or it could be anything like there was that one moment when I realized my grandmother was going to die. And I was visiting her in the old age home, and I knew she was going to die, and she was getting dementia. And that moment was when everything changed. And I get them to write that into a script. And what they started writing with these amazing things that were just full of so much authenticity, it was like, okay, so I was mugged. But it was kind of funny, the way the mugging happened. And it happened in this random place that you wouldn't think that like, you know, outside a train station, people walking by and this guy was mugging me, no one was doing anything. And he was just holding this knife out at me just showing me the knife. He wasn't like threatening me. What he did was show me the knife. And I'm like, whoo, that's just suddenly it was a lot more authentic than someone taking out a gun and going I'm mugging you now. Right? Yeah. On the nose. Very on the nose. Yeah, betting on the nose. It was just like, I've got a knife. What are you going to do? And and, you know, the old simas thing was like, you know, she opens the fridge and something in the fridge has gotten moldy. And everything in the fridge is Molly. So she hasn't, you know, grandmother hasn't been in the fridge for a while she's losing it. And that moment had such authenticity. And then the students would write these scenes. And I remember I'll never forget when when the scenes are read, I make my students read out in the class, you know, you read up the scripts, because you can suddenly hear what it feels like, when and what it sounds like. And I'll never forget that moment after that class. The room was vibrating with this authentic energy. And and people were crying and people were laughing and people were mad was like colors were popping. I was just fantastic. Actually, I had to go lie outside on the ground. I lay on a bench. I just watched the clouds drove by because it was just, it was this great moment of like, Okay, this is a fantastic, authentic, I'm sure authentic, authentic, authentic. Yeah, yeah. And so I so I kind of in the book, I kind of that's why I kind of draw so heavily on the memory. Well, that's where the true stuff lies. And almost, you know, some people can write really imaginative stuff, and it can be really, really fun. But if you link it up to your, to your memories, in some ways, man, you've got that that's the way you get the ones that I really think that's the way the the authenticity comes about. What's interesting, as well, just from a writing point of view, is is happening in television, writing, in some ways now, like a lot of the TV series have got the slack. It's really kind of real, either because of the research because this is the other thing. Because of that story I was talking about in New York, if we actually went to New York and kind of research and walked around the streets, and and, and New York entered my memory. Well, I could have written with a lot more authenticity. You know, I always use the example of like the wire, you know, the TV series, the wire, it's like, it just had so much authenticity. Go Those guys lived the life you know, there were there were journalists there reports on the you know, the guy was, you know, literally the guy who was the homicide division. He'd been there, he knew that that space so well, it seeps with authenticity, because the writers have activated all their five senses and they've lived those moments. So the idea, I think, with real authenticity is to live the moments and then put them in your script, and be brave enough to, to put those moments in your script. And to slow down in that moment of creativity. And go, Wait a minute, you can even revisit the scripts you've written already. And you can go back and look at the scene and say, okay, so I wrote this breakup scene, and I said it in the bedroom, because that's where people break up. And look back at your life and say, well, where did I break up with people? Okay, wait a minute, it was actually a sushi restaurant. Or it was like, you know, on the side of the road in the car? Oh, yeah. It was in the shopping mall in the in the, you know, in the, in the parking in the shopping mall, in the parking lot? Oh, yeah. And then you change the breakup scene from the bedroom to the parking lot. And suddenly, you've got something that's fresh and unique and original. And so that's the way that you can also use the wells and I talked about in like locations, like changing your locations, to locations from life, and then chopping your scenery. And then suddenly, what happens is your script suddenly pops all these fresh, kind of unique, authentic. I mean, I keep saying authentic. These authentic occasions? Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 41:21
No, it's funny as you're talking, and I just, you know, just did a movie that I shot at the Sundance Film Festival. And that film, is most of many, many of my stories are in it, of like, you know, it's about filmmakers trying to sell their movie at Sundance. No one had ever done that before. And I was like, but I've been to Sundance eight or nine times. So I know the layout of Park City, like the back of my head. So when I was writing it, and putting it together, I'm like, Oh, yeah, we'll go over to this restaurant, we'll go over that restaurant. We'll go into here. We got to take this trip over there. And then you're like, Oh, that one that one Sundance, I went where I was completely depressing. even know where I was gonna go in my life. And I walked down Main Street at three o'clock in the morning, and I looked like a backlot. We put that scene in. And you can sense that kind of stuff coming off the screen maze. It's one of the one of the love that I've done. And ever, because of that authenticity of it, because it was, yep, it was authentic to my story, but also so many stories I'd heard before. from other filmmakers, yeah, that I've met and dealt with in my life. Yeah. But that's what makes those kind of stories so unique. Because and I think you're right, the memory Well, it is the it's kind of like the secret stuff. It's the stuff that nobody is the thing that puts you apart from the billion of other screenwriters out there trying to get a story. Because just like we didn't have the earlier exercise, I don't know of anybody else, or at least I've never seen it or heard about it have no sound of that not coughing on a plastic tray being drawn into that something's very uniquely mine. Until now. And now, so I feel it for me. But that's and that's fine, of course. But but that's something extremely uniquely my story, my memory. And if we could even just dabble that stuff on, you know, a Stephen King book like Stephen King puts out Yes, left and right. But I think I promise you, Stephen King probably is pulled a lot. Like when he wrote carrier rewrote the shining, there's things about everything, his family, his life, his you know, all that stuff that's drizzled in there.
Matthew Kalil 43:25
Definitely. And what's interesting is that riders do it, almost unconsciously, you know, the good riders just, I don't know why they just do it automatically. They just draw from their life, they just draw from their memories. It's a great process. And it's quite a liberating process. And it's actually quite a fun process. And I mean, I may even go so far as to say it's a transformative process. Because, you know, we can ride, you know, from their imagination, while I grab from the memory, I mean, from the external sources, well, it's already fun in his life. And when you start writing from your own stuff, and putting some of your own stuff in there, it becomes transformative, not just as a writer, but as a human being. So I find that if people write with some of their own stuff in there, first of all, the scripts are great, much better stories of better characters more interesting. But the writers experience writing is better. It's quite amazing. If you kind of write the stuff that you is somehow linked to you in some way. It's just, it's transformative. It's almost therapeutic. I mean, I'm not a therapist. I wouldn't say I am. But you know, it is like it's therapeutic.
Alex Ferrari 44:26
Yeah, no, there's there's no question you exercise some demons when you do that.
Matthew Kalil 44:30
Totally. Absolutely. You do. There's a great quote in the book about something about exercising your divine discontent or some it's in the book one of the quotes from another writer and it's just it's great you do you exercise some of the exercise some demons
Alex Ferrari 44:44
And and again, it is that secret stuff. So people listening, you know, out there, you know, if you're able to pull from your own memories, and incorporate them in a creative environment and create a creative story. Yeah, that is what's gonna stick you apart from everybody else. If you if you're just If you're just making that prostitute Pretty Woman Goodfellas gangster in New York, but you've never stepped foot in New York. Chances are even if you know structure extremely well even if you know character film and really well, it's going to be like you said very thin. But yes, but a first time writer who lived in New York. Well that's why Martin Scorsese his movies were so amazing, like main streets and, and taxi driver man. He's a raging bull raging, he lived in New York, he understood the gangster lifestyle, because he's the guys he hung out with, you know? Yeah, totally. Totally. Yeah. It's, it's remarkable. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Matthew Kalil 45:49
And it's the same as you know, what's interesting, though, is so Woody Allen has also New York, totally different guy like totally same city, totally different experience, because their memories of it is so different, their experiences are so different, that you have these totally, they both feel they're totally, totally different, because their memories are different of these bases. And then but they both have authenticity, which is you know,
Alex Ferrari 46:08
Which is also very interesting. That's a really good point that they have both are known for their New York work. And they're both so different. radically different experiences. Certainly, absolutely. Could you imagine just swapping those two in their life? It just like Martin Scorsese is living Woody Allen. Now, that would be an interesting movie. And Woody Allen's the gangster?
Matthew Kalil 46:31
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, Woody Allen character walks into a Martin Scorsese movie, you know, suddenly like, Oh, hey, sorry, we were wondering,
Alex Ferrari 46:41
Oh, my clown. Well, you're a clown, because I think it'll be a really short movie. It's a short. It's a short film, obviously. Now, there's a couple other things I want to talk about is subtext is something that that writers, and directors and filmmakers they forget about? Do you have any tips on how we can add some really nice subtext to our stories?
Matthew Kalil 47:11
I do, actually. So subtext for me is, again, I do I've talked about it in the book briefly as well, is that when we have been talking about the breakup scene, because I kind of, it's one of these, you know, our lives peppered in if you look back through our memories, there be certain blips that happen and and breakups and deaths. And, you know, angry moments are things that kind of pop up. So the breakup scene, I kind of use as an example. Often when, when someone has to write a breakup scene, so your job as a writer is very often like, Okay, this guy has to break up with this goal in order for the plot to move forward. So I've got to write a breakup scene. So you're not really you know, it's not the kind of Central reason why you're writing the movie. But for the plot to move forward, you got to write a breakup scene. So you go, okay, they're in bed, and one of them gets up and says something like, you know, I've always loved you, but I think it's time we ended, whatever. Okay, well, if you do really not know, please don't leave me whatever, you know, these. I'm just drawing, the first thing that comes to mind. And the dialogue is really on the nose. And it's and it's like, you know, but you're getting the scene written. So you're writing it and feeling like, Okay, cool. I'm running a breakup scene. And like, structurally, you've written a breakup scene, but there's no subtext. It's all on the nose dialogue. It's all exactly what you know, kind of anyone could could write. But if you Take a moment, think about Wait a minute, when did I break up with someone? What did I actually say? What words were you? Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 48:34
I'm going back to my own breakups. As you're saying this, I'm like, we weren't, we didn't actually say what we meant. We said other things. Hopefully,
Matthew Kalil 48:45
You would never, you know, you don't hurt the person's feeling. You don't say that. So you get up and you say, like,
Alex Ferrari 48:55
Like, it's not you, it's me, it's it. Um, but like, you know, but you never like, I remember my, one of my breakups, and I didn't even know it came, and it was like, and then like, literally an hour prior to the breakup, everything was fine. But underneath all of it, it was her, about to break up with me. And she and it just was broadsided me, because I couldn't read the subtext of her for obviously four months of what she was doing. Obviously, for months, I didn't see what was going on. And she and her discontent with our relationship at the time. But you're right, it was never on the nose. If you do a breakup it's never on the nose. It's never something that I'm breaking up with you because you leave the dishes out all the time you don't make the bed and You're horrible in the sack like you never hear
Matthew Kalil 49:49
But you but I see it in scripts first time scripts all the time and first draft you're like no, this is just raw, what are you doing? And then you know, you know you hear it and often you know you're the breakout happens with a look like a moment where, or somebody brings you a cup of tea every morning and one morning. They don't. And it's you look at them at all they bring it, they just put it down. And you look and there's that one look, and you say, I love you. And someone says, turned away. He laughed at the fact, you know, where's the where's the response? And so for me, the subtext is, and I and this is, again, one of the things I wanted to teach, right is how do I teach subjects, I don't know. But we live it all the time. You know, we constantly decoding the world, as human beings, we looking at each other's faces, we constantly reading the subtext all the time, you know, the guy serving your coffee at the Starbucks, you're looking at the subject, you realizing this guy's had a shitty day, and your mind you kind of reading into everything all the time. And that is what writers need are writing their scripts, is writing that stuff that we we kind of come to and when you then when you see that on the screen, you're like, Ah, she's gonna break up with them. You know it already, because it's all in the subtext. And I think that's, that's my main advice is like, right from life, right, from what you've seen in life, and then look at your script and go, is this realistic to my own life? Has this happened? And then go to your memory wall and say, Hmm, can I draw from something else from there? Is there another way of saying this? And I'd say, yeah, that's that's the thing for me with subtext is it's, it's obviously not writing on the nose. But it's a lot more about what is unsaid. And, you know, one of the kind of estimate this isn't in the book, but because it's kind of one of the kind of more obvious things is that just, if you can show it without saying it, then that's going to be you know, that's going to be the best, that especially with subtext, you know, it's like, you know, and never people never say what they mean. I mean, it's just like you say, even though it says, I'm breaking up with you, because you, you know, you don't clean the dishes, yes. Never, never, ever happens.
Alex Ferrari 51:44
And it's always something else, it's always something else. And they always You're right, and we are constantly decoding human behavior on a daily basis. But for whatever reason, when we write for the first time, you forget that, and you're so on the nose, and it took me a long time to realize what on the nose meant. Yeah, like, just like, what cuz I would my first scripts were like, I got notes back, or I got coverage on it. And they're like, your dialogues on the nose. And I'm, like, I get I understand the concept. But like, What do you mean? He's going from point A to point B, he's talking about point A to point B. Yeah. And that's just the way the story's moving forward. I don't understand why it's not working. And then all of a sudden, something clicks and go do it. It's not about a to b, it's about y to z. And you got to write about y to z while you're doing a B, there, you got, yep. And I've tried. I've confused more people listening.
Matthew Kalil 52:40
Well, it's a really confusing thing. And actually, as writers, we are facing this dilemma, because we're not just writing dialogue that happened in life, this is the other thing we're not and I talked about in the book as well, I'm not expecting you to write your breakup scene that's going to be boring, I'm sorry, it probably is, you know, it's really important to you. But you know, out of context, if you write a breakup scene from life, it's going to be boring, we as writers have to also move the plot forward. So we're doing two things, we moving the plot forward with our dialogue, who's gonna be delivering information that has to do with the plot, and then we're also trying to keep it real, like people speak in real life. And that balance, I think that's where people struggle a lot. Because we do have to move the plot forward, they have to break up at the end of the scene, you have to communicate to the audience they have broken up that someone might have to say, Sorry, breaking up. Yeah. Okay, that might have to be in there somewhere. But you don't put that in all the time. So that's the balance that we got to face as writers, keeping it real, keeping the dialogue real, but then moving the plot forward. And very often people just move the plot forward, and then they stopped keeping it real. And that's the balance. It is difficult. And I think it's one of the most difficult things. I think it's kind of it's a really tricky question about subjects and why you're, you're you're reverting to things like ATP. And why does it because it becomes quite abstract in a way. And actually, that's a lot of what writing is, it's really abstract and screenwriting, even though it's a craft, no doubt. And there are a lot of books out there that tell you about, you know, if you plot from x to y, and a to b, and then there's the graphs and diagrams and all these things, and I'm like, you know, yeah, okay, but in truth, no one really knows anything. And you've got to just, it's a fragile beast we dealing with, yeah, this creativity, especially in screenwriting. And this is what I think is why my book is slightly different to the other stuff, is that it deals with the creative process in the moment when you're creating. And so it's, it's that kind of, it's that kind of subtle, and often language fails, as at this point, language fails, and it becomes art again, and it's quite exciting in a way, even though you know, I'm telling you a view, your view is now going What the hell are these guys talking about? Just tell me how to do it. And I'm saying yes, there are ways it's not that easy. It's not man it's
Alex Ferrari 54:45
Not and look, structure a structure you can you could do a three extraction, you could do a five extra you could do you know and and that's easy to learn. I mean, that's not hard to learn a three act structure. They tell you, they literally are on you could Google the hero's journey. Yeah. You could Google a three act structure and like, okay, from this page, this page should have something like this happen at this page. Yeah, that's, it's just that that's a roadmap. But, but how to fill that and how to get to that point. Because eventually you just will instinctually know the structure, you will get to the point where structure is not going to be an issue for you anymore if you outline things, right, absolutely. It's all this other stuff that makes it really good.
Matthew Kalil 55:28
You know, it's like those early playwrights, you know, you think of Tom Stoppard, and these guys, I don't know, like, you know, these are the names that came with these early days.
Alex Ferrari 55:36
Shakespeare. Shakespeare. Yeah.
Matthew Kalil 55:40
I've never anyway, Shakespeare is another story. But. But like those guys who are grappling with life and their experiences, they're putting it on the screen, like Scorsese is, it does it as well, of course, but it's but it's that kind of stuff. How do you get that stuff onto this onto the script? And that's kind of what drawing from these wells are, is about in some way. But drawing from lads struggling with it, you know, and but yeah, keeping it real at the same time. So
Alex Ferrari 56:06
Now, do you have any advice on how to create memorable characters? I'd love to hear out about that.
Matthew Kalil 56:12
I do actually. Yeah. So creating memorable characters is. Again, there's also a section in the book and I'll use the walls as a way of of talking about it. Because first of all, you can draw characters from if we use the walls, your external source as well. So you can say, Okay, well, I'm going to do a character that's just like Rocky, you know, you could, or I'm gonna do a character that's just like Luke Skywalker. Or you could do your imagination. Well, you could do a bit of Harry Potter kind of way where JK Rowling was sitting in the train, Harry Potter came to her like zahm lightning bolt from above, a lot of the characters just came out of the blue. And you can or you can, you can take like, if you want to create a memorable character, you could take like rocky meets Harry Potter, and collide the characters together. Now you've got the rocky Harry Potter character. I've know what that is. I deal with that genius. A boxer wizard,
Alex Ferrari 57:00
a boxer wizard. shark shark NATO. I'm telling you shark NATO, it will work.
Matthew Kalil 57:07
Exactly. It's in my book. It's like shopping. There's like a tornado and shocks. Bam. Okay. You can do the same with characters. You know, that's what they did.
Alex Ferrari 57:17
That's exactly what it did. Throw together. I love it. It's great.
Matthew Kalil 57:22
I love it. I think you know, but people do this all the time. They so one of the shows I wrote a long time ago was like, okay, so we got to, again, so Africa was rugby, and Americans American football. So you got American football player, and someone who's really camp, collide them together. And you've got this cap, American football player. Interesting. He has a character that's kind of unique. That's using the imagination well, but memory well, man, that's where the unique characters lie, like no doubt about Oh, yeah, I've got a whole I've got this whole system in the book where you, you go through your character list, even in the script that you've written. And you've written Say, say you've written a character. So I wrote this scene in a script that I'd written. And I had a scene, it was a music store guy working like a clerk in a music store. Okay? He was just, he was music store clerk one or something like that. And this guy, he was random. And he had some dialogue, but he wasn't really unique. And then I went through my life. And I looked through all the people that I knew. And I went almost like a Rolodex through my life. And I was like, Okay, this is huge. Yeah, let's go, let's go. And then I found this guy was like a golf. Okay, like a long haired, you know, depressed, goth. Right? tattooed everywhere, piercings everywhere. And I was like, wait a minute, put him in the music store. And suddenly, I had this character that was like, really memorable. Like, not really wanting to work in the store. And my, my main, one of my main characters was that she was a young man, and she had this baby in her arms. And she was trying to get her CDs that she was trying to sell out of a bag. And she was, and she got handed the baby to the golf. And now this golf, holds his baby. And he's like, I'm sorry, Madam, this is not. This is not, this is not policy in the store. And you know, you'd like to holding babies or accepting your CDs, we couldn't really tell. But it became quite memorable and interesting scene that leapt off the page, because I was drawing from characters in my life. And we see them all the time. I mean, I bet you, if your readers and your listeners and even You're such a thought back to today, and if you know if you've left the house, and you think about who've I bumped into today, is that? Oh, yeah, there was Uber driver. He was really weird. Now, what happens if that Uber driver, and you take him and you put him in a script in a character, your script, and that's the way I find really memorable characters come from? Because they're everywhere in life? Yeah, we don't open our eyes. And and one of the things that I really am calling for with this book, is that we open our eyes a bit more and get off the, you know, look in my cell phones, right? Yeah. But like, you know, get off the cell phone and look around us and open our eyes again, and like see the world and see the characters that are around all the time, and then draw from that. And look, it's a cliche, but you know, if you're the friend of a writer, he's probably going to write about you. They come from my life, you know, that's it. You know, I'm sorry, I'm writing about you. That's it.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:02
Oh, no, there's no, there's absolutely no question. I've done that multiple times in my life where I called up my friend. I'm like, Look, dude, you're in, you're in the movie. Yeah. And he's like, not only are you in the movie your name, I'm not even gonna be that creative. Your name is in the movie. And I'm going to take elements of your life, I'm going to mix it with somebody else. But you're gonna see yourself up there. Sorry. And that's the way it is.
Matthew Kalil 1:00:27
It's kinda it's kind of what people do naturally. But I think very often when you run into a deadline, are we writing with some pressure, we kind of forget that that's what we're doing. And so we forget to kind of draw from life and draw from the characters from laughing Yeah. So yeah, that that'd be my way of creating memorable characters. And it's, you know, but what's great as well about about the three wells is when you combine all three, so Okay, you've got the Gulf, and then you've got someone from another movie. So underwire is the thing you're thinking of like, the guy from bringing out the dead cuz I'm thinking of Martin Scorsese. Now think of the taxi driver, Nicholas Cage's character, and the golf combined together. And now you've got some sort of a, I don't know, golf paramedic. Okay, cool, right, a MacArthur paramedic
Alex Ferrari 1:01:08
Who's drugged up on some stuff, so he's high. Good. And now you've got an anomaly. It's just a noise about
Matthew Kalil 1:01:15
Something going there. There's something going there. And so yeah, so that's how you do it. And if you combine all three, well, then we really cooking with gas. That's the way to you know, that's the way to really do it.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:23
And another thing you thought you talked about a couple times here, is colliding, colliding ideas colliding characters colliding stories. Can you just touch on that a little bit more, because I think it's so powerful, like we just did it with Rocky, and Harry Potter. I don't know what that character would be. But that couldn't be the germ to start something bigger. You know, it could be the genesis of another character, where you know, all of a sudden, Harry Potter learns how to fight and he's also a wizard. So MMA MMA Harry Potter. Yeah. But he wrestles diet dragons instead. So he fights dragons physically.
Matthew Kalil 1:02:05
It's definitely imagination is I love the imagination was just going and this is what happens with colliding ideas. So the idea is, it's almost like a, like a physics thing, you know, you've got these two atoms, and they collide together. And as they collide, they spark and is that spark that just gets ideas going and gets the creative juices flowing. And then you can create something that's just, it's quite unbelievable. Once that spark happens, but if you've just sitting there with one idea the other day, you don't collide them together, you don't, you know, you don't create something. It's actually I mean, it goes back to the sort of idea of what's your thesis and antithesis, create together you create synthesis is this kind of, you know, deep theory of this, which is kind of, it's very academic, but, but the idea is that when you collide two almost opposites together, it's a bit of black juxtaposition. You spark off something that is then the imagination. Well, that's, I call it like a geezer like spirits are as I don't know, you can't stop it. I mean, this Harry Potter rocky thing, I'll probably never gonna forget it. Who knows where it's gonna end up one day. But you know, it's it's like, it's like, they took you random, but but you collide them. And then you've got this. And what happens is, it's then it becomes not just a character, but a story, because you started popping earlier, you weren't even talking about the character. You were plotting a whole story with me, man, dragons, you've got to find the dragons. And so what happens is like, suddenly, the plot starts coming from these characters that we've collided together. That's, that can be really, really powerful.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:27
That is, well, that was how like, Indiana Jones was created, like an archaeologist who goes around the world getting, like, Oh, you know, whip wielding that was literally Spielberg and Lucas on a beach. Yeah. And they were just like, Hey, why don't we make a movie about an archaeologist who goes around treasure hunting, you know, like, wouldn't that be cool? And he's got a whip in a fedora. And then from there, the rest was born. Exactly, exactly. It's pretty. It's pretty insane. Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I ask all my guests. I know, I know what's coming. But before we do that, you actually told me an amazing, it's a humbling story about how you heard about me, and I'm not and I want to just, I just, I'd love for you to tell the story on air because it's just something that was I've never had that happen to me. So I think it's a really cool idea. Yeah. Really cool story. Yeah, Tommy, that would be awesome.
Matthew Kalil 1:04:22
I love it. Okay, I'm gonna draw from my memory well and tell you a story about what happened. So I live in a place called museum Burg, which is basically like Venice Beach in Cape Town in South Africa, except much smaller. But it's kind of wide streets. Lots of skateboarders, lots of surfers, and there was this coffee shop that I sometimes work at. And I'm working they're working on on some courses from the book. And I see this guy next to me and he's got a laptop open and it's got a you know, it's got an editing suite on so it's got like, premiere. Somebody is editing something. And you know, which is probably also a bit like Venice Beach. La is everyone's always working on scripts or movies or length is everywhere. And so he's working on this thing, and I say Hey, how's it going? You know, because I always want to meet people. That's the other thing. I'm always just meeting people. Really good advice, by the way, like meet people all the time. But if you're so I purchased gonna say like, are you doing some editing work? What are you working on? He's a stills photographer who's moving into video and we start talking. And I say, I've got this book and he goes, I it's amazing. I'm take a picture, Instagram and Instagram, YouTube book, and any asset. But I've also got this podcast because I've also started podcasting because podcasts are amazing. And I've started, I've started the three worlds podcast, which is an anywhere so I mentioned to him and he says, Have you heard of indie film hustle? And I don't think it rings a bell, but I don't think I've and he says you've got to listen to it. It's amazing. So this guy in the like the tip of Africa, in the small little town called newsmag is telling me about Alex Ferrari. And so I'm like, Okay, cool. I'll check it off, I guess my son, and I started to see you. And I'm like, Oh, this is great. I love what this guy's doing. And he's far he's amazing. So I write Alex Ferrari on my whiteboard in the tip of Africa.
Alex Ferrari 1:05:54
Write your name. That's ridiculous.
Matthew Kalil 1:05:57
Like contact Alex Ferrari. So I'm thinking like, how am I going to contact him, I could email him out of the blue. And then two or three weeks later, I mean, this is sort of joint session with other Michael Visser productions, who's my publishers. And they're really good. They kind of it's a bit of a family publisher. And we all we all meet with each other. And suddenly, this woman, Diane Bell, who's a friend of yours is on this, you know, thing with me. And she says, Oh, you guys should meet with Alex Ferrari. And I'm like, Yes. And that's how and that's how I ended up sitting here in Johannesburg, South Africa, talking to you,
Alex Ferrari 1:06:30
I find it. It's, it's humbling, but I've never heard a story. And it's just I wanted to, I wanted to bring it out, because I wanted to make a point of it. Which is you never know, as a creator, as an artist, as a writer. What your work will do in the world where it will reach who it will reach at what point it will reach them. So I'm here in in Los Angeles, I sit here in my my cave, with this little microphone. And Yoda, Yoda is in the background. Yes, yes, my life size, Yoda is in the background. And I sit there at night, and I talk on this into the into the into the ether. And yet, that story is so amazing to me, because some guy who I've never met in a coffee shop in Johannesburg. He was in Cape Town, in Cape Town, and he's telling you about my podcast, which then, and then how everything worked out is amazing. So I always tell artists, I always tell writers and filmmakers, it is your responsibility to get your work out there. It's your responsibility to tell your stories because you have no idea the impact that your story will have on another human being it could be just one person who watches a movie you write, watches a television episode, watches a short film that you direct or a feature or whatever content you create, and it can change their life. And I'm not saying that you changed your life or anything like that. I'm just saying as a general statement, that our our, our work has the potential to do something like that. So I thank you for nothing. That's amazing. I thank you for telling that story. I wanted to make that point.
Matthew Kalil 1:08:11
No, no, it's good. Because you know, the other thing is like when you're in the flow of creativity as well, these things happen. I don't know if you found this. But once you start just creating and doing and, and putting stuff out there, suddenly, I mean, what you've been doing is like you're putting you're just putting stuff out there. And like things start happening and the flow happens. And the next thing you know, I'm talking to you. And like, that's just it's like incredible how that happens. But it's got to do with like unblocking and flowing. You know,
Alex Ferrari 1:08:38
I'll tell you, I'll tell you what, when I launched indie film, hustle three and a half years ago, I was blocked. I mean, I just did that the doors were shut to me. I couldn't talk to anybody anything all of a sudden, and because I decided to give back and start and start building indie film hustle up, I have now options to talk to people that I've never in a million years would have, if I would have just maybe if I would have emailed you out of the blue, like, Hey, I'm a filmmaker, you know, can I talk to you for an hour and just like pick your brain. Like, that's not something that you would do, but because of me just putting stuff out there constantly. Doors swing open all the time. And I get to have this amazing experience with having a conversation with you on the other side of the world, about screenwriting, which is, you know, wonderful. And then on top of that, our conversation is not going to be shared with hopefully 1000s of 10s of 1000s of people around the world. And hopefully I will make an impact in their life one way shape or form. So it's a wonderful place to be.
Matthew Kalil 1:09:39
Thank you. It is and I feel very humbled and grateful to be part of this.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:43
So let's talk I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Got advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?
Matthew Kalil 1:09:51
Okay, it's a great question. It's really good. So, I think, you know, the first thing that came to mind was persistence here. And I wanted to say be persistently yourself, if that's possible. So, so you know, it's like, this is me, this is my voice. This is what I'm writing, this is who I am and being true to that is really difficult. And, and then persistently doing it with precision, okay, as well. Because, you know, don't don't just write any old script and persistently Give me that script. And the script is bad, right. ever be bad. But, but like, yeah, persistently Be yourself with precision. So so so read other scripts, I should go maybe that's, you know, I'm gonna take all that back. And I'm just gonna say read scripts. Okay, read lots of scripts. Because I noticed on your on your page, you've got like links to scripts. Oh, man, hundreds of scripts hundreds and 1000 is just so look, if you if you're trying to break into the industry, I suppose. Look, if you just trying to write a really good script, then then read many, many scripts. But if you're trying to break into this into the industry, then just persistently Be yourself with precision. I think that would be my my bit of advice.
Alex Ferrari 1:11:16
That is an amazing piece of advice. Because I always tell people the same thing in the sense of Be yourself. That's who you they can't make another you and I always tell people like I've met directors who like I want to be the next Tarantino. I want to be the next Fincher. Next, Nolan. I'm like, dude, I hate to break it to you. We've got a Fincher, we've got an olan and we got a Tarantino. And I promise you, they're so much better at being themselves and you will ever be. So you've got to be the best Matthew, I've got to be the best, Alex. And that is it. And that is the secret stuff. And isn't it? Because no one can tell you the secret stuff. No one can ever I will never be able to compete with Matthew kolel. No, in the same way that you will not be able to compete with me in the sense that I can never be you. Absolutely. And you can never be exactly and that you know exactly. It's we are who we are, period, in whatever we do.
Matthew Kalil 1:12:10
And I think we get very caught up as creative people by looking so I look at you and I go, oh my god, Alex Ferrari, he's done all this stuff. And he's keep, he keeps making stuff and he keeps putting, I've got to do that too. If I don't do that I'm not successful. Meanwhile, my book, the three walls, as you know, is like Zen and calm. And that's who I am. That's a different winner.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:29
We're both very different energies. But like I look at someone like Gary Vaynerchuk, right. I love Gary Vee. I look at Gary Vee. I'm like, Oh man, I got to do what more I do what Gary Vee is doing. I got to get out there. I got to put more stuff. I like to look Tim Ferriss, I got to do more stuff like Tim Ferriss and what he's doing here. But it's great to be inspired by other people. But at the end of the day, the race is with yourself. Always. Exactly. Exactly. Now, can you tell me the book that had the biggest impact on your life or career?
Matthew Kalil 1:12:58
Wow. Hmm. That's a really good question. I'm sure. Okay. You know, what is? I think it is this, it's, it's very bizarre, but, but I'm just gonna go with it. Is this really the book? I think it is? Okay. It's fun. It's Franz Kafka's the trial.
Alex Ferrari 1:13:26
Okay. Okay. Sure.
Matthew Kalil 1:13:29
It's really weird. I'm just gonna. So the reason is, I read that when I was really young, I was like, she's under like, eight 616 17. And I read this book. And I had no idea what it was. I didn't know what it was. I knew it was great. And I knew that it was like, I knew it was a mystery. I had no idea what was going on. But I was fascinated by it. I was fascinated by the tone. And I loved being lost in that space of not knowing what it was. So I've kind of constantly looked at stories, I think, from that place onwards, in a sort of almost literary analysis kind of way to try and like figure stories out. And so I think actually that book, getting that book and reading it at a young age, I was I was too young for it. It kind of like
Alex Ferrari 1:14:18
Sir, I'm too. I'm too young. I'm too young for it, sir. It's Kafka. Kafka, please. We're all we're all. We're all we're all too young for Kafka. Maybe at 80 you can start.
Matthew Kalil 1:14:37
Exactly, exactly. So I'm gonna go with that even though there are a lot of books that popped into my head but I think to be honest, that's probably Yeah, that's a great that's. It made me want to solve puzzles, which I think is my story. My Yeah, my story brain.
Alex Ferrari 1:14:50
That's awesome. Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Matthew Kalil 1:15:03
It links to what we were talking about earlier. And it's, I'm still learning it, definitely almost every day. And it's just I am enough.
Alex Ferrari 1:15:19
Yeah, I've heard that before. On the show. Many people have said that same thing. It's a great, great lesson.
Matthew Kalil 1:15:25
And I'm actually thinking of almost changing and just going I am. Yeah. Not the enough because the enough has got a judgment to it. Mm hmm. And it's just, I happen. That's an impossible lesson. But I'm learning.
Alex Ferrari 1:15:40
It's very, it's very Zen. It's very deep. And I agree with you. 110%. Sir, if you can, if you can learn to be it to be in that space within yourself. And like, Look, I'm comfortable in my own skin. I am. period is such a powerful place to be as not only a human being, but as an artist. Oh, that's one of the greatest artists, maybe some of the greatest artists may mean from people who just don't know who they are, and they don't care about anybody. Look at all the look at all the great writers. Look at Hemingway. Hemingway, Shakespeare, look at you know, King, all these guys. All of them. They just know who they are. They don't care about anybody else. And they just like, I'm just gonna do this.
Matthew Kalil 1:16:28
And you know, what's amazing is and you can feel they're not coming from a place of arrogance. No, not like I am I am this I am that. It's like, just I am I'm doing this thing. And this is what I'm doing. And it's amazing. And we didn't even say it's amazing. It's just I'm doing this thing. And like Lynch's you know, he's a master at this. He's just Lynch's doing Lynch and
Alex Ferrari 1:16:48
Does he do Lynch ever?
Matthew Kalil 1:16:50
I know what I mean, this is it. I mean, Twin Peaks. Season Three. I'm like, when I watched that, I felt just like I did when I was 18. Reading the trial. It was like, wow. And I was you know, it was a good it was a good feeling, though. But he does he does he just he's just in that and that's it. Just the I have
Alex Ferrari 1:17:06
And just to throw out a quick a quick plug. David Lynch is going to have a masterclass in 2019. Ah, amazing. So everyone listening, you got any film, hustle, calm, and I'll have a link for it there. But I just heard about it. Like yesterday, I was like, Oh my god, I want to hear David Lynch talk about his creative process. I've seen his documentary. he meditates. costumey. I love man. He's just such an amazing human being. And boy does is fantastic. If he if there's a T shirt that says I am Boy, that man has it. And then some. Yeah. Okay, so, three of my favorite films of all time. Three of your favorite films of all time.
Matthew Kalil 1:17:49
Okay. Do you? I knew you were gonna ask this. This is the worst question in the world. But I'm gonna try and answer it. Okay. So you know, it's gonna be really sad, because I'm not gonna mention any Lynch films, just because but there's so many of them that I would put in there. But I'm not going to do it. Because what I've thought of is with this question, because I knew it was coming because I listened to your podcast before. So I was like, Okay, you know what, it's going to be the opposite. When I was really young. I watched on VHS cassette, and they just left such an impression on me. So in my book, I've got this list where we're at where we use the external sources well to find your theme, and I list the top 10 movies that have influenced me and asked the reader to do the same and from that you find the themes you're interested in. It's a nice exercise with trying but with this one, I'm going to say Okay, the first one is the Blues Brothers.
Alex Ferrari 1:18:32
Love The Blues Brothers. Love the black brothers man. They're amazing.
Matthew Kalil 1:18:38
Okay, the first movie I'm just like, I can recite that movie back with my brother and I we can just do the lions you know, you can just like for like, just like that like, like it's really uncanny. I can watch the thing in silence probably and like say all the lions Sure. I love the the humor. I love the acting. I love the comedy pacing. You know, the pacing is just it's basically like a big blue song. You know, the pacing in the editing is
Alex Ferrari 1:19:03
It's a genius. It's genius. Yeah, I love the mall sequence alone. The mall sequence along with the cars is just in the Spielberg cameo. I mean, come on. That was great. And you know, later on in life, I watched Spielberg Is that like a 19? Is that like a 19? Well, when was that movie made in 70 in the setting that was the 70s or 80s 80s late 80s, early 80s so that's early 80s Spielberg you know all go like you know, geeky and like with the glasses. He's was great. Great. Looks like the main character from Ready Player One. You pretty much pretty much pretty much pretty much all right, the second movie. Okay, cool.
Matthew Kalil 1:19:49
I'm gonna have to go with something again. It's really weird and out there you might be better. So surfing movie called Big Wednesday,
Alex Ferrari 1:19:56
Of course. Yeah, of course. That's that's the topic. Yeah, Emily's Yeah, of course.
Matthew Kalil 1:20:01
Yeah. Yeah. So so this is like after Apocalypse Now, which is what I could put in there as one of the movies, but I'm sneaking out the movies anyway. But, you know, makes this movie about, you know, buddies living and surfing together spanning, you know many years. And it's just like, I watched it when I was younger. And it's just there's something about that foam.
Alex Ferrari 1:20:20
I just, I super love it.
Matthew Kalil 1:20:22
I watch it again and again and again. I love it. Yeah, I think Tarantino once said about that film surface don't deserve this film, which is like,
Alex Ferrari 1:20:30
I get I get I get what he's saying. I get what he say. And the third one, okay.
Matthew Kalil 1:20:37
Should one. Okay, again, I'm gonna go with the movies that I watched when I was younger on VHS. And that's North by Northwest. Oh, yeah, of course. Okay. Yeah, yeah. So it's like, it's kind of Hitchcock. But what happened is the reason that it's so important for me is that, so in the movie, I mean, it's kind of a spoiler alert, but not really is like, the first 10 or 15 minutes of the founder, the sort of setup phase is this guy, and he, you know, goes to this place, and he gets almost killed. And you know, you kind of get put in a car and he gets forced off a cliff. And then he goes to the police station, and he says, No, no, this is what happened to me. He brings them back to the house, and everything's been cleaned. And it looks like it looks like he's insane. Like, all of the stuff that happened to him hasn't happened. And that's VHS tape that I had in those days ended. So I watched 15 minutes of the movie, and I didn't know what happened. Oh, my dad. So then. Yeah. So later on in life, when I watched the rest, I was like, Okay, and then and then I kind of Yeah, and then I just loved it. Yeah. So I still, I still really enjoyed. It's one of those films that I could watch again, the crop, that's the sequence, you know, that's just like, I can watch that crop duster sequence where you know, he's running away from the ground, I can watch it again and again and again. But yeah, there's many other movies and I would love to choose, I would love to choose them. But those are the I think those are the three that had a real effect on me when I was younger.
Alex Ferrari 1:21:57
Awesome. And now where can people find you and your work? Now where can people find you?
Matthew Kalil 1:22:03
Ohh the easiest place is probably thethreewells.com my website and on that you got links to my everything my Facebook pages, my Instagram pages. Those are probably the easiest I've got YouTube channels and stuff on I've got a podcast as well. The three wells podcast where we interview local, South African at the moment screenwriters, but also be going internationally about their creative processes. So yeah, if you just Google the three walls, you'll find stuff, but you als.com is probably the best place. And then to get hold of the book, it's everywhere. It's on Amazon, it's on me, wherever you want to find it should be in your local bookstores in LA. And also, Michael Visser productions, their websites, mwp.com and so you can be on there. But yeah, I suppose homepage, the three wells.com.
Alex Ferrari 1:22:51
Matthew, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, man, thank you so much for coming on the show and dropping some major knowledge bombs on the tribe today. So thank you, man. Thanks. I told you it would be epic. I want to thank Matthew for coming on the show and dropping major major major knowledge bombs on the tribe today. And you know, getting those creative juices flowing is not always easy. And by using this technique, you really can get things jumpstarted very, very quickly. So I want to thank Matthew from the bottom of my heart as well for writing this book, and putting this kind of information out there for filmmakers, screenwriters and storytellers to have as a resource to getting their stories out into the world. Now if you want links to the book, and anything else we discussed in this episode, please head over to indiefilmhustle.com/289. And I know a lot of you are still thinking, hey, Alex, you said this week that we're gonna get another episode about my new book shooting for the mob. Well, don't worry, it's coming tomorrow. I just wanted to give you a bonus episode this week. So you're getting three episodes this week? Because I'm insane. No, but really, I am seriously addicted to getting as much content out there that can help you guys on your journey. So enjoy your bonus episode this week. And if you haven't gone already, please head over to filmmakingpodcast.com and leave us a good review on iTunes. It really really helps the show out a lot. And if you want to see the video podcast version of this episode and see Matthew and I actually talk live on screen. It is available on indiefilmhustle.tv I will leave the link in the show notes and that is the end of another episode of the indie film hustle podcast. As always keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.
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Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
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