With a deft ability to balance both half-hour single camera comedies and one-hour dramas, Pete Chatmon has directed over 50 episodes of television including HBO Max’s The Flight Attendant, Insecure, Silicon Valley, and Love Life, Netflix’s You, ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and Black-ish, Starz’ Blindspotting, FX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and the Apple TV+ series Mythic Quest. He is in development on The Education of Matt Barnes with Showtime, for which he will direct the pilot and serve as executive producer and is currently co-executive producer and producing director on Reasonable Doubt, the first project to be produced via Hulu’s Onyx Collective.
His debut feature as writer/director, Premium, starred Dorian Missick, Zoe Saldana, and Hill Harper, and premiered on Showtime after a limited theatrical run. Chatmon also wrote, produced, and directed 761st, a documentary on the first Black tank battalion in WWII, narrated by Andre Braugher. Through TheDirector, his Digital Studio, he has directed, shot, and edited content for advertising agencies and Fortune 500 brands.
Chatmon’s career began in 2001 with the Sundance selection of his NYU thesis film, 3D, starring Kerry Washington. His most recent short film, BlackCard, premiered on HBO, and his narrative podcast, Wednesday Morning, engaged voters around the 2020 election. His podcast, Let’s Shoot! with Pete Chatmon is available on YouTube, iTunes, and all podcast platforms. In January 2022 his book, Transitions: A Director’s Journey + Motivational Handbook was released by Michael Wiese Productions
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Pete Chatmon 0:00
Like choosing your battles and picking your moments. I feel like for the most part, if you do that, you'll be able to find a way to collaborate with anybody.
Alex Ferrari 0:11
This episode is brought to you by the Best Selling Book Rise of the Filmtrepreneur how to turn your independent film into a money making business. Learn more at filmbizbook.com. I like to welcome to the show Pete Chatmon, man. How you doing Pete?
Pete Chatmon 0:25
I'm doing well, brother. Good to see you, Alex.
Alex Ferrari 0:27
Good to see you too. Man. We've been trying to do this for months now back and forth between our schedules. Now I'm so happy we finally got to do this man. So thank you for your patience. And I'm looking forward to get into the weeds with you about the about the fun and easy world of the film industry.
Pete Chatmon 0:44
Of course, it's like snap, crackle pop, you know.
Alex Ferrari 0:48
I mean, just I make millions you I mean, I mean, that's the way it works, right? I mean, here's the thing, you can make a movie. I have a $200 million movie coming up. I don't know about you. But
Pete Chatmon 0:57
Yeah, I'm thinking 350 You know?
Alex Ferrari 1:00
I mean, yeah, push the edge. So first question, brother. How and why God's green earth? Did you want to get into this business?
Pete Chatmon 1:09
You know, I, I blame I blame my high school. I'm looking at what I think is a Super Eight camera. I can't tell if it's a Bolex or what on your on your
Alex Ferrari 1:20
I have multiple super eights and 60s back there.
Pete Chatmon 1:23
Yeah, yeah. And, you know, Oh, yeah. See the lower shelf now. And, you know, I had a, I had a Super Eight filmmaking class in my high school in New Jersey, Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey. I was trying, we had to take these electives. And I had taken architecture in 10th grade, and we had to build a little house. And I thought I'd be an architect until we got into the measurements. And I mean, it was it was like, one 1,000,000th scale of a home, you know what I mean? But like, I was like, I like this, but it's not for me. And so I was like, Well, let me do photography. And I was like, this is cool. I did the TV station. That was cool. But southern about like the moving image just kind of really connected to me. So I picked up that Super Eight camera, my high school film teacher, George Chase had gone to NYU. And so I'm kind of hearing these anecdotes about NYU. And at the same time discovering the, the eyes, the reality of the director, you know what I mean? Like, oh, there's a, there's a person for whom, you know, what I'm seeing, you know, we can argue about the tour theory, but like, there's a person for whom is, is kind of heavily responsible. And in film was mostly responsible, arguably, for what I'm seeing. And I was, I think, in the same way, I was attracted to architecture in designing a world. Film spoke to me and I found that I was pretty fluent with what to do with the camera, and how to edit pretty early. And so I was like, it was like, it was like creative crack.
Alex Ferrari 3:07
Yeah, that's, that's, I call it the beautiful disease, because once you get it, can't get rid of it.
Pete Chatmon 3:13
Alex Ferrari 3:16
So looking through your filmography, man, I see that you did a tremendous amount of shorts, man, you did a lot of short films at the beginning of your career. And even throughout a little bit, what impact did shorts do for you to get you those first paid directing gigs? Because I'm assuming these weren't all paid short term.
Pete Chatmon 3:34
None of them were they were all their debt, fulfilling prophecy? You know, I'm saying, but I think that look, like I was gonna make it, I'll answer the question, but I'm starting here, I was gonna make a short in 2020. But when COVID hit, it was to come, it was too cumbersome economically to pay for all the COVID protocols. And so I made an audio podcast, one episode, audio, podcast, and narrative. And so I would make a short right now. Like, I feel like short filmmaking is its own little masterpiece. It's a great challenge to tell a story or, or pick a theme and deal with an event, you know, a setup an event and kind of propel the audience to imagine what happens after the conclusion. Because, to me, there's no resolution and a short film. It's too short. And so, you know, I made shorts throughout my NYU. Time I made shorts in high school, probably like 10 shorts, you know. And after I graduated, I just found like, shorts were the way to stay sharp, because you're it takes forever to make a feature film. And it's almost like in my mind, it's like if you're a Chef you cook, right? You can't say like, the last meal I cooked was in 1999. And it's now 2004. It's still a cook, but I'm still a cook. Right. So I was always making shorts, because it was keeping it was feeding my passion and, and keeping my keeping me energized. And so specifically though, for how it fed into my career, me and my, my thesis film went to Sundance, coming out of NYU. But that didn't necessarily, there was no real straight line to the next thing, you know, it took six more years before I raised the money to make my feature. And then, but in the middle of that I had made like two or three more shorts, which I use to kind of build awareness around myself as a director and filmmaker, while I was trying to independently raise money. So more people will become aware of like the kid from New Jersey. And then, you know, most recently, man like after, after two features, a doc and a narrative feature, you know, winning a screenplay competition at Tribeca, a whole bunch of, you know, branded content projects in 2014. I made a short just for myself. And it was kind of like, let me see what I can do when I'm not doing it for a client. And I paid for it, I paid $30,000 out of pocket. And that short, got picked up by HBO. And so that short, then led to a bunch of these director programs, and they helped me get my first television job. But I didn't get paid to direct anything narrative until 2017.
Alex Ferrari 6:50
So So overnight, is what you're saying. So just overnight, out of film school, you just jumped in just got mad money. So. So I want to, I want to take you back to take back a little bit what you said, because it was really interesting. I always love to point this out for filmmakers. Because there's such a myth behind getting into a Sundance or things like that. I mean, even getting into NYU, it's a lottery ticket to get into NYU, or USC or UCLA, one of these big film schools. And so you're already we're coming out of a really, really one of the arguably one of the best film schools in the country, if not the world. And then out of that your thesis film gets called into Sundance. So I want to just want to go back into your mind back then, man, right, because I can only imagine what that was like. Right? How old were you when that happened?
Pete Chatmon 7:41
Let's see. That was 2001 that it went to Sundance, so I was 20 some? Yeah, I was like 20 How old was never met? I guess? That doesn't seem right.
Alex Ferrari 8:02
Late 20s Let's say late 20s.
Pete Chatmon 8:04
Yeah, well, I was born in 77. That was 2001 So that was what 24 24 Alright,
Alex Ferrari 8:10
So you're 24 years old? So you obviously have the entire world understood at this point in your life? You're completely you're completely altogether there because I definitely was not but so when you're sent to Sundance you automatically this is it man. I'm ready to I'm on my way. I'm like, so am I right?
Pete Chatmon 8:28
Yeah, I thought I thought I was like, I thought all the dots had been connected. The phone's gonna start ringing you know and and part of that to man is like, you can you can feed you can buy into these things that people tell you or show you and and on one level like I always think about like, you know, when I was raising money for my future, and I will have thrived done it everybody wanted me to kind of look at their business plan. And I'd be like, Look your your appendix of of comparable films. All be lightning in a bottle. You know. Spitfire grill Yeah, whatever that sounds like you know $10 million pickups like it's not it's not real.
Alex Ferrari 9:18
So can I so Yeah, can I can I can I just take a shot at the dark of what those movies where are you? Napoleon Dynamite? Yep. Blair Witch Project? Yep. Paranormal Activity. Yep. Did they even go as far back as like Brothers McMullen or El Mariachi?
Pete Chatmon 9:34
Of course, of course. And it's like, and you're not even any of these genres. Right? But this is these are comparables and so you know, I feel like people buy into that and like, and even for me, like in film school, it was like, the, the kind of pinnacle of student filmmaking was Sundance, or Khan, you know, center foundation for student films. And so when that they'd happened. I was like, okay, cool. Like, I'm like, rubbing my hands together, like things are good. But it didn't work out that way, you know. And so it was a, but I always try and hop back and say, Well, what is the real lesson here? You know, like, like, I'm a big basketball fan and like, Kobe is one of my favorite players. And I remember like watching something that he was talking about, like this playoff game, where in his rookie year, he had three air balls, right? And in and he, people were laughing and booing. And he was like, Okay, well, what's going on here, it's like, I've never played 82 games, you know, high school is 3035 games, my legs are tired. That's why I can't I don't have any lift in my shot. So y'all can laugh. And y'all can do all these things. But I know how to train for next year. So like, they're my takeaway from that experience was like, A, I was in I went to NYU, and I kind of minding my own business, and I didn't really have anyone that kind of looked at me as their guy, any professor, you know what I mean? And this is, you know, it is what it is, right? Because you always have advocates. And and then at the same time, you know, I, well, that's really, that's really my main point. And that's kind of driven by the fact that there was after Sundance, we had a festival at NYU, where, like, if you just finished the film, you show it and it's selected. And there were awards at that festival. And they were using the fact that my film was one of six NYU films that went to Sundance that year, like they were using it as promotion and advertising. And then it didn't get recognized for any of the craft awards or anything. And at my young age, I was like, well, that how the fuck you doing that? Right? Like that's, you know, you sent me the cell.
Alex Ferrari 12:00
But you give me a trophy, bro, give me a gift certificate of participation, something
Pete Chatmon 12:05
Exactly. Like in my naivete, I got scheduled a meeting with the with the head of the department. And, you know, he, he a great guy, David Irving, one of my favorite teachers. And he was like, Look, we've had films that have won the student prize at Sun or won the short film prize at Sundance and have come back here and not received any accolades. I was like, okay to shake. But the takeaway for me was like, I bet, I think if I would have had more people on my side and advocating for me, I'm aware of what I was doing that maybe that would have been different. And so that's what drove me to the earlier question to make all these short films, because when I went back to New Jersey, after leaving NYU, I wanted to make sure that was never going to happen again. And people would be aware of me, and what I was trying to do,
Alex Ferrari 12:59
So that did you a favor, that is your favor, by by not by not being advocate for you, you have to like I gotta do this myself. And you started out and you start hustling it out yourself. Sometimes, things that happen to you when you're younger, and you're like, Man, why did that happen to me, they probably the best thing, that it forces you to go in a direction that you might have not gone through. So that's always fascinating to me, man. Because we you know, when you get that Sundance call, and you're like, oh my god, I got into Sundance, everyone's like, you're done. It's over. You should get those folks. Now. It doesn't it doesn't work that way. So between the Sundance short, and your first feature was, what six years?
Pete Chatmon 13:37
Yeah, because so you know, Yeah, cuz the short shot and 99 it took me so long to get, you know, get the finishing funds that it didn't go to Sundance until Oh, one. But it was 99. I graduated. And it was that was May, and it was June of oh five that I first that was that we started shooting premium. My feature.
Alex Ferrari 13:59
Great. Alright, so during those years, how the hell did you survive? Brother? How did you survive? How did you keep going? How did you mentally break through the barriers of? Is it I have to I have to have to guess that this was thoughts going through your head? Did I make the right choice? Am I on the right path? Am I really that good? Like it's all these because this is what goes through a normal director's mind.
Pete Chatmon 14:25
Right! Well, I gotta say, man, it's funny because when I when I when I get asked these questions, I realize how I can sound but fuck it like you're asking me so. So I always knew that I would work harder than anybody else. You know what I mean? Like, I just felt like, once I like I'm gonna I observe. I'm gonna sit back. I'm going to watch how this works. And then I'm going to gain some information about how and how it works right now, because it can work differently next month. It could work Definitely in New York from LA, but so like, there's always a playing field that I need to look at and get a handle on before I decide how I'm going to inject myself into the game. Right? And so, you know, I was just always like, Well, okay, I learned this. But I, the more I do, the better I'll get. So that's also what shorts were for. Right? Like, you know, I would, I would, I would, I would do things like, I would go home to my mom's for like holidays, and I make videos like my little nephew, or from his point of view, like when he was two years old, because I wanted to try shooting from a kid's perspective. And years later, when I did TV shows with kids, I had that in my back pocket, you know? So I feel like I'm kind of straying from from the answer. But I, I was never really deterred. I was always like, well, what's the information to take from what's happening right now? And that was driven by this question of like, is everything? Am I doing everything that I can? And I think the answer will always be No. So I can always refine and try and improve my outcomes.
Alex Ferrari 16:19
So you are asking the right questions, as opposed to the negative questions that I was asking. bottom bottom, I mean, bottom line is like, the, those three questions I asked you are the questions that go through a lot through a lot of, you know, directors, especially during those years, not months, years, that things aren't working out the way you expect them to work out a huge switched it in your mind. And you're like, What can I do to keep going? What can I you were asking positive questions, that created positive answers that kept you going in an easier way than the struggle I went through.
Pete Chatmon 16:55
Well, you know, I wish I could remember the quote that I put it on my Instagram a few months ago, but the person was talking about how, in the beginning, we don't have talent, but we have taste. And it's our taste that keeps us going. We make those early projects and recognize from our tastes, that it's not where we want it to be, but we have a target that we're going to reach and we're going to refine with each thing to there's a point where what we do, what we can actually accomplish is commensurate with our tastes. And it's always that taste and then like a little bit of ego to that lets you think that it's like, Who the fuck thinks they can be president? You know what I mean? Like, like, you gotta have a certain level of ego and like, and I think that you got to have a certain level of ego to to think that, you know, you're going to whether it's raise money independently, or, or be given hired to direct something that costs millions of dollars. Like, there's a particular kind of drive that I think, you know, fills this industry. And it's also why you get so many challenges sometimes because you put all those people with all that kind of drive in a room. And all hell breaks loose.
Alex Ferrari 18:13
Yeah, it's it's kind of like, I mean, it's it's a slight bit of insanity. I mean, you have to be insane to be in the film industry in general. At the beginning, there is an insane because there's such a, like, Who who are you, like you said, Who the hell are you think someone's gonna give you a million dollars to go make your vision? Like there's, there's a slight bit of an insanity and ego that is needed to do that, you know, can you imagine what James Cameron said, when he walked into Fox's office back in the early 2000s, and said, Listen, I'm going to make a movie about a new IP. There's, I'm going to build out an entire new technology. No one's ever seen it. Hell, I don't even know if it's gonna work. I just need 100 million just to see if we can get this ball rolling. It's probably gonna cost about 500 600 million. Right, right. Right, right. I mean, that takes, arguably, there's probably no other filmmaker on the planet that could have had that conversation anywhere. Not Spielberg, not Nolan, Finch. Nobody. But that's who James Cameron.
Pete Chatmon 19:16
Yeah. And you got to believe that you're the one.
Alex Ferrari 19:19
You gotta believe you're Neo man. And you're in the matrix, and you could stop bullets. And that's what a director does. And so now, so you so you made your first feature. How did you get from that first feature into television directing, how did you make that pivot? And what was that first gig that you got?
Pete Chatmon 19:38
And so so you know, it was it was that feature. That feature was premium. It starred Dorian Missick Zoe sat down a hill Harper, Frankie phase on Bill Sadler. And it was a romantic dramedy, and it was me trying to you know, shake up the genre and
Alex Ferrari 20:00
Your ego again, as we say ego again,
Pete Chatmon 20:04
And of course, I'm proud of it, but I often look at it and wonder like, and recognize all the things that I could have done better, because I was trying to be different before being before honoring some of the things that the genre needs, you know? And again, right, like, that's me, like, I got to always look, go back and say, like, what could I have done better in this thing? And so, you know, that led to the feature. And basically, man, it was like, it was there was just a stretch of, I'm working at NYU, and as assistant Production Coordinator, like signing forms and talking to the students about insurance and whatnot. I'm teaching at NYU, acting classes, and then production classes. I'm on committees at NYU, you know, and there's so much full circle next to it. Like, there was a point when I was on the film festival committee. And now I had an opportunity to advocate for films, you know, in a way that I felt like mine hadn't been advocated for, and kind of getting in those rooms and seeing the politics of these things like, all very eye opening and affirming, and understanding what's on the other side of our creative, you know, output. And so, yeah, it was really it was really that short film that I did for HBO, that HBO picked up that really led to TV. And in an interesting way. You know, I'll say, for the industry, because I entered with the short, or that was my kind of access point into the industry was a short, and then I did these director programs, Disney, ABC, HBO, Sony and NBCU. It's almost like not even almost all the things that I did before that short film did not exist for the folks in the industry, because that was not they were not involved with that. And so that is partly why I wrote my book transitions because I wanted to have something that could be like, Okay, here's like, the director's journey and motivational handbook that's like the subtitle, but like, also, it's like an autobiography of all these things that I've done. And now, for those who do read it, it's like, oh, you actually were doing this for a long time before that short. But you know, that, um, the first episode that I got, you know, and anybody listening, I can't, I can't say enough how much of it this thing is, so it's, it's just a marathon and it's full circle. My first TV job that I booked was blackish. And I had shadowed on blackish, in the disney abc program. But the thing that is important to note is that when I came to LA for the very first time in 2000, to 25 years old, you know, I'm out here thinking it's I'm going to connect all the dots and just go and raise the money for my film. One of the first people I met hanging out with the star of my short Dorian Missick, and who will be the star my feature, I caught up with him and his cousin and his cousin's buddy. And it was Kenya Barris. So cut to 14 years later, he was the first person to offer me a job because unlike everyone else, he was actually aware of all these things I had been doing, you know, on the east coast for 1415 years.
Alex Ferrari 23:39
Wow, man, this is one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the show is because your journey is so indicative of, of a lot of filmmakers. And that just takes time. It's like, you know, I was in not to drop a name. But when Rick Linkletter was on the one of the greatest quotes he ever, ever heard about the film, and he was like, whatever you think it is going to take twice as long, it's going to be twice as hard as you thought it's going to be. Yeah. And it's so true, because, and I would argue would probably be 10 times as long as 10 times it's hard because, you know, when you're young man when you're in your 20s you're like any day now, I'm gonna get that call. Spielberg is gonna call me he's gonna bring me into his office. I'm gonna go to am universal. Get the call and drive on. Go into the ambulance. Go Mr. Spielberg. I love Raiders of the Lost Ark. You see anything in your mind you this is the this is the interaction. Hello, Steven. Hello, Pete. How are you? I saw Raiders of Lost Ark you didn't Did you see Raiders? What did you think? And that's that's that's how we all think that that situation? But it doesn't happen.
Pete Chatmon 24:42
Alex Ferrari 24:46
I do know a couple people that that it actually did play out like that. But that's such a, again, these kind of lottery ticket anomalies in the business. Most of us and you're a success story. You're working in the business now. And for every one View there might be 10,000, who are still who's still grinding it out. They're trying to get trying to get made. So that's the reality I want people to understand. But it's not. It's not that I'm trying to kill dreams, it's for people to understand the realities of what they're getting into. Do you agree?
Pete Chatmon 25:16
I totally agree. Look here. I mean, here's something I say. And, and it's funny man, because like, I'm not trying to discourage anyone, you know, with this statement, but i There are several points in time where I could have just given up the dream, and I would not have been crazy, no one would have been like, Yo, he didn't try, you know what I mean? Like, like, like, from 1999, to 2017. And all the varying things that I did with a modicum of financial, you know, success, like barely, you know what I mean? Like, I could have quit many times along the way. And I would not have been a quitter for having done so, you know, but the fact of the matter is, I feel like, you've got to have that kind of like engine in your back that battery in your back, because you just don't know how it's gonna play out. And then if you do kind of pop off quick, you know, I kind of sometimes I feel for those folks that get there really quickly, because then, you know, they're in this position, they think, Oh, it's just like that. And then when you go from being hot to like, not you have yet you have no idea what it's like to, you know, have to navigate. You know, the perfect storm.
Alex Ferrari 26:39
And I've talked to some of those guys who did pop, legendary guys who have popped at that early time. And, man, a lot of times, you're just not ready, you know, when you imagine if you would have gotten your first TV gig at 24? Yeah. Can you imagine how the ego would have run wild with you and like you could have, I mean, I had met, I had an opportunity at 26 to almost make a $20 million movie with the mob. And that's a whole other book and story. But I saw the big movie stars, and I did all this whole thing. And I look back and go, Oh my God, if I would have actually gotten that gig and worked with the caliber of bars at that age, I would have absolutely self destructed, I would have, I was just not prepared to handle that.
Pete Chatmon 27:26
Right! I'll tell you, man, if I would have gotten my first episode of TV at 38 instead of 40. You know what I mean? Like, I don't know, if it pans out, like to the point where now. I mean, it's been what since 2017. Now I've done getting close to 60 episodes of TV like now, I'm attached to pilots, and I'm doing comedy and drama. And it's like, the amount of things that I had to have learned in my other pursuits, to recognize human nature and pitfalls and traps, that come with something that is as high stakes as television, you know, where people's jobs and livelihoods are on the line. And, you know, like, I don't think I would have, I don't think I would have navigated it as well. And so I'm actually, you know, thankful for, you know, how it's panned out, because now, it's just like, you start, it's like, when you get in the zone, I'm kind of, I beat the sports analogies to death. But like, when you get into that zone, and like you hear those athletes talking about, like, the game is moving slower, you know what I mean? Because, like, I see where people are gonna go, because I've been to so many scenarios that like, you know, on these shows where you don't get where you get a script late, or you get new pages, and I'm like, boom, boom, boom, okay, I've shot so many scenes that you give me give me a couple of minutes by myself, and I'll figure out a blockage and shoot it. You know, and that's just part of, you know, it's like what you pay a lawyer for, like you, you've gotten people out of jail for this before. You know, it takes you two minutes to do it for me, but it's all these years of what you've done before that allow you to keep me and maintain my freedom.
Alex Ferrari 29:19
I mean, I'll tell you what, and I agree with you 100%. Because as you get as you're growing and getting older, and you're going through the business, you're putting more tools in the toolbox. And it's not it's not a pleasant experience. Doing that stuff that at the time you're like, man, what am I doing? But only in hindsight as you get older you look back and go, man, thank God I didn't get on Project Greenlight. Big gotta didn't get on that reality show. I mean, I was there, man. I was, I was actually worst. I was at I was top 20 Brother I almost made a decision to so I get it and said like these kinds of things. You just at the time, you're like, my life is over. Oh my god. And then you look back I'm like, oh, man, I dodged a bullet. And it's in this essay. And that's life, though. You're like, Oh, thank God, I didn't think I didn't go on a date with that girl. She went crazy, or things. But that's life. And I think that's something that Film School doesn't teach you doesn't understand about as a director. It's a lot to do about lying about life experience, even more so than the technique and the craft, the craft and the technique you pick up along the way. It's a human nature thing that they don't talk about.
Pete Chatmon 30:30
Yes, right. Yeah. For people listening right now. I'm pointing at Alex.
Alex Ferrari 30:35
Pete Chatmon 30:37
I'm in complete agreement with that. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 30:39
So so let me let me ask you. So you got you obviously was shadowing through these programs on some of these shows. So you weren't new to set a television set. But when you walk
Pete Chatmon 30:50
I was I had never been on a TV set. The first time I shadow? I know the shadow.
Alex Ferrari 30:55
Yeah, I don't know. But after your shadowing, I'm talking about when you get your first paid gig. So yeah, when you're shadowing you're, you're on the set. And it's like you're learning and you're absorbing so much stuff. But then when you but when you got that first gig that blackish that and you're on set, and yeah, you've been there before, but now you You're the man. What is it like walking onto that set? Mentally? What are you dealing with mentally on that day?
Pete Chatmon 31:22
Right. What can I kind of give you a little story? Because I hear so I booked that episode first. And the way TV works is they booked well in advance. I think it might have been April of 2017 that I booked. So Season Three was still shooting. And I booked this episode that would shoot October into November of the same year for season, it would be the 12th episode of season four. So that's like at that point six months out. But what happens is you have three stakeholders that hire you, you've got obviously the showrunner, you know representing the show, you've got the the net, the studio, and then you got the network. And sometimes it might be the same company, but different departments like ABC Studios, and then there's ABC the network. But once I got that job now I'm kind of semi approved, right? Even though I hadn't done one yet. I'm semi approved. Then I had interviewed for an episode of insecure season two, and I was I had never done anything. So they were, you know, understandably, not looking to hire someone who had never done an episode of TV. And, but what but what they did offer was like, Look, we're thinking about doing this show within the show where like all the characters watch this show. And it becomes like a running thing. Like they comment on it and whatever. And if we do that, you know, we're thinking about hiring you for that. And so back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, and they ended up doing it. And so it was called do north and then season two, it's what all the characters were watching. It was like scandal antebellum, you know, times, right. And so it starts so this was my first this is what got me into the DGA. And it starred Regina King, Scott Foley. Michael J. White, right? So like, oh, and it was, it was a one day shoot. And it was 14 pages. Right? And so I was like, that's crazy. But, you know, figure it out. And I remember on and they had to build this whole set, you know, where it's in, like a barn on the plantation, all that stuff. And I'm like, wow, this is like crazy. Like, this is like money. You know what I mean? Even though it's just a little thing within the show. And I remember there, we were getting toward the end of the day. And I was in the last scene, which was like a big, like, dramatic, you know, you're lying. And I did this and I'm fucking her and this and that, right? And so I was like, I don't have enough time. And I was like, Alright, I know how to get this, but it feels crazy. And I was like, Alright, look, everybody. This is how we're going to block it. And I told the crew like we're going to spend time blocking it. But then when we shoot this, I'm going to call freeze. And I'm just going to move the cameras to where they need to go next. Because I don't have time to shoot all of this. And it was like a weird thing. So I was like, Man, I feel like I'm exposing myself but like at the same time this is a unrealistic amount of pages to shoot. And this is the only way to get it. And so I did that and we got it and it was it was dope because I think everybody rallied around this like super gorilla. Yeah. And so anyhow, I did that that got me into the DGA that shot may 31. I have a very good memory. And so when it's not COVID fault, and then because I was in the program and ABC knew me, I they hired me to do some interstitials because they knew I did branded content. I did For interstitials, with the blackish kids for Walmart for back to school. So that shot in July of 2017. So now I'm wanting to blackish set with the black kids. And I'm working with some of the crew, and then grown ish got greenlit, and because I was approved, and it was a new show. And I don't know if everybody was like, if they were I don't know, but they offered me one. So I directed that before I directed blackish, even though I booked that first. So I got to get the TV episode jitters out of the way with people who were more of my age, you know what I mean? And also that I had just worked with on the commercials. And so when I showed up in October to do blackish, I at least felt I had shot and edited an episode of TV. And so some of the jitters were out but like, you know, when Laurence Fishburne walks on set,
Alex Ferrari 36:00
Morpheus, Morpheus, just
Pete Chatmon 36:01
You know, Tracee Ellis Ross, Anthony Anderson, Jennifer Lewis, like, you know, it's, it's different than I think, you know, all the shadowing that I did, I tried to treat it as if I had been hired to direct the episode. But when you really are there, and you're getting questions that you can't even anticipate, you know, what I mean? Or you're getting like, you know, you're dealing with interpersonal dynamics that you didn't put into your shot list. You know, I'm saying, like, like, it's just,
Alex Ferrari 36:37
That's very nicely, by the way, very nicely.
Pete Chatmon 36:41
Yeah, it's an element, you have to you have to rise to the moment and I feel like, you know, my thing was always, you know, talk slowly, but think quickly. And, and sometimes, like, you might feel like you're being silent for a while, and it might only be two seconds, but it's it's exaggerated in your, in your moment of feeling, inept, but I just never wanted to say anything that I didn't. I didn't believe or that I couldn't back up.
Alex Ferrari 37:12
So basically, what you're telling me is that you got a date with a really pretty girl in in October, and then all the other girls were like, well, he sent me he's gonna date her eventually, so we can date him now. And that's kind of like how it worked for you, but it isn't. You need to you need to be, you need to be you need to be Donnie Brasco. In this business, you need to have somebody vouch for you to be able to go oh, well, they vouched for him. And obviously he's got the goods, then we could hire him. But before that, before that Donnie Brasco moment, it's it's hard. It's not impossible. Right.
Pete Chatmon 37:51
And, and, and look, I was super fortunate that that first job was within a family. You know what I mean? Because I eventually did six grown ish, six blackish, and an episode of mixed ish, you know, and I'd be remiss to say to like, you know, I had a podcast in 2009 to 2011, with my buddy Anthony artists called the double down film show. And our final guest was Issa Rae, right after she raised the money for Awkward Black Girl to do like the final a big final episode. And so even that, like, there was a little bit of in the same way that there's a full circle with, you know, meeting Kenya Barris in 2002, you know, in 2011, there is that, in my branded content days, you know, I filmed a couple of interviews with her a year in like 2014 in New Orleans, you know what I mean? So it's just like, you're just marching along? And you don't you have all these kind of flanks that are all moving in the same direction. And you don't know, you know, when you're going to arrive at the at the target.
Alex Ferrari 39:01
Now, you kind of hinted at this, but I have to ask you, how do you deal with the politics of a set, which is something they definitely don't teach you on in film school, like the politics of inner interpersonal politics have nothing to do with you politics, I do have something to do with you. Or even crew members or actors, who are problems like meaning that they don't, they don't want to work with you that they have attitude. And then tear in film is a little different. Because if you're the director of a feature, it's a little you have a little bit more juice, but if you're, uh, you know, basically a freelancer coming in for one episode, how do you deal with that brother?
Pete Chatmon 39:38
Right. I mean, that's a great question. I first I never take anything personally, because there's so much that is connected to each person's livelihood and creative experience that I have nothing. I have no awareness of that. You know, and then there's personal stuff that people have going on. I just kind of like say, okay, Like, unless it's some wildly offensive, like, you're coming at me type stuff, you know, it's like, whatever. I also, again, I'm really trying to get a sense of the lay of the land because, you know, sometimes, you know, like shows that have been long running like you show up and like, it seems like people are talking to each other crazy, but they just been doing this for so long that family is a family, you know what I mean? But, um, so I try and find a way to give grace to that. I also learned in my faculty days, at NYU, there's a great deal of politics there, right. And I would just be like, Okay, I'm just, I'm paying attention. I don't really need to get involved here. Until it really seems like this is going to affect what I'm trying to do. So because sometimes there's a, there's somebody who's performative in their, in their outburst, or whatever mean, but like, until it's like, you know, we're going to take that class away from you, or we're going to change the curriculum, I'm just going to sit back here and be like, I'm watching. And now I maybe know where you stand. So a lot of it is really kind of, like choosing your battles and picking your moments. I feel like for the most part, if you do that, you'll be able to find a way to collaborate with anybody. I have had folks where my best efforts fell flat. And sometimes it's just about we just got to get the work done. You know what I mean? But even still, I never take it personally. And, and in a weird way, man, like karma. Karma does its own duty for you, you know.
Alex Ferrari 41:48
As they say, some famous person once said, Karma is a bitch. It's interesting, too, because there's no place anywhere that it's written, that you're supposed to have fun doing this job. It's, it'd be nice. It should be it should be fun. We're making movies, we're telling stories we're playing, make believe it should be fun. But there's no way that it's written that your DP has to be a cool dude. Or your or your or your executive producer, or the writer that you're working with, or somebody is, it's just a pain in the ass because of their own personal stuff, or their own baggage that they're bringing along. And you've got to learn how to deal with that. That's why I always tell people.
Pete Chatmon 42:31
Hey, I was gonna say, I will say, though, like, part of, I think, part of that, you know, there's, I don't know, if you have to curb your enthusiasm. You know, there's a, there's an episode where there had a dinner party and Larry, David's like, you know, you're not a good middle. Right. And it was like the person who was sitting in the middle of the table. You know, he's like, that person has a responsibility to conduct the conversation and keep it going. Right. And I feel like directing is kind of being a good middle. Like, you might even be a guest in this house. But like, can you keep things moving? Can you can you like, keep people excited and energized? And like, you know, like, can I bring an energy to this that, hopefully, maybe brings an energy out of people that they didn't have on last week's episode? So how can I take it upon myself to impact that? And also then make my experience better?
Alex Ferrari 43:35
Now is it meant if you had the opportunity to go back in time, and talk to little P? Little P who got it a Super Eight camera? That guy and go, Man, Pete? Listen, I know it. I know. I just I'm from I'm from the future. Ignore that for a second.
Pete Chatmon 43:53
I know it's weird.
Alex Ferrari 43:54
I know. It's weird. Just bear with me how like LeBron commercially, it's the old LeBron in the in the abroad, that kind of scenario. What would you tell yourself? What's the one thing that he's like, Man, listen, this is what you really got to look out for.
Pete Chatmon 44:10
I would just say, before the specificity of your question, I'd be like, I would say you're doing everything right. You know, you don't know it yet. But you are, you know, but if you're gonna ask me, what is the one thing you would look out for?
Alex Ferrari 44:26
Or be aware of, or,
Pete Chatmon 44:27
I would say, look out for yourself. Right? Because, you know, the, your real opponent is the person in the mirror. It's how long you can stay in the game. You know what I mean? And, and if you are aware of that, and if you can constantly check yourself, right? Because like, and I don't and I'm not trying to say like, people shouldn't have emotions and shit like you should like if you have a bad day, have a bad day. But like that doesn't If you had a bad week, right doesn't mean you have to, like, you know, throw things down the toilet or pivot away from like your dreams, like acknowledge the emotions and feelings, but just know that like, in trying to be positive about it, I'll say, not everybody is out here to keep you down or get you, but they're not necessarily working actively to boost you up. And that's fine. So like, don't do their job to yourself. Your job should be to make sure that you wake up every day and say, What do I need to do to attack this thing that I want? And I say attack and I need attack? You know what I mean? Because like, this is an active thing. This is a this isn't a, I mean, it's not whatever sound it's an aggressive thing. Yeah, you have to hustle America dry muscle, and be committed to it. And yeah, like, like, just remember, like, it's on, you know, obviously, there's all kinds of institutional shit and like, there's all kinds of other challenges and, and to, and there are outside forces, but like, it is on you to like, be aware of the forces that are particular to you, and then see what you can do to get around them. Because, you know, my, my outside forces as as a as a black guy trying to get into TV are different from, you know, Latin X woman or different from a military vet, or you know what I mean? Like, but still, your only opponent isn't, is in the mirror.
Alex Ferrari 46:38
There's enough obstacles in this on this road without you throwing some more in front of yourself.
Pete Chatmon 46:42
Right, but I always know. It's like in movies. I always like when when somebody like gets mad, and they trash their room. I'm like, I would never trash my room.
Alex Ferrari 46:51
I felt like destroying stuff through my journey in life. I've never like I gotta clean this up.
Pete Chatmon 46:58
I'll never trash my stuff.
Alex Ferrari 46:59
Oh, Never I'm not gonna throw throw my my life size Yoda against the wall. That's that's just crazy. Exactly. That's insane. You know, one thing I always wonder about because I haven't I've directed some television, but not at the level that you've directed television with, like a cast, the TV shows I've done mostly starting out in their one off miniseries kind of things. But when you're working with actors who know their characters better than you, much better than you. How do you direct that? What's your advice on that?
Pete Chatmon 47:35
You know, like, I mean, I'm looking right here, right, like I have on I have a post it note right here on my, on my computer. I have several ones. Right. I have, I think this is from Mike Nichols. He said, All scenes are all good scenes are either fights, negotiations or seduction, you know, through which a character is either nurturing, using or damaging. And so that is helpful to me in drawing out, you know, the best thing I've seen if perhaps it's not on the page. You know, when I talk to directors, I mean, when I talk to actors, I have things here like, I feel, I feel versus I think, because we can argue with what I think, you know, I think you should do try this, I think you should do this, well, I feel you should do this, you can't shoot that down in the same way, is as as I as I, as I feel. What if we were to, you know, instead of, let's do this, right, like, I remember the first time I said, Let's get one like this, and somebody was like, why don't want to do that, you know, I felt like, slapped, you know, and so how can I not feel that way? Again, I can change my language, you know, and also I'd like you to try. So it's, it's less about me imposing something, and more about me offering a road towards something that we can collaboratively agree on, you know, I'm saying, and even even, it's the same with working with with a with a DP like, I don't, I know this stuff. I don't I don't say throw a 35 on. I say, Let's get wider and do this and do that. You know what I mean? Like, and if they if they throw a 45 on it, like, let's get a little wider, you know, I mean, I don't I don't need to prescribe the exact path, because then I'm taking them out of the process. And so a lot of it I think question driven directing is much more successful in a for me not having somebody tell me no, and get me mad inside, and then be like, I can find out where they're coming from. You know, that times I'll even ask like, well, what's your approach here? What are you thinking in this moment? Because they may answer that question in a way that would totally nullify the note. I was I'm about to get, and I just saved myself embarrassment from looking like I don't understand what they're doing. And I think that's you that's a little more unique to TV perhaps because there's a, there's a protection over the character that, you know is the word choice is important. There's a longer connection to the character, where I think more things have been affirmed, versus on a film, we're looking to explore and find it. And so, you know, I'm also reading the person and seeing whether or not they are open to options. Because sometimes, you know, folks want to do it one way and like, feel that you're pulling the strings out from what they want to do. If you go get one different, or nuanced option, and maybe that's because every time they do, they use the other one, and they fuck up the overall performance in the actor's mind. So, you know, it's like, there's so many things that you're trying to read, engage. But in a nutshell, that's kind of the approach.
Alex Ferrari 51:08
That's a fantastic answer to that question. Because I've always I'm always fascinated about how you approach that love the question approach instead of, because in features is like, we're going to do this. Let's try this, because it's a feature. And we're still we're all kind of developing this character and this story as we're going along. But when you walk on blackish on season four, I mean, Lawrence, Laurence Fishburne already knows what Laurence Fishburne is gonna do.
Pete Chatmon 51:35
This thing, I think, I think we're all kind of at least I mean, maybe I am. I don't know if new younger folks are. But, you know, we're coming up. It was the idea. Like, the director was like this kind of like military drill sergeant, presidents who kind of, you know, commanded all things by Fiat. You know, what I mean? And like, I think that, you know, a, that's just part of how society was, you know, what I mean? And I, I personally don't feel the need to have that kind of presence. You know, because I know, I know that I'm, you know, again, these words get so I'm gonna say, I know that I'm in charge. And I, you know, I don't know if that's the right word. But I know that I'm like, captaining this ship, at least for responsible and responsible, right? Yep. And that doesn't have to feel like, I have to make you know.
Alex Ferrari 52:38
But that's, but that's, but that's a quiet confidence of just doing this so long that you don't need to prove anybody, anything to anybody. Because when you're younger, you're trying to prove all the time that you're you're supposed to be in the room. But when you get to our age, and we're in the room, we're in the room for a reason, man, we've lived life, we've got shrapnel and you know, the last thing I need to do is to prove to you that I can direct. Like, I've been doing this for a while, you know, I don't need to prove, like I'm trying to prove to you that I can conduct the conversation for a podcast, like I've done a couple of these. So it's just kind of like this. It's kind of like this couple, goodbye, a few. But the point is that you just feel comfortable. And you feel confident without arrogance. And that takes
Pete Chatmon 53:24
Yeah, and even now, man, like this is one thing I've been doing, as of, you know, the last maybe 10 episodes or so like, I'm no I used to always like I'd have my my iPad and script tation. And I'd be like, looking at the script while we're flipping the acting. And like, I don't even do that anymore. I don't even like, look at the script into rehearsal. Obviously, I prep and prep and prep from the script. But now like I just watch, and the moment it feels like I'm not watching something that I can see other people watching. Like, that's just the antenna that I'm governed by. And so sometimes they'll be like, Oh, wait, what's the line? I'd be like, ask the script supervisor. I don't know. That's their job. Like, I'm not trying before I would want Oh, I don't want to see like I don't know where I am in a script. Like, I don't know where we are in the script. But pick it up from you know, pick it up from what's tell them where to best pick up line is, you know, like, because my job is to is to preserve and protect the audience's experience and audiences not reading the fucking script.
Alex Ferrari 54:29
Isn't it interesting, though, like, I don't know about you, but when like when you first started in your 20s Man, you had everything down to that like you prepped and prepped and prepped and like you had storyboards and shot list and you and you were like over prepped. But then when nowadays you just get on the set and you're just like, I see what we can do guys. Let's just kind of feel it out today. You know, like I made like, I shot a whole feature that way. I just literally shot a whole feature. Yeah, we just got on location. All right. Take care. over there, let's put let's go through this whole thing. Alright, let's do this. That didn't work. Let's try it over that. And it's just kind of like it's jazz, you start becoming a jazz player. Yeah. As opposed to someone who's constantly reading music. Does that make sense?
Pete Chatmon 55:14
Oh, it makes perfect sense. You know, but the amount of the amount of music you have to have read to do that, right is, is is the is the thing that can be discounted, you know, and like, when when folks see people at the height of their craft, you know, what they don't see is the height of the prep, you know? So it's a, it's a, it's an earned it's an it's an earned approach.
Alex Ferrari 55:40
You know, it's interesting, like someone like Ridley Scott, who made his first feature at 40. And everyone's like, Oh, he's making his first feature at 40. And like, he had shot I think, 2500 commercials. He'd gotten saved. He's way past the 10,000 hour mark. Right. By the time he got his first future mentor, can you imagine what it's like walking on a set with Ridley now? I mean, I can't even comprehend the 1000s of hours that he has, that man has been on set. It's like his brother to Tony, they both were like that. And it's just that just just geniuses, they could just riff and they could just kind of go, but it takes time. It's not only how much music you read, how much music you write, as well, along that path? Yes. Without question, yeah. Now, as directors meant we, there's always a day on set that you feel like the entire world's coming down around you. It could be on the feature, it could be on the television, or you tell me which one it is. I always like to say most most directors like you mean every day, like, you know, not every day, but there's that one crazy, crazy day that you feel like the entire world's coming down around you like, I don't know, I don't know how we're gonna make it. I don't know how we're gonna get past it. That freeze technique that you use was could have been answered this question. But is there any other day that that happened to you? And how did you overcome that day?
Pete Chatmon 56:54
Man, you know, in the prep that we're talking about, that no one sees. You know, for me, like, I always, I always prep, and block scenes, as if I were making my feature. You know, that's always like my first swing, obviously, within the vein of the show, but like, my first swing is always like, I look at it, like, they'll never do, we don't have time for this, you know, but there are like kernels of something that are that indicate the kind of entry point to the scene that I can simplify. And so sometimes I ended up blocking scenes, three or four different ways before I'm like, okay, boom, that's what we're, that's what we'll start. That's what I that will be my target, because actors have points of view, and sometimes it changes, but like, I can always keep the essence of it, or I can pivot totally. So when things go haywire, oftentimes, I can kind of simplified down to what I like to think of as, like, the most important moment in the scene. Right? So like, if it's, if it's just like, all right, I gotta go, I gotta get real simple. And we got to do a winner. But the most important moment in the scene is this. And so we're going to make sure that that one or ends in a close up that I can tilt down in tag, whatever detail and then come back up and pan for the reaction, because that's the scene right there. You know, and so it's, it's kind of just knowing what the, you know, what the bare minimum is, as far as the audience understanding what what is happening, and knowing that all the toys and all the things and all the sauce that we can put on it are great, but at the end of the day, like, like, what's the what's the nutrient? And so, I mean, that happened, that happens all the time. I feel a little less pressure, I would, I will honestly say on on TVs, because more often than not, it's not my fault. You know what I mean? Like, if it's like, you know, I just did something last week, and like, the generator didn't work. So they had to go get another generator and bottom line, like, Yes, I had to become even more efficient, but I'm like, That shit ain't on me. Like,
Alex Ferrari 59:22
I didn't I didn't bring that generator. That's not my agenda.
Pete Chatmon 59:25
So I'm still gonna make the day like, I pride myself on making the day and I can make the adjustments. But, you know, if for some reason we can't, I mean, if everybody's being honest, we're all going to know why it didn't happen.
Alex Ferrari 59:39
Right! It wasn't because you were doing a 15 minute a webinar on a show that it's going to take maybe out of that 15 minute one or one minute.
Pete Chatmon 59:47
Right. Exactly. Exactly.
Alex Ferrari 59:50
It's not your extravagance is that a goddess here? It's the Jedi that didn't work, or the actor didn't want to come out of the trailer.
Pete Chatmon 59:57
Yeah. And then keeping a cool head to man like people There's like that that's so much of the job like, keeping a cool head and like, you know, if you think about, and this is TV specific, but like, I always make this statement, I feel like I need to go and actually do the math on this. But let's just say a day of shooting, you look at dailies, and you've got probably 30 to 40 minutes of footage, right? But you were there for 13 hours, right? So what people are going to remember, is that 13 hour experience with you not that 30 to 40 minutes of dailies, or at the end result, the 44 or 22 or 60 minutes show, and so like the experience that you give people as a person is arguably more or if not equally important to your work as a creative person.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:00
The best advice I always give filmmakers coming up like what's the best advice? I don't don't be a dick. Exactly. Yeah, don't be it. Because then there's people who have less talent, and are less experience. And I'll hire them faster, then I'll hire dick, who's more experienced and more talented. That's when you want to be on set for 13 hours with.
Pete Chatmon 1:01:19
Right. Right. Nobody needs nobody needs that in their life and like,
Alex Ferrari 1:01:24
And as you get older, but you just put up with less and less crap.
Pete Chatmon 1:01:28
Yeah. And that's why people work with the same people over and over again. It's like, I know what I know everything that's going to know all the vibes here. Yeah, perfect. Let's go.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:36
Let's rock and roll. Now, let's talk about your book transitions, man, because, you know, this is a book that I wish I had. I'm sure you wish you had it when we were coming up. Yeah, man. So tell me tell me what how that book came about? And what's the purpose of the book for the for the for the filmmaking community.
Pete Chatmon 1:01:53
It's exactly what you said it was I in all the years and that, you know, 99 to 2017 period, you know, I this this was what fed me, Word Wise, Fast Company, magazine, wired, you know, man, any, I forget what book club I was in, but I was getting books like, you know, 50 directors talk about their first, you know, their first feature. And, you know, I'm like one anecdote from that. I remember Mike figures had done whatever his first movie was, and I think he had a scene, I hope I'm not messing this up. But a scene that maybe were like, Tommy Lee Jones, or Edward James almost or something. And he ended up having to reshoot because he was kind of hesitant to give him the real thing. Like, he didn't know how to communicate the direction that he needed. And he just never did it. And it needed to reach you. And, and it was so tense, because now he's reshooting. It was like, I just need you to I can do this or whatever he said. And then he was like, oh, okay, I'll do that. Yeah, and this thing that he had been so apprehensive to do is like, you just got to do it. You know. So like, I was soaking up anecdotes like that, you know, reading story, you know, the 48 Laws of Power, the hero's journey, making a movie by Sidney Lumet all a Spike Lee's books, and I was just like, you know, I, I feel like there's a book that mixes all of these things that that is missing. And so, you know, initially, my book was called, Thanks for nothing. And it was, it was going to be I was after I raised, you know, 520,000 to make my feature. And I chronicled everything. And I was, like, I want to talk about how, like, not having had resources was the best thing for me, and how it shouldn't be a limitation for you. And then never wrote that, but like, I always kept a little document. And I would, and as I did more things, you know, shot my first commercial, did a music video for you know, six figures or whatever, I would kind of update and keep, like bullet points of what the lessons were. And so, once I got into TV, I was like, well, what's the real thing here? And, to me, the thing is, look at all these pivots. You know, I go from short filmmaker to feature filmmaker feature filmmaker to running my production company, you know, faculty member to you know, branded content guy, you know what I mean? And like, and now here, I'm at he Rhianna TV, and there have been principles along the way. So it's chronicling that journey. In a three act Hero's Journey structure with like the setup, the conflict, the resolution being getting that first episode, and then each chapter has a key word. That's kind of like the principles that guide you through this moment or this stage wherever it happens for you. And then lastly, it's like a mixture of like, how to inspiration and self help. And so that kinda like, I recognize that that was what I was always looking for in the things that I was reading. And so I wanted to merge everything into one. And, and then I have my own podcast, let's shoot with Pete Chapman. And so I took, I took 10 of the director conversations and have them in the back. So if you feel like, Oh, you're just hearing me talk about this stuff like, Well, no, you can listen to Oscar winning Matthew cherry, or, you know, Rob McElhenney, or Michael spiller or Millicent Shelton like and really get kind of, kind of hear the principles over and over again, that all these creative folks have had to subscribe to on their journey. And so yeah, that's the long winded kind of full, full throated, like genesis of the book. But like, it's been great, because I've found like, a lot of the responses and reviews have been that it's done exactly. For people what I don't,
Alex Ferrari 1:05:58
That's awesome, man. And I'm so glad that this book exists, and it's out there for people. As you know, I this is what I do all the time trying to help filmmakers along the along the path and, and let them know that they're gonna get slapped in the face and prepare for that slap. Just understand where you're going, and how, and get ready, get ready, and how you're gonna have to how long it's gonna take to get to where you are, man. But I'm glad that you put something together that as tools that people can really use and demystify a little bit of, like I always say Hollywood's real good at the sizzle, but subset the steak. And it's so damn true, right? It's so damn,
Pete Chatmon 1:06:38
Big fajita tray coming to your table.
Alex Ferrari 1:06:41
Basically eat a tray. But then it's like, oh, it's Taco Bell. Oh, man, what happened? Exactly. Now, one thing I wanted to ask you about because you've been able to do this, and you talk about it in your book, The the importance of pivoting and understand how to pivot. So many filmmakers and screenwriters for that matter, going through the business, they get stuck on one thing, and they can't see past it. So like, I'm only going to be a feature director, I'm only going to be a music video director, I'm only going to do commercials. And when other opportunities present themselves. They don't pivot. And you went from feature to television. I don't know if television was always the goal or not. But But you started off in shorts and features. So can you talk a little bit about that importance of being able to just kind of move and shake as things come at you?
Pete Chatmon 1:07:31
Yeah, yeah, man. I mean, look, I noticed in like the late aughts, I guess that's what people say, right? You know, oh, nine, like a friend of mine, seeth man, who's also in the anecdotes at the back of the book. He had done the disney abc program, and he ended up directing on Grey's Anatomy, and then the wire. And I was just watching like, Man, this is like, TV's kind of where the stories are, you know what I mean? Like, it was early in the shift. And it would only be cemented year after year as like, you know, the golden age of television revealed itself through new shows after new show. And so. And I also had the experience of six years to raise money for feature, which I paid myself $15,000 I'm like, this ain't sustainable. And so and if I'm a director, I want to direct I'll do anything that's, I want to go where the storytelling is, right. So that's why branded content commercials, music videos, TV film, like I'm trying to I have a feature script I have to finish in September, because I still want to direct films. And so yeah, man, it was just like, how do I get into that space? I looked at what was happening. I had I have my friend seat as like a kind of aspirational target look like Well, here's a guy that I know that did it. I know plenty of people who are going through these programs and aren't but like, here's somebody I literally can call and I know that did it. And so I just attacked it in the only way that I could which which was through these director programs, because it's such a either nepotistic or who you know, kind of dynamic of, well, how do I get into some category of being known? And so that was how that worked for me. And then even in that even in there, once I was kind of big toe in the door, I had to think about what what is the target? And you know, again, all these boring sports analogies, but like, what's the target? And it's like, well, I want to continue to be able to do like everything. So we made with my team, and at their suggestion to, you know, we made a concerted effort to go after half our single camera comedies. So it was and like, Oh, I'm just saying I want to do TV, it's like, I want to do half hour single camera comedies. Because both in front of the camera like Jamie Foxx are behind the camera like Adam McKay, you know, you've seen people go from comedy to drama, but not really the other. And so while I was trying to break in on comedy, I was also where I could having meetings with drama folks, you know, and shadowing on drama shows where I could, so I could someday get, you know, both of those feathers in my cap. And that was, I mean, it was a very concerted effort. And so like, the last year, or two of like, doing things like the flight attendant, and you, and then you know, even like, this kind of like genre blending things like love life, you know, like, that's been something that I've that I was trying to pivot toward from the beginning of ever getting an episode. And so, you know, I think it's important to kind of remain open, I think being platform agnostic is is a good idea. Because, you know, one thing I haven't ever done is a multicam. And I want to, and I need to because A, there are great multicam shows, but B for all we know, half our single camera comedies could could lose their their luster, it's cheaper to make a multi cameras. So anyway, and they might studios and networks might decide we're only doing that for the next three years. And then what are you going to say, Oh, I don't want to work.
Alex Ferrari 1:11:41
And that's the thing. The business for so many years, the business stayed the way it was for, you know, like 70 years. No films or films, you know, at here's the whole process from the filmmaking process to how I got out in the television was that then the cable companies came in and started messing things up, then VHS started to come in with streaming situations showed up, it changed the game completely again. So if you aren't, and now things are moving so quickly, and so differently, and so fast, things that were true a year ago are not true now. And then the pandemic happened, and then everything went out the window now. And then everything everyone started. So if you don't have the skill of pivoting, you won't make it long term. You won't make it long term, and you have to have that skill. And I love that. Yeah, it's rare to find a director who does blackish and Grey's Anatomy, you know, like, it's not that's not a television. Well, that's not normal. Normally, right
Pete Chatmon 1:12:37
No, there's not I mean, I, I mean, I know who I know, that kind of do or does about comedy and drama, but it's not. It's not 10 people, you know, and then also to man, like, you know, I feel very fortunate because I do I do networks, like I just wrapped Grey's Anatomy on Monday, and my next show will be the reboot of fatal attraction for Paramount plus with Joshua Jackson and Lizzie Kaplan. So that's a that's the streaming thing it's going to be it's like eight episodes, it's going to be doing all eight are you? I'm doing I'm doing the second the last episode, okay, you know, and then after that, I'm gonna go through the show Minx, which is HBO Max, and it's a period piece. It's a woman who kind of starts at playboy. playgirl asked magazine in the 70s. And it deals with a lot. It's a commentary on a lot of issues that affect women. And then after that, I'm going to do American auto, you know what I mean? And it's like, it's like, I love to kind of hop back and forth between these different things. And each show or each genre requires a different, like, approach, because some you tell the story with the camera, others, you have to find how to let the joke happen on screen in an interesting way. And yeah, man, it's a it's a, it's a concerted effort to be able to, to find opportunities and all of those.
Alex Ferrari 1:14:04
Now, brother, I'm gonna ask you a few questions, ask all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?
Pete Chatmon 1:14:13
So as a filmmaker trying to break into the business today, I would say first, to start positive, you know, you're breaking into it at a time where it's easier than ever to break into it. And you probably have more access to education than anyone ever before, even if you don't go to a film school. So go ahead and make something I would, I would challenge them, though, to think about what is important to them, what kind of it what kind of stories they would have responded to in the books or films that they've watched or read, and try and hone in as quickly as possible on the things that they'd like to be involved with saying that And then once they figure that out, try everything, try every position, you know, need as many people as you can, and just, you know, make a project every quarter. Every year you come out with four things.
Alex Ferrari 1:15:17
And that IMDb gets fatter and fatter All right, what is the what is what did you learn from your biggest failure?
Pete Chatmon 1:15:29
This is an interesting question, man. Because it's funny, man, I, I don't like, I don't look at things as failure. So I'm trying to, I'm trying to like, change that perspective to answer the question.
Alex Ferrari 1:15:47
Something that didn't go the way you'd like it to go, sir.
Pete Chatmon 1:15:49
Yeah. I guess that you know, I would say that, collectively, my, my failures would be moments where I failed to read the room. And so like, I'm thinking back to a project that, you know, it was early in my career, it was not a TV show. It was a web series. And like, people were asking me for, like, a shot list. And I was like, No. Like, no, I got this, like, you're good. Trust me, you know, and like, I it was like, 10 Page day that I was always making the day, and you locations were fluctuating. And so I was just kind of, like, it's a, I only got so much time in the day, to produce a shot list that I'm not necessarily going to like, adhere to feels like not the best use of my time. And so I was leading with that as an example. But on their end, it's a big project for them, you know, they don't know me, like, I know me. And they can't eat a bagel at craft service, with the same level of comfort. Of like, Pete's got it as they would have if they had some shot list that I wrote and say, here's what we're doing today. You know, and, and I could think of a variety of examples where a little misreading of the room, left people with a feeling that they didn't need to have, and I could have easily taken care of that. Now, at that moment in time, my process wasn't as sharp as it is today. So it was still harder to do but like, you know, you have to be able to look at something and say, Well, what was my involvement in that? And maybe, you know, instead of a no in that situation, I could have explained what I just explained to you which is like we don't have time proud you know, but how about we talk it out every morning? Whatever, you know what I mean? Like something give him some general bone give him something. So I would think I think listeners viewers extrapolate that as you want but I think failure to read the room is the Doom which is always what you can point back to for anything that doesn't go as well. Is it good?
Alex Ferrari 1:18:36
I have a challenge for you sir. Next Next job you go on, I want you to wear a t shirt and the backer says Pete's got it and just walk on the set. With a T in the back front on the front assess director on the back assist Pete's got it.
Pete Chatmon 1:18:49
Yeah, I like that. I like that. I'll report back let you know.
Alex Ferrari 1:18:55
I mean, and let me know how hard it is to get the next job after that. Sure. So Alex, I was fired off that. And now my agents will return my calls.
Pete Chatmon 1:19:04
Now I'm now I'm doing radio.
Alex Ferrari 1:19:07
Now I'm doing podcast I mean, seriously. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Pete Chatmon 1:19:17
I would say the lesson that it took me the longest to learn was work smarter, not harder. Because you part of your fuel. It's like, it's like going back to like that, that thing we were talking about earlier, the quote that I can't attribute to the person. You know, like, we're guided by our tastes until our talent can match it more or less. Like the other the flip side of that is, are they also included in that as like, we're guided by our hustle. And also being from New York. There's just something about like, I'm not working you you know, I mean, like I'm up earlier than you. laid it in you, you know, you eat lunch. I Don't you know, I mean, like, it's stuff like that. And so, but that that's not a, something you can do forever and be, you know, particularly particularly with the birth of our daughter, like, I can't I can't prep all weekend now. You know, that's not that's not what what I want to do you know what I mean? So it means that I have to be very, like strategic and methodical and deliberate about how I prep and take incoming matters and prioritize them. So that I'm dealing with what I need to deal with now for whatever is my next immediate milestone. And, you know, that takes a little while because it's like, well, that's not my process. I like to do this, I did that I was like, Well, you got a concept meeting today at noon. So skim through the script, and what you got to talk about, you can't highlight shit, you don't have time for it, you got to script it's more. So like, it's not my process. That's not my process. So you just have to, you just have to, you have to be nimble and flexible. And trust that. Now that you been hustling for so long, you've got the experience level to pivot from what made you comfortable before and find new, you know, new footing to land on and you'll still be just as, as great.
Alex Ferrari 1:21:34
I'm gonna just tell you a quick story that illustrates exactly what you said, when I was a kid. I was 20 something playing tennis like a madman. And one day I went to play tennis and there was like, this older dude, probably like in his at the time late 50s was older dude. Now we look at it like that's a young man, what are you talking about? But when you're your 20s, it was like this old dude. He's like, you want to play like, Yeah, let's play. And I was just 20 year old like, like that young that and this guy just sat in one fell on the tennis court and just went, and I'm running to this run. He just knew where to hit the ball. And I was working harder. smarter, and I never forgot that lesson. I was like, Man, how would you do that? It goes, I just put the ball where you weren't?
Pete Chatmon 1:22:26
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, just simple as that. Meanwhile, you're trying to blaze a forehand down the line where he's standing and he's like,
Alex Ferrari 1:22:34
Nno, no, I'm trying to reinvent the forehand in your own mind to hit the forehand, like no one has ever hit before. That's that's what you want.
Pete Chatmon 1:22:44
With topspin and slice?
Alex Ferrari 1:22:48
Which smoke that comes off. Last question, sir. three of your favorite films of all time.
Pete Chatmon 1:22:56
Oh, boy. Okay. Okay. Okay. So in No, man, that's fucking Okay. In no particular order. And I'll give a little reason with each. I will say Casablanca. Just just the perfect film, a film about the war made during the war. That it's about a little bit of a musical love story. Drama. Can't tell me it's not funny. It's funny as hell telling me it's not funny. You know, like, that's a good ass movie. I'm such a big fan of Spike. I love do the right thing. But I'm thinking I'm gonna say x, Malcolm X.
Alex Ferrari 1:23:42
That's a tough choice between the two men because x is a masterpiece. But yeah, but do the right thing did that. It's not only a masterpiece, but it just exploded on the scene. Like he was already spike. Yeah. Next. But men do the right thing, man when it came out. I was working at the video store. Yeah, I was working at the video store. Man. I was like, you gotta watch do the right thing. Like, it just exploded. There's few movies.
Pete Chatmon 1:24:11
It was visceral filmmaking. And, you know, but but x is like, it's like, it's like working at it's like, like all the films you've done before. Have like, prepared you for this film. And then just the performances is phenomenal from Denzel so that I'd say those two and then this might be weird, but maybe not. I'll say seven.
Alex Ferrari 1:24:38
Oh, it's one of my top five. Yeah, I'm a feature fanatic. Essentially. Yeah.
Pete Chatmon 1:24:43
It's that's, that's also I think, a perfect film in many ways. And I think for when it came out, it was one of the earliest representations of genre blending to a new degree, which is like it's like it's a buddy cop car. Ready to some degree. It's a thriller. It's a horror film. It's, you know, all of these things, and it leans on the right tone, and the right filmmaking tools in the right moments. And I think that's kind of what today's television does. There's genre blending. That gives you a little bit of what you know. But you know, a percentage of what you don't. But because you're able to anchor it in these genres you're familiar with, I think people going to ride with you.
Alex Ferrari 1:25:39
Right, and Yellowstone, and Breaking Bad and those kinds of things. Yeah, like, you can't tell me those aren't funny shows. But yeah, yeah. Now, I Brother, I appreciate your work. By the way, where can people buy your book? Where can people find out more about you and what you're doing my friend?
Pete Chatmon 1:25:57
Oh, yeah. So you can buy the book on Amazon or Goodreads. It's called transitions, directors journey and motivational handbook. I hope you buy it. I hope you review it. Let people know that you like it. I've also got a podcast called Let's shoot with Pete Chatmon, which is available everywhere. Spotify, Apple, all that good stuff. And then I'm at Pete Chatmon on Instagram and Twitter. And, yeah, I'm more active on Instagram. I find I'm not witty enough on Twitter. You know, don't have time to be witty. I got time to post this picture. But um, yeah, I love to share behind the scenes content and kind of go on some rants here and there about about the industry and filmmaking and directing. And yeah, man, this has been awesome to chat with you, Alex. I love what you're doing. I think it's a it's a fuel for for creative souls out there. So please keep doing it. And yeah, man, it's been it's been great to wrap it up, man. I really appreciate it.
Alex Ferrari 1:27:06
And I appreciate you for writing the book and for everything you do and being an inspiration to young young filmmakers around the world. And just I thank you, man. Thank you for your hard work as well, brother. Thank you, man.
Pete Chatmon 1:27:18
Appreciate you sir!
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- Pete Chatmon – Official Site
- Pete Chatmon – IMDB
- Transitions: A Director’s Journey and Motivational Handbook
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