IFH 727: Lessons Learned Writing Oliver Stone’s The Doors with Randall Jahnson



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Alex Ferrari 0:07
Enjoy this episode with guest host Scott McMahon.

We are at the Highland still house in Oregon City in Oregon City. So Oregon City used to be the original capital of Oregon, before they moved to Salem, but Oregon City was sort of the last city or the city established at the end of the Oregon Trail was

Randall Jahnson 2:27
That is correct. And it was also auspicious in that it was settled by a guy who bailed out of the Hudson's Bay Company, the fur trade, Dr. John McLaughlin, I settled down, put a trading post right at the foot of the Willamette River Falls here, which was the site of a magnificent Native American metropolis, and had been for 1000s, probably 1000s of years. And he just came in his trading post right there at the right in the midst of took a Native American woman for a wife, I believe. His biography is or is His story is one of the things that's on my list to really read about, but it's a fascinating story, but this was back in the 1840s I believe,

Scott Mcmahon 3:23
Well, so it wasn't. Wow. Okay. So I mean, when I think about it, it's like, what was the Oregon Trail was really 1800s was

Randall Jahnson 3:30
and yeah, it started in the 18. Really, in the 1840s. You know, once Oregon, the Oregon territory was established and they the word got out of the very fertile farmland, right and potential of it, it started creating the migration West.

Scott Mcmahon 3:47
You know, it's funny, my I went on a field trip for my daughter, they went to Foster Farms over an Oregon City was one of the first site farms outpost for all the trout, you know, pioneers coming in from the Oregon Trail, and foster, he was successful starting up like a general store on in Boston or something like that. And once he saw that Oregon Territory was opening up, he decided not to take the Oregon Trail, he took a ship with his family, and he took his business and decided to open up another store over here in Oregon, but he took the route of going down the Atlantic, all the way down past the tip of Chile, you know, down there in the Pacific coming all the way up to Pacific so he's ever he took that route all the way. Instead of taking the wagon train, yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm trying to establish an option. So he established the farm and like the outposts of where people came through hood, mountain hood, right. So and they would help actually carve out some roads and passages because when I think when people when the pioneers came to Oregon either they're gonna take the Columbia River all the way you know, down or something would take try to get through mountain hood. So those who try to venture and get through Mount Hood, they had to, you know, they get stuck or something like that. So Foster had his people end up, you know, helping them out helping out a lot of pioneers and developing a road there. So they had this outposts and you had the general store there at the farm, he had like a little mini, what he called lodges are in this, you know, where people could stay. So it's like, give us the first sight of civilization for a lot of pioneers after his long journey. And he just made a killing. So they have this farm that you can go to. It's an educational farm, but it's still we're walking through the house, you know, seeing the stuff they use seeing the farm seeing the barn, when it was just comments being made out, there was a lot of the kids so like, you know, really hands on experience, what it could have would have been like as a, you know, a pioneer in the Oregon Trail. Well, so it was a little bit of history that I had no idea about, like, Wow, that's pretty cool. Sure. They have,

Randall Jahnson 6:02
they have a museum over here for the Oregon Trail Museum, which I believe has been shut down now because of lack of funding because of the budget cuts and everything else. But that was one of the things that I've been amused actually, since I moved up here from California that that with The Oregon Trail, that was the the overland route that a lot of people who were heading to the California Gold Rush took Oh, really? Yeah. And so at one point you have the trail diverts you know, and you go go to California. You got to Oregon and great, the great things, you know, I think that was a very interesting dichotomy there were you know, it really underscores the differences between California and Oregon. Now that

Scott Mcmahon 6:56
funny because that's sort of the, what exists today.

Randall Jahnson 6:59
That's my point. That's my point. Exactly.

Scott Mcmahon 7:02
So I'm a little slow.

Randall Jahnson 7:05
Alright, we'll just have another, have another beer there. And you'll you'll catch.

Scott Mcmahon 7:10
It was a great segue. So one of the things I wanted to do with you is like I one of my favorite podcasts is the creative screenwriting podcast hosted by Jeff Goldsmith. And he's now since left as senior editor of creative screaming, scream, creative screen writing magazine. And he started his own podcast called q&a Quick question to answer the jackals myth because he's been really instrumental and, and holding these free screenings down in Los Angeles of just different movies. And at the end of every these free screenings, at the end of every movie, he would have the screenwriters there to like talk for like an hour and a half about the movie, their experience and all that kind of stuff. What a concept actually having a writer. I know, I know. And he's great. And I really enjoy, like, his style of interviewing. And, you know, I can tell like, sometimes he's polite to like some of the people or some of the work that they've done, but inside I could tell like that comic book geek and him once ago, what were you thinking, you know, kind of thing, but he's still very cordial about it. Sure. He actually happened to be in college, my roommate, Dave Jaffe, Jay Jaffe was the creator of God of War, and some of the twists in metal series who I worked with at Sony for many years. So when I met up with Jeff, you know, I introduced myself via that way. So he's very cool, but he's very busy. And again, for anybody who wants to check out his stuff, definitely check out q&a With Jeff Goldsmith are some of the past stuffed on creative screaming at screenwriting magazine. But anyway, this is my chance do my really horrible impersonation of Jeff interviewing you Randall as if like, we just finished a screening and oh, no, and we had this big audience, but right now we're just we have this cool little pub. It's funny, because sidenote, is I normally do my podcasts and a Mars Irish Pub. Yeah. Like, it's good to suggest that for you as well. Yeah. So we go there every other week, my buddy, Frederick and I, and we go down, and he knows everybody there. And so we're, we're regulars there every like every other Monday night, okay. But it's funny that it's an Irish Pub. And here we are crosses away in Oregon City and a Scottish Irish Pub again. So

Randall Jahnson 9:25
they will tell you it's a Scottish pub. There won't be there's not much. Not much Irish here. Okay, good. You know, although I do see the Bank of Ireland. Yeah. You know, but if they had a choice, it would be, you know, basically, it's anti English.

Scott Mcmahon 9:42
And those places are just charming. And it's like old style bar. So anybody who gets up here, yeah, check out these places. Yeah, so we have Mars, Irish Bob and Ella. And we have the hi Lynn. Still Still house here in Oregon City. Yeah.

Randall Jahnson 9:57
Which which, if you're a fan of single Well, scotches

Alex Ferrari 10:02
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Randall Jahnson 10:11
This has one of the best collections you will find anywhere in arguably even on the entire west coast. So this the, the Mick and his wife, who owned the place are huge Scotch files. And they're just

Scott Mcmahon 10:28
I had to learn more about this. Yeah, I have, I had this innate desire to want to get into.

Randall Jahnson 10:35
Yeah, yeah. Scott, well, there's part of it was my honeymoon in Scotland. And so that's, that's where I started, you know, acquiring the taste. And so it was, it was

Scott Mcmahon 10:47
more of it, you were acquiring you weren't just because now you're married, you're just drinking more?

Randall Jahnson 10:53
Well, I come up for excuses to drink more.

Scott Mcmahon 10:57
I started drinking, I said, Never drink until my daughter was born. Yeah. And then I started to drink a lot more

Randall Jahnson 11:04
weighs upon you heavily. So anyway, being the parent.

Scott Mcmahon 11:09
So I wanted to the first question that Jeff always asked, is, he always wants to know breaking in stories of like, how you got started in the business? Or what was your, like, your first paying job or, you know, how, you know how you broke in?

Randall Jahnson 11:25
Well, I, I went to film school at UCLA. And, and at that time, I entered the film school there in 1979. And you are basically thrown into a little life raft with a bunch of other people don't have the same aspirations to be there be a writer director working in, in the film industry in one way or another. And so you use your

Scott Mcmahon 11:50
quick was that time the late 70s? Like, because I know that this is the very late 70s 79 When I started, but I was wondering if, like the early 80s Was it? I can't remember was there a golden age of like, were everybody wanted to go to film school because I know that there is a kind of a,

Randall Jahnson 12:11
the, the film school sort of Bonanza occurred in the I would say probably the mid 70s. Okay, and, and carried on all through and into the early 80s. And that was basically because George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, they were all products of film school. Right. You know, Francis Coppola, of course. Right. Yeah. And scores, sesame? And, yeah, of course. And so and that was it. I mean, basically, we just covered the film school landscape. At that time, there was three places to go. USC, UCLA, and NYU, right. And for me, I had grown up in the San Diego area. And I couldn't afford going to sc and NYU was just about as far removed from California beach as possible. And I used to go with my dad who worked for the UC system up to see basketball games at UCLA when John Wooden was coaching there. So that was the sort of the natural place to to go to, and it was vastly cheaper than sca and right and, and actually, what I liked about SC, that there were differences in the curriculum at that time, too, which was that if you wanted to be if you if you had a very specific idea of what you wanted to do in the in the film industry, whether you wanted to be a sound editor, or an editor or cinematographer, or director, producer, whatever, you would go to SC because they had very clear tracks, okay, each of those, okay, those specific professions, UCLA, it was much, much looser. And they were kind of had this had sort of the stigma, if you will, of being of creating tours. You know, you were you were the complete filmmaker, in a sense once you came out of UCLA, but the difference another difference was is that you had to fund all your own stuff. After after the basic Super Eight class that occurred when you first entered school. ESEA didn't happen. You had they funded the advanced projects. But you had to compete with other people to get that one or two directing positions, right, that they would do. Anyone could be a director at UCLA if you had the money for it, which to me, it was really like the real world is much more like the real world. Yeah, Coppola came to UCLA, Jim Morrison and Raymond's Erica, the doors were there. Okay. You know, that was in the very early 60s. You know, but I mean, there's you know, Paul names. I knew this would happen, the names start fading from me who wrote the taxi driver. Schrader, Paul Schrader, thank you went to UCLA. And I mean, the list of names is very long and prominent. Right. Right. UCLA is produced and an NSC as well. So

Scott Mcmahon 15:22
you know, when I went to UCSD, and I was looking around, I went to junior college first went to Palomar College right? And the only fame claim to fame we had there was that Phil Tippett was famous visual effects artists from the Star Wars films, and his, you know, all his thoughts.

Randall Jahnson 15:44
I interviewed Phil when I wrote for the Carlsbad journal back in 1970s. Okay, so

Scott Mcmahon 15:48
you know, right, right. So his claim to fame was that he went to that school was great, you know, to your school, you get out your view, then you can transfer anywhere. And then I didn't know where to go. Exactly. And when I looked at San Francisco State, I looked at UC USC, like the UCLA for some reason, I decided at all places to go UCSD, which probably wasn't the best choice for film school, but not to know it was nearby.

Randall Jahnson 16:08
Near near beach,

Scott Mcmahon 16:10
near Beach, definitely, definitely. So the funny thing was, I spent a lot more time when I was there, because the way they had the film track was that everything was really dedicated towards the graduate film students. Right, as an undergrad, you were you didn't really get a chance to, to hands on. Knowing that now, I probably should have gone to maybe like San Diego State, which is much more of a more of a vocational approach to the education. But I spent a lot of time with this graduate film student from UCLA who was doing her thesis or her work down in UCSD. So she had access to all the, you know, the editing Bay's the rooms, and she's trying to finish her thesis. She just needed an assistant. So I was there and I got all this hands on training of how to like, you know, cut film and put all this stuff together. And then she would I would go up with her on a regular basis to UCLA and just I was crushing the courses. I didn't even go to school, but I was at UCLA just sitting in at the Sherm courses. So kind of give me a different perspective of things. Might you say? Like, yeah,

Randall Jahnson 17:12
okay, well, there you go. Well, at that time, again, this is in the late 70s, you know, those were the three places to go. Now, that landscape is vastly different. Every almost every college has a film department or media department, something, something like that. So, I mean, that just shows you how thing, things have changed. So anyway, I went through the film program and at UCLA at that time, they didn't have a or the difference. There was no difference between the undergrad and the graduate

Scott Mcmahon 17:47
programs. Those days.

Randall Jahnson 17:50
Literally, in my, in my second year, there the graduate students rebelled and staged a little demonstration, and really forced the hand of the school to alter the curriculum, in a sense to favor grad students because basically, and and I think they had a legitimate beef they were competing with, you know, freshmen who were new to the, or new to the department for, you know, the limited amount of materials and cameras and things that we had to do their graduate films. And so which were really wasn't fair. So they did an overhaul of the curriculum and my like, are they they didn't do it overnight. It actually happened right after I graduated. So basically, I benefited from having basically had a graduate education as an undergrad. Wow. Okay. So I stuck it out and went an extra year as a as an undergrad. I later yeah. And then they kicked me out, said it's time for you to move on. Yeah, I had maxed out over a unit possible. But knowing that I took every writing class I wanted to do when I first got in there, I wanted, I was hoping to be a director. That was my aspiration. Everybody else, that's what I wanted to do. So they asked, but you, you had to fund your own films. And I didn't have that kind of money. You know? So I realized that well, typing paper was cheap at that point. And I said, Well, shoot, I'm just going to I'm going to write and I'm going to direct my movies on paper. And then eventually, if I get enough clout, I will be able to direct something that I write myself. So that was that was the philosophy that hasn't happened, by the way, but it has happened for a lot of people that I know

Scott Mcmahon 19:41
that you wrote and so I'm a writer when you're younger, too, like you wrote Well, paper as

Randall Jahnson 19:45
a Yeah, I mean, I was I started writing like, as soon as I learned to write, you know, I've just was I had kind of spades where I was very prolific third grade, especially seventh grade was also a big one. We

Alex Ferrari 20:01
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Randall Jahnson 20:10
But I initially wanted to be a journalist. I actually wanted to be Cameron Crowe because I loved Rolling Stone and Rob loved music still when I was in high school, that that's what I was aspiring to be was to be like a music journalist of some sort. There was a great writer for Rolling Stone at that point. He I think he's back now writing some stuff for them again, but named Charles M. Young, who did just some fantastic interviews with like, the Sex Pistols and kiss, and I still have those issues, because they, the Ryan is just so, so funny, and insightful and really great and just inspired me a great deal to be to be, you know, and then this was the era to where Tom Wolfe was doing. You know, electric Kool Aid acid test on the heels of that is kind of what is known as the New Journalism, okay, where it was just wasn't real cut and dry. But actually, there was a great deal of reportage going on, and quasi sermonizing that would be worked in by the likes of Charles hem young or the our Gonzo Hunter Thompson, right kind of, you know, people of that sort. It was a, it was an interesting time to be in journalism. And then I wanted to be a magazine freelance magazine writer, I thought, yeah, then I realized I probably really couldn't make a whole lot of money at it. But I and I had started working for my hometown newspaper in Carlsbad, California writing, writing sports for them. And then in the summertime, when I was out of high school and worked into full time work, where I was doing feature articles. So I was interviewing surfers and runners and, and Carlsbad was also site of a motocross scene, seeing out there and doing some reporting on that it was just a lot of it was it was very interesting. And I learned how to interview people at an early age, which was a great thing. Then I knew that I wanted to continue with writing of some sort. But in my studies at school, but I just wasn't sure what kind it was. So I too, went to a community college, mera Costa. Oh, yeah. Just because I was working at the, at the newspaper still, and I was getting an experience there, part time and I thought, well get a couple more years, their experience and then take classes and get my basic education out of the way. And then by that time, maybe I'll know what to do. And I happen to take a playwriting course, and that was very interesting that opened up my eyes to Dramatic Writing. And I and I realized that now, playwriting wasn't quite it for me, but screenwriting Ooh, that sounded very avant garde and very cool. So that's what I

Scott Mcmahon 22:59
use draw like maybe like when the first moments that you like wrote a piece or paragraph or something there's somebody else wrote and you were able to witness sort of a a positive sort of emotional response from it versus like, like a one moment like you wrote something where maybe you felt good about it or somebody else reaction to it was surprising. But you know what I mean, it's just like it it made you want to keep going or, or want more of that or, or feedback

Randall Jahnson 23:36
Yeah, that's an interesting question. I wrote three scripts when I was at UCLA three full length scripts, and they were pretty abysmal. But my instructors were very supportive. I got A's on them Yes, that's right for your Thank you.

Scott Mcmahon 23:57
What do they call Scottish eggs? Yeah, the Scotch Scotch eggs. Yeah.

Randall Jahnson 24:04
And that was initially I think, be studying and doing that to get that kind of thumbs up from them was very positive. Okay, that that made a big impression on me. And then once I got out of school, to have some peers of mine to just kind of comment there's mustard right there and you can dip out to that that was positive but nothing was as strong as getting

Scott Mcmahon 24:47
the kind of the endorsement of a true professional somebody working in the business kind of just mangle this one. This Amanda masher

Randall Jahnson 24:57
All right, there we go.

Scott Mcmahon 25:01
yeah it's good all right yes

Randall Jahnson 25:10
it's funny I'm getting my trains off right now this is really delicious

Scott Mcmahon 25:26
sorry can keep don't worry about this. I pause cut this out this is good or no I mean this is like your interview. Oh, so it's like and the food ma mustard right there. Yeah got something to say.

Randall Jahnson 25:48
Yeah so it's an egg wrapped and sausage and deep fried it's really healthy

Scott Mcmahon 25:58
so is it a boiled egg first and then they put it into like a sausage and they have to pry that I think so yeah

Randall Jahnson 26:11
no it's a great place to be on anytime but I love coming here on when it's howling wind out

Scott Mcmahon 26:28
there you go well, this place is located right by the river falls this like is it the Willamette falls, yeah, Willamette right. So, definitely has a propensity for the wind and the weather changed

Randall Jahnson 26:47
before the paper mill was shut down certain fumes wafting up from from the mill sort of sweetened things. I mean that facetious.

Scott Mcmahon 27:18
So, yeah, so anyway, so can you recall, like, let me backtrack. Do you recall one movie, like, the movie experience you had where you thought yourself? That you were like, moved or inspired to say, Yeah, I want more of this. Or, like, for me as a kid, I remember, you know, movies, or just always sort of part of just growing up. But the first time I remember seeing sort of a, let's say, a more mature, non sort of spectacle movie, you know, that I realized was different than what I had seen before. was one of my parents, I think took me to see Amadeus. Oh, you know, so, I was floored by that movie, because I thought to myself, I just went through something that I'd never thought I would be entertained by. Because I thought I had to have like, you know, laser guns or cowboys or Indian right, or aliens are spaceships or explosions, because that's, you know, that was my appetite. I was second nature. But once I was introduced to a film that was had none of that but engaged in captured my interest. I definitely changed something in me, as well as another film that I wasn't expecting to was somewhere in time. Because I was just like, oh, Superman. But to me, it was like, what was that and I that get that got to me. And so I remember there's two films of all films that sort of changed my perspective. And then I remember having when I got into college, I wasn't thinking about film, I was thinking about studying illustration, and art. I went there for that. But then got sort of a film bug myself, and came across, I had to take a script writing class, he was very, very cheesy. But I remember going to the library at the time, this is before the internet, you actually had to go to the library, we'll check out the reference books. And they had real scripts, and I remember reading ordinary people. And I never seen the film. I just read the screenplay. And I remember just, it was just turning the page after turning the page, because I just had to get through it. But just having that first experience of absorbing what a script looks like, I didn't know what all you know, all the little things meant, you know, what is it all that kind of stuff. We started beginning to figure out little code or the language, but I remember having that significant moment as well. Coming out of that going, what did I just read? What did I just experienced? And I wanted to ask you, did you have anything like that?

Well, I I did as a kid. This was I mean, we're going way back.

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Randall Jahnson 30:07
And I really would have to say that I didn't know the impact that would have on me at the time, obviously. But it's really almost now that I look back on those times as they want. Now I understand why I was so moved and influenced by and this is goes back to when we first moved to California. And my parents were running a beach front motel in Oceanside called the buccaneer which was the buccaneer beach, you know, in Oceanside. And it it had all these pirate motifs and everything like that. So my first five years in California after moving from Utah, we're here at the buccaneer motel with all the pirate motifs running around there. And I used to run around there and have a lot of fun in the meet a lot of different people that were staying there. But they would always on the weekends we would go. My parents would take a break, because we lived on the premises, there was no escape probit my parents would go to a drive in movie out in Oceanside. And, and yeah, yeah, and so the the, it's an airfield now. Yeah, it is. And the the, the ritual was basically they would pop their own popcorn ahead of time, put it into a big brown paper market sack. And we would they would take a cooler full of crag monton sodas, and they would put me in pjs, I had two older brothers who were 10 and 12 years older than me. So they didn't want to they were teenagers. By this time, they didn't want to have anything to do with that. So they would just stay at home. But I would go with my parents with them to the drive and and then I would be in my PJs. And they would always hope that I would fall asleep in the backseat. At least that was the plan while they watch these, you know, sometimes very adult movies. And lo and behold, I never fell asleep once because I was so intrigued by what I was seeing. And I can tell exactly what I saw. You know, I saw Bonnie and Clyde. Whoa. Yeah. I think they had intended that I was asleep. They had no idea. And they probably were they were not film savvy at all. They were probably didn't have any idea what they were in store for. But I recall, I recall very clearly, the opening frames are that where you see you know, the naked Faye Dunaway in her. But you know, up there on that big screen, I just my eyes really wide. going, Wow, this is wild. And I was just riveted from that point. And it ends at that time was oh, I can still recall being in the backseat and seeing my parents visibly recoil from the one after they make the one robbery. And the guy comes out and try and stands in front of the car and tries to either seize he's got some kind of a weapon at him and they run them down and he ends up hitting the windshield and and falling off and my parents just like wow, kind of gasping over over the violence of that. And I was like wow. So Bonnie and Clyde So Bonnie and Clyde saw in the heat of the night. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? Wow. Who sir with love. Patent with my dad Planet of the Apes. Then my dad and I started going and seeing Okay, some of these original. I mean, my mom stayed home for some reason I think she wanted to see patent but my dad did and saw Planet of the Apes with him. And these. Now these are the films that I actually harken to my, to my students nowadays to in teaching because I think these were this was a fantastic age of American filmmaking. It was really from that from about 6066 to about 76 That 10 year period produced just astonishingly great American films made by the studios made by the studio crazy. Yeah. And, and ultimately, what killed it, of course, was Jaws, right and the block and blockbuster. From that point on, it changed everything and how studios started doing things. And again, not not to take away from the, you know, the Spielberg's of the world in the in the in the geeks, you know, the film school gigs, which who basically started running the business at that point, which was great. But, you know, prior to that, we still had the godfathers and the conversation and Chinatown and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and five easy pieces. And the last detail the HAL Ashby's Harold and Maude, you know, making these movies, these kinds of movies, and there was just nothing like it. Right. Oh, these are so Little Big Man. You know, you know, these are, these are films that I think still really resonate today hugely in the studio's have sort of lost sight of that, you know, as they were, they were really socially conscience. Conscious in a lot of ways. They push the envelope, and you know, the subject matter was truly adult, the notion of of like, catering to demographics, the pubescent boy, yeah, and action figures and all that unheard of no way. Right? No, he just, you know, just didn't do that. It was still in the days where you had people like Robert Evans, who was running, you know, Paramount, apparently, in between. Yeah, that, you know, he was, he still was somebody who had gut instincts, you know, and can do things that and greenlit stuff that, that you know, that we'll never see, and haven't seen stuff like that you can, the only way to find it now is you know, in the independent realms,

Scott Mcmahon 36:25
what do you think about there's a sort of a article I read a couple years ago about how like HBO and Showtime all these cable network or paper briona cable channels are now providing that sort of fix for adult drama, that word movies. Theatrical movies have just become a sense. tentpole spectacles, you know, either of, you know, the fantasy, sci fi genre, or whatever it is, or then or comedies that are, you know, the grossed out or already, what, what not comedies, you have a little sprinkle of independence, independent films, but the canvas of what's going on in the television spectrum right now, where we have long form where you can develop a character and a law, you know, a much slower pace and more in depth is why you're seeing like the success of like, The Sopranos and, and all these other things. So I don't know whether or not that sort of fulfill the, the, the niche or the need that once was supplied during the late 60s, mid 60s in the 70s. For what the studios were supplying, you know, and now just got fragmented. I don't know, that sort of.

Randall Jahnson 37:39
Yeah, I mean, nowadays, everything has gotten fragmented, it's really broken down. I mean, we've once we entered the digital age, right, everything became fragmented. And that's what digitizing analog does, you know, it breaks things down into these little bits into these little bits, you know, this, whether it's a soundbite, or it's a, you know, it's a bit of information. And that's sort of its job in in one way. And so we we've, but we've lost a lot, you know, in in that at the same time, you know, it's just it's just changed these are this is part of a larger conversation that we'll get into here that the benefits and the curses of the digital the digital world now in digital culture but yeah, I answered your question I would say yes indeed. HBO Showtime, AMC running madmen and stuff they are filling a niche now where so many of us are have a thirst for those great adult dramas, right you know, that deal with touchy material? Not so it's not necessarily high concept material, but it's really important material. Right? You know, I mean, for example, HBO recently doing the they did the You Don't Know Jack, you know, the Jack Kevorkian story. I knew nothing really about Kevorkian other than just seeing the headlines always about them from that. But you know, Pacino really own that role. And Barry Levinson came in and directed it, because it really was a really compelling piece of piece of work. But there was no way a studio would make that with that movie. It has to be HBO and of course, HBO loves to flaunt the fact that only the HBO can do it. You know, and so, so I think it's great. But you know, again, HBO is part of a larger conglomerate, mega monster that they too have to answer to someone. If not, they're in not only their ratings, but you know, it's a corporation.

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Randall Jahnson 40:06
And so you know, to find truly independent stuff, you might have to even go further out into the margins. But comparatively still to the mains, the main studios and the three major networks that we're used to, it's pretty, still pretty, very controversial, exciting stuff, right? They don't

Scott Mcmahon 40:28
let me get back to do you remember, like, the first time you read a finished script? Stat got you, like turned on? Like, well, I can do this?

Randall Jahnson 40:37
Well, I don't necessarily recall reading a script and going gaga over it, I recall seeing movies and going just like, Oh, crap, that's what I want to write that, you know, and, and that, that's what I want to do. So we have to remember, you know, as a screenplay is a is a is only a stepping stone to the final write the final piece of art, you know, that it is, and it's hard. It's hard to admit that as writers. But we do have to remind ourselves if you're a screenwriter, that it's a, it's a waystation. To the ultimate, the final product, the ultimate vision. Right. Okay. So, so again, in, you know, I would look at a script and I'm like, okay, all right. That's, that's okay. But it's the movie that really inspired me. And it's still the movies that really inspire me now. I don't get overly excited about reading scripts, per se. You know, I have to I just, I want to see the movie. So yeah, so in. So great movies make me want to write great scripts. And but it's always interesting and instructive to look at the scripts that have become great movies. And to see that they that they are not perfect. That sometimes the they're far from it, for example. Well, whenever you let's say you go to a bookstore, and you'll find the screenplay of a certain movie, right? That's been published now. That's usually the the shooting script that they all publish, you know, and so they'll have seen numbers and everything like that. That's anytime there. There are scene numbers on there. You know, that's a very late draft. It's something that they probably you know, it was the shooting draft or close to it if they were numbering scenes. years ago, Frank Darabont, who wrote and directed the Shawshank Redemption, published a version of Shawshank that was not the shooting draft, it was a book that I think included the early draft of the script. And then, and then the shooting draft, something like that. And I'm mad at myself for I never picked that up and bought it. I remember thumbing through it, but Frank had the courage to, to go ahead and, and print an earlier draft of it. And the thing was a mess. It was all full of strikeouts, and crossed out stuff and notes in the margins and things like that. That's what a real script looks like. You know, so beware to anyone out there who's considering writing scripts, and they think that that has to be all perfect. That's just not the case, you know, a screenplay is, it cannot be chiseled in stone, it really can't it. It has it is a living, breathing entity. And it will ebb and flow, it will inhale, it will exhale, it will do things you don't expect. Sometimes you have to make alterations due to weather, to cranky actors, or to the whims of a studio or a star or director or whatever, for good or for worse, or whatever. These are, these are just the things that it's constantly in a state of flux, and will be until the film is shot, edited, and screened before a paying audience. You know, that's, you know, and that and that's the way it is, and you have to understand that so you can't be overly precious with it. Right? Right. You know, and just think, I mean, if you're starting out and you're trying to write a great writing sample, of course, you want to make it as good as you can possibly be because you want to get your best foot forward. You want to show people what you're capable of, right. But once you are working in or in that business, you have to know you have to suck it up man and just know that this thing is going to get mangled and trundled under by the Hollywood machine sometimes. And and even in the independent realms, it doesn't matter because there was still things are going to be constantly changing because the universe is just throwing your change ups all the time. It No. Okay, it's raining. We're supposed to shoot a sunny, a scene under sun today in blazing heat. Okay, the bar is more crowded than, than we expected to have our you know, the scene? Yeah.

Scott Mcmahon 45:16
You know, I mean, as these are mics,

Randall Jahnson 45:18
you know, I mean, these are things where you just constantly you have to think on your feet. And you have to be sort of flexible in terms of so as storytellers to you have to have the acuity of mind and the flexibility to say, okay, that doesn't work. I can switch this I can do here and a product shuffle this around, and we'll make that work. Right. And we'll we'll, we'll fit it for the occasion.

Scott Mcmahon 45:40
When you write, do you feel like sometimes I've heard the expression or heard things where sometimes writers discover the story, like it's sitting up there in a cloud of yours, or moments of inspiration that are just sort of permeating, where they start picking it up. Like it's just starts trickling down and they start, you know, like almost invisible ink like it starts revealing itself, the story and the shape that even though your your intention might not have been there originally, but as you as it, like you said, ebbs and flows and evolves, you're discovering it, and it's almost as you just have to be in the right, sort of mental space or capacity to grab hold of it. And and sort of let it like as I get let it evolve. Yeah. And I don't know. Oh, yeah. This is good. Yeah, I'm good. This is good. So I was wondering if so like, when you say you're in college, you are taking the writing the screenwriting class, I guess, you're getting feedback from your professors. Do you remember like sort of the first permeation of like the I the germ of the idea for your first full length story that you were like, you know, what this would make this would make a good movie. And I think I got to, you know, you've heard writers or that what that term, I gotta beat on it. I gotta beat.

Randall Jahnson 47:02
Yeah. Well, yeah, there's, you bring up a couple of points, but just specifically, to, to me, as I mentioned, before, when I was at UCLA, I wrote three scripts that were completely uncommercial. They were just, they were bad, you know, I wrote us, you know, sprawling, period, pace and a couple other just not not good, you know, pieces of work. And then I graduated, and I knew that I had to, in order to get somewhere, you know, to get get ahead in the business, I had to make a conscious effort to write something commercial. No, just to get on the map, right, I can be artful. And, and and write rd movies later on, you know, but I really need to get it on the Get on the map first and get get tried to make a living at it. Because at that point, I was, I was working in the mailroom in the Academy of Motion Pictures, arts and sciences and I and I, you know, I just, which was a great job, actually, but because I allowed me a lot of time to write during the day. But, you know, I had to, I couldn't stay there for the rest of my life. So. So I said, Okay, I'm gonna write something commercial and write something that could actually get made, you know, for a relatively low sum of money. So at that time, which that translated to write a horror film, right, okay, so then well, okay, how do you write a horror film? Or even at that time, it's like, oh, God, everything's been done already. So I was really looking to do something different. And so what I wrote I wrote a script then that summer, called slaughter rally, which was about a haunted highway or haunted a stretch of road a rural road that was haunted by the ghost of a hot rodder who had been killed on it back in 1962. Right. And so he races up and down it in the middle of the night in his 57 Chevy Bel Air you know running people off the road and claiming souls and

Scott Mcmahon 49:10
as you're explaining this, I can clearly hear the 20 guitar now

Randall Jahnson 49:13
Oh yeah. Oh, it was I mean, oh, that's clink Ray. You know, the cramps I mean, it was very music inspired in that sense because it you know, just like those great big Detroit Steel iconic cars you know, from the you know, from the late 50s and 60s all the muscle car era and stuff you you know, you hear the that big guitar sound as well The Ventures and you know, all the Eddie Cochran and all these things, the rockabilly sound and stuff,

Scott Mcmahon 49:43
Eddie rappels. Eddie. Did rebel rouser or any something but anyway, yeah, almost like a more of a punk version of that. Well,

Alex Ferrari 49:56
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Scott Mcmahon 50:03
What was interesting simultaneous with this for me was that I had, I was in LA staying in LA after graduated and was really caught up in the music scene in Los Angeles at that point, which was getting swept with the real real kind of, I don't know what to call it a renaissance of music. But it was it was the punk rock thing that was at the core of it. And the hardcore specifically was taking over and really having a profound influence on everything. It was basically taking a flame thrower to everything. Right. Right. And just burning it down. So you had and that was led by black flag and the descendants and relevant today. Oh, sure. Sure. When the Dead Kennedys up in San Francisco and you know, there was social D down in Orange County in Southern California, say, yeah. And to me, it had a huge influence on me on a number of levels, specifically, you know, just creatively how you attack things. And they strip it down, there was no pretension. You just went out and you did it. And you made it work. And you did it with passion and really with an attitude in there was just something elemental. bitching about oh, man, it just was incredible. So I was witnessing a lot of this and then at the same time, with with the hardcore stuff, there was the sort of the art damaged bands that were doing things like this. There were bands like savage Republic, and the Fibonacci is in Walla, Vu, Voodoo even that were heavily influenced by film. Right. And so they were doing a lot of like soundtrack stuff, while a voodoo used to do a medley of Sergio Leone movies. Soundtrack so you know, the good bad, the ugly and hang them high. They would they would do this in concert, and it was just like, wow, and that had that big 20 af guitar, and it was just like, wow, these are this is a really, really I used up. Speaking what was Who do you? The lead the frontman for Stan Ridgway, yeah.

Did you become friends with him working on a project? Yeah.

Randall Jahnson 52:25
Well, just a quick aside, there I was. After I wrote slaughter rally, I wanted to write a murder mystery in what I was doing. My My notion for it was to have it was a murder mystery that was set in the punk rock underground of LA. And it was about a hardcore kid who was accused of killing someone and who had been apprehended. And then his public defender was like a, like a hippie, liberal liberal hippie who had to you know, defend this kid. And they were, I was very interested in just the opposing sensibilities kind of thing, you know. And so I started doing all this quote, unquote, research in the music scene at the time and going to I see all these different shows and and I made contact with a number of bands. I just reached out to them and one time or another and say, hey, could I'm doing this? Would you mind if I come to a rehearsal and see what you guys do? And everybody was really cool. You know, the Minutemen was one of those bands and, and, and stuff. And so the script didn't pan out, I just, just never quite got over the hump for it. But I made all these contacts with all these bands and very, very good friends. And so that's that's what led them to getting, doing some music videos for them and whatever. One of the bands that I really, that were very welcoming to me was a band called the Fibonacci and the Fibonacci is had already farty and ready to party as the LA Weekly described them. The Fibonacci is were open for Walla voodoo at one time, and they knew Stan Ridgway very much. And so one time I was at Club lunch array. And I forget who was playing but it wasn't the fibs, but I was with the keyboardist, the fibs jaunt and Tino and Stan Ridgeway and his wife came in and I said, Oh, God, you know, John, can you introduce me to Stan? I said, I'm a big fan. And I'd really loved the first time I saw them on stage. I was just like, oh, wow, these guys just to completely especially Stan just captured a lie, right? How my that sort of that collective approach to to every anything and everything? He said, Sure. So I met Stan and we talked and I told him I you know, while a Buddha was actually a big influence in writing slaughter rally, and he said, Oh, send me the script. I'd love to you allowed to read it and I said, Okay, so I did. And a couple of weeks later, I got a postcard. He actually mailed me a postcard and said, I read your script. I really like it. I'm going to call you in a couple of days with a plan. Man is always scheming. He's always got something, working up with a plan. But basically, that started with a friendship that still continues today. So And ironically, his manager, eventually manager when he went solo was my wife's older brother. But I, even before I started dating her, yeah, I knew Chris. But I didn't know he was related to Kate. When we first met. It was just really, Stan, Stan and Chris, they both argue they like to take credit for introducing.

Scott Mcmahon 55:57
But it sounds like it was already in there was already

Randall Jahnson 55:59
in the works. It was a pretty Yeah, yeah. But I was going to add one of the things that intrigued me about the music scene at that time, especially in the rockabilly circle, receives that when the blasters were playing, and there were a number of them. I haven't Yeah, there were a number of bands that were, you know, there was the stray cats that were the real big, yeah, but they're the blasters were the big the ones in the LA scene, but there were some other Los Lobos was really kind of a rockabilly influence. But anyway, they would bring out these these crowds that you would see them come up and they pull up in their, their vintage cars, and these guys would come out on their pompadours. And they're in their jeans and T shirt and their their cuffed jeans and their cowboy boots or whatever. And then and then they would have their, their girlfriends and the poodle skirts on them. And the Bettie Page kind of, you know, hair and all of that because

Scott Mcmahon 56:58
it's it that scene is like it's like a greaser scene, but like, like you said, it's it's not like it's not like a happy days QT. It's a little bit edgier, it was okay, with it. Now, it's like tattoos everywhere.

Randall Jahnson 57:13
Right. Granted, it was a little edgier, then, but it's still struck me I was still rather amused by it because to me it they still struck me as kind of like the posers because there would have been the real the real guys. That's me. Thank you.

Scott Mcmahon 57:30
Okay, we're back. We just take a dinner break. But listen, we were talking about slaughter alley, right? Which right, by the way, so it was like one of your first scripts?

Randall Jahnson 57:38
Yes. First attempt to write something commercial. Yes.

Scott Mcmahon 57:42
But that story is dear to your heart. Because we've been working on a little bit, launching your site saw slaughter allday.com Correct. Now, just let you know, I'm going to take another crack at that map, I think because I've learned since since we met last year, I've learned so much about, like, learned how to, you know, make some websites how to do just my job recently, I've been working in Flash lately. So like all this other stuff. I'm like, Oh, my gosh, I think I can go back and like fix what I kind of tend to do. But anyway, that's in the back burner. But one of these days, as soon as it cleared up, I think I have a way that I can make that thing launch. Oh, that's so that's great. But again, that's just my interest of like learning stuff like that. And each year, I get more and more knowledge. And it's like, oh, wait, I can apply this now. Sure. Sure. Anyway, so as you write Slagter ally, right, and you had two other ones. Now during the process of like, writing the scripts, and you were trying to make it something commercially viable. Was there any moments in there where you felt like, I don't know, like you felt your groove? Like I know that sometimes I write stuff like it's a lot of times it's painful. But sometimes you get these magic moments where you just feel like when it's completed or something or like, wow, you know, I did it or I could see this or something like that. Yeah. Like what the question is, where do you find your enjoyment in the writing, because if you've done it so long, obviously there must be some grain as

Randall Jahnson 59:14
well. Slaughter rally was was fun to write. And I've done multiple drafts of it over the years. And looks like I'm going to be doing another one here, maybe very soon. Because I've got some interest in it yet again. It's the script that refuses to die. It is what I was saying that you know, scripts are alive and breathing. And this is some kind of like a monster that just lurks in this primordial slime somewhere that every now and then somebody keeps coming back and coming back to insane

Scott Mcmahon 59:50
like the story of like, Lawrence Kazdin when is one of our early scripts, the bodyguard and Costner.

Alex Ferrari 59:58
We'll be right back after a war from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Scott Mcmahon 1:00:07
You just saw it on a shelf, something like one of his early early skills. And he said, I'll grab that. And they made that. But it was, you know, things like those stories where they take. They just been around for

Randall Jahnson 1:00:15
so long. Yeah, you know, I mean, look, the lesson I've learned from it isn't that nothing is ever dead in Hollywood. It's just, you put it in a drawer for a while. And then six months a year later, bring it back out, show it around again. That's if it's a spec script,

Scott Mcmahon 1:00:36
but Right, well, then again, even that now it's like lead it in, bled into the actual finished films with what Lucas has done with his Star Wars films. And it just read somewhere that new blu ray release, right, he added some more like dialogue to Darth Vader and return the Jedi where he like screams No, like, during the death scene of like, the emperor or something. So fans are like, again, like what the hell are you doing? Wow. So anyway, so yeah, even in film form. It has life that it breathes in. Sure. Sure.

Randall Jahnson 1:01:08
Yeah. And that's interesting now, that that it's come to that where it's so except easy and accessible to be able to get to make slight alterations, nip and tucks here and there and all that. I mean, that's the That doesn't surprise me. It's, it goes back to the I think it was as Ezra Pound who said you know, nothing as a poem is never never finished, it's abandoned. And so I think that's apropos for any kind of art you know, you just including scripts that at some point, you just got to abandon it because it's it's never quite done. It will always be a work in progress.

Scott Mcmahon 1:01:52
You've got to make a t shirt or that hat like those ready for like those Ryder conferences and stuff like that. I never thought of that. That's actually pretty good. We've seen these like, cute like shirts like busta T's dot com some really funny things. But anyway, yeah, I think that's a great great little say

Randall Jahnson 1:02:10
what like nothing is ever finished is found and

Scott Mcmahon 1:02:13
it's a symptom like abandoned it like this, you know, and they give like little wet you know, like a website in the back something to like, T shirts that are specific to that market, right and writers but yeah, people like we want to like walk bongos, what does that mean? Abandoned? Because it strikes of our conversation like, like, What the hell is that? That jam or that raised me? Yeah, so yeah, anyway.

Randall Jahnson 1:02:36
But anyway, kind of back to the, to the question. My was the inspiration are

Scott Mcmahon 1:02:47
working. And you have these moments of like, where you just feel like you're like, you're the shit. Like, you're like, you feel like you're like, oh, my gosh, I'm a genius, but or sometimes you don't?

Randall Jahnson 1:02:56
Well, I think if you ever start thinking thoughts like that, you're really asking for it, you're doomed. You know. That's the day you really start worrying. I had the good fortune one time to meet David Lean director of Lawrence of Arabia and stuff. And a friend of mine was assisting his restoration of Lawrence of Arabia. And I was, she knew that I was a big fan. And she arranged for me to meet him at that event and sneak in on a screening of it that Spielberg and a few other people were there. So it came back and shook my hand there afterwards, but she told me later that he had told her this story about when he was directing Lawrence of Arabia. And the day came for him to shoot the scene were very late in the movie where Lawrence is leading the Arabs on the on cutting a swath through the Turkish lines and heading straight towards Damascus. And then he has to make a tactical choice of either wipe out and slaughter this Turkish column that had just had raped and pillaged the village in Arabic village or move on to Damascus in greater glory and right the smart tactical thing to do, but Lawrence ops, succumbs to the thing of where he goes in massacres the Turkish column right and sort of satiate his, his his need for bloodletting and right and, and Leanne told her that the day that they filmed that scene, he drove the limo came and got him at his hotel and then they drove at the hour and a half out to the to the location or wherever it was. Leanne got out of the car and looked at, you know, the hundreds of extras all in uniform and calm I assume you know, waiting waiting for his his first command, you know. And he looked at all these people cast and crew just looking at him. And he got struck with with diarrhea just immediately had to jump back into the car and told the the chauffeurs and just take me back to the hotel, took him back to the hotel. And he camped out in the bathroom for two or three hours, I guess or whatever. And then finally got enough courage to go back out to the scene and direct it. But he didn't. The point was he didn't have any idea how to direct that scene. And he was so struck with with fear and insecurity that, you know, he was crapping in his pants. I mean, he just was literally I mean, he just got struck with. And so he said, you said to my friend Jude that, you know, that just goes to show you, it can hit anyone anytime, right? You know, it's just it's, it's always when you're, when you're when you're putting yourself out there, there's, there's a great risk that you're taking, right? You're overcoming a great amount of fear there. But were you you're embracing the theory, you're crossing over, you're taking these big risks and stuff. And so it takes great effort to do it. But he said somebody, like, the implication was somebody like him who's got all these accolades and stuff like that. Sometimes, they just don't know how to do it. They're scared. They're scared to you know,

Scott Mcmahon 1:06:34
I am Thank you.

Randall Jahnson 1:06:38
And so, so I always thought that was that was a great story, I felt very privileged to have heard that, you know, secondhand, right, you know? And, and, and so, anyway, back to what we were talking about it, you know, the times where you're really starting to feel cocky and say, Damn, I'm good. Right? Right. Is, you know, that's where you could be into a little bit of trouble. My best. Probably, arguably, my best writing is probably stuff that I was mortified that I wrote, you know, that I was scared, I was scared really to pass on because I was afraid of the reaction, it would get that people just think, what are you thinking? Are you out of your mind? God sakes, we're paying you all this money to write this Drac you know, you pretentious OF A BITCH or, you know, whatever, are damaged, you know, kind of geek, you know, all these, all these thoughts run through your mind. I mean, it's just, you know, racing your mind races with a lot of irrational or irrational stuff sometimes. But I think that and again, fear and insecurity can paralyze you, right? When you're when you're working. But the key thing is to have enough of it, that keeps you on edge. And it keeps you vigilant, and keeps you always wanting to take a risk, you know, enough, just enough to where you won't settle for the ordinary and the safe. But at the same time, you know, it you don't want you just want to push yourself just just enough to sort of just keep yourself on edge with it. You know, don't settle for the low hanging fruit, if you can. Yeah. And that. That is I think a really, you know, a really valuable lesson when when you start feeling like you're dialing it in, you're going oh, I can do this behind my back, you know, and then I think you're kind of losing something and you're losing the passion you're losing. You're losing the healthy fear of your stuff. I read something recently about a it's it's, it's in a book called The I think it's in this book called The War of Art. That's written by a novelist and screenwriter guy that wrote Bagger Vance, and don't ask me his name, because I couldn't find his name right now at the moment. But he, he was quoting or we're using the anecdote of how, how actors especially famous actors, choose their roles, why they make the choices of and he noted that many actors respond to that question by saying, oh, and he was citing on the actor studio, outside the actor studio, okay. And he said, invariably, they get that answered that question, how do you choose the roles that you that you do, and what prompts you and invariably they answer it scared me. You know, the good ones. Yeah. And I chose because it scared me He

Alex Ferrari 1:10:01
will be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Randall Jahnson 1:10:11
So translation is that it was something I haven't done before. It was challenging. And I wanted to rise to the occasion, I wanted to meet that challenge. You know, I wanted to do something that I haven't done before. Right, right, you know, and go, you know, boldly go where no man has gone before, you know, with the be at the Starship Enterprise or your screenplay.

Scott Mcmahon 1:10:33
And I was up and until 330, last night working because I was scared of not being able to wrestle flash the program. I'm trying to learn this program flash, like, I don't know it. I'm online learning as I'm going. Yeah. And it's such a high learning curve. But it's still it was a challenge. And like, I don't I don't feel necessarily tired, because I was motivated all last night, or has this just sheer desire. Like, I've got to learn this. I've got to figure this out. How did you? How do they do this? How did you and then just because that desire and wanting to know, and then you and then the getting to that place where you kind of break it, we're just like, you accomplish it. We're, where you started and where you end up. It's such a far journey, but you're like, Wow, I did it. I was kind of scared jumping into because I didn't know how it's gonna get you know where to start. But as you finish and you found out you could actually do something or finish a task. That's always, you know, satisfying. Yeah. So, I guess for me, that's so now coming back to is like you have this. You have three scripts that you've abandoned. Yes, yes. Yeah. Right. Yeah. So consciously. So what was the first what was the first gig you had that? That was like, where you got paid as a screenwriter? Well,

Randall Jahnson 1:11:58
actually, I got I got paid to do a rewrite onslaught rally who so what happened was I wrote it. Then that summer of 82, I think it was and then I gave it to a friend of mine who had gone to film school with okay. It's actually former roommate of mine, Richard Green, who's now a very powerful agent at CAA. Actually. There you go. There you go. And Richard had at that time, aspirations to be a producer. And so he was working for a true producer a real working producer real work and as a guy named Bill Finnegan made TV movies and such.

Scott Mcmahon 1:12:42
As opposed to those the you know, who are Hollywood, there's a lot of producers. Yeah, yes. Yeah, that's true. Working?

Randall Jahnson 1:12:50
Yes. Say yes. Yeah, for the same, exactly the same. And you can apply that to writers and actors and all of that. So I'm gonna order another puck here is when he comes back again, but I'm just keeping one eye on him. So what happened was can I get a no, no. Okay. But no, no, I actually, I want to go for something a little redder. Yeah, the color you had a nice report. You were talking to someone there. earlier. Nelson arrived. Oh, really? Oh, it is an IPA and sat read. Really? Wow. Wow. That's something that's red. That's gonna be volunteer. Yeah. Yeah. I would recommend getting the Orkney school spirit. Okay. Oh, that all the school splitter I've had I've got I've had in the body of that draft. Okay. Oh, you do? Okay. I don't want to go. I want to get stick with the draft then. Do you have the thistle? Yeah. Yeah. Bring that.

Scott Mcmahon 1:13:53
Thank you. Actually got some water. I just need to hydrate here.

Randall Jahnson 1:13:57
So, Richard, I gave the script to Richard, because he said, let me let me take this to the producer. I'm working for Bill Finnegan. And he said, I think you might like it. Because Richard read it and really liked it and thought, wow, this is this is cool and so great. So he took it to his boss. And lo and behold, the boss loved it. They optioned it from me. And then they left

Scott Mcmahon 1:14:26
feeling like it was a bit surreal.

Randall Jahnson 1:14:30
It's your through the roof. You know, you're just it's just an exciting, wonderful feeling. And you could just feel like wow, I could do this the rest of my life. Do you have like

Scott Mcmahon 1:14:42
a moment of like, is there like a moment of I don't know we're all of a sudden like your whole future is right in front of you. Oh, you're like boom, that instance like I'm on my way and Ba ba ba ba boom and all this stuff? Yeah, you

Randall Jahnson 1:14:59
want ended up writing real fast. Just see it you know, like billboards on the on the on the freeway, man how's that? That's good. That's good. You want to try that?

Scott Mcmahon 1:15:13
Yeah, dummies gave a quick sip. That looks very frothy.

Randall Jahnson 1:15:17
Yeah. It's a nice head on that. So good bear. So they optioned it. And then they sat on it for like a year. For one thing or another reality? Yeah, just it just it just took awhile. And then I think it was that following summer, they they called up and said, we I think we're going to get some action on this. Now we're going to start rolling on it. And I think they renewed the option. They option it for one year, and I think they renew the option. And then then what happened was they got some money in the asked me to do a rewrite on it. And they had started they were getting a director and they had Judd Nelson. And Alexandra Paul. Cast What year was this was about eight knows that. 8382

Scott Mcmahon 1:16:09
or jet? Jet Nelson. All right. Okay.

Randall Jahnson 1:16:13
Well, we knew who Judd Nelson was. Breakfast Club hadn't come out the Breakfast Club hadn't come out yet. He had done. Forget what he had done before that that garnered a fair amount of attention. So he was cool. He was cool. Right? Right. We all like Oh, yeah, that's cool. So what happened was I did the rewrite, I got like, $5,000 to do a rewrite on it. And I remember didn't have an agent at the time. Did you? Well, that Okay. Quick aside on that. There's a lot of different things. Slaughter rallies, instructional, those listening in many different ways.

Scott Mcmahon 1:16:47
People Okay, why don't you got your

Randall Jahnson 1:16:51
first of all, let me roll back. I literally finished writing the end on slaughter rally the very first draft of it. And I took because I lived in Westwood at the time, I decided I'm gonna go take a walk into the village and, you know, get a cup of coffee or beer or something like that. I felt like like, yeah, so I walked into Westwood Village, which at that time, still had bookstores. And I remember going in to like, it was like hunters books that was there on Westwood Boulevard. And I walked in and prominently displayed on a case. In the whole little setup as you walk in, is Stephen King's Christine, which is had the cover of it was the car, the car, you know, and basically the grille of that I think it was an old Chrysler. And I looked at that, and I thought, oh, no, don't tell me. No, it can't be about like, and it wasn't quite the same. But boy, it was close enough. It was oh, I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe it. So that that first of all, that was Lesson number one, which is that, you know, there are like you were talking about earlier, there are ideas up there in the cloud that you just sort of take, well, if you don't act on, on the idea that you have, somebody else is going to act on it as well. Right. And one of my instructors at UCLA used to say that look, ideas are literally out there floating around in the ether. It's not uncommon at all, for someone or several people to latch on to the same idea at the same time. Right? And it's not a case of somebody ripping off someone else or anything. It's just sometimes you all in you can call it the collective unconscious. You can call it any synchronicity. You can call it any number of things. But it is a reality. It happens. So you're here my attachment as well. Yeah. Okay. So my only advice in the front is that it will happen to you sooner or later. And act on your ideas. You get an impulse, you get a creative impulse, then act on it right away, you know, and if you can, you know, sometimes it's just not possible. You know, and sometimes there's not quite enough of a So, so that was that then so anyway, I did this. I did this rewrite, and slaughter rally. They were on the fast track they were going to heading into production, Alexander Paul Judd Nelson starring in it. I was doing this rewrite. I finished the rewrite of it. Remember this very well, on Halloween? 1980. I guess it's 83 At that point, and then two weeks before they were scheduled to go before cameras, the money disappeared and evaporated. And oh, and I forgot to say we got the proverbial Greenlight after my rewrite on it. Okay, Greenlight. You're going forward. It's happening. Boom.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:56
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Randall Jahnson 1:20:06
I quit my job at the academy and it was kind of like Solon mailrooms, suckers, you're never going to, you know, you're never gonna see me again, you know, except when I'm walking up the red carpet to collect my little gold man.

And well, that's what I was saying, you know, just after that option, that initial payment are like, wow, I am truly it's just you're getting, you can see the billboards on that highway right up all the way to the horizon, what you're going to do, you know, the old, it's all laid out for you. So then the money is yanked two weeks before the start date, it just fell apart, I never got an answer as to why it happened. And suddenly, everything came to a screeching and I mean screeching halt. So the big payday that I was going to get once they started filming whatever happened. And so I actually had to go back to the academy and ask in the most humiliating circumstances as for my old job back, which they gave me God loves them. And, but that taught me such a valuable lesson, you know, just such a valuable lesson very early on, about the film industry, how volatile it is. And no matter how good it looks, or whatever there are, there are things there are bolts of lightning that can strike at any given moment out there that will just derail even the most seemingly the most sound as to projects. So. So just always be aware of that do not count your chickens before they hatch, because it's just too many things can happen until an audience until your film is playing before an audience who has paid money to see it. In a theater, you know, and near you, man doesn't exist, it does, you know, just keep keep knocking on wood the whole way. Just be lucky. You can even you know, you've gotten we've gotten that far. So So then an answer to the agent. So when they first made the offer, to option it, I was I had no agent, I had no representation at all. And so I didn't know what to do. Yeah. So through some friends of good friends of mine, they knew they they recommended an agent to me, they made a call to him. And this guy came in and negotiated a deal. And suddenly, this was another valuable lesson I learned the the figures that they were offering me directly, were suddenly twice as high as I ultimately after the agent got into the business. So he basically negotiated a better deal for me. So he got his cut, certainly got his cut, but he also, you know, they stepped in and they made sure that I wasn't taken advantage. Because you know, you're young and you're hungry and you think Yeah, yeah, I'll take it'll take anything that they want to want to throw at you but they this agent came in and his name was Shelly while and Shelly came in and got that did a good job on that on that first deal. However, Shelly wouldn't take me on as a as a full as a legitimate client at his agency because they didn't represent well as he would keep me on as what he called a pocket client which was big kind of in his back pocket but I wasn't a regular client yet based on the merits of a quote unquote exploitation script. So you know slaughter rally was still for him didn't merit a you know, real representation yet so so that's how so I had I was his pocket client for a while and so he wasn't going to do anything for me he would be there to negotiate a deal for me, but I wasn't going to be able to get out and meet other people are or move on the success of the limited success of slaughter rally. So what happened was I went back I had my took back my job at the at the mailroom fell into a deep funk of depression where it was like xeroxing my face every day and because I'm am never going to get out of here. I'm going to die an old man in the mailroom, you know, all this stuff. It was just Oh, it's so depressing. And I felt I was never I wasn't going to find anything worth writing about. Yeah, again. And so then Then what happened? And during this time, I was going to all these punk shows and I was starting to make music videos for for Black Flag and Henry Rollins and what

Scott Mcmahon 1:24:58
do they make? Were you cinematographer, Director, part of the crew?

Randall Jahnson 1:25:04
I was I was directing them, you know? Yeah. So I mean, basically, I just was going to these guys, I went to the Minutemen after a show and I said, I talked to Mike was the bass player. And I said, Mike, you know, I can make, I had a couple of beers. And I said, like, I can make, I can make a video for you. You guys were like, you know, $300. And Mike said, Okay, let's do it.

Scott Mcmahon 1:25:23
Do you recall that any songs, the videos that you've done? Oh, yeah, it was.

Randall Jahnson 1:25:28
For the minimun it was, this ain't no picnic. And then we were in the same session, we shot. We went down and they were performing live that night to we were shooting on a weekend and so we shot on a Saturday and Sunday and then they they were performing Saturday night at a big punk rock show down at the Olympic Auditorium in downtown LA which used to be a an arena for like, you know, old wrestling right gigs and stuff like that. It was just a concrete slab. And so, we had all the camera equipment, everything and I had the crew and we were all young. I said look, I'll pay everybody you know, will you guys let's get some pizza. And let's go down to the frickin show. And we'll we'll shoot pizza. And we'll and we'll shoot I said I want to shoot I'm doing this ain't talking about love, which was their cover of the Van Halen Opus you know, Van Halen first big hit ain't talking about love and when you know when Van Halen performed it, it's like six minutes long, right? And then it finally climaxes with Hey, hey, yeah, you know that minimum 37 seconds basically they just took the last the last stanza of lyrics and then you know, I've been to the dish I stood and looked down you know, I lost a lot of friends there I got no time to mess around no way and then hey, you know hey, that was it and they played it really fast. So I told them in a man I said let's let's do this live you know I'm not gonna shoot you guys live performing this but try to perform it at the tempo you remember recording it because we had no playback right you know, I had a cassette back for for the stuff earlier in the day. And so and they said okay, and I said do one other thing the song is so short just play it twice. So I have time to switch camera positions because I had two cameras I said I just want my two guys to switch you know angle so we can pull on coverage right and and he said sure, you know, we'll do it so so we get down there we get in it's this big punk show there's like half a dozen bands on on they were pretty high up on the on the order and so we were there and we were right on the edge of the Persia and I had on the cameras a bit told me where it was going to be on their set, you know and so I said okay, and they gave me the signal and I roll the cameras then they started playing the song and the guys were were shooting and then the song ended 37 seconds later great now we're going to switch this they just went right back into it without any break and I said Mike No, no. D Boone, you know on the guitar was just I remember him just kind of shrugging like Oh, rockin so I had good my good friend Bill Jenkins was doing second unit quote second unit which was basically he had an old spring wound Oh Bell and Howell 16 millimeter camera that was like the leftover from World War One or something. And, and Bill was right next to me. And I remember he just scrambled up onto the stage he just clambered up there right away and it's on students, they started doing the second version and got behind them looking out at the audience got a great got a great angle. My other friend John Hart couldn't do it because the camera was too too big. He just couldn't get up. He was an Aeroflex. And so Bill got got these great shots. But the problem was a bills camera was so old, the the the spring on the camera is it would get lower in the wind, it would start slowing down. So when the film starts moving slower through the aperture, you capture more action on each frame. So basically, when you project it, everything starts speeding up. And it's like an old silent film, right? And so the last footage bits of them, just like they look like you know, Buster Keaton. It was just it was crazy. But once we started cutting it together, it kind of added to the whole frenetic quality of the video and and then we we did some in this because it was early 80s We could solarize some video and stuff once we added some kind of effects to it. And it's just it's, I have it on my website. You can you can see it. I got it. Yeah, but MTV played it as the world's shortest video made the MTV News. I never saw it. I saw that. But apparently Kurt Loder introduces the world shortest video at the time. And though he says something like that.

Alex Ferrari 1:30:04
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Randall Jahnson 1:30:13
What I thought was pretty cool, but this ain't no picnic, the one that we really did that was sort of legitimate that that played quite a while on MTV. And, and. And actually, a lot of that footage, all the outtakes and everything else were proved to be pretty valuable. Because you know, detune, the guitarist for the minimum was killed in a car wreck late in the December that year. This is 84. And you know, it's great having some really good, great images of performing, although we don't have sound on on it, but there's some really crisp stuff. And then I did another one for them. No, yeah, later Later that year. The same, not the same king of the hill, which we shot and video at the time, and we had a Steadicam for that we really stepped up. So,

Scott Mcmahon 1:31:06
so you did all this stuff. So you were what? What doors that open for you? Well, do you think that that you saw on top of your writing? Alright, sorry, we're back. Okay, so you've done well, making punk rock videos. Yeah.

Randall Jahnson 1:31:23
So what I was my idea at the time was like, okay, cool. I'm, I'm getting my directing experience now doing these these music videos, you know, and, and it was again, it was real, real shoe, string budget kind of stuff. It was totally punk rock. But SST Records was really happy with the with the minimum videos. And so they started talking to me about doing something with with black flag that was yeah, it was because they were Black Flag basically ran SST.

Scott Mcmahon 1:31:56
time it was Henry Rollins was had it it was funny, because now Well, well, yeah. Wasn't the original. Well, my memories. Black Flag was

Randall Jahnson 1:32:05
always Greg again. And then chuck to kowski. But then chuck eventually left. And just continued to to sort of run SST. But But Greg Ghen started SST records, and he was the guitarist for Black Flag. Okay, and so, Henry, excuse me was not the original. Yeah, no, vocalists there were several before Henry. But he was the one that finally stepped in and became really the face of Black Flag. Because Henry really relished, I think being the frontman there, and he was, you know, a formidable personality. And so,

Scott Mcmahon 1:32:46
who formed the circle jerks after that? Well,

Randall Jahnson 1:32:48
Chris Morris, and he would have been Chris Morris was the original vocalist for Black Flag. Okay. And then he's saying like nervous breakdown. And some of those really are that that very first EP 40 fives that they did. I was and then he went on to, he left and does start circle jerks.

Scott Mcmahon 1:33:05
I was up at Skywalker Sound couple years ago. And they had a project there. They had all the original masters for the Black Flag. You know, albums, that really they were remastering. Oh, wow. And it's just classic box. They're showing us like this project they are working on. I'm just like, it's interesting and crazy black beats out

Randall Jahnson 1:33:28
there. So there's a clash. Right there. But and that's, that's another story working with an array and all that. But, you know, by I was hoping that what this would do would would give me continued cred, you know, as a director, and then my writing career would be kind of moving along simultaneously, right, you know, with this so that eventually I would be, I could parlay it into a thing where I write something and say, Okay, I want to direct this. Okay. And I'm hoping that somebody would give me that option. No, it would give me that chance. What happened then, was that I'm back at the mailroom, right. And I'm black in a funk now because the production fell apart and and I just didn't think I was going to get anywhere out. So like I was saying, I've seen all these punk shows really be inspired by the music. And I that's when I really tried to write that failed murder mystery thing that fell apart. And it just, it just didn't come to come together. So I also started a record label shortly after this to that, but that was a little further down the line. But so anyway, still in working there. I ran into another old friend of mine that I had gone to film school with. They asked and he said what are you doing? And I sent him licking stamps in the mail room, dude, I've done I like bombed and he said, Well, whatever happened to slaughter alley, he said that was a great script. And I said I'm just sitting there on a shelf but he said Give it to me. He said I'm working on Working in the mailroom at William Morris Agency, he said, You know, I can't tell you the crap I have to read every day. And a lot of this is by in a lot of the scripts are by people who are making a lot of money, instead of that slaughter rally is just as good as any of the stuff that I'm reading. So let me get let me get into a couple of young agents there that I have in mind. And so Okay, so he did. And within a couple of weeks, I was asked to come into way Morris and I met with a couple of young agents there, Rick, Jaffa and Carol young Gus were their names, and they loved the script. And they signed me. And that was just like, boy, suddenly, it was like, Oh, well, it'd be represented by people my age, whereas Shelley, while was much older guy, and now he read people's like in my age bracket and speak in my language, right. And they just loved it. And they said, We're going to get you out of meetings. And we'll start, you know, we're going to start finding some things for you. And I said, fantastic. So I was really emboldened by that. Rick, Jaffa, incidentally, left, a couple of years, or 333 years or four years later, is my agent to become a writer himself. And he just recently he and his wife just recently wrote Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Oh, wow. Yeah. So he's done. All right. Yeah. And yeah, but but he was a, he was a terrific guy, and a terrific agent, you know, for me at the time, and I remember meeting him the first time and he said, I gotta tell you, I said, I got your script, I read it. I couldn't put it down. He said, when it was done, I threw it in the air. I was so happy reading a really good script. This is a really awesome script. I love it again. And this was just like, Oh, God, thank you hearing stuff like that I write from somebody really in the know. Yeah, you know, who says, Oh, we're going to take this and we're going to, we're going to, we're going to get you some work, you know, based off of it was still under option with a company that had, right so it was tied up, they couldn't go out and try to resell it. But they said we're going to we're going to use this as a calling card for you and get you out there now and start starting. Yeah, start. You know, thanks. So that's, that's what, what led to my first bit of employment, which I can tell you about now, or will hold till next day later.

Scott Mcmahon 1:37:24
I think we'll wrap it up for tonight. I think this is great. This is This is better than I expected. But I mean, because it's I feel like there's so much more there's so much more we could talk about. And I think that the the audience of one, whoever's listening to this podcast but yeah, so let's wrap it up and we'll catch up another you know,

Randall Jahnson 1:37:47
we've kind of jumped around all over the place with music and let me finish a thought though, which was maybe you can put this back into the context that it really just should have been when I was earlier talking about going to these the shows and like they've seen the blasters and, and a lot of this rockabilly stuff that was happening. They struck me all as being a little bit like posers, right. And I and, and I felt very acutely that, you know, there would been a generation or two before them who were the real McCoys if you write that were the real, the real rockabilly guys, the guys who were sniffing glue and race in their cars, three o'clock in the morning and like, you know, drink and they got a pint of slow gin in the back pocket and high school, you know, and, and would rumble with a chain and a dryer i right. And I always was thinking about boy, it'd be really, it's amusing. What would happen if some of those guys came and met up with these kind of poser. Right? rockabilly policies, you know, really come to rumble, what would happen, you know, what would happen to these kinds of posing guys who look like really tough? Right, right. You know, the real McCoy has showed up one night on their doorstep. So that was kind of an impetus to start writing slaughter rally was really what would happen if the past came and visited upon the future. Yeah. And how, how would either hold up, you know,

Scott Mcmahon 1:39:16
it's cool. It's such a cool little subculture. Yeah, like, you know, like Conan Conan O'Brien is a huge rockabilly fan and he's got his, his his own rockabilly band and, you know, oh, really, I

Randall Jahnson 1:39:30
didn't know that was his brand of his brand.

Scott Mcmahon 1:39:33
He goes sometimes on these little tours, like when there's a hiatus of the show, where he and his rockabilly band play across the country Sure. So but he's got this little he's got this affinity history wise hairs a popper do our time or whatever. Yeah,

Randall Jahnson 1:39:47
okay. Well, that's a that sort of explains a lot.

Scott Mcmahon 1:39:50
He's a Harvard guy or whatever he is.

Randall Jahnson 1:39:54
Yeah, yeah, that's interesting, huh?

Scott Mcmahon 1:39:57
Be funny if he met with the past now. But

Alex Ferrari 1:40:02
we'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Randall Jahnson 1:40:11
Well, that's kind of what I'm talking about, you know? So, you know, you look at it. I mean, again, it's partly over our, or our fascination with people like Johnny Cash and right Carl Perkins and all those, all those early guys, you know, they weren't they weren't bright, educated guys are tough as nails, though. And they were really they were the real deal. And so I just wonder what would happen, what would happen. So

Scott Mcmahon 1:40:41
how funny. All right, oh, we can wrap this up. And we'll we'll continue another time for sure. And I know, I'm interested. There's so much more to talk about. So yeah, and hopefully next time we talk mentioned, whatever the next steps of projects are going on, and we'll catch up on what you're doing.

Randall Jahnson 1:40:58
Yeah, there was kind of a cluster of activity. There were a period there that really, you know, career in Hollywood is very streaky, it can be like a, like, a hot streak in sports, you know, where, if you're, if you're hot, and you're working it, then we're gonna work and you know, surf that wave, you know, like that? Yeah, yeah. Because you never know, when if, if another good one is going to come or not. Right, right. Again, thanks. Hollywood is always throwing the changeup ball at us. So I'm mixing my my sports metaphors. I know, we got about three or four of them in the span of a two or three sentences here. But I think you get the gist of what I'm talking about

Scott Mcmahon 1:41:46
You lost me on the wave when I was just like, my brain started thinking about the wave. Yeah. All right. Cool.

Randall Jahnson 1:41:52
All right, Scott. Thank you.

Scott Mcmahon 1:41:53
Yeah, we'll catch up later.

Randall Jahnson 1:41:55



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