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IFH 571: The Ugly Truth of Being a Hollywood Screenwriter with Rich Wilkes

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Get ready for on heck of a ride. Today on the show we have screenwriter Rich Wilkes.

Wilkes’ major-studio debut was as screenwriter of the 1994 film Airheads. The story revolves around a group of loser musicians called The Lone Rangers who take a radio station hostage to get their song played on the radio. Airheads was directed by Michael Lehmann and distributed by 20th Century Fox.

This was followed by a co-writer credit (alongside director James Melkonian) for the 1994 comedy The Stoned Age, set in the stoner subculture of Southern California during the 1970s.

The same writing and directing team then collaborated with The Jerky Boys to create the 1995 production The Jerky Boys: The Movie, featuring the eponymous comedians (self-described as “low-lifes from Queens”) as New York City youths who get into trouble with the Mafia when one of their prank calls leads them into a money laundering business.

Wilkes is credited as the sole screenwriter for the 2002 action-adventure film XXX and a “based on characters created by” credit as being as the creator of the XXX franchise.

Wilkes co-wrote the Mötley Crüe biopic The Dirt, based on the New York Times bestselling book by Neil Strauss and Mötley Crüe. The film took 17 years to get made. David Fincher was initially attached to direct in 2004, followed by Larry Charles in 2008.

Rich and I had a raw conversation about what it is really like to be a screenwriter in Hollywood, warts and all. This episode should be reqired listening for any screenwriter thinking of getting into the Hollywood screenwriting game.

Enjoy my eye-opening conversation with Rich Wilkes.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I'd like to welcome to the show Rich Wilkes how you doin Rich?

Rich Wilkes 0:14
Hey, man, I'm doing great, Alex, how you doing?

Alex Ferrari 0:16
I'm doing great, man. I'm doing great. Thank you so much for for coming on the show, man. I think we're gonna have a fun thing. Gonna be a fun episode. I have a good feeling about this. Because based on your credits alone, I think you're not gonna have a beer even though I don't drink but I definitely have a beer.

Rich Wilkes 0:33
Good. I want to learn something from you.

Alex Ferrari 0:35
So how did you? First of all, why did you get into this insane business? And how did you get into this insane business?

Rich Wilkes 0:43
It started I went to UC Santa Cruz. And they didn't have a film program. But I wanted to do film. So I did theater arts with a film emphasis. And they didn't have screenwriting major. So I did. I wrote my own major, which was a screenplay and submitted that rather than doing a film or a play or whatever. And then I went to American Film Institute for screenwriting. It's a two year MFA. After the first year, my one of my scripts got optioned by touchstone. And so they were going to pay me $10,000 For this option, and AFI at the time cost $10,000. And I figured, well, why don't I just pocket the $10,000 and quit? So I quit. Halfway through AFI never got my masters. But I figured the whole point of going there was to get a script. So since I got since I got the thing sold or optioned anyway, I bailed as quick as I could. Did that get produced? It actually did. Yeah. It wound up being the one. You had Chris Moore a few weeks ago on the podcast. It was the first movie that he produced. He was my agent

Alex Ferrari 1:57
It was glory days. It was glory days. That's right. Yeah. Alright, so we'll get we'll get into glory days in a minute. Was there a film that kind of lit your fire man, it was, is there not one movie that we that you saw you were just like, oh, I want to go into this business. I want to join the circus. It's it's that's what it is. We're we're all carnies and we've joined the circus.

Rich Wilkes 2:14
Yeah, I never really thought about going into the movie business until college when I met people that, you know, whose guy whose dad worked on mash. And I was like, Really, you can do that you can actually work on mash, you know, and that made it real for me that that, you know, maybe I could move to LA and work on something. But prior to that, I never had any clue that it was possible. I thought it was you know, it was very insular. And you had to grow up here and no, somebody. My favorite movie growing up was Gallipoli. The Peter Weir movie.

Alex Ferrari 2:48
Yeah. Mel Gibson. Yeah. Yeah.

Rich Wilkes 2:51
So I'm not of the I want to make jaws and Star Wars and Raiders kind of crowd those movies I love but they aren't the ones that maybe say, Hey, man, I want to do this for a living. I thought that Gallipoli was such a great combination of history and a personal story, that it blew my mind. So the after finding out that it's possible, and then studying it and going to AFI, and getting it set up, I've actually managed to since oh, I want to say 1991 30 years now, do this for a living without having to have another job, which is like, you know, ridiculous.

Alex Ferrari 3:31
And isn't that the isn't that the goal of this whole thing? It's like we can make a living writing or directing or just being part of the circus. I mean, that's,that's that's the goal

Rich Wilkes 3:43
That's the entire thing. Yeah, my initial thought was, I want to get into movie business because I don't want to work that hard. And this will give me a lot of free time. And he realized that doesn't really work.

Alex Ferrari 3:56
That that didn't work out that way and that's why people think that oh screenwriting, you wake up, you write for a couple hours and then you goof off all day and the rest of the day and that's it. And then some and they just and they throw up obscene amounts of money at you. Because you're you know, because everyone is shamed. Black and Joe Osterhaus back in the 90s so Well, it's funny because you know, like I was saying earlier before we got on you and I are similar vintage. So you know, we were coming up in the 90s which were it was a magical time it was a crazy magical time screenwriters. Were getting the you know, the, the option booms are the spekboom of Shane Black Joe Astor house and you know, two 3 million $4 million for a movie that lit a lot of fires of like, well, I'm going to be a screener. I can get rich being a screenwriter.

Rich Wilkes 4:45
Yeah, I you know, for me, it was it wasn't the boom time for that it was the boom time of being able to pitch a movie and then get paid to write it and by pitch it I mean a five minute pitch

Alex Ferrari 4:58
Like the player like the player

Rich Wilkes 5:00
Exactly. And then now you know, it's you have to have the script written with the star, the director of the financing before anybody consider it, but back then you'd go in and say, I got this idea, it's going to be Dog Day Afternoon in a radio station, it's going to be, you know, a lot of rock and roll music, blah, blah, blah, great fun, go, you know, go write it. And I would between me and my friends, you know, I would, we'd have five movies, five pitches, setup around town, and you'd knock out this script, and then go on to the next one. And it was so fucking easy. Because they had this incredible budget to develop their own material. They all the studios wanted to do that. So they would commission 125 scripts in order to make 20 grand, right? Right. So that was a lot of writers making a living off of, you know, these, these scripts for hire, which just, unfortunately, has completely gone away. And now I think if you're lucky, they'll put out six movies a year, a particular studio, and of those, maybe they make half and the rest are coming from financing from somewhere else. And they're just distributing the damn thing. So they aren't paying writers to come in and pitch and write these, these scripts for them. There's just there's no need for them to do that anymore.

Alex Ferrari 6:21
And the funny thing is, is which is which is bizarre is that now there's more need for content ever. There is a content boom, and there's been never been more money sloshing around in town than ever before. What is it 17 million? Excuse me 17 billion for Netflix this year, 33 billion for Disney plus, I mean, and you know, HBO and everyone's everyone's looking for content, but you would think that pitching would be the easiest way to get things done. And to be more of that, but you're absolutely right. It is gone the complete opposite way. You need the script, the star, the budget, the financing, you did literally, you know, plug and play project for them for them to look not even guaranteed for them to even have a conversation with you nowadays. It's insane.

Rich Wilkes 7:09
Yeah, this this changed. It was a market change, right when the Writers Guild was going on strike and Oh, yeah. So there was the housing bubble. And then the writer strike was coming and I had a pitch with Amblin and it was right before the strike. And I you know, they called me up the day of and they said, listen, we're changing our policy. Unless you're coming through the door with Will Smith attached to your pitch don't bother coming. And I'm like, if I could get Will Smith attached No, I think what the fuck do I need you for? Right? This is your function. I'm supposed to be the idea guy. You guys are supposed to be the MC the fucking movie. Guys. It's completely swamped now where producers who used to have deals on lots and a development budget and have their own you know, Slate are begging writers to write on spec in the hopes that that we can lower director to hop on board to lure a fucking actor who means something to lure Netflix into paying for it. And that's where I am on several different projects. It's it's a fucking joke.

Alex Ferrari 8:12
You know, it's, it's insane. And I you know, I know a lot of writers who you know, they have, because a lot of times, you know, people will look at an IMDB and they'll go, oh, you know, he only made that one movie. I'm like, yeah, that he might have made that one movie got produced. But he's been working in town for 15 years, on projects that never and he's made a really good living as a writer, but those days are, are slowly just going away to spec market. There is still a spec market, but it's literally a minuscule amount. It's very, very small. And there's basically just a one dude, one agent, Boxer bomb, who does all the specs.

Rich Wilkes 8:50
I mean, it just did the writers of these specs get Shane Black in 1994 money or no,

Alex Ferrari 8:56
No they're getting they're getting seven figures. They're getting some, but they're getting they're getting a mill maybe, you know, and again, we're throwing numbers around like you and I are like, you know, pooping out, you know, $100 bills, but it's not. It's not the way it is. But generally they are getting those but we're talking about one or two, where they were like, there were one or two a week. Now there's maybe a handful a year and they're not getting shamed black money. Do you know that? Do you know the story of though? What's the last Last Action Hero the same black class action hero story?

Rich Wilkes 9:30
Wait, last boy scout or

Alex Ferrari 9:31
No, no. Last Action Hero. Okay, the story this I heard this from a good buddy of mine inside the business who told me this is how this is how crazy the stock market got. And this was the top of the bubble. This is when it popped after this. It popped. The agent from Shane Black, called up. He called up Shane, what do you got going on? Because I've got this idea and they went out to dinner. They told us that he was right the idea down on the napkin. And it was the idea for Last Action Hero for everyone listening Google Last Action Hero honor Schwarzenegger, you know, I like it. But you know, we had a rough time. Anyway, he wrote, he took the napkin, went back to his office called every studio head in town and said I have shamed blacks next log line, no script. I have his next logline on a napkin. If you want to bid on it, you have to come to my office and read it. Don't send anybody you've got to come. So all six or eight studio heads showed up to this office read read the napkin. Two days later there's a bidding war he got 4 million

Rich Wilkes 10:38
Okay, I I I may be wrong but I think you have the wrong title because Zach pen and Adam left wrote Last Action Hero

Alex Ferrari 10:47
Are you Are you sure it's last? No.

Rich Wilkes 10:51
You're you must be thinking of Last Boy Scout. No,

Alex Ferrari 10:54
What's the last Boy Scout? Alright, we'll I think it was last year because I know but Shane Black wrote Last Action Hero. Alright, hold on everybody. Everybody stopped for a second we're gonna we're gonna now it's because I have to I have to check this. I'm almost positive he did because it made the most sense that he did. So let's go to handy IMDb live on the show. And let's see if if Rich's right or if I'm right because I've been telling that story for a while now. No one has ever called me on it and I'm almost I've almost bet money I'm like

Rich Wilkes 11:31
You know who would have called you on it is Chris Moore who is Adam and yes James at the top

Alex Ferrari 11:37
So Last Action Hero one second my modem is still loading up

Rich Wilkes 11:49
Good Lord let me do it.

Alex Ferrari 11:52
My my modem is still loading up. I have the free AOL disk.

Rich Wilkes 11:59
Are you plugged into the Pete's coffee down the block?

Alex Ferrari 12:08
So writers are Zack Pen. But hold on for a second. And you know what? Shane Black? No, it was Shane Black.

Rich Wilkes 12:15
He rewrote our guys Zack and Adam wrote the original spec Shane rewrote.

Alex Ferrari 12:23
So then it must have been Last Boy Scout then you are i by mistake. So I was corrected. Thank you, sir. For. For me saving face now for all the stories ever tell again. But anyway. Yes. Okay. But that's but that's how crazy this market was at the time and a lot of screenwriters out there still think it's the 90s? Yeah. And they're acting as such, where I think just you saying what we just discussed about, you need a package now you need Will Smith attached. That's news to a lot of screenwriters, a lot of screenwriters think that you could read the amazing script? And that you're going to get, you're going to get a produce just because of its genius. And I know you and I both have read scripts that are Oscar quality, that have never been produced are sitting on shelves right now. Is that fair?

Rich Wilkes 13:14
And then there's ones that you wonder how it got all of these movie stars attached? And yeah, made for a record amount of money. Right? When if it was a spec script, no one would look at it twice. Right! I don't know. I you know, it's not up to me to decide what's what's good and bad. But from my perspective, there's a lot of things that are are happening because it's from the production company of the star, and he's hooked up with a director and they've done three things together, and they know blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And so it's like, okay, we know they're responsible for the money we know x amount of people are going to watch so and so do a fucking action comedy or whatever the hell it is. So we're gonna go with that, which is great. If you can be in that business. If you can be in the Adam Sandler read. You read my mind. It's fantastic. But there's not too much room in that bubble. I know.

Alex Ferrari 14:07
No. And which brings me to one of your first films. Airheads which had a young Adam Sandler, Brendan Fraser and Steve Buscemi, and I love that movie when it came out. I watched that movie when it came. I was like, it's so much fun. And it was Adam it was Adam it already come out with Billy Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore or not yet.

Rich Wilkes 14:29
No, this was he had only done a movie called it was something about a clown. Maybe he was in the bobcat Goldthwait clown movie, shake. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Maybe he was in like a ballroom scene or something. So he was in small stuff like that. But Airheads was his first studio movie. They wouldn't let him be the Brendan Fraser character. He had to be the the supporting guy. And from that, I got hired to rewrite Billy Madison which shot Right afterwards, okay, that's how I know that it came in that order. Okay. That's how I know about the Adam Sandler bubble because I'm not in it after doing two movies with him earlier. I had not known him since I think the cutoff was SNL. You either knew him in high school in college or an SNL. And then you're you're part of the crew, and then afterwards, I'm being facetious, but it feels like Yeah, I mean, he's still working with with Alan covert who he knows from, you know, college and and obviously, all of the cast members from SNL that he worked with, he's just got this wonderful group and why mess with something great, unless you're going to go off and do some, you know, uncut gems thing, which is brilliant. Yeah. All right. So let's talk about those guys. What about guys like them? The guys that do the guy who did Blue Ruin, man, I did. synchronic how are these guys getting money to make these movies? about forgetting about synchronic? Because that's got you know, that's already coming after the other one they did with with actors that weren't big. How do you get a Blue Ruin made?

Alex Ferrari 16:10
I mean, thinking about like uncut gems, specifically, as an example, I think, a film like that you need a you need a you need a 100 pound gorilla and Adam was that 800 pound gorilla. He'd already done punch drunk glove. So he's, you know, he's like, Oh, this is his other punch drunk love and he's done a handful of those serious roles he likes to do everyone's wrong. I think he's actually a really good actor.

Rich Wilkes 16:36
I agree but forgetting about him I'm talking about from the filmmaking side, right. Yeah, brothers,

Alex Ferrari 16:41
Right. But they but did they have Adam before?

Rich Wilkes 16:44
No, before that they had Robert Pattinson right and before that they had nobody right same with the Blue Ruin guy and the synchronic guys are now doing what they're doing Star Wars.

Alex Ferrari 16:56
Right? Probably yeah. Well yeah, same thing with Gareth Edwards and those kind of guys from

Rich Wilkes 17:02
So they start out doing a movie with with nobody in it and then on the next one they get an Anthony Mackie or a patent sin or a Sandler. And then now they're doing King Kong fights in Tron or whatever.

Alex Ferrari 17:15
I'd watch that.

Rich Wilkes 17:18
The money to do a blue ruin

Alex Ferrari 17:20
The thing it's like anything else man, you know, from you know, for me speaking to so many people on the show over the years and just my own shrapnel in the business trying to get my own projects made over the years. It is it is almost impossible to figure out what it is for it there's no one there's no one formula. So there is generalized formulas like it you got Will Smith you've got the rock you're gonna get you're in it's done. You know you got gal got you got Sandy Bullock. Yeah, you're gonna get a movie made. But it's luck, man. There's so much luck meets preparation meets opportunity. In I've talked to Oscar winners. I've talked to guys who just made a $5,000 movie I talked to everybody in between. It's always about Right place, right time. Right product. And, you know, if you if you happen to have a pandemic movie, at the beginning of 2020 script running around, yeah, it's gone. If you had a terrorist movie in 2001 Yeah, not gonna, you know, had a Vietnam movie in 76. Not so much it took Oliver Stone for ever to get to and made for and he had to do it. And look, that's a great example. Oliver, when he was on the show, I talked to him about platoons. Like I had to go out to this independence like absolute crazy man who did Salvador with him. Right? And from there, they're like my friend, and he's, I forgot. He's like, I forgot who the producer was. I can't remember the name. But he Oliver even did this act. He was he was a shyster. He was an absolute crock. But he's like, we're gonna go make this movie. Go go to Philippines make this movie the blue. Let's make it. And but that's, but that's interesting. That's insane, though. So there was an insanity. You found this one guy who had the money at a time period where it made sense because video VHS was starting to come home video was coming. I make the money and make the money. It's okay. It's okay. And he went up and let him go do platoon. And then that launched one of the greatest atour filmmakers of his generation. And then from that point, he had a run of 10 years that no other filmmakers ever had, like year after year after year after year, you know, but that's the thing. So there's a there's a level of this kind of like look, I mean, look at mariachi, I mean everyone always looks at Robert and mariachi. How did that get? How did it blow up? Right Place

Rich Wilkes 19:44
It seemed like you know Blair Witch Project is not going to it's an anomaly route. It's not going to punch through today. No way. But you know, guys like Ryan Johnson that are parlaying small independent movies into now doing the biggest movies in the business the roost So brothers were all of these people, you know, the guy who did a Jordan void Roberts who did that wonderful kings of summer. Yeah, I love that movie. And then he's gone to these $150 million movies that I, you know, all of the stuff that I loved in Kings this summer is is gone from those because they're not personal and they're not whatever. But God bless him. He's making these goddamn huge movies, they're blockbusters I'm just in fascinated by all of these guys who get to do it, but as you well know, go into Sundance or slam dance or what have you. When I went to slam dance, it must have been 9605 There was already 20,000 movies showing up, you know, being submitted 20,000 feature films, I can't imagine how many it is now. So

Alex Ferrari 20:53
It's 70. Think Sundance had 70,000 pre pandemic submissions.

Rich Wilkes 21:00
Yeah, So So the ability to to bust through, it is 99% luck, because I'm not more talented than 99% of the population. But I've managed to get a 30 year career out of it. Right. The same with with Keanu Reeves. Is he the most talented actor from his generation? What happened to all the other guys from that? From that same era? The Emilio esta vez and Charlie Sheen's and Kiefer Sutherland and all that kind of stuff. It's just like, wow, boom. Bertolucci wants to work with him. Scorsese. Great, and then suddenly.

Alex Ferrari 21:36
I mean, look, you got the matrix after will. Smith said no. And Brad Pitt said, no,

Rich Wilkes 21:41
Absolutely. But then he did it again. I'm John Wick. That's

Alex Ferrari 21:44
But he is, I mean, let's just He's the second coming of Christ. I mean, we all know that Keanu Reeves is the second coming of Christ. That's all just agree that that's the way it is. He walks on water. It's it's it's a weird thing. I mean, trying to try to pinpoint success in this business. And trust me, I've made a career of analyzing early in my career, I read every biography, I absorbed every DVD commentary, and laser disc commentary on that old, all of it, trying to figure out what the secret sauce was like, how did this get in? How did that get in? Well, I have to just Okay, so I have to make a short film, but then have the script ready for it. And then okay, so I needed to have a short film that blows up, then I have to have the script ready for it. Then I also have to have some sort of financing. Maybe I have to have a package ready together for it. So I went through all of those. It because I had I had a short film and oh five that blew up online in oh five before YouTube or any of that stuff. And I was being called by big producers, and I was being you know, courted around town and all that stuff. And they're like, Well, what do you have? I'm like, I have ideas and the like, well, that's not enough. So then the next time I did a few years later, I'm like, I had to have the script. Now. I had the script now. That wasn't enough. Okay, now I need to get a package. Okay, great. I have to break it down. I gotta get a budget schedule. I gotta get a pitch deck now. It's just nonstops. But then somebody will walk walk in with a script or an idea. And someone's like, Oh, I like that idea. How much do you want for I've heard that story. How much do you want for it? Oh, do you need a million I have a million. Let's go make a movie. It's like, it's resilience, man. It's just being in the game. And I think at a certain point, you just got to continue to be in the game. You know, I always talk to people from you know, people from the 90s Like, they're like a foreign thing. We are kind of our generation is but but you know, like talking to, you know, to, you know, let's say Kevin Smith or Robert Rodriguez and Ed burns those guys that came up in the 90s You know, I asked Ed burns specifically ago Ed, wood wood Brothers McMullen even make a dent today. He's like, No, no way in hell, Brothers McMullen would even be anywhere in the conversation. Clerks wouldn't be in the theaters, much less make $20 million in the theater like his did. Like off of a $30,000 movie. mariachi probably wouldn't make any noise today. Clerks wouldn't make any noise today. Like there's none of those movies would make nice today.

Rich Wilkes 24:16
I think I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but but movies still make noise. It's just not those movies. Because I just mentioned like, what like whiplash or Blue Ruin, or these ones, the smaller ones that I'm talking about. They do pop through and whether it's, you know, those $5 million Blumhouse kind of movies. There's some brilliant filmmaking going on. So it's not clear it's but it's a different genre. It's a different movie,

Alex Ferrari 24:40
But the backyard personal film, you know, like slacker that for that to do what it did like slacker, not in a million effin years, would that get attention today? It just it just wouldn't it be an arthouse film, but it wouldn't it wouldn't do what it did. Like it wouldn't go into theaters. But Also don't forget different timing, different place. There was an industry, there was an industry coming around business coming around independent film, which there wasn't in the 80s, really, in the 90s. And then VHS showed up and, and all that kind of stuff. So it's it's, you know, yeah, like someone like Jordan Peele with get out. And you mentioned whiplash, both of those are Jason Blum. Yeah. They're both Jason Blum. And how did you know Jordan Peele, nobody wanted to make it out. And you're like, Who are you the guy from Comedy Central. And you're doing comedy? Now? You want to do horror? Like, what is this?

Rich Wilkes 25:38
So So I don't I don't think it's fair to be so negative on. You know, Linklater wouldn't have a career now. And

Alex Ferrari 25:45
It would be different. It would be different different.

Rich Wilkes 25:47
Those guys are gonna, they're survivors anyway. And Jordan, Peele wouldn't have got his movie made in 1992.

Alex Ferrari 25:54
No, there's no way in hell. But the difference is, get out might have been made as a backyard as a backyard, India, and maybe would have gotten some notice. But the difference between both of those films is they had an 800 pound gorilla attached, which was Jason Blum. Yeah, true. And that that pushed that push that opened the doors and gave them a little bit of a budget game. It's like Jason's given a lot of opportunities to filmmakers, that wouldn't get opportunities in today's world that Jason Blum is an anomaly.

Rich Wilkes 26:25
Yeah, okay. But what did you see this movie called Under the Silver Lake? Oh, takes place in Silver Lake. Here in LA. It's another one of these little movies like the one that the synchronic guys did.

Alex Ferrari 26:37
Okay. I haven't seen it.

Rich Wilkes 26:38
Oh, who the 800 pound gorilla is behind these things, but they're fucking amazing. Little tiny movies. But I wanted to talk about a blown opportunities. Yeah. Just because you know it to switch it up. I worked in the late 80s, I believe was late 80s. With Chris Tucker. Right. Chris Tucker was on a roll from his movie with Charlie Sheen. Easy money or whatever the fuck

Alex Ferrari 27:04
Money Talks, Money Talks. Yeah,

Rich Wilkes 27:05
Yeah. And then he was on rush hour. And he was in Jackie Brown and whatever. And I was working with a guy named Antoine Fisher, the screenwriter. I was, he was a friend of Tucker's, and he had come up with this idea about Chris Tucker being the first double o agent. It was called double o sol. And he had set up the pitch. And it was with a producer I knew at Universal and they were like, Okay, this guy's done a couple of movies, and they partner me up with Antoine. So Chris Tucker is on the verge of Eddie Murphy. Will Smith style. Absolutely. Absolutely. We're working on this project. And he continuously is undermining himself and fucking himself up like we wanted Mariah Carey to be in a role in the movie. And there was this divas concert in New York. And he was supposed to fly from LA to the deepest concert, meet her backstage and picture on CO starring in this movie with him. Instead, they get a call at the production company and it's his brother or assistant or whatever. And they go, Yeah, I'm looking at our window. And I see a towncar. Yeah, yeah, it's to take him to the airport. goes, no, Chris Tucker doesn't ride in no half a car. He needs to stretch so get him stretch, or he's not going to the airport. They don't get him to the airport. That wasn't the only thing he did. We were rewriting the script continuously based on his whims where he would go, I ran into Tiger Woods at a party. Can we do a scene with me and Tiger at a golf course? And you're like,

Alex Ferrari 28:49
How do you jam that in? Yeah, how do Yeah, sure.

Rich Wilkes 28:51
And then we turn in the draft. Everyone's excited about him and goes, I've changed my mind. We want I want the whole movie to take place in Africa. Because he'd gone to visit Africa and had been inspired by something. And we're like, just shut your fucking mouth. And you would have had, you know, a spy movie. God only knows if it would have been a success, but it never got made and his career didn't go the Will Smith way. Because he got so fucking in his own head. He ruined it. Yeah, he did. He did, which was a bummer for everybody involved. And you know,

Alex Ferrari 29:26
Yeah, it was so funny because I always you know, I was a fan of him in the rush hour films and and money talks. And he was he was right on the brink of being Eddie Murphy. The new Eddie Murphy. There was no question. Yeah, but I always wondered like, what happened behind the scenes that his he just, it just fell off a cliff. He just fell off a cliff. He didn't he wasn't nothing. Like he didn't just do bid parts he like did nothing at all

Rich Wilkes 29:51
That I don't know. But I know that universal did not want to work with him after he fucked everybody around for so long.

Alex Ferrari 29:58
Of course, of course and that gets around town.

Rich Wilkes 30:00
Yes. The other one is is my cautionary tale which was I wrote a movie called Triple X is Vin Diesel. Yeah, of course. Yeah. But he call it a X game sort of James Bond. Sure. And then after that, every job I got, they were like, We want you to triple X this motherfucker. We want this to be just the same. But so I wrote Castle Wolfen Stein and I wrote another one for Vin called the wheel man about a, you know, getaway driver. But I was actively resisting doing triple X. I was like, I did triple x to get you know, to get into the blockbuster business

Alex Ferrari 30:40
In the party. You're invited into the party now?

Rich Wilkes 30:42
Yeah, so the first thing I did after Triple X, before it even came out, I got the dirt adapting the Motley Crue biopic I was like, that's what I really want to do. I wanted to do what the whites brothers did. Remember, they did American Pie. And then immediately, they jumped to you know

Alex Ferrari 30:58
About a boy, right? It was about a boy. Yeah, in Golden Compass.

Rich Wilkes 31:01
And all of these. Yeah, that's what I wanted. But everybody wanted it. So I would say, Okay, I'm going to write Castle Wolfenstein, or whatever it is, but it's not going to be filled with X Games craziness. I don't want to do that. I want to do it this way. And they go, Yeah, of course, that's exactly what we want. And then I turn it in, and they go, we don't want this, we want the shit that you said you weren't gonna do. And I was so resistant to being pigeonholed that I refuse to write one of those kinds of movies. And as a consequence, it took from between triple ax and when the dirt finally got made, it was a span of 17 years, right? Where I didn't get a feature film made, right? Because I was like, I need to write the classy. And I wrote a shit ton of classy book adaptations based on bestsellers, and whatever. I had one with the Russo brothers with Johnny Depp that didn't get make, you know, I mean, it's just an endless litany of classy movies that didn't get made. When I could have been,

Alex Ferrari 32:00
You could have been bussin out. Yeah, yeah.

Rich Wilkes 32:03
So anyway, that's a really my own bit of shooting myself in the foot the way Chris, Chris Moore was talking about the other day when he had the 5 million for the startup and refused to do podcasts. And

Alex Ferrari 32:17
So, um, yeah, no, that's a really interesting story. Because, you know, I always look, we all we all wish we have the the option one day to get in our own way. Because that like most people will never get to the place you got with Triple X. Bottom line, it was a huge hit. Big, big, big action franchise. And you know, when when the biggest stars at the time in the world and all of this stuff. Most people listening will never get there. But there's a lesson here, even for those who don't get to that level. It's getting in your own way, stopping things like oh, I don't want to do that, or I want to. So I'll tell you my story really quickly. And this is this is this is my early on story. Not nearly as exciting as yours. But I think there's a lesson here. So I was I was 20 caught I don't even know I was 20 something. And it was right before I wanted to turn into a commercial director. So I was editing. I was editing a lot. I was like the big one of the big editors in Miami. At the time in the in the late 90s. I was up getting paid obscene amounts of money to edit. And I got so far up my own ass that I was like, I'm gonna throw down 50 cheese on my demo reel to direct the image and I had to shoot on 35. And you know, the whole thing? Sure, yeah. So when I did all of that, put it out, I spent my and then I stopped editing. I just said, I'm not an editor anymore. I am a director. I am a director. I don't, I do not sell myself with editing anymore. When I'm dirty. I will not go down to that level. That's that the mentality that you had that I had at the time because it was so full of myself. And then I will get calls. I'm like, Nope, don't add any more. I'm a director only. So I start shipping out my my demo reels and spending money. Like it doesn't end. Because I'm like anytime now all I need is that one gig, it's gonna kick in. Yeah, one gig, I'll get paid five G's a day, you know, I'll get 3040 grand and in about a month or two anytime now, that day, never showed up. And then I got thrown into a dark dark hole that it was harder and harder. And then weirder things happen. I wrote a whole book about what my next adventures but that was the beginning of this hole that I fell into. That took me years to come back out of and I was able to crawl back out of it by just hustle and getting out of my own way. But so many of us as creatives we will start overthinking getting in our own heads. And man I can only imagine how old were you when you hit we need to triple X

Rich Wilkes 34:51
30 31

Alex Ferrari 34:53
Yeah, so at 30 31 I was still I was still it wasn't a complete moron. But I was slightly more on it might be my own personal journey. There's 20 20 year olds are much smarter than I was at 30. Sure. But at that age still, you still haven't lived. You've got a lot. Yeah. And you haven't been See, you haven't been beat up enough yet.

Rich Wilkes 35:15
But dude all of the people that we talk about, that we admire from Talentino, to Kevin Smith, they all made that jump and said, Fuck it. I'm doing it my way. I'm not going to cast so and so I want it to be my Michael Mann said, whoever the fuck all of those people did it and made the jump, but they stuck the landing where we did not. So the does that make them stupid? I mean, does that make us stupid for making that leap just like they did? Because we didn't have the luck to stick the landing.

Alex Ferrari 35:45
But the thing is, but that's the thing, though. So let's, let's analyze Kevin for a second. Because I've started Kevin, you know, Kevin came up with my movie because I worked in a video store. I was very upset about the clerk's because I work in a video. So when that came out, I'm like, son of. God, why did I think of that? And, you know, maybe video clips around the country were like, Ah, god, but after clerks, he did Mallrats his way. He wanted to do it his way. Studio gave him money, and it tanked and it was over for Kevin. It was over. The only way he came back out was because of chasing me. And there was the Weinstein's who gave him $150,000 To make as a throwaway. Like, Look, kid, here's 100 grand go make your movie, but that's all you're getting. And he got a Yeah, I happen to have a young Ben Affleck, which I know you worked with a young Ben Affleck as well, that happened to hit. If Jason Amy doesn't hit. We don't know who Kevin Smith. He's just a blip in history.

Rich Wilkes 36:43
Exactly. He is you and I. However, he did that stupid thing. But he stuck the landing and was successful at it. And that's why we admire guys like that. And we tried to emulate them. And it didn't work out in quite the same way.

Alex Ferrari 37:00
And that's a mistake that a lot of filmmakers and screenwriters make to this day they'll look at someone like Tarantino luck will Tarantino don't like and I always like to say, Tarantino is probably the most original writer of his generation, the skills and the way he tells stories is unprecedented. You'd like them or hate them. I don't care. There's no one who writes like him. He is the the Hemingway of his generation. Again, whether you love them or hate them. You can't deny what the man has done. Yeah, you can't compare yourself to him just like me comparing myself to Spielberg or to Fincher or to Nolan. Like these are people who are at the highest level. And look at Nolan. Like, that's a good point. Because you can't compete. You can't like, you know, can you compare yourself to Robert Rodriguez, how many people to this day people are still talking about mariachi to this day, people still use it as a reference point. And I'm like, you can't like Robert. He didn't he? He stumbled into it. It no one was ever supposed to see mariachi. It was supposed to go straight to the Spanish video market. And it just happened that someone said we're gonna release the and he said no, don't release this. This was like my practice movie. Yeah, Jesus Christ. Let me remake it. Don't let me so he did remake it and Desperado. Essentially, but a little bit better, like a little bit bigger. But that's but that's what he felt he literally stumbled into it. You know, you can't do that brothers MC Bolin. If he wasn't working at ET at Entertainment Tonight. And Bob Redford didn't jump on an elevator and he didn't have a VHS copy of brothers Bolin rough guide. And he handed it to Bob. And fucking like two months later, someone from Sundance called them is like, is your movie ready? We'd like to screen it. That doesn't happen. You can see what I'm saying. Like there was no way a PA from Entertainment Tonight was going to get into Sundance for an unknown like Edward Burns. But that's exactly what happened. So you can't you can't plan for that stuff. You can't. You can't like I met like I had the pleasure of meeting Roger Ebert. Before he passed at a screen I thought Amida I mean. But um, but I had the pleasure of being flown up to Toronto, because I was going like there was some producers and financiers who wanted to finance my short film of my feature film version of my short film in 2005. So I fly up there. And he's like, here's some tickets to a movie that we're distributing. go see this movie. So we went to the theater, we're sitting down, and in the back of the frickin theater is Roger Ebert. And people who don't know who Roger Ebert is, please google him. He's one of the greatest film critics of all time. He's the only one who's ever won a Pulitzer. That's how great he was. And we haven't, we haven't run up to him and start talking to him like, oh my god, this and that. And this is our movie like this before the movie starts and we We'd like to start talking to him. He's like, you know, I can't watch your movie. I'm like, of course not. You can't watch our movie, your Rodri. But why would you watch our little $8,000 action movie? And then all of a sudden, halfway through the conversation is that Can I take your picture? I'm like, Yes. And he's like, You know what, this will make a nice little, little piece for my blob on my blog. I'm like, Great, can we can we take your picture, and here's a copy of our movie. By the time we landed back in Florida, he'd already watched a movie and written a small review of the film on his website. And all of a sudden, I'm the only short film on the planet that has a Roger Ebert quote, and that and that, just but you see what I'm saying? How could you plan for that?

Rich Wilkes 40:43
You're welcome to do differently. I mean, if I guess in retrospect, if I had service, the, you know, if I milked the triple X vibe, as much as it was worth Sure, would I have been happier, spending my time writing movies that I wasn't excited about, rather than the time I've been spending on on adapting books that don't get made, I get a lot of satisfaction from all of these scripts that are sitting on my shelf that no one's ever going to read or see. It's weird. You know, it's, would I be happier the other way?

Alex Ferrari 41:17
So that's the question. So and this has turned into a therapy session, which I absolutely love. And I think it's something that we all need to hear therapy session for both of you. And I think and everyone listen to kind of get into it. But what I, this is my feeling like, again, I didn't have your experience, you had a huge hit, you were the belle of the ball, people wanted to work with you, because you had a monster hit in town. So the question is, could you have, the way I would have looked at it is this at 30, I would have put my big boy pants on, I would have written a handful of things that they wanted me to do. Gain and then step up a little bit more and step up a little bit more. Yeah. And, and maybe get a couple of maybe get another triple X, like style, success. And then and then at that point, start like once you once you establish yourself a little bit more, continue to write those for for a few years, not gonna hurt you. At that point on the side. You're working on other stuff, and like in trying to get other things made. But you're building up your reputation in town. And I've seen that from so many screenwriters who told me I didn't want to do it. But I did it because it was a paycheck. It kept kept me in the conversation. Yeah, and that's the difference.

Rich Wilkes 42:34
But here's what happened after I realized that I needed to make an adjustment, which it took me like, I don't know, let's say five years. Sure. I started taking these assignments that were very straightforward. You know, a remake of cliffhanger. You know, various action movies and whatever. Lightning didn't strike twice. They did not get made. Alright, it's fucking difficult to build one on top of another. Like the guy who wrote it triple X two starred. Ice Cube, right. Different director, different writer than that guy was. King Simon Kinberg. Yeah, I just had Simon on the show. Okay, so his version of Triple X grossed 25 million, and mine had bros 275 or two or whatever it was, yeah. quarter of a billion. Yeah, I guess it was 250. I don't know whatever the fuck it was. He went on to have a string of these action movies that were consistent, consistently getting made and moneymakers and whatever, and obviously more talented than me. But it has been consistently building to the point that he's a producer on movies, in addition to writing in addition to directing and whatever. So lightning struck with him even though his Triple X was a failure.

Alex Ferrari 44:00
But the difference with Simon is that he was lucky enough to land in the X Men universe at Fox. And the second he landed in the X Men universe of Fox, one hit left to another hit lead. And then he stayed in the end. He said, Did you see what he did? He stayed in the excellent up to Deadpool up to Logan as a producer. And he kept he understood, he's like, I'm gonna stick to this and he just finished releasing 355 With all the girls, which is unlike anything else he's been doing lately. But it's taken him years to do that. Now there are some there's some and there's nothing wrong with that because I still think some of the stuff he's done like he'll get Deadpool made, which is one of the best superhero he got Logan made. He wrote, he wrote days Days of Future Past which is probably arguably one of the better superhero genre time travel movies ever made. You know, he's definitely a talented dude. But he got on a train at the right time. When things were like, oh, and the way you know, studios work, oh, you know X Men. Well, let's keep him on. Okay, you wrote 1x movie, you could write another x movie. So same thing for you. I wrote one triple X movie. I want to add your spice to this. He kept riding that train, you decided to go against the trend and five years?

Rich Wilkes 45:20
Yes. So what I wound up doing is that what I wrote for legendary years ago, I wrote it adaptation of Kung Fu, they already had a director attached, they were excited about Sure. Because of that, I got recommended to write Iron Fist for Marvel,

Alex Ferrari 45:36
Okay. The movie, the movie or the show?

Rich Wilkes 45:39
The it was the movie,

Alex Ferrari 45:40
Okay, the movie Okay.

Rich Wilkes 45:42
This was they, they were doing the first for the first phase, and they were trying to figure out who's gonna be in the second phase. So they developed eight characters and picked four and made movies out of them. So my Iron Fist movie was not chosen. Right. But if it was, I could have been in the Marvel Universe. So even when it when it came time and getting the chance to write a Marvel movie early on, you know, when they were still in phase one. It did not work out for whatever reason, and I've had so many things that everybody does have movies fall apart, we have the financing, we have a director, we have everything lined up, and then it blows up with through none of your own, you know, so it's key to luck being a factor of bad luck is a huge factor in shit just blowing up and the quality of the movies that I've had that slipped through my fingers with the Russo brothers with Fincher with the thing with Dr. Dre, all of these great thing with Vince McMahon, all of these things that that fucking blew up on me. They, I'm fine with it, because it's happened so many times that Alright, here's what nobody knows about this one. But when they were shooting from dusk till dawn, sure. I was writing Green Hornet for some for Larry Gordon. Okay. Robert Rodriguez gets a hold of the script. I heard it to Clooney. They're going to do it together. I meet with Clooney. And he's so excited. We're going to start shooting. We got the money. We're going to start shooting in March. Right. Then he gets a phone call from Steven Spielberg saying I just started SKG DreamWorks. I want you to start our first movie Peacemaker with a call Mimi leader. So he had to drop out of ours because you don't say no to Spielberg. He did that one. Once he dropped out. Robert Rodriguez dropped out. They brought in Michel Gondry. He was involved with it 10 years before he actually made it at another studio. And it went nowhere with Michel Gondry. But we were I don't know, it was December when they pulled the plug. And we were going to be shooting the beginning of March. And that would have been fucking huge. You know, of course, me Clooney at that time. Robert Rodriguez at that time, it would have been really any of those that that have exploded and like so

Alex Ferrari 48:12
Alright, so then I'll tell you, I'll tell you my story. And then yeah, I want you guys because that is a 32nd story. This is a get together. Yeah, this these are great. Okay, so I'll tell you my story. I wrote a book. I wrote a book. Here it is. And everyone listening knows about everyone listening. Listen to the show knows about this. The book is called shooting for the mob. Oh, nice. Okay, so this book is based on my, my experience of almost making a $20 million movie for the mafia. Now, I was 26. See, no, no, let's let you know, we'll throw it down. Well throw it down. Don't get me wrong, you got much better, much better, higher quality stars in your story. But my I wasn't about to get whacked. There. But there's that. So I had a bipolar. Basically sociopathic gangster who gave me the shot, quote, unquote, to direct his life story. And I was then I was then our production offices were in a racetrack from the 1960s. So literally, I was like in a lounge and they built an office partition for me in the lounge. We hired production designers we hired DP flew in from LA, we weren't, we weren't prepped for a year, a year in prep a year. So while this is going on, he's hustling money to keep the office open, because he can't get the 20 million. But the crazy part and that's a that's a fantastic story, just a mobster trying to get his movie made with a young director. And I kept asking him like, and I've been directing already a little bit been directing commercials and, and all this kind of stuff. And I said, Why aren't you going after some like, like somebody who's Morrissey And then me, and he's like, Oh no, I don't like those. Those Hollywood guys. I want someone honest like you. Oh my Alright, great. So I'm there. But don't forget I was raised in the 90s under the 90s indie boom for everyone. Yeah, which were like the lottery, the lottery ticket. Everyone had a lottery ticket. The Kevin Smith's the Edward Burns. The Robert is slacker everyone. So I'm like this is got to be my lottery ticket. Right? So then Hollywood takes his guy seriously. And I'm flown out to LA. And I meet billion dollar producers. I'm in the penthouses of a huge producer like it's the scene from a true romance. I mean, his screening room, showing him the trailer that I'd shot that spent $10,000 I didn't have to shoot a sizzle reel of the movie that we shot it on film flew and actors it was a whole thing. So we did that whole thing. So I'm there with him. I'm at the Chateau Marmont, I'm at the fucking IV everywhere. And I'm like this got a discount to be this has to be real. Well, but while this is all going on, he's threatening me all the time. You're basically going to work with Joe Pachi. From Goodfellas. Like, one moment, one moment, he's the best, funniest dude, ever. And the next moment, he's like, I will, I will hit you over the head with a shovel and bury you somewhere. And imagine a 26 year old. I'm green as all hell truly. And I didn't know what the hell I was doing. And I'm like, I didn't have any defense against a guy like this. When I saw the adults are like, called the adults. The seasoned professionals around me were all scared to death. And these guys were all in movies for 20 years. And I'm like, What the hell am I gonna do? Then I'm like, flown out and I'm meeting I went to go meet Batman. So I go to Batman's house. Wayne Manor, like one of the actors who played Batman. Oh, these shall remain nameless. They're all they're all remainings. I'll tell you, I'll tell you after after we get off. Because in the book, my rules are if I met you, your name has changed. If I talked about you, we talked about you know, I had, we had meetings with producers. Mel Gibson, Robert Downey, Jr. William Hurd, Gabriel Byrne, like all the hot people from this is all 2001. It's all like, early 2001. This is all started. So I go to Batman's house. I'm there like this, like this close to Batman, Batman's, like, I want to be in your movie. You know, do you want to sleep over tonight, so we can work on the project. Like I think he's on a 25,000 acre ranch, you know, three days after Christmas. And then all of a sudden, after all of that, it's gone. It just goes away. And the gangsters like you know what, we're gonna go another direction after a year of this. And the movie never got as close ever again, to getting made than it was with me. But imagine, and I know you have this, you've experienced this at different levels, being so close to your dream. And again, yanked away from you constant like you know, constantly. I know you feel me because it's happened to you. But you've had but you've had success and you've had a career, doing what you love to do. It might not be in the way that you might have envisioned it. But you've had a career, you've had a career, like you said at the beginning of this entire conversation I've made I've made a living doing this. And that's great. But I but the frustration of all the money's about to drop. All this package is almost there. Oh, we're almost we're almost greenlit, I can only imagine that happened to me once at a large level. Then multiple other times at smaller levels, like you know, being flown around and meeting producers and having sit downs with actors. And you know, this and that I've gone through all of that. That's why That's why I have shrapnel that we all both have that's that's trapnell from from the war that we've been in, which is the business. But I could only imagine you going through this as well, because you're having that happen again and again and again. And you were in a position where this this really could happen. Like you weren't a young kid sitting down with George Clooney, you were already a seasoned screenwriter, it just everything kept falling apart.

Rich Wilkes 54:13
The thing that's interesting is that it happens at every level, anybody who's trying to get a student film made, try to shoot their own short film so high school, the actor falls out the location falls everything always is a problem. And so my thing when talking to somebody who wants to be in the industry is it is going to be a lot harder than you ever imagined it would be if I had known all of the things I don't know if I would have dared to enter this right right right knowing in advance how many setbacks there were going to be but I like to be realistic with people you're not going to you know star in one movie and have a career for the rest of your life right one hit and have a you know For dinner with Spielberg the next week, it is always in a constant struggle. And when you consider it took Spielberg 15 years to get his Lincoln movie made. It doesn't change no matter what level you're at. Amen. And I know for a fact that that George Clooney has movies that he wishes he could get made that he cannot correct. Same with any director you can think of the same with. I don't want to name the names, but it's the same. Across the board. No one is where they want to be, with the exception of maybe,

Alex Ferrari 55:35
Nolan, Anderson, Nolan Tarantino, and James Cameron.

Rich Wilkes 55:42
Wes Anderson, yeah, the Coen Brothers, you know, maybe this many. Yeah. And we're just talking in feature films. So it is an endless life or death struggle. Every single time, no matter what level you're at, and you have to be ready for that it doesn't turn into easy street ever. And this is the thing that impresses me most about Tarantino is, every time he sits down to write a movie, he has to write a movie better than a Quentin Tarantino movie, because below the level of a Talentino movie, it's a failure. He's competing with Pulp Fiction Kill Bill,

Alex Ferrari 56:20
He's competing glorious bastard Right, right.

Rich Wilkes 56:25
It's, it's insane. And everybody's doing that Spielberg's complete it competing against his entire, you know, filmography, so it never ever becomes easy. And Chris Moore, who you just had on Yeah, Oscar nominated movie right? Off the bat. Yeah. Never became easy after that. For him. He's still slugging away. Ben and Matt have had their this and that. It's never ever, ever going to get easier. So you better enjoy what you're doing. And by and working with the people you're working with. Because that at the end of the day, that's what it is, you know, 30 years into it and looking back and going Well, shit, either. I'm pissed off this whole time. Or I've loved every minute of you know, nowadays, like moving my Vince McMahon thing blew up a year ago. I am so appreciate the time I got to spend in the world of WW Yeah, yeah. And talk to his daughter and talk to him and talk to his right hand man. And, and, and have all of that no matter if it mounted up to anything. I really appreciate all of those things. And it's the same whether you're doing a short film, you're doing your $100,000 you know, feature, you're going around begging for money and people are trusting you and believing in you. And that's the thing that you got to that you got to appreciate.

Alex Ferrari 57:47
I mean, Rick Linklater said said it best he gave me the piece, best piece of advice is like, I asked him the question, like what advice you'd give for filmmakers, because it's gonna be twice as hard and twice as long as you thought. That's how long it's gonna take. It's gonna take twice, it's gonna be twice as hard as you think. And it'd be twice as long. I'd probably say it's 10 times harder. But that's, yeah.

Rich Wilkes 58:09
Maybe for him. It's twice but I mean, he's not he's not getting Oh, he wants to be

Alex Ferrari 58:13
Ohh I can I can tell you for a fact that Rick is not doing everything he wants to do. Because he told me directly. He's like, I want to do this, this, this and this. And I'm like, I'm like, but you're Rick be Richard Linklater, you're like an Oscar like, you know, I mean, boyhood. Seriously, who the hell makes boyhood? Like other than Richard Linklater? Like who's insane? It was insane enough. Yeah, to shoot a movie like boyhood. Like, oh, yeah, we're gonna shoot something. And maybe we'll have something in seven years. Like, that's insanity. But that's right. And but Rick doesn't care about. He's an artist, man. He is one when I met when I met him, and I've spent some time with him. He is a artist, and he doesn't care about markets and this or that he just has the pleasure. He's lucky enough to be able to do what he does, because he keeps his budgets low. And that's why you know, the Coen brothers get to do what they do because they keep the budget low. Woody Allen back, you know, when he was making movies, he kept his budgets low so he could do whatever the hell he wanted to.

Rich Wilkes 59:09
And stars want to work with guys like that. Because they're artists too. And they'll do it for a discount rage. And that's why Wes Anderson gets all of these brilliant people, you know?

Alex Ferrari 59:18
Yeah, PT, PTA, all of them. Yeah.

Rich Wilkes 59:21
So, the long and short is take the pleasures where you can get them. If at any point you get to make a movie, write a screenplay, act in something. That's something that most of the planet doesn't get to do, and most of the planet wants to do. So if you get close, if you get to edit your own movie that you shot on your phone, you are so far ahead of the game.

Alex Ferrari 59:45
It's your absolute you're absolutely right. And I call what we do the beautiful sickness, because it is. It is. It is it is it is the beautiful sickness because once you have it, the sickness you can't get rid of it. Like I can't, I can't. You really can't. It couldn't go dormant for decades. Honestly, I've had people come in, who are doctors and talk to me like, I just retired. Yeah, I really what I really want to do is direct. And it's it's a true sickness that doesn't go away. But it's a beautiful sickness. And I think that's a weird thing about our business, is that this is not I mean, I've talked to so many different people about this. We're the weirdest business on the planet, we're the only business on the planet that could spend $200 million, and literally have a worthless piece of product. Yeah, literally could have, it could literally be in it's happened before, that you've spent $100 million, and it just dies. And it's like, it's worthless, where at least when you spent $200 million in construction, you got to $200 million, you know, building or, you know, cookies, you could buy $200 million with a cookies at least you have some cookies you can sell. There's a product we have we sell air, we sell intangible dreams. It's such a weird business. And that's why it's so intoxicating.

Rich Wilkes 1:01:01
There are two things about it. One, we'd be doing it anyway, whether or not we had success. Whether you got that book published or not, they're sure that you would keep writing it. And to the thing that keeps you going is you're always one thing away from massive success. Oh, always, always. One I weigh up one script one performance and the

Alex Ferrari 1:01:26
One person you meet one person you meet one. Yeah, everything. Yeah.

Rich Wilkes 1:01:30
Yeah. So which makes it beautiful, you know, and especially when somebody like comes out of the blue and writes green to Reno, or somebody gets access at a later age, or somebody makes a transition like Jordan Peele did, from one genre to another, or the way Tom Hanks did. It's, that's what's intoxicating about it and and keeps you going.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:51
But, but the thing is that people listening have to understand is that that is the that's the sickness part of the sickness. That is the sick, that's the sickness part, because it's almost like a gambler. Like the next the next bet is the one that's gonna pop the next bet. And there's how many professional gamblers out there who make a living as gamblers a very small amount, but everybody like but Vegas runs on people who are not professional gamblers.

Rich Wilkes 1:02:18
It's funny because we started with God, we should we fucked up, we've got to temper our dreams and be realistic and we're ending with It's the fucking greatest slaughter you can possibly imagine one step away from working with Scorsese.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:31
But the thing is that the key is that if you bet on black, more likely you're not going to, it's not going to hit. So you have to find your own path that makes you happy. And that's the kitten that and that was the one thing that I kind of finally came to grips with later in life, which is like, I need to find what makes me happy. And it's not, it doesn't have to be working on a Marvel movie. And as I say, in every episode, anytime I bring up Marvel ongo Kevin Fahey, if you're listening, I'll take the meeting. So, but it's not about that anymore. For me. It's more about how am I enjoying what I'm doing? Yeah, am I am I providing value in one way, shape or form to my community in one way, shape, or form? Can I go off and make my own movies that are personal, and I don't give a crap if they make money or not? Because I make them for very little money.

Rich Wilkes 1:03:24
You know, it just made me realize that I've made this adjustment in my own life of trying things where I have no intention of making a penny from it. Yep. And having it be so satisfying. I wanted to be a singer in a punk rock band. So I did that and went on the Warped Tour. I always wanted to try stand up comedy. So right before the pandemic get like, in my 50s I went on stage for the first time at open mics and I've been doing it now for a couple of years. I'm terrible. I get no laughs But I hate it. I'm so nerve racked by doing it, but I'm forcing myself to do it because one day I hope to get comfortable doing it. And then I can at least look back and go Yeah, all right. I did it. I did it until I got comfortable. I'm not that funny, but it was fucking you know, it's a bucket list thing that I don't want to go back when I'm 90 If I make it that far and and and wish that I given it some effort. So it seemed when I went to cooking school because I wanted to do that and I was shitty at that too. But it was personally rewarding. So if you can do that with with music or poetry or like, what's the name? Seth Rogen now is doing pottery. You see him on Twitter doing all of his pottery is vases that he fires.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:44
Oh, and then Jim Carrey with the paintings.

Rich Wilkes 1:04:46
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So yeah, all of that shit is I think there's even more satisfaction when you have no plan on trying to make a living at it.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:56
You know, and I have to tell you that you're absolutely right. I mean, I look I stopped Did this podcast six and a half years ago? Wow. And I've been doing this for six and a half years, I was in a podcasting when podcasting wasn't the cool thing to be. And now everybody's like, Oh, I got a podcast. So I came in just because I wanted to, I wanted to give back to my community. I wanted to build an online business. I wanted to, to see what I can make a go of this. Sure. There's no way I would have told you, if someone would have told me like, yeah, you're going to be able to make a living doing this, you're going to be able to shut down your post production company, you're going to be able to retire from doing post production. And you're going to do this full time in a few years.

Rich Wilkes 1:05:37
What we're doing now you're making a living at this?

Alex Ferrari 1:05:39
110% This is all I do, this is all I do. This is not my, this is not my side, hustle. This is all I do. This is all I do it but it started as a side hustle. And I started it with an intention to make money with it at some point, but not to this level, I didn't think it was going to get to where it is I didn't think I was going to be talking to people like yourself or other the many guests that I've talked to, I would have never, if you would have told me that I would have had access to the kind of people I talked to, I would have said you're absolutely insane. You're absolutely insane. But

Rich Wilkes 1:06:14
What what you're providing is a resource for all the kids that want to be making films or doing whatever writing television writing books that didn't exist in the 1990s You'd have to buy Linklaters book or see, you know, oh, to a q&a at a film festival to find out what somebody did. And now on a weekly basis, I don't know how often you put these things out,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:42
Two to three times a week.

Rich Wilkes 1:06:45
Wow, that's a lot of talking.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:47
That's all I Yeah.

Rich Wilkes 1:06:49
But like you said that the Chris Moore one that that you just put out is filled with so much useful information from the past to the present. That's just invaluable. And I think you're putting giving everybody such a leg up. And then I'm hoping that it, you know, kicks it that we get some kick ass movies to watch out about, you know, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:07:13
I've been I've had I've had a few listeners who've been able to go off and make their movies. And they and I've been I've had the pleasure of having the back having them on the show. And they've told me like, if it wasn't for you, it wasn't for the show, I would have wouldn't have done this, this this or this. I had one I had one guy who wrote you like the story. He wrote a million dollar movie. He financed that himself because he's a commercial director, big commercial director in Australia. He's like, I want to go make a movie. He made a movie in Cambodia, about robots who come in and start like, you know, like, like, Soldier robots who come down, they drop them into the jungle as a test and they start killing tourists, American tourists. Alright, great, right. And you think that sounds like a asylum movie that doesn't sound like it's gonna look good at all. He sent me the trailer for it. It looks like a $50 million movie. It looks so good. He's like x outs after reading your your second book. This one about being an entrepreneurial filmmaker. He goes I'm not going to go with the studio's as I got a million dollar offer, but I'm not going to do it. I'm just going to self distribute it as an experiment. And he goes, I'm gonna do it because you because of you. And I talked to him a bunch and I guided him through it. I'm like, Alright, man, this is gonna be a hell of a test to my to my theories. And all he's made, he made his and he made his budget back in three months, three months. And he's gotten called from every studio on the planet, including, including, you know, the mouse and everybody else wanting him to because the quality of what he did was unheard of. And that was something that the show helped nothing his talent but helped him get to where he's at with this situation.

Rich Wilkes 1:08:55
I feel like we've we've taken a turn into the to positive, and I'm more cynical and sarcastic by nature. So I want to I want to get away from from

Alex Ferrari 1:09:06
No, no, it's all to hell. It's all the hell it's all to hell. No, this whole business, you're good. Why even be here? I mean, seriously, why even? Why even start down this path? You're going to fail? No, I'm joking. Look, I know where we're sitting, we are allowed to be cynical because we're both old farts. And that's and that and that's fine, because we've been around the block a couple times. But I hope what this episode has shown people is you know, the truth of what it's like being a creative in the business. And from two different perspectives, my perspective from someone who's really been I've really been looking outside into the party. I've snuck into the party a few times. I've even been invited into the party a few times. But security shortly thereafter, finds me and kicks me out. And that's fine and that and now I get invited to more parties, but it's all fine and dandy. You were in the party and then you had issues inside the party, and you've been able to maintain yourself inside the party. Even though there is a room with a rope, and that's where you really want to get

Rich Wilkes 1:10:06
Yeah, I feel like I'm in the NFL but I'm on the bench on the right you see everything on the team.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:14
You get the rig baby, you get the rig, you get the ring if I want to dress with the big boys. Yeah, you know, but it but it's it's a really facet. I'd like this conversation, I did not plan it to go this direction. So I'm so happy it did because this is this has been one of the more interesting, you know, conversations.

Rich Wilkes 1:10:31
I'm gonna be honest with you. This is the second best of your podcasts that I've listened to the I've only learned this is my second one listening to it. And this is definitely

Alex Ferrari 1:10:40
Your Listen, listen to yourself.

Rich Wilkes 1:10:43
Chris Morris here and then this one is down here. But I'm already getting sick of myself talking. So we better we're

Alex Ferrari 1:10:50
I'm gonna ask you I'm gonna ask you a few questions I asked all my guests. I think we've already asked the one question What advice would you give a filmmaker or screenwriter trying to break into the business today? I think that's been the scope. Yeah, I don't even no. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Rich Wilkes 1:11:10
It was thing we talked about, take pleasure in the process. It's the journey not the destination, which is the worst cliche ever. But that is the that's what it is. You're not going to ever get where you want in life. So you better fucking enjoy whatever it is you have for the time you're here with me. You know, my one of my best friends getting a brain tumor and dropping dead in his 40s We're behind two teenage daughters. That teaches you everything you need to know. sad that it takes something like that. But you're like, Okay, that's it. I'm set for the rest of my life. My mental state is this is it. It's gonna it could leave anytime so fucking it.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:51
Absolutely. Tomorrow, like no, it's cliche this Tomorrow is not promised. And it's not guaranteed. But we all think it is. It's such a weird thing that we as humans do, but like oh yeah, I'll be here tomorrow. I'll be here tomorrow.

Rich Wilkes 1:12:03
All right. Well, we're both getting into Tony Robbins territory.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:05
I listen, man. Hey, listen. I'm gonna walk on the coals. I'm gonna walk on the coals. And last question three of your favorite films of all time.

Rich Wilkes 1:12:15
Okay, Project bay park to Gallipoli and Caddyshack.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:21
Man, that's a hell of a that's a hell of a hell of a of a screening.

Rich Wilkes 1:12:27
I normally have a top five and Goodfellas is one? Yep. And I forgot what the other one is. But it was great. It's a great movie. Now recommended. In the cliche, it's always, you know, Star Wars and those are great and inspirational. But there's ones that just you know, are part of your life and Caddyshack and Jackie Chan. And these things have just sort of burrowed into my into my head and reflect a lot of it. Mostly, mostly it's it's music that drives me everything that I write or work, I can see how involved with music.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:05
Yeah, I get there's no question. I could see that your filmography. Without question, and well, for me, it's Shawshank Fightclub matrix.

Rich Wilkes 1:13:16
It's not a bad list.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:18
That's it. That's the those are the ones that just and again, of course, Star Wars and of course, you know, Clockwork Orange and shining and all of Kubrick and you know

Rich Wilkes 1:13:28
I wanted to be different though. I remember a Cuckoo's Nest mostly we're like,

Alex Ferrari 1:13:32
ah, can you imagine trying to get that movie made today? Huh? By studio. Good luck, taxi driver get get get Sony to do taxi driver today. Let me see how that works out. My friend. It has been an absolute pleasure talking to you. It has been it's been eye opening to say the least. And I hope it helps some filmmakers and screenwriters out there, man. So thank you, brother.

Rich Wilkes 1:13:55
Yes, I was trying to hold up something that could hike that I could try to get it to pimp and my website. I don't know

Alex Ferrari 1:14:03
We'll put links to the to you in the show notes if you want to reach out man. I appreciate you.

Rich Wilkes 1:14:08
Alright, thanks, man.

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