FBI Witness Relocation Interview with Boris “The Cinematographer” from Shooting for the Mob
Today we have a very special episode of the Indie Film Hustle Podcast. My guest is coming from an undisclosed location somewhere in Los Angeles. His code name is BORIS: The Cinematographer. We changed his voice and image for his protection. Boris was my cinematographer on the film I almost directed for the mob. I met him while prepping the infamous feature film discussed in my book Shooting for the Mob. If you want to learn more about the story of the book take a listen to this podcast. (Click Here)
Here’s a summary on the book:
A bipolar gangster, a naive, young film director, and Batman. What could go wrong? Alex Ferrari is a first-time film director who just got hired to direct a $20 million feature film, the only problem is the film is about Jimmy, an egomaniacal gangster who wants the film to be about his life in the mob.
From the backwater towns of Louisiana to the Hollywood Hills, Alex is taken on a crazy misadventure through the world of the mafia and Hollywood. Huge movie stars, billion-dollar producers, studio heads and, of course, a few gangsters, populate this unbelievable journey down the rabbit hole of chasing your dream. Would you sell your soul to the devil to make your dream come true? Alex did.
By the way, did we mention that this story is based on true events? no, seriously it is.
If you want to watch Boris’ interview check it out in its entirety below.
I asked Boris, an industry-recognized cinematographer if he would be willing to do an interview on his experience working with Jimmy the gangster, the craziness that happened all those years ago and what it was like being in the center of that filmmaking tornado with me.
Boris jumped at the chance but he asked that we change his voice to protect his identity. He doesn’t want to put himself out there at this time. Trust me you are going to love this episode.
Boris lets loose on all things Shooting for the Mob and even tells me stories I didn’t know about. If you want to know what it’s like trying to shot an indie feature film for a bi-polar, egomaniacal gangster then perk up those ears cause you are going to love this extremely entertaining episode.
Enjoy my EPIC conversation with BORIS – The Cinematographer.
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- Alex Ferrari’s Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Story) Book- Buy It on Amazon
- TICKETS: On the Corner of Ego and Desire/Shooting for the Mob Hollywood Event – April 25, 2019
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Netflix for Filmmakers and Screenwriters)
- BlackBox – Make Passive Income From Your Footage
- $1 Close Captions for Indie Filmmakers – Rev ($10 Off Your First Order)
- David Lynch Filmmaking Masterclass
- Martin Scorsese Film Directing Masterclass
- Ron Howard Film Directing Masterclass
- Spike Lee Film Directing Masterclass
- Werner Herzog Filmmaking MasterClass
- Aaron Sorkin Screenwriting MasterClass
- Mira Nair Independent Filmmaking Masterclass
- David Mamet Dramatic Writing MasterClass
- Shonda Rhimes Masterclass: Learn Television Writing from the Creator of Scandal
- Steve Martin Teaches Comedy Writing & Acting MasterClass
- Annie Leibovitz Masterclass: Learn Photography from the Legend
- Jimmy Chin Masterclass: Learn Adventure Photography
- Judd Apatow Comedy Writing/Directing Masterclass
- Six Secrets to getting into Film Festivals for FREE!
- FreeFilmBook.com (Download Your FREE Filmmaking Audio Book)
– [Interviewer] Hey Boris.
– [Boris] Yes my friend.
– So you’ve read the book and you were, let’s take it back to the beginning. You were the reason why I wrote this book. You were the one that kept hounding me for years to tell this story. And finally it came to the point where I could not argue with you anymore because you wanted me to write a screenplay originally. And I said no I can’t write a screenplay. I don’t want to write a screenplay. It’s just not, I’m not gonna go chase money. And then you said to me, well why don’t you write a book? And I was like damn it, I can write a book. And it’s your fault that this is happening. In the first place.
– [Boris] Um, yes we do this. In Eastern Europe you know, where I come from, we read books. Books are a very important part of your education and books are also something that stays as a document for the history, for posterity. So having the book done, it’s more than just like doing your own personal soul searching, or making the journey or re-experiencing everything you went through. But think about it, this is like something generations and generations of aspiring film makers. Or if there’s any films or something in the future, they might be doing something else. But they will be finding this is very, very interesting, inspiring, amusing, educational, informative and whatever else people find in this book.
– [Interviewer] Yes, it was all that and then some, without question. So, you’ve read the book. I wanna ask you straight, is this book true to your experience? ‘Cause you were with me on this journey for about three months out of the year that I was involved with this project. What is your feelings on the book’s truth, authenticity, and did I exaggerate anything?
– [Boris] I don’t think when it comes to altering situation, I don’t think there’s any little exaggeration in the book. I think that’s what the biggest I think, the real value of the book that there is really no exaggeration, it’s real. It’s all real and it’s really 100% of the truth, what really happened. And that’s what I think is gonna be the most intriguing aspect of the book. To me, I think it was really interesting to read the book because not only that I was part of this for over several months we spent together on it, but learning all the background stories. Learning about you, learning how you get into this. And learning about some other people that I had chanced to interact during our pre-production. So this has all combined together, gave me whole and new perspective about the experience in back then.
– [Interviewer] Right ’cause you didn’t know the whole story. You only knew of parts of the story, and it was patchy, and then you only knew the stories from your perspective. You never saw all the stuff that I went through behind the scenes. A lot of it before and after you left.
– [Boris] Well that’s right. I mean we did our pre-production. We don’t have time much for chit-chat, although we did have a lot of time later on down then. But at least you know, we ended up doing very, very interesting work with interesting group of people. Really smart people. And going back and thinking about it, I really wish we made this movie because aside from all the experience that we went through, I still wish that story is told somehow. About Jimmy’s life and everything that’s–
– [Interviewer] The story is obviously about redemption.
– [Boris] It’s all about redemption.
– [Interviewer] There’s no question that the story is not about Jimmy, it’s all about redemption.
– [Boris] No it was always, from the beginning, all about redemption.
– [Interviewer] Now, you actually coined that phrase. You’re the one that said redemption to him, and then from that moment on, apparently he looked up the word, and he started spouting that. And you turned to me, your like, I just told him that yesterday.
– [Boris] Well, as we all know, Jimmy had this tendency because he’s a total newcomer to the world of film. So he does not understand really the language, the lingo that we use in the business, in the industry. So I remember one of his favorite phrases was favored nation in the contract. Because many times he would get any kind of draft of the contract. Well favored nation is a term used normally in a contract, in a legal language basically explaining that everybody’s equal. It’s called favored nation. For me, when we have these production meeting I still remember vividly he would hold like a pep talk, pep rally and often wanted to hear how everybody was so exited about the project of everybody. I remember a production meeting we had when Jimmy was so eager to hear from everybody. Like what the first meeting was like, how great this whole film is going to be. And what we think about it, and for me, well it was kind of just like, more what came out now. It’s about a redemption, because as much he was all eager about the project, he was very sensitive not to make it obvious. So I think redemption was a perfect excuse for him to find a real catch-phrase that explained really the meaning of the film. So it’s about redemption, it’s not about him. But and then of course it was all about him, as we know.
– [Interviewer] Very much so, it was all about him without question. Now, a quick question before we continue. We obviously have blacked out your face here and changed your voice to protect your identity. I obviously cannot protect my identity because I am the author and the subject of the book. Do you fear for yourself? Is that the reason why you agreed to do this? Or I mean is it the reason why you wanted us to black out your face and change your voice, you fear for your life in any way?
– [Boris] Well I don’t fear for my life. Just to say I might be a little bit too much to say I fear for my life. But I think it’s better not to be too public about it, at least for me. Maybe one day I might say really who Boris is and everything, but that remains to be seen. I think what is more important that you tell the story because this is your story and we are all just part of it. All that happened during the production. So I think at this point, it’s still better for me to stay kind of in the shadow and not to attract too much attention.
– [Interviewer] Literally in the shadows.
– [Boris] Literally in the shadows.
– [Interviewer]Fair enough. One of the moments that I loved in the book and that’s when we met, was the espresso, cappuccino event. Can you refresh for people listening, because a lot of people who are watching this have already read the book. Can you talk from your perspective about the cappuccino machine?
– [Boris] Well, we can all come to… It’s very important, coffee is not just a drink that you get in the morning and get to get going, it has more social meaning. We would sit, enjoy coffee while having meaningful conversation, or just you know, kind of having a little chat. Just a warm up before we really get serious about whatever we wanna do that day. So for me, having this ritual is really essential. And I still keep this ritual first thing in the morning, even at my walk here. I turn on my cappuccino machine and then gradually I embark upon the day and see what’s gonna happen. But I never drink coffee by myself, it’s kind of boring. So coffee is social event, coffee is a part of a cultural ritual. And I wanted to bring this culture into the culture of our production. And I think I did it successfully.
– [Interviewer] Yeah, you actually if I may quote you said, “What are we, savages? We will have cappuccino.”
– [Boris] That’s exactly my point. You know, to be in production office without coffeemaker. We are at least a little bit more sophisticated. So a coffeemaker. After all, we have $20 million budget production. It has to be best, we cannot just go for some whatever you know, Folgers.
– [Interviewer] And let’s talk about that $20 million budget which we never saw. The budget kept getting dropped daily or weekly, and rescheduled and all this kind of stuff. When you showed up to the production offices the first day, what was your thought when you were dropped off at a race track?
– [Boris] Well, from even before I showed up on the race track in our production office I knew this was not gonna be your typical, normal production as we are used to. We knew there was already so many things. Just the way I was brought in, it was so out of the ordinary. Being hired without reading the script and just being brought because I said I like the script to read. And that was enough for me to be hired. That spoke the volume that this ought to be very interesting, unusual journey. So for me, the fact that I was picked up by the producer and his wife and a couple of their assistants and brought to some Italian kind of restaurant in South side of the city and immediately presented with my key grip and a gaffer as people who are already hired. There’s a lot of things, I’m given big Lexus SUV to drive around. To me these are all signs out of something very much out of the charts. And then of course coming to horse track race track, which I have never been in my life. It was yet another world that I had to learn and experience, and I had no idea. It was quite and interesting experience. But then seeing the vastness of production office. It was something that, I’ve been on a couple bigger and smaller productions but I’ve never seen anybody have a production office of this scope.
– [Interviewer] For such a you know, an unknown.
– [Boris] Right, right .
– [Interviewer] I’ve always wanted to ask you this question. What did you think when they told you, oh it’s a first time director? And he’s a young guy and all that kind of stuff. Because this was, I mean you had already been a cinematographer for a few years. Well not a few years, probably about 10 years by that point. So you were an established cinematographer you know, working your way up the ladder. What did you think when you saw the trailer that I shot and everything like that in general, before you even met me?
– [Boris] Yeah, the truth is yes I was by then, well I would say my career was nicely on steady rising direction. And yeah, as a cinematographer, we always have to be open-minded about projects that we are working on. And I always find it exciting meeting new people, working with new people. Working with first time director, that was not first time that I worked with a first time director. So for me was not something out of the ordinary when it comes down to my approach to film. Usually working with first time director as a cinematographer requires little bit more, I’ll say patience and time. Because the gap, as much as creatively you might have some great ideas and some ways how you see this film, it’s really cinematographer who has to kind of bring it out to reality and facilitate it. And figure out how to basically deliver the vision. And sometimes, if directors have no experience, they might be dreaming big and way beyond what is really feasible and possible. But after seeing the trailer, the promo that you guys shot before I came on board, I definitely recognized a talent. And to me it was like, okay that’s someone who I think I can work with and we will be able to create it. And you know, ’cause when we started working, we started our pre-production and everything else. We quickly established our way of communication. As we all know and it’s really well described in the book. I would say the gap that we had was just normal, natural gap. I mean already by then we had like maybe six, seven feature films and a bunch of other projects. So I felt it’s my duty to bring you up to kind of the speed and take you out on a possible like pitch force. Normally of course, directors tends to get to. So and then of course I enjoyed the fact that we could because we had a time we could actually watch a movie.
– [Interviewer] We watched many movies.
– [Boris] Many, many movies. So for me it was kind of like having, getting eventually a personal film history. Almost film history, cinematography personal class. Just for you to be able to find reference in something so we could give a little show fence so it’s easy. Or if I say whatever, then of course whatever else being made with your help. Makes us also look good, makes us look like we know what we’re talking about.
– [Interviewer] ‘Cause it’s all about redemption.
– [Boris] Because it’s all about redemption.
– [Interviewer] Now, have you ever been on before or since, a project that had been in pre-production for nine months?
– [Boris] Uh, no. That is such a very, honestly when I think about, I was personally I think about three months. It’s such a rarity unless you really on a big movie. I’m sure on some big project it’s normal the cinematographer would be part of pre-production for several months. Traditionally in typical Hollywood productions, cinematographer is always brought, well it depends on the project, four, six, maybe eight weeks. That’s only getting into medium budget productions. And if you’re in any larger size, well there is reason if you have a three months pre-production. That’s like, the scope of the film and the scope of the pre-production is far bigger than having enough time to, as we did, watch movies for two to three hours every day, drink cappuccinos. And scout endlessly, endlessly all over state. And that’s kind of luxury which I never heard.
– [Interviewer] When we were traveling around Louisiana looking at all those locations, I mean we must have had, how many locations did we look at, hundreds?
– [Boris] I don’t know, I stopped counting because I know after initials count, and initial visit of locations, we would go again and revisit it. And then again revisit them, just to make sure that maybe something might change, or maybe let’s check another prison. Or let’s check another strip bar. And um, or another house or whatever, I don’t even know how many places we scouted. It was kind of just like almost like daily thing. Wake in the morning, get a coffee, get a breakfast, watch a movie and then get in our Lexus 480 SUVs with navigation and a lady in the truck who will guide us to our desires.
– [Interviewer] That was space-age technology back then.
– [Boris] Back then it was unbelievable, it was like, what was more unbelievable was we had to return these SUVs every week.
– [Interviewer] Because of the mileage.
– [Boris] Because of the mileage.
– [Interviewer] So can we talk about that really quickly? We actually, we got a product placement for these Lexuses from a local dealership. Not from Lexus, but from a local dealership. So then we could actually return it after a hundred miles.
– [Boris] I don’t know, but it was a sort of cutoff number which we’re not allowed to drive more than whatever.
– [Interviewer] And we would just replace the new–
– [Boris] Right, because they can still sell them as new cars otherwise.
– [Interviewer] Needless to say this was a period piece film so there was no place for a 2001 Lexus.
– [Boris] No. No and I remember actually when I asked Jimmy about it he said don’t worry, don’t worry. It’s gonna be all good, we’re gonna put it maybe kind of deep in the background, nobody’s gonna recognize. But I don’t remember even in the movie which ends up I think in 1990 was the final scene of the film on the script at least, they had these kind of cars, SUVs. So I just didn’t want to argue here. Who would argue if somebody gives you, I have to say this was the first and only time that I had such car as my vehicle to drive around in production. That’s like, that’s really like, normally I could see director, producer or something drive this, but not a DP. And there’s a lot of people we had on the production.
– [Interviewer] Yes, exactly. Our production designer, our location scouts and our first AD, who was generally on the journey with us every time.
– [Boris] Indeed, indeed.
– [Interviewer] Now, you heard of a lot of these stories of what Jimmy was doing, as far as yelling and threatening people and screaming. What was the once time that you heard or saw something that sticks with you still to this day.
– [Boris] Um, well I have to admit, having Jimmy around was always fun. Because he is the video of these kind of characters you see like in these movies about gangsters and mafia, you know he is. I think he was definitely trying very hard to impersonate either Joe Pesci or one of these guys. I mean you have to admit, these guys are always very charismatic, very talkative, full of stories. Unpredictable on every moment, you never know what’s gonna happen. And that’s what kind of adds little mystery to each of these guys. So with Jimmy, well I think he liked me right away from the beginning. I think he trusted me, and that was a big deal. I mean on instinctive level, he felt that he could rely on me, which is fine. It’s actually a good place to be when you meet guys like this. But his impulsiveness is something that was interesting to me to observe. And I’d seen a couple times in production office. I remember one occasion that he was talking to the agent of one of the prospective actors. And it was actually early on, I think we had somebody who was attached, but not really attached but somebody who said that he’s interested in reading the script. Well, if you are in the film business you understand somebody says, well I’m interested in reading the script means nothing. It has no commitment, it has no obligation. You know, I’m just gonna read it when I have time. Well in his mind that meant we get this guy. He’s reading the script, he’s interested, it means he’s gonna do the movie. And I think that was a basic like, starting point for him to even pull the trigger, and get production. So that’s why he brought all of us to start the production, because he is a guy who is interested. Then it was quite non-active. And I think I happened to be in the office when the agent of that particular talent, particular movie star basically passed on the script. Passed on the project because he couldn’t do it because of a schedule conflict or something was not really quite, as we say in Europe, kosher. So I think that’s what created this rage in Jimmy and he was yelling and screaming and cursing and threatening is he gonna break this guy’s knee cap next time he sees him, and he slammed the phone. Not great, just like this whole, like there’s something in your head of big studio and you’re doing some big movie for these, I think that’s how they used to act, like probably. But not if you’re some unknown who’s never done anything. And to me that was like, okay this is gonna be very, very interesting. Of course I called my agent right away and I told her what happened and she said, well the word is out already that he is, she said a loose cannon and nobody wants to commit to this project, no matter what. So she told me, hey just hang in there as long as you can but I don’t think this movie is ever gonna get made.
– [Interviewer] Do you think that Jimmy was the best thing and the worst thing to try to get the movie? ‘Cause you would never have been able to crack the door into Hollywood without Jimmy and his story. But because of Jimmy, it will never get made.
– [Boris] Here is the thing. One thing that I think maybe when I told you that at some point what I realized from all this experience is that maybe subconsciously, Jimmy never wanted to make a movie. And why he would not do that well, it’s not about money. I don’t think he needed money. Well, it’s about a redemption, not really, it’s about him. So the process of making, being, acting as a producer, having people around you, making him so important on daily basis, was what he needed. And in his mind, as long as he can live this life of importance, feel he’s relevant, that’s what gives you really, really like, kick. The moment the film is made, well that’s it. He doesn’t have any other movie to make. This is his one only trope, this is his story. It’s great story, but he cannot go and now start, you know, another whatever, like no. Even if you made the movie. So for him, it was more important just to live the dream of making it, and never making it. And as we can see, this movie was never made. And I’m sure there’s the reason for it.
– [Interviewer] While it was his dream, it was our nightmare.
– [Boris] Well, it was a rollercoaster. It was your nightmare for sure, because you were invested in the film far more than us. We were just kept as you know, kind of like, what’s it called…
– [Interviewer] Props?
– [Boris] No, not the props. We were just kind of like a supporting, we are extras we are extras within like all this drama. And as much it was all rollercoaster for me, I enjoyed every moment. I enjoyed being with you, I enjoyed being with Jimmy and all other people that actually became friend for life, which is great, this kind of experience really bonds you. But one thing that I knew right away from the beginning, especially right away after that episode in his office, slamming the phone and yelling and threatening, I knew this film was not going, I knew it doesn’t want to get made. So for me it was like okay, why not just enjoy the ride? And it was a rollercoaster for sure. But if I think about anything bad that happened to me, not really, nothing really happened. Actually I had a great time when I think about it. I had the best of time, we would hang out, do the things that we want to do, except you know, we will never make the movie. I feel in my mind you remember I told you that. In my mind after we finish all the scouts, after we finish endless talks, discussions about the scenes and the shop listing and story boarding and everything. Basically like I felt a huge commitment for me this movie’s done, this movie I already made it. Just matter of executing, putting it in front of the lens, but I had every possible detail worked out. What kind of light, where, what lens, what movement. Everything was figured out and planned. So as far as I’m concerned, anybody could shoot it.
– [Interviewer] Now, you being there for the three months that you were, you caught me towards the tail end of my journey. From your perspective, I wanted to ask you what you thought of me and what you witnessed, in my day to day life then. Because you were pretty much the closest, you and the first AD were the closest two people to me on the production, who I leaned on the most. What was your take on, like your impression of what I was going through, and kind of tell the audience that.
– [Boris] Well, right away from the moment when we met I realized that you were under tremendous pressure. That’s like obvious, that was really obvious. I mean I can completely understand and relate. Where the pressure was coming from, it was obvious too. I mean after two minutes in production office, it’s clear who’sfrightening the group and pressuring everything. But you had different responsibilities than anybody else in the production. So obviously for you, the pressure was far greater. And then later on, learning about all this background story that you had prior to me stepping in. Was, obviously explains everything. So my take was okay, I can see he is under pressure, how can I help? So, I was only focusing mostly in creating, helping you to kind of think in your own way from Jimmy. In showing Jimmy, and I did it a couple times. I would say Jimmy don’t worry. He would ask me, hey can I do that, not to worry Jimmy, it’s fine, it’s okay. He would ask anybody, he would question anybody. I’m sure he would even pressure me occasionally, recounting. You know I can understand also, for Jimmy, he was also, he was probably reporting to some higher authority, I don’t know fake or true. So he had somebody to report to. So he was giving money obviously. We are getting our bags and being paid and it was all nice and good.
– [Interviewer] Cash, mostly.
– [Boris] Cash yeah, it’s good, cash is good. But for me really, going back to our connection, really I think my main goal was to ease the pressure. And get you really into the world of what is important Even if this movie never gets made, I felt it would be great value for you to go through the process, to prepare you at least. What’s the proper way, and then next time you get into any kind of productions, that’s how we do it. This way, that way, that way. And not do it the other way and I think we managed to do it.
– [Interviewer] You basically were my film school, a second film school with this whole project. It is a film history class, and also a production class on how to actually, between you and the first AD, Frank, you two taught me how to make a movie. Like how to actually make a feature film. And I could have done that if Jimmy wasn’t around.
– [Boris] Yeah, well Frank was a fantastic guy to have around, but you have to say, you have to really consider you are so happy to have Frank, someone with that knowledge and experience, and also the calmness.
– [Interviewer] Yes.
– [Boris] The way he was handling any situation. Like really good seize of the day that he would. There is nothing that could take him out of his box, and that was the greatest thing to have. Anybody else I would say would freak out and run for his life, but Frank is good guy. He know how to do it right way. For me he was really like the role of a mentor. Which I do nowadays regularly with other cinematographers. I enjoy doing that, I enjoy sharing knowledge because I always find out it’s the two way street. And working with somebody who does not have really that much experience, well the value of somebody who doesn’t have much experience, is a freedom. You know, as much as getting the knowledge, getting the education, learning the craft, learning what you do is great and gives you confidence and knowledge and skill. But the other hand, little bit of naivety gives you far more freedom to be unconventional. And I think for somebody who gets a little bit seasoned, it’s always good to be reminded that there is another, far less structured, approach to do the same thing. So for me it was like, okay I can between your freedom in doing things and between my pragmatic, logical way of planning, because in the end that’s what cinematography is, I think we can find nice balance and I think we did. Except in our
– [Interviewer] So basically you were the Spock to my Kirk.
– [Boris] So to speak. That we say back in Eastern Europe.
– [Interviewer] Yes. What was the worst day you saw? First of all your worst day and my worst day that you saw from your perspective. I’d loved it if you remember anything specifically.
– [Boris] Um, I think my worst day, it was not really necessarily my worst day, but it was worst day for everybody.
– [Interviewer] 9/11.
– [Boris] Um, yes. Yes. That was the day when we knew things will be different. And that definitely set the tone for quite a lot of things.
– [Interviewer] But you weren’t on the production during 9/11 yet, you came after.
– [Boris] I came after.
– [Interviewer] Right, so on actual production, on the actual production.
– [Boris] What actual production? 9/11 was just–
– [Interviewer] Like a week away.
– [Boris] A week before I came.
– [Interviewer] Yeah, it happened a week before you came. So it was still in the air a bunch
– [Boris] Yes but it was very much present. I would say though, the worst I would say more like bringing down to reality day was the fact that when our production designer went first to Jimmy’s office to ask to be raised to do some other project. And when Jimmy turned and almost punched him for daring to ask such a thing. Because obviously Jimmy saw this as a personal betrayal. And I guess in his mind, one commitment and he holds you. That’s just how it is, so basically I realized that he owns us, we are movie props. We are like extras in the drama in the world that he created for himself. To tell the story about well himself and redemption really. So that was the a thing like, okay that’s gonna be interesting, how do I get out of this?
– [Interviewer] Yeah ’cause I think that was the moment that it dawned on you like, oh wait a minute, I can’t leave. Like I was having fun but like, all of a sudden wait a minute, I have to figure out how to get out of here. ‘Cause you’re in a different state. I mean it would have been, you just can’t walk away you know, all that kind of stuff. So it must have been interesting for you. ‘Cause you and Frank were the only two LA guys.
– [Boris] Right.
– [Interviewer] At the time, everybody else was local.
– [Boris] Right.
– [Interviewer] So you guys were in a unique situation. You were living out of a hotel, and you know, you were making your sandwiches and bringing them in for lunch. ‘Cause there was no catering.
– [Boris] No, no. Yeah, that was very interesting routine how we headed back. To me it was very, yeah it was me and Frank was the only two guys. And we’d been talking about it after that like, Frank what do we do? Frank was like, I really don’t know. I’m sure there must be some kind of scenario. But we just have to find the moment that has to be perfect storm, so to speak, of elements for Jimmy to be open for the idea. But seeing how he reacted to our production designer’s request to let go and he barely managed to get alive out of the office. To me that was a sign that it was not going to be easy. And I was thinking about it, because obviously I realize as much as fun we had, and we had fun. It was fun when we were doing things but okay that’s enough, let’s close this chapter let’s move on. I have other projects lined up and affairs to take care of. And I cannot just hang out in beautiful–
– [Interviewer] Louisiana.
– [Boris] Suite. Suite on top of the hotel, in penthouse. I mean it’s all nice, I couldn’t complain, it was all great, I was treated really well. Even the sandwiches I was making because I’m kind of tired of local food. Like why can’t I just make my own sandwich. I have a nice knife and as we do at home in Europe.
– [Interviewer] Yes you cut your sandwiches with a knife and fork.
– [Boris] To be civilized. So that was a kind of all these elements. Until finally I got an idea that Christmas was coming and that’s like, that’s the opportunity. That’s like a sign for me. At any day, in whole year, if any opportunity can be perfect excuse to jump the ship, it’s at Christmas. And that’s what I did, I went to the office, tried to be as cool as I could imagine. Get Jimmy in a good mood and chat chat and shit. And kind of in passing, mention it, you know that Christmas is coming, it would be so nice if I could spend it with my family. And he looked at me, he was like what are you telling me? Like, no I’m just thinking what would happen. Like wouldn’t it be so nice if I could maybe spend, but of course I’m committed to you. I’m a part of this, I’m married to this project. And you know you can count on me. And he looked at me kind of like, are you turning on me? I would never ever, you have my word. I’m committed to this, but you can count on this that the moment you need me, I’m there for you. And then he said, well if you really wanna go see your family I’d understand it, but you know go there and be back. I’m like, of course. And that was all it took. Of course I had everything packed and ready just in case it works. I get in the car, drove, pick up my stuff and I was on the flight like 12 hours later, ready.
– [Interviewer] And Frank was right behind you.
– [Boris] Frank was right behind me, so I guess Frank realized, oh that’s maybe the moment when Jimmy’s softened up, and he really kind of used that as a same kind of like opening for him, and it worked.
– [Interviewer] I tell you though, that was, I’ll never forget you guys getting in the cab and driving away, I will never. I remember we were right out front of the race track, and you guys got in the car and you said to me, I’ll be back, don’t worry, I’ll be back. And I knew you were never coming back. I knew. And that was honestly the saddest day, out of all the craziness that happened, that to me was the saddest day. Because then I knew I was alone again. And I had no one to really protect me or guide me or anything, to be a barrier between me and Jimmy. It was the saddest day of my existence on that project.
– [Boris] I knew that, and I knew this was gonna probably happen. But we really didn’t feel like leaving you hanging out there then. We really hoped that our leaving the project will help with the other, kind of open the door really wide so that the flood of people jumping the ship will really just happen. And then eventually Jimmy might decide to put everything on hold, let you kind off the hook. We hoped for that. Because it was clearly obvious, especially when you realize that $20 million became 15, then became 10 and a incredible shrinking budget started getting smaller and smaller. And then we realized well there must be some issue there, but obviously the biggest issue was Jimmy. Which he would never realize.
– [Interviewer] And what was the worst day that you saw in me, from your perspective? I’m really curious to hear that, if you remember any worst specific day.
– [Boris] Well, I don’t know if there was really a specific day, but I think there are moments. You had the days coming, and usually those days of hyped up expectations for you. I know that you did a, you did take trip to meet some big actor, and that looked–
– [Interviewer] Multiple, multiple.
– [Boris] Multiple, yes. So I could see that every time you would come back from any of these trips meeting actors, that your spirit was broken, or more. And I could see that you were realizing the dream that you’d been dreaming for months and months and months is further, further away of ever being realized. And I’m also realizing that you are basically trapped without any way out. So to me, it’s not what I meant but there’s been several events, and especially to do with you coming back from those meetings with actors and realizing that they will not do it.
– [Interviewer] Those were the, yeah those were tough times
– [Boris] Yep.
– [Interviewer] And what was the one thing that you told me about moving to LA?
– [Boris] I think I told you, well if you really wanna, if you’re really serious about making movies you have to come to Hollywood.
– [Interviewer] And the one thing you always told me was the biggest regret you will ever have is that you didn’t do it earlier.
– [Boris] Yes, and that was another thing I told you, yes I remember it, and you better do it right away. Better do it right away because yes, you will have the biggest regret if you don’t do this. You’ll have biggest regret not doing it. If you do it later, well you regret only not doing it earlier. But in the end I believe that things always happen the way they are supposed to happen. There is a moment when you have to act on your instinct or if something tells you this is thing to do then you do it. Doing it maybe too early, can be also damaging as maybe more than not doing it at all. So I think you, you did the right thing. You evaluated everything and you came here when it was the right time in your life for you to be here and do what you like to do.
– [Interviewer] So reviewing everything that we’ve gone through, you’re one of my oldest and dearest friends. We went through war together. As these kind of relationships are built up on locations, on productions, they’re pretty intense. Ours was probably one of the more intense ones you’ve ever dealt with, with another director in this sense. Looking back at it, at everything, what is the feeling that you have about the whole experience that really kind of just rings to you at this point? Looking back with the perspective of almost 20 years back, I mean I can’t believe we’re saying 20 years, but it’s almost 20 years.
– [Boris] Yeah, 20 years.
– [Interviewer] That we did this. What’s the thing that comes to your mind when you kind of look at Jimmy and the experience and now the book and how this story is finally gonna get out there to people. What’s your feeling on it?
– [Boris] Never fails to re-amaze me. When it comes down to film industry. The range of people that this business attracts. That’s really to me, it’s most fascinating. And that experience, what they call experience on our film, was so much different than anything I’ve ever experienced before or after. But proves my point absolutely to the core. And really, it’s a case study of the madness, the mayhem, but also determination. And I don’t think that any business that I know of brings people with so much determination. And also I think it’s a following a dream. People follow dream about being anything, being chef, being I don’t know, pilot, being doctor, these are dreams. But the intensity of the dream that people in the film business are dreaming, I would say it’s exponentially higher. So no business I think other than really the close experience when it comes down to bonding. Just being in pre-film production, pre-production, the level you see, what bonds people I think is being, it’s really seeing best and worst of everybody. Because the pressure creates environment that you cannot fool, you cannot cheat, you cannot lie, you are who you are. And the pressure really enables people to get to know each other on much different level than you would normally do. And that’s why everybody says, well that’s kind of closest when you are in the war, when you are in the trenches. You really get to know it because you rely. You’re part of the team. It’s not only you, it’s about everybody. So you know that if the person next to you does not trust you well, it can affect on everybody else and everything. So I think it’s about the ultimate team building experience when you are in film production. That creates this unity, it creates a connection. Especially when you come across people that are on the same wavelength, so to speak and they are on some different level, connected. That’s the biggest value that you get out of experiences like this.
– [Interviewer] The one thing, I mentioned this in the book, but I wanted to hear from your point of view. When you came back to LA, you would tell anybody who would listen about this story. And have been for the last 20 years. Is this true?
– [Boris] Yes, this was the best ever conversation best party conversation I had for last 20 years.
– [Interviewer] It’s still going.
– [Boris] It’s still going and then every time you know, we hang out with the film people, and everybody shares the horror stores from the set and like, ah let me tell you my story. I’m gonna talk of this, absolutely nothing comes close to this one. And so far I mean, I never heard anybody that talked to this story at any dinner or party conversation. Because every time I mention Jimmy and what we went through and what all happened, everyone, oh that’s not possible. Well trust me, because if I tell them, yeah it’s real, it’s true.
– [Interviewer] And now you actually are gonna be handing out books to everybody
– [Boris] I cannot wait to get the books and prove that what I told them at the party was actually there, and here it is.
– [Interviewer] And it’s also true that any time I would show up to one of these parties, your friends would find me, and would come to me and go, is it true? We thought Boris was just joking, is it true? And I would have to sit there and like, validate your story.
– [Boris] That’s right, that’s right. And that brings even more like expression of confusion and disbelief on everybody. So that really must be the truth, and then how is this possible? So yeah, I mean for sure that’s a very, very. We ended up getting such a, we have quite a few good things out of this.
– [Interviewer] Oh no, there was many, many good things that came out of this experience. Obviously a great friendship over the years and it made me who I am today, and it’s also made me the grizzled independent film maker that I am now because of it. And it was probably one of the reasons why I wanted to launch Indie Film Hustle. ‘Cause I wanted to help others not to do the same mistakes that I did.
– [Boris] Yeah, I think this will be perfect handbook for anybody who is in the film hustle world. As well as anybody who enjoys it for sheer amusement quality of the book itself, I think that’s gonna be just amazing.
– [Interviewer] Andwithout question. Please explain to people who are listening, because a lot of people will like, oh this must happen all the time, or this situation can’t be this unique. You’ve been now, close to 30 years in the film business.
– [Boris] Oh 20, let’s say about yeah 20, yeah.
– [Interviewer] 20 odd years, close to 30, let’s round it up, round it up. You’re a younger man sir, but let’s just throw it out there.
– [Boris] I started in kindergarten.
– [Interviewer] In kindergarten you started DP-ing.
– [Boris] Yeah, with my first films. You know, back in Eastern Europe we do that, we make movies in kindergarten you know. And then in elementary school and that’s why we have such a good cinematographers, that’s the key.
– [Interviewer] That’s right, that’s right. But please explain to the audience how unique and ridiculous, and that this does not happen.
– [Boris] Well, it’s really hard to explain the ridiculousness of all this experience. I mean, every detail you bring telling the story in my case just by saying how I get the film. It’s already like, oh come on. I say, no but there is more. And I bring out the, oh no there’s no way. And when I say, oh yeah by the way, and, oh no that can’t be possible. So the level of ridiculousness in this whole experience is something that is really hard to watch. And that’s why only us who really lived that experience through this, can really, truly understand how this was possible. That we went through this and then whatever happens to us. But I think for everybody who reads the book, I’m sure there will be people saying, oh that was oh no way. That it was all like, blown out of proportion. Then it’s okay if you think that way, it’s fine. It’s fine because for all the people, there would be no point of reference in their own personal experience to say, oh yeah I’ve seen that yeah. Maybe they say they will recognize the episodes and say oh yeah, I remember also that when we ended up scouting for strip club that’s out in entire state to find out the best strip club for Half-Baked scene. Yeah, I’m sure there will be people like that. Oh yeah I work also with a producer who will hang up on the phone. Yeah but all these puzzles, all these elements together is something that’s I think very hard to mention. But it’s also, what I get out of this experience is nothing ever surprises me anymore. And I’ve been to some tough productions since then. Quite a few. But that’s okay, that’s kind of like, okay. Once you have this experience when you have a point that is hard to mentions that, oh yeah been there, it’s worse, it’s nothing. Like in Wag the Dog. Oh but it’s nothing, oh we shot Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, there was three other, oh that’s nothing, a dusty homeless character, oh that’s nothing. So for me I’m kind of, that’s nothing. And it’s great place to be, like whenever you get to production, and things are really tough and they do like, then I will be social because I know I’ve seen better. I’ve seen worse. I lived worse.
– [Interviewer] Now there has been already there’s gonna be this question after the book comes out. And it’s already you know, from the few industry people that have read it before it comes out, about the movie. The movie version, it is a question that’s asked constantly in any of my interviews, it’s constantly asked by anybody. Is it, this would make a great movie. Originally your idea for me was to write a screenplay. I said I didn’t want to write the screenplay and the book came out. I think it’s much better that the book came out first, because I got the whole story out. The screenplay can’t encompass the entire story. So what is your feeling of the movie idea? First of all getting made one day. And secondly, if the movie does go through, obviously I’m the only director that I will allow on the project, and you are the only cinematographer that I will allow on this project. What’s your feeling on, first of the movie and then us being part of the movie?
– [Boris] Well here is the thing, the movie itself and I always say that this is still one of the best scripts I read.
– [Interviewer] The movie, Jimmy’s movie.
– [Boris] Jimmy’s movie.
– [Interviewer] Right, sure.
– [Boris] Jimmy’s movie the script itself–
– [Interviewer] Was great, it was great.
– [Boris] It was great.
– [Interviewer] It was a good script.
– [Boris] If we made it, had we made it–
– [Interviewer] It could have done something.
– [Boris] It could have done something. I think it had a potential, really.
– [Interviewer] Yeah, agreed.
– [Boris] The story was interesting, and it’s very colorful, and the characters are colorful and setting is colorful–
– [Interviewer] And it was a unique take on it.
– [Boris] It’s really very you know, yes it is kind of like, yet another mafia movie, but with a little bit more personal family kind of–
– [Interviewer] Yeah, yeah.
– [Boris] You know, I could see that what would set this film apart from anything else. Our film, making of that film would be something that, well you remember I kept telling you during the pre-production. The worst thing that we are missing here that we don’t have surveillance cameras broadcasting 24 hours what’s happening in production. And that could have been the best film ever made about making of of the movie that was never made. But we didn’t think about it, we just joked about it, but now in hindsight when we think about it. Like, wow I wish we had a camera. Wouldn’t it be so great to have cameras and get all these precious moments recorded. So if this movie ever gets made, making of the movie, I think it could be so interesting. Because I remember back maybe around the same time there was a movie called Room about crazy film-maker who coincidentally couple friends of mine worked on. When they told me what was experienced working on this film The Room, which is probably as crazy as it can get. I go no, no way. I ended up seeing movie The Room actually a couple of times, actually I went to the screening. And it was the craziest and most ridiculous thing I’d ever seen, but it became a cult. It had a following, it still has a following. Midnight screenings, there’s a whole. And then somebody heard about it, and they made movie Disaster Artist, about making a movie. About how they made a movie The Room with the crazy guy who was a director, producer, everything. And it was successful, it was really successful. So for a lot of people who have not even seen the movie through, it was just enough to see the movie about making it, to make it really great film. So I feel the same way about this film. That if we would make it one day, well that would be fantastic to relive it this time forever.
– [Interviewer] But the question I have, ’cause I always tell people this. That you know, I always used to critique Jimmy and you did too, that this movie, he was an ego-maniacal maniac because he was making a movie about, he was producing a movie about his own life. And I had never really seen a producer produce a film about their own life. Generally speaking, it’s not something that’s done. But then of course, I would take it to the next level where that I would not only produce, I would direct and write a movie about my life. Have me in the scenes, and then you would be there next to me. So then now, how surreal and meta would it be that I would be directing a scene with you and me as the characters, and then you would be there, where the actor playing you, which would obviously Sacha Baron Cohen.
– [Boris] There is the, yes absolutely, I think that will be so unique and I don’t think this was ever done in history of cinema. So there is a point that we have to break new ground here. That’s really what it is. And as far as Sacha Baron Cohen well, you know I have to think about. I have to look at the resumes and– Do the screen test. I mean a cinematographer in this particular story is such a crucial part. It’s almost as equally important as a dir, maybe even more important than director.
– [Interviewer] I would disagree, but go ahead.
– [Boris] So we have to really think about complexity of the character, and how it is possible to bring all these nuances.
– [Interviewer] Oh my god.
– [Boris] I mean, Boris is very complex guy.
– [Interviewer] Aw, Jesus.
– [Boris] And it has to communicate his historic background, his education, his cultural heritage, aside from his artistic skill. And whole philosophy, when it comes down to telling the story visually. So yeah I agree, maybe Sacha Baron Cohen would be as close as we can get to get the character of Boris, me, as really true to the way.
– [Interviewer] I’m rethinking the whole Boris character in general. We might have to tone it down a little bit. You might just have one or two scenes, sir.
– [Boris] I would not tone it down I think the film–
– [Interviewer] You should be on the poster, you should make it on the poster.
– [Boris] Boris should be on the poster because he’s such a crucial part of the story.
– [Interviewer] Without question. I think it would obviously be a very unique experience. I can’t even think about making a movie like this without you, so it just has to happen. I mean I can’t have another cinematographer do this. It’d have to be you. Um, Frank is no longer with us, he has since passed. But I would have loved to have Frank on this project as well. But I mean having you would be there, would be so surreal, I think we might break the space-time continuum.
– [Boris] I have a feeling the right way to do this would be to go back to the original location, to the crime scene. And go to the same race track, get back to the same production office as we had there. I would make cappuccino, and start production there. Which would also serve as location for the movie. And I think also really I think everybody who participated in the original movie would be great, so bring them all back.
– [Interviewer] Wouldn’t that be amazing?
– [Boris] That would be really fantastic. By now I’m sure many of them have very good, successful careers, so might be bad measure stepping down but it doesn’t matter. They can still be BA back then like how we had it. So I think that would be really a right way to do this. Question is, how ’bout Jimmy?
– [Interviewer] That was the question. What do you think Jimmy is going to do when he sees, ’cause this will eventually get to him.
– [Boris] Well I’m, it’s hard to predict. As we know, Jimmy’s very hard to predict type of guy. He might have his own idea. And I think the biggest problem, the biggest issue he would have is that he would be taken out of equation in whole process. So he would not like that. On other hand, including him in whatever capacity, even just to play himself, who knows? That might open whole possibility. But I don’t think that I wanna happen.
– [Interviewer] No it will not happen, not on my set sir. I am sorry,that will not happen. We are not casting Jimmy to play Jimmy.
– [Boris] But we can bring him as a consultant. I think he likes to consult.
– [Interviewer] Absolutely not, I don’t want him. There’s no consulting, there’s nothing I want Jimmy to do on this film, nothing whatsoever.
– [Boris] So–
– [Interviewer] If anything, we might be able to give him a ticket to the premiere.
– [Boris] I think we will need to have beefed up security for anything else on the production.
– [Interviewer] Oh that I guarantee you are gonna have beef up, and you and I will have personal body guards walking around with us at all times.
– [Boris] Of course, I would not be operating any other way.
– [Interviewer] But in all honesty though, what do you think Jimmy will do when he sees this?
– [Boris] I think, here’s the thing. He would of course, be very happy because he is important part of the story. So for him it will stroke his ego really nicely. And immortalize him as Jimmy forever. And that’s something I’m sure he would love. Thing that he would not love, well it will not be film that he wanted to make about himself. It’s about us, it’s about the process. Where he’s just important part, but not the key player you know, of the story. So marginalizing Jimmy as a character in all this story structure would be something he would not be happy about.
– [Interviewer] Oh I mean he won’t be the star but he is the main protagonist. Excuse me, the antagonist.
– [Boris] He is already called, also staring Kirk, you know like that, starring Boris and–
– [Interviewer] No okay Boris is not top billing.
– [Boris] No okay, so.
– [Interviewer] Can I have top billing Boris, please?
– [Boris] Okay you can get the main–
– [Interviewer] Okay fine, fair enough
– [Boris]you know like, Jimmy and the rest, Jimmy and the driver.
– [Interviewer] Right. And you think that he, that would be the problem he has.
– [Boris] I think that the way to find out really is to make it as soon as possible and see what really reaction would be.
– [Interviewer] Well he’s gonna hear of the book before the movie gets made, that’s no question. The book will get out before the movie gets made.
– [Boris] Right.
– [Interviewer] I mean, no question.
– [Boris] Yes.
– [Interviewer] ‘Cause we are recording this prior to the release of the book. You know, we haven’t spoke, maybe we’ll do another one where we speak after the book has been released. Maybe after it gets a little pressed, we’ll see what happens. But right now this is being recorded before the book is released. So we have no idea what will happen to the book. What will go on, we have no idea. So this is a very interesting place to be.
– [Boris] Oh yes, definitely interesting place to be and I’m very happy to be in this place. And people will read on real Boris, but–
– [Interviewer] I think that they will, I think the real Boris will step out of the shadows one day.
– [Boris] I hope I will be proud one day to bring the key light on me and finally release, relief, release the idea of the true Boris.
– [Interviewer] And one last question. Or two last questions, they kind of are similar. What did you feel when you first read the book, the whole thing from cover to cover when you first read it. What was the first thing that came to you?
– [Boris] It was all like, to me reading the book was like closure, closure as much for you. Was also closure in a way for me because I remember you more before. That when I made a phone call and told you hey, I just heard Jimmy on the radio. I cannot believe this guy’s still around and still doing the same thing. Something needs to be done about it. And I told you hey, write the book, and you did it. Because I knew that you needed to get it out of your system. That’s important, there was something that was always like, we would always over the years reference it, make joke, always crack the jokes, kind of revisit the moments. But I knew that there was far more to the story than what you and I went through and you and I joked about. So for me finally when I read the book, I got the whole picture like, okay that’s what it’s about. And I knew that was a chapter that you needed to close for your own sanity, for your own sake of mind. And it’s also I think it was good place to go to revisit where you started and where you are right now. To kind of do some kind of validation of your own personal existence, your personal life. So to me that was the thing. I love the book very much from the beginning when I started reading, especially chapter about Boris. That was really very, very inspirational. But for me it was really, like I read it in one, you know like in one continuous chunk of time. That’s how I think compelling read. I mean I was part of it and I could relate to many characters and many events. But as a journey, the book takes people, it takes reader on. Even if it’s whole completely fictional, I think it’s just fine, and it’s great. The world to be immersed in, even for a brief point in time.
– [Interviewer] And when you held the book in your hand. I just did that recently, I gave you a full book, ’cause you read the digital version. When you saw it with the cover and everything, what did you feel?
– [Boris] Well, you know. Book is a document, and it’s a real. And I hope this book is gonna stay in somewhere in some archives in Library of Commerce, or whoever’s gonna keep this book for generations and generations. So for me it was a real final closure. For you, for us, for anybody who was part of this. It was like okay, this thing is now real and now this thing is gonna go out there and become part of lives of many, many people out there. So now you have the real thing in your hand, and that to me was like a great moment of accomplishment.
– [Interviewer] Boris thank you so much for the inspiration to write the book. For the nudging that you’ve been giving me for the last 20 years Every time you tell me to do something it takes me a little bit to get around. You told me to move to LA, it took me about six, seven years to do that. And you pushed me for 17 years or so to write this book, or to tell the story, but I finally got it done. So I wanna thank you so much from the bottom of my heart that you did that and for everything you did while I was going through the most difficult time of my entire life.
– [Boris] Well, thank you for taking me along on the journey and I’m very happy that I can push you in the right direction, and that when you listen to me you have always results is something that you appreciate, and makes me feel good too. So that means I’m not as crazy as I might be. But as we say back in old country, paceba and thank you and I hope to see you again with something exciting.
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