fbpx

IFH 600: How to Direct Nail-Biting Action Films with Con Air’s Simon West

Share:

NEW 2021 PODCAST COVER 400x400

Top Apple Filmmaking Podcast

12+ Million Downloads

We made it to 600 Episodes! Thank you all for the support over the years. Here’s to 600 more! Today’s guest is action director Simon West.

Simon West is a British film director and producer. His films include “CON AIR” starring Nicholas Cage, “THE GENERAL’S DAUGHTER” starring John Travolta and “LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER” starring Angelina Jolie. West is the only live action director ever whose first three 3 films all grossed over $100m at the US box office. West also served as an executive producer on the Oscar nominated “BLACK HAWK DOWN”.

His television company has produced 6 TV pilots for US TV including acclaimed series such as Fox’s “KEEN EDDIE”, the CBS series “CLOSE TO HOME”, Fox’s “HUMAN TARGET” and the NBC series “THE CAPE”.

West directed the action packed remake of “THE MECHANIC” starring Jason Statham and Ben Foster and “THE EXPENDABLES 2” starring almost every action star in the movie world. This film grossed over $300m in worldwide box office.

West’s film titled “SKYFIRE” was one of the largest films ever made in China and opened number one at the box office there in 2019. His latest film “LEGEND HUNTERS” will be released in May 2021. Recently, West served as a judge for the 2019 Beijing International Film Festival and was a guest speaker at the 22nd Shanghai International Film Festival to advise the Chinese film industry on standardization.

West is currently in post-production on “Boundless – Sin Limites”, which marks the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the globe by Ferdinand Magellan and Juan Sebastian Elcano. The Amazon project was shot in Spain and The Dominican Republic.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Simon West 0:00
Because all those incredible things you do, you're so busy stressing at the time and trying to do it. Sometimes it's hard to step back and go, Wow, what we're doing is really cool here. And this is, so I think there's try and enjoy it along the way.

Alex Ferrari 0:14
Today's show is sponsored by Enigma Elements. As filmmakers, we're always looking for ways to level up production value of our projects, and speed up our workflow. This is why I created Enigma Elements. Your one stop shop for film grains, color grading luts vintage analog textures like VHS and CRT images, smoke fog, textures, DaVinci, resolve presets, and much more. After working as an editor, colorist post and VFX supervisor for almost 30 years, I know what film creatives need to level up their projects, check out and enigmaelements.com and use the coupon code IFH10. To get 10% off your order. I'll be adding new elements all the time. Again, that's enigmaelements.com. I'd like to welcome to the show Simon West, how you doing?

Simon West 1:08
I'm very well how are you?

Alex Ferrari 1:10
I'm doing great, my friend. Thank you so much for coming on the show. As I was telling you earlier, I've been a huge fan of your work from the beginning of your feature world. And I actually see some of your music videos and commercials as well growing up. But, you know, there's very few action directors to do action like you do. So I'm excited to get into the weeds of your journey and of your process. So first question, my friend I have to ask you is why in God's green earth did you want to get into this insanity that is called the film industry?

Simon West 1:43
Well, I never really had any other idea of anything else I wanted to do. And you know, from about 12 years old, it was quite serious. But I have to say, I was really fascinated by film from like three or four years old, because my dad had an old Super Eight, camera and projector and it's one of my earliest memories of him putting the screen up in our kitchen and projecting, you know, home movies, and just the fascination of seeing the moving image on this screen in a dark room. You know, with them, the dust melting on the bulb and the smell of it and the smell of the screen and I still have that screen. And every time I open it, it's the same old smell takes me back to like being you know, four years old and seeing the whole movies. And so it stuck with me. So when I hit 12, and I was sort of, you know, could do something about it, I got you know, paper around and saved up my money and bought a little Super Eight film camera. And then it was all about saving up money for the film stock. Because in those days, you know, one roll of film, that was two and a half minutes long cost about the same as two music albums. So it was really expensive. So I never had a music collection growing up because all my friends you know, would have albums and collect vinyl. And I never did because every penny I'd saved went on movie film, you know, to make my little films and so I still don't really have a musical action. I mean, I've just about started to do, you know, Spotify, playlists and everything. But I've never owned physically a music collection. And I guess nobody does know everything is virtual. So but yeah, so as is one of my earliest memories. It's the only thing I ever wanted to do. I sort of started earnestly making stuff at 12. And then when I got to 16, I joined a I heard about a film club in the next city to me, which was Oxford. And they had 16 millimeter film equipment. And they were mostly, you know, graduates or postgraduates. And, you know, I went along as this sort of gawky, 16 year old kid, and they told me to use the 60 mil equipment. And so I started just shooting that myself and I went out on the streets of London and into the, you know, the subway and shot things down there. And I started shooting musicians who just played on the street, you know, busking for money, and I sort of combined music and film quite early on in that way. And then I was sort of interested in the musicians, but I was also interested in the way music played with film and it was always very, you know, evocative to me. So even though I never had a musical action, I always associated, you know, music and film the imagery together, and I managed the 18th to talk my way into the BBC, in their film department, and at that time, they weren't really there was one film school in in England, the National Film School and it was really hard to get into you had to be a graduate or postgraduate or you had to have been a journalist or you had to go on on a expedition through the jungle you had to offer them something quite accept shouldn't have to get in. And they only took 25 people a year, you know, which was a tiny amount. So there's, I didn't think there was any chance of getting into that. But luckily, the BBC took a, you know, there was one guy that I think that sort of saw a bit of himself in me that was a sort of precocious film, brat who knew everything about fit or thought they knew everything about film. And I certainly knew a lot technically, about how it worked. And, you know, I could talk endlessly about film. And, you know, I've been watching Truffaut films on, you know, my little black and white portable in my bedroom from you know, 12 years old. So I knew about, you know, different sorts of cinema out there and American cinema, French cinema, English cinema, and, but I also knew technically how to do it. So they kind of, you know, one of the questions was like, we don't usually take people your age, you know, you have to usually be in your 20s, at least to get in mid 20s. I said, Well, what are you going to do, if you don't get in, I said, Well, I'll just apply again, I'll just keep applying until you let me in. So they just obviously didn't want to be stalked, or 10 years. So they let me in and they train me. So I got this training by the BBC, in every department that was great at that time, they taught you film editing, photography, and everything about the lenses, everything about the lighting, how the sound was recorded, how the sounds mixed, everything technically, and then they send you to every department. So I started in documentaries, then I went to drama, and then arts documentaries, and news and current affairs, and they just rotate you around. And then when you find an area that you'd like, you can, you know, apply to stay there. And I ended up in drama, obviously, because that's what I wanted to do. And I worked with some great directors under them. But when I was there was like Mike Lee was, was there at the time, and in the film, who does very improvised drama. So I kind of, you know, tapped into that and realized how you can work with actors to get so much out of an actor. Rather than just sitting in your room, you know, bashing out the script yourself, if you actually get a group of actors together, you're going to come up with something really cool. So he told me a lot of that. And then also, there was the traditional BBC dramas, which you know, Sherlock Holmes, or Pride and Prejudice, or, you know, anything to do with Dickens or Emma, you know, Emily Bronte, or that sort of costume drama, which are very traditional. And then on the other hand, this sort of improvised drama, from Mike Lee, and, but also, I learned a lot from working in documentaries, and new current affairs, because documentaries taught me to make a story out of what you actually ended up with, not what you hope to get. Because often any sort of you plan a movie or film and, and you've, it's going to be perfect, and you're going to get all these great sequences, but what you actually end up with is sort of if you're lucky, it's you know, 50% of what you set out to get, and then you've got to make the best story you can out of what you actually ended up with. And documentaries is like that you turn up, you shoot, whatever happens. And then you look at this pile of stuff, and you go, okay, how can we make a story out of this material. So I use that a lot in my filmmaking, you know, that that sense of, don't, don't stress too much about what you were hoping to get. Just try and make the best of what you did actually get in some of it's better than you planned, you know. And then the other thing I did was, was in current affairs, I mean, I worked on a news program called news night, which is still running, that went out at 11 o'clock at night, and you'd sit around all morning, waiting for stories to come in. And then the afternoon, the story would come in, and you'd be editing all afternoon. And then you'd still be mixing the sound and everything as the show started. So quite often, you know, you were running down the corridor with the film on your arm as the anchor was announcing the film, and they were throwing on the machine and pressing go and it just made it and that taught me not to panic. Because, again, when you're shooting, things go wrong, you know, and some sometimes you're under a huge stress. I've been in situations with gigantic stunts. You know, some pretty famous ones on you know, in films like Khan era and everything where I've had 200 stuntman, a full size aeroplane, a full size building, it's supposed to collapse, and it's all supposed to happen in one go, I've had 17 cameras running, and it's something has gone wrong, and you just can't panic and you can't, you know, crumble and yeah, that sort of broadcast news, as it were, that I worked on taught me how to you know, how to how to keep a steady head in the situation like that.

Alex Ferrari 9:59
So it's so it's fascinating hearing your story is that you, it looks like you went through almost a bootcamp early on very early on and covered almost every aspect of the tool sets, you picked up so many tools that you put in your toolbox, that your directors toolbox, by the time you started to actually direct, you would have been doing it in a sense for a long time, the skills like the broadcast news, which, which doesn't specifically, you know, translate to cinema, but yes, it does translate the cinema. So it kind of you were kind of being groomed, you know, by the universe, if you will, to, to do the kind of films that you are doing have been doing throughout your career.

Simon West 10:42
Yeah, you know, I was very lucky in that sense that I did end up. And it wasn't just then it was later when I went through music videos for a little bit, and then commercials, particularly, which then gave me another set of skill sets and experience and it's flying hours, you know, there's that old adage, you know, to be an expert, you have to do something for 10,000 hours. And so if you can arrive on set, you know, with 1020 30 50,000 hours of flying time, you're going to be in a much better position. I mean, I started in editing, which is particularly lucky, because that is definitely a great learning for directors, how to construct the story, and how what you actually need and how you can cheat and how you can, you know, give yourself some slack and not have to shoot every single thing you think you need. Because, you know, in editing, you can, you can help. And so editing was definitely a great start. And then, you know, when I went, as I said those, those various, you know, BBC situations, was that one set of experience, but then when I went into commercials, you know, that's working at a very high level, all over the world. So I'd be up a mountain, you know, one day, then I'd be underwater the next I'd be, you know, hanging out of a helicopter or racing cars or, and then I sort of move towards, I guess what it was I particularly look, how do I get into feature films it's like, so I looked for role models. And so in England, all the big directors went through commercials. So as Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, who has an Adrienne line, Alan Parker, all these guys who ended up making films in in England, and then Hollywood, had gone through commercials. And so I deliberately targeted commercials, because it was a very high end kind of training. And in, especially in England, a very kind of big budget glossy, very well made often better made than the shows in between them, you know, and that's, you know, TV was very cheap and cheerful in those days in the UK, but the commercials were very high end. You know, it's caught up. Now, of course, you know, TV is as good as movies, if not better sometimes. But so I targeted those type of people and that type of thing. So I ended up making a test commercial I shot, I deliberately shot a music video for a band, and I put in, I put in a little story in it. So I had to do the typical playing the instruments, and I was never, you know, a big music video director was really, you know, a way of paying the bills while I got into commercials, and then and then into movies. But so I deliberately made this little story in the in the music video. And then after I'd done that, I took it out, and I cut it down into a test commercial. And I had this, you know, test commercial that I sort of took with me when I got on the plane to the states. And the company I was working with in London had a la office and they said, Do you want to try and work out to the LA office because there was no work in the UK that time was absolutely dead. So I went over with sort of $400 in my pocket and this fake commercial and started you know, touting it round, and it sort of started to get interest. And by sheer coincidence, it was sort of comedic. It was a funny, it was a fake comedy beer commercial. And so then I started just getting offered comedy, which was very convenient, in a way because it was it was the commercials that had actors dialogue. It wasn't just cars driving through pretty forest amount into models on the beach. It was you know, it was a little story in itself so I could attract his my, my art and so I just started doing comedy commercials and they got you know, bigger and bigger and then ended up sort of doing Super Bowl commercials for you know, the Budweiser is. So like Budweiser frogs and then the Pepsi commercials and they started to get a lot more attention and you know, this was You know, the big budget, you know, there was spending about as much as in an independent little independent film on these 32nd commercials. So again, you know, I got used to having the big toys as it were, but it still wasn't a movie, you know, it's still only 30 seconds, it's still not a movie. So I'm still desperate and hungry to get into the, you know, legitimate filmmaking. And, of course, with the with the high profile Superbowl commercials, I started getting calls in the studios. And so, I got the call from Columbia offering me a romantic comedy, because they obviously thought, Oh, well, he does comedy. So we'll do that. And then I got a spy thriller from a UK company. And then I got the call from Jerry Bruckheimer, who said, you know, I've seen your commercials are really impressed and come in for a meeting. And let's, you know, talk about possibly making a film together. And so, of course, I, you know, rushed into that and had the big meeting with Jerry, you know, on the giant desk, you know, and that, you know, in some ways, the rest is history, but it was, it was a, you know, it was an awesome meeting. And I had to, he basically had a wall of scripts behind, it was in the days when scripts are printed on paper, and every producer would have a stack of them in their office with the titles. But Jerry didn't have just a pile, he had a wall of them, you know, there's probably a couple of 1000 scripts, and he turned around, he pulled three off which it looked like it was random, but I'm sure he knew exactly which one. And he threw them across the desk and said, Look, read those this weekend, and tell me which one of the one you want to make as a movie. And two of them were they were all action films, basically. Because that's what Jerry did. You know, he did, he did those seven films, two of them are pretty straight forward, you know, felt, you know, a bit cliched kind of action moves. But the third one was, was a film called Khan air. And I read this and it was quite a small film, it was like a character driven film, but the characters were so good. And even the names of the characters were cool, like Sally can't dance and Cyrus the virus and you know, that it just hooked me right, just for reading that I would have done it just for the name of the characters basically. And so I went back and I turned down the romantic comedy, I turned down the spy thriller, and I said to Jerry, out of these three I want to make on air. And he said, Well, it's, you know, it's very small film. And we need a summer blockbuster. So you got to go away, and turn this small character film, because we've written by Scott Rosenberg, who did, you know, things to do in Denver, when you're dead and beautiful girls, which are fantastic, but very small, you know, beautifully made, you know, character based films. And this was the same thing. And Jerry wanted a summer blockbuster. So I had to go away and sort of invent all these big events and sort of blow them up and make them you know, larger than life. And just, every couple of weeks, I'd go in, he said, Yeah, we've got to make it bigger, make it bigger. And so I just, you know, had a field day, just going in and sort of say, okay, how can we make this thing even bigger and more ridiculous than it was before? And, and that's, that's what you ended up with? That's why kinda looks like that.

Alex Ferrari 18:23
No, it's fascinating on air is one of those films that it's just one of those movies that sticks, it sticks with you for I mean, especially with that generation, when it came out. I saw it in the theater and, and it's, it's, you know, it's built a life up on its own over the years. And, you know, there's, there's so many legendary stories I hear, I heard, I heard Danny Trejo, I was watching a duck, recent documentary with him. And there was a story of him being on set with Con Air. And there was, obviously a lot of testosterone on that set. A lot of testosterone and all the actors are trying to, you know, I'm super tough, and I'm super tough, and I'm super tough. And Danny was quiet in the corner. And Nicolas Cage came up to the group because it was all of them sitting around trying to one up each other and how tough they are, and how scary they were in real life. And Nicolas Cage came up with this, the only one I'm scared of, is Danny, and Danny hadn't said a word. And it is like, what I do what I do, because it was that look that he had.

Simon West 19:25
But ironically, Danny was like the sweetest of the whole group to deal with, you know, it was like an inverse proportion. The tougher you were the nicer you were, you know, and it was, it was it was all the guys had never been near a prison. Were the ones that were or even a fight for that matter. Yeah, I mean anything but you know, but you can imagine Yes, there were 400 men in the desert for like three months. And I think there were like, at that time, there was only two women on the crew and it you know, so it did go a bit crazy because Have you get full 100 guys in the desert? Nothing to do in the sun beating down on you? Everyone did go a little bit Apocalypse Now.

Alex Ferrari 20:07
And now how did you how and how do you, you know, on a film like that, you know, it's your first big Hollywood production. You're working with Jerry Bruckheimer. This is your dream shot. So I'm assuming there's some pressure on you. Yeah, you've got, you've got 50,000 hours, you got 50,000 hours of airtime? There's no question. But you're at the show. This is the show at this point in your career. And if this fails, yeah, it's over. It's over?

Simon West 20:30
Absolutely. Well, I mean, I, I had done 50,000 hours, but short hops, you know, local local flights that were, you know, the longest shoot I'd been doing was, you know, two days, three days. This was 100 day shoot. And so by day, 30, I was, you know, down and out, I'd hit the wall, I was like, 30 days, because it was a giant production. And, you know, I was naive, I went in thinking, Oh, this is this is completely doable. And it was around day 30, that I just went, I don't sure if I can make it to the end. But you know, after a while, you sort of buckled down and it becomes a day job. And you and you start to think this is this will never end anyway, I'm just going to do this every day for the rest of my life, it's so long, there's so much work to do that, it's very odd when it finishes, because you you suddenly takes you by surprise. But yeah, there was a lot of pressure, I didn't realize that, because I was naive to you know, move, you know, the Hollywood films that they have, the studio has a list of your replacements already drawn up before, when you start filming. So if in the first two weeks, you completely screw it up, they already know who they're going to go to replace you with? Really, yeah. Afterwards, but, you know, I would be, I would have felt even more pressure than that. But I mean, you know, they, they protect you from that. So they don't want to, you know, completely crush you. So, you know, but it was tough getting people to take you seriously with the first film of that size. Because some crew members I had worked with, in commercials, you know, so they knew that I sort of knew what I was doing. But a lot of them, you know, was like, Who is this guy, they've given this massive film to on the first thing. So a lot of people I did have to, you know, come up against and go, you know, well, this is what's happening. And, you know, this is my first film, but you have, you basically have to follow the orders, because they've given me this responsibility. And we are doing this. And so let's say you know, 50% of people were very supportive. And then 50%, were a little tougher.

Alex Ferrari 22:34
Really, and that's, and that's something that a lot of directors don't understand when they first get on set is that when you know, I remember being the youngest guy on set as a director, and you know, the DP is 20 years older than me or the grips, or 20 years older than me or the production. And then they all have this experience. And they test you and they and a lot of them. They just feel like, oh, this kid doesn't deserve this shot, things like that. So I can only imagine at your level, the kind of I mean, this was a lottery ticket, someone literally handed you Jerry Lee handed you a lottery ticket. And I'm sure you had to deal with it. How do you overcome those egos on set those, that kind of those kind of barriers when you're working with crew members, maybe even keys, you know, like your DP or like your productions or, you know, keys who are fighting against your vision as a director, how do you handle that?

Simon West 23:26
Well, luckily, I mean, I didn't have that situation, because I, you know, I brought my own DP, my own production designer. And so my core crew were people I knew and trusted and supported me. And it was, it's more the peripherals that were, you know, you'd come up against, but all I could do was do a professional job and also don't, don't have any ego because, you know, I think that's what gets people's backup as if they sense that what you're doing or what your your decisions are based on ego rather than what's best for the film. Basically, everybody there is a passionate filmmaker, and wants the best film possible. And, you know, that's why people go into the film business is because they're really interested in it. And I was I loved the idea when I did a big complicated crane shot, you know, and it took a while to get that I'd run over to the monitor to see how it went. But and I'd look around and there'd be 20 people looking over my shoulder because you know, the grips wanted to see if they did a good job the camera focus wanted to see if he did a good job and and everybody you know, actors came in to see what they done. So everybody basically wants to do a really good job. So if if they sense that you're the same, and you're just there to make the best film, then they forget whether you've done five films or no films and and it's only if it's if a director brings his ego on set and is trying to demand respect through you know, position or you know, and it's just flexing muscles and usually Uh, you know, it's a, it's a cover for insecurity, I think, you know, they, they're panicking and they don't know what they're doing. And it comes out as ego. And it's the same with difficult actors. Usually, I found that actors are that are really talented. And luckily, you know, I came in at a very high level. So I'm dealing with, you know, people that have won Oscars, and I've got 30 years of experience, and I've done and these people are very talented and operating a very high level in their field. And when people are good at something, they're usually very secure in it. And, and so they're not, you know, they don't, they're not difficult, it's, it's usually when someone's very insecure, and what they do and think they're faking it, or they think they're not very good that they end up being a problem, because they're sort of diverting attention from what they think is their failings. So I haven't, you know, out a problem like that with, with all those big guys, you know, whether it's Nick Cage, or John Malkovich, or John tussock, all those guys didn't have a problem at all, because they were very good at what they did. And so they were very comfortable in playing in that world. And also, we created a really, you know, it was a fun, it was a fun film to make, because, you know, you get to see those great lines. And all these actors, which basically independent film, they, you know, they're used to doing costume dramas, or little Indies in motel rooms. And suddenly, they're on this giant film set. And Malkovich has got a pump action shotgun in his hand, and is shouting, you know, crazy lines. And they're having the time of their life. So why would you be and also they're being paid four times more than they've ever been paid. Because, you know, Jerry's got the massive checkbook. So that's how I ended up with such a great cast is because Jerry just said, just pick all your favorite actors. And when you've got that huge, you know, big brother of him and the studio behind you, you can, no one can say no, really, because it's a really fun, you know, enterprise, it's great script. And they're being paid handsomely, that everybody is there, you know, for a very good reason. They're having a really good time. So, it wasn't as bad as people think. Like, suddenly you've got 20 big actors, they're all going to be complete pain in the ass. You know, occasionally one person has a bad day or something, I'm sure, like we all do. But generally speaking, you know that everyone was enjoying it. And you know, I mean, it's the waiting around. To be honest, the work is never the problem. Set up the way sometimes, that's when people get oh, do I have to wait another, you know, for this lighting or this set or the stump to be set up? The actual acting they love to do so as long as you can give them a thing to do. They're, they're happy.

Alex Ferrari 27:39
So I have to ask you, there's one scene this gun in Canada that I there's many but there's one that I really have to ask you. This is a stunt. And I think I know it's practical. But I have to ask how the hell you did it? Which is the plane dragging the Corvette in the air and smashing into the tower? Yes, well that was that's practical right.

Simon West 28:27
Yes, it mostly because the thing is that, you know, kinda remember when it was made, there was CG around but it was very expensive. And it was a you know, it was it was only Jurassic Park or and people that could afford it. And, or to make it look good. And I was always, you know, a devotee of doing it for real and in front of the camera and seeing it. And so there's almost no CGI in a con. It's all done in front of the camera, the full scale. Well, we did do quite old school miniatures. So yeah, a lot of fun. So, you know, we did we flew a real plane over Vegas with smoke pouring out the back of it. And there were endless phone calls to the police of people saying there's a plane crashing over Vegas. And it's, you know, smoke pouring out of it. So, you know, we did things like that for real. And then we actually did for the you know, hitting the hard rock that was a massive model. So it was beautiful scale model that was probably 30 feet across this plane into a you know, 3050 foot version of the hard rock guitar. And we built the whole Vegas strip in miniature on Van Nuys Airport. So, you know, we had all the buildings with miniature neons and they're all about you know, 12 feet high. And we had radio controlled cars going up and down the strip and then fine Oh, I mean, it was absolute, you know, right for for, you know, kid in the sandbox kind of feel And then a lot of Israel, we had a plane that actually drove down Vegas Strip, it had a bus in it, they gutted out a real plane, put a bus in it, and they could actually drive it down the Vegas Strip without any wings on it and hit cars and things like that. And then the final one, the final one was another play, we had about three real planes. And the final one was the one that crashed into the Sands Hotel, which, you know, it's kind of a well known story, but Sands was going to be blown up. And, you know, I originally was going to, I wanted to hit the casino opposite the one with the volcano. And because I wanted, because it had a big lake, and I wanted to crash the plane into the lake, I had, and then it go underwater, I had a whole underwater sequence worked out, and then it would hit the volcano and the volcano would explode. And it was all going to happen. And then Steve Wynn who, who ran that, that hotel showed me around, and I saw how the volcano worked. And I show how the water pumps work. So every aspect of we planted all that. And then he said, Just send me the script, you know, and for the final sign off, so I sent him the script, and then I get a call back saying, Oh, we you can't crash into our, you know, this script is to, you know, don't we're a family organization, because at that time, Vegas was trying to portray itself as you know, as a family resort. And so they didn't, you know, with a bunch of criminals crashing into the thing was not what their image wanted to be at that time. So sorry, but you know, you could go and do it's bad for image. So suddenly, I had no location, but then I was reading the LA Times on a Sunday, and I saw they were blowing up the Sands Hotel. And in a few weeks, so call them up. Last night, I said, Look, can you delay blowing up the hotel for a couple of weeks while we build a whole set in front of it and put a huge plane on a ram and send it into into your casino and they agreed. So you know, there was a mad rush to build this rig wear for size plane was rushed down a ramp into the Sands Hotel. And as we were building it, they were slowly nibbling away at the back of the casino, knocking more and more of it down until it was just you know, the front part left. And we finally got it done in time. And it was a one shot. That was one of those classic Hollywood, you know, I couldn't shoot it in parts like you would normally do with an action film, because it was one plane and it was one casino. And once that plane was moving, there was nothing going to stop it. So that's when I had the 17 cameras, all hidden in bushes and inside the plane and inside the casino. And, you know, we and, you know, the night came and they closed off the strip and 5000 people lined up to watch it. And they pressed the button. You know, as the sun was coming up, and this thing went down the this 50 ton plane went down the ramp and the cable that was pulling it snapped at the last minute. And it just stopped on the edge of the ramp on the ramp and it was teetering. And if it went over, it would smash itself to bits and that we couldn't even those that buy another aeroplane, certainly not in that time or anything. But luckily it just sort of stopped and teetered on the edge and didn't go over. So we had to sort of D rig D ring all the cameras and come back the next night and set it all up again. And but you know most of those things were done in camera that the the Corvette hitting the everything in that sequence is real. Apart from the the wide shot of it being dragged through the air, because that was kind of aerodynamically impossible, it would have just hung down. And I was wondering about that probably crashed the plane or something. So that's the only CG shot in the whole thing. Everything else is either real, you know, full size real or miniatures.

Alex Ferrari 34:01
That's insane. That's absolutely insane. So I have to ask you, I mean, as directors, you know, we always there's always that one day on set, that the entire world is coming crashing down around us. And we feel like we're never gonna make it. It sounds like every day was like that for you on Khan air or in many of your movies. Is there any any day that stood out its situation where you're like, Oh my God, I don't think we're gonna make it through this day. And what was that thing? And how did you get over and it could be on Connor or any of your films.

Simon West 34:29
Yeah. Well, I mean, apart from that one thing that it was, was probably I guess it was, I mean, it did happen a lot. You know, because we were doing complicated, fiddly stuff that was in camera. We couldn't fix it with CGI or painting out I think it had to work. And then there was another incident I'm gonna guess which was the fire truck sequence at the end. There was supposed to be in Vegas, but I think Vegas was so sick of us by that time because we were moving from street to street and blowing stuff up and crashing and they said, Look, you know, they, they sort of stopped us giving us permits, basically. And so we had to sort of scuttle back to LA. And, and I had to sort of do the sequences, firetruck scenes where you had to hide that it wasn't Vegas, and I couldn't, as I said, Now, you would just paint a CGI city behind it. So I thought, how can I hide that I'm in LA. So I thought, well, we'll do it in the tunnel. So I went to the like the third or fourth Street Tunnel, which number is but in downtown LA. And of course, there's no tunnel in Vegas at that time. But you know, we've we fudge that we say, Okay, this is this is a tunnel. And, and so we'll have the fire truck, you know, race through this. And then in the city said, Okay, you can have from 10pm to midnight? Because, in fact no, I think it was it was 5pm to 10pm because of the noise and all that something. And so it's basically at five hours to shoot this one big stunt which was basically diamond dog on the motorbike getting dragged into the that was standing on the back of firetruck, and Nick cages on a police motorbike, and he writes into the back of the fire truck jumps on the fire truck, and the motorbike explodes on the back of the fire truck taking out being Rames as diamond dog. And it was all set up. And and the idea was that by this time, we were sort of down from the usual 17 cameras only had seven cameras for this get to the end of the shoot and you're starting to run out of money and and it's slightly smaller stuff. But it still was a one off thing. And it was the fire truck going into the tunnel, the the motorbike being dragged into the back of it on a rig and then the explosion happening and had seven cameras set up. And of course the cameras get set up, you know, nice and quickly. They're all in position. But the rig the complicated rig to do this, we can't start rigging until five o'clock. So and we have to be off the street by 10. So the special effects guys are building the rig they're putting the cables in, they're putting the explosions in the explosives in there. They're rigging the bike, they're rigging the fire truck, the stunt men are practicing and and it's going it's going five o'clock, six o'clock, seven o'clock, eight o'clock, nine o'clock, and we've got to be off by 10 Every hour, I'm going to the especially Are you ready? Are you ready? And there's nearly nearly really, and I swear to God, no kidding. Five to 10. And we're supposed to be off at 10. He said, Okay, we're ready. And, but and so then all hell breaks loose. So the camera guys are all over by the coffee truck. Because they've been standing there, you know, for you know, four and a half hours doing nothing. So they're all eating, you know, doughnuts and coffee, they're not next to their cameras. And the guy, that guy the stunt guy in the fire truck has fallen asleep. Because you know, he's been sitting in that truck waiting to go for five hours. And so the ad the first assistant director picks up the radio and says down the radio because we got five minutes to do this to the radio to the guy, the standby shouts on the radio, are you ready to go. And the stung Oh hit all he hears is go. He waited up, pushed his foot on the accelerator and heads off down. And this thing is all automatic. So once that fire trucks rolling, it's also dragging the motorbike that is rigged to explode when it hits that there's no stopping it once it's going. So the so I rush over to the monitors and shout to the camera guys, you know, it's rolling as running, you know, go go go. So they all start running from dropping their coffee cups everywhere running to the cameras. And out of the seven cam out the seven cameras.

Some of them, like one gets an operator gets there but no focus puller, then another one gets the operator and a focus puller. Then there's three cameras that are rigged on the actual truck and the motorbike that are all rigged to one button and an assistant runs over presses that button. And those three cameras go so I go okay, I've got three automatic cameras. I can see those running on my monitor. I've got one camera on a crane. There's that slightly out of focus because there's no camera. There's no focus pull on that one. And I've got another guy that has a operator and a focus. So I've got, I've got as for good angles, this is going to be Oh, I'm supposed to have seven but I'll settle for four. And this thing is racing down the road. And that that moment the first assistant runs down the road, trying to stop the firetruck go stop, stop, stop. So there's the assistant camera on the three cameras that were on one button hears the word stop and presses the stop button on the three cameras. So I went for Four and a half cameras to now I'm down to one and a half cameras running. And just as he does that, it happens the the motorbike hits the fire truck explodes, boom, I've got I've got one shot, and and one slightly out of focus shot. And that's what's in the movie. You know, that's what you have to do you have to go,

Alex Ferrari 40:21
You gotta roll, you gotta roll with it. It's so it I love hearing stories like this, because so many, you know, so many young filmmakers coming up, they just like think, oh, you know, it's Hollywood, there's a big budget movie, everything's running like a well oiled machine. Shit happens at every level all the time, because filmmaking is one of the most complicated situations.

Simon West 40:44
And everything you do is the first time it's been done in that particular configuration. Yeah, we've all done stunts and shots a bit like that. But it's never been done on that street with that amount of equipment, isn't that right? And so it's a sort of handmade, everything's handmade each time? You know, and, you know, and it's, it's difficult. It's so it goes wrong, you know.

Alex Ferrari 41:06
So let me ask you, you've I mean, you've directed so many amazing action movies and action sequences throughout your career. What makes a good action sequence? Like when you're conceding the the construction of an action sequence? What is what are some key things that you constantly are looking for when you're building it?

Simon West 41:26
Well, yeah, I get asked that a lot by, you know, young filmmakers coming up and want to know, because they watch a lot of action films now. And it's hard to dice, you know, discern what is better about some than others, in some ways? Or, you know, is it the bigger explosion is it the, you know, the, you know, the more hits in the fight, but to me, I was telling you that basically, with an actress he was you got to tell a story. That is that's within its the works within itself. So, you have a whole film that you, you're telling your story, you're beginning, your milling, middle and your end, but you should do that with every action sequences, as well. So make sure the audience understands what's supposed to happen in the action sequence, because I think sometimes, we will think just like, if we shake the camera a lot, if we have a lot of chaos, and it just goes on and on and it's really loud, then that will be satisfying. And that, to me is not a satisfying action sequence, you want to have a lot of cause and effect, because you're going to understand, like, your hero needs to get from here to there. And these are the obstacles in the way. And, you know, this is the first obstacle that hits him, you know, have you shot this in a way that your audience understands what that obstacle is? And then he is clever, or physically, you know, has enough prowess to get past that obstacle. But there's another one coming in at the end, you know, do you have three to five depending you know, what kind of sequences but that to me the clever, the clever, those obstacles and the clever the way that he overcomes them, the more satisfying it is, but you got to understand it as the thing you've got, the audience has to understand, oh, he, he was victorious in that moment. But okay, but he's not going to be in this because I can see why this is difficult. And, you know, I think one of the good ones I think, I would say for students to watch is, is Terminator two. There's some great, great constructive, because, you know, James Cameron is like me is a bit nerdy on the technical stuff and likes, you know, likes how the physics works of an action sequence and how the practical sides like what would happen if a if a truck flipped on its side like this? How far would it slide? If it slid? And then it it one end of it hits something? How would it spin? And how would you know, what's a cool way to get out of the way of that thing spinning? And so you, you can, if you're a bit nerdy about physics, action sequences are great, because they're all about cause and effect. And you have the sort of emotional journey of how does the hero overcome it, but you can also have, for me, it's more like, you know, the mechanics as well as the MacGyver of it, you know, it's like, set up a problem, how do you fix it? But I think, you know, if you watch something like, you know, the sequences in Terminator two, that's a really good lesson, and you understand every single thing that happens in it, nothing's too, you know, obscure or too fast, or you don't understand what happened or it happens for no reason, just like there's an arbitrary, something arbitrarily explodes for no reason. There's something only explodes if explains how that thing, you know, fired into it, and why did it catch fire? And then when it caught fire, what did it then do? So to me, if you took out an action sequence, that of an action film, you should be able to understand everything that goes on in it, and it could it could play as a short film, you know, you should be able to take the action sequence and go, Oh, here's my, here's my two minutes short film. And, you know, what do you think of the story and you should understand it.

Alex Ferrari 44:52
Now, you also worked on another another film called Expendables. To which man when I I heard you were on board for the sequels like this make this makes sense. This makes sense. Because no slide did the first one. And, you know, and I mean, so there's just a lot a legend and you know, as a writer, as a director, I mean, he's Yeah, he's a walking legend. How was it? I went, this is the thought that went through my head when I heard you were on and I'm like, Okay, this makes sense. They need someone like Simon to deal with the testosterone that's on that set. It didn't. I mean, you're talking about Vaughn, Dom and Lungren and Stuart Snagger, and Willis and in state and all these guys, how did you approach directing? That kind of, I mean, some of those guys are absolutely legends. And some of them are just just really big action heroes. How did you approach because it's just seems like so massive, and an undertaking just dealing with that. And then also trying to tell the story, and also trying to one up the action of the first one, and so on and so forth.

Simon West 45:55
Yeah, well, I mean, the first thing was sort of, you know, getting past the sly of it all. Because, because I, you know, I, I met sly, you know, and had, you know, had lunch with them. And I said, Look, you know, are you okay, with me taking over this, because, obviously, you know, what you're doing, you know, and, but I think the first one nearly killed him. So, you know, when he, you know, if you're writing it, directing it, starring in it, and, you know, it's just a lot to do. And, you know, and he's throwing himself at it. I think he just didn't want to go through that again. And he said, No, no, you know, it's your film, you do what you want. And he, you know, so he said, I'm just an actor on this. And so, you know, and I said, Look, I don't want to screw up your franchise, you know, I don't want to, you know, you set it up the first one, and I come in, and, you know, put it, you know, in the trash can. So, you know, it's probably more pressure, then, you know, a normal studio hire, because, you know, the guy that started it is on the on set every day, but he was really supportive, you know, and he would come on set and go, Wow, this is great, this is the set, this is better than the first one is this. And I think he was so relieved not to have to solve all the problems and not have to, you know, do the hours, and he enjoyed being an actor on it, you know, and so he gave a very relaxed to the funny performance because he was in enjoying it. And, and I think we know, in terms of all the others, you know, there's definitely a pyramid on set with sly at the top of it. So, you know, I used that sort of the slight, you know, power to it. So it was never a problem. Because if sly was happy, everyone was happy, because, you know, they all look up to him. He is the Godfather, you know, of that world. And so he got, he gets a lot of respect for them. And so they, they were as good as gold. They were, they were like, very well behaved. And because because it's like,

Alex Ferrari 47:48
slap, slap, slap, slap, em around.

Simon West 47:52
They never had to but, you know, the, the inference was, you know, if anybody stepped out of line, they weren't gonna get the slice slap, but you know, and then you're gonna have you know, Rambo, you know, screaming in your face. And, you know, all these other characters, Rocky, Rocky, yeah, you want me? Do you want Rocky and Rambo shouting at you and your face? So no, they weren't, they were good. And also, they were, you know, like, a lot of like, like music bands that, you know, bands that were big in the 80s and 90s, they were coming back touring. And now they're happy to be back, because they probably didn't enjoy it as much as they should have the first time around, because they're so busy trying to be successful and trying to deal with a new, what's it like being a movie star and all that stuff, that they get a second chance to come back, and they're gonna really enjoy it and appreciate it, because they went through all that once. But the fact to be able to do it again, you know, not many people get to do that in their, you know, later years, the thing that was they did in their youth that was there, you know, define them. So, they I think, you know, they were having, you know, a really good time just to be doing it again. And so it was it was fun for them.

Alex Ferrari 48:59
So yeah, so you'd ever had an issue because I mean, I've heard of other directors who work on sets with directors who they're directing. And just as alone, let alone the person created everything around it, and also a legend and also all this other stuff. So it sounds like you've never had any slight slight was just like I don't want to deal with it. Just I just want to do what I do. And you have fun. And as long as I'm good.

Simon West 49:23
And hopefully hopefully it was I was doing a good job. And that was mainly hopefully it was he was, you know, why he was you know, kind and respectful was because he could see that it was going well. I mean, I think if I'd been like, you know you're up, I would have heard about it very quickly. But yeah, and and also I have found I've directed a few directors and producers in the past and I found actually, they're actually very easy because they know the pain you're going through. They're empathetic. They go like You know, I'm not gonna give this guy a hard time because I, I know what it's like when an actor gives you a hard time. And I know he's got 50 Other things on his brain this morning, and he's got, you know, budget problems. And he's got, he hasn't slept for two months. And so I've found people that have been behind the camera actually treating much better than people who have no idea and I've done it the same myself when I've gotten in front of the camera for like little cameos or something for other people's films or mine, and I'm, and I've looked at the camera, and I've looked at the lights, and I go, Oh, my God, how did these actors do it? This is really hard. Oh, you know, and we get, you get, you know, suddenly you you cut them a lot more slack because you realize how confusing it is to be on the other side of the camera staring at 200 People in lights and you know, and you have no idea who's standing behind you or next year or it's very confusing. So I think it goes both ways. But I actually, I direct in generals daughter, John Frankenheimer. And, you know who was a hero of mine. And he, it was by sheer chance that he when I was shooting, that film on the Paramount lot. We were doing a night, we built a giant tank, that the Paramount lock their whole parking lot is a tank. So what they do is they everyone did not park there anymore. And they have a skydrop ride and you can actually flood the whole parking lot. And we were a night shoots. We built a giant tent over the parking lot and put our, you know, Savannah set in this swamp that we built in there. And John Travolta is in there having a big fight, you know, and doing water work. And because it was everybody that visited the Paramount lot for a couple of weeks, they see this giant black tent where they used to park. So all they would do they would come up to 10. And they poked their heads through to see what was going on. So every day, there would be different people poking and you know, like Robert De Niro's head pokes through, then, you know, like, all you know, famous actors, producers, everybody wants to know what the hell's going on in this black 10. So we've got, I wish I'd taken a camera, you know, set up a time lapse of everybody's coming through this hole. And anyway, one day was John Frankenheimer, and he knew most neufeldt The producer, so he came in and had a chat. And I was looking at him and he was and we were at I needed this one part that was a, a Jet A senior general in the army, but it was only at one scene, it was only you know, one and a half page scene, but the guy had to appear very important and a lot of weight and, and it's the sort of thing you do want to call in a favor. You know, if your powers with Robert De Niro Al Pacino, you go, like, can you come and do me a favor and do one scene because I need your gravitas. And but I was looking at John Frank and I'm and this statuesque guy was like six foot five or something. And he was very authoritative. And he's one of those old school Hollywood directors a huge shelter and a big, you know, guy, and he's done all these amazing films. And I thought, Well, I wonder if he would do it. And so I asked him, and he said, Yeah, he, you know, he hasn't really done any acting or much acting, I don't think but he agreed to do it. And he, he came on set. And he got in the uniform and you know, had the hair and makeup done. He said, you know, how do you want to shoot this this page and a half of dialogue, this long speech? And I said, I really want to just do all in one shot. So no cut. And he said, What? No cutting? Oh my god, you know, I've got to learn the whole thing. City. Yeah, if you don't mind, I don't really want to cut, you know, it's really important to be like one shot and said, Oh, my God, I gotta go and learn this. And I said to him, I said, Look, I you know, I hope you You okay with me directing you because, you know, this is only my second. Yeah. And you've you know, we're winning Oscars before I was born. And, you know, so. And he said, No, no, no, it's his greatest, you know, it's your film is your film. And, and again, on the set as I was directing, when I said, I said, Look, I hope you don't mind me saying, but could you just, you know, move over here and do this? He said, Yes, yes, yes, no problem. And he said, Gosh, it's really weird. He said, you know, all I want to do is please you, I've never been in that position before, you know, because he's a huge director that everybody wants to please Him. And he'd never been in the position where he wanted to please someone else. So it was really sweet. And, you know, great performance as well. Great.

Alex Ferrari 54:10
That's, that's remarkable. Is there anything that you wish someone would have told you at the beginning of your career that could have helped you? You know, that that one little bit of information like, oh, man, I wish I would have known this?

Simon West 54:22
Um, you know, I mean, it's no secret, you know, magic. I think it's, it's like with all, you know, exciting worlds, whether you're, you know, a rock star or a secret agent, or, you know, making movies as I think, is to try and appreciate it at the time, because all those incredible things you do, you're so busy stressing at the time and trying to do it. Sometimes it's hard to step back and go, Wow, what we're doing is really cool here and this is so I think there's to try and enjoy it along the way. Because you're so busy being hard on yourself. And I didn't know maybe maybe that's not possible, maybe everything would turn out terrible if you did relax and try and enjoy it. But that's what I would have told myself is, you know, you it's probably going to be okay. So why not relax a bit and enjoy it rather than, you know, beating yourself up and you got to work harder and harder. And you know, and it's, but I haven't, you know, you can't do the experiment the other way and go back and say, like, if you did just kick back a bit and enjoy it, would it? Would everything have turned out the same way? I don't know.

Alex Ferrari 55:29
Well, that's it. I mean, you were saying that with, you know, like Schwarzenegger and Willis and all these kinds of Chuck Norris and all these kind of guys that came back on, on Expendables to where they just, they probably had a ball, because they weren't probably not stressed. I'm like, I'm not the star of this lies dealing with that. I'm just here to have a good time and shoot some things, say some cool lines and hang out with my friends, you know, smoke some cigars?

Simon West 55:51
Yeah. And I mean, I have to say, I enjoy directing much more now than I did when I started. Because, because I do, you know, you have less to prove, I suppose that as you go on, right. And, and also, it's like, you've been through all those sticky situations, and you usually get out of it somehow. And so there's, you get a lot more confidence with age and experience. And so I definitely enjoy it now. Rather, before it was like, a task that had to be achieved and to win the fight and get it done. Now you I can actually enjoy the process. And, you know, so, you know, it comes with experience and doing it and you know, for a while, I suppose?

Alex Ferrari 56:31
Well, I mean, you've got more than 50,000 hours now, I think?

Simon West 56:36
The trick is not that, you know, not to fall out of love with it. I do know some people that, you know, fallen out of love with it, and really miserable, you know, and miserable to be around on the set, because they don't like it anymore. And but you know, they're sort of wedded to it. But I think if you don't like it anymore, you should definitely stop doing it. But because you're making everybody's life misery. But I you know, I definitely like it more more I do it. So it's you know, and I've been to

Alex Ferrari 57:04
And it shows, it shows in your work that you you know, the movies that you've stayed consistent, since Con Air. I mean, you've been working every you know, you pop out your your output is, is pretty good. It's not like you do one movie, you're not a Kubrick, you don't do one movie every eight or nine years. I mean, you're you're constantly working, whether in television, or in this, you're always working. So that's you can tell that you love what you're doing.

Simon West 57:27
Yeah, well, that would be really frustrating. I mean, I'm a huge Kubrick fan. And but it would be really frustrating for me to know that I was only going to do a film once every 5 6 7 8 years, that would be you know, heartbreaking, because there's only so many films you can make in a lifetime. And, you know, sometimes obviously, you know, some are better than others, because whatever reason, but you learn something on every one. And, you know, I think making any film is better than staying at home.

Alex Ferrari 57:58
You know, you're absolutely right. Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions to ask all of my guests I'm in what advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Simon West 58:07
Don't turn any opportunity down, you know, don't be too like, I have to make this kind of film I have to because I you know, I as I said, I went through all these different types of filmmaking from current affairs, two documentaries, that drama to you know, everything. Music videos, commercials, and I would say, just try and shoot as much as you can on anything, whether it's on your iPhone, or, you know, with friends on and any opportunity, a friend says, oh, you know, I want to be an actor. And but I need someone to shoot me doing something, go and do it don't go out. He's not very good. Or, you know, I haven't got time or I'd rather do that. Any opportunity do it because any connection you make with someone else who's also in that world, can leapfrog to another connection. And every anything you shoot gives you a little bit more experience. And a little bit more like Oh, I know, you know, like, I really want to do sci fi. Well, I want to do a sci fi I'm gonna shoot and then someone says, can you come and shoot this little comedy short film for me and you shoot the comedy you're actually I really enjoyed that comedy. Maybe I'll maybe I'll do some comedy. So I would just say shoot as much and as often as you can and don't be too precious don't sit around for the perfect situation. And you know and and working on films in any way you can I mean, I you know worked in props and art department and sound and camera systems on other people's films for a day here a day there. And it's kind of fun. You get to learn other people's jobs you meet other people and and work for free. So they'll have you you know, so they'll have you back or you know, they'll there's a reason to hire you is because you're free. And just work as much as you can and take every opportunity shoot anything you can.

Alex Ferrari 59:53
What is the lesson that what what did you learn from your biggest failure?

Simon West 59:58
What I guess what I learned And is no failure is total, you know, what I mean? Is that is that every every disappointment or failure, if you want to call it can be corrected to a certain extent in some way. I mean, that's the beautiful thing about filmmaking like a sequence, you know, one angle doesn't work you cut to another angle, one, you know, an actor doesn't isn't great, you know, in a performance, you can make the performance better through editing. If there's, there's always always I don't think any failure is total. And also, you know, there's a whole theory that, you know, you obviously, you don't learn anything until you fail at something, you know, and so you shouldn't look at the any kind of failure as a failure. It's more like a, you know, a learning experience. But also, none of that item for me, I don't know, it's lucky or whatever, but I never treat any failure as a total failure, it's always can be, you know, dragged back into be a 10% failure, rather than 100% failure, because you can, you can do something to fix most things, you know, situations from

Alex Ferrari 1:01:07
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Simon West 1:01:12
I think he's pacing himself, he's like, not rushing. You know, the hardest thing in filmmaking and people don't realize, is time management, because you can make a fantastic film with unlimited time. And it's time, it's not even resources. I mean, if you've got a camera, that's basically what you need in a way of recording the sound. But if you had unlimited time, you can make the world's greatest film, if you've got the talent, but you know, every film you're on is a time pressure, it's like you're constantly doing a deal with yourself, if I if I take longer on the scene, I gotta take time off that scene. If I you know, if I rush to this scene, it's not going to be makes sense for the story. So I got to allocate my time in every minute of a film, you know, a professional film is accounted for, you know, you're supposed to do a certain amount of work per day, you know, per hour. And you have to stick to that plan. And that scheduling, that's very hard in an artistic endeavor to be so dictated to by time management. And that's the, that's the hardest thing is this is to get, okay, the discipline of saying, I've got it as good as enough, because I've got to get on and get all these other things. When really, you know, it's very rare that a director is in a position where he just can keep going, keep going, keep going until he absolutely satisfied because that's not a real world situation. And you know, that that's hard, but I mean, yeah, but the opposite is like, don't be panicking about time on Sunday. So I would, is, I think I've learned those not to rush and take time, because, you know, you can make a bad decision. If you rush. If you just take a couple more beads, you can make a better decision. And but it's it's that balance of don't rush, but you're still going to hit those time. deadlines.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:03
So you've never heard the term you've never heard the sentence ever uttered to you, Simon, all you have is time and money. How fun?

Simon West 1:03:10
Yeah, that would be. I mean, yeah, but I, you know, I have I do have questions, you know, like that. But do you? So you know, when they're scheduling with a sailor, well, how long would it take you to shoot the scene? And I go, Well, how long will you give me? Because I could shoot it in two minutes, the length of the dialogue, I could spend two weeks shooting the most incredible version of this scene with, you know, every conceivable angle and like beautiful lighting and tech and waiting for the sun to be in the right spot. I mean, how much will you give me I just need as much time as you're willing to give me you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:03:40
And I'll make it work with what you got to a certain extent. And last question, three of your favorite terms of all time?

Simon West 1:03:49
Oh, well, I mean, I there's so many I hate that question. Because it's three is hard to pin down. But I mean, I do love, you know, films that I grew up with and films at different times of my life. So, you know, sort of in my sort of teens there's a film called Withnail and I, with Richard II grant and Paul McGann it's a small comedy about to struggling actors in England and not many people in America know it because when I do mention it, people go on I haven't seen that. But in in the UK, it's a kind of a cult. You know, I've been on I've been on sets in UK and the camera crew will recite lines from the film to you because it's a cult. So but yeah, so I try encourage all Americans to see this film because it seems to be very well known in England but not in the States but school with nail and I and then films you know, at different stages in my life. And these are not necessarily you know, great classics. I mean, I love all the big classics, you know the David Lean movies and everything like that, but you know, everybody does but films that meant a lot to me. You know, a different parts of my life were things like you know, when I was very young, we'd be Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Bang. The fantasy of that to me as a you know, magical, magical a six or seven year old with me of that would have thought that was the most magical thing ever. And that would that was the sort of thing would get me into filmmaking is the fantasy because to me filmmaking is taking it to another world. And I, you know, because I have to confess I don't make very realistic films. They are, you know, they are quite fantasy and larger than life and operatic because I kind of want to be taken to another place I you know, I don't necessarily, I mean, I, you know, I watch other people's very, you know, great realistic films and love them, but my world is a bit more ridiculous in a way. But, you know, so and then, you know, and then that was, you know, my five or six year old, me getting into film. And then the 12 13 year old me was a film called swauk Melody, another English film that was written by Alan Parker and directed by walrus Hussain, produced by David Puttnam. And it's a it's a net gain. It's a small film set in a school in London in a kind of a rough part of London. And, and it's all sort of actors, there were 11 and 12. And it was just my life, you know, so it's the first time I went to the movies, and didn't see James Bond, you know, jumping off a cliff for, you know, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs doing something, you know, this was my life, it was kids at school, but very realistically shot and they're getting up to all sorts of mischief. And they're really, you know, rude to adults. And they're kind of like, but it's very sweet. And so this is the sweetest soundtrack by the BGS, which is not the strongest point, not the strongest point, but the PG is less than every PG, so great. Yeah, they're great. You know, Saturday Night Fever and all that stuff. Yes, but not in this world. But the rest of the film is great. So I'd have to say like three films, they're not, you know, as I said, the big epics, but they meant something to me at different ages. My life, you know, and so that's where they were importantly, so when I say favorite, I'm not gonna go now I'm talking about I'm gonna watch them again now. Because

Alex Ferrari 1:07:09
I mean, you go, I mean, as you were talking, I'm like, what was the film, like, when I was coming up, like 8 9 10 years old, and the obvious one, Star Wars, et all those kinds of things. But there's something like Never Ending Story by Wolf. But Wolfgang, you look at that, and you're like, at that moment. You know, that was a very powerful movie. You know, to me and those kinds of things. It's, you know, I've heard I've heard the greatest, you know, some people like, Oh, I'd loved under the dragon. And I'm like, I loved under the dragon too. But is that on your top three is like it is it meant a lot to me when I saw it when I was 12, things like that. So it doesn't all have to be godfather.

Simon West 1:07:45
Exactly. I mean, I've watched Godfather, you know, how many 1000s I got it on every format ever made, you know, and I still watch it on TV with the commercials when it comes on, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:07:56
Because we're ridiculous. Why do we do that when we could literally just get up, grab our blu ray. And that's happened to me multiple times. And I'm like, why am I just too lazy to get.

Simon West 1:08:08
But it's such a good film. You don't want to waste that 30 seconds of it. So those those epics are fantastic. But I think a film that means something to and also that probably led, you know, people like you and me into the business. You know, it needs even more because it's, you know, it's what we ended up doing. So,

Alex Ferrari 1:08:27
Simon, it has been an absolute pleasure and honor talking to you, my friend. I know I can talk to you for at least another five or six hours. But I appreciate your time. And thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your knowledge and your experiences with the tribe today and continued success my friend. I can't wait to see your next one. So thank you so much my friend.

Simon West 1:08:45
You're welcome. Lovely to talk to you.

LINKS

SPONSORS

  1. Need Distribution for Your Film? – Check This Out!
  2. Bulletproof Script Coverage– Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
  3. Enigma Elements – Cinematic Tools & Assets for Serious Filmmakers
  4. Audible – Get a Free Filmmaking or Screenwriting Audiobook

Share:

FEATURED EPISODES

Where Hollywood Comes to Talk

Oliver Stone

Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
(Platoon, Wall Street, JFK)

Edward Burns

Writer/Director/Actor
(Brothers McMullin, She's the One)

Richard Linklater

Oscar® Nominated Writer/Director
(Boyhood, School of Rock)

HIGHLIGHT GUESTS SML - BILLY CRYSTAL

Emmy® Winning Writer/Director/Actor
(City Slickers, Analyze This)

JOE CARNAHAN

Writer/Director
(Smokin' Aces, The Grey, Narc)

HIGHLIGHT GUESTS SML - ALBERT HUGHES
Eric Roth

Writer/Director
(Menace II Society, Book of Eli)

Oscar® Winning Screenwriter/Producer
(Forrest Gump, Dune)

HIGHLIGHT GUESTS SML - EDWARD ZWICK
HIGHLIGHT GUESTS SML - EDGAR WRIGHT

Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
(Last Samurai, Blood Diamond)

Writer/Director
(Shaun of the Dead, Baby Driver)

Free Training of The Week

FREE LOWER - GIL

How to Direct Big Action Sequences on a Micro-Budget

By Gil Bettman

Join veteran director Gil Bettman as he shares the secrets to directing big budget action on a micro budget.