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IFH 577: Directing & Showrunning Halo with Steven Kane

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Steven Kane is an American television and theater writer, producer and director.

Personal Life: Steve Kane was born in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where he graduated from Cherry Hill High School West as a proud member of the 1985 and 1986 New Jersey Knowledge Bowl Championship Teams. His rock band, Next Century, almost came in third in back to back “Battle of the Bands” contests (Kane played key-tar) but he did manage to win consecutive “Best Director” awards in the school’s annual One Act Play festival. He also had a girlfriend.

Flush with these early successes, Kane went on to major in English and French at the University of Pennsylvania before attending graduate film school at the University of Southern California. His USC Masters Thesis, a short film entitled Heroic Symphony, garnered awards at film festivals around the country. He had several girlfriends during this time.

Career: Kane got his start in the entertainment industry writing and directing independent film and theater. His first feature film, The Doghouse, won Best Director at the NY Indy Film Festival. His collection of One Act plays, Out of Your Mind, had a successful run in Los Angeles at the GuerriLA Theater.

His television credits as a writer and producer include The Closer (for which he received an Edgar Nomination), Major Crimes, Alias, NCIS, and Without a Trace, as well as comedies American Dad and Curb Your Enthusiasm. From 2012-2018, he served as Creator, Executive Producer, and show runner of TNT’s The Last Ship, a post-apocalyptic drama based on William Brinkley’s novel of the same name.

In 2019, it was announced that Steven would join the HALO series at Showtime as Showrunner, Head Writer, and Executive Producer.

Dramatizing an epic 26th-century conflict between humanity and an alien threat known as the Covenant, Halo the series will weave deeply drawn personal stories with action, adventure and a richly imagined vision of the future. In a war for humanity’s very survival, our deadliest weapon is our greatest hope.

See Master Chief, Cortana, the Covenant, and the other Spartans of Silver Team more in this epic trailer for the new Paramount+ Original Series, Halo. Find the Halo, win the war. Stream the premiere of the new original series Halo on Thursday, Mar. 24, exclusively on Paramount+.

In its adaptation for Paramount+, HALO will take place in the universe that first came to be in 2001 with the launch of Xbox®’s first “Halo” game. Dramatizing an epic 26th-century conflict between humanity and an alien threat known as the Covenant, HALO the series will weave deeply drawn personal stories with action, adventure and a richly imagined vision of the future.

The series stars Pablo Schreiber (the Master Chief, Spartan John-117), Natascha McElhone (Dr. Halsey), Jen Taylor (Cortana), Bokeem Woodbine (Soren-066), Shabana Azmi (Admiral Margaret Parangosky), Natasha Culzac (Riz-028), Olive Gray (Miranda Keyes), Yerin Ha (Kwan Ha Boo), Bentley Kalu (Vannak-134), Kate Kennedy (Kai-125), Charlie Murphy (Makee) and Danny Sapani (Captain Jacob Keyes).

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Alex Ferrari 0:52
I'd like to welcome to the show, Steve Kane, how you doin' Steve?

Steven Kane 4:01
Im doing great. Thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 4:02
Thanks for coming on the show man. I'm excited to get in the weeds with you about your process and that new little show you you the new show little thing that you put up to.

Steven Kane 4:12
It's a little indie thing I've been working on

Alex Ferrari 4:15
Little indie thing I think called Hey, hey, hey, Halo. Hey, something.Wow, look, it's looking nice for you know for an indie production. That's not bad for.

Steven Kane 4:25
No, you do a little this but some big

Alex Ferrari 4:29
Is that 3d printed? That's nice.

Steven Kane 4:30
Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 4:34
You've had a very career. Let's go back to the beginning. And how did you get started? And why did you get started in this insanity?

Steven Kane 4:40
Well, it's funny. I'm from New Jersey and southern New Jersey suburbs. And I think like most kids, you know, we get into movies. The love affair starts early, right? So I just love going to the movies as a kid I go to truck character just drop me off at the mall and I'll just go and see any movie that was playing. Come in the middle of the movie and Then stay for the changeover and watch the beginning of it. You know, I've watched them over and over again. And I, you know, had many similarities, some moments where I just look at the light coming through the window and think, how's that magic happening? What does it mean when someone says written by you know, it just didn't make sense to me. So you know, as I got older, I got more interested in it. I just started watching everything I could VHS is were becoming a thing on the on that old where they became a thing. There was a library and watch movies and I watched like the Michael York Three Musketeers movie over and over again. And I discovered the godfather. I remember the first time I saw that, Michael shooting the sellouts in the restaurant, I was, you know, 13 or something watching at home, by myself, you know, after school. And I wish I could have that experience again, for the first time seeing it because that, you know, that's that moment. And jumping ahead. When I was in film school. I remember Walter merch was going to come talk to us about film design editing down. And I said I want to ask him about that shooting scene because there's this great elevated train sound that just fills the soundtrack, even though you'd never see the train. And the first thing he said when he came in was I want to talk about a thing I call Michael screen. And he said that train was the sound of Michael soul screaming out, you know. So anyway, my love film started early. And then I had a great teacher in high school who was an English teacher, but also taught them appreciation. So you know, we're reading James Joyce and third period, and then watching the Strada or landmark ordinance shame and fifth period. So, you know, I made little films with my friends, you know, on Super Eight cameras, video cameras, that I went to college and just studied literature, and French, but I knew I was always going to go into movies. So after college, I went to film school at USC. And I got three years just to live and breathe movies. And while I was there, I did like an internship at the Cannes Film Festival, met all these amazing people that Robert Altman, you know, I think I said, Nice to meet you. He said, Get out of my way. But nonetheless, I met him

Alex Ferrari 7:03
Wasn't a deep conversation.

Steven Kane 7:05
We didn't talk cinema like, that doesn't mean I'm not still borrowing from him every time every chance I get. And then I met Oliver Stone, I met his assistant and I got a chance to be his intern during Natural Born Killers. Again, I think it was more impactful in my life that it wasn't his. But you know, again, just as a kid, you grew up watching his movies, and then you get to work with these guys and more around these people, you know, and then I got to be on sets and studio lots and meet real working filmmakers and just get that, that thrill of being part of the process of filmmaking. I got I got I made a student film and you know,

Alex Ferrari 7:44
And the rest is and the rest is history, as they say, yeah, yeah, no, I have to ask you man, What was it like being on set of Natural Born Killers man? Like, you know, that's what, honestly, it's one of my favorite stone films. And yeah, you know, when you know that we had him on the show, and, and I had the pleasure of talking to him. And but I remember I was in film school, when Natural Born Killers have come out. And I had the sound designer, came to talk to the whole school. And they showed us the first 10 minutes of natural born killer. Yeah, before anybody else had seen it. And we were just like, Oba like the whole, like, the diner scene where the finger falls off. And it's like the dropping and, and I was just like, so what was it like, you know, being a, you know,

Steven Kane 8:28
Well, I have to say, I wasn't ever on set. I was there during the prep, which is actually to me, the more exciting because I you know, I drive around Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey Jr. and, you know, take him to the done Ranger, they didn't have to use the weapons met, they'll die and those guys, but also, you know, he would be working on a research so he would send the intern out to get things. So, literally, he was watching Clockwork Orange over and over again. I was reading certain books, I was like, they're just delivering those kinds of things in watching, trying to get a sense of how his mind worked as he built the thing. I was able to be around as they were rehearsing, you know, again, I'm like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, I'm sort of on the edges of what's really happening. But, you know, now when I have interns and assistants and stuff, I always try to include them as much as I can say know how exciting it is to learn. Sure, and to sort of take away some of the mystery of it and let them see out. It's actually just people working very hard. And for all of all of us, you know, reputation. As you know, it's an ad genius. He worked really hard. Everything was built from the ground up. And so it was fascinating that, you know, collating the scripts and see the revisions coming in. So yeah, just just amazing. I've been very fortunate because I've ended up working for some big name directors, first as an intern then as a partner. You know, I made the student film, SD, which was sort of my homage to the male maj to the godfather. It was the Godfather Stryver basically is like a 20 minute version, you know, a knife And that little storyline about this young kid low level hood, he thinks he can make his bones you know by and achieve his life dreams by whacking that rival my mod mob boss for his bosses. And he gets everything he wants, and it destroys, you know, and it's all set at Symphony. So it's got this great music playing. And it's just like, all my influences were coming into one place. And then James Cameron saw the film, but his people didn't showed it to him. And he took me under his wing for a short time, we talked about making my short into a feature, but ended up doing something else altogether. back about John sales is writing a script for him, he hired me and a friend of mine to write a movie for him. I was like 26 years old, he sent me to Moscow for a month to do research on the Russian mafia. And this was like, the time when Yeltsin was in power, the Russia was the wild, wild East was opening up to all kinds of crime that was the formation of the oligarchs, and that whole thing, and I just was there for all of it, you know, in Moscow for a month. And while he was making Titanic, I was reading the movie, Titanic, sort of his little indie film, so it took off as well. So the film that we got made, but it was it was exciting. And then, you know, I wrote a bunch of more feature scripts that got bought, but didn't get made, which is sort of par for the course. And as a person who actually likes to make films, it was very frustrating for me. So that's when I actually friend of mine said, you should try TV because you write something and they actually put it on the air and not that long. They shoot it not that long after you read it. And so that's when I made my switch and haven't looked back. But again, even in that regard, I've worked with Michael Bay on a show where he was good, we're going to show so all my heroes are the people whose work I just admire, I get to sort of be around them still, which is great. And, and now, TV so cinematic, that I'm still making movies, you know.

Alex Ferrari 11:42
So I have to ask you, what was it like working with James? I mean, that must have been a James during Titanic.

Steven Kane 11:50
Yeah. So I was 26, his, one of his people saw my film invited me into Lightstorm at Santa Monica is company. I'm waiting. I have a friend waiting in the car. I think I'm just dropping off with VHS. But suddenly, he comes out to talk to me. And he's like, loved your movie. And I'm like, I like your movies, too. Yeah. And you said, What do you want to do next? They said, Well, you know, my mind, I had a 10 year plan when I was 15, or 16. You know, I'll go to film school and make a film. And then I'll get to be a director. I guess that's how it works. Right? wasn't quite that way. But you're I was at the end of that 10 years and lived in Cameron. And, you know, he, he said that they would, I'll give you an office here. And at the time, I was working with a friend of mine writing stuff. So we brought us both in and we had an office on the second floor, surrounded by Titanic, stuff like a scale model of a ship, maybe 15 feet long, with little penlight cameras that you can put into, you know, so looks like you're actually in a doll's house in a room, and pictures of you know, of the era and wardrobe. And so I was around as he was writing the script as he was casting Leo DiCaprio. You know, it was amazing. But as far as my interaction, you know, I pitched him stuff. And he was what was great about working with him. Even working with bae, like, these people, they really work well with writers, they, they respect what you're doing, and they want to help you achieve that. So no, I didn't get a lot of cameras time. But what I got was valuable and supportive. And that's bold, try that some more. That's great idea. It was it was like being in a writers room. You know, it didn't feel like I was talking to executives, or, you know, it was just filmmaker to filmmaker. But you know, with this great disparity at the time, of course, and ended up working on it for a year, I went to Russia and learned some Russian, again, these things happen to some doesn't get made, but they will experience and you know, he his watching his cuts, watching his works to having studied his work, and then being around him. He I took him with me, just like I took a little bit of all the stone with me, I take these mentors in these lessons with me as I do my own work. So you know, you'd be amazed or maybe you wouldn't be when you're on the staff of Halo or last ship or anything they've done. You know, the directors come in and you're like, you know, this is reach out the Kubrick did or this is really cool shot that so and so does let's copy that. Let's make this find our own way. So you know, it's it's an ongoing process of learning and being inspired. And I just don't get such a kick out of it. thrill.

Alex Ferrari 14:11
I mean, you mean you have probably one of the most interesting beginning stories of like, oh, yeah, so I was hanging out with stone and I was interning this and working with Spielberg and work. That's a pretty, that's a great start to a career.

Steven Kane 14:25
And the guy understood it at the time. Because

Alex Ferrari 14:29
You're probably like, oh, this happens to everybody. Right, everyone?

Steven Kane 14:31
Well, yeah, I mean, I remember being in someone's office and thinking you got a nice office, not really realizing I was talking to the head of the studio, you know, like I just, I, I sort of just thought this is how it's supposed to be and then I hit obviously rough patches and patches where you can't get arrested, you know. But yeah, I think you know, people I get all kinds of younger people now asking for advice, and I'm just like, just don't give up, you know, and always stay enthusiastic and just knock it down. Just get up again and keep trying and so yeah, I mean, it's that It isn't like I've gone from success to success. But these are the highlights of things that I experienced, you know. So as I said, when younger people come in, if I can give them a chance to have any kind of eye into what's going on, you know, at the higher levels and inspire them, that's, you know, paying it forward.

Alex Ferrari 15:28
Now, what was the biggest lesson you took away from working with all these giants in the business was like there was that one thing that you like? This is a common thing I see with all of these great filmmakers.

Steven Kane 15:41
Yeah, you know, it's actually a lesson I keep trying to teach myself because I'm naturally very affable, collaborative person. And I think it's worked well for me. But it's also it means I have to seduce and convince, sometimes 1000 People have the vision that I'm going for. And of course, you have to always compromise and you have to work together. And I'm not saying those guys don't do that. But what I was impressed with was their level of self confidence that at least whatever their demons might be, that everyone has their secrets, but whatever they have going on the inside, they evinced a certain confidence that this is the direction we're gonna go. And you need that you need to be a leader, with the plan. Because and have confidence and believe in yourself, even when things don't go your way. So even when you fail, don't turn around and destroy yourself over it, somehow find a way to learn from it and prove yourself, but keep your ego and your strength, have confidence in yourself. That there's a reason why you're doing this. And so, you know, those are sort of examples. Usually, they you hear about egos and sort of larger than life personalities. But I think do the stuff they do to be bold like that, you know, there was one moment, I saw two moments, I saw Cameron. Again, I didn't get a lot of time with him. But I saw some vulnerability. When he first finished the first draft of Titanic. He had this script man, it's like 85 page. It's famously driven. Yeah, he finally finished the script. Now he had so much on his plate, because it was already planning on shooting it. So the script was just like getting it off his chest. And he says, he walks by, he goes, Well, it's done. Like, I don't know if it's any good kind of thing. And yeah, he was struggling with it. And you know, it's nice to see that kind of human side. But at the same time, he put his career and his own money on the line to make that film because he believed in it. And he got, you know, hundreds of people to go along with it, and to finance it, and to make that come true. And it could have fallen on his face. Instead, you have this three hour movie that kids are coming in watching three, four times, you know, and I think it takes that sort of conviction, that strength of conviction, obviously have to back it up with talent and back it up to the hard work. It takes just having all ego no challenge doesn't get you very far. But I think the lesson I learned from the biggest players out there is that if you don't believe it, and you don't show you believe it, no one else will. And the bigger you dream, the more you have to be confident that that dreams don't work because we're asking people to risk their own time and money and reputations to Bali, you know, so I try to tap into some of that, that and not lose who I am and not be brusque, rude to people but also recognize that like, sometimes I have to fake it till you make it to you even if you're not sure it's going to work. You got to go forward and you know, find that balance between all the ego being a dick did wrong, you know? And so yeah, I think those guys they just showed what having vision is. In film school. Milosz Foreman came to one of our classes. Because Yvonne pastor, the great director, who was very close with below specking and Jeff's Avakian, 60s, they made films together he taught a class and he brought in Barbie Schroeder, Milos Forman, Dustin Hoffman Bogdanovich just a lot of great people. And again, it was one of those things where I wanted to ask you a form that the scene where they start the Requiem, and they cut to castonzo driving back and the coach racing back to him that's the first thing he brought up which I was so psyched about. But he was watching we're watching it on like a DVD player or something and all sudden you go stop and the whole room you know stops and that's a director right there. You can keep controls the room, you know, and it's a weird thing because you it's you know, even writing it's personal first but then it's not personal. Now everyone's involved in it. And if you don't stick to your guns and believe in it, no one else will. So I got inspiration from those guys.

Alex Ferrari 19:49
That's that's a that's a great answer to that question, my friend. Very good. Very good answer. Now you so you decided to go into television because you know, television you get stuff done quicker. And as they, as the old adage says, The money's in television. So money, you know, it's yeah, it's the closest to a business,you have your

Steven Kane 20:13
Middle class existence, right? You get a job, you can go to work, you can you know,

Alex Ferrari 20:17
Right. And it's it's opposed to the filmmaker that makes one movie every two or three years.

Steven Kane 20:22
If you're lucky, right? If you're lucky, otherwise, you're having lots of meetings to take meetings about meetings, and you're like, literally like, Oh, I'm very excited. Congratulations. That was a good meeting, you know? Exactly when he was definitely you know, where it was at when I started.

Alex Ferrari 20:36
So when you when you got your first job as a staff writer, coming into a room, what was that day like for you, like me, you had already been writing, you've been obviously hanging around with some some reputable people. So you weren't a complete noob. But still walking into a room. It's like the first day of class. And like, you know, who I don't know these people? Who am I going to be friends with? Who don't have to look out for? What's the room? Is the teacher cool? Or is he not? He was cool when it hired me. Right? Right. It's kind of like that football coach is really sweet when he's recruiting you. But the second you get on the field, he destroys you. How was it for you on that day?

Steven Kane 21:17
Well, it's a really good question, because actually, everything I just told you about finding a healthy ego and sticking to your guns, goes out the window, when you're a staff writer at a TV show, you realize your job is to make the boss happy to tell their story with them to contribute, but to recognize your place and coming out of independent film coming out of features, I was ready to just like, This is what we should do. And Joe Wyman, who's a great writer, and showrunner, given my first job on a show called keen, Eddie was a very short live show, which I think just got at that time slot, frankly. And it was set American American cop in London, very stylish, very fun. And, you know, I had just that a lot of enthusiasm. And so I was pitching and pitching and pitching. And at one point, he said, you know, we don't all swim in Lake Kane. And I was like, oh, man, and the water is warm, you know. It was humbling, but we ended up becoming really close afterwards. But it was a good lesson. I think that the great thing about TV if you if you're lucky. And you can start at the bottom and work your way up, you actually learn the politics of a writers room, learn how to be a contributor who doesn't, you know, them up the works. A friend of mine told me about a metaphor that people have used. When you're in a writers room, you're all pushing the rock up the hill, the same rock, and user are pushing it while you're watching it go up the hill, but you just don't want to be the guy who sits on the rock. And I said, my question of course, was doesn't have to be a rock. That's the person who sits on the rock, right? So you learn to to constantly adapt and adjust to what the showrunner is thinking. For him or her, they have a story, they want to tell you're trying to pitch to them something to make their story work. Sometimes it's a brand new idea that makes them think differently, and they're just totally into it. And sometimes they're like, No, I want to go this direction. And so you learn how to be a civilized human being in a writers room by being that kid who gets told to be quiet for a second and load your place and then work your way up and build trust. And so I learned how to be a show runner by working on those early shows, especially when I got onto the closer where the show on the gym stuff. And the producer director Michael Robin, were such classy people still collaborative, but at the same time, they you know, it was their show. So you learn how to write their show and how to be produced their show. And they also let you go on to set so you can you're involved in casting and locations and, and wardrobe and props, and you know, working with a director, so I had a lot of experience in filmmaking that other writers don't. But every writer gets a great experience if you can get on a show that actually teaches you how to run a show. So by the time I got my first chance to pitch, a show that I was going to run, I had all this experience in the politics of the writers room, and how post production works, how production works. And so I was extremely prepared for that. And again, having been at the lowest part I know now how it feels it helps me have more empathy for the younger writers on my staff. And I really believe firmly in promoting from within and giving people a chance I've had several assistants become writers become producers, you know, go off to do their own shows. And that makes me really happy and proud.

Alex Ferrari 24:29
Now, can you discuss a little bit of what those unspoken rules inside of a writers room? You mentioned the politics of the room. I love talking about the politics of the room because it's not something they teach you at school. It is it is something that you learn either the easy way or the hard way when you're in the room. So are there any kind of unspoken rules or advice you can give for writers, young writers that if they find themselves even if they're a writer's assistant in the room, whoever's in the room, what the what to do and what not to do.

Steven Kane 25:01
Yeah, I mean, it's part of it's just probably like high school and how to you know how to get along. But, you know, one of the things I was taught early on is it never has to be anything, the story doesn't ever have to be what you want it to be. There are many ways to skin a cat. Even if you don't like the idea, you can make it work if you can do something to make it work, right. So to be the person in the room, who gets locked on and fixated on one way of going, can get you into trouble. Because now you're not being flexible. You're not being part of the group, you're not helping. You're just being the person that shuts things down. There's that saying and improv Yes. And you know, so it's that idea of, okay, that and why don't we do this? And that can make that work. And maybe you're solving six problems. At the same time. Do you notice now focusing on the problems but focusing on the story. Other ones are don't pitch the problem, pitch the solution, which actually, I think works in lots of businesses. But you know, you can say like, I don't like the way the story is going, I don't like to it's too easy the way he finds this and that okay, well, great. Thank you for your criticism, any ideas? So you try to say, you know, I'm struggling with this moment, to here's how I'm thinking that we can make it work. Or admit I don't have a solution for this. But this is bugging me, I'd like to maybe ask if we could talk about it for a couple of seconds. And just you know, being respectful, catching the mood of the showrunner, who's got, you know, a million things happening at the same time? You know, I know from my point of view, keep leaving the room to be told, we just lost the actor. The sketches burned down, you know, they're shutting whatever it is, you come back into the writers room, the pandemic. Exactly. You don't want to come back into the room and have some guy going. Yeah, I don't like the story. You're like, No, tell me how to friggin fix it. If you got a problem. Otherwise, this is the way we're done.

Alex Ferrari 26:50
Act 2 is horrible. I don't even know is this horrible? Yeah, this is horrible. Well?

Steven Kane 26:56
Exactly. And you know, like any skill when you first do it, you're very methodical and deliberate about it. And then it becomes second nature. So at this point, you know, I can pitch a scene that is probably doing nine things at once. But I'm not elaborating on what those nine things are. But when I have younger writers, I try to explain to them that this allows us to push the story forward, to get back to this character to solve that plot hole to give exposition here, now we've Let's bury the exposition. So there's a lot of skills that you can learn if you're open to learning them. And again, you can be the greatest writer in the world, you can still learn a lot from being in the writers room. And you can also recognize that production needs will change your story in a heartbeat. Literally, on Halo, we lost an actor. The day before shooting a big episode, it was an actor who not only was important to that episode, but who have been established in previous episodes as being important. And I didn't have to think about what to do at all of this experience behind me, I thought about it, but I didn't have to curl up in a ball and die. I quickly rewrote 35% of the scripts and brought in a character in smaller part and even bigger, and I think actually a script ends up being better as a result. But I think that's the thing is, if you're a newer writer, you might just collapse like, oh, I guess we can't shoot the test. We gotta shut down, like, the show must go on, right? So I think if you keep your eyes open, and you've just watched the people with more experience, do their job. You learn from it, you know, and then pretty soon, like, I used to be on sets early, where we shoot the whole scene. The director returned to me Look at me, and I'd be like, Yeah, let's do it. Sure. Now, and then the last part of it, and then we'd walk away. And I'd say things like, Gee, I wonder if we should have done XYZ, or this and that, and the director looked at me and be like, Why didn't you tell me? I'm like, Well, I don't know. I didn't want to, you know, get in the way. You know, you're I was so nervous about like, being obtrusive. And so I had to learn how to, you know, stand up early and make these make these notes. But that's what you get from experience, because then you get to the place where you have confidence in yourself and you go, you know, guys, I think we should do another another take, and here's why. And that takes you know, some people come with lots of arrogance and confidence early some have to develop it with experience, but I think I you know, a lot of people now sell shows off the bat, and they have no experience working in TV and they become a show runner. And I think they're better served if they've had more experience with the politics of the room with the the way the

Alex Ferrari 29:25
Politics of the studio politics. Yeah, notes and exactly everything, all of it.

Steven Kane 29:30
Exactly. And to be to be that showrunner you do have to be as I was saying about the those big directors I work for, you have to be harvested competent in what you're doing. You have to be a cheerleader for your show. You have to be able to get people to go that's the way we're gonna go. On the last ship, which was a huge Navy show, I had, you know, Michael Davis, my partner, he had a lot of experience being, you know, working with the Navy and stuff, but he wasn't involved in the day to day basis after the first season and so

There were times when I needed to get the Navy to give me the entire, you know,

Alex Ferrari 30:13
So you actually, you actually had the Navy working with you.

Steven Kane 30:17
We shot on the ship for two, three weeks every season to all the exterior stuff. We had Navy people in the writers room, sometimes we had them on call, if I needed a navy subject matter expert on any subject, Navy Seal, a flyer, air, submarine or anything, I can call them up and get their help. And we got assets from them, you know, and they were very nervous because they said, you know, this is tolerable. We don't want you guys to show us in a negative light. Because why are we going to bother giving you any support course, of course. And I said to them very, and they didn't trust me whatsoever, or at least I'll tell you what I said to him, guys, look, this is not going to be commercial for the Navy. But if you let me do my job, it'll be the best commercial for you guys ever, because we're going to show you guys we're going to test all your values, the honor, courage and commitment, the way you guys work, we're going to forge the strongest deal in fire to come out even stronger, we're going to test those values, right, so we're not gonna make you guys perfect, but when you're gonna come out on top, and once they saw that that's what the show was doing. Because it was set during a global pandemic. And it was. Yeah, but they were they were trying to be heroes, but they're also human beings. And by the third or fourth season, you know, even the second season, they were like, look, what else can we give you. But I'd have to walk into the room and convince the, you know, marine Commandant that I need to get access to a beach landing I want to do Saving Private Ryan on TV at the end of my series, and I want to shoot, you know, marine storming the beaches of Camp Pendleton in an exercise, you know, and so they give us full access. We showed that up there with 12 cameras and drones and GoPros filming that entire beach landing then went back there six months later with our actors when I was directing it, and and they still brought in, you know hovercrafts and stuff for us. And we shot this amazing sequence that we you know, it looks like $100 million movie, you know, just because of that stuff we had. But again, that that took, being able to look them in the eyes with competence and say, This is gonna be great. This is gonna be really great. And have the buy in and buy it. Yeah. So it's, you know, but again, that confidence doesn't come from just blind arrogance that comes from you know, having done the homework, you know, but you still have to present it in a way that makes them feel confident.

Alex Ferrari 32:32
So I was going to ask you about the last year because it was a pretty awesome show, man. And it was, it was it was so big for television. It's a fairly large looking show. Now I know why? Because I didn't like there's no way a TNT show is gonna I mean, I get topped out it's gonna get it I get that right. Michael Bay's gonna get it for his movie that again, I didn't think that I thought it was, you know, oh, they make decommission ship. I didn't know the Navy was actively working with you. So that explains a lot. But so January 2020. Hits. And you're going, Oh, God, because you just spent four years prior? All right, a couple of years, I think when it ended what 2018?

Steven Kane 33:15
And then like, end of 17, beginning of 18.

Alex Ferrari 33:17
Yeah, something like that. So then you had two years. Right! So for a five year run. And then you stayed in that five year run in a in the mind of a pandemic. So when pandemic actually hit? What was your reaction internally, like, because you knew things about pandemics that most people walk in the streets didn't because you had to do the research to write all the shows and so on. So So what was that like for you just as a am I gonna get up today?

Steven Kane 33:45
Yeah, yeah. Well, first of all, the last ship, you should know, it started with Michael Wright, who ran TMT at the time it was a brilliant programmer and brilliant studio network had. And he talked to Michael Bay and had this book called The Last Ship and said, this is this would be a great Michael Bay show, we want to do a pair of Spielberg's Falling Skies and Sunday night, you know, big movie night kind of things. And days, people found a writer hengstenberg, who I grew up with, who came to me and said, This is your cup of tea, you come on board, and I said, okay, but the book is about a nuclear holocaust, which is obviously still timely, but it felt very dated. It was right 80s, you know? And I said, you know, what scares me more is pandemics. And I said, Can I change it? And he said, Sure. So I came up with this whole thing. I cold called a bunch of virologist who all said, this is our worst nightmare. And we started talking when we built this virus. And we talked about the effects on society as well, you know, I don't think I got I got some of the craziness that come that came out of the pandemic in our second or third season. But

Alex Ferrari 34:49
Was there was was there a scene of toilet paper hoarding, did you

Steven Kane 34:53
There was no hoarding of toilet paper because we were we were with this navy ship and that's true, but they did loot they did lose a lot. had different cruise ships with a bunch of dead people on it. And they had to get, grab, grab, get all the food they can get and get out. So, yeah, so I was very aware of pandemics and had a lot of conversations. So I remember being on the set and hungry, we were in some boy scout camp, shooting a sequence, and people are talking about this virus decided not to hurt. It's in Italy and might come to Austria tickets gonna come here. And I said, guys, we're going to we're going home soon, we're going up. So they said, What do you mean, I said, it's going to be here. And what I'm reading about, it's, it's serious. And so sure enough, two weeks later, we took our two week hiatus, which lasted six months, and I called home, I said, I'm coming home. And this is gonna sound weird, but you should go out and buy toilet paper, staples, water, because people are going to think that they're going to run out and they're going to start to afford it. So you might as well do it too, you know, can't fight it. And so I came home and hunker down for six months and talk to my biologist, friends who, who told me, you know, there's going to be an mRNA vaccine, you know, in six months, it's been this and this and that, and I sort of followed what they're talking about. The one thing that I thought will be worse, but seems to have crept up crept up over the last six, eight months is the supply chain stuff. I thought it would live in more instantaneous. But you know, not a lot of people didn't didn't get sick or didn't take the shots and didn't stop working. But you know, the idea that the supply chain is still messed up. It's a natural recurrence. But what's fascinating is the way your mind shifts to the reality. And during a pandemic, we obviously had a much worse pandemic in the show. So we shifted people's minds more, but it's, yeah, it was. I was sad to be right about that. But now even now, I watched the first episode of Halo, and I rocked watch it at Austin at the film festival, and actually made me cry because it reminded me of Ukraine, obviously, this fiction is is not as serious as Ukraine, but people being slaughtered by an enemy that they can't control. Like, suddenly I started for no reason, residences, you know? Yeah. And I started kind of thinking about the just as you get older, I think these things they don't feel like make believe anymore. They feel like no possibilities of life. And it's, it's frightening.

Alex Ferrari 37:23
You used to and you start thinking about your kids and you start thinking about in like the next generation and you like there's a shift as you get older, where you stop thinking about yourself only because you're now you're like, Okay, I'm, you know, I'm past my 20s now. Yeah. And you just know a little bit more. Could you just walk the earth a little bit like cane? Yeah. So you've walked the earth a bit more, and you start to you're like, wait a minute, how is what I'm doing now gonna affect my kids? And, and then I need to get my grandkids. And that's when it starts to get so yeah, you start thinking about things and what's going on now. It's just horrific. And you know that. I don't want to get into that, because that's not the show. But,

Steven Kane 38:06
But on the bright note. Speaking of my kids, after we show we have the la premiere of Halo we show two episodes. And my 16 year old 18 year old who there and afterwards, it also has to be good job, dad. That was really cool. So when your kids think you're cool,

Alex Ferrari 38:23
That's the better better than a monster.

Steven Kane 38:24
Yeah. I did a dumb dance throwing up. Nevermind. Not cool. Not cool at all. Yeah, not that cool at all.

Alex Ferrari 38:31
I don't think you could. I mean, I was always I always wonder like, does Brad Pitt's kids think he's cool, right? Like, you know, does you know, these cool, these cool icons. Do they think their kids think they're cool? They're like, now they're just nerds. Now, is there something that you wish you were, you were told at the beginning of your career, that if you could go back in time and go, there's this one thing that I wish I would have told myself? Or I wish someone would have told me?

Steven Kane 39:00
Yeah, I think I've told this to younger people. I was so single minded and fixated on making it in the business and being a director and being a writer and filmmaker, like the ones I admired. And I was stubborn about that. So a couple things. As a result, I stopped enjoying the day to day. Imagine being in your 20s and not just realizing I'm in my 20s This is awesome, you know,

Alex Ferrari 39:25
Oh my god, I wasted my I wasted my 20s is certainly Steve Harvey say something was so brilliant. He's like, You waste your 20s and you make so many mistakes in your 20s that you end up your 30s you end up fixing all the mistakes you made in the 20s Yeah, but if you would have and then the flat and then the 40s you start doing the things that you should have been doing in your 30s Right, because if your 20s you're screwed up. I was like, that's fairly brilliant.

Steven Kane 39:50
I remember being 25 Turning 25 and being depressed and saying Orson Welles made Citizen Kane. Oh, I mean Ha, ha, right? And so

Alex Ferrari 40:02
Spielberg 27. Did Jaws Oh yeah, we all do. And isn't it so stupid? We all do it all filmmakers do it. We all click click the times like, yeah, I only got two more years before 27. So I better hurry up and make jaws.

Steven Kane 40:15
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So so I look back, and I don't, but you know what to throw. The fun thing is you can tell, like, working for Oliver Stone was I mean, I have some great stories, right? All these experiences, appreciating them now and saying, I wish I actually enjoyed them more when I was going through them. The other thing is, as I said, like being flexible was, you know, for a while if I wasn't making feature films that I was writing, directing, I wasn't doing anything else. And then as reality hits, you know, I literally found myself because at a young family, I was making industrial videos for cancer hospitals and engineering schools at USC. And thinking, Am I going to be the, you know, James Cameron of, of

Alex Ferrari 40:55
Industrial

Steven Kane 40:56
Fundraiser dinner videos. But you know what, as a result, I actually learned that's where I met my first virologists got interested in that stuff. So I learned stuff that I brought to my writing, but also going to TV, I would thought I'd never do TV when I was going to be a young filmmaker,

Alex Ferrari 41:12
TV. TV was taboo. I mean, let's be honest, like when we, when we were coming up, TV was like, you know, TVs, like, you go there, if you got no nothing else to do. We're not

Steven Kane 41:23
Exactly, but if you flexible to things, you'd find yourself getting alternate routes to the same place. So, you know, I wanted to direct I made this film, I was gonna be a director. And then I was doing work as a writer, which is, again, how great is that, but at the time, I thought, but I'm a director too, you know. And so my directing was kind of put on hold. And so I didn't get my DGA car until my mid 40s, you know, and I was like, You can't believe I thought I'd be a director and I'm, I'm just a writer of shows. And, but then when I got to be a showrunner and they got to be really, you know, in charge of the whole process of directors are working with me, everyone, and I'm able to tell because I feel like filmmaking is writing is the most important part of it. Without that you don't have anything to work with. But it's it just lives on the page. It's not really a thing. It's like an opera, it's got the music, it's got sound, it's got everything you know. And so, being a showrunner, and doing these shows, allows you to be the filmmaker in a graceful way. And then I got to direct I got to hire myself as a director anyway, eventually, you know, on the last ship, so a little bit on Halo. So, you know, it's, I think I tell younger people, don't sweat it. Don't take yourself too seriously, enjoy what you're doing. Now, never lose focus on what you want to do. But recognize that there's many ways to get to get there and go with the flow go with follow your bliss. All those cliches are all true, though, with what makes you happy, you're enjoying it, and I still get a thrill of walking onto a set, you know, that throw those away, but I'm gonna quit because everything else is so hard about the business that I only do all that to get back on the set. So if that's not fun, then do something else, you know,

Alex Ferrari 42:57
You know, and as a filmmaker you you work, like we said earlier, three, three years to be on set for if you're lucky 45 days, and that's a hell of a nice budget. If you're in a studio, it's 60 or 90 days, right? But you spend most of your life chasing the ability to be on set and televisions a little different and television you can be on set all the time. And I think that's a really much nicer place to be. I do like that. You said that in your 20s nothing hurt. people listening who are in their 20s Enjoy it. Yeah, it will end. If you go to Taco Bell right now at three o'clock in the morning, eat whatever you want.

Steven Kane 43:38
Yeah, you're in Hungary filming. I was like, Can I get a salad and my script coordinator was like 20 times eating like goulash and pork this and rooster testicle and I'm like, Yeah, I'm like, No, I have to get up in the morning. I gotta you know, give me some seltzer water, you know?

Alex Ferrari 43:56
Oh, no, no, it's the two old fogies talking now. Yeah, my, my sciatica. Ah,

Steven Kane 44:03
Listen, not to betray competencies, but I did have to buy orthotics for Oliver Stone for issues.

Alex Ferrari 44:08
Hey, listen, listen, listen. That is some of the most directing kita directing and a Steadicam operator good shoes. Right good shoes. I talked to the guy who created that steadicam. Once I was taking a class, a class up in Maine years ago. And he was teaching the class and I go What's the best advice? You could give a Steadicam operator he's like, good shoes. I was like, and as your onset you real and I've been dragged direct it's onset with that use? Yeah, because you're 12 hours sometimes.

Steven Kane 44:41
Yeah. camera operators are my heroes on? Yes, I've seen you know, it's like Ginger Rogers. They do it backwards and in heels. They're running backwards being shot at blanks and stuff. And they're and they're catching the shot and the great ones. They know how to tell the story with the camera. It's the great partners on the set. I mean, I just I just love the whole process.

Alex Ferrari 45:00
So let's get to that little independent film thing that you just did Halo. I, you know, there's been a beautiful, beautiful moquette there's been, I mean, Halo has been in development for what two, since basically the damn game came out. So many different, you know, directors and, and projects is going to be a feature, it's not going to be a features this or that. And it's come and gone so much. So when I gave up on it, I truly like it's never it's gonna be production hell or developmental forever. So then when I saw the the news that you were doing, and I was like, I still don't believe it till I see a trailer. I've been I've been burned before. So so how did you get Halo? Like, that's a pretty big, you know, feather in the cap, because everybody wanted to do Halo, some of the some of the biggest filmmakers, you know, in the business wider to Halo. So how did you come to how did a little get dropped into your lap sir?

Steven Kane 46:07
Well, I kind of did, actually. I mean, I had been following the project's development like everybody else hearing about it. And actually, some friends of mine were writing scripts for it at one point when I was doing the last ship, and I was kind of jealous of that. But I was busy. And last ship had ended and I was developing and working on my own stuff. And my manager, my agent called and said, Look, they're they're making the show. The guy who they were working with does not want to continue does not want to get too hungry to make the show. And you know, he's been working on stuff for a while, but there's still a lot of room for you to come in and do something. Would you be interested? It's it might mean going away for a few months. I didn't realize it'd be two years.

Alex Ferrari 46:48
A few months for production.

Steven Kane 46:51
Right. So I was like, Okay, I didn't know what I was getting into. And but I walked into a situation where you could feel there was a lot of history in terms of the development process. Yeah. And I had to put that on my head and say, This is the show that I think we should make. Well, you have here you a lot of great stuff, Kyle killin. And his team did some really good stuff, which I kept a lot of us a great guy, we had a good partnership for the time we overlapped. But I said look to make this thing work. Both story wise, and production wise, these are my opinions. But again, had to show, you know, everyone that this is the way to go. And it was it was hard. Because there's a lot of money at stake. A lot of people involved a lot of pressure. And everyone really wanted this to be great. Especially of course, the people 343 Who whose baby Halo is they wanted to make sure they didn't disappoint. The loyal fan base that they also expanded their fan base, it just was a lot of I felt for all of them that there was an impossible situation.

Alex Ferrari 47:49
And I have to ask that I have to stop for a second. How did you deal with the pressure of dealing with such a huge character like masterchief? The franchise? The budget, I don't even know what the budget is. But I know it was fairly, fairly disgusting. So that pressure on the showrunner, how can you be creative? In that scenario? I mean, I know you're built for them in the last the last ship was no joke either. Right? But But yeah, it was a big show, you know, but this is a we're at a whole other level here. So how did you even function and seriously,

Steven Kane 48:23
You know, I compartmentalize my body did a lot of the reacting for me, where my mind ignored it. So suddenly, I'm like, What is this rash? You know, things like that, you know, like, why, why haven't I eaten anything? But now honestly, it was, it was I was, uh, I was alone a lot and hungry too. So I was kind of homesick it was emotionally and psychically difficult. But I think what I always focus on no matter if the show is, you know, $10,000 or $10 million, or whatever, it's still about how do I tell the story. So you know, making a big show. You just have a bigger budget to play with, right? So if you if you're a family of four with us fixed income, and you have to make sure you can have food and gas for your car. That's what you do. If you're now a billionaire, and you had but now you got 17 houses, you have to manage just, it's just bigger problems, right? But it's the same issue of like, okay, we have X number of days, what you've written is gonna take five extra days, we can't do that. Can you rewrite it and make it suitable? That happens even when you're doing a $3 million chef or a one. So you focus on the stuff you can control, which is the filmmaking process. Trying to take on everyone else's stress as your own. It's hard because an empathetic person and I feel the stress and I know they're counting on me. So I honestly don't know I think I just did a lot of compartmentalizing, focusing on what under what the work is for today. And also again, it goes back to having that joy because like when you walk onto the set instead of looking at the hundreds of people on the set, and that all the equipment and And my days are gonna rain. I think, holy cow, we thought of something that now we're shooting it now man is jumping off of a mountain top of the hook landing on a Styrofoam purple thing that's gonna eventually be a spaceship. You know, I mean, like, so you focus on the exciting stuff. But yeah, I'm not gonna lie to you, it was balancing the desires of 13 different partners. All there before I got there, dusted in this show. You know, last ship, the first season was also stressful, because it was a big swing for TNT and Michael Bay show, blah, blah, blah. Everyone was watching everything we did, debuts on our on our button making sure we were not making them look at. So let's similar in that regard they keep the bigger, the bigger the arena you play and the more pressure you're gonna get. But if you look at it, the same way you look at making something small in terms of this is what I can control. This is the creative. You know, you just, you can get through it. But I remember one point, saying to the people at Showtime about the budget, they've given us a number we are over that number. And they said, I said, well just give me a number. And they go, we didn't give you the number. I said, Oh, you were you were serious about that number. Okay, all right. Well, we'll figure it out, you know, when we cut the budget, and you know, it's just about like, honestly, I want to go from here to there, how am I going to get there, and everything else is just an obstacle to getting there. But you know, you also you're not alone, you have tons of people supporting you. You've got a crew, which is amazing. You got producers who want to make this thing work. No one wants to shortchange the show. So you know, it's my job. That was one sequence in an upcoming episode, where half the show is supposed to be shot in snow. That's for outdoors in snow driving these were hogs having conversations, nothing about it made sense practically. And frankly, the story wasn't does that say to me anyway, so I said, you know, why don't we save $10 million right now. And we'll shoot that entire sequence, a whole storyline, I'll change the storyline, same principle idea. We'll put up on our sets, we'll focus on the characters, we use this as an opportunity for these characters to get to know these characters, and really enrich and deepen the sort of the emotional stakes. And we'd want to be outside not to look for snow, and literally will save millions of dollars. And so that's the kind of decision making process that happens in every show, you know, you decide like, well, if we shoot it outside, you know, I'm the last ship, I used to make these giant opening episodes, and we'd be $2 million over budget from the first day. And everyone's like, Oh, my gosh, we're out of control. And guys, don't worry, because the fourth episode, I've already planned it, we're gonna be in the shift the entire time at night. Literally no visual effects, no guest cast, no extra sets, we'll shoot it in nine days instead of 12 days. And we'll save a million dollars in one episode. You know, of course, they didn't first believe me. But once we did that a few times they started recognizing, okay, at the end of the season, these have to be net zero. And we actually ended up being on budget the entire time. So you gotta you have to think nimbly, and be on your feet and just let the pressure excite you and not crush you. There are definitely times when I wanted it to crush me, but I think I was gonna let it crush me. But I think you just gotta keep your eye on the prize and just say, Okay, I can't go left, we'll go, right, I can't go up, we'll go down first, then we'll go up. And you know, usually, like when I suddenly lose an actor the day before shooting, you just, you pivot, and in the end, sometimes that makes it even better.

Alex Ferrari 53:32
I found that it always, you know, at the moment, it's the worst thing that could possibly happen to you something. If you lose a location, you lose an actor. Every time throughout my career, it always ends up being better. It only always ends up doing something that you never in a million years thought of. That's so much better than what you had in mind. I've never lost something and just like it ruined it. Yeah, I've never had that happen in any of my projects.

Steven Kane 53:58
So all those cliches are true like you asked what the advice you give people again that making lemonade out of lemons Absolutely. Is a big COVID was a huge blow for the whole world. And it shut us down and it cost the studio a fortune and they were such champs about making sure we stayed safe and get bring us back safely. And it was hard. We were hungry now couldn't go home family can visit me couldn't visit people at night with curfews, so I was literally in a van with a mask, going to work going home, barely having any social interaction, but we pulled it off. But even so the six months that we were shut down, I use those six months. So we all did to get visual effects to get editing done to re examine the scripts and rewrite them so we took a terrible situation and we spun it and made the most of it. And I think the show actually is better for it again, I would never trade that. I'd rather have no COVID But sure, sure, of course you take the the bad things and let them crush you. Then you get nothing out of those bad things. You can take the bad things and spin them around some positive, then at least you've made.

Alex Ferrari 55:03
Yeah, there's no question about it. I always find it that what I had on, I sat down with the firm with a script of mine with the first ad of a really seasoned first ad from like he's been doing, you know, work with Fincher and all these kind of crazy people. And he's sitting there and he's looking at he's like, does this have to be at night? Yeah. Why is this at dawn? Right? Why? Why is this at dusk? You need in those little tricks, the budgetary things, because as a writer, you're just like, it's gonna look so good at sunset. Sure it will. But you've got 15 minutes. Yeah, exactly. You're on the Mandalorian. Then you have a sunset all day. But unless you're. But other than that, yeah. So those little tips that they don't teach you, they don't teach you those things. That's just practical, everyday stuff. So that's what you were saying. Like, let's take all the snow. Like, you know, the rain. Why? Why is it raining? Does it need to rain? Do we need to have rain that's going to add so much money to the budget.

Steven Kane 56:03
On the last ship we used, we decided season four, we've never had any storms at sea. That's ridiculous. We're, we're a ship at sea. So we we wrote that storm episode. And we planned it six months in advance. We were looking for footage of storms to be able to use for CG, we were retrofitting the ship to make it be able to water water cables. And you know, you plan for it. But you don't just go like rain, you have to go okay, we're having a meeting. today. We're talking about rain. And I think the other lesson for young writers is you can write anything you want when it's on spec. But when you everything you write, some department head is highlighting it. And they're going to try to get you what you want. So I've been on sets where they say, we're having a tough time getting sharks. I was like, what's that? They said, Yeah, you said that sharks I said, Oh, no, that was just I was just writing now. That's fine. You don't need sharks. Okay, cancel the shark Wrangler, you know? Yeah, I told you our visual effects died. In the last ship, I had written that the enemy I wanted to show the enemy was badass. And that as they're being fired out, they were like acrobatically, diving out of the way. So I wrote Matrix style, meaning like that like that, like, what time bullet time, suddenly we're having board time conversation. So I'm like, I'm so sorry. I hope you didn't spend any money on this. Yeah. So even as a show when I was doing the making those mistakes. So the point is, is that everything you write has to have a reason. And you're better off not writing something and letting the let's say the wardrobe department come to you and say, What are you thinking about for the scene, or here's what I was thinking, having read the seat, but if you write she's in a purple MooMoo, they're gonna go get a purple. Yeah. And if you were kidding, or you really were thinking, you're just making it look pretty on the page, then you know, you're going to cause people a lot of work. So that's the thing is, especially when you're a young writer, you think no one cares about your stuff. Guess what, when you're on staff, even if you're the lowest person on staff, you write a script, it gets to a set, it's the Bible. Now every department is going to make what you wrote come true, which is why you got to be appreciative of them, you got to be collaborative with them, you got to be smiling and thankful with them. You have to respect them and their time because they're trying to make your dreams come true. You know, the guy pushing the dolly doesn't always have the same. Look at me on the screen. They're just pushing Medallia for the day. But the good ones do they take pride in it, they only take pride in it is if you welcome into the process. So if you raise your camera team, embrace your electricians and say, we're all going to make this amazing show together, then you get better work from them and happier people.

Alex Ferrari 58:37
Right, and I think I'm gonna get that I'm gonna get what you said on a t shirt. Cancel the Shark Wrangler. I think that it's a great crew t shirt.

Steven Kane 58:46
We actually had a cricket wrangler on the last. And I actually was so lucky because I the time and I still have my son was obsessed with his lizards. I was always buying crickets for him. Sure, I learned you don't want to buy the large crickets because they're the ones that make all the noise that the medium and small, don't, don't croak. Whatever the word is, they don't make that noise. So of course, you're on the movie set. You don't want to have noise. So I said no, no, no, there has to be medium crickets because the large ones make a lot of noise. I know this because my kid. So those kinds, but we had a cricket Wrangler. And after we were done, she had to collect all 1000 of them make sure that they were all okay. And they all got their, you know, the per diem. Exactly. I think a few of them may have gotten you know, didn't quite make it, you know.

Alex Ferrari 59:30
I mean, no, of course they all made it. No crickets were harmed in the making of your show, sir. There was done cricket, so they were fine. There was cricket made out of little Styrofoam. It was amazing. Hollywood magic. So was there a day and I know the answer is yes, but I'm gonna ask it anyway. Is there a day on Halo that the entire world came crashing down around you? And you said oh my god, what the hell am I doing this entire thing is gonna go down and smoke. I know we've already talked about the losing the actor But is there another moment? It wasn't every day?

Steven Kane 1:00:14
Well, yeah, I don't think I don't think we ever I ever had an experience where I said, the whole thing is gonna come down crashing, there were times where I thought, that's just too much to do right now. Because what happened was, by the time I came on board, the train was already speeding out of the station. So they were sort of building and looking for locations based on old material that I was gonna be changing. So I keep giving them new drafts, like the story that got out, you know, they said glibly, one day to get two out of the 65 drafts, which I did. But that was because literally, I would get to work on Monday, and the producer would say, we need another draft for props or for locations to start their work or so I printed out another draft in 24 hours and get it just for that department, you know, and I'd say it's not done yet. It's just enough. But I had to get every script ready at the same time. So I was working on one and then two, and then three, four, then five, and then nine, and then seven. And then you know, so I was constantly having to shift gears. And remember, remember where I was in the season, and deliver because they needed production needed the lead time to be able to prep for whatever I was doing? So again, that's also why were the COVID break helped a little bit where we could do some planning, but so I think every day felt like you're being chased by an avalanche. Oh, great analogy. I love that. But at the end, when you kind of get to the bottom, you kind of go through and it goes right by you're like, that wasn't so bad, you know, but, but look, I'm still I'm still mixing shows as we speak, you know, and still doing score and visual effects as we speak. And, again, if you take it, sorry, you know, dogs barking. The if you if you can take it day by day, and just sort of say I can only do what I can do. You know, I didn't I had some help here. Once in a while a writer come out producer with a mountain helped me. But otherwise, there was no writing staff. Once I got to Hungary, so it was literally like just a stack next to me of like, okay, now I have to deal with this now. Oh, we lost this after. Okay, let's get to work on that. So the risk for me was I had to show my ass a lot, right, I did write drafts that weren't perfect that weren't great, because I needed to get scripts out for production. So it's, you never want to show work that you don't feel is ready, but you had no choice. So what would happen was you do it then you didn't get like dolts who criticisms and stuff. And I know guys, those is just a temporary thing. So I can get the art department going, or I can get casting going or, you know, like I would get calls? Can you give me some audition sides for Episode Eight? Like, Well, I haven't written episode eight yet. You know, so I have to write scenes for Episode Eight, just to give it to you, you know, that kind of stuff. So it was it was a lot. But again, it was so absurd that I just sort of had to laugh. But in the end, like I said, I had a really strong idea of what I wanted the show to be. I tried to stick to that every single day. And I think, you know, I'm really proud of the season. That's actually when you stick to landing it comes out and we didn't get buried by the avalanche. But yeah, there was some hilarious things, we built giant sets that ended up going, I don't think we're gonna use that now. You know, stuff like that. Lots of lessons learned, certainly ways to save money next season and other stuff like that. But any first year show is like that the last ship was no different. It was, you know, craziness. How are we gonna shoot on the ship? How are we gonna do this? And you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:03:32
It just sounds like you said, the train left. So you were like, thrown into a machine, a giant machine that was already moving, and was going to keep going no matter what you were just tossed into the gears and you're just trying to oil things up and try to keep things going. And no, no guys, not East. We were going west. We gotta move the whole ship over. And yeah,

Steven Kane 1:03:53
That was that it was like a train speeding with no tracks in front side to keep throwing down the track there to keep us from crashing. But yeah, your metaphor is perfect that that's how

Alex Ferrari 1:04:02
It was. And you were the only writer in Hungary.

Steven Kane 1:04:06
Yeah. So when I first took over, I grabbed two writers that I was close with from The Last Ship days, just in had three weeks just to sort of go okay, well, how are they gonna redo this? Because the scripts aren't lining up. Yeah. And so we worked in LA for a few weeks, then I went to Hungary. And then it was just, that was just me. And then I begged them, and I would get one of the one of the writers, Katie would come out for a couple of weeks, and then that would send her home. And then we brought in another writer for Mickey Fischer, a great guy for a few weeks, but then he wasn't gonna be able to stay. And so, you know, a young woman came in and I said, you know, she'll help us work on the Cortana stuff. And then, you know, it was a two week deal or whatever. So it was a lot of like, piecemeal. It wasn't like I had a staff that was like, Okay, you're covering Episode One, you're covering episode two. It was. I think there was a misconception that well, this show was this fine. It's gonna be fine. It's already written. You're just going to manage it, but it turns out it wasn't already written in There's a lot of story to tell and to make. So it was it was like you know you remodel your kitchen and go Well now that the kitchen is so nice living room needs some work. It's horrible. Now the now that I'm sitting here, what the frick is that on the wall, you know, so it became sort of a full on remodel teardown was what originally predecessors, right?

Alex Ferrari 1:05:23
It was just the bathroom. But then all of a sudden, like, well, the bathroom looks so nice. The kitchen looks horrible. Now now the kitchen looks so nice. Yeah, I gotta do the second bedroom.

Steven Kane 1:05:31
Like, by the way, none of this is to criticize any you know, who were working on because it was just different is the shot to get made. And, and honestly, it's such a tough show that you could sit there and and ponder every decision until you're paralyzed. Oh, you can say let's just make this show. And I think that in the end, I learned a lot from the stuff that came before me. They learned a lot from the stuff that came before me, we ended up coming up with a story that everyone really liked, and got behind. And what was great too was there were still moments where I could I could surprise myself, you know where I would go. limit what if this happens at the end of this episode that would change the entire story, and give me more work to do later on. But like, there are some moments where I was still able to find surprises and joy and epiphanies and, and things like that. And they even come up down in post production. But this is not to say that this show was like haphazard, or it was just the nature of making this kind of show. It was a battle from start to finish. But there was always a sense of what we wanted wanted the show to be it just was getting it there was you know, at the scale was Jonathan.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:38
Oh, my God, I can only I can't even imagine that the amount of peep amount of people that are interested in making sure this is good at the history of the other kid. It's kind of like, you know, being given Jurassic Park. And it's never been made before somebody who wanted to make Jurassic Park, and it's 1000 Different people trying to and it's been 10 years trying to turn 15 You're trying to make it. I mean, you've done is pretty gargantuan, but at Titane in a Titanic, no pun intended event that you were able to put together.

Steven Kane 1:07:07
And I helping people look like it because I know there's people who are diehard to the game, we're gonna say we are too far away. Others are gonna say we were slaves to it. Others are gonna say something else. Like, you know, we, our hearts are in the right place. I worked very closely with Microsoft, we tried our best to honor the ethos of the game and the feel of the game while telling a story that's cinematic that you know, is different, so you don't just watch the game on TV. And so we try to give rewards to the people who love the lore and also people who don't know the game at all. Or the tannin can also just enjoy it as a powerful story about humanity's quest to avoid being extinguished by an alien race, you know, so.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:50
And then of course, of course, your next year will be Metal Gear. So

Steven Kane 1:07:54
Next one is going to be two people in a room to be waiting for Gadot this series

Alex Ferrari 1:07:58
Dinner with my dad with Andre.

Steven Kane 1:08:02
But I'll call I'll call Michael Bay, and we'll see if we can make it we can judge it up a little bit.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:07
Yeah, I have one last quick question. What do you look for in a writer in a room? Because I know a lot of writers want to get in a room. What do you personally look for in a writer?

Steven Kane 1:08:17
First Person, first thing is, can I see myself spending a lot of time in the room with this person seriously? Like is this person gonna be you know, a fun person to be around, or at least not a bad person to be around? You don't always know that up front. But that's super important. You know, it's a little bit like you know, getting a baseball team together a basketball team, you gotta you look for like, Is this person a good shooter as person, a good runners or whatever. And so some people might be, like, really quiet in the writers room, which is not great, because the writers room is where you want ideas to flow. But if there's one person who's quiet and just takes notes, it's not so bad, because it's kid takes the kid not everyone can talk, right? But if that person is thoughtful, and then one note, and it's great, or their scripts are phenomenal. There might be others who's writing isn't perfect or great maybe takes a lot of rewriting but they're they can be they can be trained, they can learn, but they're fantastic in the room because you're always pitching ideas. Like my thing when I was coming up was I would go What about this? And they'd say no, I'm like, Okay, how about this, then they say no, I'm like, Okay, well, what about that, and then eventually, I never gave up. So my sort of doggedness is what you know people could count on me to sort of always be trying you know, so I think you look for a balance you don't want you don't want everyone to be a big alpha you don't want everyone to be to the meek one. Ultimately, though, when it comes down to writer for writer, you want someone who has a voice has an opinion has a life that's interesting. You want diversity so you want to have people who come from different walks of life because that they bring that into the room. You know, it's amazing how you get different perspectives. You know, if you've got people from on different socio economic, racial, sexual, anything backgrounds, it keeps you from getting into your bubble too much you don't do it to pander, you don't do it to sort of be woke you do it because trying to tell a full story. And so you know, like, you want the young person to want a person with a young family, you want a person who has kids in college, you want a person who's retired, a person who's lost, you know, you just want people to bring their life to your show. And, and then to have a point of view and a passion for writing and for filmmaking. But yeah, I think ultimately, though, it's really about who do you want to be collaborative with? Who do you think you can work with on a day to the basis and we'll you know, we'll have your back to, you know, though, the thing that happens is sometimes you get people who their show didn't sell, it's another working on your show. And they don't really want to be there. And they're like, why your job? Yeah. And they're on the phone with their agent and trying to sell other things. While you're like waiting for a script, like, I want the show to be as important to you as it is, to me, I know, it's impossible, if it's not your show, but I want to feel that way, when I was on the closer, I gave that show all my attention. And you know, really wanted to make it great, because that's where I spending my days. And, you know, I think that also, you rise up faster that way too. Like, I was talking to a young kids every day who's wanting to make it, you know, I was interning and stuff. And I said, you know, if you just show the people you're working for that You are the hardest working person, the easiest person to get along with. They'll recognize that if they're not jerks, they'll recognize that they'll want to promote you. But if you walk in thinking I deserve better, from the very getgo and this is beneath me, you won't you know, I learned that the hard way because I did come out of being my own independent film guy. And then suddenly, I'm on staff. So I'm being told, you know, we don't all swim in late came. And, and once I changed my attitude, I rose really fast. And I had a show runner. I went from executive Story Editor scope to co executive producer in one season. And I've done the same thing for other writers I've had on my show I people start off as staff writers, by the end of the last ship, they were co VPS. Because I could just see it in them. They were dedicated to the show, they were dedicated to working hard into putting in the hours outside of work. You know, it's so I think I've got the question, but I think that's,

Alex Ferrari 1:12:14
Well, like the best advice I ever got. is don't be a dick. Dont be a dick. Yeah. Best best advice you could get is don't be a dick. And I'm gonna ask you a couple questions. Ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker or screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Steven Kane 1:12:28
I would say you know, there's no excuse these days for not making making products that someone can look at whether it's a script or a short or you know, play. I think that more and more people want to see people with their own unique voices. And they can teach you the business side of things they can teach you can surround you with people to help you. That's always been the case. But now I think with technology and the internet, and it's even more so that you can you can make your own portfolio and your own world. I think you know, Steven Soderbergh. Have you ever had him on yet?

Alex Ferrari 1:13:05
Not yet. I'm trying to. I'm trying. I'm trying.

Steven Kane 1:13:09
I've read a lot of his stuff. And he's, he's great. I met I met him briefly after I made an independent film at a lot at the movie theater, it was so nice. But he has got one of those books, which I always think is a good formula for success. Talent, plus perseverance equals luck. So that, to me is like it's like, literally, if you gave up too soon, doesn't matter how talented you are, you're done. Right? If you have no talent, but you keep trying, of course, that's going to leave you in a tough place because people don't like your work. But even if you have both those things, you gotta you have to get a break. You have to get a lucky break. You know, and I do think you make your own luck. You know, I look back on things. I've made plenty of mistakes. But I'm not here to talk about those. That. No, I remember being in film school, and I was working on a little Super Eight sound film and this young woman I was working with, she was applying to the Cannes Film Festival as an intern. I'm like, that sounds cool. How do I do that? I applied and I did not get the job. I called the guy up, was a publicist. And I said, Come on, you gotta send me I speak French. I'm a film student, I have to be helpful. That could be a translator, whatever you need, got the job and went there. And that'd be Oliver Stone, this assistant, you know, like little things like that kind of workout. If you don't give up. You know, I also had several years where I couldn't get a job. You know, I couldn't get arrested. I would get a freelance episode of a show, but I couldn't get staffed. I'd have great meetings, but then nothing happened. And then, you know, actually, I got the job and the closer up till the story a million times. But I met the showrunner team stuff after having a long week of rejections. And I was like, complete mope. In the in the interview, I was like, whatever, you know, it's great. Sure. Nice to meet you. I'm sure I'll get the job but whatever. Thanks for the free water and he for some reason, we still talked about to this day, he called my agent and said, What happened to this guy? And they said, he's just going through a tough time, he can't get a job. He's so good. You know, we think he's great. But whatever is like, well, please have him come back and be normal. I want to make sure he's not crazy, because I like his writing. So I went back, I was myself I was, you know, I pitched some ideas. And I ended up working on the show for like, seven years, you know, and we would joke about, like, why do you do that? Why do you give me a second chance? And he's like, Oh, I couldn't have done it. I am so glad I did. It was good for me. I said, What was was good for me too. So, you know, don't get down with things. Don't take things too hard. every setback is only a pause before the next success and literally be resilient. Just bounce back, be nice and be resilient. Because eventually, someone's gonna notice that and go get your shot.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:58
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Steven Kane 1:16:02
Still working on it! I still working on, you know, not getting too down on myself. But things don't go well. I'm still working on. You know, as much as I present to my partners, then like, through that this is the best thing ever, and we're going to do great. There's always that doubt of is this really a thing, you know? Imposter imposter syndrome. You know, at one point, after we sold the last ship, one of the producers turns to me, I sold it in the room, literally, Michael Wright said, Let's do this, let's shoot this as soon as possible. One of the producers turns to me afterwards and says, This is really a show. I'm like, wait a minute, I have to write this, you know, so. And that. And I don't need to hear that. Because I'm already hearing that myself and hearing my, my my grandmother saying, Are you making a living? Like, you know, that kind of stuff? Like, why don't you get a real job? Yeah, so. So the last thing I need to hear is that you're an imposter. So it's hard sometimes, because you really are putting yourself out there. I mean, in fact, the most frightened I've ever been, was when the stakes were so low, I wrote a couple of plays, when I placed in there put together as a show in LA, I ran for like six months, like 10 years ago, or more. And, you know, a small theater, and an Arab being in the audience and being so anxious, couldn't sit still, because I felt so exposed. Because it was me, that wasn't on a staff, there wasn't I couldn't say when my boss rewrote me, or, you know, this is what the network wanted. And it was, it was my personality, on display my works on display my thoughts on display. And, you know, it felt so great when people liked it. But at the same time, I hated the fact that I had put myself out there to be so vulnerable, but at the same time, that's what you have to do. Right? And so how do you protect that, that piece of you and still present to the world in a business where you know, people are cruel, or, you know, Doctor, do you read your reviews? You worked on something for three years? And someone does? Yeah, it was all right. They should have talked to the Navy, or they should have talked to you know, what? So I think that's something I'm still learning just how to keep a thick skin. And also keep that part of you. I look back at that kid who used to read some comment at 15. Wow, yeah, I want to be in more Birdman. Or I'd want to be you know, and I think who's this kid from New Jersey who could thinks he could be more Bergman? Right. So yeah, you just gotta, you gotta keep faith in yourself and surround yourself by people who are supportive and loving. And you know, and then turn around and hope that your kids like your work.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:37
Exactly. And last question, three of your favorite films of all time.

Steven Kane 1:18:42
Ah, I would say Amadeus, Barry Lyndon, Oh, wow. And I would say the toss up between. This is a little pretentious, I know. But in my bourbons persona or Ecuador's contempt, like when I watch when I want to get rich, super inspired again, Amadeus because I just love music. I love the way that film is directed. I relate to solitary too much sometimes I feel like a fraud. Yeah, Barry Lyndon, I keep putting it on for people and then watching the entire thing with them. That's the beauty of it. And then I just I just love I love persona and shame by Bergman, because they're just so stripped down just about the faces and about the interpersonal stuff. And like, I borrowed from those movies in ways you would never expect for the stuff I'm making. And then And then other the other kind of, sort of North Star for me is has always been Hitchcock because I like making films that are entertaining and unpopular and like you can eat popcorn and just enjoy them. But that if you wanted to, you can look deeper and find something into like you could read a paper about them, you know, we're Windows appropriate sample it's it's just this great mist Three story, but really, it's about one guy who can't commit to a relationship, right? And he's paralyzed because of the cast is that this beautiful woman and wants to be his girlfriend or wife? And what does he see out the window he sees the young newlyweds. He says Miss lonely hearts, He sees the sad sack he sees the Playboy sees the young couple doting on the dog that gets a job. All these things are sort of built into the story. If you want to go deeper and realize the metaphors, but it's also just fun. And I think like, that's to me, great filmmaking. Redox. So just saying, This is my message and being pretentious about it, you're telling the story. First and foremost, you're entertaining people. But then there's deep, there's depth beneath that, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:20:36
That's the it's amazing that Amadeus and Barry Lyndon are the favorite films of the guy who just put Halo out like, that's awesome. That is an awesome, because, you know, it's like, no Blade Runner and this and that and stuff. I know. That goes that goes without the Godfather we could deal with you can list them all off. But it wasn't a sci fi heavy list. And that's what I love. Because that's, that's where you get the more interesting stuff like you're gonna do. Yeah, when you start colliding genres and colliding ideas, and you know, things like that is is remarkable. Steve,

Steven Kane 1:21:11
I'll say one more thing. I 2001 has always been one of my favorite films, and I was able to honor it. In episode two of Halo, I was able to do homage to 2001 by casting here delay. Who was such a joy to work with such a sweet guy? Somewhere I have his autograph with a picture. 2001 But so yeah, I like I'd like to be able to speak to some history. You know, you listen to Spielberg talk about the movies or reference references when he makes, you know, Indiana Jones, whatever, it is the same thing. Now we're referencing those people, right, so the next generation, so I'm always trying to honor and pull from those greats.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:54
And someday some kid is gonna go Halo, I was watching Halo and I pulled the shot from Episode Three in

Steven Kane 1:22:02
That shot, that was an accident. We were running out of light, and we had to do something.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:07
And that's the funny thing. So when I've talked to some of these amazing filmmakers, I'll go, yeah, that's shot and they're like, Oh, God, that was horrible. It's so amazing. When you see from a different perspective. Yeah, it's the best we could keep talking forever. But I appreciate you so much for coming on the show. It has been a joy talking to you are you are a match, sir, you are a match. So I appreciate that. I appreciate you. And thank you for getting haloed out man finally,bringing it out to the world.

Steven Kane 1:22:34
I love it. And honestly, I'm honored to even have been invited on the show looking at the people you've spoken to before me. They're all legends. So it's a it's a thrill to be part of this. But I hope that helps add to the conversation. And you know, to anyone out there trying to get into the business, you know, welcome aboard, man. It's great. It's a great ride, if you can get into it.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:55
Thank you, my friend.

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