Quentin Tarantino’s Unreleased Film: My Best Friend’s Birthday

Few directors are as high profile and equally controversial than Quentin Tarantino.  The man is a lightning rod for criticism and praise.  Make no mistake, there is no middle ground here—you either love his work or are physically repulsed by it.  However, one objective fact remains: he is syllabus-grade essential when it comes to the wider discussion of cinema during its centennial.  His impact on film has left a crater too big to ignore.

Having broken out into the mainstream during the heady days of indie film in the 1990’s, Tarantino has influenced an obscene number of aspiring filmmakers my age.  80% of student films I saw in school were shameless rip-offs of Tarantino’s style and work.  I was even guilty of it myself, in some of my earlier college projects.  Something about Tarantino– whether it’s his subject matter, style, or his own character– is luridly attractive.  His energy is infectious, as is his unadulterated enthusiasm for films both good and bad.  Despite going on to international fame and fortune, Tarantino is a man who never forgot his influences, to the point where the cinematic technique of “homage” is his calling card.

Why is this admittedly eccentric man so admired in prestigious film circles and high school film clubs alike?  Objectively speaking, his pictures are pure pulp.  Fetishizations of violence, drug-use, and sex.  By some accounts even, trash.  If you were to ask me, it’s none of those things that make him a role model.  Tarantino represents filmmaking’s most fundamental ideal: the notion that anyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from, can make it in movies if they try hard enough.  Any producer’s son can nepotism his way into the director’s chair, but for the scrawny teenager in Wyoming with a video camera in her hand and stars in her eyes, Tarantino is proof-positive that she could do it too.

Born in 1963 to separated parents in Knoxville, Tennessee, Tarantino grew up without privilege or the conventional nuclear sense of family.  He was raised mostly by his mother, who moved him out near Long Beach, California when he was a toddler.  He dropped out of high school before he was old enough to drive, choosing instead to pursue a career in acting.  To support himself, he famously got a job as a clerk at the now-defunct Video Archives in Manhattan Beach, where he gained an extensive film education by watching as many movies as he could get his hands on, and cultivating an eclectic list of recommendations for his customers.  He found himself enraptured by the fresh, dynamic styles of directors like Martin Scorsese, Sergio Leone, Brian DePalma, and Mario Bava, and he studied their films obsessively to see what made them tick.

This is noteworthy, because most directors traditionally gain their education via film school or working on professional shoots.  Tarantino is the first mainstream instance of a director who learned his craft by simply studying films themselves.  Before the dawn of the digital era, aspiring filmmakers had to have a lot of money to practice their trade—something Tarantino simply didn’t have as a menial retail employee.  What he did have, however, was time, and he used it well by gaining an encyclopedic knowledge of the medium and making a few crucial connections.

When he was twenty four, Tarantino met his future producing partner, Lawrence Bender, at a party.  Bender encouraged him to write a screenplay, which would become the basis for Tarantino’s first film: MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY (1987).  While the film didn’t exactly prove to be a stepping stone to a directing career, and still remains officially unreleased, it served as a crucial crash course for the budding director.

MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY was intended to be a feature length film, but an unfortunate lab fire destroyed the final reel during editing.  The only surviving elements run for roughly thirty minutes, and tell a slapdash story that only emphasizes the amateurish nature of the project.  Set during a wild California night, MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY concerns Mickey Burnett (co-writer and co-producer Craig Hammann), whose birthday is the day of the story.  His best friend, Clarence Pool (Tarantino himself), takes charge of the planning by buying the cake and hiring a call girl named Misty (Crystal Shaw) to… entertain his friend.  Along the way, things go seriously awry and Clarence must scramble to save the evening.

At least, that’s what I took away from the story.  It’s hard to know for sure when you’re missing more than half of the narrative.  My first impression of the film is that it reads like a terrible student project, which is more or less what it is.  It was filmed over the course of three years (1984-1987), all while Tarantino worked at Video Archives.  The characters are thinly drawn, performances are wooden, the technical quality is questionable, and the editing is awkward and jarring.  However, Tarantino’s ear for witty dialogue is immediately apparent.  It sounds strange coming out of the mouths of untrained actors who don’t know how to channel its intricacies and cadences into music, but it’s there.  The myriad pop culture references, the creative use of profanity, and the shout-outs to classic and obscure films are all staples of Tarantino’s dialogue, and it’s all there from the beginning.  There is no filter between Tarantino and his characters—it all comes gushing forth like a fountain straight from the auteur himself.

In his twenty years plus of filmmaking experience, Tarantino has been well-documented as a self-indulgent director, oftentimes casting himself in minor roles.  It’s telling then, that the very first frame of Tarantino’s very first film prominently features Tarantino himself.  Sure, it might be a little narcissistic, but it makes sense when taken into context; his characters are cinematic projections of him, each one signifying one particular corner of his densely packed persona.  Why not begin at the source?

His performance as Clarence Pool is vintage Tarantino, with an Elvis-styled bouffant, outlandish clothes, and an overbearing coke-high energy.  It’s almost like the cinematic incarnation of Tarantino himself, albeit at his most trashy.  He even goes so far as outright stating his foot fetish to Misty in one scene, a character trait we know all to well to be true of Tarantino in real life.

For a director who is noted for his visually dynamic style, the look of MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY is incredibly sedate.  Of course, the film’s scratchy black and white, 16mm film look is to be expected given the low production budget.  For a film where the camera never moves save for one circular dolly shot, an astounding four cinematographers are credited: Roger Avary, Scott Magill, Roberto Quezada, and Rand Vossler.  Visually, it’s an unimpressive film that contains none of the man’s stylistic flourishes, but Tarantino’s rapid-fire wit more than adequately covers for the lack of panache.  A distinct rockabilly aesthetic is employed throughout, from the costumes to the locations.  It even applies to the music, which features various well-known surf rock, bar rock, and Johnny Cash cues.

Much has been made of Tarantino’s inspired music selections, and his eclectic choices have served as a calling card for his unique, daring style.  Music is an indispensable part of Tarantino’s style, from its overt appearances over the soundtrack to certain recurring story elements like the K-Billy radio station (which makes its first appearance here).  His signature use of off-kilter, counter-conventional music sees its first incarnation in MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY, where he employs a jaunty pop song during a violent fist fight.

Watching MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY, it’s clear that Tarantino’s films have always been unabashed manifestations of his personality and his influences.   Tarantino’s storylines and characters exist in an alternate reality, where extreme violence and profanity are more commonplace.  There are whole fan theories that draw lines between his films and connect them together into a coherent universe.  For instance, there’s a moment in the film where Tarantino’s character, Clarence, calls somebody using the fake name Aldo Ray.  Attentive listeners will note that a variation of the same name would show up over twenty years later in the incarnation of Brad Pitt’s Lt. Aldo Raine in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009).  Further adding to the theory of Tarantino’s “universe” is the fact that MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY would go on to form the initial basis for his screenplay TRUE ROMANCE (which was later directed by the late Tony Scott).  There’s even a kung-fu fight in MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY, which would become the genesis for his fascination with the martial art form over the course of his filmography.

It’s interesting to watch this film, as it bears every hallmark of the traditional “terrible amateur film”.  It has none of the slick polish that Tarantino would be known for, but it makes sense given his inexperience and meager budget.  Everybody’s first film is terrible.  But Tarantino’s unstoppable personality barrels forth, setting the stage for the firestorm he’d create with his debut feature.

MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY didn’t lead to anything substantial, simply because it was never released.  It’s a dynamic illustration of auteur theory at work, where the director’s personality shines through regardless of the resources or story.  We can literally see Tarantino finding his sea legs, feeling it out as he goes along.  The film is basically an artifact, but it’s much more than that:  it’s both a humble introduction to a dynamic new voice in film, as well as a (very) rough preview of the radical shift in filmmaking attitudes that would come in the wake of Tarantino’s explosive arrival.

IFH 036: Nina Foch: Directing the Actor – USC School of Cinematic Arts

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Have you been confused and frustrated when directing actors? I think every director and actor has been frustrated with each other at one or more points in their career but don’t worry Nina Foch is here to help. I’ll get to who she is in a moment.

For a filmmaker, directing actors can be a daunting task. Actors seem to have a language of their own which us directors have a very hard time understanding. For those masters like Steven SpielbergQuentin Tarantino, and Martin Scorsese, directing actors is second nature.

They are able to understand the language of the actor. They are able to make a scene come alive. No matter how well a scene is written, if the director cannot communicate with his or her actors then all is lost.

RelatedUSC School of Cinematic Arts Online Course Directing the Actor 

What to do? Enter Nina Foch, the legendary film teacher from the gold standard of film schools, USC School of Cinematic Arts.

As I was looking for filmmaking courses online I came across this gem of a course that I couldn’t believe was available to us mere indie film mortals. A master class from USC School of Cinematic Arts called Directing the Actor by Nina Foch. 

Who is Nina Foch?

Nina Foch was a Dutch-born American actress of film, stage, and television. Her career spanned six decades, consisting of over fifty feature films and over one hundred television appearances.

Stanley Kubrick, Cecil B. DeMille and Robert Wise? Crazy I know.


Nina Foch: Hollywood Legend

This American-Dutch actress was born on 20th April 1924 and had a very strong presence on the stage, film, and television. At the tender age of nineteen, she signed a contract with Columbia Pictures and became one of the favorites in the studio.

Throughout the 1940s and the 1950s, she established herself as one of the best leading ladies of the Hollywood industry. The actress ruled the screen for five decades having fifty feature films and hundreds of television appearances under her belt.

Hailing from an artistic background, her mother, Consuelo Flowerton was an actress and singer from America and her father was a Dutch classical music conductor named Dirk Fock. Although her parents divorced when she was a toddler both of them always encouraged Foch’s artistic talents. She enjoyed playing piano and art as well but her major interest was in action for which she attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Film Life

As she had signed a contract with the Columbia Pictures, her debut was a horror film produced under this company. She played Nicki Saunders in the movie The Return of the Vampire in the year 1943. The film was by the director Lew Landers where Nina Foch shared the screen with the great Bela Lugosi.

Later on, she was again cast in a horror flick Cry of the Werewolf in the coming year. She has a very central role in this one as she played the werewolf herself and is known as the first-ever film made on werewolves which had a female werewolf in it.

One of her most memorable roles was surprisingly in a B-movie classed named My Name is Julia Ross, released in the year 1945. In the move, she takes up the job of a secretary for a rich family and ends up being involved in a plot of murder.

She was also a part of the musical An American in Paris which was released in the year 1951. The movie went on to receive an Oscar for the Best Picture with Nina still remembered in that remarkable role of hers.

One can never forget her role in the 1956 epic movie The Ten Commandments where she played the pharaoh’s daughter who found baby Moses in the bushes and adopts him. For this particular movie by Cecil B. DeMille, she was honored with a special award by the American Jewish Congress.

She also acted in Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960). The film which finally ensured her entry into the Oscars was Executive Suite which was released in the year 1954. She received a nomination in the best-supporting actress category in this film by Robert Wise.

Apart from these, some of her other finest works include A Song to RememberI Love a MysteryEscape in the FrogJohnny Allegroand The Undercover Man to name a few.

Work on the Television

During her films, she was also regularly a part of the television series Houseman’s CBS Playhouse 90. Some of her greatest works on television include The AmericansYour First Impressionand Mr. Broadway.

She has been a part of a number of television series where she proved that she had quality acting abilities. She had a very long career span and some of the most credited TV shows in the latter part of her career include NCISBullJust Shoot Me, and Dharma & Greg. She even portrayed the elderly mother of Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard.

Her acting skills ranged widely, therefore, it is hard to miss a type of role which was not played by Nina Foch. If she has been cast as a werewolf then we also have seen her portraying herself as the victim of a heinous crime.

Also, we find her to be a part of a numbered radio programs where she featured for an episode or two.

Stage

Although she appeared in a limited number of plays this shows where she managed to polish most of her acting skills. She gave 423 performances for her play John Loves Mary as Lilly Herbish on the broadway. This proves the popularity of that playback during the 1940s era.

Apart from this, she was also a part of the Twelfth NightKing LearA Phoenix Too FrequentMeasure for Measureand The Taming of the Shrew. She gave up on stage plays after the year 1955 and dedicated her whole time to television and films.

As an Acting Teacher

There is no denying the fact that Nina Foch dedicated her whole life to her love of acting and movies. She found some time from her career to focus on making acting easier for some aspiring students as well. This is the reason that she joined USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. Not only did she work here but she also offered her teaching services at the American Film Institute for years.

She started teaching in the 1960s and continued to do so till her death in the year 2008. This shows that she dedicated 40 years of her life to helping others achieve their acting dreams. Some of the most accomplished directors have been her students including Marshall HerskovitzEd ZwickRandal Kleiserand Amy Heckerling.

All her students related that she had a deep philosophy about human behavior and thinking which was not at all easily understandable. She was more of a person who would teach something her students would actually encounter during their careers. This made her stand out as a teacher and influencing the acting, directing, and even writing of the students when they started their careers.

Her Farewell

According to her son, she had a blood disorder named myelodysplasia which had long-term complications. She became ill a day before and couldn’t fight for long in the hospital, finally, giving in to her ailment of 5th December 2008.

She is still remembered by all the film enthusiasts as a role model, teacher, and actress who gave her entire life and her efforts for the betterment of the film industry and to provide it some gems which will take the industry forward.

In addition to acting, Foch taught drama at the American Film Institute and at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, where she was a faculty member for over forty years until her death in 2008.

Nina Foch’s classes touch so many students over the years that one of her better-known pupils, George Lucas, decided to produce a course to capture the magic she taught in her class.

Before then this class was only available to masters students at USC School of Cinematic Arts. When I took the course I was completely blown away.

Nina Foch finally cracked the code. She teaches you how an actor thinks and how to speak to them, in their language.

She teaches you how to break down a screenplay in a way I’ve never heard of before. Nina shows you how to understand the intention of the characters in every scene.

These teachings are for both filmmakers and actors. Actors in the class gain a much better understanding of how to understand character and communicate better with directors.

Take a listen to a few of her former students:

This series of lectures are excerpts from Nina Foch’s directing class conducted at the University of Southern California. The lectures, organized into sections, cover script analysis, casting, directing, and acting. Spend some time watching Nina, learn from her and implement her ideas into your own work. You’ll be amazed at how far she can take you.

Who can benefit from Nina Foch’s Directing the Actor course? Directors? Absolutely. Actors? Yes. But, it’s equally valuable for writers, editors, producers, and anyone with more than a passing interest in the art and craft of filmmaking. This material can be used for an entire course, as part of a course, or a rich reference source to immerse yourself in your craft.

Here’s how this course escaped the hollow halls of USC School of Cinematic Arts:

For over 40 years SCA Professor Nina Foch (1928-2008) taught a distinguished generation of filmmakers at the USC School of Cinema-Television and the American Film Institute. 

In 2010, executive producers George Lucas, Randal Kleiser, and Ted Braun released The Nina Foch Course for Filmmakers and Actors on Digital Download, which brings an experience that has been available only in the country’s most select film schools to a wide audience. 

Take a listen to the podcast as I introduce you to the legendary Nina Foch. Enjoy!

Alex Ferrari 0:00
Now guys, today's is a special episode I wanted to highlight a lady that you might not ever heard of. Her name is Nina Foch. I had never heard of our prior to taking her amazing course and if you've been listening to the podcast in recent weeks, you've noticed that the one of our sponsors has been the the Nina folch ko course that that we have in our film school. And I did that on purpose because I wanted to bring more attention to to the course because the course what Nina Fitch did and let me give you a brief, a brief rundown on who Nina is. Nina worked. She's an Oscar nominated actress. She has worked with iconic directors like ces sessile B, the mill and 10 commandments, as well as Stanley Kubrick and Spartacus. She was also an American, an American in Paris, among the 1000s of other credits for television and film, the people who took her course, which is a course that she taught in USC, University of Southern California cinema arts program, she taught a course called directing the actor, and I actually recently took this course online. And I gotta tell you, it's changed my life. It changed the way I look at directing actors, understanding the intention behind words and attention behind screenplays, she teaches you how to break down a screenplay in a way that not only for actors, but for directors as well. Because it she tells you how to find the intention of what the writer had in mind when he wrote it. Or when he or she wrote it. It was fascinating and to watch her just masterfully explain how to work with actors how to get in the head of an actor understand the language of acting is was amazing because for me, as a director, it's you know, working with actors, I know a lot of times can be frustrating because we speak two different languages. And over the years, I've learned how to work with actors better and better. But it's still something that I want to always improve upon and grow as a director. And Nina really, really allows me almost gave me like the Rosetta Stone of actors to understand how she they think, how they understand things, how they are expressing themselves. And then also, on the flip side of that coin, in the same core, she teaches actors how to understand directors. It's quite remarkable. So let's I want you to hear this quick clip from her class explaining how to win the fight on set as a director, take a listen.

Nina Foch 3:27
You know that the young male in the show will you know the lead is going to have a problem and pick a fight in the first week. Something's going to come up. It can be that their chair isn't there. It can be that their shirt as the wrong they're right, the tie isn't right or something about their haircut. It's going to be dumb shit, dumb, something, right? recognize that that's the fight, you have to win. You have to take over and quietly win that fight, then you have no trouble ever again. Because what that argument is about is fear. The young woman can do it too, in today's world, young woman can do it as well. That's about fear. That's about the person testing, whether the director, the actor testing, whether the director is the boss is the daddy, or mommy. And that's what that is you have to recognize that it's that fight. And what that's about is that you need to reassure them, that there is somebody that cares about them, that will protect them and watch them and give them good solutions. I have to tell you, I know that as an actor. It is so rare that you feel protected. Because most directors don't know anything about actors. They don't have a clue they know don't know how to help them. They don't know anything. And I'm talking about working now I'm because I'm still working a lot, you know, so I know what's out there. I know what's happening, happened in the last four months that I've been sick. But up until four months ago, for 60 years, this is the way it's been. So there's very little likelihood to change while I was having trouble breathing at UCLA. Okay, so be sure you win that fight and be sure you know, it's that fight and be sure you don't get engaged with it. Right? Be sure you're on top of it. No, you're being the parent, the parent, the good parent.

Alex Ferrari 5:35
As you can tell Nina, that little bit of it, just that little bit of nugget of information that you heard in that example of the course, that, you know, it's something that's happened to me multiple times on, on set, where an actor will come up and challenge you to see if, you know, you're, you're who you are, if you're, if you're going to be the boss or not. And they're testing you. And it's not only actors sometimes, and sometimes it's producers. Sometimes it's cinematographer, sometimes it's sound, guys, you'll be amazed. But that is you have to understand that that is a thing that you have to to look out for. And Nina was so eloquent in the way she said it, and how to deal specifically with actors. And it's not a bad thing. It's just you, the actors just trying to find out if I'm safe or not. And that's something that most actors don't get. Like. She said that most, most directors have no understanding of how to deal with actors. And that's why this course is so relevant today. So how the course escaped was basically I call it escaped that this course was taught for about 30 years at USC, and her students are I mean, a who's who of Hollywood from George Lucas to Ed wick from who directed Blood Diamond and Last Samurai to Ron Howard. araunah Underwood, who directed tremors and city slickers, Leola, Rick's who directed Toy Story Amy Heckerling Fast Times at ridgemont, high and clueless, Cameron Crowe, Steven summers, and the list goes on and on and on. And right before Nina was already starting to get older, she's passed now she passed in 2008. And George Lucas wanted to put together a course or wanted to at least document this amazing class that only film students at USC got. And this is the one and only online film course from USC film school, and George Lucas and Randall Kessler produced that they wanted to bring this amazing course to the masses so with the cooperation of the USC film school, and Nina they recorded an entire semester over I think it's over 400 hours of footage and they brought it all the way down they condensed everything to a four hour course with over 91 lectures or videos with the course and I gotta tell you it is one of the best investments I have ever made in my directing career I've it's changed the way I look at actors and in a lot of ways changed the way I look at castings and I've been doing this for years guys and what she did was kind of like mine mine altering almost this course and you know I don't want to make this into a big plug in you know, if you know if you go to our site and download it, I just want to share this information and you know, highlight things indie film, hustle, I want to highlight things that help filmmakers survive and thrive in the film business and this course is so monumental in the way it handles a subject matter that is not taught out there and it's there's no real good books on it out there that I know of. Nothing like what she does and you know, to to have worked with Stanley Kubrick sessile B, the mill, Lee Strasberg, you know, she's, she's such a unique soul that I wanted to highlight this this course, and highlight Nina herself she is. Now by the way, her course is taught in a very unique way, her unique teaching style, which is what she's famous for. It's right in your face, she doesn't care. She doesn't give a crap. She just tells you how it is. And sometimes it's not nice and not pretty, but she just tells you straight up to your face. And at the end of the day, you understand that she's trying to help you. I'm trying to get you to understand what she's trying to teach you. Because someone with 60 years of experience, you have to listen to you I mean with with that kind of credibility, and as they say street cred, you'd be a fool not to listen to it. So I definitely want you guys to get a hold of this course. It's if you go to indie film, hustle, calm forward slash USC. That's indie film, hustle, calm forward slash USC. And they'll take you to our page where you can download Nina's course, and I'm telling you it is a course that will change the way you look at things as far as a director is concerned and the black art of working with actors in a A lot of ways, it really opened up my mind in my eyes to what it's about and how you can actually understand actors and work better with actors and actors, you understand what we go through as directors a little bit better, the casting process is broken down better. And also for writers just her story ideas, the way she she knows how to break down scripts, and get the essence of scenes and the intention and that's the big thing, the intention of the work and attention of the scene. So if it scenes about this, and you read it, and it looks like it's just about, oh, I'm just gonna get, you know, a glass of wine. It's not about the glass of wine, it's about a million other things. And she explains that to you by how she breaks down scripts, and how she's broken down scripts throughout her career. And it's mind altering it really really is guys, so definitely check it out indie film, hustle comm forward slash USC, well worth every penny, trust me. Now if you want the show notes of this episode, please head over to indie film hustle.com forward slash zero 36. And I will have a coupon code for the course so you can get it at a discount. So definitely check it out. I wrote a beautiful article about her and all of her teachings and there's some videos there that you can watch from all these directors, we're talking about her as well as some samples of the course. So definitely check it out, guys. Now if you're a fan of the show, please don't forget to head over to filmmaking podcast calm and leave us an honest review for the show on iTunes. It really helps us out a lot and it really helps to get the word out on what we're doing at indie film, hustle. Keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you guys soon.

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IFH 028: How Quentin Tarantino is Keeping Film Alive with The Hateful Eight

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Ah, the good ol’ digital vs film debate. Well, you won’t get any of that in the article or podcast. With Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight coming out Dec 25, 2015, and it is shot on “Glorious 70mm,” there has been a lot of chatter about film again.

With filmmakers like Christopher Nolan shooting 35mm and IMAX on his latest film and JJ Abrams shooting Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 35 mm, film seems to still be an art form that many filmmakers are not ready to let go of just yet.

What Quentin Tarantino has done with The Hateful Eight is unique. He has brought back to life the Ultra Panavision 70 technique along with anamorphic 65mm lenses that haven’t been seen since the ’60s.

Here are some specs:

  • Camera: Panavision 65 HR Camera and Panavision Panaflex System 65 Studio
  • Lenses: Panavision APO Panatar
  • Film Stock 65mm: Kodak Vision3 200T 5213, Vision3 500T 5219
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.75:1

Quentin Tarantino has some very strong opinions about shooting digital.

“Part of the reason I’m feeling [like retiring] is, I can’t stand all this digital stuff. This is not what I signed up for,” he said.

“Even the fact that digital presentation is the way it is right now – I mean, it’s television in public, it’s just television in public. That’s how I feel about it. I came into this for film.”

He continued:

“I hate that stuff. I shoot film. But to me, even digital projection is – it’s over, as far as I’m concerned. It’s over.”

“If I’m gonna do TV in public, I’d rather just write one of my big scripts and do it as a miniseries for HBO, and then I don’t have the time pressure that I’m always under, and I get to actually use all the script,” he explained.

“I always write these huge scripts that I have to kind of – my scripts aren’t like blueprints. They’re not novels, but they’re novels written with script format. And so I’m adapting the script into a movie every day.”

This is what he said he’d do if he would write another huge epic.

“The one movie that I was actually able to use everything – where you actually have the entire breadth of what I spent a year writing – was the two Kill Bill movies because it’s two movies. So if I’m gonna do another big epic thing again, it’ll probably be like a 6-hour miniseries or something.”

The Hateful Eight will be getting a nation-wide release in Ultra Panavision 70, which means it’ll be the first fiction feature film screened in anamorphic 70mm with a single-projector Cinerama system since Khartoum in 1966.

Watch Quentin Tarantino, director of photography Bob Richardson and Panavision explain how they brought Ultra Panavision 70, back to life in The Hateful Eight.

A Christmas Eve Conversation With Quentin Tarantino & Paul Thomas Anderson on 70mm Film

Quentin: I didn’t realize how much of a lost cause [35mm] was. At the same time I didn’t realize to the same extent 70mm would be a drawing point. Not just to me and other film geeks. There is no intelligent argument to be had that puts digital in front of [70mm]. It actually might be film’s saving grace. Film’s last stand. Film’s last night in the arena — and actually conquer.

Check out this amazing documentary SIDE BY SIDE, produced by Keanu Reeves, takes an in-depth look at this revolution.

Through interviews with directors, cinematographers, film students, producers, technologists, editors, and exhibitors, SIDE BY SIDE examines all aspects of filmmaking — from capture to edit, visual effects to color correction, distribution to archive.

At this moment when digital and photochemical filmmaking coexist, SIDE BY SIDE explores what has been gained, what is lost, and what the future might bring.

Alex Ferrari 0:52
So today, guys, with The Hateful Eight coming out in a few weeks. And all in quitting, like being quitting Tarantino being so adamant about shooting film and shooting film shooting film, and he actually is brought back an amazing format, basically 70 millimeter, ultra panavision hasn't been used since the 60s. And he's been able to bring back this, this beautiful format for Hateful Eight. And he's doing a roadshow around the country. So for people who want to see it in film in this massive format, they can see it in that format. So I wanted to talk a little bit about the differences between film and digital. And this has been debated to death. So I'm not going to do that. But for a lot of people who are not familiar with actually shooting film and the differences. I just wanted to kind of to kind of shed a little light on this. But before we do, I want you to hear what Quentin Tarantino himself has to say about the process.

Interviewer 1:53
And you're you're not too sure about the digital era Are you in terms of as opposed to the old day of going to the cinema? And yet no, I'm widescreen as on the digital era.

Quentin Tarantino 2:05
At least it does nothing for me. It does nothing for me. I mean, I actually think I'm getting gypped when I go to a movie and I realize it's either been shot on digital or being projected in digital. Um, I mean some people feel differently about this but I think it's the death kill I think it's the death rattle and you know, it's Yeah, I do. And I also have even another whole aspect about it, you know, I've always believed in the magic of movies. Yeah, and to me, the magic movies is connected to 35 millimeter because everyone thinks you can't help but think that when you're filming something on film, that you're recording movement, you're not recording movement, you're just taking a series of still pictures, there's no movement in movies at all they are still pictures but when shown at 24 frames a second through a light bulb it creates the illusion of movement so thus as opposed to recording device when you're watching a movie or film print you are watching an illusion and to me that illusion is connected to the magic of movies.

Alex Ferrari 3:09
Now that was a that was quitting from a press conference he did a few years back when he was asked about that about digital versus film now I'm a guy who shot a lot of film in my day my demo reel was shot on 35 millimeter I've shot eight millimeter 16 millimeter in film school I've learned 16 millimeter and N 35 millimeter so you know I I changed the bag change the film in the bag I you know did I did the whole the whole gambit on film. And I you know I love film I think film is a wonderful medium and I don't think film should die I think film should always be an option for filmmakers because it does have something very unique something very specific about it. Now with that said though when you're shooting I've done I've now come over to the other side and I've now shot a ton more digital than I've ever shot film and it has opened up my ability to tell stories and be able to shoot more and be able to do more post production because of the new digital technology you know when shooting film it's it's you know you've got that whole mystery of like oh maybe I'll maybe I'll maybe I got it in the shot or not. I don't know maybe we'll see when we get back from dailies and all this kind of stuff. That's great and I but I was used to frustrate me videos. This was the only thing I had at the time and even then you really don't know what did the film actually actually look like until you get into the into the into the lab. And just so you know when I shot my my demo reel, I actually sent up all my footage to a lab up in New York. I'll do art and do art, their machine broke while I was developing my film, and I lost my entire production. I lost all of it. That was 1000s of dollars that I lost and they were very nice. They gave me free development and free film and but I didn't really pay for the production. But I did what you know, it was all it is but those are things that happen just like you would you know lose a hard drive nowadays, but to get back to what Quentin Tarantino was doing now with The Hateful Eight, the video that's attached to the show notes of this of this episode, he does this entire like they will basically a 10 minute explanation of what they're doing with how they went back to find the camera and the lenses that were sitting in a corner somewhere and they had to go do tests and stuff but the magic that he's going to be able to capture with that and we'll all see on Christmas day when it comes out how it's going to look and what it's going to be like but you know, I think there needs to be champions like guarantee No, and by the way, Tarantino is not the only director doing this. Christopher Nolan JJ Abrams shot the new Star Wars all on 35 millimeter. Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, Darren Aronofsky shot the wrestler on 16 millimeter. There's a lot of directors holding on to film because it is a viable it's a viable shooting format, especially at the at the studio level where they can afford the costs to create, you know, the workflow for that maybe at the independent level is much more difficult. But with that said in a few weeks, I'm going to have probably in a month or two, I'm going to have a guest on I just did the pot I just did the interview last week with her name is Kansas bowling. She's 19 now but she was 17 when she made her first feature film and she shot a completely on 16 millimeter. And all she does is shoot film she won't shoot digitally. She doesn't like the way it looks. She wants to shoot film and wants to keep that format alive because she's a when you hear her she's kind of like a female mini Quentin Tarantino she knows so much about this her genre film from the olden days that it's she could just tell that she has a love for film just like Tarantino does. It's something that I hope stays around for a long time I think we're losing more and more of the artists and the technicians who understand film who know film because they're not teaching in schools anymore it's becoming kind of like a lost art in a lot of ways is you know old all the older dogs like myself and guys a head of me who've been working with film all there's light like my my friend Suki who was on episode nine, we were talking that he The reason one of the reasons he got on to American Horror Story was because he shoots film, he knows how to shoot film, he shot a lots of film, and he is actually you know, that film, the whole show is shot on film. And the things that they're able to do with that because they shoot film and to be able to do in camera tricks and things in development, things that you can't do digitally and not able to do digitally. Now a lot of people say the warmth and the different vibe and the just the psychological they all this is great. You know it's the same conversation I was in school this digital analog debate was going on for music, like oh, vinyl or digital. But now everything you know now, vinyls coming back up, because everyone's like, Wow, it sounds so much better. I'm not sure if that's going to be the way it is with digital in the future. I really don't i don't see that happening anytime. I think like just like vinyl and and mp3 they live together. The digital world is much larger than the vinyl world but the vinyl world starting to come up and there are people who are interested in seeing that and watching that. So I think film is going to become that kind of niche within the film industry. So for those of you who have never shot film, I wanted to kind of take you through the process really quickly. So you shoot 35 millimeter you go out and get your stock of film, that stock of film will be dependent on the amount of light you want to expose in the film. So a lower aasa like a 50 or 100 would be for outside stuff that there's a lot of light so it's you can it absorbs it absorb it needs a lot of light to be able to get a good exposure, but it's very fine. So if you have a lot of light outside and you shoot with that kind of format, you're going to be a nice clean grainless image kind of you know getting closer to the digital side of it. Now, if you go higher like to the eight hundreds or I think even to 1000 I forgot where they actually ended up stopping doing that, then you could shoot in low light. Now the legendary Stanley Kubrick shot Barry Lyndon some scenes in Barry Lyndon with a some lenses that he got from NASA on a very as advanced of a film stock as they had at the time nowadays. Or nowadays they have film stock that was very, very fast and can absorb a lot of light, but back then they didn't. So that's kind of what you're dealing with with film stock is because there's so now you get the film, you get a camera let's say you're going to shoot it on air, your pan of vision, you load the camera up huge and you only have 10 minute rolls. That's it. You only got 10 minutes per roll to shoot what you got to do. That's why the long takes of yesteryear only lasted around 10 minutes. That's why Alfred Hitchcock's rope was basically nine long takes edited together very Very interestingly and very cleverly, to hide the edits. But there until digital came along, there was no ability to make long take film, or long take shots past 10 minutes. So once you shoot at 10 minutes, you sync it up with audio later on, because you can record audio directly into the camera, but you can sync it up. So once you have it, and by the way, when you're on set, you have to have a guy on set with a bag to be able to change the mag, the mag can't see any light film can't see any light because if it sees light, it ruins it. So you have to put it in a black bag or into a tent, go in there, change the film out blind, because you can't do it unless you're in a dark room which onset you generally aren't. You've got to do it blindly. So you have to learn how to do this blindly. As I'm telling you this, it sounds crazy. But I remember doing this in school. So you go in there you have to feel things around, you got to change the mag, make sure it's all tight, get it out, tape it up. All this stuff has to be done just to be able to get the image. So let's say we've shot the whole film now we've done everything perfectly. Now you send it off to the lab, the lab will develop it then after the lab develops it you would take it over to a telephony suite now the olden days you would be able to edit on film, take take the negative and edit it and make a print of it and then edit it and then someone will go back and edit off of edge codes. Each film. All the film stocks have different edge codes inside of it. So they literally would go by I edge it out. Funny is when I went to film school, they actually taught us backwards they taught us nonlinear editing, than online editing, then Film Editing and when I literally went to film and I was cutting I'm like I looked at the teacher. I'm like you want me to cut this with a razor blade? And then tape it together with with tape. What are we the Flintstones this is this is crazy. This is barbaric? Because I didn't understand and it is even for someone who's never understood never seen anything like that it does it did look barbaric, even for me back then. So can you imagine what you know someone who's never even seen a film camera or shot film or edited film would look at it going You got to be kidding me. So it was a very slow process doing that. And by the way, the reason why in all your editing systems, it's called the bin is because they actually hung films in film takes in bins, like literally hang them physically. And they would be called film bin. So that's when avid and everybody else came out. They all call it bins because they're all still trying to go back to that use that old terminology. So let's say we're not going to edit and film. Let's say we're going to do it a digital a digital way that the current way. So you would shoot it, you would bring it back to a telephony, they would scan it all in digitally. At that point, you have it all digital and it's going to stay digital and then now you can do all your working workflow visual effects, everything you want to do all digitally no problem at all. When you're all done, you've color graded digitally. You get it all done, you're out the door, bam, bam, boom, you're good. When I did my demo reel, I actually took the negative I had to actually color grade all the raw footage, then transfer all that raw footage, color graded onto a tape beta SP or Digi beta tape and then go off and digitize that into an avid and then edit it together to get my final piece. So there's a few different workflows but as you can see, film is much more convoluted and currently much more expensive because a lot of the infrastructure that was in place is now no longer there. So when there was 1015 Labs in LA, I think there's one or two now in LA that can do this this kind of work anymore so I hope this kind of gives you a little bit of an understanding of what the workflow is I'm no expert by any stretch I'm definitely not you know the old pro that's been shooting film for years and decades or anything like that this is my experience with it. And I kind of glossed over it there's a lot more detail involved with it, but it is a lot more convoluted and it is a lot more time consuming to do to do this once you by the way once you shoot the film, you won't know what to do you would send the dailies out to the lab the lab would develop it and then send it back to you and then you would at lunch on the film set at lunch go and watch your dailies with the producer and see what you had for the day before so now you have an instantly now you can literally just watch it on the monitor rewind it right then and there and you'll know what you've got or you didn't get instantly so with that digital is obviously one of the many things is wonderful about digital filmmaking. But that gives you kind of a quick overview of what it was like shooting film I know for the for the younger guys in the audience. It sounds like we were crazy. But you know what? They've been doing films like that for over 100 years doing it like that. So it's only within the last two I mean, honestly it's basically Episode Two of Star Wars Episode of Star Wars Episode Two was I think one of the first films shot completely digitally. So you know it's it hasn't been that long that we've been doing digital but it's been growing so fast, and now it's completely dominates the market. So just wanted to guys give you a little bit of an idea for anybody in the audience who doesn't had never experienced shooting film before. What Quinn's doing is remarkable, I'm very I applaud him for fighting so hard to get the to get film in the spotlight again, I think because he's doing this with, with The Hateful Eight that it started the conversation over again, if you guys get a chance, you have to watch a documentary called side by side, who was directed by Keanu Reeves. And he goes around and interviews the top directors in the world talking about this specific reason like film or digital film, or digital film or digital and he it's a fantastic documentary, I'll leave, I'll leave a link for it in the show notes. It really, really is worth your time to watch it. If you are interested in this. If you guys ever do get a chance to shoot film, and you have that opportunity, whether it's like shooting eight millimeter, super eight millimeter, just to have that experience is so much fun. And it's so enlightening as a filmmaker to be able to shoot on film, because you guys call yourself filmmakers, you should actually one day shoot film, it's it's always a wonderful thing. And if you want to shoot super eight separate, if you go to Super eight sound, I think it's super eight sound calm, I'll live I'll put it in the show notes. They have an entire ecosystem of cameras, you can rent or buy the film packages already done. And they'll actually you can also do post production with them as far as transferring it through telephony. Now in my day, I've been in a lot of telephony sessions where you actually sit down you put the put the roll of film up and you run it in you put it in digitally and scan it in and that the times I did a day, we didn't even scan it in there was no scanning in at the time, it was more just transferring it to a beta SP or Digi beta. And now they would transfer it to an hdslr or something like that. But now they would actually scan it in digitally. You don't even have to go to tape, of course. So bottom line is guys, I think film. If you haven't had a chance to experience film experience it it is a magical thing. If I had a chance to shoot film again, I probably would. But it really would depend on the film and the project, I really have gotten used to the digital workflow. I love the images that come out of digital cameras, the red, the airy, the black magic, they're just absolutely stunning images and the freedom that you get to do with playing with it. That's why, you know, amazing directors like David Fincher have adopted Steven Soderbergh adopted it so quickly. And they just love the freedom that you have and the instantaneous, instantaneous ability to just see what you've got rewind it, look at it and go, okay, rewind it, listen to me and see what you've got, and be able to adjust on time onset, right at the moment. It's wonderful. So digital has its place, there's no question about it. And there's no question that digital will be the future. You know, there it is, the future it is now it is what it is. It's it's going to be here for a long, long time. But we should not abandon film. And that is my main point here. And I think that's the main point of Christopher Nolan, JJ Abrams, Tarantino and so forth, about why it is so important to keep that heritage and keep that ability to do things on film alive. So by the way, right now, as of this date in 2015 film is still the only way to archive motion pictures over the course of 50 years, 100 years, there are no hard drives that can do it yet. Solid State hard drives are still up in the air, they don't know how long they're gonna last because they're still fairly new technology. So film celluloid is the only way to archive film unknown way the archive film properly. Now you can in 100 years, 150 years, you can still bust it out, put it on, throw some light through a projector and be able to get an image. And that's something digital has not caught up with yet. So before you start ragging too heavily on film, all your favorite movies are still being archived on film celluloid, because it is the only option out there. But I hope you guys if you guys ever do get a chance to shoot film, please do so it is a magical magical experience. So please don't forget to head over to filmmaking podcast, calm filmmaking podcast.com and leave us an honest review on iTunes. It helps us out a lot and helps the show out a lot too. And if you're interested in any of the things I've talked about in the show, head over to get the show notes at indie film hustle calm forward slash zero 28 there's links video clips, all of that stuff is in the show notes so thank you guys again for listening. And guys do me a favor if you actually see Hateful Eight in 70 millimeter or on film or film prints of it. Let me know what you guys think I'm dying to hear what you guys really feel and what emotions you felt when you watched it was it crappy was like oh my god, the Image flickering all this kind of stuff. Leave it in the comments in the show notes, leaving in the comments or drop me a line on Facebook or on our own indie film hustle. And let me know what you think. So keep that dream alive. Keep that hustle going, and I'll talk to you guys soon.

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IFH 016: Getting Attention from Influencers – Roger Ebert Story

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I always get asked by indie filmmakers:

“How do I get attention for my indie film?”

This is one of the major challenges facing indie filmmakers/entrepreneurs in today’s noisy independent film landscape. One fast way is to get an “influencer” to focus a little light on you or your project.

Now, this is much easier said than done. When I promote my projects I approach every online indie film influencer I can.

This includes indie film sites, niche sites (around your subject matter), industry news outlets, film magazines, movie fan websites, film festivals, podcasters, conventions, and movie reviewers.

This is how my films have been covered by over 300 international film websites, magazines, and news outlets. I was even featured in the best selling indie filmmaking book “Making Short Films: The Complete Guide from Script to Screen.”

I put my films and myself out there to be seen and consumed. I had many offers, meetings with Hollywood “players” and opportunities purely because I shouted from the top of the mountain about my projects.

BROKEN is essentially a demonstration of the mastery of horror imagery and techniques. Effective and professional.” – Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times)

The number one question I get asked is:

“How the hell did you get Roger Ebert to review your little short film?”

In this podcast, I tell the story of how the legendary film critic Roger Ebert was so amazingly kind to a young filmmaker and my short film BROKEN (Watch it on Indie Film Hustle TV).

For those of you who are not familiar with Roger Ebert’s work, he was arguably the most famous and powerful American film critic during his lifetime. For decades filmmakers prayed for his famous “thumbs up” and feared his “thumbs down.”

He recently passed away but if you want to learn who this remarkable man was I would suggest you watch this amazing documentary on his life “Life Itself.” Check out the trailer below.

As the above trailer states:

“Roger Ebert gave life to new voices and gave life to new visions that reflected all the diversity of this nation”.

There will truly never be another Roger Ebert.

I want to use this story as a way to teach independent filmmakers two things:

  1. Put yourself in a place or arena that better your odds of accessing influencers and gatekeepers.
  2. Be ready when the opportunity presents itself.

My story is as much to do with luck as it does with being prepared. Luck and preparation are bedfellows on your journey as an indie filmmaker, as many successful filmmakers will tell you.

Alex Ferrari 0:00
Today, we have a fun show. It's a show that I get a question I get asked a ton about. But before we talk, head on over to free film book.com that's free film book calm, and get your free audio book, choose from over 40,000 different books and download it for free. So today's topic is in the question I get asked a ton. And I've been asked this question ever since it happened. How in god's green earth did you get Roger Ebert to review your short film broken. And it is a fun story. And I wanted to give you a story. So you understand it. Also, there's a lesson involved with this story. So all of you are probably aware of my film broken that we shot for 1000 bucks. And you know, it was 20 minutes long had 100 visual effects shots on and so forth. And we got a lot of attention for it. And one of the we actually garnered some attention by a film producer slash distributor, international distributor, who wanted to talk to us about my partner and I at the time, about broken the feature and so on. So they flew us up to the Toronto Film Festival. And at that point, we already have the DVD in the DVD was selling and we'd probably had it out well, we launched it in June. So November sometime, I think is when we were November, September, I think is when Toronto was in September, October sometime. Anyway, so we went to the festival. And the distributor gave us a couple tickets to one of the screening movies that were screening that day. So we went in to watch the movie and my partner at the time looked up and said, Hey, man, there's there's Roger Ebert. And I'm like, well, let's let's go meet him. And this is before the movie starts. So Roger was sitting in the back, and God rest his soul. We do miss Roger and his voice. And I'll talk more about Roger at the end of this thing. So Roger, we went up to Roger, and, you know, we were like two little girls at a Justin Bieber concert. It was just like, oh my god, Roger. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. And Roger was so just gracious. And you know, and he's like, Look, man, I love you. I'm glad you got to talking to me and everything, but I can't watch your movie. And we're like, I mean, I told them like, of course, you know, like, that was the last thing on my mind. I was never even conceiving the idea that Roger Ebert would watch my little movie that I shot in Florida with no actors, and no one wasn't even in the in, in the theater for guy wasn't even in the festival, for God's sake. Like, why would he take the time out to do anything like that. But the one thing I did do is I kept talking, I kept talking to him and explaining everything about my movie. And like, you know, we shout out for 1000 bucks a shout out on a digital camera. I mean, a shout out on mini DV, and we've been selling on DVD. And I just kept talking to talking. And as that conversation kept going, Rogers head tilted. And he said, Do you mind if I take a picture of you? And then all I said in my mind was, Oh, cool. Now I can finally ask to take a picture with him because I wasn't going to be that guy. So he took a picture. You know, he took a picture of me and I'm like, Roger, can you know? Can I take a picture with you? Yes, sure. No problem. And then he just starts writing down everything. We're saying he's like $1,000 movie mini DV law broken or named everything and then he's, he's like, you know, this will make a nice little blurb for my, my blog. And we're like, I told them, like, what would you like to see, you know, would you like a copy of the DVD, he's like, sure. And I had a copy of the DVD in my back pocket. Now this is a lesson that I want everyone to take with this story. It's a fun story. It's a great little story, and I'll tell you how it ends in a second. But if I wouldn't have had the DVD in my pocket, a full blown you know, full full release DVD in my pocket. I would have never gotten any kind of review or anything from Roger Ebert. The lesson to take away from this is always be prepared. I mean, be the boy scout if you will. If you're being put in a scenario I mean, you can't be walking around all of life with you know, your demo reel with you at all times, though that would be nice. And nowadays, you can can do that with your iPhone. But if you didn't have the movie at the time to hand him not to watch there because he wasn't going to sit there for 20 minutes and watch our movie. He, I would have lost that opportunity. So if you're put in a place like a film festival, Like a mixer, like a place where these these kind of influencers are at, then you always should be prepared. Always have something not a business card. Not enough. If you have a movie, if a situation presents itself, don't be pushy, don't try to jam it in their face. We had built a relationship up within those few minutes that we talked to the point where he wanted something from us once he wanted something from us. Then we reciprocated like, Hey, would you like this to help your blog? And he said, Yes. So anyway, so we gave him the DVD, we sat down, watch the rest of the movie, rest of the rest of the, the the movie, the rest of the trip was fine. And we flew back home by the time we flew back home the next day, when we landed, we had had people emailing us and calling us and oh my god, Roger Ebert just reviewed your movie on his blog. And I was like, What? So I ran in there, I ran to a computer. Because there were no smartphones at the time. And I looked it up, I'm like, Oh my god, he watched the movie. And there was a picture of us, me and my partner. And we were like, Oh, my God. And he basically made it a story about independent film makers using new digital technology to tell their stories. And we were the focus of that article. And then he said, and I happen to watch the movie. And he gave us two lines that I will never forget. It is a broken is essentially he said broken is essentially a mastery of horror imagery and technique, effective and professional looking forward to seeing broken the feature. And I could not be more over the over the moon over this review. I mean, this is a God, you know, he's a film God. But you know, Roger Ebert was one of those guys, he was the film critic in all of the United States, arguably the world, but his influence in the United States was massive, he was the guy, you know. So for him to come down, first of all, to take the time to watch our movie, then to give us a critique about it. That's how much he loved filmmakers and loved movies. He didn't have to be nice, he didn't even have to talk to us, let alone write us a little review, and make us a focus of one of his little articles on his blog. But by doing that, it changed the course of my life. Because when I had Roger Ebert's endorsement, many doors opened up for for the movie. For myself, to this point, to this day, I'm talking about this story right now. And it's been 10 years since that happened. People still ask me how it happened, because it's something that he never did. It was just a moment in time that happened. And it was my lottery ticket, my small lottery ticket wasn't the you know, I didn't win I didn't went to the Super Bowl jackpot. But I, I definitely won something when he did that for me. So moving forward, the the exposure that that got was massive. I put Rogers quote on every bit of material we can, because it has so much weight behind it. So it helped me promote myself as a director helped me promote myself, my movies, it just added a level of credibility to me as a filmmaker that the other filmmakers would kill for myself included. So it was one of those moments in time, but I had, I was prepared. And that's what I want you guys to take away from this story is you have to be prepared for when lightning strike, when that opportunity that door opens, you have to be ready. Because once it's gone, it's gone. If I wouldn't have had that DVD with me that day, with all this behind the scenes stuff, and all this stuff that things that I've packaged the DVD it looked professional, if I wouldn't have had that that day, that opportunity would have been lost for ever. It would have never come back, I would have never been able to get that opportunity back. It was that moment in time that you just have to be ready. And that's, that's what I want you guys to take away. Always be ready to take advantage of that opportunity when it comes. So I hope that helps you guys a little bit. I hope it was an entertaining story. It was a it's been life altering to me. And another thing about Roger is, once Roger passed, he a lot of stories came out about him being so nice and generous to filmmakers. And I was one of those stories that got pushed around Facebook a bit when he passed. And he was he was such a gracious man that I will never ever forget the kindness that he gave me. And it's one of the reasons why I do indie film hustle today is I want to give back want to help the next generation coming up behind me To be better filmmakers to survive as artists, and Roger was an artist, as a writer. He wasn't a filmmaker. But he respected and loved filmmakers. And his art was his criticism of film, and how he wrote it. That he got a Pulitzer Prize, the only film critic ever to win a Pulitzer Prize. And he is, he will always be in my heart. I'm getting a little choked up. He will always be in my heart. And I will always be thankful to that man for being so generous with me in my little movie. So enough of this happiness. I hope you guys got a lot out of that. Please don't ever forget, don't give up on your dream. Keep that hustle going. And it just the business is gonna beat you and beat you and beat you. But you have to keep going. The guys and the girls who make it never stop. And I'm trying to help you guys get there as well. So good

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IFH 001: Robert Forster | Oscar Nominee & Legendary Actor

 

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This week we are joined by legendary actor Robert Forster. Robert has been a working actor for decades, appearing in a classic film like Medium Cool, the iconic John Huston’s Reflections in a Golden Eye80’s action classic Delta Force (love me a good 80’s action flixand Disney’s The Black Hole (one of my favorite films growing up).

He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1997 for Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, which he credits with reviving his career. Since then Robert has been on fire in the second half of his career, appearing in The DescendantsLike MikeMulholland Drive; Me, Myself, & IreneLucky Number Slevin and Firewall, just to name a few.

I also have to mention his runs on NBC’s HEROS (I have high hopes for the reboot) and arguably the GREATEST TELEVISION SHOW EVER WRITTEN Breaking Bad. He just nails those last two episodes as Walt’s relocation/make me disappear guy. Just amazing. As you can tell I’m a big fan of Robert’s.

I had the honor of working with Robert on one of my films, Red Princess BluesHe supplied some remarkable narration that set up my film perfectly. He was easily one of the most professional and talented actors I have ever worked with; a professional of the greatest caliber.

In our interview, he dishes out amazing advice to young actors, directors and human beings alike. He even tells us his favorite Quentin Tarantino on the set direction he got on the set of Jackie Brown; worth it’s waiting in gold.

Enjoy!

Alex Ferrari 0:05
Today I'm really excited about the show guys, we have Oscar nominee and legendary actor Robert Forster. On the show today, you might know him from Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown where he was when he got the Oscar nomination. And more recently, he's done films like the descendants of Olympus Has Fallen, Mulholland Drive, and then Delta Force back in the day and the classic Disney's black hole, which I saw when I was growing up as a kid, it was a real thrill and privilege to work with him on one of my films, red princess blues, where he came in to do some video for me, he was amazing. So I decided to sit down with him and do a real quick interview after our session. And he threw a lot of gems out there for actors, for directors, and even disclosed his favorite direction that Quentin Tarantino Tarantino gave him while shooting Jackie Brown, which was wonderful. So sit back, relax and enjoy the interview.

Interviewer 1:58
So over the years, when you look at projects, what attracts you to to the film?

Robert Forster 2:03
You know, basically, it's a job in hand, somebody hands you something and says this needs to be done. Once you realize that you can deliver the goods, you say yes. And then you go in there, and you get a chance to hit the ball over the fence if possible. And sometimes you do. And this is a great day. That's what actors lives are composed of a string of interesting days where you get a chance to be creative.

Interviewer 2:32
So out of all the projects you've done of all the films you've been what's been the most memorable or rewarding for you.

Robert Forster 2:38
Boy, that's a hard one because they're all pretty good. Like I say, when I was young, my mother sent me a book called White hyacinths at the beginning of the book, it said, If I had bought two loaves of bread, I would sell one of them to buy white highest and to feed my soul. Now from that I understood that life had a spiritual component and that you had to feed it, the end of the book, which is a series of essays about work and delivering your best and other such you know, lofty things. At the end of the book, the very last thing that said was, and the reward which life holds out for work, is not ease or rest or immunity from work, but increased capacity, greater difficulty and more work. And I thought, Oh, God, I hope not. I was a pretty, pretty lazy guy when I was young and was hoping that I could get through, you know, easy in life. Then I became an actor and I realized how important a day's work is to an actor. So when he asked me what was most memorable, the last thing I did was pretty memorable, which is this you know, you spent I spent some hours I looked at it last night, I read it a couple of days ago, I spent an hour here today just looking it over and reading it and asking myself now what can you get out of this, that that was meant, and then bring your audience into a little a little, a little life a little, a little story, bring them to somewhere else? And then you go in there and like right now and you take a few shots at it and and you know, it's not magic. You put down what the guy said and and it generally works.

Interviewer 4:24
So what advice would you offer aspiring actors.

Robert Forster 4:28
Never forget that there are this many of us. And this many jobs, it's not a mystery. It's very, very hard to get work. But when you do get work and you do have a creative job to put your energies to, it's one of the great things and when you don't have that in the day, you put your best energy to whatever else is in the day because it's a day of infinite number of possibilities of doing good or less good if you choose to. But when you do do your best, I remind that actors, you get that reward, they always tell you, you're going to get reward of self respect, reward of satisfaction. And if you were looking for what constitutes the good constitutes good life, self respect and satisfaction are big components in that. So whether or not you're dealing with something that's creative, or whether you make something creative out of going to get the groceries, you are in charge. And that's what I remind actors, whether or not you have something to work on, you got a whole day's full of things to make better.

Interviewer 5:34
What, um, of all the directors you've worked with, and you've worked with some incredible ones. What do you like in a good director? What do you want in a good director as an actor?

Robert Forster 5:43
A guy who knows a good take when he sees one? And can say, Yep, that's good. Now, you know, once you know, somebody recognizes a good one, you know, you're not dealing with somebody who is just shooting it, and shooting and shooting and shooting and just to see what somebody else will tell them is any good. That's what this like being a cook, you want to cook to have a good taster to know what tastes good, he doesn't have to ask somebody else. And they have to ask the the the the customer or the waiter? Does it taste any good? No, the chef is supposed to know whether it tastes any good. That's what you're hoping for, in a director, somebody who can recognize a good take and say, Good one, let's move on. Especially if you don't have much time, which young directors rarely do older directors with lots of money can take it, you know, at times if they want to. But young guys got to be able to find a good one and move on.

Interviewer 6:38
What advice would you give to younger?

Robert Forster 6:41
Well, you know, know the thing as well as some of your actors are going to know it because the act is going to come in knowing his material pretty well. I never met an actor who didn't work real hard at showing up prepared. Some do I imagine but not many. And so the actor will come in with a with a deep reasonably deep understanding of what he's doing some exercise and and you want to know the material as well as they do. So that you can you know, be helpful to them or at the say and the other extreme is what john Houston said, which is casting is 90% once you cast the right person, all you got to do is step aside, let them figure it out. Because you know, the actor is always trying to make something real out of what's going on and hopefully getting the best they can out of the material. So you got a willing partner in the actor and and when they're good. Do you give them a little little space? And if they're not you shape them up a little bit?

Interviewer 7:49
Do you have any interesting memories of working with any of the directors over the years and the films any anecdotes or stories?

Robert Forster 7:58
Well refine it a little little a little bit like the black hole, the black hole, I'm not sure I have any real good insights but that was the longest steady job I ever had six months exactly to the day 26 weeks from seven in the morning till sprint outerspace that would make it Disney studio in a soundstage. So only said my life. So they talked about. Well, sure. I you know, it was a remake of a favorite mine. It was actually a Jules Verne movie called 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but they put it out in space. So they called the black hole. And I think they're remaking I hear that remake. Hey,

Interviewer 8:50
Now I had the great pleasure of job shadowing Quentin Tarantino on the set of Inglorious Basterds to learn from him as an actor. Yeah, what was your experience like working with him on Jackie Brown?

Robert Forster 8:59
Rarely do writers write such good dialogues. So you know, learning dialogue, I take the material and then I close the book and then I try to remember and visualize and internalize the speech. And then I try to say it as though I might be saying that to somebody and dissolve private and quiet when you're all alone, doing your work. And then I would go back to the, to the script to find out how we actually wrote it. And there were so many times when I might just try to voice a thought, because Don't forget, lines got to come out of your mouth away thoughts come out of your mouth. Can't be I remember the line and this is how I want to say it. It's got to be a thought. If you can make it that way and, and he can really articulate a thought on on paper, the way you might actually say it and you know it with little shorthand word couplings and the guy is very, very, very good. So that's one The great things about Quentin, then also he was, you know, helpful and encouraging, and maybe his very best direction that I ever heard him give. And I heard him give it a number of times to a number of people, including me. And he said, occasionally to an actor, just make me believe it. Well, let's remember, that's what the act is got to do make you believe it. So we can't be reciting words, he's got to be making you the other actor. And incidentally, the camera and the audience that may be watching, believe what's going on, if you can make them believe it, you can hold on. That's what's so good about documentary. And what appealed to me about making my work as believable as I could. So that it would be what documentary was, and that is, hold them hold their attention, because they believed, if you watch, you know, documentary, where you think you're being led into a world where they don't recognize they don't realize you're right there. Ah, that can that can hold you. And I've seen some great documentaries. And so that's one of the things I always hope for myself, and that, as I say, Quentin, asked actors to remember, just make me believe it.

Interviewer 11:18
Looking back over your career, what? Do you have any regrets? And do you have anything that you're that you're really most proud of? Or anything that you regret over your long career?

Robert Forster 11:28
You know, all regrets, I have very few of those. You make your choices, you do what you do? You know, I would have done things differently if I had the foresight. But but but now you you you make you take your steps and and you go along with them, you never know what would have been if you'd made the other choice. So there's no, there's no making regrets. You just deal with as well as you can with what you've got facing you.

Interviewer 11:58
Well, then my final question then sounds off of that. Do you have a philosophy on life? And if so, what what is it?

Robert Forster 12:07
Um, you know, I was born on the 13th of July, which was yesterday. I knew as a young kid, that 13 was a great number. When I was eight or nine, some kids said to me, 13 is bad number. I thought they were full of baloney. He said, Well, yeah, well, take a look the next time you're on an elevator and see if it has a 13th floor. And sure enough, it did not. And from that, I knew that there were people who believed in things that were not true. 13 is a perfectly good number. And they believed and made decisions. And a mistaken belief that of course, we know that is superstition. There are so many so many so many things that people believe that are not true. And so from a young age, I asked myself to try to fathom out what was true. Because if you can make choices based on what is true, then your chances of making good choices and good decisions are improved. And so what is my philosophy on life? See if you can find out what is true by starting with, of course, the big questions which people are welcome to ask themselves at any point. Why am I alive? Where do I go when I die? Is there God? I need to be a man. What's a husband? I think be an artist, what's a father? These are the big questions and they're probably other ones. So in a lifetime, and we know what Socrates, I think, said the unexamined life is not worth living. I heard that early on. And I thought that that is another true thing. So examine your life and keep wondering whether or not you've got a good line in what you're doing. And whenever you can, on a daily basis, deliver the best you can do what you're doing, because that gives you a test set at a while ago that gives you the best shot at the best future you've got coming. It gives you self respect. And there is satisfaction in delivering your best to whatever you're doing right now.

Alex Ferrari 14:28
Hey guys, thanks again for listening to episode number two. We'll have new episodes coming out every few weeks going forward. I hope you got a lot out of that interview. Robert was probably the one of the most professional actors I've ever worked with. I mean, we were doing a short film. And he showed up like it was a quote and Tarantino movie, you know, or you know, $100 million movie, he showed up with his a game and he gave it his all. It doesn't even matter what kind of Prop Magic that is he just came in and did his his thing. And I was so impressed, and so humbled to work with him. So remember to head over to indie film hustle calm for all the latest articles and resources that we're adding there almost every day or every few days. So check that out. And also if you want to stop paying submission fees, to film festivals, head over to filmfestivaltips.com that's FilmFestivaltips.com, and I will see you guys next time. Thanks.

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