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IFH 590: Misadventures in Raising Money & Getting Your Film Made with Alex Lehmann

Alex Lehmann is the writer, director, and producer of “Acidman” starring Dianna Agron and Thomas Haden Church. He also directed the highly anticipated Black List feature, “Meet Cute,” produced by Weed Road, and starring Pete Davidson and Kaley Cuoco.

A narrative and documentary filmmaker, Lehmann’s films include Netflix’s dramatic comedies “Paddleton,” starring Mark Duplass and Ray Romano, which premiered at Sundance in 2019, and “Blue Jay,” his narrative feature debut, starring Sarah Paulson and Mark Duplass. It premiered at TIFF in 2016 to critical acclaim. His HBO docu-series, On Tour with Asperger’s Are Us is an extrapolation of his original feature doc Asperger’s Are Us.

Lehmann’s work explores the themes of selfless love, friendship, and how a little vulnerability can connect us all.

His new film is ACIDMAN.

Maggie (Dianna Agron) arrives at a small, run-down house in the middle of nowhere to find it defaced by big orange letters reading ACIDMAN and learns that this is the locals’ nickname for her reclusive father (Thomas Haden Church). After a decade apart, Maggie’s offhand explanation for her visit is that she just wanted to check in on him, but this doesn’t ring true considering how difficult he was to find. The two awkwardly want to get to know one another (Dad seems more comfortable talking through his dog Migo, or through Bobby, Maggie’s childhood sock puppet friend), but are at the same time scared about what increasing familiarity will bring.

After Dad reluctantly brings her on one of his nighttime outings, Maggie realizes that his obsession with UFOs and communicating with extraterrestrial beings has only intensified over the years. She struggles to understand him, his single-mindedness and deteriorating mental health, all the while with her own life-changing news to share. Letting their relationship ebb and flow through anger, silly jokes, tender gestures, and sadness, director Alex Lehmann leads the film in a beautiful meditation on the cyclical nature of parenthood and the longing for connection.

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Alex Lehmann 0:00
If the shooting schedule had been like a week longer, we probably would have turned into a cult. It was just the vibes were that good on on on that set.

Alex Ferrari 0:08
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Alex Lehmann 1:45
Thanks for having me back.

Alex Ferrari 1:47
Thanks for coming back. Well, I mean, you're one of you one of the OG's here in the film, also you are in the oldest episode. The first time you were on the show you were promoting a film called Blue Jay. I forgive me, I don't remember the episode, but I think it was in the hundreds. We're now closing in on episode 600. That's huge. It's insane. I appreciate that. It's insane. It's definitely a hustle. As you can tell by the branding.

Alex Lehmann 2:13
You have shirts you have Whoa, live whatever that is. You've got it's everywhere.

Alex Ferrari 2:20
It's part of my life, sir. I don't have a tattoo yet. But that's it. That's next, please. But listen, man, I was telling you before we got on, man, I'm so happy for you, man. You've done. You've done so well. I've had so many things. I've had the pleasure of talking to a lot of filmmakers over the years. And you and I've met we've hung out a little bit. And and it's just remarkable how your career has progressed. Because a lot of people who I've talked to they don't they don't progress that way. So your your your success story. And that's why I wanted to have you back on the show to like, let everybody know, like, you know, he's he's done good. He's doing good. He's moving along. He's telling stories. He's building a career for himself. So it's, it's a pleasure just to be able to witness it from that point from when you like kind of were first beginning, getting your feet off the ground with an amazing film, by the way with Mark Duplass. And Paul and samples and

Alex Lehmann 3:17
But I also talk about all the failures in between?

Alex Ferrari 3:20
Well, yeah, of course, after the first one that look, let's let's, let's keep it real alates after the first movie, Hollywood just brought the dump truck full of cash dumped in front of you. And then anything you wanted to do, they just said, Alex, name it and how much all you have is time and money and any star you want. So that's how it's as been. So yeah, I know, I understand. There's been I'm sure, for every one movie that you get made. There's 30 that get don't get made or really close to getting rid of the money drops out of the actor drops out or, Oh, this doesn't happen. That doesn't happen. So of course a struggle.

Alex Lehmann 3:53
Can I say, good? It's a hustle.

Alex Ferrari 3:57
You owe me 15 cents or so. So for people who didn't listen, I had the pleasure of listening to our other episodes. Can you tell everybody a little bit about yourself and how you got started in the business? Sure. Absolutely.

Alex Lehmann 4:10
Yeah, I was a cameraman and a cinematographer for a solid 10 years more than 10 years. And that was just my source of income and my career path was was being a DP and even though I'd gone to film school thinking I was going to direct a kind of, I want to say got sidetracked but I'd found this passion of cinematography and it also paid the bills and and then I did get a little bit antsy at one point I felt like I needed to make my own stuff. So I was writing some pretty bad scripts and and then I made a documentary called Asperger's or us and I connected with with Mark Duplass on that one. And he helped me get that one, you know, into festivals and get it out in the world. And then he and I started, you know, becoming collaborators on a couple of things like, like Blue Jay and, and Paddington. So that's kind of you know, is I kind of In the chutes and ladders of at all, I feel like you know, being completely honest, I feel like I kind of hit that big ladder. Your audience knows what Chutes and Ladders is right?

Alex Ferrari 5:08
That's not that's an obscure, sir, you are old, sir, you are old. It's not, my audience doesn't know about no joke.

Alex Lehmann 5:18
I got the magic star. I don't know, pick whatever you want

Alex Ferrari 5:24
You won, you won the lottery, you want to scratch off lottery ticket,

Alex Lehmann 5:27
The opportunity that I got was was really big. And you know, I mean, the lesson I share with anybody is like, the opportunities will come and you don't know in what form and sometimes it's a huge opportunity, sometimes a small opportunity, you can't really control them, but you have to be ready for them if they show up. And, you know, I kind of feel like I lucked out as far as the timing of hat being ready and having the right stuff at the right time for for when a guy like Mark Duplass said, you know, I'm going to open the door for you.

Alex Ferrari 5:56
It's interesting for people that don't know the full story, because we're kind of glazing over how you were you were you were a camera on a show, forgot the name of the week, exactly. The league and Mark was on it. And as every independent film any movie about an independent film being made, there's generally the DP or the grip or someone with a script in the back of their pocket that hands it to the star, which you didn't do. But he heard that you had made this documentary. Yeah. And the timing of that. It's exactly what it is. It's luck. Right place, right time LED product. If you made that film Three years later, yeah, it doesn't, it doesn't, it doesn't have that connection. So if those stars aligned, and then Mark said, Hey, let's take your movie out into the world. Oh, and by the way, I love I just liked hanging out with you working with you. Let's collaborate on another project. And then that kind of starts that off. But what is interesting about your story, Alex, and please forgive me for blowing a little bit of smoke up here, but not too much. I'm gonna try to keep it to a minimum, don't worry, we'll bring you back down crashing back down. But the thing that's fascinating is that I know a lot of filmmakers who get those, those kinds of lottery ticket moments with those opportunities with those kind of either big stars or people who open the doors for them. But many of them don't stay in the door. Many of them don't have the chops to stay in the door. Many of them don't have the personalities to stay in the door. Because you can get a shot. You know it you've seen I'm sure you have a lot of friends that get gay possibly out of a lottery ticket situation, get a shot, shot, but they either blow it, their egos get in the way their personalities get in the way something happens. That it's that's the end of that's the peak, but you kept you kept that get that thing going. And people were like, you know, I want to keep working with I want to keep working with Alex, I want to keep doing this. So that's a lesson for everybody listening just because you get if someone opens the door, you're lucky enough for someone to open the door. That's when the work begins. That's not where the work ends. Do you agree with that?

Alex Lehmann 7:52
Yeah, yeah, I would. I would agree with that. And I would say that, for every success, you have you, there'll be some more opportunities that happened. And like, did you get led into the party? To a certain extent? Yes. But I don't know just to mix metaphors. Like I think every party ends and then there's going to be a new party, and then you got to get into that one. And you do have to keep earning your way back. And it's ethics I do. And most of my friends like we find ourselves constantly having to re earn our you know, our worth, so there isn't usually that one thing that changes everything

Alex Ferrari 8:26
Is as the as the incomparable Miss Janet Jackson says, What have you done for me lately? That's basically that's basically the town. It's like, great. You Have you won an Oscar fantastic.

Alex Lehmann 8:39
Not what it should be, though. You know, I, it sucks. Because I'll be honest, that there's, there have been times where I feel like, you know, why, you know, why can't I just get the next thing made? I've just proven that, you know, I'm consistently making movies that are getting good reviews, and that people love and bla bla bla, and yeah, you know, I, I mean, I'd say two things. First of all, the landscape is constantly changing. And I'm sure you've had a bazillion episodes that have talked about, you know, the streaming and the whatever, everything, pandemic, everything has changed. And like what audiences want that's constantly changing. So, a there's that. And so what you might be good at is in for a moment, and then and then it's not, like, you have to reinvent yourself. That's, that's cool. That's fine. And the other thing is, this town is full of such talented people. There's so many there's not enough room for us all to constantly be making all the things and and so the way I look at it is like, you know, I get something made and it's fantastically so you know, it's fantastic for us. The project might not be fantastic, but it is who knows. But But we, we celebrate we feel great and people watch it, and then it's back to square one. You get thrown on this pile of billions of talented filmmakers that's maybe maybe not billions, maybe just Millions I don't know, but so many talented filmmakers and it's back to square one where we're all trying to get something made again. And that's okay. The meritocracy does exist to a certain extent. And, you know, if if we were if we were benefiting from like our past successes too much, that would also be leaving the door closed completely for for that, that filmmaker who's listening right now who hasn't made their first thing. So I like the fact that the door gets to stay open a little bit for them to

Alex Ferrari 10:29
Absolutely, because you need it. I mean, that's, that's the business, the business needs to be refreshed with new blood and, and all that kind of stuff. Now, I want to ask, you know, you've directed a handful of features, what, in your, in your opinion, is the biggest challenge in directing an indie or, you know, non studio or just like, you know, non 100 billion dollar franchise? Kind of film? What are these challenges you the biggest challenge? You think?

Alex Lehmann 10:56
I mean, I think the biggest thing is getting it made, I still think that's harder than then making it. I don't know, if that'll ever change.

Alex Ferrari 11:04
You're right. To a certain extent, I mean, unless you're, unless you're playing a different league, where the movie is gonna get made, regardless if you're on here or not. That's a different conversation. But for most filmmakers, that's not the conversation.

Alex Lehmann 11:18
Well, because I mean, it's pretty messed up. If you think about it, you're trying to convince somebody to make something that doesn't exist that's never existed before exactly in that form. And they're asking you in that room, or on the zoom. So what is this like? And so you're trying to convince them to spend a lot of money to make something that's never existed before, but they don't have the imagination that you have, because they're not you. And so they don't exactly understand what it is you're trying to make. And yet you have to promise them that, you know, it will exist, you don't know exactly what it is, but it's going to be this thing that is just out in the ether right now. It's it's, it's not like building, I can't show you the blueprints of Vegas, I can show you the blueprints. But you know, everybody knows the difference between script to screen. That's why we have reviewers. That's why we don't, you know, we don't finish with reviewing scripts like that, though the work is only getting started. And, and so I think there's a lot of fear and uncertainty. And so trying to convince people that this is the right thing to be made, and it's going to be artistically valid, and probably financially has to be valid as well. Those are those are some pretty serious hurdles.

Alex Ferrari 12:30
Now, since you, you've been around the block a little bit, you've got a little shrapnel in you from the business over the years. Is there something with a limp? You walk? Yeah, we all walk with a limp, or some of us walk with more than just that. But is is there anything you wish? There's that one thing that you wish that someone would have told you at the beginning of this conversation? Have you tried to be a filmmaker to just go hey, man, keep an eye out for this thing.

Alex Lehmann 12:58
I wish somebody had maybe told me that indie financing is fickle, and maybe most people that say they have money don't actually have money. No. I'm naive. I really am. I'm sorry.

Alex Ferrari 13:14
When someone tells you when someone tells you I have I got $100,000 I could put into this. You believe them?

Alex Lehmann 13:19
Yeah, I mean, I'm not gonna go through the details of my latest films because they got made and you know, at the end of the day, I feel very lucky that they did and the rest is is the rest and the more I share the specifics with friends, the more they tell me there's similar stories and I feel like the whole the whole world of indie financing is a very comical place it's a euphemism comical but but but I got lucky because my first couple narrative features were 50 plus right like Mark was instantly market if we're making the movie together he was starring in it he was you know, able to pay for it. And he had a distribution deal with Netflix it was so turnkey and so it wasn't until acid man which I you know specifically set out to make on my own my own it was such a personal story and I felt like I want to produce this myself and you just really just take the full ownership so raising raising finances for that when I wish I'm glad I learned what I learned but I wish somebody maybe had given me a crash course or two before before I headed out into that way it is

Alex Ferrari 14:25
The only two words I can tell you sir verifiable funds. The two magic words and indie finance verifiable funds,

Alex Lehmann 14:34
They wrote it down on a napkin napkin with a crayon and that was good enough for me.

Alex Ferrari 14:44
Yeah, for everybody listening. There are multiple episodes about film financing on the show on the podcast, you can go back into the archives, but two words verifiable funds, but but here's why.

Alex Lehmann 14:56
Maybe that doesn't matter that you have those episodes and why may He doesn't matter that like I wish somebody would have told me is we, we believe so bad or should do, of course you want to believe. And I've got friends in situations where they've come across some shady financing, and then they try to tip off the next person who might get tied into that shady financing say like, don't work with this person, their money's not real. And the response nine times out of 10 is, yeah, but he's our best shot. So we're gonna go with him anyways. It's like, it's like, you're like, don't you know, it's like don't get don't get in the train is heading off a cliff and somebody goes, Oh, I kinda want to go somewhere.

Alex Ferrari 15:38
I you know, and this is this is a deeper conversation because I was having a conversation with this film distributor the other day. And he was asking him straight up, I was like, why are filmmakers always getting taken advantage of and film distribution, and this goes through film financing as well. And he's like, because they want to believe

Alex Lehmann 15:57
Because we're not business majors because we're not even. But not even that, but not even that part.

Alex Ferrari 16:02
Even if you're smart enough, cuz there's a lot of smart people I know in the business school got taken, because they want to believe because either if you're if the beginning of this situation or at the end, so film finances at the beginning, film distribution is at the end, both times there's a lot of pressure on you to make something happen. You want to get your movie made. And then in film distribution, you're so exhausted that you believe anything that anybody tells you like, Oh, someone loves me. Someone loves my work that I've been spending the last two years for sure. There's no mg. I don't need it. I don't need any money upfront. 25 years? Sure. I'll sign that. And okay, great. And oh, 5000 $5 million. Expense cap. Great. That's fantastic. But you want to believe so that's something that it's it's hard. It's even when even if you know this information, when you're in it's kind of like being in a bad relationship? You know, you're just like, I know, she I know she's not good for me. Yeah. But damn, I can't quit her. I could change her. I could change her, I could change it. I can, I can make I can make I can make her better. I could change her. Yeah, that doesn't work out in film financing or in full distribution.

Alex Lehmann 17:07
But don't you think that probably the shady people that are pretending to have money but are really out there to like, you know, whatever, screw us over. Don't you think that they're also saying like, I could change? I could, I could be a better person. I really gotta have that money that I promised the filmmaker?

Alex Ferrari 17:26
Well, I think I think those people are I think there are people who do go out there with malicious intent. I think other people truly believe that they're just they want to play the role of the high roller that I want to be in show business kind of vibe. And they, they might have the intention to get you the money, but they just don't have the capability of doing so. But they just kind of roll the dice and like, Oh, I'm just gonna say I have the money so I can play I can go along this train and have these conversations and pretend that I'm a filmmaker or a producer or finance or so on.

Alex Lehmann 17:59
We're all doing that though. Right? Like, like the very fabric of filmmaking is we're trying to get people to believe in something that's totally made up. And we're taking them on a journey and we're saying this is this is a story worth now gather out everybody this is this is allowed to take two hours of your time and it's gonna be worth it's it's it's there's there's something romantic and that and I do think that I mean, I don't know I think that probably like, like the real scammers are probably another business is because there's there's more money being made Scammon in in

Alex Ferrari 18:32
Medicare. Yeah. scamming Medicare is a lot better, more lucrative and scamming independent filmmakers.

Alex Lehmann 18:40
Yeah, so I think I just I think my heart goes out even to like the the indie film scammers because like at the heart of it, and you touched on this, like they want to be part of making movies and like, it's like I was gonna have to scam somewhere most of all scam here and make movies because as a kid, I always wanted to scan and make movies.

Alex Ferrari 19:00
So just a disclaimer, everybody I do not I do not suggest you scan Medicare or any independent filmmakers. That's not part of what we're saying here. I'm just just using them as an example. Now, I wanted to ask you something else, because you have been a cinematographer for most of your career. And most of the films you've worked on, you've been the DP. Yeah. But this one you did it. So what was it like acid man? What was it like not having the controls of the lighting and the camera? And did you let loose? did you how did that work for you as someone who's done because as for me, I've been editing all my life anytime I've ever worked with an editor. It's an adjustment. It takes a minute.

Alex Lehmann 19:42
Yeah, yeah, for sure. Well, you know how often I also wasn't the cinematographer. So that was the first one but I I'll be honest, I struggled on piloten to let go of those reins and the DP I had. He had he had shot second unit for me on bluejay when I did that myself, so there was you know a little But first there and he also had, he was very patient in, in, in my inability to completely like go on pallets. And I will say that the first day of acid man was still tricky and I was still like kind of gripping onto that hat a little bit. And my cinematographer John Matousek. He, he really got me there, this was a, this was a cool experience for me, because it was the first time that that just and is very early on in the filming process. I just started seeing what he was doing. And I started trusting and you know, I think it became clear to me that we were going to approach things differently, but I loved, you know, the end results, and that I just needed to trust, you know, the process until I would get to see the end result. Because, you know, otherwise, like, instantly just looking at, like, where somebody puts a light and like, well, that's how I put the light. It's totally subjective, but you know, to keep my mouth shut as both a I think a very good collaborator, but also a control freak. And that's, I think you're supposed to have a little bit of both of those to direct. I was really excited to be able to go funny story about John, he literally shot my first short film in college. That's how long I've known him. And we didn't you know, we he went out to Nashville for a while and was shooting commercials and, you know, was raising a family out there. So he didn't come back to LA till just a couple years ago. And we reconnected he was saying, like, I want to get back in the indie feature game, you know, move moving to LA with my family, I really want to make movies again. And that's how I reached out to him for for acid man. And, and, you know, he was fantastic. And and I've you know, I've been using them since. And it's it's so freeing not to have to think like a DP much anymore. We can start the conversations and the shorthand. But yeah,

Alex Ferrari 21:54
I felt the same way as like, when you like, I see a unassembled cut of something I did. I was like, Oh, I didn't have to spend six hours to go to assemble, cut done. Oh, that kind of feels nice. I just would come in and, and tweak, oh, that's feels a little bit better.

Alex Lehmann 22:10
But here's the good thing, whether it's editing or cinematography, photography a little less, because you you only have certain amount of time and resources. Sure. But to say, you know, I've got something in mind. But before I take us down that path, what are you thinking? Let me see where you're thinking. It's like you only have one opportunity to really see how your, your collaborator artists sees things before you. You know, smother them with your vision, and ask them to like, try to understand what it is you want. And there's a curiosity I have when we have the time. It's like, what did you see when you read the script? Or, you know, what are you feeling in this moment, because I know what I'd like to do, but I might be able to learn something from you. And you know, as much time as we have and, you know, as much exploring as we can do, I'd love to do a little discovery before we go down a path. And by the way, I might still say like, that's really interesting. And let's shoot that. But then the shot I really need that's been in my mind's eye. Since the first day I wrote this is the shot over here. And you know, we'll we'll get both of them figured out later. But sometimes I abandoned sometimes I said, That's cool. That's, that's more interesting than what I was going to do. And thank you for challenging me.

Alex Ferrari 23:22
And that takes time to allow yourself to be confident enough in your own skin, comfortable enough in your own skin to allow that the ego starts to pull back a little bit in you and you as you get a little bit older, you've been in around town a little bit longer and doing this, you realize your like, best idea wins man, best.

Alex Lehmann 23:42
You're right. It's all it's all about ego or hopefully lack of ego, for sure.

Alex Ferrari 23:48
Now you've you've had the pleasure of working with some amazing actors, some some some legends, you know, Ray Romano Duplass. Now you've worked with Thomas Haden Church in an acid man. How do you approach working with actors of that those that kind of caliber? Because I can imagine it might be intimidating, working with someone you might have, like with Raman. Or, you know, having him working with him. Ray Romano, not Raymond. But Ray Romano, but like working with someone like that, that you might have been watching him as you grew up, like how do you approach the relationship of a director actor and that's an area

Alex Lehmann 24:29
Where I like to start out, you know, exchanging some really vulnerable information about each other so that we both feel you know, and then I blackmail them.

Alex Ferrari 24:41
For the great technique, guys, great pictures, photos, work, photos, work to get photos.

Alex Lehmann 24:48
You were in their trust, and then you weaponize it against them. No, the first parts true. A, I would say more even more importantly, I mean when you when you ask yourself, especially if it's somebody is a little more legendary who's been doing who's been doing so much, who you know is getting 10 offers a week. You know, Sarah Paulson, Ray Romano, Thomas Haden Church, you have to ask yourself first like, Okay, why? Why are they why did they choose this project? And and I think it's a really fair thing to both ask yourself maybe the reps and ask them, what is it that you're that draws them to the project and really make sure that you're honoring that, like, if there's something that they came here specifically for, as long as it falls within the scope of what you're trying to make with the film, make sure there's there's room for that if, if raise like I always, you know, comedic and I want to make sure that like I have the opportunity to really, you know, show the world my dramatic chops. Don't make them say a bunch of Dick and fart jokes, like let them you know, really build it around those those moments that he wants. And in return, he'll, you know, he'll give you the goods and and as far as Thomas goes, you know, I wanted to understand why he was drawn to this and, and and understand what, you know what, what excites him? Because obviously, the paydays on these smaller films is not what makes these people leave their home when they made all that 90s TV money.

Alex Ferrari 26:12
I mean, listen, listen, Thomas Thomas just got off of Spider Man, the latest Spider Man. So I'm sure he's okay.

Alex Lehmann 26:18
He's okay. But you know, but he the things he did for our film that he you know, he's willing to put up with, you know, the lack of trailers, the limitations that we have, there's obviously something there. And, you know, for him, it's, he was finding the character of acid man really relatable. He was, honestly, you know, he was, he was saying, like, I'm becoming more of an acid man myself all the time, which, you know, for your listeners, I should say, this, this characters, you know, he's a cluesive very intelligent man, but a reclusive guy who lives in the small town and is kind of he just kind of keeps to himself and he tinkerers, you know, he's got some of his own hobbies, and some of his own his own interests and beliefs. And he's maybe not very, he's definitely not understood by by the town or really, by anyone. He's just kind of minding his own business. And, and, you know, Thomas had been, I mean, the pandemic didn't hurt, but Thomas felt like he'd been living in his little ranch house a lot lately, just not not feeling as motivated to connect with people and, and started to like, feel that distance to grow. And he was saying, like, what, what's that about? Why am I comfortable with this? And like, is this going to continue like, like, is this pattern going to continue where like, maybe I stopped returning phone calls completely, at some point, let me explore these feelings with the character of acid man. So you know, making the room for Thomas to explore those those elements, that was really important. And then adapting to his process was really important. And so he loves to find the character, you know, everything that's beneath the page. And so we had so many long phone calls it himself and Diana Aegon, who plays his daughter, the three of us had, like, you know, on the weekly just like maybe two or three phone calls that would last a couple hours each and this went on for months. And we just really dug beneath what was you know, the script and found these characters and that fits my improv process anyways, but it was really about like, this is this is what makes Thomas excited is like building out a character and fleshing him out. I mean, it's, it's easy for me to give that when that's something I want as well. But But yeah, I would say to answer your question in a roundabout way, you figure out what it is they want you make sure that they get to have it. That's why they showed up.

Alex Ferrari 28:41
Now, can you tell me how acidman you knew from SMA came to life?

Alex Lehmann 29:11
Yeah, so that's that script I've had since we were taking blue J on tour promoting blue J. It was, yeah, this is a it's a very personal story. It's something that I started writing, you know, way before Pendleton and I don't really think I was ever going to make it certainly not after paddles. And it just kind of felt like maybe the opportunity had come and gone for for this movie. And the character of acid man, the name acid man, there's actually this guy, you know, in the small town where I grew up his he was probably schizophrenic. But, but you know, like the kids had a nickname for this guy who walked around the town and he lived with his parents. He's probably in his 30s and they would like throw eggs at his house and spray paint stuff and just harass him and call him acid man and mythology was, you know, he gotten a bad acid trip and never came back? And I think a lot of towns have their own acid man, right? Like, I usually like everything, you know, people go like, Oh, yeah, we had Charlie on a lawnmower, we had, you know, our guy dressed up like Abraham Lincoln would walk around. And, and I was always really curious about that, that man when I was young, and about how, what his relationship was with our town, like, you know, we, this is weird to me that like, we could just write somebody off and kind of harassment even the adults call them, the walking man, it's just felt very, I think we fell short of really respecting that person. And and I think probably loneliness and you know, searching for connection or themes that have kind of been throughout all of my films. And and so I was I was always kind of connected to that character. And then the ultimate question of like, what if you're estranged from your parents or your father and you reconnect with your father who used to be this brilliant scientist, really intelligent man does this, you knew him as one person, and then you reconnect with them, and he's become the acid man of his town right there. Good. And so I think some of that's obviously just exploring the aging, you know, our parents and who they become and who will become one day.

Alex Ferrari 31:22
Yeah, that's, that I was telling you earlier, I was, as I was watching it, it was connecting with me on a whole other level. Because, you know, when you're 20, and you watch a film like this, you like, that's kind of and this or that. But when you're, you know, I'm getting close to 50. I'm like, you could say that word, but I have a few years away still. But you know, I'm getting to that age, and you just start thinking about things a lot differently, you start thinking about life differently. Where am I going to be in 20 or 30 years, you definitely have more behind you than you do ahead of you. That's a very strange place to be as a person, I think they do call it a midlife crisis, though. I'm not getting a Corvette anytime soon. But, and I love my wife. But, but it was really interesting, the way I really attached myself to not only the acid man as a character, but the daughter, and seeing her father through his eyes, and I, and I have my parents still so you start looking at them and who they were when they were when you were there, a young man or a young, you know, oh, boy, little boy, a little girl, and who you thought they were and who you who they become later in life. And it's, it's fascinating. And then I started thinking about what my daughters are gonna look at me in 20 or 30 years, like it's crazy podcasting, filmmaking guy who made some movies and hung out with some stars, or did some this and, or did that and like, and then like, and now look at him, just living off all that crazy podcast money. But but it was just very fascinating. It was really, I mean, again, a hit me at the right place. I'm your demographic, sir. So it was it was really touching.

Alex Lehmann 32:59
I appreciate that. Yeah, I think it's interesting to explore those Blurred Lines, because you don't, there's no day that you just say like, alright, you know, I was a child, and you were an adult, you know, to your parents, you know, you don't say there's no day where you say, Okay, you're no longer the parent, and I'm no longer the child because I too, am an adult. You know, and we don't say that to our kids, either. So it just kind of you so at some point, you're a child, and you're a parent. So that's weird, right? Like, how can you be both? But I mean, you are lucky you like you are, you're a dad, but you're, you're a son as well. And, and it's no secret that at some point, we lose a little bit of either either faculty or just, like, some strength in life, you know, as we age, or at least we don't necessarily have the same qualities and strengths that that our society maybe, right, virtue, you know, honor, right, so, so respect as much and so there's this kind of softening of where older people go into and what how do you say that? How do you say, like, at some point, like, well, you're my one point, you know, you said, My, you my parent, I look up to nobody really young, you say like, you're my parent, your got your, there's nothing wrong with you, you could do no wrong. And then there's everything in between. And then we get to a certain age and we're like, Oh, my God, my parent can't, is incapable of anything. And and that's a horrible feeling, you know, to try to somehow tie this same person who is a God to you, as this person who now needs help with everything. And so I think acid man to certain extent is, is an exploration of that and trying not to rush into pity or, you know, write resentment for the things that we don't understand and also just honoring the fact that those connections never never Go like to a certain expense that you'll be your, your parents child, no matter how old you are,

Alex Ferrari 35:06
Oh, my, my kids will always be my kids, I don't care how old they get, I'm gonna feel successful they get, I don't care how big they get, it doesn't matter, I don't care if they have kids themselves, they will always be my little bit like, girls, it's just, you can't look at it differently. Just the same way. My parents say the same thing to me. You know, there's, I'm like, I'm a grown ass man. She's like, you're still a little kid I grew up I raised. And it's you just, you know, until you're a parent, you don't get it. You might intellectually but when you actually see a child, or if you have, you know, children in your life in some way, shape or form, you start to understand that a little bit differently, it's, it was a meditation in, in parenthood, to say the least, this project was really, really cool, brother.

Alex Lehmann 35:49
Thank you. I appreciate that said if there's one other theme that I could share, and I don't think it's a spoiler alert because it happens early in the film that we'll probably have to mention anyways. But but so this character, you know, acid man who is really referred to just as dad in the film, because he's, he's digress, dad, estranged father, his name is Lloyd. And he he has this obsession with UFOs he's got these c's, these blinking lights out in the sky. And, you know, he just really feels connected to them. But he is a believer in this stuff. And you know, I just the other the other thought really in in, in writing this was like, what if you're trying to like reconnect, or just connect with your parents and like, now they're into, you know, Q Anon, or whatever it is that they're into, and you're like, how the hell do I reconcile the differences in beliefs and opinions that I have with this person that I love and respect, but like, I don't know how to talk about that. You know what, I don't want to make a political film and I don't want to like piss anybody off. Like Q Anon, although it kind of feels like it's gone away.

Alex Ferrari 36:53
It's, it's fine. We can we can move on, sir. Okay, um,

Alex Lehmann 36:57
I should have checked with you first. Are we are we good?

Alex Ferrari 36:59
I believe in Q. And any day now? No, I'm joking. Whatever. It is cute. I heard it here first. Listen, whenever people want to believe it's up to them. I can count.

Alex Lehmann 37:12
Yeah. And that, you know, and that's, that's, I guess that's really what what the film is about, to a certain extent is like it whatever you want to believe that doesn't hurt anybody. And that, you know, and that doesn't cause harm, like those those kinds of beliefs. Like, I could just ridicule you. I mean, we have a paint we have opinions of everything and like, you know, extreme opinions of everything. It's all we do. And and so, for me, it's an exercise to show patients with someone who believes in something supernatural that doesn't have any like, you know, evidence.

Alex Ferrari 37:46
Exactly. Well, obviously, but we did see the the congressional hearing so UFOs obviously, large aren't real. They're there. We've seen videos now

Alex Lehmann 37:54
I want them to be real.

Alex Ferrari 37:55
I hope we all do we have seen the filmmaker you out you watch that you want that situation. Listen, regardless of if UFOs I do believe that this is just my personal belief that in this giant universe, there has to be some life somewhere. Have they visited? I don't know. I just don't know. But logic dictates that this billions and billions and billions of planets out there probably something happens something's got to be there. Something's got some some sort of organism somewhere, even if it's something has to be living somewhere else in this universe. But I don't eat cheese

Alex Lehmann 38:31
roasting marshmallows in my backyard tonight. Really, I do.

Alex Ferrari 38:34
Thank you, Steven Spielberg. But it's but it's so true. But it's really fascinating too. Because that concept of not being able to connect and you did it very eloquently, too, because UFOs is just one of those things, you're just like, fine. So it's not a political statement. But being able to connect with someone you love, whose blood who has wildly different views on certain things. And it could be something as Madonna, the Dinah, Madonna can't say the word as a data.

Alex Lehmann 39:07
Yeah, Madonna, Madonna

Alex Ferrari 39:08
Madonna,

Alex Lehmann 39:08
No polarizing these this

Alex Ferrari 39:10
No, no, no. Benign, like, believing in UFOs or not, because that hurts really nobody, generally speaking. But when it's something very deep, either either in the religious world, or in political world, or whatever it is, it's so difficult to connect with someone you love, because you still love them, regardless of their beliefs, and where they work because they weren't there maybe 30 years ago. So I think you you danced that line so eloquently and beautifully in the film, that you said what you needed to say about that idea, without really, really stepping on anyone's toes unless you have our lovers.

Alex Lehmann 39:46
Right. Well, I appreciate I mean, even though you have been, I think at the end of the season, we don't know if that was a US or not. But But or maybe we do I'm not going to tell you exactly. The movies about women that I didn't give anything away. But But I would say that that I think maybe the reason it works in the film is because I wasn't putting it on anybody else. I was really putting it on myself to find more empathy, and compassion and curiosity for the people who have different beliefs than I do. And instead of even just saying, like, well, I don't believe that, but good for you to say like, Well, I mean, what do I know, I'm just another person. And you know, we're all wrong about plenty of things. So let me be a little more curious. And let me respect this. And let me figure out why this is relevant to you. And when you hear someone talk about whether it's their religion, or or, you know, a spiritual belief they have, or ghosts or aliens or anything, you listen to them enough, and they do start talking about something that is like a little bit more grounded and more personal anyways. Like, if you got this great story, when we were when we were scouting for acid, man, we were on this, like, you know, mountain top, overlooking, you know, the Oregon Rogue Valley. And, and this is like, random guy just like walks up on us. And he's like, Oh, you guys making you're the ones making the movie here. It's about UFOs or something, or like I, you know, didn't want to talk too much. But he said, Yeah. And, and he starts telling us about, you know, the UFO sightings that he's had. And, you know, just you could, you could at that point validly say that, Oh, here we go, like, this guy is gonna, you know, be, but but, you know, we just kept listening. And first of all, His stories were really entertaining and made me want to see what he had seen. And the second thing is, I don't know, where he starts talking about the passing of his father who his father had died just a few years ago, and was telling us about how he still talks to his dad every single day, and that he's never really brought that up to anybody. And I'm thinking like, holy shit, he just used UFOs as a conduit to talk about his feelings about his deceased father. And he's the guy who's maybe I don't know him, but he's maybe not as emotionally vulnerable and capable of talking about that stuff all the time. And I don't think UFOs were created in his mind or a substitution for those feelings. But they certainly made it easier to talk about certain things. And so all of a sudden, it was this really generous connection that we had.

Alex Ferrari 42:19
You know, it's interesting that a lot of people get so caught up with everything that's going on right now or in our lives right now, in 100 years, what does it matter? Just be kind to people, and try to help people as best you can. And that's the way I look at things like, at every moment in time, humanity thought they had everything figured out.

Alex Lehmann 42:39
It's not till next week.

Alex Ferrari 42:44
At every moment, there was a moment where the earth was the center of the universe that was flat. Sorry, Flat Earthers. You know, there was there's always everyone's got to figure it out. So yeah, when you understand that, like, yeah, maybe we've got a couple things figured out. Maybe we don't maybe in 100 years, or in 500 years, they're gonna be looking back at us and like, can you believe the barbaric 2000s 20s Oh, my God. Crazy.

Alex Lehmann 43:09
Well, I do think for me get back. I'll just get on the soapbox. For one second, I do think they're probably in 100 years, people are gonna say, the shit that they allowed with homelessness. Oh, it's gonna be the, you know, it's gonna, you know, the, the way we look at at certain things that happened a couple 100 years ago. Today, I think people are gonna look back and say like, wow, they just didn't give a shit about all those people. That's weird. But hey, you know, it was the Dark Ages. It was the it was the early internet ages. Like they didn't know how to be people. They weren't humans. They were.

Alex Ferrari 43:46
They were, they were getting all this information. But it was all bad information. And anyone could write any information they wanted to on the internet.

Alex Lehmann 43:52
Basically, cavemen they were still with podcasts.

Alex Ferrari 43:55
They were cavemen with podcasts, obviously.

Alex Lehmann 43:58
Yeah. But I think, you know, to the, to the point of like, of like, yeah, what does it all matter in 100 years? It? There's obviously there's a lot of fighting going on now. And I mean, it's been going on for a while, but Sure, man, I don't know, I just feels like a lot of people are wanting to feel heard right now. And there's so much noise and I guess we're contributing to it, which, you know, now I'm doing interviews. I'm making more noise. But, um, but I don't know, I just think the practice of listening to people and making them feel heard. We could we could probably all heal each other a little more just by by replacing some of the shouting over with, with listening.

Alex Ferrari 44:43
I agree with you, 100 100%. Now, to get back to the filmmaking side of this, this movie, what they're, you know, I don't know if I've asked you this on any of the other shows, but it's a question I've been asking lately, that we all go through every day. There's always a when we're shooting and we're shooting a movie were on onset. There's always that day that everything goes to hell lost the sun camera breaks, the actor can't make it, something happens where you have to completely compromise. What was the worst day of this? Besides every single day, besides every single day? What was the worst of every single day of that situation? And how did you overcome it?

Alex Lehmann 45:24
Okay, I, there's, of course, there are a couple of moments. And I just got to think about which one I can share the story without publicly, publicly, I will say that the filmmaking experience, and this is either going to piss people off, or they're just not gonna believe me, but it was such a positive experience. And it was just, you know, it was like, May of 21. So people were just starting to get their vaccines and just kind of coming out a little bit, there was such a, everybody was so excited just to be on a set together. And I don't know just the nature of what we're doing, enabled everybody to just be vulnerable and really lean in that. Like, I like to joke that if we had if the shooting schedule had been like a week longer, we probably would have turned into a cult. It was just the vibes were that good on on on that set.

Alex Ferrari 46:14
And that's what happens all the time.

Alex Lehmann 46:16
Have some really positive sets, though. But but this one, you know, really, this one, this one was special. But But sure, there were there were, you know, there was an angry neighbor at one point, because we had to drive through a private road and you know, there's there's Oregon private roads are people move to Oregon to be left alone, usually not. And that's how Portland I'm talking about. Like outskirts that's where we were shooting. It was very apropos for for acid man. And the neighbor was was well known. He was infamous for shooting at cars that drove too fast on the on their private roads. I don't think that anybody got shot at but we we definitely were confronted on a certain day where we're shooting a really emotional scene. And he came, he just came in screaming at at some of us and, you know, you just you just don't know. I mean, and this is honestly, this is scarier than anything else. Because you just don't know like, Does this guy have a gun? Like, is this? Is he mentally stable? Sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so like defusing that situation. And then also recognizing the fact that it's going to emotionally shake everybody, when you're asking not just the actors, but especially the actors to be vulnerable. Because that's, you know, that's what we're doing. We're making a film. I mean, if we'd been making an action film maybe would have like, pumped everybody up. But we weren't, we were making a film where people were trying to shed these layers and not take each other down. But but but like, connect and bring each other. And to do that, you have to put the armor down. And so when a guy comes onto your property and screams, and you think he's got a gun, like everybody wants to put that emotional armor up, like, I wish we'd had real body armor, to be honest, it was a little nervous. But um, but yeah, so I think really just recognizing everybody's feelings and just kind of like emotionally making the transition from stuff like that. Which, yeah, we lost that we lost, you know, a half hour and like, yet for you know, for a second, there's some logistical stuff. And you got to keep the day going for sure. But But I think crew morale and just really making everybody feel safe is so important.

Alex Ferrari 48:34
I agree with you. 100% is a good answer, sir. There's always there's always that day, there's always that thing or is always is always that day, there's always that thing. Now, what are you going to try back obviously, because you're in your this is our Tribeca coverage. So, of course, I always like to ask, what was that phone call, like? Because you haven't been in Tribeca before have you?

Alex Lehmann 48:54
I had a dark series here. A couple years ago, the Asperger's, we made a doc series with the Asperger's troupe, and that's on HBO, and we premiered it at Tribeca. But that was you know, those before the pandemic. It was right before the pandemic. It's like, what, 12 years ago now? 15 years ago. Yeah. So it doesn't really catch. But but this is the first narrative film that I've had at Tribeca and I'm super excited. It's you know, it's talking to my DP about this the other day, he said, Isn't it cool? Like there was like, we were essentially the crew of 15 people like living out like, cabins in these woods making this film because it cool that we're out in the middle of nowhere or again, like just 15 of us like doing this, this thing and our primary and like the, you know, one of the biggest cities in the world, you know, like this is huge, you know?

Alex Ferrari 49:46
No, no, a little birdie told me that you have something else coming up. At the end of the year you shot not just one film, but two back to back. Can you tell me about your next project coming out man?

Alex Lehmann 49:57
Yeah, so So acid man I thought was is going to be my movie last year. This is my coming out of the pandemic, pandemic movie. And this other film that I had been attached to for a little while, all of a sudden kind of pulled all the actors and all the money together and so basically shot these back to back, which was crazy. But there's this film, it's called meet cute, and it's starring Pete Davidson and Kaley Cuoco and super proud of it, and we'll have we'll have more details soon. But I think you know, everybody should be looking forward to seeing it at the end of the year. And it's it's kind of a it presents as a rom com. But it's a really great script by no go no le he was on the blacklist years ago. And it devolves it twists into some other stuff.

Alex Ferrari 50:44
There's UFOs involved obviously there's

Alex Lehmann 50:47
There's close close it gets it gets weird, man, but it's it's funny.

Alex Ferrari 50:53
You're like Michel Gondry weird is like Michel Gondry weird, are we?

Alex Lehmann 50:56
Yeah, it's like Michel Gondry where I saw that one of his films, his most famous film is definitely one that we use as a cop. And I don't know I'm just I'm really excited about what that is. And I think Kaylee does an amazing job and and, and, you know, Pete does an amazing job in it, but I feel like I'm looking at because with acid man, you know, I think Tom Haden Church is an amazing actor. He crushed it, the acid man that, you know, his his us is acting in this film, you know, just everybody keeps telling me. They just they love this side of Thomas that they haven't really gotten to see. And then I think Dianna Agron was fantastic in it. She was a creative collaborator, you know, on it from the very beginning. I mean, I should say that, like, she really helped me put this all together, when, you know, I've been I've been used to, you know, just going to Mark Duplass and say, lucky me, I could just call Mark

Alex Ferrari 51:50
Hey, Mark, I need idea. Let's get this go make this.

Alex Lehmann 51:54
Yeah. And so, you know, basically calling, calling Diane up and saying, like, I've got this movie, and you're perfect for it. And, you know, could you help me? You know, if you signed on, I think we can get a really great actor and some money and you know, I just really need you to be behind this. And she's been behind it from from day one, you know, creatively. And logistically, and you know, someone like that, when they when they give you that confidence, and when they when they stand behind you. They give their stamp of approval. That's a great way to get something that's delivered in every way. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 52:31
Well, I'm looking forward to seeing your new movie at the end of the year. And, and I tell everybody goes the asset man, it's really just really interesting meditation. As I look at this, it was very much as a meditation you sit there and just absorb it cinematography score, just the performances, it just kind of wash over you there. It's beautiful, man. Now, I'm going to ask you a couple questions that I ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Alex Lehmann 53:00
Yeah, I would say keep, keep doing keep being yourself, keep doing you. I see a lot of filmmakers trying to be another filmmaker Right? Or, you know, trying to make their version of well you make your version of something but make it your version of something don't don't try to make the carbon copy of whatever movie it is you love. And I think that the sooner they discover themselves and don't try to be anybody else, the the more quickly, audiences will be able to see their authentic filmmaker self.

Alex Ferrari 53:33
Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Alex Lehmann 53:38
That I don't know? Because I think I'm still learning that every time kind of a cop out answer, but it's kind of not like like, because you you have to know certain things and then every time certainty creeps in, at least for myself, I have to take a step back and say like, alright, dial it back, you know, it can't can't be too certain of anything, because there's a lot of learning left to do.

Alex Ferrari 54:03
Yeah. And three of your favorite films of all time.

Alex Lehmann 54:07
Three of my favorite films of all time. Okay, I'm gonna start with what is I think a cousin to our film that is Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I think we share a lot of the same emotional and thematic DNA, slightly different budget.

Alex Ferrari 54:26
Even even the 70s budget is still slightly different than today.

Alex Lehmann 54:29
Yeah, but you know, there's, there's a, there's a real connection there. And I would say 400 blows is a big one for me. And then, I mean, I could try to like dig deep and be cool, but Jaws I'll just go to jobs because I've never seen anything more than jaws. Like what like, I don't need to impress anybody.

Alex Ferrari 54:50
Just it's it's, I mean, it's a masterpiece and it still holds it still scares the living hell out of you. Even now, like it doesn't mean the shark might look a little janky but even then it doesn't look that janky I mean, just 3d look much worse than just the shark at least

Alex Lehmann 55:10
I'm gonna be you know what I'll be Stan is this I don't know, Stan I think is the I'm gonna be a stand in silver stand and say et as well like it's too many Spielberg movies for a list but like, I don't I don't care at because you say it still holds like that movie. So I if I need to cry watch at

Alex Ferrari 55:29
My, my, my daughters were traumatized when et was found down at the river traumatized, like they watched when they when he was down at the river, and he's like dying. Sorry, guys. Sorry, spoiler alert. If you haven't seen at if you're listening to this MSAT I'm sorry. But when he's down there and they were like five or something, we showed them a five or six traumatized they still talk about that? They love the movie, but they just remember that image of ET because he loved them so much. And like was it was an emotional roller coaster to say the least.

Alex Lehmann 56:01
I I don't know how to explain this because it's gonna sound like I'm pretty dumb. That's okay. Maybe it's right. But but when you said that they found at by the river my mind immediately went to like 80 lives like in a van down by the river now like, that's where his career that's where his career is. Like, we got to start a GoFundMe for Ed. Like I literally went there first. And I'm not stupid. I know. I know. He's fake. I know he's done but I was just like

Alex Ferrari 56:32
No, because I saw I saw that I saw your face when I said it. It took you like like a five or 10 seconds and then I started to click Oh, he means that scene in the movie but I didn't know where you were thinking about thank you for

Alex Lehmann 56:45
My mind went a few places because first it was like oh, maybe maybe you know like there was like a stuffed eat like maybe like the universe or whatever right like that the actual et puppet that they use in the movie somehow got dumped by a river and like kids. Movie Yeah, no, I remember the movie. So my favorite movies. But like my mind, my mind did not choose the path of logic my mind. It chose the path of illogic

Alex Ferrari 57:13
Et lives in a van down by the river. That's amazing. That is, that's

Alex Lehmann 57:21
Smoking cigarettes.

Alex Ferrari 57:23
Times are tough. He spit Spielberg and him had a falling out because it couldn't get the sequel up and running. He's hanging out there with Roger Rabbit because Roger Rabbit couldn't get to sequel either.

Alex Lehmann 57:33
Elliot as an adult one day drives by and he sees him and he like looks away trying not to make eye contact because he's like, I don't even know how to like help him watch this situation. It's feel too guilty to like

Alex Ferrari 57:46
We should we should listen man, can we get a Kickstarter going right now for a sequel? Well, we'll call up we'll call up Henry Thomas. If you'll come out and do it for us.

Alex Lehmann 57:59
I really know how to take the blockbuster out of a blockbuster.

Alex Ferrari 58:02
Turn it into meditation on stardom.

Alex Lehmann 58:07
Yeah. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 58:10
It's a pleasure first of all, you have the best first game ever. But other than that, sir it's a pleasure talking to you. But I always love catching up with you. You're welcome back anytime I look forward to seeing your new movie at the end of the year. Please come back and tell us about how that I'm sure you have insane stories about how that got a different story. And you know in hanging out with some I mean two very big star I mean these are monster stars right now and Pete pizza little well known now

Alex Lehmann 58:38
In the news for something and he's living in a van down by the river Alaska.

Alex Ferrari 58:41
I think we should we should do a GoFundMe for Pete because I think he just got he just left Saturn at live it's me. He's he needs help. Poor guy,

Alex Lehmann 58:48
By the way. So one thing I'll just say really, really quickly that I'm proud of that maybe it's worth sharing with your audiences. You know, the budgets on acid man and then the new one meet cute very different and went from like middle nowhere Oregon crew of 15 people to you know, shooting in Manhattan. I you know, same DP St. I brought it over as much of the same crew as I possibly could anybody that was available. That set had you know, held their own on the smaller film, there was no fu I'm gonna go hire the, the bigger version of you like, I'm not gonna go I'm gonna get whoever I can. You know, whoever did Sandler's last movie, whatever. No, I wanted to work with the same people. And I would say that that's good advice. That that stick with the people that you know that you've been succeeding with, you know, have their back you know, they've had yours for long enough. Agreed, agreed on a person really? Yeah, really proud of the team that they made both of those movies with

Alex Ferrari 59:47
Alex a pleasure as always, my friend continued success and you're welcome back anytime, my friend.

Alex Lehmann 59:53
Congrats to you.

Alex Ferrari 59:54
Thank you my friend!

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IFH 327: Directing Films for Netflix and Mark Duplass with Alex Lehmann

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Today on the show we have returning champion director Alex Lehmann. I asked him back on the show to discuss his new Netflix film Paddleton starring indie film legend Mark Duplass and Ray Ramano. Paddleton is about an unlikely friendship between two misfit neighbors becomes an unexpectedly emotional journey when one of them is diagnosed with terminal cancer.

I know, it sounds hilarious. The film is beautiful, touching an actually pretty funny. I wanted Alex to come back on the show (Listen here to Alex’s first appearance on the show) to discuss the process of working with Mark Duplass and Ray Ramano and to breakdown how a Netflix feature film is shot using a Scriptment and not a traditional screenplay.

We also discuss his other amazing film Asperger’s Are Us and how making that passion project led to him working with Mark.

This is an inspirational talk with some knowledge bombs thrown in. Enjoy my conversation with the talented and ever humble Alex Lehmann.

Alex Ferrari 1:47
Today on the show. We have returning champion Alex Lehmann who is the director of the new Netflix film Pendleton starring Mark Duplass and Ray Romano. And he's been on the show before on episode 104 actually a while ago when he directed Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson and a Netflix film called Blue J which was his first feature film, and I love to bring them back to wanting to see how his career has progressed. Obviously he's doing okay, because he has a new film out on Netflix. And also just wanted to see how the process of working with a scriptment. How do you direct a comedy legend like Ray Romano, and work in that environment, this kind of freewheeling creative environment and all while doing a Netflix show. So we really get into the weeds a little bit he dropped some really great knowledge bombs. And it's pretty inspirational to see Alex's story and how he's been able to progress from working in the camera department on the league, all the way to now directing and making a full time career of directing and creating projects, and just what he's been able to accomplish. It's very, very inspirational as well. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Alex Lehmann. I like to welcome back to the show returning champion Alex Lehmann.

Alex Lehmann 3:09
Hey, what did I win?

Alex Ferrari 3:14
Another another 45 minutes. You got a Yoda. There's a Hulk in the backs and Wolverines. Maybe an autograph Akira Kurosawa poster in the back.This is full man cave man full. Full man cave, man. Thanks for coming back. But I appreciate it.

Alex Lehmann 3:31
Thank you. I appreciate being able to talk about myself. No, I hate talking about myself. But let's talk about.

Alex Ferrari 3:38
Projects about your projects in filmmaking. So for for those who did not hear your first amazing interview was about your film, Blue Jay, with Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson, which was an amazing film. I love that film when I saw it. And and it was a great interview. I'll put the I'll put that interview in the show notes as well if people want to go back and listen to that one. But for people who don't know who you are, Sir, how did the real quick like recap How did you get into the business?

Alex Lehmann 4:06
I wasn't a dp for a long time. So I got into the business as a cameraman, cinematographer. And then I actually met Mark duplass I was a cameraman on the league, which I kind of call grad school for for I mean especially for movie like Pendleton really that was grad school for mixes, working with all these really great comedians, improv comedians and improv actors. But I was just a cameraman there but I was on the side I was making this documentary called Asperger's RS that it was kind of I was itching to make something on my own and I hustled

Alex Ferrari 4:40
On brand on brand sir

Alex Lehmann 4:46
And and and yeah, and so you know, made this documentary on a credit card and just kind of flying out like on hiatus weeks filming this comedy troupe called Asperger's Ross out in Boston. has gotten the stock together and Mark kind of caught wind and he could tell it meant a lot to me. So he asked me to see it when it was done. And he said he wanted to help release it and get it out in the world. And then it wasn't you know, much later that he hit me up and said, Hey, do you want to direct this this movie? That I'm thinking of doing? a no brainer? Probably the easiest. The best open door in Hollywood, you know, history market process. Hey, come direct me and Sarah Paulson in this little two hander, like Yes, please.

Alex Ferrari 5:33
Yes, please. Gonna have another.

Alex Lehmann 5:35
Yeah, exactly. So yes, I do up to directed that one. And then here we are with palatin, which I guess is the other.

Alex Ferrari 5:42
Yeah. Now, it's an interesting, obviously, it's a very unique story. Not many people get these these kind of opportunities and look, a lot of people I know, there's no question about it. And look at the end of the day, man. I always tell people like, because there'll be people out there listening to like, Well, you know, maybe if I was on the set of League, maybe I could have meant more to players. And I you know, and like, Yeah, sure. And I could have made a $7,000 action film in Mexico and called that El Mariachi and just happened to run into the top directing agent in Hollywood in my career can take off like Robert Rodriguez. It's all about being at the right place at the right time with the right product. And if you wouldn't have had been making Asperger's Ross, maybe you wouldn't make that decision. That would have just been another gig for you. Right? in many ways.

Alex Lehmann 6:25
I would agree with that. I mean, we we shared a sensibility of the films we liked. And when we got sick of all the fart and dick jokes on onset, you know, we would usually be hanging out on a craft eat talking about feelings or life or you know, art films, films that you know, kind of inspired us. But, but yeah, if I didn't show him that I was able to craft a story on my own and kind of do do this stuff. And, and the work ethic, honestly, the thing was like, Okay, great. We're wrapping at 10 o'clock on Friday, and I'm taking a red ice I can start shooting in Boston on my little documentaries that Saturday morning and then sometimes those getting back to, to set the following Monday on the week without ever having gone home, you know. And he when he saw that he's like, dude, your boss and yours yourself for this. I think that the least I could do is, is watch it. That's awesome.

Alex Ferrari 7:15
Yeah. But that but again, you you put the hustle and you put the work in? And yes, sure the opportunity might have been there but he's got to push hard man and and someone like Mark cuz I've had God now I've had everybody but mark on the damn show. Like every director who he's worked with the people on is that new seed and spark a show I had the the girl directors, not the girl, just the amazing directors that happen to be female. They are a great therapy. Yeah, they actually know you very well. They spoke very highly of you, by the way.

Alex Lehmann 7:44
Well, they don't have the Okay, sure what they don't know everything yet. Exactly. They don't know. Sweet. They're super sweet. I can't wait to see that movie

Alex Ferrari 7:53
I have not seen the movie, I'm dying to see the movie, but they were just amazing. That interview hasn't even come out yet on the podcast. But it was so so great. And it's amazing. The more people I interview who've worked with Mark, I kind of see a pattern, I kind of see a pattern of the people who likes to work with I like to see a pattern of the sensibilities but also the, the work ethic is a big, big thing as well. And that cannot be underestimated.

Alex Lehmann 8:19
Yeah, and it's still got the work ethic to and you know, he still respects you know, the demands made a lot of money. And yet you know, he still is you know, frugal and a lot of ways any any encourages forgot, I was just talking to, to film critic about this the other day who read Mark's book and really loved it was more than anything was talking about how like, how necessary it is for filmmakers to read this and realize like, don't extend yourself and your car lease, don't go out to too many expensive dinner, don't do, don't spend your mind all these things, and then feel like you need to work five jobs to support yourself. Because then you don't have any free time to, you know, go out and take the risks and make your own stuff and, and, you know, Mark still, you know, champions that idea and I think when you recognize as people who are doing that, and taking advantage of their free time and really just going out there and making things and you know, putting their free time and leftover energy to that. Then he wants to try to help them and reward them for applying themselves.

Alex Ferrari 9:24
Him and Jerry are probably to the most unique people in Hollywood. No question. Yeah, I mean, they're very unique scenarios, very unique opportunity situations, but they busted their butts to get there, man. So a lot of unique people in Hollywood, but their specific kind of flavor. Caitlyn Jenner No, no, no, there's a very unique amount of people in Hollywood, but their specific flavor of filmmakers is very unique situations.

Alex Lehmann 9:52
I'm just being a smartass. And not even funny, but yeah, for sure they're there. Yeah, they're you know, they're Dakota they've got the right vibe they they're the kind of like the indie kings, I guess. I mean, I don't want to. Sounds weird for me to say that like,

Alex Ferrari 10:07
Actually, it's actually would sound weird if they said it. So you can say it's fine.

Alex Lehmann 10:12
Say that on the interview today.

Alex Ferrari 10:13
I'm sorry.

Alex Lehmann 10:14
Mark told me to say that he said, call me whatever you say, just remember to call me the indie king of Hollywood.

Alex Ferrari 10:21
If you can, please. It's weird, but you do whatever the duplass says. Anyways, when the duplass says something you move, yes. We'll throw in the strings.

Alex Lehmann 10:34
And they're like the next Bob Weinstein, not, not, not the bad one, but a good one

Alex Ferrari 10:42
Now, I wanted to talk a little bit about Asperger's harassment, because last time we do are we really just focused on Blue Jay, but Asperger's or has Asperger's or it's kind of took on its own world, and its own kind of thing, because bluejay got a lot of the attention. But then Asperger's came in right after it was picked up by netflix as well. And I love the way and we talked a little bit about in the last interview, but I wanted you to kind of break into how you marketed this, how did you go after, you know, that audience because this film is pretty much everything I preach, it's like you identify a market, you identify a group of people who are passionate about something, and you've niched down to a point where they're gonna go after that film, and they're gonna want to watch and consume that content. So he tell us a bit about that process.

Alex Lehmann 11:26
Yeah, and that's a really great question. Um, there's a couple of things that happen. So obviously, you know, it's a pretty clear niche that we're working with here, which is anybody that that you know, is on a spectrum or as a family member on the spectrum, which is obviously, actually a lot of people that this day and age, so you know, that that's helpful. So that was like our base niche, for sure. I like to think that the movie transcends, you know, it transcends, but that base niche was was pretty easy to market to. I started working with a lot of groups when I was trying to get the movie made, I realized that like, there are a lot of autism documentaries and films and like events, and everybody's got their own thing. So at that point, I wasn't quite getting the, the juice from a lot of the organizations, once the film was, was done, and started getting a little attention in Mark's name and South by Southwest. Oh, yeah, all of a sudden, like, these people come out of the Woodworks and once you kind of prove your mettle and show that it's, you know, maybe not just, you know, a half baked idea, but there's really something there. The groups do find you to a certain extent, but then I also have to give a huge shout out to my friend, Kyle, who, and I'll send you a link to you maybe we can like plug them because he Yeah, cuz like, I met him through. He was promoting another friend's film. And it was a faith film. And, and he's really good at like doing like the online digital marketing, targeting targeted marketing, all that stuff. And I asked him like, Listen, I don't have like, budget or anything, but like I you know, got a little bit but can you kind of help me target audiences and he did it with like Facebook and Twitter and whatever and, and he was able to like, really? He did stuff with numbers and like tracking where the trailer played and like how it linked up to people. I don't know. It's like Zuckerberg level stuff.

Alex Ferrari 13:23
What's his name again? his name? His name is Kyle. And of course, Kyle was Episode Episode Number 200. Man. Are you kidding me? I had Kyle on He's amazing. That's right. I forgot he worked with you. Of course cows like a frickin genius when it comes to Facebook ads?

Alex Lehmann 13:39
Yeah, yeah. So I'll give you Yeah, we should plug him because he's really great at all that stuff. And um, anyways, he helped us get it. So before it came out on Netflix, it actually we got like a month release. Part of our deal with Netflix was like, Hey, we can put it out on iTunes, Amazon, DVD, whatever. And we like rose up. We were like a number two documentary on iTunes for like a week. And it was all because like, Kyle was like tweaking these numbers. So everybody's got to find their Kyle is what I'm saying.

Alex Ferrari 14:08
Or you could just call Kyle Kyle's available.

Alex Lehmann 14:13
And he's a great filmmaker as well. Yeah, he is. And he's been producing some stuff. But he's really good at the targeting stuff. And I don't know much about it. I can't speak to the specifics of it. All I know is this guy who uses buddy of ours and had done my buddy's faith film, he got it. And by the way, he connected with the film, so that helps also, he said, he saw it was like, I see a lot of myself in this and my friends in this and I get it and I want to help you. And so again, he just knobs, numbers, algorithms, whatever special sauce. And before you know it, you know, he's just basically connected the film with its base audience through the internet, which I don't know much about. I'm not even on social media. I'm a Luddite. Why am I telling you this is really important? And a great question. And I know that it was,

Alex Ferrari 15:05
It means something

Alex Lehmann 15:06
I know it happened, but I don't know how it happened. But then you look at Netflix, and it's the same thing. I mean, like, they're obviously the reason they're they're so successful is because they know how to connect audiences with material. So if you make a niche film, they go, we can target those people, because algorithms and AI learning habits and all that stuff. Sure. Yeah, I'm really scared of that stuff like that. Either Amazon or Netflix is going to be the cause of Terminator actually happening. Like, it's frightening. It's frightening. I went to when I went to a meeting with them for the pre release of Talton. They were in this like big conference room. It feels like very Dr. Strangelove already. There's

Alex Ferrari 15:54
no fighting in the war room.

Alex Lehmann 15:55
There's like a little camera that's like under the monitor. And it's like, sometimes it's like turning but like, Oh, yeah, it's some of the other executives that are watching the meeting. And, like,

Alex Ferrari 16:04
big brother.

Alex Lehmann 16:05
Exactly, very big brother. And then there's this map is a map that fills up the screen. And it is a world map to enter the lines that are going from like, every country, almost every car is literally Dr. Strangelove. Yeah. And, and I was like, this is how the world is gonna end because like, it's the first Netflix figures out what movies we like. And then they kind of figure out what our tendencies are as humans, and then they, you know, they enslave us, they'll do something to make it so that we don't leave our homes away. That already happens. Exactly. And then you know,

Alex Ferrari 16:37
and we pay for the privilege and we pay for the privilege.

Alex Lehmann 16:40
That's right. That's all launches. It's gonna it's all gonna happen. I'm really, I'm afraid but you know, until then, watch Poulton, but

Alex Ferrari 16:50
we're gonna get we're gonna get to battletech in a minute, because I'd love the film, and we're gonna talk about it, but I want to touch real quick upon bluejay How was that film was received? I mean, obviously, I mean, it has an amazing cast with with, with Sarah and mark. It was a black and white. Kind of just love story. You know, very beautiful kind of

Alex Lehmann 17:09
quiet quiet to person black and white. Yeah. Like no plot, and by selling it right now.

Alex Ferrari 17:16
You're doing fantastic jobs. Leave it to Kyle, me to market you, sir. Because obviously you're not that's not your wheelbarrow,

Alex Lehmann 17:22
not a poem guy. I'm not I guy. It was it was well received by the people who who saw it. And that's a niche phone, for sure. I mean, think about how many, you know, how much of a Netflix audience is gonna see it and immediately turn it off just because it's black and white, and I get it, that's fine. Then there's, you know, other people that are gonna be like, well, it's a love story. And like, not that much happens in it. And you know, and if they don't know, one of the only two actors, even though like Sarah Paulson and Mark duplass, were big stars. If you don't know who those two people are, you might turn it off just because of that. That's how the business works. There's all these things that we do to try to make a movie. Hook someone from the very beginning. And it's, you know, look, stars can see, you know, but if none of those things work, and when and when all your things are, you know, black and white to actors. Very simple love story. A lot of people aren't gonna watch it, but the people that watch it, love it. I think more people have watched it than I expected. And that excites me. And I hope even more people will watch it now that you know, palatin comes out because I think that's kind of getting a broader audience. It seems like it's being targeted to a broader audience.

Alex Ferrari 18:32
What does that come about? By the way? I'm sorry, what does panel think about again? Friday,

Alex Lehmann 18:37
this Friday, the 22nd? So probably, by the time this airs last Friday, the 22nd, maybe

Alex Ferrari 18:43
last Friday, something like that. Yeah, that's I think so. I think something like that. Alright, so what was the biggest lesson you learned? directing bluejay? Since it was really a first big narrative?

Alex Lehmann 18:55
Yeah, directing bluejay the lesson I learned is that I'm going to give you two. So back to answering questions I'm going to give you two. One is you don't have to have all the answers. I mean, should be prepared, you should be prepared with, you know, your plan and all the answers you can think of. But when new things come up, you don't have to have all the answers because you're probably working with some really talented people a great producers great dp great, you know, actors great. First ad sound, you don't know who's going to maybe come up with that answer. So don't try to do you know, try to try to you know, don't be lazy and rely on other people. But at the same time, don't be closed off to the fact that someone else in this collaborative process might bring a great idea to you and don't be threatened by that, because that's just the nature of filmmaking. It's a process. So it was both hard and a complete relief, to realize that I didn't have to do everything myself, because that's what I kind of did do with my documentary, shooting editing sound or just every, you know, until Cairo came along. But yeah, so that was a really great lesson to learn. And it made me feel more excited about making movies in the future and think about like, gosh, if I can hire this girl, or this guy, whatever, like I loved, you know, the way she shot this, and I love the way you know, this ad works on set, and like, Oh my gosh, my movie would be even better if I get to have all these people around me. So like, you know, realize that like it is about surrounding yourself with talented people, and getting everything out of them, and then taking credit for it later and never admitting any of the ideas. But until, until then, just soak up all those great ideas. Yeah, obviously, I'm kidding. Give them all the credit, you can

Alex Ferrari 20:54
Absolutely, absolutely. But at the end of the day, you know, whether you like it or not, a lot of times they do give you the directors and they give you the credit, even if it was a PA Who gave you the idea on set that day. You know, it is weird, man it is

Alex Lehmann 21:05
because especially at like Film Festival, I'd like the director come up and present the film. And so at some festivals, they only want the director and the stars to come up for the q&a. And it's like, you know, there are a lot of talented people that had something to do with, you know, maybe the thing you liked best about my movie wasn't even my idea. You know, I hope it was natural. It doesn't matter, like but like, you want to get all those people on stage. And you want to remind people like, hey, that's it. But it's the great thing about directing, it's also that it can be the really crappy thing about directing. And once you're doing that collaborative thing, because, you know, actors are going to make choices and producers and editors, editors and studios are going to say, well, we don't want the film to go in this direction. And you have to take the good with the bad. And it mostly is good. But you got to take the good and the bad realizing that like, there's, you know, if you want, if you want to be an otter, you know, write a novel. Exactly. Right.

Alex Ferrari 22:08
Yeah. Or make or make like a $3,000 feature film or something like that. It's something that you can completely do yourself and control yourself.

Alex Lehmann 22:15
You got to start it yourself. I mean, if you really want you know, exactly what we just

Alex Ferrari 22:20
you like it's there has been this has been those movies. I mean, it's called the room. But yeah, worked out great. Hey, you know what he's doing? All right. He's doing all right. Now, real quick, Asperger's are us actually taking a new life. Right?

Alex Lehmann 22:36
Yes. But the other lesson real quickly, is that, um, you know, when you start working, and I think this applies to your audience a lot. When you start working with actors who are maybe better known or have like, bigger careers or a lot more credits under their belt, you might assume that it's not hard for them, or it's not terrifying. But the thing to realize is, whether it's a first time actor, or a 100th time actor, if they're a professional, if they're a true craftsperson, they're going to be a little bit terrified to be completely vulnerable and reveal themselves on screen in front of a camera just as a performance even theatrically, and you have to always be be there for them. And that was, that was a lesson for me. Because, you know, I'm working with Mark duplass. And Sarah Paulson thinking like, well, they don't need positive reinforcement. These guys don't have to know how great they are. And I really quickly learned that, like, they still need to hear. And it's not because they had, you know, like crazy egos or anything. It's just because they're putting themselves out there in a real difficult way, as actors do. As good actors do, you have to let them know like, you're good. Okay, you're doing you're doing a good job. Even if I have a note for you, I'm going to first let you know what's working. And I'm going to thank you, I'm going to find intelligent and honest ways to thank you for for being so vulnerable. On screen for the story that I want to tell is very important.

Alex Ferrari 24:07
And also just to keep a safe space for them create a space environment for them as a director, the thing is a huge deal as well as they if they don't feel comfortable that you've got their back. They're not going to give you the best. They're gonna hold back and they're just gonna protect they're gonna protect themselves. Yep. Now you Asperger's are us actually taking a new life, hasn't it?

Alex Lehmann 24:26
Yeah, so this is exciting. We shot a docu series A while ago. We put the guys is the same guys from the original documentary, we put them in an RV, an old RV that maybe had a few mechanical issues or I'll get 6000 mile journey across the United States, booked them some really cool venues and they performed for all sorts of different audiences that they really hadn't performed for before and to comedy and there's still you know, a lot of a lot of heart to it. As these guys kind of revealed them. ourselves, you know, similarly to our films, you know, a good documentary you make your documentary subject you'll save. It's coming out on HBO at the end of April, little companies a

Alex Ferrari 25:09
little known company. It's just you know, that just turned a little comedy issue, since streaming service is nice.

Alex Lehmann 25:16
So bad promoting stuff. It's a six part series. It's their half hours. And you know, super proud of them. Cool. And, yeah, so it's been kind of nice. And I was through to do class again. I mean, does the doc did well, and Mark just kind of said, like, you want to look theories with them? And I said, Yeah, so I feel very lucky. I feel very, very lucky. I know, these opportunities don't always know for us. And in fairness, like there were a couple of times in my career where I thought like, Oh, this is the thing this is the door anyways, I am in my nose or like, or like, doorknob would hit me in the crotch when it slammed. You know, like, there were plenty of times where I thought that there was going to be that moment where my you know, career would change. That didn't happen. And all I can say is just keep going those irons in the fire and were a couple

Alex Ferrari 26:06
that's a you know, that should be a T shirt. What's the biggest advice? Yeah, the film industry. Were cup. Just wait Just wear up. That's the best advice. I I'm gonna steal that Alex. I'm sorry. I'm gonna steal that one.

Alex Lehmann 26:22
I think honestly, you should. You should brand you should just get cups and brand them. How do you get the hustle?

Alex Ferrari 26:32
Sir, what are you talking about? You are a marketing genius. That right there. It's called the bum. It's merchandising. It's all about merchandising. indie film hustle. The flame throwers coming out soon. Let's talk about palatin man. And it is it I saw it. I was lucky enough to see an early screening of it. I loved it. I really it is a it is a I can't say it's a it's a feel good film. But kind of but you know, there's things that happen. It's a I loved it because you hate it as far as I know. No, no, no, I don't. I actually love that. I love the performances of it. I was watching it just not only for the story, but how I mean obviously I'm watching how you made the film what what's the style like why you're doing certain things. But the performances are great stars, Ray Romano little an up and coming guy. And and Mark duplass again.

Alex Lehmann 27:26
I think Ray's brother actually put it best. You know, Ray Ray told me recently his brother watch it was not in the in the business. But he's like, he was like, Listen, my brother doesn't like anything I do. And don't expect my movie. But he goes, Yeah, it was it was really good. I mean, it was sad. But it was really good. And it's like yeah, like I don't know, I think I'm afraid to tell people watch it because you're gonna laugh for a while and you probably gonna be sad. You're gonna

Alex Ferrari 27:56
probably cry a little bit. No, it is. It is sad. But yeah, I love the characters. I love the way they interact with each other. Ray and Mark are wonderful together. Like that's a match made in heaven. I'm imagining working with someone like Ray, who is you know, I mean, he's a legend in the comedy world. And, you know, what was that? Like? Like, how do you? He's a wonderful human being. Yeah, yeah.

Alex Lehmann 28:20
Just, he's, he's, I mean, he's super. You know, he's really neurotic. He's right. Like, he's Raymond. He's ready. You see a sitcom. Like, it's, it's who he is, you know, it's a version of who he is. And it's obviously like, all that stuff is heightened for the comedy of it. But like, there's a lot of Ray and what he does, everything he does is really genuine. And he's, you know, he's just really funny, but he's a strong dramatic actor. We're doing improv. So, you know, having mark and Ray do improv is kind of amazing. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 28:52
I was gonna ask you this, how much of this film was kind of that whole duplass improv II style? Like, I mean, you had a script, obviously, but then you rolled off of it, or did you have a script meant out of that

Alex Lehmann 29:01
work that script man? Yeah. So we have like, 30 page, you know, treatment.

Alex Ferrari 29:06
It's so brilliant that you that you made a movie with Ray and mark for Netflix. It's a script meant.

Alex Lehmann 29:13
I mean, it's true. It's a it's, it's not it's not always that you can make tell people like, well, we have this out rocketing for a movie, but trust us. And that, you know, but that speaks to, you know, Netflix trust and that speaks to, to, you know, raise trust.

Alex Ferrari 29:29
Yeah, raise it raise new to this

Alex Lehmann 29:31
gang rate stress for sure. But But, you know, it's Netflix's respect for Mark and what he does, and it's raised respect for Mark and what he does, because Mark's been doing it forever. It's his you know, it's it's his brand it's his career and so he's basically this. This, you know, creative safety net or backstop or whatever you want to say where people go, I'm willing to believe that this will work out well, because I can look at togetherness I can look at all these movies. He's done. I can look at all these things that that Marcus succeeded with and In a similar fashion, and I think that these guys can pull it together. And bluejay

Alex Ferrari 30:03
was like that as well.

Alex Lehmann 30:05
And booj was like that to go. So we basically we went to Netflix and said, We want to kind of do another bluejay is a little bit more outlined because it's a little bit more plot and stuff.

Alex Ferrari 30:13
And it's called and its color. And its color, color this time. So you know, we'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Exactly. Now, the one thing I did notice about the film was, it has a very indie vibe to it. I mean, it's literally almost 95% of the movies to guys on screen, which is magnetic and it's wonderful the banter and the way they they come back and forth and raise his raise neurotic energy and marks energy just to just work so well together. You kept it very indie, and I'm assuming the budget and we won't talk the numbers, but but generally, the budget I'm assuming is less than 25 mil.

Alex Lehmann 31:06
Okay, very, like, if you give Ray and Mark superpowers, we'll give you 50 mil. But if aka, exactly. They don't have superpowers, in case, you're gonna have to make it for under 25. No,

Alex Ferrari 31:19
exactly. But it does have a very indie vibe to it the way you see the style of it that you shot it. I mean, if you replace the two main movie stars with just two unknown actors, you've got like an indie Sundance in the kind of movie even though this, this this play at Sundance. But you know what I mean, it just, it was wonderfully done. And you could and I think a lot of filmmakers, in your position, would when you had, you know, had success with your documentary, you had success with Blue Jay, this next and mark two for that matter. They could ask for more money, they could ask for a much larger budget make bigger spectacle, even if it's a small story. But yeah, you guys chose to keep it No, let's let's just keep it down exactly where it needs to be for this story, correct?

Alex Lehmann 32:04
Yeah, I mean, I would say, part of that has to do with with what the story is, I mean, it's a story about two guys that live in these pretty crummy little apartments, you know, they don't have anything, they don't have many material possessions, they don't have, you know, friends outside of each other, they don't have big lives outside of each other. They live a really simple life. And that's a lot of the beauty of the film is it's just, you know, showing how what they have their personal connection is, is enough for them and and is really you know, as a life well lived, and it's a really satisfying and, and full life without material possessions. So I mean, it would be kind of weird to make this like gigantic cinematic universe for for what is essentially just a couple guys in these apartments who go on a little road trip and say in a cheap motel and you know, like the biggest thing the biggest thing in the movies that drive in movie theater, the wall that they play the the Palestinian and we actually tried to make sure to show like how friggin big this is and when they go on the road trip a couple times we try to have like a shot that shows like how little their car is and how big the rest of the world is. Just for a second. You know, to kind of remind everybody that like these guys live in a small simple world So yeah, I mean, we we wanted to make this film look a little a little more polished or a little more big than than bluejay but we didn't want the world to feel big. So

Alex Ferrari 33:33
yeah, without question and you of course visited one of my favorite towns in California and Sylvain which was when I saw it I was like oh my god I can't believe I'm sure someone is shot there but I haven't seen it

Alex Lehmann 33:46
people don't really and I that was weird because I've always wanted to make a movie there since the first time I of course we can vacation there and

Alex Ferrari 33:54
tell it by the way can you tell everybody what because you and I know what it is but can you tell everybody what it is

Alex Lehmann 33:57
we're getting is this like it's just like weird little it's up in wine country it's it's next ascending as it's like right by where they shot sideways. It was like wine country in Southern California. But there's all these Yeah, towns of vineyards and restaurants and whatever and farms and then there's this one town solving that looks like it was airdrop This is it's like out of Denmark, just like one town like a claw came down, grab the whole little town and then like helicoptered it over the United States and just air dropped it in Southern California. Yeah. All the all the you know the windmills. Like it's a windmills and like these tile facades and it's the Hans Christian Andersen museum. It's a weird fish out of water town. Yeah, you gotta love and at the same time, you're like, What is this place? And even when we're scouting it, I kept going, I kept like, on my phone, I'd like scout on Wikipedia just anywhere. I'd be like, I'd be like looking at the web, looking at the web going like, how did nobody make a movie here? It's close enough to LA Yeah. Nope. No one's made a movie there. It's been like an episode of like one or two random TV shows that shot there for like a tiny bit and then sideways basically shot there, but they didn't use that town. They use the stuff around that town. So no, it was absurd to me. Yeah, it was like, you know, finding you know a little

Alex Ferrari 35:16
Yeah, cuz I never remember I mean I've been to that town I've done at times since I've lived in Los Angeles and, and I've I've always like, Oh, they must have shot something here. I mean, they have to have it because it's just such a unique location There is nothing like the on the entire state all so much production value. And then of course, you shot I'm sorry. And great pancakes. Fantastic pancakes. During Christmas time. It is fantastic. They're like it's beautiful during Christmas time. But you also shout out one of my other favorite landmarks in California, Austria Joanne which is down the street resolving and it's just, I saw that scene that you have in there with it for everybody Listen, there's literally a it's kind of like and I don't want to call it like a tourist trap. But it because it lends itself to being like a little tourist trap a little side road thing. But you walk in and it seems tourist trap because you like walk in and there's like ostrich feathers and ostrich eggs for sale and all this little thing and you got to walk through the the the gift shop to get to the ostriches. And when you walk outside. There's hundreds of hostages all around and it's just like something you again, where where else are you going to see that and you get to feed them and all that kind of stuff.

Alex Lehmann 36:32
It's me honestly, that that place is so peaceful for me. And remember, we were filming. I mean, when we're finally filming the movie, like by the time we got to that scene, it was like the end of like a pretty intense week stressful shooting a lot of other stuff, you know, we were down during the day. So it's just kind of like trying to find that moment of calm as you do as a director. We're like, oh God, like, you know, emotions, anxiety, everything. And we just step onto the ostrich farm that we'd scattered a few times. And I felt that peace these these birds are like, it feels like you're with these dinosaurs, you know, connected to like, just just nature, billions of nature and millions of years. It's just all there. And like they're kind of peaceful animals and kind of not peaceful animals.

Alex Ferrari 37:18
You pull out you pull out one of those bowls, you'll see how unpeaceful they are. Yeah, I wanted to go ride one there like you can now there's no writing of the ostriches, where we're not in the 1700s sorry. Yeah,

Alex Lehmann 37:31
it made me happy. It was like this weird place as like, I never. I always thought ostriches were kind of weird and, and like I didn't quite get them and then spending a little time with them. I realized that I love them and that they were like, kind of sweet and beautiful and, and just peaceful and meant a lot. Kinda like our characters. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 37:52
No, they're very Yeah, I saw the I saw that kind of mirror image of these characters. They if they were animals, I think hostages would be a good, a good power animal for them. Now, what is the process of writing with with mark on something like that? What like, how is the process of coming up with something like this? Did you come up with the idea? Did he come up with the idea? Did you guys come together? Like we're gonna write something? Or how did that whole process work? I'm curious.

Alex Lehmann 38:18
Well, yeah, it was, I mean, it was this, this, we kind of knew what characters we've been chasing a few ideas. And there are a couple things that we've kind of written and thought maybe we're gonna make, and then it just was never quite feeling right. But we knew we wanted to make and we like similar characters. And we obviously like character driven stuff. But we we wanted to kind of explore these guys that are maybe often overlooked, who are, you know, maybe for lack of a better word, and I hate to use the word about people, but like, but weird, you go like, you see this guy walk into the grocery store or whatever. And you go, yeah, that's guy with the fanny pack and the weird shoes, and like the mustache or whatever, and we judge them, like, we don't want to judge him, but we do we judge them a little bit. And we think this person's probably a little strange. And I don't want to start a conversation with them. I don't know how to start a conversation with them. And I don't know if this person is, you know, a serial killer or a creep or whatever. But we do judge ourselves, we judge them. And their, their, their people, their people and they don't get their stories all very much. And so we're like, let's tell a story about those guys. And like, let's, let's, let's tell a story about like how there's two of them, and they found each other, and they get each other. And like, even if most people don't get them and even if they are kind of like a little afraid of the rest of the world or like just don't feel like they need the rest of the world. They don't need social media, they don't need clubs and parties and stuff. They don't need big groups of friends. They need each other and they get each other in a way that makes life feel complete. And then obviously you got to take that away from them or threaten to take it away from them so that there's drama. So that's kind of that's kind of how we developed the idea. And then, you know, the process, you know, I'd write a draft, send it to mark, he would, you know, take a pass on it, and we'd kind of built it out and got bigger and bigger. And then, and then we made it a little bit smaller. Before we send it out to Ray, we took out some of the character stuff to really make sure because it's kind of unique the way we you know, we make films like bluejay, where it's like, it's so character driven. And when you're going out to Sarah Paulson, or Ray Romano, you want to give them something that's really exciting, like, the opportunity to stretch your own character stretch and make their make their own thing. And so, um, I guess, I guess, basically, we stripped out some of the Andy character, send it to, you know, some, just some of the color and we send it to Ray and go, like, here's the story, here's a sense of what these guys are, what the relationship is, and, you know, and then he says, I want to do and then he starts building out Andy's character. In fact, he, you know, at that point, he emailed us like, this whole backstory of Andy, like a long beautiful backstory, his childhood, his parents, all that stuff, and it fits perfectly into who this character and he would be now. And, you know, at that point, Mark, and I know that Ray gets the character and he's gonna bring all sorts of stuff to it, and you rock and roll, rock and roll. And then there's like bits like the ostrich, like the the ostrich bid and the halftime speech, there's stuff like that we're re you know, while we're in prep, still, Ray goes like, Oh, I got this halftime speech idea. And, and I go like, okay, like that's, that makes sense that embodies what our film is. So like, let's find a place for it. We'll put it at the bar, and then we'll kind of build up to get into the bar, and then maybe there'll be a payoff like later on. The ostrich thing. I'm like, Listen, we Scout, we were scouting, and we realize there's an ostrich farm right down the street. I feel like that should be a stop on the road trip. And then, you know, he says, like, I got a couple of bits for it. We'll try it. And it's kind of this organic thing. We're, we're,

Alex Ferrari 42:07
That's awesome.

Alex Lehmann 42:08
We're improving where we shoot. And then you know, and then post, we're basically hoping that our editors that genius and helps us figure out what to use. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 42:18
I've shot two films like that. Now, you know, being inspired by Mark and tell you it is a wonderfully freeing experience as a filmmaker to do these kinds of films. It's just kind of like, let's see what happens. It's just like you're playing like you're playing. But you get to play in a larger sandbox with larger, you know, Barbie dolls. I hate to call mark and Mary Barbie doll, you know what I mean? with larger with larger set pieces, but yet still the same that you just get up there to go out and play. And I think it's a wonderful way of, you know, wonderful way of making films. Now, I want to ask you a question. I didn't ask you this last time, but I want to see what you what you say. Did you ever have to break through a fear? When you were trying to get into filmmaking? Or, you know, I'm assuming when Mark called you and said, Hey, you want to go make this movie? I gotta believe there must have been. Am I ready? Can I like if I fail? It's over. Like, if I fail at this kind of level. It's over. Like, that's what would go through my head. Like, you know, if, if all of a sudden Martin Scorsese calls me, he's like, hey, I want to produce a movie with you. And we're gonna give you 20 million or $50 million with Leonardo DiCaprio. I'm not throwing this all out there. But at certain point, you're like, I know that we should actually, but you know, but like, you have to break through that hole like am I am I ready? Am I good enough? I got to believe you had to go through something like that. It's terrifying. I love that. I love that delivery, by the way is terrifying. It's terrifying.

Alex Lehmann 43:49
Yeah, it's a horrible feeling. It's a horrible it's a horrible feeling. You're like, yeah, you get the ask or you get your thing greenlit or sudden or it's like I Netflix duplass Romano we're doing it again. It's gonna be bigger. You go like, this is awesome. How are we gonna make this

Alex Ferrari 44:06
Question so even even after bluejay

Alex Lehmann 44:08
Like now that we got Ray, I feel like I should help them find a better director somebody who's done it. I don't know.

Alex Ferrari 44:17
There has to be more qualified people than me.

Alex Lehmann 44:19
I mean, I made I made it's all joking obviously to reflect the very real steers that we have. And to be honest, when market asked me to do Blue Jay, emailed me He's like, I'm looking for like a director slash dp who could you know, home This here's the out, you know, he was like a two page outline. This one kind of thing, doing great email. I almost wrote him back and said, and I actually had the email written at the time. I was like, I don't I email was you. Yeah, I can. I can recommend a few people for you. Like, don't make that joke. I was like, but it's funny. She's like, Yeah, but it's dumb because you might be passing up you Opposite like don't even make that joke, but obviously, it's coming from a place of. Yeah, I don't know why you're asking me, but I feel lucky that you're asking me, but it's gonna take a while for me to feel like I belong here. And I might never completely feel like I belong here. But that goes back to like telling you that, you know, when Sarah Paulson or Ray Romano Tell me like, they're a little afraid of doing this improv thing. And I look at their credit service and like, why are you afraid of anything? I have to remember that we're all human. And like, we're all constantly trying to find things that that are challenging. If not, you know, I mean, it's cheesy saying, but you're either growing or you're dying. And so, if you're not, if you're not doing things that are challenging you, you're going to get complacent real quickly, and you're not going to your work is going to be stale. And it's going to be, you know, at best derivative. There won't be any heart in it, and you're not going to be doing good work. You might just be possibly faking, you know, faking emotion and, and getting craft out there at best. Right? So yeah, you got to push yourself and that means doing things that scare you. So yeah, I was I was absolutely scared. I'm scared on most of the things I do.

Alex Ferrari 46:09
And what are the what do you do to break through that? Like, what what are the what is there any specific thing you just go? Like? I just gotta go.

Alex Lehmann 46:15
Just do it. Yeah. In fact, to be completely honest, there's this new thing I've been, you know, writing a couple things. But one, one thing I've been writing is like, basically the opposite of a two hander. It's like a, you know, a apocalypse level scenario. It just involves like so many characters and so much in the world. And I'm looking at this going like, I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to do this at all. This is terrifying. And I asked I've got this, you know, really great writing mentor through DGA? And I call them up and, you know, he's written like, huge movies, and he's super nice, but he just goes, why are you afraid? Just write like, just just write just do it just

Alex Ferrari 46:56
The papers not gonna bite you just do it.

Alex Lehmann 46:58
Yeah, exactly. And so obviously, you know, writing a little less scary than being on set, but like, being on set is less scary than, I don't know, performing heart surgery or brain surgery. Like, at the end of the day, you have to look around and appreciate that you aren't there by yourself that you are there with, you know, I can go well, I don't know, if I deserve to be on a Ray Romano movie. Like that's kind of a big deal. And then I realized, like, but it's a big deal, because Ray Romano is here to be Ray Romano. Also, and so like, he's gonna carry some of that weight, I don't have to make Ray Ray Ray's already Ray, I just have to do my thing. And remember to appreciate all the great things that Ray does Remember to appreciate all the great things that mark does. And by not, this goes back to to what I was telling you earlier, which is like you don't have to have all the answers. You don't have to do all the things, you get to kind of celebrate the creativity and talent around you. And then all of a sudden, some of that pressure goes away. And if it's like the right amount of pressure that's off of you. But if it's the right amount of challenge that's on you, that makes you feel fresh in my kind of alive and you know, driven excited, then it's I think it's that perfect little formula of, you know, I'm going to do something special. I'm at least gonna give it everything I got. I'm not gonna get my own way. So,

Alex Ferrari 48:25
Now And lastly, last question, man. What? What did you learn with with writing and director Pendleton? What was the lesson you learned? The biggest lesson?

Alex Lehmann 48:37
The biggest lesson I learned on peloton. Beware of the ostrich, beware. I don't know I got so many directions. I could like make another dumb joke. But I think you've got enough of those for me today. You know, and I don't want to repeat the lessons I learned on DJ because then it makes it sound like I'm

Alex Ferrari 49:01
Not growing. You're dying. You die you die.

Alex Lehmann 49:06
Yeah, I would say be you know, both, both on the process of the film and the subject matter of the film. You know, letting go is terrifying and control. Letting go of control is terrifying. But when you love things, and when you love people, you have to you know, understand how to celebrate them and appreciate them and do the most with what you've got. But be able to you know, let go at the same time.

Alex Ferrari 49:44
Awesome, awesome, man. And I normally ask a whole bunch of questions, but I've already asked all those questions of you before. So what does let's talk about which is green and Nirvana and an oak tree. What kind of tree would you be if you would be a tree I'm the working people. So the movie could be on that it's on Netflix, and it comes out February 22. Okay, and I would ask where people could find you, but you're not on social media or rarely, if any, at all. So, there's that.

Alex Lehmann 50:15
If they really want to find me, they can, they can do some digging. They can do some deep digging, and I'm sure they'll find my email address somewhere, but, uh,

Alex Ferrari 50:25
Or call Kyle or just call Kyle call. I don't like giving anybody's like, you know, whatever. No, Kyle already gave me all his information. I'll put it in the show notes. So it's all good

Alex Lehmann 50:35
And then Kyle will forward it to me. Great.

Alex Ferrari 50:39
Man, Listen, man, congratulations on all your success, man. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy. really, truly. And keep making these cool films, man. Honestly, keep making some good stuff. And so alright. Yeah. Honestly, man, you're an inspiration to a lot of filmmakers out there. I know our first our first episode that we did together did really well. And people were really inspired by it. So keep up the good work, brother. Thanks for thanks for dropping some knowledge bombs on the tribe today.

Alex Lehmann 51:03
Thank you. Good luck with everything you thank you for everything you're doing. And most importantly, good luck with the hustle cups.

Alex Ferrari 51:12
Thanks. I want to thank Alex for coming on the show and dropping some awesome knowledge bombs on the tribe today. Thank you Alex and continued success. On your career man, you are an inspiration. So thanks again for coming by. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/327. And if you haven't already, please head over to filmmakingpodcast.com and leave a good review for the show. It really really helps us out a lot. I want to get this information out to as many filmmakers and screenwriters as humanly possible. And that's the end of another episode of the indie film hustle podcast. Thank you guys so much for listening. I hope it was a value to you. Have a great weekend. And as always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.

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IFH 104: ‘Blue Jay’ & Directing Mark Duplass with Alex Lehmann

In today’s episode, I have the pleasure of interviewing first-time feature film director Alex Lehmann. And his first film is a hell of a way to launch a directing career. His new film is called Blue Jay starring Mark Duplass (who also wrote and produced) and Sarah Paulson (recent Emmy Winner for The People vs OJ Simpson).

Blue Jay just had it’s a world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival to rave reviews:

“If the hour and a half spent inside this story seems fleeting, it’s only because sometimes that’s the best you can ask of a good nostalgia trip.” – IndieWire

“Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson have extraordinary chemistry, painting a cumulative portrait of the fragility and rareness of being truly in sync with a partner.” – Slate Magazine

Meeting by chance when they return to their tiny California hometown, two former high-school sweethearts (Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson) reflect on their shared past through the lens of their differently dissatisfied presents, in this tender, wise and affecting chamber drama from first-time feature director Alex Lehmann.

BTW, Alex Lehmann used DaVinci Resolve to create the black and white LUT for Blue Jay. Check out my conversation with Alex Lehmann and if you listen to until the end he promises to give out Mark Duplass’s personal cell number. Apparently this is how Mark likes to be pitched. Enjoy!

Blue Jay’ is available on AmazonGoogle PlayiTunes, and most other VOD platforms.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 6:35
I like to welcome to the show Alex Lehmann, man. Thanks for coming by man.

Alex Lehmann 6:38
Hey, man, thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 6:40
So I wanted to first off, get to your origin story. How did you get into the film business?

Alex Lehmann 6:47
My high school had a really really swanky TV studio. And I spent all of my free time there like my free periods and my lunches. And I would stay after after school until the TV studio teacher would lock up. And he would drop me off at home actually, on the way home probably probably this day and age it would be not out. Right.

Alex Ferrari 7:11
I was about to say today not a habit.

Alex Lehmann 7:13
But my house, you know, my house was on the way home and so he would just you know, I'd say to the TV studio till like five o'clock 530 every day. How's it going? Like a lot of like school news stuff, but like I'd take cameras out and make movies with my buddies. And you know, you were an AV nerd. Basically, I was totally an AV nerd. Yeah, absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 7:34
So So you got started with the being an AV nerd, then how did that translate into actually getting a job?

Alex Lehmann 7:40
Um, well, I mean, I went to film school after after high school. And that's when I realized, like, I wanted to do more film and less TV stuff. And, and Funny enough, you know, I wanted to I wanted to direct because I, you know, I've been doing everything I've been editing, writing, you know, I was just, you know, the one man band, you know, like, we all are, what we start off with, you know, our mom's camera or whatever. And, but then, some of the other kids in school really liked the way my projects looked. And they were like, Hey, how about you come be the DP on my, like, $50,000 short film or whatever, which to me was like, you know, okay, that's, there's some fun toys there. And, and, you know, and I get to, like, you know, do bigger stuff as still films to film students. And that's when I realized I can make a living at helping people on their sets, you know, by creating the images and just kind of like, you know, sometimes little bit of hand holding for first time directors that are like, hey, I want you to be my dp but also kind of, you know, if you can help me make my movie the way your movie turned out. Right. And so I found it as, you know, a way to make a living I want you know, I was kind of scared about coming out to LA and not being able to stay out here for more than six months and go back home with my tail between my legs and my, my film degree and everything and not not know what to do with the rest of my life. So I said, Alright, cameras make me money. I'm going to keep learning about these cameras and keep using them and help people with their movies. So I did that

Alex Ferrari 9:15
for a long time. Now you were homeschooled, you go to

Alex Lehmann 9:18
Emerson College in Boston. Lots of talented people coming out of there. Oh,

Alex Ferrari 9:22
very cool. So then you went to you're an East Coast guy, and then you came out here to LA to go west young man, as they say. Absolutely. And so you've been working as a cameraman and a cinematographer for a while now, how did that prepare you to be a director?

Alex Lehmann 9:38
Well, you know, I think every director cinematographer relationship is a little different as far as you know, where the ideas originate and how much you know the this the flow of the set is being dictated by you know, camera setups or by blocking or by, you know, acting or whatever and So I found myself being hired mostly by first time directors. It wasn't it wasn't the third movie fourth movie directors that would look at my reel and go, man, he makes stuff look gorgeous and you know, it's time to you know, take my my third movie my fourth movie up a notch and hire this guy cuz he's got this just gorgeous look that nobody says it was more like, you know, like, I think I kind of got the reputation of like, the DP that helps you get your movie made. And, and at the same time isn't that tyrant dp who like, is actually just going to take over your movie and you know, get the shots that he wants for his first reel or like, you know, just just be, you know, be a dick about it. And I say on your pie, you

Alex Ferrari 10:45
can say deck, you can say whatever you want, sir. Alright. So, so, so, in many ways, I guess that kept you working. Because that's, you know, that's definitely somebody a lot of first time directors with like that call

Alex Lehmann 10:58
it yeah, it can be working. And for sure. I mean, I did a lot of a lot of other junk too. You know, I held plenty of cameras on reality shows and that's my first job in LA was a camera assistant on the project, greenlight series. Wow, that must have been fun. Yeah, yeah, it was real cool. And actually, is for the the horror movie for feasts. That was you know, I was on the document terian side, and just as a camera system, and then pick up an extra camera whenever I could. And, and then I eventually started shooting movies for the, for that director and for that production company. So, you know, I was kind of, it's kind of at least, I want to say smart, I guess about what reality show. I worked for knowing Hey, there's a transition into movies here. But you know, it's always it's always harrowing that those first couple jobs in LA, you want to make sure you eat it's never going to be exactly what you want to do. But you want to make sure you're you're setting yourself up for for growth and transition at least so that one worked out.

Alex Ferrari 11:58
Yeah, it's true. It never ever works out how you plan. I've never met somebody is like, Oh, yeah, this is exactly how I planned this whole thing out.

Alex Lehmann 12:06
Which, which is a theme of the movie bluejay.

Alex Ferrari 12:09
Yes, yes. Which will bring great into blue. Jay, can you tell me about how Blue Jay came to being?

Alex Lehmann 12:16
Yeah, so um, ironically, things never work out. The way they're planned. And, and there is no golden ticket in in the movie industry. Except Mark duplass asked me if I wanted to direct dp a movie that he wrote. So

Alex Ferrari 12:35
that's a pretty good golden ticket. I just got I'm just throwing that out there. That's not a bad golden ticket brother.

Alex Lehmann 12:40
Yeah, I guess I guess after 12 or 13 years of, of, you know, kind of busting my butt. I

Alex Ferrari 12:46
know you're an overnight success, or you're an overnight success like everybody else.

Alex Lehmann 12:50
It was Yes, it was, you know, I had done some other work with Mark. But yeah, so blue j blue j comes up, Mark says, you know, we just finished work together on this documentary. I made Asperger's or us which is worth getting into at some point, but, but he liked working with me and said, I got this little film that I've been conceptualizing. And here's like, a two page outline. What do you think about what do you think about it? I was like, Yeah, okay. Yeah. Okay, we're doing this. That's great. And so, you know, so yeah, my first narrative feature is, I consider myself incredibly lucky. fortunate. I understand that that doesn't always happen.

Alex Ferrari 13:35
You think? Yeah, so you got so and then you met Mark working on the league?

Alex Lehmann 13:41
Yeah, so I was a camera I was a camera operator on the league and, and we, you know, we shared our passion for for fart jokes on the set, and then we'd hang out at craft services, we would talk about her or like little indie films that we loved watching and you know, kind of our, you know, we shared similar taste for things like that. And we were both kind of melancholic, often dark or depressive in our thoughts, but you know, introspective will just

Alex Ferrari 14:11
say, you're an introvert, an introvert, introspective, introspective,

Alex Lehmann 14:14
introspective, but we so we vibed on some stuff. And he caught wind of this this documentary that I was on our hiatus weeks, I'd go out and shoot this, this comedy troupe called Asperger's or us and these these guys, you know, they have, that they're all have Asperger's syndrome. And and they, they they've been building this the sketch show, and I found it really fascinating. So I fly out on my hiatus weeks, and I, you know, just make this documentary by myself as a one man band. And then I was editing it And finally, you know, felt like I had something to show and I figured, maybe I should show it to mark and see what happens a guy, he's a guy who can get shit done. So Yeah, for anybody listening to this at the very end of the podcast, so listen to this whole I'll give you marks cell phone number, his home address. He wants submissions from everyone.

Alex Ferrari 15:17
Of course, please yeah, if you could give a direct Yeah, direct, you could direct cell phone would be perfect.

Alex Lehmann 15:24
I've been working with a guy for you know, for four years. And it was still incredibly you know, I don't like asking people for things and so it was incredibly uncomfortable for me to even just kind of bring it up.

Alex Ferrari 15:37
Hey, do you want to kind of look at my documentary?

Alex Lehmann 15:39
Yeah, exactly. That, you know, thankfully, the, the lead was ending, so it was like, Okay, if he hates it, or if like, he just doesn't want to have anything to do with it. At least we don't have, like, a whole a whole other season where it's gonna be just awkward on set every time like, Hey, man, I saw you. Yeah, you know, it was a, it was, oh, hey, the carrot sticks are coming out. Gotta go. You know, I knew like I whatever. Like, even if the guy never talks to me again, at least I know. Like, I busted my ass on this documentary, I put my money into it, I put, I put you know, a ton of effort into it. And I believed in it and says, like, I like this is this is I'm taking this one shot. This is the one shot I'm taking it. And, and he liked it. And so, you know, he gave me a couple of notes. And he, you know, he and his brother came on as executive producers and you know, helped me kind of finish it out from a financial and creative perspective. And, you know, we got it, we got it to south by that we sold it to Netflix and all that kind of stuff that just wouldn't have happened without a guy like Mark behind it. And we just really enjoyed working together.

Alex Ferrari 16:48
So Mark, Mark, is that 800 pound gorilla without question in the room. He is he's he's him and his brother. I mean, they've been doing and I mean, I've talked about mark on the show many times and on the website, I'm a huge fan of marks. And and what he does in puffy chair and the whole mumble core movement when it started and stuff like that. And he's an inspiration man, he really is an inspiration of what, what can be done in the film industry without question and they seems at least he seems very down to earth.

Alex Lehmann 17:19
He's such a jerk.

Alex Ferrari 17:23
Never again,

Alex Lehmann 17:24
great actor. That's all I got to say. Great. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And to boot. He's just just a very kind human being who just Yeah, he just, he just listens to people. And he's just very present. So

Alex Ferrari 17:39
and melancholic.

Alex Lehmann 17:40
And melancholic.

Alex Ferrari 17:42
So how was it and so you're directing your first narrative. All right, and then you've got your directing a thing written by or film written by Mark duplass. And then you're going to direct Mark duplass and Sarah Paulson in a movie? How do you go about that?

Alex Lehmann 18:00
Well, um, you know, we, we were going off of, you know, not a complete script, we were going off of a script and I guess you could call it

Alex Ferrari 18:14
it was gonna ask about the writing. How does it is it like his normal writing improv heavy kind of stuff? What's his process as far as the writing and how the script is brought up?

Alex Lehmann 18:22
I don't, I don't know what his process is for everything. And I think this one was a little different. But, but I can tell you as far as the process for this one, we you know, we started he had two pages. And you're gonna think like, two pages that really must not have had a lot. Those two pages had everyone every word had importance, is it kind of amazing when I read it was like, wow, these two pages tell the entire story and more importantly, Tell, tell, uh, you know, have a mood have a tone that just, you know, is just, it just, it just hits you, you know, at the core. So we started with that, and, you know, we he and I already know, back and forth, like some thoughts and kind of built, built it out a little bit. And then, and then we cast Sarah, and we had a couple of production meetings, where Sarah Mark myself, and a couple of the film's producers who were insanely talented and generous in their, their ideas, Mel aslin and Zanna Rhonda and Sid fleischman. They would, they would, we would all sit together and it was half a half prep, where we would just kind of discuss the story and like kind of throw out ideas and talk about what was resonating what themes we were kind of, you know, finding as as subtext. And part of it was like, group therapy where we were, we were starting to tell our stories, you know, our high school sweetheart, you know, our guy. There's High School moment stuff which is but it's you know it's amazing because you end up I mean it was kind of like The Breakfast Club right where everybody just has put themselves out there so hard in front of everyone that you build this trust and this bond and and so we you know we would throw all this stuff out and Mark would you know go back and write some more based on what we're doing and I started realizing that the most important thing I could do was was listen to kind of what everyone else was saying especially mark and Sarah. We shot the film chronologically the guy had ideas I wanted to throw out here and there but but everybody had so many good ideas that it started turning into okay what like make sure that you're not just you know when you're not talking make sure you're not just thinking of your own idea make sure you're you're really listening to especially what Mark and Sarah are connecting to and what what story they want to tell because otherwise you know, you just get you know, it isn't conversations a lot of times like people check out and they're not listening to you anymore Just thinking about what they're gonna say next. And it says like I gotta be so present so aware of what they're saying or even just like you know, what, what it feels like they're thinking when they're not talking and so I kind of just really tried to pick up what what you know the stories they wanted to tell where and what what you know, they wanted to bring to it because you know, everybody's got some personal stuff that that was thrown into this film and we changed some of the details and everything we want to protect everybody but it's a very personal movie in a collective fashion

Alex Ferrari 21:38
so it's a little bit of a little bit of every buddy stories in this and one way shape or form in that group they were talking about absolutely so that's why it's so you know, and I've seen like I told you earlier I've only been able to see half of it because I just got access to it a little bit ago but the parts that I've seen a little bit over half the movie already I can there is that honesty that realness it doesn't seem manufactured it doesn't seem like it just came out of somebody's head at least it feels a little it feels real if

Alex Lehmann 22:09
that's what we're going for for sure is like a richness a richness in in in honesty and honesty This is not the the most plot heavy film you're ever going to see but but as far as far as the characters like they're very well developed characters and and you know, yeah, there's just everything that that they say is coming from a genuine place, even when it's not like you know, from the actors, it's just it is coming from somewhere. But But I think that to finally answer your question I'm the most I think the most important thing that I could do directing actors who are amazing and way more experienced than I am who don't need me to help them with their acting The only thing the biggest thing I could do was really just listen to to the moment and find what was genuine and just kind of in between takes me like, like yeah, this like you said like this really resonated like let's go in this direction and we shot everything chronologically so we It was really about just kind of sitting in on on on a really intimate you know, conversation between two people and kind of letting them know what what was working what was resonating what felt real and and I got to bring you know my documentarian background into this where, you know, you're chasing story as a documentary, and, you know, you're not dictating what happens, but when you see something that you like, or that's interesting, or that, that makes you think, or ask more questions, you you dig deeper. And so that was, I would say, that's how I was, you know, directing other than the visual stuff obviously, as I was shooting the film as well. So it's kind of wearing both of those hats

Alex Ferrari 24:00
so so then what did you guys have a final script? Or was like what was the final piece of paper that you guys were working with on set? Was it just basically a big outline? Or what was the actual process? Yeah, there's

Alex Lehmann 24:12
probably like 1520 page script meant and then there were certain scenes that like we would talk about the day before knowing that we we actually wanted a full script for that. So you know, there's a couple scenes where mark you know, would go home at night and type type, you know, type up that three to five pages and, and we'd have that the next morning, but most most of the film was shot on a, you know, off of a 15 to 20 page document. And and shooting chronologically.

Alex Ferrari 24:42
And as far as you as a director is a kind of, you know, because I know normally in a you know, what they teach in film, school and all that kind of stuff. You have that whole you know, your whole script and everything. This is a very unique, different process, though. It's becoming more and more common nowadays. Because of Mark and Joe Swanberg and Lynn Shelton and those and those directors and filmmakers but do you find yourself as a director kind of just almost like a documentary or you're trying to catch the moment because the moments not scripted sometimes it's it just comes out do you find yourself kind of like just just preparing yourself to catch that moment?

Alex Lehmann 25:17
Yeah I think we were going for a feeling more than a precision in words or actions and so as long as we were kind of capturing the nostalgic melancholy and as you know as long as we were like feeling that that the characters of Jim and Amanda we're you know evolving together developing you know, new and interesting dynamics which when you were working with Mark duplass and Sarah Paulson like that, they're gonna do that they're just they're that good you know, as long as you've got that it's it's it's Yeah, I think it's just about finding those moments and going like that's interesting you know, and you just bank US Bank A lot of those really cool moments and you you chase extra you know, kind of extra themes and extra through lines that you give yourself you know some options in post Chris donlin are editor he's cut for togetherness he's he cut creep so he's pretty familiar with you know, the the way you know these duplass Films shoot in one way or another where you know, we we cut together different versions of scenes in case we want to chase the story this way or chase the story that way so we give ourselves some options but but at the end of the day, it's always is always about walking away from a scene feeling like we went somewhere real we were we went somewhere interesting. And none of us feels like it was a lie.

Alex Ferrari 26:53
Right now you were saying you also the cinematographer as well as the director, how do you balance having both those hats on the same set because I've done it myself and it's it's challenging to say the least.

Alex Lehmann 27:08
Um yeah you know we sometimes we were shooting single camera and sometimes we were cross shooting and the first couple days I would operate one of the cameras were cross shooting I quickly learned not to do that because then I only get to see half of what's going on. So that's one way you know, you've got to do it as if you start trying to do the cross coverage for improv like you just put put someone put people on put someone else on the camera it doesn't matter if it's you know, your gaff or your camera the assistant or just you know, your mom I don't know whatever like it's more important that you are you know, watching both sides so that's an important one and that's a lesson I learned day two or three and, and then as far as everything else, my cinematography has always been about the story and that sounds kind of cliche and I kind of hated myself for just saying it because if you're like it's like what somebody has like on their website or like on their business card but but it's true like I've never been obsessed with lenses. I was just asked to write this article about like selecting the right lens and I was like no I I usually like select the lenses that that make the storytelling easier. I'm never I'm never the one that's like Oh, man, this lens has a killer flare, we got to get that like I don't care. I really I you know, I spent a little time lighting I spent a little time thinking about what the what the you know, what the look needs to be but more important to me is does the shot tell the story? And you know, does the blocking benefit the story or is it just Am I just tried to fit the blocking into the frame to make something look pretty. And and when you start thinking like okay, like how do I make the cinematography work for the story you're thinking so much about the story is that you're right back to thinking like a director anyways. So I think that if you're shooting for the story, you're not a and you have a little bit of shooting experience. You're not like fumbling through the camera menu, as long as you're, as long as you've learned the basics. That stuff kind of goes on autopilot and you're you're just working towards the story anyways, and you kind of get lost in the story.

Alex Ferrari 29:30
Now what was the size of your crew?

Alex Lehmann 29:33
We were we were we were like 1213 I think 12 1314 of us and we shot it in seven days. It's it's engineered, you know, to to be achievable with something like that. We didn't want too many people. You know, it's very intimate story. We didn't want to set with just about People being loud and everything it's not all in one location A lot of people ask like oh seven days did you shoot it all in a house, but half of it is in a house, but half of it isn't but when you have you know 1213 people on your crew you don't have a lot of fans or a lot of gear or a lot of people to move around so you can actually hop around to a bunch of places every day and just shoot more

Alex Ferrari 30:26
we'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Where did you shoot what state

Alex Lehmann 30:40
in California in crestline it's next to Big Bear

Alex Ferrari 30:44
I was gonna say it looks does it look like I thought it was like almost Colorado or Montana because of all that it just looked at it didn't look at California at all to me

Alex Lehmann 30:53
yeah it's a pretty cool area up there and and yeah we there are a couple shots specifically that like really make it feel like much much bigger mountain mountain world than than what you would expect from anything near la but yeah, it's like two hours from LA.

Alex Ferrari 31:11
Oh really? It's not that far away either. Yeah. So then what kind of lighting packages Do you use by the way

Alex Lehmann 31:19
um, I used a couple of LED like light pads light mats and like big big sources but you know they don't need to be like bright they just need to be bigger sources so that they're a little more pleasing on on actress faces. And actually, I ended up using I saw you know, there's like, like, not like the little Christmas lights but like the bigger bald ones that people use in their back in their patios and stuff. So I love the look of those I've got a couple of strands of them going around my backyard in you know around my patio table and when we're out there eating just everybody's faces like they're glowing and their eyes just have these just beautiful beautiful sparkles. And I've always thought like man this this these lights you know and the way they wrap around and they give shape they really they really create a beautiful look on people's faces but the intensity is too low because I've tried shooting stills I've tried shooting video with with them just even in my backyard I'm like it's just not not quite enough light. Well we we happen to be we shot the film with with this new Canon camera which I'll get into in a sec. Oh yeah. And it's really good at low light. So it just kind of clicked for me like oh, I'm gonna I just took down all my lights in my backyard. Not even out of like budget necessity. But but because I loved the quality of them so much. And I realized like, I'm not going to need a generator we're not going to need like crazy rigging stuff because these are just like Christmas lights. It's just use some tape and some clamps. But like you can just kind of like for anybody who's a little bit more of a lighting nerd like you can you know with because it's a it's a strand you can kind of like wrap it around so that it gives like you know better shape to the faces than just like you know,

Alex Ferrari 33:13
like but this is not practical. This is stuff off off camera using the light Yeah,

Alex Lehmann 33:17
it was off camera. Yeah, and I just read them you know, like, like up on the ceiling and tape them around and just kind of like get the shape I wanted on people's faces and knowing that the intensity of these bulbs was enough and so like you know, we got some really cool looks out of it.

Alex Ferrari 33:35
So was it so it's basically so you had some LEDs, some some basically like Flexi lights.

Alex Lehmann 33:41
I don't know what those are. But yeah, they're like like, like, two two foot by three foot led pads. I do those and and I had a bunch of Christmas lights and and natural light. Yeah, and practicals too I guess like whatever you know,

Alex Ferrari 33:57
bulbs and stuff like that some bounces here and there and basically you're done.

Alex Lehmann 34:02
Yeah, yeah, but like we didn't Yeah, we that was our that was our lighting package like we got like to

Alex Ferrari 34:06
some no 200 pounds 2000 pound grip Chuck. No, five, five ton 10 ton.

Alex Lehmann 34:11
We didn't even have like an airy kit. Like it was just you know, it was like those two light pads and and like the Christmas lights and you know, and the lamps and practicals Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 34:23
so tell me about this camera you were shooting with.

Alex Lehmann 34:24
So it was developed by canon for the military or for security. It doesn't have an onboard recorder. It doesn't have onboard power. So ready, you know ready to go. You say this is not made for filmmaking. Basically a security camera, but it's a full frame sensor that only shoots 10 ad because it basically has these giant pixels that just suck up any light that's out there. There's like photon magnets. I just geeked out big time.

Alex Ferrari 35:00
I feel you brother I feel you

Alex Lehmann 35:02
yeah and so and so yeah you end up being able to shoot it like I mean I tested it all the way to like 100,000 ISO and as long as I was getting like a half decent exposure at at that you know at that setting I the noise was not too bad and on top of that we you know we were shooting we knew we were gonna make it black and white yes it was at some grain yes and so I was like I that like now I have to worry about noise even less but but yeah the camera The camera was performing really well I got like 50,000 ISO and sometimes 100,000 ISO and yeah it also has this full frame sensor which just it you know, it's it's like what the big movies are doing a lot a lot now like with like The Revenant right like anybody was shooting 65 No, to get that feeling that that really intimate feeling. Or Tarantino shooting you know, he shot 70 notes out of a cabin not because he wanted the VISTAs but because he wanted he wanted that relation relational space with his actors inside you know, inside the cabin. Well, that full frame sensor looks gorgeous with you know, some Canon 70 primes and and it really just allows you to just be a lot closer to the actors without like having like a fisheye. That like just starts distorting and making it feel less personal. So the combination it really was, it wasn't just about a low light camera it was also like the full frame sensor and the image that it that it created with the with the center Prime's it just I don't know, it just felt like very like it was going to be a very intimate look. So yeah,

Alex Ferrari 36:56
so the next question is, why did you guys decide to shoot black and white because obviously black and white lessens your marketability but I think with the cast that you had this kind of movie it is I guess that's not as big of a of a problem as it would be for an independent filmmaker with no name actors in their movie correct but what what made you choose to shoot black and white?

Alex Lehmann 37:17
Well we I mean we have to give props to Netflix you know the do classes have a you know this development deal this four picture deal with Netflix and we knew that this film probably was going to go into that

Alex Ferrari 37:31
so is this part of that four to four picture deal?

Alex Lehmann 37:33
It is it's the first oh cool and we reached out to Netflix when we're in prep and just said like hey you know we're looking at making this movie and you know we got Sarah mark and a very small chamber piece and we want to make it black and why and they said no problem go for it.

Alex Ferrari 37:54
I hear I hear honestly I hear working with Netflix as a creator they just kind of really let you loose in a lot of ways

Alex Lehmann 38:03
yeah and you know by weight smart like i don't i don't i appreciate what they're doing and you know as a as a filmmaker, it's it's exciting. When I think about it from business perspective, it's like yeah, you know, you want to attract people who are inspired and you want to have as many different and interesting things as possible. So it's like yeah, please let it's a smart move. It's a smart move on their behalf and we're all very thankful for it. But But yeah, so I'm not unlike something like the man who wasn't there where it's like the Coen brothers and and even the Coen brothers are being told like well shoot it in color, and we'll probably let you release in black and white but let's just shoot in color to cover our asses. It's like the Coen Brothers let them do whatever they want to do but like you know, studios, especially when it's a bigger budget they want to they want to you know, cover you know, protect their assets and it makes sense yeah, absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 38:59
Fair enough. No, you brought up budget I know that's a very sensitive subject. Can you tell us an estimate of what the budget was on this because so people understand not an exact Of course, but just you know, under something

Alex Lehmann 39:10
it was under 50 million.

Alex Ferrari 39:12
Nice. Nice.

Alex Lehmann 39:15
Yeah. Under 50 million center 50 million I swear. And as soon as

Alex Ferrari 39:21
it looks like 52 million tell you the truth.

Alex Lehmann 39:24
I appreciate that we'll release the actual budget once once the IRS is done auditing us

Alex Ferrari 39:31
a great that's I'm gonna that's gonna be my answer. Now from From now on, anytime anyone asks. Well, my budgets very cool. Now this premiered at was a Toronto. Yeah. So was that the first time you were at Toronto, the Toronto Film Festival.

Alex Lehmann 39:47
I've been there as a as a dp. Okay. A couple of first short and a an adopt and adopt that I shot but that was years ago. It's it's that that festival is just blown up.

Alex Ferrari 40:00
It's an amazing I spent a long time since I've been at a festival too but when I went It was a beautiful festival But how was it so there's a different experience about going as a dp and then going with a movie that has stars Mark duplessis Sarah Paulson that's you know, premiering there how does that whole adventure How did that tell us like a fly on the wall How was that adventure for you?

Alex Lehmann 40:20
Um the hotel room was really nice i mean you know it was it was overwhelming it was all it was all really overwhelming to be completely honest. There's a lot of really wonderful talented people there there's you know, like any festival there's so many movies you want to see and you're never gonna get a chance to see all of them and you want to like you want to meet everyone and talk to everyone me personally like I want to stay away from all the business people and the agents and the producers and whatever and I just want to go meet other filmmakers and actors and watch their stuff and gush about you know how they did it differently and I've learned something by watching them but um but you know it's it's also like you know, an industry it's definitely a very much very much an industry festival where we were there promoting the film and that was really fun and you know, Mark was there and we screened it we premiered it for 1000 people you know, at the Ryerson theatre we we'd never screened the film in a theater for anyone

Alex Ferrari 41:32
rapido shot 10 ADP right

Alex Lehmann 41:34
there shot 10 ADP okay but when we did a couple test screenings when we were you know, cutting the film it just kind of seeing if you know if people liked it or if we were just free just made this little thing that like 15 of us like everybody else hated

Alex Ferrari 41:52
there's always that moment when you're making a movie that you're like Does anyone else like this besides

Alex Lehmann 41:56
Yeah, are we just getting a whole bunch of inside jokes is that right

Alex Ferrari 42:00
exactly it's it's your you live in a bubble though when you're when you're a filmmaker sometimes because you you watch the same cut I'm sure you must have seen that cut at least 60 100 times prior to release and whatever was working on the first two or three times you watched it doesn't have the same impact on the 100th

Alex Lehmann 42:19
oh yeah for sure you thank you and you're always you know,

Alex Ferrari 42:23
you feel lost at the end of it you just like what is it is it good anymore? I don't know I

Alex Lehmann 42:27
really yeah you're looking for ways to make it better and you're in you're looking for the flaws and you're trying to you know just polish it and polish it every time you're watching it you're looking for anything else you can polish and so you're not appreciating anymore so you like to get to people appreciate this like can people get lost in this in this thing because all I can do is look for mistakes which thankfully like right before we got TIFF I had that moment like that you know you QC the the DCP and you know you know that you're you're in the clear and you're just watching it in case something weird happens but you know it's locked you know nobody's gonna let you unlock it like you know unless it just there's unless it sounds like there's a T rex like walking in the background for some weird reason you know your producers are like you're done we need to send us a TIFF or you know we're already behind schedule and you know we're not spending another dime on this it's locked it's great to like finally when you get to that point you can watch the movie knowing you know, it's like put put down the weapon

Alex Ferrari 43:31
just put the knife down. Yeah, put the

Alex Lehmann 43:35
knife down, put the cutting scissors down for whatever and and and so yeah, I did get to enjoy the movie before Tiff and actually just like, cry and laugh and do all the do all the feelings which, you know, I didn't get to do for the months that we were trying to finish the film. But But even so, the biggest screening we had and this wasn't the final version of the film, but the last time we test screened a version of the film, it was 10 people in a room on some couches and with the TV and all of a sudden we're in a giant theater with 1000 people I must be insane. Yeah, it's kind of crazy and it's you know, it's like a 10 ADP like which you know, nowadays isn't that impressive. It's you know, pretty low rez for, you know, however big that screen was and and it's just like very much a little DIY film and a lot of ways so.

Alex Ferrari 44:31
Well, yeah, I mean, it seems I mean, well under 50 million nowadays doesn't get you not a lot. Yeah. But from what you're telling me from, at least from the production side, it sounds like a very do II DIY kind of film. Yeah, sure you have big talent in front of you. But at the end of the day, it was just you and a few cameras and 10 to 12 people making a little very small, you know, small movie with a very intimate story and being projected up there. So how did that 1080 project

Alex Lehmann 45:00
You know it held up great it really did and I don't know if people you know I don't know if we're all more forgiving because it's black and white and because it had a little bit of a it's got like a polished

Alex Ferrari 45:12
gritty look. You added grain to it. I did a little bit

Alex Lehmann 45:16
of grain Yeah, added grain to the theatrical theatrical one more than the than what will be on Netflix. I tested it on like some screens and some TVs and as a guy like we can't we can't do like one green pass for for everything so we added a little extra green for the theatrical

Alex Ferrari 45:37
okay so forth yet so anytime you're doing a theatrical you added a little bit more grain to it now what was the purpose for the adding of the grain just just I mean on a filmmaker to filmmaker I just wanted to know why you did it as far as its aesthetic Is it because you're trying to get that warm film feeling that we all grew up with

Alex Lehmann 45:56
yeah cuz cuz grains cool man

Alex Ferrari 45:58
a grain is cool i do i do good good grain not that dancing and not dancing ants.

Alex Lehmann 46:03
No not dancing us yeah, we tested we tested some grain and you know everybody's got their propriety proprietary grains now like hbos got their vinyl you know, I guess vinyls canceled now the bad they're like big proprietary grand for vinyl. We did a bunch of tests with with different film grains. And we found one that that felt really natural. But yeah, I don't know, it just it just, it gives image a little bit more life. Or it can. And this is this is a film that doesn't have color. It doesn't have sweeping crane shots. It doesn't. It has like one dolly shot.

Alex Ferrari 46:39
I want to say you had $1 Do you have a dolly,

Alex Lehmann 46:41
we had that wait a little doorway Dolly, I was gonna say, I use it once. I didn't want to use it for much. It's you know, there's, it's, it's a simply shot film. And, you know, a lot of the stories is driven by by these characters talking so you don't, you know, you don't you don't want to do too much you want to you really let it let it live with the actors. And and so like a little bit of a little bit of grain kind of gives that just subconscious feeling of like life and movement. I guess that sounds a little pretentious. I'm going to go back then. I'm going to go back to film. Great. Nice. Cool. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 47:23
Fair enough. Now, so Netflix obviously was involved prior to you guys filming correct?

Alex Lehmann 47:32
They they were definitely saying that this seemed like the first film that they want to pick up from the deal. Okay. But I don't think it was officially a Netflix film right away.

Alex Ferrari 47:46
And then but you're also doing like you're releasing it in the in this kind of new distribution model where it's streaming and in the theaters on the same day.

Alex Lehmann 47:53
Yeah. So we have these these great distributors that you know, the duplass has worked with a bunch they called the orchard. They curate a lot of really good films and excited about a lot of the stuff on their slate, but um, there Yeah, so they're doing our theatrical and our VOD. And then eventually the film will be on Netflix. But But yeah, actually, it comes out. I don't know when this podcast airs, but we premiere in, we do our New York theatrical release October 7, and our la theatrical release October 14, and it does VOD and digital platforms October 11.

Alex Ferrari 48:32
So, so it will be on Netflix on October 11. as well.

Alex Lehmann 48:35
No, it'll be on Netflix. TBD. But but not in October.

Alex Ferrari 48:40
Not in October, but probably soon there. Therefore, after afterwards, yeah. After VOD and and and the other digital platforms. Yep. Very very cool, man. Um, so I have three questions that I asked all of my guests and this is this is my Oprah moment so prepare yourself

Alex Lehmann 49:01
my couch right now

Alex Ferrari 49:02
I get ready to cry.

Alex Lehmann 49:03
Oh, there's a furball is that what everybody gets?

Alex Ferrari 49:08
So what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in life or in the film business? Um Wow. If you were a tree, what kind of no joke.

Alex Lehmann 49:22
The lesson the longest. So the hardest

Alex Ferrari 49:27
lesson that took you the longest to learn in life We're in the business

Alex Lehmann 49:31
right now. All I can think of is the lyrics the hardest to learn was the least complicated that I just misquote that is that no, no. Lego 97 I would say that everybody is feeling what you're feeling. When you're you know, everybody's got those moments of insecurity and and doubt and feeling like they don't belong because it's very It's very easy to to just go inward and focus on what you're feeling. And it's like, man, I don't know, I don't know if I'm doing the right thing. If I'm making the right choice, whether it's a life choice or an onset choice, or an editorial choice or whatever. And you you think, like, man, I just, I just really don't know sometimes. And yeah, I think only recently I've realized, like, just every everybody, you know, even the ones that just seem like they've got it all together. Everybody is is constantly having those same questions, no matter who they are.

Alex Ferrari 50:36
And securities and so you mean James Cameron after he's gonna do the next avatar is gonna go? I don't know that I do it right?

Alex Lehmann 50:44
I I'd be willing to bet that James Cameron's got plenty of insecurities as far as how he processes them, how he shows them or hides them or whatever. That's what's different between you and James and me. And, but But yeah, everyone. And it just seems so obvious. So that's, I think that's why that that sound was going through my head. But, but but you know, it's just it is one of those things where, if you're an inward thinking person, you can you can forget that, like, everybody's got that same struggle.

Alex Ferrari 51:17
Yeah. And I mean, I've been in post for better part of two decades, and I've had I've worked on a lot of feature films, and I know that's very true. I mean, no matter how big the person is in the room, while you're editing or color grading or finishing the movie, they all have those insecurities. They just like, Is it good? You know, is it are those jokes funny? Did it cry in the right spot? So we're all human beings at the end of the day, and we're all artists, you know, filmmakers are artists at the end of the day, and artists are insecure, generally speaking.

Alex Lehmann 51:47
A lot. A lot of wonderful things come from that insecurity.

Alex Ferrari 51:52
Now, what are your three favorite films of all time?

Alex Lehmann 51:56
All right. jaws is number one. I'm sure it's been

Alex Ferrari 52:01
on that it's been on the list many times on the show. Yeah.

Alex Lehmann 52:06
I'm going to say you know, it It definitely varies, but I'm gonna say just to keep this podcast moving Hot Fuzz is the movie that I love that movie every time I go back to it I'm like oh shit and he did this and he did that that just you know that's the kind of movie that I love where you just I don't know it's like it's like airplane where you just go oh, you know instead of just like you know gags and stuff it's it's you know, it's plot stuff it's characters out Yeah, Hot Fuzz is a very is a brilliant movie to me that just doesn't get the credit it deserves and I know a lot of people love it but you got to like watch it like twice in the same week to really realize how much thought was put into

Alex Ferrari 52:52
everything like you brought up airplane to get like every time I even think about our planet crack up Yeah, yeah, have you ever seen a grown man naked do me

Alex Lehmann 53:03
Yeah, like I feel like the filmmakers just like he just like worked on the movie so much with it like anytime there's a void of even half a second we're gonna find a joke in there whether it's a sight gag or whatever like we like we're just gonna cram the you know the jokes in there it's amazing. Exactly really as early as and what was your third um the 400 blows is a movie that that I connected with a young age Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 53:31
it's a good film. It's a really good film.

Alex Lehmann 53:33
Yeah Yeah, I like that that film a lot and that that definitely speaks closer to the kind of kinds of films that I like to make or I just you know really really like to stick with a character or a couple characters and even if you put them through a gauntlet it's all about you know them and just kind of how they're they're they're getting through that gauntlet Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 53:57
and then what was the like the funniest story you can actually say publicly that happened on set

Alex Lehmann 54:06
hmm well that time that mark punched Sarah out chip is black eyes We had to oh you said that you can say folks is

Alex Ferrari 54:17
a public you can say publicly so that you can say I'll edit that out sir.

Alex Lehmann 54:24
No, you know, it is a very is very just a positive set I'm trying to think

Alex Ferrari 54:31
while takes nobody like just broke for one reason or another.

Alex Lehmann 54:34
I mean, there's there's an outtake that made made it into the film. There's I mean, a sped tech saga is not as

Alex Ferrari 54:42
nice I just thought this could take right before I caught that's where I'm actually where I'm at in the movie. Yeah.

Alex Lehmann 54:47
I mean, that was that was fun. That was a nice little gift. But um,

Alex Ferrari 54:51
it was a really good spit take by the way.

Alex Lehmann 54:53
It was it was very real, very unplanned, and they kept going. And it was as fun is

Alex Ferrari 55:00
about those capturing those moments, it's like capturing that magic. It's, it's, it is like a documentarian and a lot of ways. But what Yeah,

Alex Lehmann 55:07
you know, it's you want to capture, capture that lightning in a bottle. And you know that. I mean, listen, like really, really good filmmakers can recreate those moments, like champs like that, you know, there's a lot of people that are just, you know, I mean, there's certain filmmakers that will do 100 takes to get it exactly the way that they wanted it or to give themselves every option that they need to cut it. And that's a great way to make films and especially if you've done it well for, you know, 20 years, you get to that point where you really are going to be the person who can refine and you've got actors that just can dial it in. And, you know, I think Sarah is actually one of one of those actors for sure. And, you know, Mark is, is good at that. But Mark's background is not a classical training, he he is the most aware and in the moment person you'll ever meet. If you have a conversation with them, you'll feel like the rest of the world doesn't exist to you to him, he's there. And that's a big part of what he brings to his acting. And and so you know, he is good at like recreating moments, but he's even better at just being incredibly genuine, incredibly genuine in the moment. So you know, we really look to capture that lightning in a bottle and if we've got it, and we're happy we go home, we don't we don't say now let's make the lightning a little bit brighter for this take. Let's just see if we can, you know, tweak the lightning? Or can the lightning come in like half a second later to not Dude, you just fucking cut the lightning in the bottle. You just nailed it. Why are we doing it again? Yeah, like this is, it wasn't exactly what any of us had planned for. It's not a Kubrick set. No, it's the anti Kubrick set and you know, you get you get to go home every day, with these amazing things that happened. And it's kind of like life, like, you know, I dare anybody to try to write down on a piece of paper exactly what's going to happen to them today, and if they get it, right, I'm going to say your life is boring. Go out and you know, let go out and let yourself be surprised and put yourself in, in situations that that allow for interesting things to happen, which is I give credit to you know, I'm a fan of the duplass films. And I you know, I think we're some people fall short of it and trying to replicate it, it's, you can't just have two characters be somewhere and talk and expect that the lightning is going to strike you need to create that perfect condition. And a big part of it is, is developing these two developing characters that have things that they need from each other and want from each other and, you know, putting them in scenarios where those things can happen and have somewhere to go. So you know, you do you have to create the conditions for the lightning. I'm not gonna say it's, it's, you know, it's just as easy as sitting around waiting for lightning to strike. But um, but at the same time, it's it's very much being aware and open minded and lightning shows up in all different forms.

Alex Ferrari 58:35
And final, final question, is there anything you can if you if you were gonna give one piece of advice to filmmakers just starting out in the business? What would that be?

Alex Lehmann 58:46
Um, do everything for a little bit. You know, don't don't don't try to just follow a path you've set out for yourself. And if I'm giving two pieces of I'm cheating on your question, I don't care if I do everything to you know, take, take all the jobs, but the other thing is, like, go out and make those movies and, you know, whatever, it's cliche at this point, but like shooting on your iPhone, if you have to, you know, hey, work for Shaun

Alex Ferrari 59:17
Baker, do whatever

Alex Lehmann 59:18
you got to exactly. But like, shoot them and cut them and finish them. Don't spend a ton of money on them. Allow the first few to suck and maybe they won't, but they possibly will. And don't hate yourself when they suck and don't go broke making the first couple of sucky shorts or whatever. Like just keep doing it and doing it and doing it and you're going to get better. I guarantee you that you know when you compare yourself like we all do, you compare yourself to the filmmakers you love. You're comparing yourself to them farther along in the process. everybody you know you need to remember that they had their first films as well their first shorts and like even even what is publicly their first short like there's there's like the Scorsese the guy shaving whatever yeah which is like a you know cool little short and it's like apparently like his first short film I call bullshit on that I guarantee you I guarantee you he made some short films that were weren't as good and like they never you know they never been

Alex Ferrari 1:00:27
used for a short they didn't get a Criterion Collection on it

Alex Lehmann 1:00:30
yeah and by the way even even if he even if that was for you know what fine that's Scorsese there's plenty of room for other people like like me and you who need to make some some shitty short films and some you know some you know learn just you learn learn to suck and then and then stop sucking it's it's that easy well I just see too many people make something they had to put all their money in it or all their emotion in it and then when it's not what they wanted it to be they give up and that's just it just doesn't make any sense.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:05
Well, from what I understand the Duplo the mark and Jay made their first feature and they spent a ton of money on it and they never released it because it said it was just absolute dogshit

Alex Lehmann 1:01:15
they were they were trying to as the story goes they're trying to make the great American film and and it was dogshit and then they what they they took their mom's camera like they're about to quit the film industry yeah mom's camera and recorded that that Yeah, yeah that little

Alex Ferrari 1:01:30
short that was that got into Sundance and launched their whole career. Yeah, and then they did puffy chair I think right after that. Yeah Yes, everyone has

Alex Lehmann 1:01:40
a story other people chances to make movies which is

Alex Ferrari 1:01:42
so cool but yeah they do give they really do help other filmmakers along and they really help launch other filmmakers and they do they care they really do care and it's it's it's wonderful that they do that because a lot of people when they get to the level that the two clauses are at they don't they just forget about them and they just live in their ivory tower

Alex Lehmann 1:02:03
well yeah and i you know i don't i don't blame those people I think a lot of them are just tired be oh no I know they get rewarded bosses or anyone else it's so so much work to get to where they are. Yeah. But But yeah, I guess mark and Jay have you know reserved a little bit of energy and compassion for for other people trying to get stuff done. So yeah, there for sure.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:30
So where can people find you and find the movie?

Alex Lehmann 1:02:33
And right now I'm in Encino. So yeah, people can find me cheese I don't know I have a website Twitter.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:44
Do you have a website?

Alex Lehmann 1:02:46
Facebook? I don't know. Um,

Alex Ferrari 1:02:49
so no one can find you Alex Okay, that's fine great marketing fantastic Great.

Alex Lehmann 1:02:53
Well you know I'm not a movie I'm I'm just a guy you know just just a guy who's like at home right? A

Alex Ferrari 1:02:59
guy looking at a movie expecting you to say I love you.

Alex Lehmann 1:03:06
Alright, my Twitter handle, I promise I'll try to start using Twitter more it's at Frenchie Canuck. fr ee NCHYCAN use ek Okay, I'll put that in the show block everyone Good

Alex Ferrari 1:03:19
luck everyone getting getting that I'll put it in the show notes. Guys don't worry. And and then the movie is going to be available theatrically in New York on the seventh

Alex Lehmann 1:03:27
on the seventh. It's going to be available digitally on October 11. And it'll have a one week theatrical run. Maybe more if everybody comes Who knows? October 14 in LA

Alex Ferrari 1:03:41
Okay, great. And then after that and then probably in next few months or something like that. You can find it on Netflix where it will live forever.

Alex Lehmann 1:03:50
And absolutely and and, and the documentary that that that the duplass here the doc that started it all for us. Which I'm very proud of as

Alex Ferrari 1:04:00
well. And that's also that's on on Netflix right now.

Alex Lehmann 1:04:03
That'll that's no that'll be on Netflix. Soon, right around right around when it when bluejay hits Asperger's Russia hit as well.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:12
Vincent. Fantastic. I'll put links to all that guys in the show notes. And then as you promised, Alex, what is this if you want to submit something to Mark duplass? What is that? What is that information?

Alex Lehmann 1:04:22
Yeah, don't don't tweet at them or email them. Yeah, he prefers you just call him directly so you can pitch your ideas. And his phone number is 81832

Alex Ferrari 1:04:32
Hello, Alex. Alex, are you there? Damn it! So close so close to get Mark duplass's number I'm gonna have to see if I can get Alex back on the line. Sorry if I teased you guys with that. But you know technology What are you gonna do it just cut off and I couldn't get him back on the line. You know, things suck that way sometimes. But anyway, man, I hope you really enjoyed that interview with Alex. Not only does he have an amazing first name, by But I know I really felt like he dropped a lot of great knowledge bombs, and really got an inside view of not only how Mark works, but how he worked on this project. And it's pretty fascinating, I really wanted to hear about more about his camera and what he was using, which seemed a little bit outside the box. And, you know, and I just wanted to kind of shine a light guys that, you know, just because it's a, you know, a movie that has big stars in it, and is on Netflix and getting a theatrical, you know, it's not that, you know, it's basically a movie. In a house, there's three people in the entire movie. And basically 99% of the movie is just two people are talking and having conversations, and it's visually stimulating, and they have so much fun, and there's so much heart in the movie. And that's what I'm trying to say you don't have to go so big, you know, you don't have to make it so complicated. You know, just get down to the core. Now when you do that, you've got nowhere to hide. In other words, visual effects in action and spectacle will not hide a bad story. So it's a little bit braver to do what Mark and Alex were doing in in Blue Jay. And that's kind of like what we did with mag, you know, there is no world building, there is no big visual effects or action sequences or anything like that. It's the story, it's the performances, it's the characters. And for better or worse, I put myself out there with Meg and we'll see how the world takes her. But, but just guys, don't don't forget, you don't have to go so big. Just tell a good story. And if you tell a good story, and keep it simple, like it was a kiss, keep it simple, stupid, you might be able to get through those hurdles of what you've been trying to do to try to get a feature film made, or to get a project made or something shot, you know, just don't don't build it up so much in your head. That's what I did, unfortunately, for almost two decades, but now I'm free and I'm making movies and that's that's all that's important, man, you're creating art. So I hope you guys like that a lot. Please don't forget to head over to filmmaking podcast calm and leave me a hopefully good review on iTunes. It really helps us out a lot. And of course, as always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.

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