In 2002, Jon Erwin founded a production company with his brother, Andrew. Their first ventures were commercials, documentaries, and music videos. The brothers soon were directing videos and producing concerts and television programs for platinum recording artists such as Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Casting Crowns, Switchfoot, Skillet, and others.
They received 11 GMA Dove Awards nominations and 3 wins for Music Video of the Year. Jon and Andrew have also produced and directed several documentaries, including the multiple award-winning 9/11 story, THE CROSS AND THE TOWERS.
In 2010, Jon and Andrew began exclusively developing dramatic feature films. In August 2018, they partnered with Kevin Downs and Tony Young to launch Kingdom Story Company, in an exclusive partnership with Lionsgate, which creates life-changing content from a variety of talented storytellers.
Their features have all opened in the top-ten box office and they have received the coveted A+ CinemaScore® three times.
Early hits include OCTOBER BABY, MOMS’ NIGHT OUT, WOODLAWN, and the surprise hit I CAN ONLY IMAGINE, which became the #1 independent film of 2018, earning more than $86 million at the box office. Others include I STILL BELIEVE, a biopic about CCM megastar Jeremy Camp which was released by Lionsgate in 2020, followed by the 2021 release of THE JESUS MUSIC, sharing the untold story of how Jesus Music transformed into the multi-billion-dollar industry of Christian Contemporary Music.
AMERICAN UNDERDOG followed in 2021, which told the story of NFL MVP and Hall of Famer, Kurt Warner. JOHNNY CASH: THE REDEMPTION OF AN AMERICAN ICON, is a documentary that details the true story of a music legend’s spiritual quest and releases Dec 2022. Their latest film, JESUS REVOLUTION based on The Jesus Movement that changed the course of history and comes to theaters Feb 2023.
Jon is also the author of the book Beyond Valor: A World War II Story of Extraordinary Heroism, Sacrificial Love, and a Race Against Time, which tells the amazing true story of his grandfather Red Erwin, who received the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War II. Beyond Valor was published in August 2020.
Enjoy my conversation with Jon Erwin.
Jon Erwin 0:00
Like if you can combine two things, eventually you'll win. And those two things are just, you know, maybe call it grit, or just pain tolerance or endurance versus perseverance. If you can, perseverance if you can combine that with curiosity. Yeah, eventually you'll win. Like if you can just have a higher tolerance to pay. And just keep going like it's going to take longer than you think.
Alex Ferrari 0:25
This episode is brought to you by the best selling book, Rise of the Filmtrepreneur how to turn your independent film into a money making business. Learn more at filmbizbook.com. I'd like to welcome to the show Jon Erwin, how're you doing Jon?
Jon Erwin 0:39
I'm good man. You've already had my brother on so set the bar low. You know, you've had the you've had the suave, friendly brother on the product. You know, like mad scientist, brother. I think he calls me anyway. So, but thanks for having me on. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 0:54
I've had Andy, I had Andy on when you guys were promoting American underdog, which I love that film. And after I watched that film, I went back and I just went through your catalog because I was so impressed with how that film was put together. story wise, I was like, wow, there's something here. And then I went, and then I'd heard of the other films I hadn't seen, you know, I still believe and I can you imagine and all those kinds of films. And my wife and I just had them binge them all, man, you guys. Really? Yeah, you guys are doing some really good. Yeah, seriously, you guys are doing some really good stuff. So when your new film, Jesus revolution came up, I was like, Oh, I gotta have I gotta have John on, you know, if I had one, I gotta have the other one on. And then yeah, I'll have both of you on and now.
Jon Erwin 1:33
We'll do it together. Right now we're dividing and conquering. You know, we do so much grass roots, marketing. But I'm glad you enjoyed the films. I mean, ultimately, it's a privilege. I mean, it's a privilege to entertain people, like it's, I just think the business of entertainment is so hard, and, you know, sometimes sucks on a certain level, because it's so hyper competitive. You know, sometimes it's easy to lose sight of just how cool it is to get to do what we do, you know, and anytime that you can have, you can sort of see something in your mind or feel it deeply in your soul, write it on a piece of paper. And then hundreds of people come around you to make that thing real. And you're you're sitting there with an audience and they're, they're moved by it, and they're watching it as if it were real. It's like magic. It's like dreaming while awake. It is a privilege to do this. And I'm grateful for the audience to supporting the work enough to let us do this for a living. And this is a job that you should like work another job like behind the desk for years and years and years, save up some money and just blow it all getting to do this. So the fact that we get paid at all for this is really, really cool.
Alex Ferrari 2:39
It's a miracle that anything gets paid. It's a miracle that any gets made. And that is fascinating that as as, as an artist, we are the artists that spends the least amount of time doing the art, which is the days on set are so few and far between. It's mostly revving up to get the damn thing made writing getting produced getting trying to raise money, do all that stuff, then you spend if you're lucky 30 to 60 days if you're lucky.
Jon Erwin 3:12
Yeah, I was. I was talking to but having said that, I'm going to talking to Mel Gibson about his movie, Hacksaw Ridge. Very good movie. And, you know, it's the directors question. Like I was like, how many days did you ever shoot it? And he was like, man, you know, they didn't quite have their money together. I had to shoot that movie in 58 days shooting. I'm like, oh, shoot two movies now. And he's like, Well, on Braveheart. We had 85 I'm like, I would shoot three movies. So yeah, I've never had more than 30 days to shoot a movie. And, and there's there's magic to that, though. I think the absence limitation is the death of creativity. Like there's magic to being in a corner backed into a corner, feeling panicked, you know, and in not being able to second guess your instincts. But But yeah, you're right, you prep for months, you shoot for just a small time, you know, and it's like summer camp, and then it's over and then you then you edit it for months, and then you market it for months. And so you're right. actual making of the theme. The theme, the overall process is very, very short.
Alex Ferrari 4:15
And if you want to really get crazy, if you remember, John Woo, on the killer, he had 170 days.
Jon Erwin 4:24
Oh, come on. What do you do? What do you show you make one shot and you're like, Okay, there's good day,
Alex Ferrari 4:30
You, you basically shoot those insane action sequences until your heart's content. Like that's how he was able to make the killer and hardboiled. They had like 140 180 Day
Jon Erwin 4:43
That's insane, man. That's that's no idea. I don't even know. I don't know. I wouldn't I wouldn't know what to do. I would have no clue how to even show up for a day's work.
Alex Ferrari 4:56
We're gonna shoot half a page today guys. We're gonna shoot it yeah.
Jon Erwin 5:02
Gonna get it 18 Always and we're done. Yeah. You know what's funny, though is is for the independent filmmakers out there, I think, for me, we used to do music videos in our career started in sports television, lied about our age to live on Mondays, we go caravan, somebody gets sick randomly. And then my dad bought us a camera started making stuff. And it's like that Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 Hour Rule. kicked in, just, you know, I really think what we do is, to your point, much more of a business than it is an art form. It's the symphony of art. And it's also much more of a craft than it is an art form. And it combines a lot of art. But a craft is something that you sort of like, just get better and better at every day. You know, it's sort of an iterative process. It's sort of like you against you. And it's a quest to just improve and slowly but surely, seek to master your craft. But you know, way back in the day, we would make all kinds of music videos, that was sort of our grind. And we would do a bunch of them, like four or five a month. And
Alex Ferrari 6:09
500 bucks, like 500 bucks 1000?
Jon Erwin 6:10
Well, that's the thing, it won't know what happened. It was after Napster. And so Andy and I came into Nashville, and the whole industry was like, there are no more $300,000 music videos, what are we going to do? Well, and we were like, someone's gonna pay us $15,000 To do a music video. Let's do all of them, you know. And so we just, we just don't, you know, and so we, but it was this process. But what I realized is, whenever we were on the random occasion that we had all the money in the world. And there were, you know, it just becomes decisions by committee, and there were 12 execs there and all that stuff. There was a magic loss, whenever, like, the way we would do it is like Andy would prep a music video, and I so I would show up to his that, and I hadn't even heard the song, and then he would show up to my set. And he had, you know, we would just sort of LeapFrog. And there was just always a magic when we never quite had enough and time or money. And there's something to the strain of having to solve problems creatively in an environment that's full of pressure that you can't second guess your instincts. It's terrible for your health and, you know, mental sanity, but it really is good for the work. And so I'm a huge fan of, of even like on the movie that you mentioned, American underdog that went from a 46 day schedule pre COVID to a 30 day schedule post COVID, we had to cut a third of the budget out to keep it greenlit. And I don't think that they're the other movie would have been better. And a lot of a lot of the things that we came up with, like using the real footage of the game, you know, which in editorial really did well, we couldn't choreograph near as much stuff. So we choreographed what we could exactly as it happened in the real game. And then that way, we could use the actual game footage, but and so a lot there was a lot of articles, a lot of people saying that was a great artistic choice. And I'm like, that wasn't an artistic choice. That was a production limitation, you know. And so I think you just find great ideas when you're constrained.
Alex Ferrari 8:09
Right! It's like, it's Jaws is the classic example of that, right? Yeah, the sharp doesn't work. Okay, I guess we're gonna show it. We're not going to show the shark as much it kind of worked out for that that that I forgot the guy's name. I don't even know that guy's name. Did he do anything else after?
Jon Erwin 8:24
Now that was that was a 50 day shootings getting jobs was they went 150 days. They went
Alex Ferrari 8:31
But what not his fault. And can you imagine that his first big like he did Sugarland Express. He did duel. We're talking about Steven Spielberg, everybody, if you don't know. And then and then you and this is his first kind of big studio based on a best selling book. And he's like, I'm never gonna work again. I'm never going to work again. He's like yeah,
Jon Erwin 8:53
He was gonna get fired every day and his credit water is horrible. Anytime you introduce in any substantive way to to our industry,
Alex Ferrari 9:05
Nature and general nature in general, but water has water specifically because you got cold water, you can't move everything just and it doesn't doesn't do what it doesn't do what you want it to do. It doesn't
Jon Erwin 9:21
Look good. Boy Does it look good. I think in this movie that we just did Jesus revolution there's a whole sequence in the rain and and there's also some underwater dive take work and for this sort of dream sequence and and I remember talking to a keystone cinematographer, and I'm like yeah, I think we do the sequence and you know, a couple hours or whatever this conversation in the rain, he was like, six hours later. I was like, You were totally right. AKIsE and, but you know, we do have this thing that we say Pain is temporary film is forever, you know, and I do believe it. Yeah, like, go for difficult. It Go for it. Go for death. because no question and, you know, because it's just better.
Alex Ferrari 10:04
So John, I mean, we just kind of ran off with this because a lot of people don't know who you, you, you and and we did.
Unknown Speaker 10:09
We went on it. We just we just went because yeah, we just we just went off. Probably so
Alex Ferrari 10:14
So tell me tell me how you and your brother got you said you got into the business by music videos. Yeah. But your your first kind of F if I'm not mistaken your first narrative was October Baby or one of your first Yeah, was that so right. And that was a completely indie film back then, how did you raise the money for that? How did you you know, get that off the ground wasn't an easy film. You know, subject matter.
Jon Erwin 10:40
Yeah. Why start there? You know, looking back. You know, basically, we were, you know, we, we started in as sports Gehrman was 15. And then we, you know, when we started, we were a service company, really found our footing doing music, videos, and commercials. And then I went to but you know, from the south, right, born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, you know, obviously, my faith has always been a huge part of our life and community and upbringing. And, and, and then, you know, just around the time that all this sort of new thing of faith based films was sort of emerging, post passionate of Christ, and Sony was doing faith based films. And so I went to direct second unit on a faith based film called courageous in Georgia, and the real Cinderella story, these, this church was making these movies and Sony was funding them. And they were doing like 30 million a box office, and they were tiny films like wanting to make movies. So it was amazing. And, and so I went down there to work on those films, they wanted to do a police drama with car chases, and action sequences, and like, churches, making movies and car chases should never be combined, you know, people will die. And so I was hired to sort of go in and with professionals and take go far away from the set and do the stunt work and do the action sequences. And which I love. And the director of that movie asked the question that doesn't really matter, I think what your your beliefs are? And it's a great question to ask, he's, like, you know, trying to understand you like, like, what's your purpose and the purpose of your work? Like, why do you do what you do? And I think a lot of us focus on what we do. Very few of us focus on why we do what we do. And, and I couldn't stop thinking about the question like I couldn't, the whole time I was working on a film. I was like, I couldn't stop thinking about it. And that led to sort of a fusion of a career and calling and the idea of, of joining the fray and jumping in on values based faith based entertainment, you know, Heartland type stuff, and I remember it, we were doing a film with Sean Astin. And he said, I see you guys frontiersmen pioneers. And I said, Thank you, Shawn, That's high praise is like, you know, most volunteers didn't die on the frontier. And I'm like, well, the name roads actress and the, the, the trail will be paved. But what I learned was, it's such an, it's such a privilege to be a part of anything that's emerging, you know, most industries are, it's like, the cement to the foundation has hardened. So to be able to make your mark on anything that's emerging right in front of you, is, first of all completely out of your control. It's a factor of timing. So that's like technology in the 70s. You know, in you know, computers or, or even that group of directors like Spielberg and Scorsese and Lucas and Coppola and department, all these guys inventing the modern blockbuster, like you just have to sort of catch lightning in a bottle. So it's cool to, to be a part of something, you know. And so that led to a completely different business to finally answer your question which is, which is going from a service company to intellectual property is coming and starting raising money for for, you know, our own films, and October Baby was first we had to raise $100,000, to get the production to that movie made. And, and then we had to raise the marketing as well. In the first quarter million, no joke was from my grandmother, who I kept getting to remind that she invested in film, and, and then the second quarter million from a surgeon named Jim who we hit film, like 150, of his orthopedic trauma cases, and, and so it's just you have to be very pragmatic, you got to get really good at solving problems. And I think the thing that we didn't realize was that, that really helped us was that, you know, you really have to think holistically about a business. And in entertainment, we don't so we think so much about the product, and then but we don't think about how to market and distribute the product. And so as a filmmaker a lot of times, it's like you're, you're climbing a mountain and you get to the top of the mountain. And, you know, you think that you've summited Everest or something, and actually the fog clears and there's a mountain ahead of you that's twice as tall and, and that's marketing and distribution. And so it was very it was it was it was it was it was good fortune at the time that we couldn't had a distributor sorted the film and had to then go raise another three and a half million, which is this category of money that we that was printed advertising was called PNA to get the movie released, and then you know, you're throwing up in a in a trash can on Thursday night because you You bet your your grandmother and everyone else believe that, you know, and, you know, you're thinking, you know, it's funny, as you know, we make the utricle movies. And so, you know, it's a, it's a rare part of our business that on on a Friday by about new, you know, if the last two years of your life were worth anything at all. It's like an election. And I've experienced all sides of it. And it's a thrill. But But luckily, the film went well, and it cracked the top 10. And everyone made money that God included, my grandmother made a film for Sony, called mom's night out. But I think one of the biggest things that I would recommend is just like, if you can combine two things, eventually, you'll win. And those two things are just, you know, maybe call it grit, or just pain tolerance or endurance versus perseverance. If you can perseverance, if you can combine that with curiosity. Yeah, eventually, you'll win. Like if you can just have a higher tolerance to pain, and just keep going like it's going to take longer than you think. But if you keep going, but you're not learning anything, then you're just going to repeat your mistakes over and over again, there's a lot of people like that. But if if you have a level of tenacity, and perseverance, and you match that with just being a student, and learning all the time, and trying to understand how things work, eventually, you'll you'll catch your moment. And for me, I became obsessed with the interrelated disciplines of our industry that a lot of people resent, like, if you're a writer, and director, he's like, Oh, the marketing people, or the finance people. But what I learned is all these things are sort of inextricably linked, you know, the high concept and scripts is essential to the marketing campaign, and the movie itself and its budget is essential to the overall p&l of the enterprise. And, and so what I think really helped me was the ability to think holistically and understand and just by, by, by, by virtue of having to being able to look sort of, like the name of your book that, so Film, film to film intrapreneur, that's such a cool terror, to try to really have the mindset of an entrepreneur, first and foremost, and then let your creativity funnel through that, I think, I think is a much better way to be successful in our industry.
Alex Ferrari 17:41
Well, I mean, that's the thing. That's the reason I wrote the book is because so many filmmakers, and I've been doing this now, eight years, and I've been doing my business I've been doing the film is almost 30. So I've seen and played in so many different sandboxes over the course of my career. But I keep seeing filmmakers make the same mistakes. They just they, they just like they're stuck in the 90s. They think they're going to make a movie, go to Sundance, and someone is going to come down from Mount Hollywood, write them a check. And then they're making a Marvel movie like that's, that's their idea of success. But you and I both know that that's not the reality of the marketplace. The marketplace isn't what it was in the 90s a movie like slacker could find, could find its footing of film, like clerks could find its footing in the 90s. Because it was the new VHS, the video is
Jon Erwin 18:27
Home Entertainment safety net, you know, you lose money at the time. Yeah, totally. And then pick it up in home entertainment. And the theatrical window was and that was enough of a billboard to justify the spin even if you lost a lot of money, because Home Entertainment was so lucrative. But that was a 2030 year bubble, you know? And, and unfortunately, it's changed. The other thing that the reason you got to stay curious is we are in an industry that is rapidly changing. And and so, you know, that's one of the I think the problems with film schools is if you're out of the industry, for four years, it's a different industry. And certainly COVID has actually accelerated that change. And so what COVID did, in my contrarian point of view is that COVID COVID is going to end up reshaping our industry very similar to how Napster reshaping music and and what it's going to do is it just it's going to pull forward about a decade of change into a more constricted window. And it's going to take a lot of time for that. Now, having said that, if you can sort of skate where the puck is going to be as Wayne Gretzky said, there's enormous opportunities opening up. But you got to sort of let go of the past and really be hyper curious about the future. And so learning to me being curious and learning and I'll give you an example of what you just said, we did our second film, our first 100 5 million or second 10 was very profitable. Then we found our voice with a phone call Woodlawn. We, we you know, they say a filmmaker finds their story and tells it over and over again and our we found inspirational true stories and that's just like our Our niche spent raised all the money for the film was about third of the PNA did the wrong deals, didn't basically make as much money as we hoped we were about 15. And box office really needed to do 20. And that was the first time I didn't get all the money back to the investors, we had like this perfect batting average up till then with the films and documentaries. And we really, I couldn't sleep at night, I just I hate to lose, it's like, my philosophy is like, either either we win, or let's just play again, let's just whatever it is ping pong, whatever, you know, go go get and so. And so what we did is we actually, to me, a huge part of success is just learning to fail correctly. And mindfully, and failure, in my opinion, is the great teacher, if you'll let it be. And so with Woodlawn, we stopped in for five months, we studied it, we asked questions. And we did something that I don't know why more people don't do we solicited a ton of criticism from people like if we're going to be in an industry that has this whole category of people called critics that and we're going to read all those things obsessively. Why not solicit criticism from people that actually care about you, and want want the best for you? So we went out to all of our friends and people in the campaign outside of the campaign, what did we do wrong? How can we do better? What what can we learn from this, and it ended up with this 170 page, you know, post mortem slash Jerry Maguire manifesto. So you know, and, and we saw inside the market, we saw new business model. And that was the playbook that led to I can only imagine, and I can only imagine was built to break even at 15 million box office. It did that in its first two days, first three days. And it did. So everything between that and the 86 million in box office that it did, and becoming number one of the year was margin. But that would have never happened if we hadn't failed number one, and we hadn't feel correctly. Number two, and really learned, we didn't make a better movie we actually spent less on the movie with Imagine we actually implemented a better business model, and a much more innovative business model. And that's what led to the success of the movie. And we also learned a lot about what people wanted. And so I would just say that you have to embrace and what I found is the titans of our industry, Steven Spielberg, you know, we were just talking about he is as good a businessman. Oh, as he is an artist and filmmaker, he's produced more films that he's directed. He is incredibly true on the business. So it was Tom Hanks. And so it was Matt Damon. So it was Ben Affleck, like, like, we think of these people as artists, but they're also really astute business people. And you have to hold both together, and you have to value both. And you have to see the interrelatedness of both. And I think what keeps a lot of filmmakers back is they have this sort of almost elitist resentment, that we're in a business and we're selling products right now. And they had to buy, you know,
Alex Ferrari 23:05
It's so annoying. It's, again, why I wrote the book, because it was so annoying that nobody's thinking outside the box. No one's thinking that this is a product. And we're like, It's art. Dude, if you want to go make art in the backyard, my friend knock yourself out. But the second you take grandma's $250,000, you better figure out a way to get grandma's money back. I mean,
Jon Erwin 23:25
It's entertainment. It's not art, it's entertainment. It's a symphony of art to create it. But there's a nobility, I think it was John Lasseter, that said, the nobility of entertainment. You know, the idea that, you know, we provide a service and by the way, and I just believe we're in a service business, like one of the things that we say there's not about us, it's about the people sitting in the seats and the experience they're having. And that's it. And you got to get out of the way of that. And, and so to me, it's about entertaining an audience about loving an audience is about getting getting to know an audience and serving that audience well. And the people that have really done well in sort of other niche sectors like Jason Blum has become a good friend. And the way he thinks and the way he talks about the audience, and entertaining the audience and the way he places you know, jail is this friend of mine, and he was one of the pilots and Top Guns he talked about every day, Tom Cruise shut up and just said, this is a privilege what we do is a privilege, how can we exceed the expectations of the audience? So I've found the really great people our industry are much more service oriented than they are sort of selfish about their, about their precious ego and their their sort of artistic expression and the greats in our industry are much more about let's entertain the audience like that's the normal thing to do is people are paying money. They're paying, they're they're paying in their time, they're buying popcorn that's more expensive than anywhere else on the earth. They're paying basically the same price. For my movie as they are for Avatar, they cost like
Alex Ferrari 25:03
100 times more 540 million.
Jon Erwin 25:07
So the attitude that I need to have is like, I'm gonna do everything I can to entertain you, and to uplift you, and to give you a great experience in the movie theater. And then if I've done that, well, maybe I can also tell you what I believe, and what I hope will enrich your life as well. But if I just the more you apply a mindset that is not common, and certainly not taught in business, in film school, but a mindset of the pregnant is in the business, and a mindset of service, entertainment, the more the more you win in this industry, that's what I found. And I think a lot of what the attitude that comes out of you know, that that's expected, from filmmakers is actually the opposite of what will actually get you to the top of the industry.
Alex Ferrari 25:54
Well, let me ask you this, because I'm really curious to hear your position on this, you know, the theatrical business model has changed dramatically since COVID. It was already on the downward slope, we were all we all saw. And like you said, a decade worth of change is been compacted in two or three years, and the theatrical business is hurting. There's no question about it. Last time, I went to a theater. And I've said, last last year, there was only two movies that I went to the theater that I actually went and paid money to go see, which was Top Gun, and Avatar. And those are the only two because those are the only two that I felt that deserved a theatrical experience, from my from my point of view for me to get out of the house and go and all that there are other deserving movies. But you know, for me to the kids, all that stuff, you know how it is. But your films are interesting, because you are servicing an audience that doesn't get serviced, often, and definitely not serviced. Well, often. So it's, again, goes back to that, that my book was, which is the future of filmmaking is niche filmmaking, finding an audience of good news. Yeah, finding an audience and serving that audience. Like you said, you want to serve them, you it's a privilege. So your audience is faith based. And and specifically, not only faith based, but the sub genre of, you know, true stories that are that's kind of like where you found your, your, your really, your, your magic, your secret sauce, if you will. But so, it was so interesting, because I just moved from LA to Austin. And it's a very difference. Great City. I love Austin, low Austin. It's amazing. But I you know, when I go to the theater, or I passed by the theater, what was one of the posters I saw Jesus revolution?
Jon Erwin 27:36
Oh, great. Yeah, we're doing that.
Alex Ferrari 27:39
But that was, but I but I saw that months ago, months ago, I saw that in the theater, I would have probably not seen that in LA. Probably not, because it's not the demographic, quote, unquote, of this film. This is a Heartland center of the country kind of film. And but that audience shows up. They show up to the theaters, they do that. So it's a lesson that I hope everyone listening is, is about is one, an audience will show up for Top Gun. Because it was an amazing experience. I would go see it in IMAX today. There's such an amazing experience. But if there's something that touches their emotional nerves, that's what will get people out of seats. But with that said, What do you feel about where the pucks going to be in three or four or five years because theaters are starting to drop more and more screens are just going away? I've seen them just close the shop. So how is your business model going to work differently as you might still, you probably have a longer life theatrically than most filmmakers. But at a certain point. Yeah, I think it's, you know, yeah,
Jon Erwin 28:47
Well, it's interesting that you it's a great question. It's one of the questions to ask is what's the future of the theatrical experience in theatrical window? I do study it obsessively. In RG has put out some really good reports on trends post COVID. I really, I the short and the long. The short answer is I think that the actual window will absolutely endure, but it's just going to be different. And I think it's going to look a lot more like Broadway. Then then then what we had before COVID And I could literally talk about for hours about until like Steve Carell and Crazy Stupid Love. You want to like roll out of a moving car, like oh my gosh, I'm done with this guy. I'm a nerd for this stuff. But But, but I'll say I'll say this. Here's the question to ask for every independent filmmaker. If you're asking the question, which I think traps us, is this a good movie? Therefore, it deserves a theatrical experience. That's the wrong question. The best thing that I wrote down that I think is way more true now than even when I wrote it in that post mortem to Woodlawn is I wrote down this is no longer a movie business. This is a brand driven event business. And that's what it is. So avatars a brand, you know, top guns a brand, and it's an event, it's a social event. And we need those things and we need to go see them. The thing is, we just need fewer of them. And we want them to be bigger, and there's just there's not everything. Post COVID, coinciding with the streaming war, we don't need a lot of categories of films outside of our home. So if you can be one of the things that works outside the home, you actually make a lot more money right now, like Avatar sitting on top of the box office number one, or was it six weeks, seven weeks? Like that's not a good indicator, most of the industry, that means that we're all just gonna go see Avatar and Avatar is going to play forever, like a show on Broadway, like Les Moonves or you know, whatever. And Tompkins the same way. And so what does that mean for all of us? And yeah, loves doing it. Megan did great. You know, and things will work, but less work. So the real question, the real question to ask yourself with evaluating a movie for theatrical opportunity is can I think my god live at Samuel Goldwyn, who is true to my first film, one of the great old Titan executives, the industry said, he always asked, you know, is it a? Is it a? Is it a good movie? Not the right question. Is it a great movie for an audience? How many of them are there? And do I know how to talk to them? And so the real question is, can I make this as an event? For an audience? If the answer to that is yes, then you have a theatrical shot. Okay, then you ask how large is that audience? And do I know how to talk to them, and then you actually reverse engineer the economics to that end. And so what I've learned is, I'm still alive in this business, number one, by the grace of God. But secondly, it's much more about mitigating risks and modeling a downside than it is betting for an upside. So like with imagine, we built it to break even in our prior film, films box office 15 million. The film that I'm doing right now Jesus revolution, I feel that it's an event for our core audience, I think people are going to show up for it, I don't know, talk to me in three weeks, or whatever. But I really do feel like I really do feel like it's an advance. And it's like a social event. And that's why we're putting in theaters and really going for it. But it still has a very achievable, breakeven. And so to me, it's really about reverse engineering outcomes and protecting a downside. And so and letting instead of saying, what does this movie cost? That's the wrong question. And say, what's the business model of this? What do we think it could achieve? And, you know, if we don't know if it's the actual, but it might be well then make it at a cost where the product is now usable. And you can probably create a marketplace around it and flip it to a streamer at a profit. But still test it for theatrical, you get over a certain budget where sort of has to go theatrical so. So I think it's just about really thinking about the audience. And I think that the actual question will become, is this an event for the audience, if you can say, with a straight face, this is an event for an audience of people that I know, release it in theaters, that's going to still work? If it's not, if it's not a social event, and typically a social event that's undergirded by a brand, then you're going to really struggle in today's environment, releasing computers.
Alex Ferrari 33:30
Well, I mean, the brand, you guys put it right in the title Jesus. That's the brand. Arguably, what a great marketing by the way, Jesus, His people. Great, great marketing over the years. Yeah, well, we'll see. Yeah, Jesus, Jesus has done well. But the point is to me,
Jon Erwin 33:47
Alex Ferrari 33:49
I didn't You didn't hide it. And that's why I was so impressed about it. Because a lot of people would be scared, they would change it to something else. But the put the word Jesus, that Jesus is a trigger word, for a lot of people has nothing to do with poor Jesus. But it's a trigger word for a lot of people. And you decided to put it right out there because you know who your audience is. And that man, God bless. God bless you for that, brother. I mean, seriously, I was like,
Jon Erwin 34:12
Well, also, you know, what I want to make your movies that I don't care who you are, or what you believe, I'm going to try to make a movie that you love. But I found it's actually better. Instead of trying to make a million people love like you. Yep, just find 100 People that absolutely love you, and build a relationship with them, and super serve them and then let their let them be your voice to the masses, and just trust that those people are indicative of some level of the population, you know, and there's more of them. And so with Jesus revolution, you know, it'll be very interesting to see what happens because we don't have as much you know, advertising money as we did with American underdog but we've taken the time to go all over the country and really connect the film to the audience. It's leaders and, and you know, there's just a there's a message behind the movie and it's, I love the movie. It's a fun movie, it's you make you laugh and cry. I think the performance is really good. It's kind of like my almost famous or some like, you know, to a Cameron Crowe film, you know,
Alex Ferrari 35:15
oh, I could tell that could see that.
Jon Erwin 35:17
What is the cost of a good artists copy Great artists steal Cameron Carver, listen to this, I'm sorry. But, you know, but it sort of is in that spirit. And the cool thing I think about it is I didn't name the movie, Time Magazine named the movie. And this is a cover of Time magazine from 1971 at a very similar time, and there was this psychedelic sort of Jesus on the cover and, and with this 10 page spread that was so incredibly optimistic and hopeful. And it just said, Jesus revolution, and it was this sweeping hippie revival that was going on all over America. So the good news is, there's a historical context in Time magazine called, we're just telling the story that cover.
Alex Ferrari 36:00
And you know, what's fascinating is, after I watched the movie, it's not a it's not a preachy movie. It's actually I love the trailer, because it's not like, you know, if you don't believe in Jesus, or you don't believe in that, you could still enjoy this film, because it's just a great story, of transformation of people searching for themselves and finding, you know, the divine within themselves and divine, within groups of people opening up doors that are shut discrimination against people just because of the way they look. Yeah, there's so many themes in this film that I absolutely loved and connected with. It's not like a beat you beat you over the head with a Bible conversation. It is not by any stretch of the imagination. It really is a wonderful thing that almost anybody can enjoy.
Jon Erwin 36:42
I'm glad you said, man. So that's what we were trying for it. I'm so yeah, you say that we we basically. That's that was exactly the intent. You know, I wanted to make a movie, I just think the narrower the focus, the wider the appeal. And that's why I think Jason Blum does that really well. Oh, yeah, something specific, really well, but I took my daughter Megan, and really enjoyed it, you know, and, and so I think that, that, what we're doing is we understand who we are and the audience that we serve. And we're, we're unapologetic and unafraid of telling stories that we love that we hope other people are going to love to. And with this story, what's been interesting about it is because it is set in the world of the church, in the 70s, but people that don't believe or have any sort of religious affiliation at all, love and appreciate the movie because they see it as sort of a modern day allegory of loving the other. So basically, the story is this sort of square pasture geared by his daughter, opens his church to this group of hippies, that at the time, weren't allowed become the church like the at the time, it was like, you know, for a hippie to go to church, it was like, go home, get a job, take a bath, cut your hair, we joined society now maybe you can come to church, and he just let him in. And there was this hippie street preacher named Ronnie frisbee, and it was like a nitroglycerin moment. And that sparked this nationwide awakening. So there's a ton of natural humor in it, because these groups of people are so different. But that theme of like opening your heart in your mind. And literally your diverse to a group of people that society would see you can't hang out with that society would say is a polar opposite point of view, then you and actually learning to love each other. And joining together in something that seems to play a really strong and really rabid relevant to today's sort of just this, this situation that we're in as a country, you know, no matter no matter what people believe. And so it's cool to be able to do something really specific. But that also plays as a broader sort of motivational allegory, you know,
Alex Ferrari 38:53
And you know, what's, what's wonderful about what you and Andy your brother do with your films, is that you have this beautiful balancing act that you do with all of your films that you put just enough in to serve the core audience. But you put just enough in that someone outside of your core audience could enjoy like, I can only imagine was you man, you nailed it right down the middle for your core audience. But when you're watching it, anyone can enjoy that film. Anyone can enjoy American underdog. Like you don't have to,
Jon Erwin 39:25
I'm glad you say that's the goal. I mean, a lot of times it's like it's fun to be able to test contrary in opinions, like like opinions that maybe other people don't share. And my opinion about Christianity is it's not divisive. It's not. You know, there's this verse in the Bible. It says, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness. And then it says against these things, there is no law. And my opinion is when you portray those things correctly, like who's gonna say we don't We'd more love joy, peace and patience and kindness to each other and goodness and society like, like, we need these things today. And I think if you just let the story do the work, you know, trust the audience's, you know, abilities, and you don't have to beat them over the head. And I think that just choose stories that you feel are powerful and life changing, and tell them to the best of your ability. I think that that's just a better way to do it. And I think if you do it, right, these stories can be inviting and inspiring, no matter what belief you have, and I don't think anyone should ever feel alienated or driven away, or ostracized by Christianity, I just think that that's, that's unfortunate. And one of the things that I would hope changes, you know, over the next decade is this is this is just, this is good stuff for everybody. And those are the stories that we want to tell. And I think when you just really portray and infuse the virtues of Christianity in ways that are really entertaining and stories, you know, they're things that are universally needed, and, and things that we who doesn't love a good redemption story? You know,
Alex Ferrari 41:09
I mean, absolutely. And I mean, it's very progressive, what you're saying, you know, it, it shouldn't be, but it is, and wonderful in a wonderful way. Because your point of view on your faith is not, you know, it, this is a weird thing, because I lived in the bubble of Los Angeles for 13 years. And then when I moved to Austin, I just saw things a little bit differently. It's really interesting to see and by the way, Austin, not the, the most conservative situation. The imagination, all the crazies and all the weirdos, you know, Keep Austin weird. It's a wonderful city. But yeah, I just start seeing things a little bit differently on the way I'm like, oh, okay, this makes sense now, and it's, I love this, I love what you guys are trying to do, because you are trying to bring the two, the two sides, whatever, those two sides together together, because that's what we should be doing. Regardless, you know, you and I both grew up at a time where we both could, you know, believe different things and still have a beer, or still have a conversation. I was, like, you know, are you kidding me? My, my father and me have completely different points of view on life, you know, and uncles and, you know, all that kind of stuff in the family. But, you know, we still get together, we still love each other, we still, you know,
Jon Erwin 42:28
That's right. You know, it's, it sounds like such a cliche, but yeah, love really is the, you know, in the sense of, like, you know, when you think of like, you know, there's so much more that unifies us, and things to agree on, and then then divides us. And I think there's just this gap of sere in the middle. And, and I, for me, you know, I had the good fortune of being born and raised in like the buckle of the Bible Belt, Birmingham, Alabama, but very quickly at the age of 15, traveling outside of it, because I was working for ESPN. And then in marketing the film's you know, I live in Nashville, Tennessee, I commute to and work in Los Angeles, spent about half a week or a week of the month or whatever, there. We market these films everywhere. I've traveled the continental United States man. And you just realize that there's a lot that binds us together. And there's a lot to have a beer over and talk about and celebrate. And when you just boil things down to their themes and their values, there's a lot of values that we agree on. And so I think as a as a Christian, what I've realized is man, actually there's a hunger for this stuff beyond belief, you know, in terms of like, beyond what people believe, I think if you sit down and watch some things that are really well made. But but you know, this is where we had a decade of the antihero are very good versions of that. But if you binge Game of Thrones House of Cards Breaking Bad, you just it's hard to believe in anything, let alone yourself. And I think people are craving a sense of meaning and purpose and, and values. And so there's sort of a return. So yeah, has Christianity been weaponized and counterfeit? Absolutely. But that's just what we do as people, whether it's politics, or religion, or whatever,
Alex Ferrari 44:24
All religions, by the way, almost all of it, yes.
Jon Erwin 44:27
But I would say that, you know, it says something about the source because you only ever really weaponize something that's intrinsically powerful, and you only counterfeit something that's intrinsically valuable. So of course, the crazies are going to use this thing to their own, you know, purposes, and there's going to be televangelists, and there's going to be rogue people but, but I think the thing at its source is, is beautiful and meaningful and powerful. And whether you believe it to be absolutely true, like, like I do, and I find great meaning from that or whether you like Thomas Jefferson, who famously cut all of the references to the divinity of Christ out of a Bible. It's called the Thomas Jefferson Bible. The reason he did that is he said, he didn't really believe in the the Divinity, or questioned it, but he thought the teachings of Jesus were the greatest moral reset in the history of the world, you know, and I agree with them. And so what it's just good stuff, it's, you know, loving your neighbor, going the extra mile turning, turning the cheek, you know, being known by how you love people like these are things that if we reintroduced to society, society would be better for it. And I think that the best way to do that is through stories. And so what we want to do is we want to tell stories that, that certainly resonate with our core audience with that Heartland audience and super served them. But also are just hopefully, entertaining and applicable to whoever wanders in the theater. But what we want to do first and foremost is entertain. We're entertainers first, and I hope to there's nothing like being in an audience of people and hearing them laugh and cry, and tear at it at a movie. I've never seen a movie. Like Jesus revolution, we really screened it far and wide and early last week, let us we've shown it to a lot of people. And you know, I've not ever been a part of the movie where people are cheering during the film, at certain points. And that's a wonderful experience. And it's so it's wonderful to connect with a core audience like that.
Alex Ferrari 46:26
You know, it's in what you're saying is true, because I've noticed that as well, in some of the other work that I do, and other shows that I do, that people are starving for this kind of message, these positive messages, these positive stories, these things that are that fill you up. And look, I love Breaking Bad. I thought Breaking Bad was one of the
Jon Erwin 46:49
Most perfect last hours of television ever, ever,
Alex Ferrari 46:52
Ever made. And other than maybe two episodes of the entire series, but that fly episode drove me nuts. Other than that, the whole series was almost perfection. It really was as as, as as an art as an art piece. It was beautiful. But at the end, you don't feel really uplifted by by what Walter White has been doing. You know, it's been entertaining as hell. But then you watch something like Shawshank, which is one of my favorite films of all time.
Jon Erwin 47:20
And that's right, that's exactly the difference. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 47:23
And then you look at Shawshank and if you look at IMDb, it overtook the Godfather as the most is the best film ever made. How and why? And I've said this and I've talked to Oscar winning screenwriters about this. I've talked to every story analysts about this. I've talked to filmmakers about this and like what is it about that film that is connected with so many people from every walk of life since it's released, and it's the worst name in film history worst name in film history? On on paper, it is not a particularly great story. You know, it's like oh, it's a it's a pretty it's a it's not a it's not a particularly like innovative story on the surface. But what Frank Darabont was able to do with that movie has connected so deeply with people who you know people who think Steven Seagal is the greatest actor of all time. Love Shawshank.
Jon Erwin 48:22
Yeah, though it transcends man, and I'll tell you what it is at its essence. You know, I love I love to think about and find the essence of things. There's this great book, Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl disguises was in several, you know, survived the Holocaust, his family did and a psychologist was in several camps came out and finished the work that he beaten began before, which led to one of the Great's psychology books ever written, which is Man's Search for Meaning and, and he had this incredible optimism, even though of all he had been through, and his take was that he can was thing logotherapy is the Greek word for me, or Lagertha, I don't know how to say it is the Greek word for meaning. And his point was that actually, pleasure wasn't sort of the end all. Like Freud, you know, his point was that actually, the the quest is to find a sense of meaning and purpose to your life, that is what everyone's looking for. So if you talk about the function of the storyteller, whether that's a movie, or a play, or sitting around a campfire, the function of the storyteller in society is to try to take all this nonsense and all these things that don't connect and, you know, and fit them together to bring a sense of order and meaning and purpose. So the stories that I think transcend you know, when, when, when a wall is right, that line, every man dies, not every man really lives in the middle of a brilliant film Braveheart. But that's meaning and purpose. And I think it's actually the power of that theme that makes that movie transcend not that you Onra I think it's the theme of living from your heart and living from your soul, you know, and living from your passion and Shawshank the same way Hard movie but brilliant material in terms of meaning and purpose. And so I think when we did I can only imagine barbicide just as what is the essence of like, what do people how does this dude that looks like you know, offense? Right? This multi platinum juggernaut independent artists, not you, I'm talking about Bart, you look great anyway. And so does Bart now, but anyway, but the idea of, you know, how does how does, you know, just, he's just an everyman, you know, I'm saying like, there's anything, you know, and he was an everyman with an everyman band that was, you know, independent from Texas, how do you ride this multi platinum juggernaut? I just said, what do people feel when they hear the song and because I got to match that with the movie, whether people know it or not, they're gonna feel the same way. And he said, You know, it's a rush of hope. That's what they feel. And so we sort of, we sort of engineered the whole movie around that same experience. And I just feel like people need a rush of hope right? Now, they need a sense of like, my life matters. There's meaning to life. There's some sort of destiny, there's some sort of purpose here. And, and I and I need sort of, I need to go out of a theater feeling hopeful and feeling like, I'm matter, and life is worth living. And I think that, as great as Breaking Bad is as great as Game of Thrones is, except for the last season, please remake it, you know, you know, that you, you have the opposite. After you watch those things, you just sort of feel this sense of, it's me versus everyone else, hopelessness, you know, and it's survival at all cost. And I think that seeped into our society a little bit. And I honestly think that the aggregate entertainment is one of the reasons why we're at each other's throats, you know? Because if you watch Game of Thrones, and house guards, Breaking Bad and other things, it's like, Okay, there's one law, I gotta live and you gotta die. And that's it. You know, it's me versus everybody. And I think that's gotten into society a little bit. And I actually think, you know, what we say is the world needs a little more Catherine. Sense of Frank Capra, you know, It's a Wonderful Life and things like that a little a little optimism, a little hope. And, and I think that there's room in the marketplace.
Alex Ferrari 52:22
Do you think that because I think there's going to come up, I do think there's going to come a point in the next decade that there's going to be a runaway hit like a juggernaut hit, and it's not going to be one there's going to be a series of them that are and you guys are probably going to be behind one or two of them at least. But there that's going to connect with the majority of people looking for that rush of hope. And they're gonna go oh, wait a minute. Maybe we shouldn't remake another Star Wars or another Marvel show. And maybe we should start putting some money into this. Do you think that will ever happen within the studio's because they always go with the money goes, even after passion.
Jon Erwin 53:02
Everything is cyclical. I think everything is cyclical, and everything is counterprogramming. And I think one of the reasons I can only imagine worked was there was an article before it came out that deadline wrote that said like the music biopic is dead like these films don't work anymore. The point is, we sort of were at the front end of the reemergence of a dormant genre. Now you think like Elvis and stars born and, you know, Bohemian Rhapsody, and all these music, like one right after the other, this is now a reestablish genres, it's actually a little more risky. One of the real hard things about filmmaking is an independent filmmaking especially, is that the way to win with independent film is our minds are differential engines, meaning there's a great marketing book, Seth Godin book Purple Cow. Yeah, his whole thesis is that if you see a cow, you don't take a photo of a cow, you don't tweet a cow. You've seen a cow. They're all cows, they'll say, but my gosh, if that cow was purple, you know, oh, my gosh, there's a Purple Cow. You know, so I'm going to tweet that, you know. So my point is, that you really have to have the courage and conviction that if something is entertaining and meaningful to you, it'll be entertaining and meaningful to other people. Like there's more of you. And I remember what I can only imagine we had done all this research and we had seen a gap in the market. And then we had seen the need for a brand and I knew that I love that song. And everybody I knew love that song. And so in the core community, but every studio told us now one executive is Studio said, you know, you know, I think there's 18,000 people that would watch this movie and that's, that's it. That's the total audience. This will never work. But we just went forward with a conviction, but because we record with the conviction, we owned it because nobody would. Nobody would take a risk on And we benefited from that. And so I think you have to be willing to be different, you know. And you have to be willing to take it take bets on things that you feel deeply. And, you know, I think when you listen to the stories of like Star Wars or jaws were one of the great one of the great blocks of our industry. And that three our entire dreams documentary is the chairman of 20th century fox came to Alan Ladd Jr, who was the who was the chairman most vision group and said it was in post production said shut down the Star Wars, The Star Wars thing. It's an embarrassment to the studio. And Alan Ladd Jr, not having seen a frame of the film said, I've seen it, it's the greatest movie ever made. It's one of the greatest flops in the history of our industry. But the point is, that's how weird Star Wars was to, to everyone that that was looking at it, you know, and they were the studio was sending notes, like the Wookie should have pants, why does the pinata and they're like, really, the point is that the studio business is a rear view business. And they only the thing is like, hey, we want something totally original, that's just like something else that made a billion dollars last year, like that's just the way they think. And so it takes a level of conviction. And, and it takes a level of as an independent filmmaker, extraordinary belief. And, and I actually think a lot of filmmakers have like, they want to stay above that, like, Oh, I'm working on this thing. And you know, it's gonna be good, you actually have to have an attitude of like, I love this. I know, there's people that love this, I'm trying to make it the best I can. But I'm telling you, there's an audience for this. And you have to have a level of conviction in yourself, and in the thing that you're creating that is uncommon, to will it through the system, and to get money for it, and then to will it into existence. And that and that's, I think missing a lot within independence all you know,
Alex Ferrari 56:57
And I think the one thing that we can kind of summarize from this conversation is as independent filmmakers, you need to not just make a movie that tickles your own fancy, it has to do with a little bit of that. But you have to find out if there's an audience for it. And don't say horror movies, a lot of people like a horror movie, that's that that's too big, which is again, going back to my book, it's about niching, down and niching down to the point where like, what is an audience that will enjoy this movie? And I can talk to, which is what your what would that executive said? Can you reach that audience with the money and the resources and the abilities that you have? And if you can kick them by combine those two, then you have a potential, not a guarantee of potential for success. But the biggest thing is, I'm gonna make an action movie because people like action movies, you've done, you're done.
Jon Erwin 57:48
Well, you know, what's interesting about that is, I think one of the, one of the real secrets to that if you want to know like a key that sort of unlocked it. It's summarized in the word distain. And what I mean by that, that's what I really bonded with Jason Blum over was the any audience that feels the same, right? He felt like 20 years ago, the horror audience felt mistake, like studios were like, they don't care, like just murder a bunch of people, it doesn't have to be good. And the audience felt that and, you know, I've learned in therapy, and shouldn't do it a little more, you know, the primary needs of people are to not to be agreed with, you have to agree with them. People just want to feel seen, and heard and understood. And, and, you know, identifying, oh, people like horror movies is like, well, now it's like, well, no, yeah, they like horror movies. And guess who saw that before no one else did Jason Blum. And now he's dominated and monopolize the market. So you have like, a one in 1000 chance of competing with him. What you really have to see and have the courage to, to embrace is an underserved audience. That, that, that is being sustained by the industry. And you have to be willing to understand that instead of trying to be cool at cocktail parties in LA, you know, what makes you cool at cocktail parties in LA winning, so go in with an audience, and then, you know, in focus on just loving an audience, and so for me, the faith audience is one of those groups that, you know, they're being called things like, again, it's not a political affiliation, but it's seen that way in LA and so they're being called things like deplorable. And so and there's also this stigma of poor quality, and I'm talking to an investor whose daughter was there and I said, you want to know the you want to know the opportunity and the problem in faith, it's the same things the chart, turned his daughter and said, Let's Play rapid word association game. I'm just gonna say something just responded. She said, Okay, I said, Christian movies, and she just do and I'm like, in one syllable, she just described the problem in the opportunity, like if you fix that, so for a lot of people, they don't wanna be associated with it. I would rather go right at it like Jason Blum went right at it. with work and say, Okay, we hear you, we hear that there's a quality problem. And it's also a lack of authenticity and you're underserved, and you're disdained by whatever you're getting, we're gonna, we're gonna fix that on your behalf. That's the business opportunity. So you really know whether that's Crunchyroll. Think about it. Vic's plus is just having huge growth right now. Or, or or Blum. Doing something's
Alex Ferrari 1:00:26
Or Mr. Beast, Mr. Beast on YouTube
Jon Erwin 1:00:29
Yeah, is getting to know developing a relationship nurturing relationship with an audience that's underserved, that no one else sees value in yet, then, or no one has the courage to really give them what they want. Or an audience that you understand and are representing in a unique way, like a movie like Crazy Rich Asians or whatever, having the courage to do that, instead of like, have the courage to be unique. Conformity is not the way forward in our industry, everyone in LA looks the same, has the same spec script in their back pocket, you know, wants to talk about themselves, you know, and so, how it's homogenized and so to me, the courage to be different is is the way forward and the people like Tyler Perry, or Jason or people that, you know, interacted with, they have way more success by differentiating. And the narrower the focus is, the wider the appeal. And so it's just have the courage and conviction to do something that you really believe in, that you want in need. And that you're connected to an audience that wants wants and needs and be willing to be unpopular while you do it, because you'll be popular when it works. And and, and that's just a different a different way to think in a different way forward. But if you if you identify if you're just in the rearview mirror, and like, you know, oh, the audience was actually filmed his work. Yeah. And everyone knows that. And that's why it's it's saturation. That's impossible. You have to be the one that says, hey, this will work. And everyone says you're crazy and weird. For years.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:05
Not all of them,
Jon Erwin 1:02:06
Cameron, that's how you know, right? That's
Alex Ferrari 1:02:10
Horrible idea. Avatar, horrible idea. Right?
Jon Erwin 1:02:14
If you listen to Peter Chernin Titanic, most expensive movie, at the time, on top of the most expensive movie, it was $100 million at the time, and he went 110 million over budget. Yeah. So you know,
Alex Ferrari 1:02:27
That we knew the first story that we ending of.
Jon Erwin 1:02:31
So so to me, just, I think, look, if I can leave you with anything, is do things that you really believe in, and just match perseverance with curiosity. And then also a level of courage and your decisions, you know, I would rather fail courageously than fail, because I made a safe choice, you know, and do something that you really believe and have the courage to be different and have the courage to put a different voice out there. Because I think that that's what people want is, is unique voices that represent unique audiences. That's one of the joys of the film world is you get to sort see thing through through someone else's eyes. And so and so that's what I'll what I'll leave otherwise, the biggest thing is just keep learning constantly, and never ever, ever quit. Success might be just around the corner, you never know.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:19
So Jon asked you a few questions asked all my guests. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Jon Erwin 1:03:25
Oh, my gosh, I'm horrible at answering questions. You know, I would I would actually say the value of failure, I think, yeah, I think that's what people don't under failure is incredibly valuable. And it's really the only path to success. And I think it's something that we all run from. But if we actually ran towards it, and learn to sort of fail, small and iterate, you know, I mean, whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Yes, some things do kill you, though. You want to avoid those things. But if you can sort of fail and learn, it's like Thomas Edison said, have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways not to make the light bulb. If you embrace failure as a part of your process, I think that that's the way to win. And it takes took me a long time to, to it. It's a very vulnerable thing to be willing to fail so that you can learn how to win and and I think that took me the longest to learn,
Alex Ferrari 1:04:18
And the toughest question of all three of your favorite films of all time.
Jon Erwin 1:04:22
Three, my favorite films of all time, I have this list of sort of films that I just think No, first of all, there's no perfect film. I think George Lucas said the best films are never completed. They're only abandoned. But but there are films that I think for the moment in time in which they were created are untouchable, like don't change a frame. So I think I'm trying to think it's one of those and then there's also just great films that that that I've seen, you know, recently but to me Braveheart is still just like, super my soul. I just think that that's such a The well made film that I just it just gets me man, it just gets me. Good. You know, I still think Saving Private Ryan is, is one of those things when he says earn this at the end I'm just that's a summary of an entire generation and, and and just incredible you know I think I think the King's speech is amazing. I think, Gosh I'm beyond three Slumdog Millionaire Fellowship of the Ring was just one of the transcendent experiences I had in the theater like oh my gosh and then I think some of the old ones I think it's a wonderful life and you know, Casablanca you know, I think it's a perfect movie. I've exceeded my
Alex Ferrari 1:05:55
Well, I mean, I
Jon Erwin 1:05:57
What's your answer to that question?
Alex Ferrari 1:05:58
I mean, well, Shawshank is a perfect movie in my opinion. I mean, Shawshank is, it's perfect. I think back to the future is perfect. It's one of the greatest scripts ever made. It kind of is, isn't it is it's the it is as perfect of a screenplay and perfect and an execution
Jon Erwin 1:06:12
Produced by Steven Spielberg. There's no better there's no better producing the director.
Alex Ferrari 1:06:18
And everyone said he was everyone said they were crazy. And it was only the Steven that was able to push it through and then they stopped at two weeks after shooting with the wrong guy like yeah, we're gonna redo these laughs Can you imagine? And Jocelyn Jaws is another perfect film. I mean, that that movie doesn't, it just is perfect.
Jon Erwin 1:06:37
Jaws is Jaws is one of those things where the limitations, the limits personal limitations are what made it perfect. For sure. I think. Look, I would put Top Gun Maverick up there as one as experiences I've had in the theater. Oh, long time, man. I can really really good
Alex Ferrari 1:06:56
Man it is such a good, good movie. It's yeah, there's nostalgia with that film. Without question for guys like you and me. But it is just damn near perfect in what it was aimed to do. Without question and I mean, and also put up the matrix as almost as a perfect movie as well.
Jon Erwin 1:07:16
The matrix is a tote is one of the again, it's it's as perfect as a movie gets by far. I think probably the filmmaker that I most trust now. And I can't wait for Indiana Jones is James mango. I think that dude just fires he nails nails every time. Like I thought Ford versus Ferrari. Unbelievable. You know,
Alex Ferrari 1:07:37
Logan, I mean, Logan Logan sent it transcended the genre.
Jon Erwin 1:07:40
And again, Logan is one of those where it transcends, you know, it's hyper violent, it's gritty. But that quest for meaning and purpose and transcendence is all right there and then television I just think I'm one of those I know everyone's on it. But I think the last and this is great. I just think it's
Alex Ferrari 1:08:01
I hear I hear that's good. But for me Yellowstone right now is anything that tailors
Jon Erwin 1:08:05
I haven't taken the Yellowstone trip like I haven't moved yet. It's on my list
Alex Ferrari 1:08:11
Best writing I've ever seen on television. It's so good.
Jon Erwin 1:08:15
And then I think anything that's I think anyone's Gilligan does is just like he's such a student of our industry. And that just comes out Tarantino in that way. He just comes out his love and obsession of the of the craft comes out so
Alex Ferrari 1:08:29
Jon, man, when can when and where can we see Jesus revolution?
Jon Erwin 1:08:33
Jesus revolution comes out nationwide, February 24. It's in theaters everywhere. And thank you, Cameron Crowe for all the things that I still and I hope you enjoy the very same way and and I think I think no matter what you believe you really enjoy it's an enjoyable film and, and go check it out theaters.
Alex Ferrari 1:08:49
Jon, I could talk to you for hours, brother, I appreciate you coming on man. My man like you and your brother have to eat. When you come down to Austin. We gotta go grab a beer man. Without question.
Jon Erwin 1:08:58
I love it. I'm there. I'm there pretty frequently. So let's do it.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:01
I appreciate you!
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.