The response to the podcast was so amazing that after a few short months the show became the #1 filmmaking podcast on Apple Podcasts & Spotify, and still maintain that honor. I’m truly humbled and thankful by the response.
The show is only as good as the indie filmmakers who listen to it. Thank you all for the support. I have put together the Top 15 Indie Filmmaking Podcasts from the IFH archives. This list will be updated every few months so keep checking back.
Today on the show I bring you one of the most influential and iconic writer/directors in the history of cinema, three-time Oscar® winner Oliver Stone. Throughout his legendary career, Stone has served as writer, director, and producer on a variety of films, documentaries, and television movies. His films have been nominated for forty two Oscars® and have won twelve.
It’s been a hell of a year so far. I’ve been blessed to have had the honor of speaking to some amazing filmmakers and man today’s guest is high on that list. On the show we have writer/director Joe Carnahan. Joe directed his first-feature length film Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane. which was screened at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, and won some acclaim.
We are joined by indie film icon and Oscar® nominated writer/director Richard Linklater. Richard was one of the filmmakers who helped to launch the independent film movement that we know today with his classic 1991 indie film Slacker. As a bonus, we will not only dive into the extraordinary career of Richard Linklater but also that of collaborator and longtime friend writer/director Katie Cokinos, the filmmaker behind the film I Dream Too Much.
Today’s guest is a writer, director, producer, actor, and indie filmmaking legend, Edward Burns. Many of you might have heard of the Sundance Film Festival-winning film called The Brothers McMullen, his iconic first film that tells the story of three Irish Catholic brothers from Long Island who struggle to deal with love, marriage, and infidelity.
His Cinderella story of making the film, getting into Sundance, and launching his career is the stuff of legend. The Brothers McMullenwas sold to Fox Searchlight and went on to make over $10 million at the box office on a $27,000 budget, making it one of the most successful indie films of the decade.
I’m excited to talk to a fellow low-budget independent filmmaker today.
Granted, he does low-budget films on a completely different level than I or most people do at this point. But if we are going to talk about budget filmmaking, it is only fitting to have expert horror film and television producer, Jason Blumof Blumhouse Productions.
That is a testament to his company’s high-quality production. Blumhouse is known for pioneering a new model of studio filmmaking: producing high-quality micro-budget films and provocative television series. They have produced over 150 movies and television series with theatrical grosses amounting to over $4.8 billion.
We have been on a major roll lately on the podcast and this episode keep that going in a big way. Our guest on the show today is Oscar® Winning writer, producer, and director Edward Zwick. Edward made his big shift from his childhood passion of theater to filmmaking after working as a PA for Woody Allen in France on the set of Love and Death.
John Sayles is one of America’s best known independent filmmakers, receiving critical acclaim for films including Eight Men Out (1988), Lone Star (1996) and Men with Guns (1997). He’s also written screenplays for mainstream films such as Passion Fish (1992), Limbo (1999), The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008) and did a draft of Jurassic Park (1993) for Steven Spielberg.
Ever since I saw District 9 and learned of all the mythical stories behind the short film becoming a feature, I have been a massive fan of today’s guest, Neill Blomkamp. Though Neill is here today to talk about his new sci-fi horror fiction film, Demonic, we also chatted up about his other films that have been successful over the years.
So many times we hear those mythical stories of a filmmaker who makes a short film and uploads it to Youtube in hopes of a big time film producer sees to and comes down from Mount Hollywood and offers him or her a deal to turn that short into a studio feature. Today’s guest had that happen to him and then some. On the show is writer/director David F. Sandberg.
David’s story is the “lottery ticket” moment I speak about so often on the show. His journey in Hollywood is remarkable, inspiring and scary all at the same time. He created a short film called Lights Out. That short was seen by famed filmmaker and producer James Wan (Furious 7, Aquaman, The Conjuring) who offered to produce a feature film version at New Line Cinema.
I can’t be more excited about the conversation I’m about to share with you. Today on the show we have filmmaker and indie film legend Albert Hughes. Albert, along with his brother Allen began making movies at age 12, but their formal film education began their freshman year of high school when Allen took a TV production class. They soon made the short film The Drive-By and people began to take notice.
After high school Albert began taking classes at LACC Film School: two shorts established the twins’ reputation as innovative filmmakers. Albert and his brother then began directing music videos for a little known rapper named Tupac Shakur.
These videos lead to directing their breakout hit Menace II Society (1993), which made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and grossed nearly 10 times as much as its $3 million budget.
Sitting down with one of the big names in this business this week was a really cool opportunity. I am honored to have on the show today, Oscar® winning director, producer, and screenwriter, Taylor Hackford.
Taylor’s has directed films like An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), White Nights (1985), Proof of Life (2000), Dolores Claiborne (1995), Against All Odds (1984), Parker (2013), the iconic Ray Charles biopic, Ray of 2004, and The Comedian (2016) just to name a few. He also has served as president of the Directors Guild of America and is married to the incomparable acting legend Helen Mirren.
I’m always looking for success stories in the film business to study and analyze.Edward Burns (The Brothers McMullan) Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi), Kevin Smith (Clerks), and Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity) come to mind. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the cult indie film classic The Boondock Saints but many of you might not know the crazy story of its writer and director Troy Duffy.
Well, prepare to get your mind BLOWN. I had an EXCLUSIVE discussion with Troy this week, and let’s say, he did not hold back. Nothing was off-limits – from his instant rise to fame to the brutal fate he met – getting blacklisted, all of it. He wanted to set the record straight because there is always another side to the story, and what better side to hear than that of the man who lived this brutal Hollywood adventure?
I can’t tell you how excited I am for today’s episode. I had the pleasure to speak to the legendary director Barry Sonnenfeld. We discuss his idiosyncratic upbringing in New York City, his breaking into film as a cinematographer with the Coen brothers, and his unexpected career as the director behind such huge film franchises as The Addams Family and Men in Black, and beloved work like Get Shorty, Pushing Daises, and A Series of Unfortunate Events.
We also chat about the time he shot nine porno films in nine days. That story alone is worth the price of admission.
I can’t be more excited to bring you this episode. On today’s show, we have the legendary writer/director Alex Proyas, the filmmaker behind The Crow, Dark City, The Knowing, Gods of Egypt, and I, Robot.
Alex Proyas had a huge influence on my filmmaking life. The Crow was one of those films I watch a thousand times, in the theater, when I was in film school. He began his filmmaking career working in music videos with the likes of Sting, INXS, and Fleetwood Mac before getting the opportunity to direct The Crow.
Sean Baker is a writer, director, producer and editor who has made seven independent feature films over the course of the past two decades. His most recent film was the award-winning The Florida Project (2017) which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and was released by A24 in the U.S. Among the many accolades the film received — including an Oscar nomination for Willem Dafoe for Best Supporting Actor — Sean was named Best Director by the New York Film Critics Circle.
His previous film Tangerine (2015) premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won an Independent Spirit and two Gotham Awards. Starlet (2012) was the winner of the Robert Altman Independent Spirit Award and his previous two features, Take Out (2004) and Prince of Broadway (2008), were both nominated for the John Cassavetes Independent Spirit Award.
This week, I sat down with one of the most legendary and successful screenwriters/producers in Hollywood, Oscar® Winner Eric Roth. Over a 50+ years career, he’s well-known for writing or producing films like Forrest Gump, A Star is Born, Mank, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Munich, Ali, and the list goes on.
The legacy of the crime drama television series, The Sopranos remains a defining art of storytelling for mob TV shows. We have the genius behind this hit TV series, David Chase as our guest today.
As expected, Chase is a twenty-five-time Emmy Awards-winner, seven times Golden Globes winner, and highly acclaimed producer, writer, and director. His forty-year career in Hollywood has contributed immensely to the experience of quality TV.
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of Chase, let’s do a brief of the HBO 1999 hit show, The Sopranos: Produced by HBO, Chase Films, and Brad Grey Television, the story ran for six seasons, revolving around Tony Soprano, played by James Gandolfini, a New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster, portraying the difficulties that he faces as he tries to balance his family life with his role as the leader of a criminal organization.
There are performers that impact your life without you even knowing it and today’s guest fits that bill. On the show, we have comedic genius, multi-award-winning actor, writer, producer, director, and television host, Billy Crystal. We’ve seen Billy’s versatile work across all areas in the entertainment world, stand-up, improv, Broadway, behind and in front of the camera, feature films, television, live stages like SNL, and animated movies.
Make a feature film for $1000? Sounds crazy right? Well if you don’t know Mark Duplass you should get to know him. Mark and his brother Jay Duplass are most widely known for making the indie film hits The Puffy Chair and Safety Not Guaranteed. Mark Duplass has gone on to be a very successful writer, producer, and director.
Mark Duplass is an extremely talented film director, producer, musician, actor, and screenwriter. He along with his brother, Lawrence Jay Duplass, have created film industry waves in a very short time period. Be it filmmaking or successful TV series, everyone loves the work of Duplass Brothers.
Being Filmtrepreneurs they have initiated their own production company Duplass Brothers Productions and have been into the directing business since then. Widely known for their films The Puffy Chair (2005), Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2011), and also The Do-Deca-Pentathlon (2012).
Jay and Mark Duplass have also co-created the renowned HBO TV series Togetherness.
Both of these talented brothers grew up in a suburb of New Orleans. They fell in love with film at a young age and they started making videos on their father’s Panasonic when the brothers were 6 and 9 respectively.
They would shoot versions of The Lone Ranger as well as The Sermon on the Mount. According to the Duplass brothers, when they look back over this period and the activities which extended to their teenage, they seem to recall an inner self of experimentation.
Things got focused and serious once Jay made this self-realization that he did not want to go on with his filed after spending four years as psychology majors which he was studying at the University of Texas, Austin. Mark Duplass was a singer-songwriter which he had to eventually give up because of increased condition of tendinitis.
Jay remained an extra year in the school so that he could study film and also got his brother Mark Duplass enrolled there so that he could act in his projects. Which was usually extremely cute bits of valuable silliness pretty much inspired by their obsession with the Coen Brothers. Mark has himself admitted that we were trying to be them but it was not going well.
After some time, Jay got his hands on a profitable and worthwhile commission to film a documentary about gardening which was some sponsored material on the behalf of an Austin startup, gardening.com.
The company crumpled before the film was finished even but luckily for the Duplass brothers, not before paying for their efforts. With that money, they bought a Canon GL1, got themselves a camera operator, and a photography editor so that they could begin on their second scripted feature film which was a rip-off of Rocky but in running shoes called Vince Del Rio.
And before they had even finished its edited, the duo decided that I was simply unreleasable which Mark Duplass has often referred to a steaming pile of dog diarrhea.
The Duplasses had no money, no ideas, and a terrible period of lack of faith in their filmmaking skills. So in desperation, Mark thought of making a movie which was part of their childhood. Fast and affordable and off-the-cuff. Mark Duplass went out to buy a $3 MiniDV tape which is the entire production cost of the movie and also improvised the total of what was to become the This is Johnof 2003.
It was a seven-minute short that started as an exercise, which results in triggering a psychological collapse because John rejects his numerous attempts as being too conscious or too formal. This was the course that so well summarized the creative journey of Duplasses’.
Though This is John might have sounded and looked like a home movie, it had a hint of life to it and that is why it was accepted into the shorts program when the Duplasses’ submitted to the Sundance and guess what? It was addressed as one of the five short films to see.
Right after two years, these brothers returned to the Sundance with The Puffy Chair which was an endeavor which they drew from their own lives. Starring Mark Duplass and his girlfriend (now wife) Katie Aselton this film concerns the relationships between men, women, fathers, mothers, and friends. Mark finds a replica of a lounge chair on eBay which his father used ages ago. The road trip that was taken to deliver that chair to him in Atlanta took very interesting twists and turns.
To some of the viewers, the movie touched something deep and affected them with its spooky familiarity. Making something so amazing with so little money sent a huge shockwave through the film industry which made it possible to think that anyone could step up to make a movie.
Although the traditional distributors kept their distance from the not-too-fine cheating after the film had spent a year’s time on the festival circuit, Netflix’s budding film distribution arm, Red Envelope Entertainment made its first acquisition. It is said by Sarandos of Netflix who was running Red Envelope, that he was drawn to the film for the wonderful home-viewing potential it possessed.
The follow-up feature of Duplass brothers in 2008 Baghead, was a mellow horror whose story revolved around a quartet of struggling filmmakers who head back to the woods for the weekend as a last try to pen down a feature film which would give them a head start to their careers. And they found the plot of pretty clichéd stories which gave the actors a set of guidelines to explore human interaction.
The Mumblecore Movement
A new movement called Mumblecore had the Duplass brothers working with directors like Joe Swanbergand Andrew Bujaski. But still, the boys had potential and momentum which soon gave them the chance to take up the traditional first step thing that all directors do to boost up their career i.e. making their first-ever studio film.
Willing to work for less, they cast all of the Puffy Chair fans in the production of Fox Searchlight Cyrus. With a $7 million budget and storyline of a creepy mother-son relationship, it was certainly an out of the box thing. The Duplass spent three years working on Cyrus. The movie revolved around a depressed man in his 40s, which was problem for Fox Searchlight who were suspicious of estranging the viewership. They wanted to portray him as down but not too much of it.
The film grossed $7.4 million which happens to be the most successful Duplass venture to date.
It soon became quite apparent that the movies these brothers were interested in making were aimed at a smaller audience with limited box-office appeal. But yet, if they underperformed in theaters a large audience was enjoying the work of Duplass brothers on the small screen and their movies surely were having a profitable afterlife.
Since The Puffy Chair came out, the Duplass brothers had been toying with the idea of HBO and now seemed the perfect time to actually take the chance. Jay came up with the idea of series which would star Steve Zissis who has Mark’s senior in high school and had had a stall in his acting career after Baghead and Do-Deca-Pentathlon.
So that is how the idea of Alexander the Great took birth which happened to be a pilot about an actor who was struggling with his career with mental health issues. HBO loved it and asked to add more characters making it a relationship show and that is what they did.
Before the premiere of A Teacher at Sundance, Fidell had sent the Duplass brothers her feature making them her fan. That is why she was their first choice when Mark Duplass got an idea for a movie of a young reboot of Days of Wine and Roses which has physical abuse instead of alcohol. Graciously accepted by Fidell, by the end of the day, she was officially signed up both for the writing and direction of what was to formulate into Six Years. And in March at SXSW it was bought by Netflix.
The most astonishing development in an already amazing career apart from the movies and TV shows that this dynamic duo made, the Duplasses have grown into a royalty which helps like-minded filmmakers gain benefit from the business model which they seem to have created.
The Duplass brothers helped a friend in giving life to his film and this revelation that they could actually save the struggling career of a filmmaker with some time and money blew their minds away and always grateful for the emotional as well as financial support by their parents they saw this way to put it back in the world.
Producing multiple films per year, which
Strictly follow the line of low costs.
Protecting the vision of the filmmaker.
Eventually giving the final product to the audiences as fast as possible.
The Duplass Brothers have signed a four-picture deal with Netflix. And they are taking a similar approach to TV. The first film from that deal is Blue Jaystarring Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson and directed byAlexandre Lehmann (check out his interview here). Meeting by chance when they return to their tiny California hometown, two former high-school sweethearts reflect on their shared past. Check out the trailer below:
They helped few filmmakers in making 10 episodes of the show of an animated series Animals and much to their surprise, not only HBO bought them but signed them for the second season right away. And four months later, the Duplass brothers got a two-year deal.
These brothers have the magic beans to turn any idea, no matter how trivial it may be, into a profitable TV show or movie.
Can you really make a feature film for $1000 bucks?
Mark Duplass had a packed house for his amazing SXSW Keynote Speech. He was spitting out Indie Film GOLD though out his talk.
If you didn’t get a chance to hear his talk, here are some topics he covered:
Learn your craft by making short films every weekend for $3
Write a Feature Film for less than $1,000
Have a strong day job (whatever you can get) while working towards your goal
Put money away to travel to Film Festivals and future films
Coming from the “Mumblecore” indie film movement, a style of low-budget film typically characterized by the use of nonprofessional actors and naturalistic or improvised performances, he had some great advice for independent filmmakers:
“You should design the aesthetic of the movie so that it doesn’t feel like less than a $200,000 movie but it feels squarely like a $1,000 movie.”
I’ve seen so many filmmakers attempt to make The Avengers on the budget for craft services for one day on a Marvel set. You are setting yourself up to fail. When starting out work within your limitations. It worked for Robert Rodriguez on his indie film classic El Mariachi.
Mark Duplass stated that $1000 is in NO WAY a budget a feature film should be made for. Here is what Duplass says:
“It’s not an empirical number, it depends of the city you live in and the scope of your story. But when I think about that movie, it’s doing a couple of things.
Borrowing recycled hard drive from people. Getting the Ultrakam uncompressed app on your iPhone. Most of it is food and you really want someone who can cook.
I recommend having your editor be the ‘DIT’ person who takes the Media in – and they have a lot of downtime, so you have them help you light, and you have them cook.
And you should be having a crew that’s really, really small. So that money should be mostly spent on food and then you are going to spend that on festival applications.”
Mark Duplass dishes out some amazing advice to independent filmmakers in this keynote speech and awesome Q&A. To see the entire SXSW Keynote check out the video below, DO IT!
“Instinct is very, very important, and we believe in it through every part of the process… When it’s time to create and get that stuff down, we believe in the gut.” – Mark Duplass
Starting my stopwatch now.
Welcome everybody, thank you for coming out this morning.
I would like to start, if everyone would just go around the room, if you could stand up and introduce yourselves I think it would be great. And I’m serious guys, I’m really serious.
So we’re going talk a lot about movie say I hope that’s what you’re here to talk about. We’re going to talk about the bad news and the good news of independent film and you know if you’re at all like me and you read the trades and you’re involved in film conversations, it’s mostly bad news. I think that what we hear about is the death of the middle class of independent films you know where are those cool five million dollar movies that used to break out of Sundance in 1998 and why are they not buying those or making those or even when they do why are they not promoting them and and why is nobody going to see them?
People talking about what V.O.D. means for the death of the theatrical experience, is it hurting? is it this glut of material in the marketplace keeping people from going to see things in the theaters?. We’re going to talk about the migration to T.V. and are all the great indie filmmakers going to T.V. not that I did it, maybe a little bit and what that means. And these are all issues that we’re definitely going to talk about.
But for me there’s one thing that keeps coming up over and over in my career I want to put this up so I don’t have to have hunch shoulders and that one thing that keeps coming to me is this very simple phrase and I’m going to take a note from Tony Robbins motivational speaker here for a second, and we’re going to have something that we’re going to really focusing on, and that is these simple words ‘the cavalry isn’t coming ‘and I’m looking around like Tony and I let it sit, and then Tony repeats it ‘The cavalry is not coming’ and I say this because we’ve all heard these amazing tales of how that 21 year old kid had a script and his cousin worked in the mailroom at Warner Brothers and he gave it to him and his script got up to the head of Warner Brothers and they loved it and they bought it for a million dollars and got it made. That’s an exciting story but a super dangerous one because, I don’t know anyone that’s happened to, maybe that’s happened once, but I had a very different career trajectory. I was here in Austin in college living in shitty apartments all around town, the brownstone on 51st on Lamar where they don’t allow you to work on your car and cinder blocks in the apartment complex, in a rat infested duplex on haw turf and I was sitting there thinking I’m inspired, I’m excited, I want to be a filmmaker, I have no connections. If I keep saying just pick up a camera and do it like even if I do, how am I going to get there? and I think that’s where most people are and I feel like I have a place to be useful and that’s what I want to speak to is, what can you do when you are absolutely nowhere and feeling you are full of magic and ideas?.
So we’re going to go through some step by step Tony Robbins processes here guys and see if we can get practical and I can leave you with something useful.
The first step is the $3 dollar short film. I can definitely speak to this we’re in a place now obviously where technology is so cheap. There’s no excuse for you not to be making short films on the weekends with your friends, shot on your iPhone. We had a feature film at Sundance last year called tangerine that was a hot shot entirely in an iPhone and did really well sold to Magnolia and so no excuses not to be doing that. I bring this up because a lot of people think ‘even if I make like a decent movie on this phone like who’s going to watch it what is this all about’ and I’ll just share one personal story with you which is that my brother and I lived in Austin for a long time we were just editors trying to get our day jobs and our money go. And we saved up enough money by doing this corporate documentary to make our first feature film. Film was called Vince De Rio; it starred me as a runner from the South Texas border trying to get a spot at the Olympic trials. You can see why this didn’t work out so well already (crowd laughs). We spent 65,000 dollars on this movie and it was a steaming pile of dog diarrhea (crowd laughs) and we almost gave up making movies and we were sitting on Jay’s couch in south Austin and I remember looking at him and he was depressed and I was just slightly less depressed enough to say ‘we should get up, we should make a movie like we did when we were kid’ ‘but all we had was our parents video camera which we knew had a dead pixel in the middle of it. And I said I’m going to get a tape, you come up with a movie idea and like we’re shooting as soon as I come back. So I was back in twenty minutes and Jay said ‘something weird happened to me yesterday I was trying to like get the outgoing greeting of my answer machine going and I like couldn’t get it right and I kind of had a nervous breakdown, I recorded it about 157 times’ and I was like ‘that’s great! This feels like us, this is like funny but kind of tragic, just like us’. And so I said ‘OK put the Camera on, I’m going out the door and just filming and he’s like we don’t have lighting kit, the microphone is the one on the camera, you can’t hear anything. I was like ‘I don’t care we’re doing this’. So we shot 122 minutes improvised take we edited it down to about 7 minutes and we watched it with our friends and they were like there’s something interesting here. It’s a shame there’s a dead pixel in it and it looks and sounds like shit. But our friend David Zellner was like ‘I think you should just submit this around to some festivals just to see’.
And that $3 movie was our first movie that got into Sundance and it played at South by Southwest here at 12 years ago and it changed really everything for us because we realized that it really doesn’t matter what your movie looks like if you have a voice, if you have something interesting to say they will like you and they will program you. So step one, if you are nowhere like I was is the $3 short film. I recommend making one of these every weekend with your smartest group of friends who want to be filmmakers, they don’t have to be film savvy, you want to group of like four or five people, someone who’s ideally charismatic to be your lead actor and then just smart kind of interesting people to help you curate this thing. It should be a one scene, five minutes ideally it’s comedic because those program while at film festivals. And short films also program well like short shorts that’s really key. And your first ones are going to suck. Mine did, I mean I don’t know maybe I’ll make a great one for some people to do that, I hate those people. And they’ll be like a little nugget when you show your friends and they’ll be like ‘this is four minutes and fifty eight seconds of garbage but that little giggle you guys had right there was interesting’. So then you expand on that you cut everything else out, you start honing in on it and somewhere you’re going to discover that you have something unique to offer and it usually lies in those weird conversations you’re having with your friends, your loved ones, your siblings between like midnight and 3 in the morning when everybody’s loopy and or drunk or stoned and you are laughing uncontrollably because you share this unique sense of humor about something that one of your friends did or you did. And at the risk of saying you should make a self-indulgent film for your first movie, you should absolutely make a self-indulgent film for your first movie because that’s your special stuff that’s like you’re a judge. And when you tap into that, you show it to your friends, they’ll be honest with you and it might be two weeks later, it might be two months later, it might be two years of doing this that you have something unique to offer and this is going to be the start of your career. So this whole time you should be having a really strong day job to take care of yourself and you should be saving a little bit of money, this is a hard career so don’t eat out don’t buy clothes like save up your money because now you going to travel to film festivals. You’re going to submit this to every film festivals you can and you’re going to go and you’re going to start meeting other filmmakers that you like and other actors that you like and you going to start building your community and the programmers there are going to like you and they’re going to wonder ‘oh, I want to program a feature from this kid, that would be great’. And the whole time you’re going around this festival, there is a small chance that an agent is going to sign you and say ‘I love your movie, I want to pitch you to direct a movie the cavalry’s coming it’s coming’. Cavalry is probably not coming; I’m just going to be honest with you. What’s probably going to happen is you’re going to be writing a script this whole time, a feature script that’s based upon the look and the feel of your $5 movie. OK. That can be made for less than a thousand dollars. And this is going to be the next step in your career. OK the way you’re going to do this is you know go into temp work, this is brutal; these next two years are going to suck. OK ideally if you are in college and hearing this, don’t major in film, minor in film study, Spanish or Mandarin because then you can get jobs translating for $25 an hour wherever you want to go, that’s the best thing any film student can do. Or if you don’t do that, just wait tables, that’s a reason why artists wait tables, its flexible, you can get your shifts covered. You can spend a year making this movie; you’re going to write this script based upon what I call the available material school of filmmaking which is not. It takes place in a space ship because you can’t do that on a thousand dollars but what you can do is take a meeting with everyone who loves you and who want to support you and say What do you have that you can lend to me at my disposal to make a film?. When Jay and I made ‘The Puffy Chair’ it was very clear, we had my apartment in Brooklyn, my wife Kate’s apartment in Brooklyn, my street was really quiet, I knew we could shoot on that, I had a van because I was playing in bands. So I was like road movie that’s good for a van. There was a furniture store and main that was going out of business and we had two identical chairs we could get for like $300 sounds like great, I’ll burn one of them that will be our big stunt in the movie it will be awesome. And we reverse engineer the movie that fit inside of these things so that we knew we wouldn’t have to wait to make it, we knew we could make this movie at a cheap price and you gather up that group of friends you made your shots with and you guys going to go out with a crew of 5 to 8 people and the way you’re going to do this (please don’t print this this is just for the room).
You’re going to go to some box stores that might rhyme with like clone repo and you’re going to buy lights and extension cords and all these things and they have a thirty day return policy where they give all your money back. You’re going to shoot your movie within thirty days and everything’s going to be free. You’re going to go to another store that rhymes with rest sly and they have cameras that you can buy with only like a ten percent restocking fee. So you’re going to buy those cameras and you’re going to return them or if you want you can just shoot them still on compressed on your iPhone if you like that look might make you more unique, either way. These are the things you’re going to do to keep it cheap OK. And if you have an agent at this point they might be saying ‘don’t go do this, I can get you some money to make this’. If you allow them to do that you will end up in development for five years and you will not get your movie made because you’re just a short film maker with nothing behind you. Go make this movie on your own ‘the cavalry is not coming’
So with this movie you make there is a chance of them movies going to Sundance and get a million dollars. It might happen, probably not. Probably what’s going to happen is you made something really interesting that’s a little bit flawed because you’re a new filmmaker and it’s your first feature and that’s OK but it’s unique and it has a voice and you’re still doing temp work and you’re running around to every single festival that you develop relationships with through your short film. OK. They want you back, they’re excited to program you and this is where the capital of Film Festival starts to come in. You’re definitely going to get an agent at this point because you made a feature that works. That’s good. We’ll talk about that in a second.
But there are movie stars at these film festivals, every film festival has like three to five movie stars out of that come and get the sponsors and to do it. OK And what you want to do is get your movie in front of these people. And when you have this agent, they’re going to say ‘Should I bring you scripts to direct’? ‘Should I bring you this’?. No no no, I want you to do one thing for me; I want you to send my thousand dollar movie that’s inspired but kind of flawed to every single actor in this agency that means something and I want to set screenings every other week so I can get actors to fall in love with my work and then build another movie with them. And this is going to be where you start to climb a lot of these movie stars are going to be like fuck that I want to make a movie on an iPhone with this dude he does not know what he’s doing. But one of them within two weeks, two months is going to respond and he was let’s call him Randy Hercules. OK. Randy Hercules was on like a C.B.S. show that ran for like six years, he’s super rich and he’s super depressed because he hates his show and he is dying to do something creative. And you’re going to meet with Randy Hercules and you’re going to say Randy, I saw your show you’re really good in it but I know you’re better than this and you have done your research and you have watched Randy in interviews and you said ‘I might be able to use this darkness of Randy to do something interesting’. And you say I’m going to build you a role Randy, what is the role you absolutely want to play in that no one has offered you and Randy is going to fall in love with you and follow you to the ends of the earth. So as much as your agent is going to tell ‘you you’ve already made your thousand dollar movie, it’s time to go pitch you for big directing jobs’ which you’ll never get by the way and even if you get them you won’t want them because all the directing jobs out there that are open are terrible. You are going to do the unthinkable, you’re going to make another thousand dollar movie but this one has Randy Hercules in it and this one is going to be the one that’s starts to monetize your career because even if you make a stinker with Randy Hercules and it is no way you’re selling this movie for less than fifty thousand dollars and all your friends who worked on your cheap movie with you you’re going to give them big points in the movie because you are a communist. You’re developing a group of friends and you’re all in this shit together and you’re going to say ‘all right, because I’ve been a temp in my Mandarin or I’ve been serving serviche, I’ve saved up some money here. We’re going to spend another thousand dollars on this movie but this time when it sells you my beloved sound person/lighting person/assistant editor are going to get ten percent of the movie because you’ve been working so hard. And Randy Hercules you’re going to get twenty percent of the movie’. And then you go to Randy and say ‘You’re so rich would you just give me those points back and give it some of the crew?’ and he’ll do it because he’s in love with you and he’s rich and sad. And you get to share all of this, and you make this movie and it’s going to be a little better than your last movie because you learn something from your mistakes and you dug in on Randy Hercules and you found something great and this time rather than be at those B tier festivals, you’re probably going to land at a high B or a low A tier festival. You might go to Sundance and sell it for a million dollars, it might happen; probably not going to happen, it’s just the way it. But that’s OK, because now you have a movie that has extreme value on V O D. because of Randy Hercules is six years on his C.B.S. show. And this is where I say God bless V.O.D. this is a great thing for an event film, please do not reject V.O.D. please do not be afraid of it; please do not be attached to your early movies playing in movie theaters. It’s very important that you don’t blow all your money promoting in a theater that’s going to lose that money and you will have no more money to make movies, it’s important that you own this ready Hercules movie someone’s going to buy it from you, let them put it out on V.O.D. and a place like Netflix or H.B.O. and you will probably make anywhere from fifty to five hundred thousand dollars on this movie by the very presence of Randy Hercules and that the movie doesn’t suck. That’s just an empirical value for that movie. OK And this is great, you got some money, your friends have some money, you’re sharing things and more importantly the industry is starting to take notice of you, you’ve definitely got your agent beaten down your door now saying ‘OK. Remember last time when I said the cavalry was coming, I was wrong that time, but this time the cavalry is really fucking coming. I can take you out and get you directing jobs, I can get you rewrite jobs. You’ve got to go take a bunch of general meetings’ and if you do that you will take meetings for a year and nothing will happen and I’m telling you this from experience. It is very hard to turn this down because it’s so tempting, but this is where you want to make your move into T.V. because as the death of the middle class a film has happened, it has been in rebirth in television. The way you used to make really awesome five million dollars movies that didn’t have movie stars in them and had great cool original content, that’s happening in cable T.V. right now and that’s where you want to go. And if you have made a good thousand dollar movie with Randy Hercules, you’re going to sell a pitch hands down and you make some money off of that which is really good. So you’re going to be thinking ‘oh my God this is incredible, I’m going to become the next big show-runner, I sold this pitch they’re excited about it’. You might get to make that show, probably not because that’s just the way it is, it’s probably going to put in a turnaround. But you made some money which is good and you learn something and you said ‘uhmm they don’t want to make this because it cost two million dollars an episode for them to make and they don’t want to risk that much. But using my principles of indie filmmaking, I could probably take Randy Hercules or one of Randy Hercules’s friends who now likes me because they’ve seen the movie and they want to be like Randy Hercules and a little project. And I could probably make some episodes of a T.V. show independently and license them back to these companies at like a quarter or a fifth of the price and I would own everything and I would almost be like a T.V. studio’.
So you’re going to take out Randy Hercules and his friend Dingleberry Jones. And Randy and Dingleberry are going to play in a small two hander that’s shot mostly in apartments just like you did your first micro budget movie, and you to make two episodes and outline the rest. And I guarantee you; you will sell that show to a young and hungry place that wants T.V. content from a vetted cool independent filmmaker like yourself. And now you’re going to start to make some actual money and all your friends around you have been working for years are going to be like ‘you’re the first one of us to make some money, this is exciting! I have an idea. I want to make my first thousand dollars movie with Randy Hercules’ And you’re going to be like, ‘this is great’ I have some money now and you’re going to have the opportunity to do what you didn’t get for yourself is to raise some people up and throw a thousand dollars at them and say go for it if, you shit the bed I don’t care it’s a write off. If you win I want like fifteen percent of your profits but take eighty five percent of it and share it with your crew because you guys are doing all the work because you’re a communist and this is good, Communism is good here guys.
And so now you’re kind of at this like weird crossroads in your life where you’re thinking ‘OK made these short films, made these two micro budget features one with Randy, got my T.V. show going, I’m making money, I’m not rich, I’m sustainable, I’m helping my friends and your agents going to call you and say ‘I know the first time I called you said the Calvary was coming I was wrong on the second time I said the Calvary was coming and when I was wrong but this time the cavalry is fucking beating down your door. And she’s kind of right because you are of value now and you do have a chance to let the cavalry in. Good chance you’ll open it up and they aren’t there any way, another chance you open it up they come in and you don’t want to make a movie with the cavalry because they’ll make the kind of movies you like and they’re going to try and tell you exactly how to make the movie and you’re going to be at this crossroads this is like you know the places you go when you get to the waiting place like people what am I going to do and you’re going to look at your career and you’re going to feel like ‘I’m a little tired because every single project I have made, I’ve had to self generate and it’s getting fucking exhausting and I kind of want the cavalry to come in just offer me some jobs and it would be really amazing not to work that hard’. And this is the really hard truth and the truth is still when you’re at this place when I am at this place I am at, the cavalry is not coming, it sucks! But this is where the good news starts to come in. OK. Because you’re going to look back at your career and say OK I made a critically acclaimed short films, I ran around and made some friends at a festival, I made two micro budget features one with Randy Hercules, I got a T.V. show license with Randy and Dingleberry, I’m making some money, I’m producing films from my friends. How is it possible that the cavalry is not coming anymore? I’ve done so much. And the good news of this is, who gives a fuck about the cavalry?. Because now you are the cavalry. I’m at Tony Robbins you for a second, you are the cavalry and you do not need them. You have a group of friends who you support and has your support and in the peaks and valleys of our career as they get more successful and you start to burn out and make a shitty movie, they will lift you up because you lifted them up and when you’re up and they’re down you will lift them up and this will equalize you and not only sustain you through your career but sustain you with people you like being around. You have a bevy of work behind you and not one of those pieces of art are you embarrassed to show your children later on because you made them exactly the way you wanted to make them. And while they didn’t make a ton of money for you, you can look your kids in the eye and say ‘I’m proud of this, I made this’. And most importantly, you’re now in a corner of the sandbox that is completely your own, you have all the skills to make exactly the kind of things you want to make, you have enough money to put them in production in a micro budget way. Admittedly it’s a bit of a limit and no one can stop you from doing exactly what you want to do.
So this to me is only my experience but I wanted to share this with you because I feel that if you can accept that the cavalry won’t come and just make yourself into the cavalry, it has your best chance of maintaining success but more importantly which we don’t talk a lot about in this industry, it gives you a chance to be happy!
That’s all I have to say. (Crowd Cheers and claps)
So, that being said, I know I made a lot of grandiose statements and other some specifics left out. I would also love to be challenged on any of these ideas if some of you were like ‘oh that’s bullshit, doesn’t play that way for me because I’m still trying to dial this model in myself’ So I would like to open this up to questions or if you’re interested just like really awesome complements those are cool too.
And I’ll open the floor to you guys.
I can’t see very well back there. So if someone has when you just like shout it.
There you are OK good. There’s a mike and you just walk up to the mike. That’s what happens.
Melanie: I’m Melody broke and I’m a filmmaker. And our first feature film is in post-production right now. We have a couple of minor stars in it and of course now we’re looking to try to figure out how to do the distribution side. So any advice or direction that you can get around that would be great.
Mark: Yeah I mean you want to head for the LS festivals first and you want to really like signed at South by Southwest tribe back L.A, F.F, A.F.I, Toronto, Venice. These places that you might be able to sell your movies and I know I’m talking a lot about business here but it’s very important you understand business to serve your creative it’s just a part of the game, so go for those. If you get in there fucking good and you’re good to go, if not start looking at more of those second tier festivals that aren’t necessarily sales markets but are going to be building tools a lot and sometimes you can win awards at those festivals which will bring more attention to it. Most importantly go to the festivals and meet the other actors, and the other filmmakers that you want to work with and start thinking towards your next movie, always start thinking towards that.
Melanie: already straight writing it
Mark: Great! Good for you. Have that at the festival so that when people see your movie and say ‘I don’t want to buy this one, what’s next? That’s great. And then I would say most importantly, try to get yourself to a V.O.D. service, even some places like Vimeo that are like trying to brand themselves and might push you a little bit. Film buff, even iTunes themselves are great friendly platform that supports young movies and it’ll help place you on the front page a little bit and don’t be afraid to self-distribute that movie and there’s just a small a just cool detail. If you have a company that’s offering you no money and you don’t like the guy and who’s running it, I actually would recommend self-distributing instead of selling it to them because this movie which is not valuable now and nine years when you are really successful if you own that whole thing you haven’t sold it, that’s going to be your Blood Simple of Coen Brothers and you’re going to have to sell that for a lot of money and maintain that value of like ‘oh look what Melanie made back here’ and you know Sundance Channel will want to buy it or somebody, so hang onto it unless you find a good one.
Ross: Hey I’m Ross, I have a question for you on the dynamic of you know we’re in this age of we all do it all kind of thing. So you’re an actor you’re director and I think that dynamic, I just want to know how you deal with the dynamic of when you say I’m an actor or you’re in your own films. How do you deal with kind of the egoty signature of saying like ‘oh I direct it but I also acted in it, but the reality is that I wrote it because I’m perfect for this.
Mark: Yeah with the gross nature of creating roles for yourself and how to not be ashamed of yourself as you maneuver through the world. No easy answer for that therapy really goes for that, but I would say you know to my earlier point, there’s a way to address that in my mind that is like ‘look, as a lot of great literature that says no one under the age of thirty makes a good piece of art that is not autobiographical, I have zero access to all other actors, what I do have is access to myself who understands the material. So while I might not be the greatest actor in the world, it’s nice having a filmmaker inside of the scene as if I feel if it’s not working, I can improvise around it and maneuver it so until I find a better actor who’s willing to work with me I will do’. And I think that that will hopefully make them respect you twenty percent more.
Hi Mark, after talking a little bit about indie filmmakers going into T.V. I was wondering how your feeling about the web series world.
Mark: I have a little experience in the web series world, I made a series called wedlock independently and we took that out and sold it and between you and me it was definitely like we made our money back and like a little bit more but it wasn’t like a windfall financially, but it was good because I think this is a really good place to get that stuff out there, their revenue shares are ninety percent to the artists and ten percent of him and they don’t promote a lot but it’s worth what you get out of them, so I really recommend making them independently and taking them out. You can make a web series if you design it cheaply. Again according to the models I’ve talked about, that sort of available material school. So my advice would be like try to make it for ten grand or less, you can probably feel comfortable to credit card that because any decent web series that’s like funny if you drive your ass off with all your social media and stuff will’ll make that back and you’ll be OK to make another one.
I’m a really big fan. Sometimes I feel like Alex from your togetherness and just the way that like ‘I’m an actor in L.A. and what if one day I’m going to end up like him’ and the other part of me is like shows like yours give me hope as an actor because I want to be part of projects like that and in terms of what is your advice for the struggling actors in L.A. And yes I know I make my material know that you know really getting in like my first T.V. credit seems like this inbred game that I just can’t get into
Mark: Yeah. There’s no short answer for that you know everything. I talked about in the last half hour applies to you as well as an actor because I think that the actor producer and the actor writer role are the best ways to get yourself moving forward. There’s a little bit of a thing (and I’m just speaking super candidly) a lot of filmmakers when an actor approaches them they feel like they take a step back because they’re worried they want something from them and they’re worried that that friendship is tainted with this desire to just be in their movies. But if you have acted in a movie that you wrote and produced a five minute short and you’re at the film festival circuit, then you are one with the filmmakers and you’re not coming to them for a job and you guys will be buddies together and you go to that free party with a beer and you’ll stay up late and you’ll tell this really funny story about the time you got. In the car accident and accidentally ran off and got arrested for a hit and run and that film maker will hear it and he’ll be like ‘she’s so dynamic and so interesting, I want to work with her’. (Audience laughs). And that’s how this shit happens, I mean you need to make yourself a member of this community as opposed to trying to burrow your way into the community because that’s really in my experience. I cast and call from my group of friends and the way into that and the way that community is created is mostly through traveling to film festivals with a decent piece of art. So think about what you’re really good at doing you know what you kill that right. OK we’ve got to figure out how to figure out you’re probably being falsely modest but like you gotta figure out like I’m so good at doing this kind of thing. And write a five minute piece for that and produce it which is really only means just like finding a friend with a camera who kind of knows how to shoot and start making shorts like that and get that into a festival and then it will start to grow from there.
Elisa: Hi Mike my name’s Elise. I’m a fellow UTRT, I really enjoyed togetherness and the party episode, my friend and I watched that and also enjoyed some similar tea and it was a wonderful episode.
Mark: Are you drinking that right now?.
Elisa: No I’m not, I’m just really nervous and excited to talk to you. So I was wondering if there was a specific personal experience that inspired that episode and also is Linda going to be coming back for season two?.
Mark: Good question. I can’t talk about the Season Two stuff here; we’re in the middle of writing it. But as to the personal experiences for one of our protagonists drinking hallucinogenic beverages, I haven’t had an experience like that necessarily before, but you know Jay and I are really close and I remember when and I think… we grew up in New Orleans so take this with a grain of salt we grew up pretty fast. I got a hold of some mushrooms in high school and Jay came back from college and I was like ‘we’re going to do these together and because we spend so much time apart I want to like want us to expand together and like get you know like be like we were as brothers and so we took mushrooms and walked around the streets of New Orleans together for maybe like five or six hours, and I do remember something in that and we didn’t have any great crazy experiences or hyperbolic ones like happened in the episode but I do remember feeling like. We were pretty like wound up kids who are nervous about like are we going to be able to have careers like we were thinking about this stuff in high school already. And I remember it kind of like opening us a little bit and I was like oh that would be really great for tightwad Bret to let the T. let him loose.
Hey Mark my name’s Calvin I’m seventeen I’m filmmaker from Dallas Texas.
(Mark cuts in): Right away, I know you’re going to be successful. The whole professional delivery that you’re seventeen and you call yourself a filmmaker, you are good you don’t need me. Sit around it, I’m serious give somebody else a fuckin chance (laughs).
(Calvin continues): so definitely in that same boat of not having a lot of budget like good number like a thousand dollars and I’m blessed to come from a school where I have cameras and like lights that I can check out. So what do you spend that money on because I like that’s like my worst budget in like I go out my budget for a movie and I spend all my money on water by going out shit with the money. (Audience laughs)
What are some good investments that you actually took that money out and you spent it on?
Mark: Yeah I mean when I when I quote The thousand dollar movie it’s certainly not an empirical number, it changes on the City Year and it changes you know depending on the scope of your movie you know but when I think about that movie it’s doing a couple of things. It’s borrowing recycled hard drives from people so you’re not buying those things, it’s getting the uncompressed app on your iPhone which you have your equipment already most of it is food and you really want someone who can cook. I recommend having your editor be the deep person who takes the media and they have a lot of down time, so you have them help you light and you have them cook and if they cook and you know you should be having a crew that’s really really small and you should have designed in a static of the movie that can be rough film so it doesn’t feel less than a two hundred thousand dollars movie, it feels squarely a one thousand dollars movie whether what that is I.E. handheld I.E. you know. Rough lighting for a reason you know. So yeah that money should be mostly spent on food and then you’re going to spend a little bit of that on film festival applications.
Calvin: Hey Mark, My name is Calvin too. I’m an editor and I cook but not on set (Crowd laughs). I’m an editor and I’m a film editor by day filmmaker any time in between.
(Mark cuts in): Yeah I did that for a long time. I know that’s also a great way to make money just to be clear if you are a filmmaker who knows how to edit getting in editing like infomercials and things like that. I edited out a church in Austin, a church television show for twenty dollars an hour at night. That was great for me, so it’s a nice source.
(Calvin continues) I totally agree. And the episode togetherness when you really find the coyote noise and put the coyote noise I’ve had that experience plenty of times. I’m a big fan of The Puffy Chair kind of going through right now and I have noticed that Red Envelope Productions was one of the production companies that helped start the brand and I want to congratulate you on your deal with Netflix,that’s really cool. And I was just wondering if there’s any correlation between that.
Mark: Yeah we developed a relation with Netflix in 2005 when we sold them The Puffy Chair; their originals department was called Red Envelope at the time, that’s just been folded into the Netflix brand since. And Ted Serranos who runs that company and is now like a multi-gazillionaire massive media mogul is one of us. He’s a guy who came from independent film and he feels like us and he still takes my phone calls and we text each other and talk about movies and that brings to a good point of like we’re now in this fortunate position where we’re seeing the advent of venture capitalists conglomerations showing up in to independent film. Amazon, Netflix to a certain degree H.B.O. and that’s why I brought up that idea in my tirade earlier about sort of making independent television and licensing it to T.V. because there is… Netflix, Amazon there minting money right now and there’s you know all of us who are kind of like not making a lot of money and so there’s this wonderful marriage to be had where you make the movie for this or they buy the movie for half of what they normally buy it for you’ve made it for a tenth of what they normally write for and then everybody is winning you’re profiting, they’re profiting you know I mean to be perfectly honest with you, the budgets that I am making my Netflix movies for all four of those movies equal to basically one fart bubble for Netflix and their grand scheme of money so but for me it’s a time. So that’s a good thing.
A quick question. OK So a big fan of the show by the way.
From a filmmaker standpoint, how do you feel about location and the need to be in L.A.?
Mark: Really strong opinions about that. There is a moment when it is helpful to be in L.A, it is so much better for you to keep making your stuff and a small town while you’re finding out who you are because your rent is going to be $265 a month you’re going to get support from the pharmacist when you want to shoot the pharmacy because your dad knows him. When we shot The Puffy Chair We shot it mostly in my wife’s home town she grew up in where her dad was a doctor and so we could shoot in the motel for free, we could shoot in the doctor’s office for free. I really think it’s very tough to make independent films in L.A. unless you kind of have a name or something to offer them. They will just be like ‘get out of my face basically’. So to use my speech, up until the point in which you have made your thousand dollar movie with Randy Hercules, that is the moment when you can consider moving to L.A. to get jobs. But Ceon brothers still live in Austin, making their movies, doing their thing; it’s a great way to do it.
I would only add it’s important if you’re an actor. If you’re like if you want to get that portion of your career going. That’s important for you.
I’m Jeremy Burgess, writer producer out of Birmingham Alabama. I’ve been doing shots for a few years and been going OK I’ve also been working on my first and only feature length script, it’s brilliant but it’s going to be expensive and that’s always been in the back of my mind anytime I’m underwriting it. Should I throw that in a closet and let the brilliance burn into my soul or should I keep working at that instead of shorts?
Mark: How do you do with multitasking?
Jeremy: Fairly OK, like four jobs.
Mark: Yeah I mean and have your short films been going around to festivals?
Jeremy: I’m writing one up in about a week and I’ll tell you next year.
Mark: OK Got it. Yeah. So I would I would stay on the shorts train, making shorts until you get those shorts into the festivals and really where you’re at. I would finish that super passion project of yours that’s brilliant and expensive and have that ready to go because again there is that chance that if you make this short and Janet falls in love with it and she premieres at a South by Southwest and it’s also in the same shorts program as Randy Hercules, his friend who made it. Randy might see your movie your short and say I want to make it and then you can get your big movie made. But don’t wait on that do not count on that the chances are very slim. So I would highly recommend whatever that first short is that you make that lands at a festival and you really see people connecting to it, try to make that micro budget feature that mimics that and that will be a great gateway to get your more expensive movie made.
Hey Mark, my name is Marshall, I’m finishing UTRTS studies and every contact I’ve made in the industry is try to find a writing partner, try to find a producing partner. How has Jay helped your process out emotionally and like in the business?
Mark: It’s huge. I mean it is really huge and I do agree with that advice and I would take it further that not just a partner but a true community. I showed up at Southpaw, Southwest in 2003 for the first time and started meeting guys like Joe Swanberg, Andrew Brijeski, Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden and we are all friends to this day and we call each other through the years and say ‘can I borrow a camera’? And we mail each other cameras and we mail each other cards and ‘look can I use your old drives from this movie’? I mean that community element is almost as important as that direct partner, very hard to find that direct partner; you know I mean it’s like being in a band where you have to suck up all the conflict that happens whether for the greater good of the music that you’re making together, it doesn’t work for everybody. Just talking to you right now like seem like a pretty gentle sweet person the fact that you’re aware that it could be helpful means you’re probably going to be emotionally evolved enough to handle that kind of situation. So yeah really hard to find but certainly scope it out I will say that I mean I’m in two positions. I have my main partner with Jay, but Jay and I also have affairs on each other where he goes off and makes like transparent and he went and acted in this movie the Manson family vacation that’s premiering here tomorrow and I kind of shepherd a little bit and guide but like I stay away because he needs to have those other partners and I do that with like Lynn Shelton and these other people and so you can also have one off creative relationships that work really well too. Just good sex basically, that is what I supposed.
Hey Mark, I’m a producer, writer actually. And I just wanted to thank you personally, because I honestly didn’t know who you were before I walked in here but I did out here on my list of things to watch and been there for a while so I would have known in the future, so that’s exciting.
MARK DUPLASS: It’s an incredible statement (crowd laughs) ‘I would have known in the future’. You make that the title of your first movie; somebody is going to watch it actually (all laughs).
(Eric continues): I just wanted to thank you personally because you have just confirmed everything that I personally have kind of said as far as my career and what I’m going to be doing in the next few years and I wanted to kind of on this level say thank you and say remember me. I’m Eric with an A and one day we’ll be on that level together and I’ll talk with you shake your hand and say ‘I appreciate everything and I’m here because of you, so thanks a lot’.
MARK DUPLASS: You’re going to raise me up? You’re going to hook me up?
Eric: Yeah! One day we’ll hold each other up.
Mark: I’m keen on that, I like the confidence.
Let me be clear. I will be totally burned out and worthless in ten years so I’m going to need that.
Eric: Well I’m here in Austin at some point. Have a great day.
MARK DUPLASS: Thank you.
Hey Mark, I’m also a film maker in high school. Next year I’m going to be a senior and I’m kind of moving forward into this level in education of choosing what to do, college way and I also don’t want to dig my mom into a hole and get her somewhere super expensive. So I was wondering if you have any suggestions as to how I should move forward into going to college basically.
MARK DUPLASS: I don’t want to be irresponsible here because this is like a four hour conversation but I will throw out a couple of questions for you to think about. Do you believe that you thrive better in a structured educational environment? Or do you function better as a renegade in your basement with your three buddies?. What makes you more excited and inspired?.
(Man continues) Both; On the inside I have this nagging suspicion that I’m irresponsible and I can’t handle responsibility (crowd laughs) but at the same time I feel like having that lack of responsibility and allows me to be…
(Mark cuts in) so there’s a combination here. There are these trade schools like New York Film Academy. They’re not the greatest things in the world to be honest with you, but they’re like nine months and what they do is they teach you that the empirical tools of filmmaking. OK So you and your mom won’t go broke, you won’t waste four years and you’ll be like nineteen when you get out and you’ll know everything you need to know about making movies. So even if you run for two years trying to make movies and you decide ‘you know what this isn’t for me I’m not sure I’m this as you mentioned’ you’re still only going to be twenty one and you’ve got plenty of time to get all that up. So for college, I generally recommend you go in and get just the necessary things that you absolutely need to make the movie. Granted! If you came to me and said ‘dude I’ve already read all the textbooks, I know what the one hundred eighty degree axis is of shooting, I know how to shoot underbrush on an iPhone’, I would be like one hundred percent do not go to film school, you are ready for this, go out and do it.
(Man continues) So you’re saying if I already have that experience which I think I kind of do, just do something else?
MARK DUPLASS: I would save the money and skip it and think about the money that would have been that and say ‘mum, give me a tenth of that so I can go make my movie one movie’. Yeah.
(Man) All right thanks Mark.
Hi Mark, I’m Sisi. I took a Buzz Feed quiz on which league character of you. And I did not get your character but I got Kevin so I think that we’re inherently linked.
MARK DUPLASS: Absolutely!
(Sisi continues) I’m not a filmmaker but I’m like a curious individual. Yesterday I saw David James speak on food co and what’s going on in the future of food and something he said that was interesting was about how today’s chefs anyone can kind of have all these access, have all these tools from the Internet and it’s sort of hard for a young chef because they’re expected to be good right away. In your perspective for the future of film and future filmmakers, do these tools would you say they seem to have a lot of benefits to a filmmaker early and starting your career much earlier than you ought to do. What do you think about the downside of that?
MARK DUPLASS: I’m a big fan of the cheap technology and the tools and I would never wish that they were not here. I do agree there are some downsides, one is that we’re creating a lot of material in the marketplace so it’s much harder to sift through things. And also that in 1995, if you put out an independent film that was decent you were only one of seven independent films so everybody would come see it. Now there are thousands. So it makes you less quote unquote special in that way but the major upside of it which I will trump to the dead eye is that because this stuff is so cheap now. In 1995, a kid from Ohio in the suburbs who was fourteen years old couldn’t turn a camera on himself and make one of the most explosive movies that we’ve seen come out of Sundance and that could happen now with the technology and so I want to take all the bad stuff for that sort of like juggernaut potential.
Sisi: Awesome, thank you.
Hi Mark, F.A Greenheart, I’m a freelance TP and I’ve been on transition into moving more in the direction of taking filmmaking seriously, doing writing and directing, and I feel like I can learn a lot from you know on set with an established director and approach and process. What’s the best way to approach somebody you really respect, you love their style and you want to learn something from them by working behind the scenes on that minute break and sort of like insulated bubble?
Mark: I’m going to give you a pretty specific piece of advice; you don’t necessarily have to follow it. I would erase that from your memory because you will maybe learn some things but it will probably be really hard to get to that point if you don’t have connections and you spend a lot of time and energy trying to find a connection to a filmmaker that is good enough that you want to emulate and it might not even be healthy for you to learn and emulate from them. And I would take all those cumulative hours and I would gather up three or four of your friends and start making movies and then what’s going to happen is you’re going to start making movies that are like you and that are totally unique and honestly if you start emulating things that might beat something original out of you that you never could have known. For instance, if you don’t know what the 1800 axis is right now and how to shoot films, you might shoot it in this ignorant way that’s totally original and interesting and that’s kind of cool too, that happened to me a little bit earlier. So at the risk of sounding a little cavalier about it, I would really spend more of your time finding out who you are as opposed to shadowing someone else.
Hi my name’s Stephanie. I love all your stuff and just wanted to tell you that first of all. I’m not a filmmaker, just kind of a creative person, I read a food blog and I do know today there’s so many people out there that want to do something creative and so many different markets and I was just kind of wondering like is there enough room like how do you make yourself stand out?
Mike: I mean it’s a really tough question, there’s a glut. You know, like these tons and tons of stuff to look at and it’s much harder to make room and I can be certainly a bummer sometimes, you just feel like I’m just putting stuff out there and nobody cares. I truly believe at the end of the day like everybody’s unique and if you dig it hard enough about that special stuff about you again. Those conversations you’re having with your friends, there’s very specific things that make you, that’s going to be inherently fascinating at least to me, you know if I got a chance to like see and feel what it’s like in your life at those moments and if you can find a way to put that in your stuff, I believe it can break through you know. But it’s definitely harder now with the glut. Easier to make, harder to get people to watch it.
Hi Mark, I’m Gelbin; I am an actress, writer and producer. I was just in Chris Warner’s unexpected. I have a good question How is it because you do multiple things, when you coming off unexpected, people automatically see actress and I don’t really know how about how saying I’m an actress, writer and producer like toning down the sound of that, what is your advice?.
Mark: I mean you just have to actively combat that and just say like ‘yeah I mean I was in the movie because I’m a friend of Chris but really I’m a filmmaker first’. And that’s that standard response you keep doing that over six months that’s what’s going to happen and that being said, it’s not bad that people are looking at you to be an actress and if they like you, that’s good. You know and you should say great interesting. I’m not just an actress, I am an actress and a writer producer and I have this script that I have written for myself and it can be made cheaply and we’re going to get involved. You know I mean you just got to take control that conversation.
Geblin: OK, and then my second question would be. So coming off of that when you are approached about other projects like you said the coverage not coming, when it does come it could be like a bunch of crap that you don’t want to do
Mark: Yes. Most of the time it is.
(Geblin continues): How do you say NO?
Mark: Well a lot of times it’s easy because it’s not an offer to you, it’s an offer to fight for it. That’s the key. It sounds like you’re taking from me and say ‘we want you to direct this movie’, but what they don’t tell you is that they’re talking to twenty five other people and you’re going to go pitch to them and spend a month getting your boards ready and getting your story pitched together and you’re not going to get it and you will do that over and over again and I can’t tell you how many friends I have who have done that for three years straight because the temptation of getting that million dollar gig is there and they end up doing absolutely nothing. And that’s really the balmer of The Cavalry is Coming as it sounds like it is but it really isn’t.
Hey, I’m an actor, writer and I work for the start up too and I guess the question is how do you or can you ever get rid of like this is no good voice that is in your head? Because I have a million ideas.
Mark: Yeah. The this is no good voice is great and it’s one of your great assets because it will help you from making something bad. You know if you have the bliss gene and you’re like ‘this is awesome’, and you’re never going to know that it sucks. So that’s a good thing, accept it, and go to some therapy you work through that I’m still doing that. A couple of tricks when you’re writing, I find it’s very bad to write in final draft or on a document because you can see what you’re writing and you’re thinking to yourself ‘oh God it’s garbage it’s garbage’ and you lose all your confidence. So try this trick where you take a little dictaphone or a handheld recorder and you speak out your scripts into it. You can’t see the words. Also you can’t turn back it’s linear, and so what you actually have to do is it forces you to just get a vomit draft out. And you accept because this is a vomit draft it’s going to be stinky that’s fine, no big deal. So your dialogue will all sound the same because you’re talking that way. And your scene descriptions will not be eloquent because you talk them out but you’re going to get impeccable pacing because your body knows how to pace a movie because you sat in front of so many movies and so then you can click into that other side of your brain. This is no good brain and start empirically editing that thing. And that’s a nice little trick for me also involving your friends and your peers in every way shape and form in the process to take the voice off of you for this is no good and put it on to them and let them help you, you’ll stop beating yourself up as much as everyone else is voicing and helping you guide this thing people don’t do that enough. I find a lot of people they get caught up in this auto or bullshit of like this is my vision I’m making my way it’s just like you know making a movie is impossible, you need help, you need people you know and love and trust to help you guide this stuff. So a community would really help you with that. Thank you guys so much. I’ll stop talking now. Thank you.
INTERVIEW WITH THE DUPLASS BROTHERS
CONVERSATION WITH THE DUPLASS BROTHERS
AARON: By the way I don’t appreciate the snickering over the owning of video store. Hi Boys.
BROTHERS: Hi Aaron
AARON: Thanks so much for coming out here we are going to be able to give you guys a chance to ask the brothers questions, I believe we have a microphone right there in the isle so when we get to that we will let you know.
As far as South by South West is concerned you know a lot of people associate you know your early days with the puppy charity 2005, but really Austin and film comes earlier than that I was wondering if you could talk about those early funny years.
MARK DUPLASS: We moved here in a wagon in 1917 actually.
JAY DUPLASS: It was a gravy train with biscuit wheels.
MARK DUPLASS: And you know all those pictures of the capital where there was a dirt road JAY DUPLASS and I actually paved that road ourselves.
JAY DUPLASS: We paved it with TV tape.
MARK DUPLASS: Yes we did, we did, JAY DUPLASS moved herein ninety one to go to college and I came soon after in 95 and I mean for those of you who have been here for that long even not that long, it was a very different town but the spirit as always been the same just like, oh there is Rodriquez and there is Richard Linklater (1:24) and like these guys are just like wearing T Shirts and jeans and sneakers and they are normal guys making art and that was so inspiring to us because we grow up in New Orleans.
The artists there were all 50 year old black men and older jazz musicians and we were like we are probably not going to beat that.
JAY DUPLASS: But we tried super hard
MARK DUPLASS: We tried really hard.
JAY DUPLASS: To be 55 year old black musician.
MARK DUPLASS: But the Duplass brothers are just not the Neville brothers it just that not going to happen.
JAY DUPLASS: We will forever live under that cloud.
MARK DUPLASS: Exactly, I don’t look good in a tight fish net shirt it just doesn’t work.
JAY DUPLASS: And a thick gold chain.
MARK DUPLASS: But yea it really was so exciting to us that just like normal people who are making art about normal stuff and so that’s really like I think we kind of figure out who we were by watching guys like Rick and Rodriquez and then we lived here for a long time just making a shit ton of bad short films really, that’s what we did for the next 10 years.
AARON: So what, now a days you guys are doing so much it’s just incredible, JAY DUPLASS with transparent, you guy with togetherness, you have 2 films here that you produced the documentary Asperger’s Are Us as well as Phillips Rainbow Times, go see those guys.
You produce you write you direct you act, where did all of it come from like and originally as far as what was actually inspiring you. I mean you wanted to make things but did you have lofty goals upfront of what you wanted to do or did all this or did you stumble into all of this.
MARK DUPLASS: It’s just money you know really is what it comes down to, we want to be.
JAY DUPLASS: Just getting paid, just getting paid you know because those 12 years in Austin just making art and distributing on our front lawn we got so rich, so frigging rich.
MARK DUPLASS: These haircuts don’t come cheap, you all.
JAY DUPLASS: I don’t know if you all notice but, I am wearing a blazer.
MARK DUPLASS: That’s right.
JAY DUPLASS: So it’s like just deal with it, we honestly we grew up in New Orleans like MARK DUPLASS said the only model you know of being an artist was like to be a musician so that’s what we were doing for a long time we did that here as well, but we were probably, we definitely were more obsess with movies that were coming across our front lawn and cable came to our neighbourhood in 1983, and you know we never had. We never like thought we would actually be able to make movies and make movies and make money.
Like MARK DUPLASS was saying like when we first saw Rick on the street we were like that’s a person who made a movie, oh, right, people made movies it not just pumped over a pipe line, you know.
MARK DUPLASS: And more importantly he is not wearing like a beret he is like a normal guy, like could we possible do this.
JAY DUPLASS: And his last name is not Cobla basically (4:16), so you know honestly it was we graduated from UT and we were kind of in bands together and we were making movies with our friends in town which at the time we were like you know the Zona brothers and like Brian Poiser and John Bryant and all these great film makers now.
We are just having fun and I think in the back of our minds we were like it would be so great if something happens one day but we just didn’t really expect it and it really does come from what you were saying, you just making stuff which is what we have always done together as brothers, just always just wanting to make something creative and see if we can do something that’s good and it took us a long time before we could do anything good, and then I would say probably the biggest moment.
I mean we had big moments along the way we got our first shot in the Sundance all that stuff happens but we were still making stuff but, I think when we were making our first studio feature Cyrus we were on our way to a ward robe fitting with Marisa Tome and we were sitting in the parking lot and we were like oh my God we are going to tell Marisa Tome what to wear, this is weird.
MARK DUPLASS: I have dreamed about, this I have dreamed about this and it went really well too, it was so exciting.
JAY DUPLASS: And we got a call on our cell phone from Brian Poiser who was about to make LOVERS OF HATE and I think this where we were at, the economics where he had twenty thousand dollars and he need twenty five and that five had dropped out and he basically was like going to shoot like the next day and he was like I need five thousand dollars to make this movie and it was the first time MARK DUPLASS and I were in a position where we had five thousand dollars and it was so easy for us to be like, of course and we gave him five thousand dollars his movie happened.
It got into competition at Sundance, but also we did what we always did with our friends we watch cuts with them we gave them advice on what we thought, I mean that’s just what we were doing in the film making community but we became executive producers on that movie and we thought nothing of it at all.
MARK DUPLASS: It really just being a friend more than a produce is what it felt like in the moment.
JAY DUPLASS: And now we produce a lot of stuff.
MARK DUPLASS: That process really continued we really like to tribe up as we call it we find this industry very difficult and JAY DUPLASS and I are fairly vulnerable anxious and depressive at times and so we like to band up with all of our friends and kind of lean on each other and so a lot of the producing we do is really like you know Lynnis Phillips is a friend of ours and he says I got this movie idea.
So we said okay we got some money lets help you out and we go do it and Asperger’s Are Us a dot is playing here is directed by the camera man that I worked with on the LEAF for like 5 years and I was friends with him and I you know he showed us this movie and we were like yes, we will watch the movie and we like oh fuck, we are going to have to watch Alex’s shitty movie and tell him how bad it is and it was good and we were like great.
So let’s go help him make this movie so that has been like an organic process to becoming quote and quote producers which is something that we are really liking more and more of lately.
AARON: But beyond working with friends and you know colleagues you guys have been so prolific producing, I mean I feel like every year here you had like at least 2 or 3 films. Is there something that you can see like a common through line of something about these projects that really like excites you, or if there is any guiding philosophies whether it may be you know conscious or you thinking about it for the first time right now?
MARK DUPLASS: Yes it is weird it is always hard for us to see that it is almost always easier for audience to see that kind of stuff and then they point it out to us and then we are kind of like yeah, that’s what we are doing that’s our theme, but something came up lately that keep hitting us over and over again that when people talk about our show togetherness.
They talk about how unique relationship is between my character and Steve’s character, between Alex’s and Bret and they say they are just so loving and sweet and supportive of each other I never seen guys interact that way.
How do you even conceive to make a relationship that is so unique, and we are like oh that’s different, we like because that’s just how JAY DUPLASS and I are like with each other.
JAY DUPLASS: What other guys do, they just like punch each other in the nuts?
MARK DUPLASS: Yeah, like not stop. like JAY DUPLASS fucking love you! Punching bag, punching bag in the balls and so I think if there is anything that we have seen that as tied us to what we are looking for and you will see it in the RAINBOW TIME, you will see it in ASPERGER’S ARE US is like that ability to be very, very honest with your comedy and with your story telling but, that honest normally comes with a certain kind of acerbic pin pointing darkness and often kind of trashing the characters and if there is anything that we make it an honest approach but also an inheritance sweetness to it that we tend to be attracted to over and over again, so I think that might be one I don’t know that might be a common theme that might be something.
JAY DUPLASS: Another thing I think is just personal connections which we just tend to let things like ooze in sideways a little, I mean like when it was Lyniss Phillips’s movie we are really good friends with him, just he had this idea it was really special and he also was kind of in a place in his life where he was like I am going to die if I don’t make this movie.
MARK DUPLASS: That’s how you get people to finance your movie, you just go it is not a big deal no pressure, I am going to die if I don’t get a chance to make this, no biggie.
JAY DUPLASS: Yeah, feeling that personal connection I don’t know it’s more of an organic, I mean people are always like oh dude are you developing are you reading scripts and stuff, and it’s like we don’t have a ton of time to read scripts it is something that has to happen through osmoses.
MARK DUPLASS: I think that’s a good point, we don’t waste time on traditional development, people ask us how you so prolific, how you make so much stuff and the thing is everything that we attempt to make we make so it is not like oh, it is 19 movies we talking we only going to make one of them and the way we do that is people come to us with either a solid project that are at various phase.
They got a script and they are ready to go and it is cheap to make and we always tell people like look we aren’t going to give you a lot of money, we will give you enough to make it if it hits you will share a ton of the profits but you going to live and die by your work.
Or it is something that JAY DUPLASS and I have an idea about for instance like movies about THE ONE I LOVE or YOUR SISTER’S SISTER were movies that we kind of started off as a company and they were ideas that we had and we went and pitched them to a film maker and we said would you like to run with this idea you know we will produce it, one of us will be in it.
That’s another form that we work with but, to the point of that I think it is important that you try not to spend a lot of time taking meeting bull shiting about movies that you may eventually make one day, we try to spend a lot of time saying like do you have a dream movie that you can make for under a hundred thousand dollars that we can help you with that’s practical, like those are the kind of things we really respond to.
JAY DUPLASS: I think that answers the question because everyone is constantly asked us how do we do all the stuff that we do, part of it is that we just don’t socialize ever, that’s something we just have young kid we given that up for the time being.
MARK DUPLASS: Part of it is we are handsome too, you know we are pretty fucking cool, we are incredible, you that move the Incredible that was written about us, have you seen that?
AARON: I have always admired your humility.
JAY DUPLASS: But the idea that if you know anything about Hollywood you know at most like one and twenty that are being considered get maid and for us it is like 19 of the 20 movies get made so we really don’t take anything on unless it is like very obvious to us and personal and it is just like, I don’t know we need it to really matter and mean something on so many levels for us to take it on.
We also have like develop models like even from the very beginning after we did our first movie the PUPPY CHAIR we are going to make BAG HEAD and we were talking about it in the studios about making BAG HEAD big but, we kind of figure this thing out that maid it okay for us to be pitching the movie and to not like die if like people wouldn’t green light it or whatever.
We realize we can make the movie for fifty thousand dollars in Austin if people didn’t want to do it our way and being too difficult and reject it and so or whatever it would be and so we kind of went into these pitch meetings with this idea that like, we are making this movie in August in Austin.
It’s happening if you would like to be a part of it and give us a lot of money that would be great but if not we are still making the movie and that’s what ended up happening, you know we made it for little more than fifty thousand dollars, we have been making some money writing movies and we sold it for a hell of a lot more at Sundance and so we constantly employed that tactic that this movie is going to get made and we often think of lots of levels that it could exist at but it almost always happens at that bottom level and that has turned out to be a great thing actually.
AARON: One more follow up and then I want to turn it over to you guys for questions, you know you mentioned Hollywood and then you guys live in Los Angeles and like what you doing is so antithetical to how Hollywood works I mean even as all these models have just kind of busted in the post internet whatever age, do you guys feel like I mean even you have done studio work before do you feel like outsiders in Los Angles, do you feel you are bucking the system from within.
MARK DUPLASS: We don’t feel necessarily that we are you know diametrically opposed to Hollywood as a whole, we definitely sort of have one foot in the system and one foot out the system and I think that you know there is a healthy way to sort of approach making stuff when you are at like our level which I would describe as like, nobody is going to give us a hundred million dollars to make a movie and just let us do whatever we want to do.
We are not that they might give us a smaller amount of money and give us some creative autonomy that’s cool but our whole approach is always been we will never make a movie for more money than we think that we can make it back even if the movie ends up being not great, that’s like the key for us it’s like mitigate your risk.
So it is like even if we totally fuck this movie up and it sucks just because this person is in it and the script is about this and this genre at least we will make that money back and there is an immense creative freedom when you walk into a project thinking like even if we shift the bed w are going to be okay and it frees you up to just go nuts a little bit and that has been a real key to our process and it is the way that we started because we had not connections and nobody was going to give us any money.
And then we got to the phase where everybody wants to give us money and we have this crazy realization we are like we have achieved the goal of like Hollywood would give us money to make our stuff and we look at each other and we are like it is kind of better if we do it on our own and that’s really what we continued to do.
AARON: Hey gang you want to ask the Duplass some questions? If you want to line up over the microphone there, I can see you with your white shirt there sir.
Q: I am one of the lightning bolts so you know deal with that anyway.
MARK DUPLASS: We can’t deal with it, next question.
Q: I live in Wellington New Zealand now and we are working on building a screen co opt and what you guys were talking about is like when you say you keep your budgets down low under a hundred grand, how you guys deal with keeping the crew and everybody certain level do you give the crew a back end as well to work at a lower level.
MARK DUPLASS: We have a lot of different models and not to bore the shit out of everybody with the semantics but the ethos is the lower you make, the lower budget you make the movie for the more equity you can afford to hand out to your cast and crew, so when we are making an independently funded movie everyone who shows up on our set whether it is the fourth PA has at least some equity stake in the movie and we like that family environment of doing things.
One model in particular that I can advice on a little bit which I think is good is any movie that you make under two hundred thousand dollars there is a necessary sag agreement that is you have to pay those actors at least a $100 a day there is a minimum there, so a lot of time when we are making movies at that budget level.
What we will do is we will pay everybody on set whether you are an actor a director a PA a caterer whatever, everybody makes a $100 a day so it is creative communism thing and then depending on what you bring to the movie and how much time you spend on the movie you get much bigger waited backend so for instance if you happen to have a movie star that comes into the movie you really have to have like give them some backend because they are doing that and your editor is going to spend 3 months versus your PA who is only there for three weeks should get more vice versa.
Q: And now would you guys would want to come to New Zealand and do some projects because that is kind of why we are here to bring.
JAY DUPLASS: Absolutely not.
MARK DUPLASS: I mean the way that JAY DUPLASS is joking but he is not joking, the way that we make stuff is so different from the way everybody makes stuff, like there are big movies that go to New Zealand and they save so much money by doing that.
For us as soon as we fly down our crew members we have already blown our budget so for us we kind of have to say around here.
Q: You guys stick with the same crew project after project or you willing to work with other crew over there.
MARK DUPLASS: How hard are you going to pitch us?
Q: Just a question anyway thank you guys for your time.
Q: Hi I was curious when you guys started realizing that it was like a partnership that you guys had rather than you both pursuing like your own tracks with film making.
JAY DUPLASS: I was about 7 MARK DUPLASS was about 4, I mean we genuinely have always been two brothers just trying to make something good and it took us a long time to make something good both movies and music and honestly I still feel like we are two brothers trying to make something good.
It is very, very hard to make a great movie or a great TV show, it takes every ounce of our being and that’s just how we kind of still see it we have to have titles now for studious and for union purposes but that’s just really how we see it.
MARK DUPLASS: Yea and I would say to that end I mean it is a very complex process needless to say working so closely with someone, you know and JAY DUPLASS and I have our own marriage with each other and our marriages with our wives and we are literally writing a book about the complexity of what it is like with us for the last 30 years but at the end of the day for us it is just feels very hard.
We know guys who put on their baseball hats and chew gum and just blaze through their directing movies with ultimate confidence and sometimes they make incredible movies doing that, we just don’t know how to do that we need people to lean on so it’s really not a question of whether we like it or not, we need it.
AARON: Before you go sir I just want to ask you know.
MARK DUPLASS: What you doing you hogging the whole thing.
AARON: Dude! You know you guys are like the only ones I have heard of like siblings who just I always hear you talk about you don’t really fight but I don’t think I ever heard you guys talk about how you guys work as far as, do you know of any like strengths or weakness that you have that automatically it just make sense while you guys are a team.
MARK DUPLASS: Yeah and these are variable things too they are not empirical you know we talk about this a lot of like for instance all togetherness where we write all the episodes we direct all the episodes I am in the show where JAY DUPLASS is prepping like crazy while I am acting like we are just exhausted and overwhelmed.
So we show up on set like an 8 a.m. call and we look at each other and within a few seconds we immediately know who has it today and who kind of doesn’t and that person tends to step forward a little bit and take the lead so they may be like doing more the marching orders and organizing with the cast and the other person kind of laying back and watching and something great happens.
Which is that leadership person is using his positive energy and you know and good sleep to make the thing move forward but the person laying back will catch all these things that the one with the marching orders won’t catch because he is just too busy and there is too much energy taking care of people.
So that little yeng and yang happens quite a bit and really over the years we have kind of developed the skills to be in either position depending on how fussy we are that day.
JAY DUPLASS: But in general I would say that MARK DUPLASS is better at getting stuff up and going like getting things moving and I am probably a little better at closing.
MARK DUPLASS: Yea like the runner who goes to the Olympics and runs the first lap really fast to pace everybody and then he starts sweating and crying and trails off that’s me around noon on set.
AARON: We now return to our regular schedule programming.
Q: Thanks guys, my question is on behalf of my wife who only has an interactive pass and can’t get into the film panel.
MARK DUPLASS: It is terrible, where is she?
A: She is sitting watching it simulcast down the lobby.
MARK DUPLASS: That’s awful, hi what’s her name?
A: It’s Dianna Dickenson from Demoing Iowa.
MARK DUPLASS: Dianna Dickenson from Demoing Iowa come on down.
Bring her in let’s see what she has won, so in 1998 she was a write for a start up called garden.com Doc Jemison Lisa Cliftsharples (22:49) she claims you made a documentary.
MARK DUPLASS: She is full of shit.
JAY DUPLASS: Lies.
MARK DUPLASS: Dianna do not come on down stay right where you are.
Q: So there is no documentary?
MARK DUPLASS: There is.
JAY DUPLASS: We make a documentary about gardening in 1998.
MARK DUPLASS: We were editors in Austin in the mid nineties this is how we kind of made our living we edit like all the cheap Indie movies we wouldn’t make money doing that then we would edit like corporate kids like we would edit at a church television show for a while and JAY DUPLASS secured us this amazing job for doing this documentary for gardening.com where they, I mean no offence Dianna grossly overpaid us.
JAY DUPLASS: In retrospect very under paid at the time.
MARK DUPLASS: At the time we were like this is more money than we have ever seen.
JAY DUPLASS: We are going to take all this money and make a terrible movie with it.
MARK DUPLASS: And that’s what we did we paid all our friends really well and then JAY DUPLASS and I walked away with sixty grand of profit or something and we said lets go make our dream feature film and we shot a movie called VINCE DELRIO about a runner from South Texas that was kind of model after Rocky and we edit it together and it was a steaming pile of shit.
JAY DUPLASS: I just want to reference though that like after a year of nonstop work on a featured documentary you and I both cleared sixty thousand dollars and thought we were like, we killed it.
MARK DUPLASS: And then we blew all that money and then we went back and made a $3 short film and that was the movie that got into Sundance and this is life so.
Q: So how does one get to view the documentary?
JAY DUPLASS: I have no idea.
MARK DUPLASS: You know what I think it exist on a beta tape at my parents house basement right now.
Q: I will give you my card.
MARK DUPLASS: Good fair enough.
Q: Hi there I was just wondering, how did you guys decided to originally cast yourselves in your movies and then you decided to keep casting yourselves as you create more movies.
MARK DUPLASS: Why do you ask?
A: Well I am just wondering, I just made a movie with my brother and so he acted and we are both kind of interest acting and directing at the same time so.
MARK DUPLASS: Do you think we maybe should have made a different choice or something I just want to know if there is something beneath the question that you want to talk to about.
A: Just like more involved in the creative process.
MARK DUPLASS: I understand it was functional at first.
JAY DUPLASS: I mean it started when our dad bought a Panasonic VHS camera with the separate VTR in 1981, I was older and I could work it and MARK DUPLASS would do whatever I say.
MARK DUPLASS: I was young dumb and full of com I was a hot leading man JAY DUPLASS put me in front of that camera and we never looked back bro.
JAY DUPLASS: I said show me the magic baby and he put on that karate gee inspired by that karate Kid one, kicked the cigarette out of the neighbours hand protected his house and finished off by lifting weights.
MARK DUPLASS: That’s a real movie by the way.
JAY DUPLASS: That’s a real movie.
MARK DUPLASS: I wish he was kidding.
JAY DUPLASS: Honestly is that simple that I started shooting MARK DUPLASS and that’s the first movie we got into Sundance a $3 short film on 311 West Mary in South Austin.
MARK DUPLASS: 311A it was a duplex.
JAY DUPLASS: 311A it was the bottom floor duplex and we got into Sundance and you know we just didn’t have the resources to hire the people and by the time we really started making featured films MARK DUPLASS was a dam good actor and I became a pretty good camera operator and that’s really where it was.
MARK DUPLASS: We were a fan of that approach just functionally as you getting started out because you know while you might have access to a great actor and can hire them great, but if you have access to someone who might that be that much of a better actor than you are as a film maker the added value of you being in it is that if the scene itself is not working you have the ability to improvise, shuck and drive move things around because you are probably the film maker screen writer director editor everything.
So having that autonomy under your control inside of the scene can be very helpful particularly like we didn’t know what we were doing enough in the early stage so JAY DUPLASS would like talk to me in the middle of the scene and like that’s not working that feels really spot on and expositional shake that around and try it a different way and it’s nice to just be your own tool on the side of it.
JAY DUPLASS: I mean we didn’t know what the fuck we were doing, so a lot of people think you don’t know what you doing, well just hire like the best DP I can get and the best actors I can get and we actually, that did not work for us and we have seen a lot of people go down that road and you just everyone had that experience where the DP is way above your pedigree and the guy is just like thinks that you are a doofus the whole time, you know and so we knew.
I guess subconsciously that we were going to have to figure this out along the way and having MARK DUPLASS be there and having MARK DUPLASS’s girlfriend Katie at the time be there and puffy chair who is like patient with us and could help allow us to find our way was a huge part of the process.
MARK DUPLASS: You don’t want to do that in front of Marisa Tome that won’t go well.
Q: What’s up MARK DUPLASS? My name is Calvin I am a film maker from Dallas.
JAY DUPLASS: What about me?
MARK DUPLASS: My brother is sitting right here dude.
A: Oh hey man, MARK DUPLASS JAY DUPLASS both of you guys.
MARK DUPLASS: Dude Aaron is sitting right here.
A: You just cut me off you didn’t give me time.
AARON: No offence.
MARK DUPLASS: There is a whole belly of people back here working their ass off for your.
A: Hello MARK DUPLASS JAY DUPLASS Aaron you didn’t let me finish, I am a film maker from Dallas and you talked earlier about you guys were at that point where you making a bunch of really shitty short films and then you eventually got to the point where people wanted to pay you for your ideas and then you expanded pass that, but I am at that point where I am making a bunch of shitty short films and I am trying to figure out.
JAY DUPLASS: God bless you for writing it.
Q: Like what’s the process to get to that next level because I mean.
JAY DUPLASS: Keep making shitty short films until one of them doesn’t suck one day that is it and don’t decide yourself whether you think they suck or not, let other people who are not your mom decide that for you because even when MARK DUPLASS and I made the first film look TINY HINT, it is the first film that we made that was really good.
Happen to be something that happened to me the day before we made it and we as brothers giggle about it, we were like cringed about it and then giggled about it privately, special things that we share our sense of humour, what is unique about us that was what made the breakthrough possible I think so just mining what is special about you and your friends and your love ones is certainly is going to be quicker leading you there.
I think it is hard for people to decide what they are going to be as an artist, I think when people have really strong ideas like we want to be the Coen brothers in the nineties and it didn’t work out. You know to decide that is it doesn’t really happen that’s when you side track yourself constantly, so just try tons of stuff make it really, really cheap and hopefully one day it won’t suck.
I was 29 years old when I made that first movie and I was about to lose my mind the reason why we made it I was like I got to move on and MARK DUPLASS was like no, we are going to make something today, come up with something.
I was like we don’t have a 16 millimetre film camera we don’t have a crew I was stuck in that mind set and MARK DUPLASS was like we have mom and dad’s video camera let us just shoot it so we just came up with the idea right then and there what we could create with the materials we had available.
MARK DUPLASS: I was very inspiring to JAY DUPLASS at the time and I had zero idea too which is the best part about that, I was like we are making a movie today, I was like you got to figure out what that is about because you are the older one you are smart.
JAY DUPLASS: See he is good at starting shit up.
MARK DUPLASS: You know in fairness I was here last year at South West South West and I gave this key note speech that was like an hour long very specifically walking through the minutia of the steps to go from nowhere making shitty short films and how to build like a little empire.
It ends up turning way more Tony Robins than I wanted it to be but it is very preachy and deductive if you want to see the process it is all in there it is all on you tube you can look it up.
Q: Sort of building on that last question I am film festival programmer and my question for you guys is, how do you tell somebody they made a shitty short film but not tell them that to quit, you know what I mean? like what is the best way to give really honest feed back to film maker about what you see in the work that is genuine and interesting and fresh and what isn’t working,
JAY DUPLASS: I mean I think you got to get personal you can’t do it in a one liner and an email or anything like that, I mean I just literally yesterday some kid that worked with us made a short film and it’s not good because it is real hard to make a good short film but it had the nugget of greatness in there.
So I just spent an hour with him and I watched the film with him and I basically just talked him through what I thought could make things better you know and shared as much of my cognition of like, you know because you have this very specific example now about how this could moved towards something else and he is going to reshoot it and he probably would have to reshoot that too as well.
And people are resistant to doing that because I think we all have this like myth that we are going to wake up and take a shit and a great movie is going to come out, there is like a weird myth about it.
MARK DUPLASS: It happened to me once actually.
JAY DUPLASS: It did, what movie is that?
MARK DUPLASS: It is on Netflix.
JAY DUPLASS: But yes I think it has to.
MARK DUPLASS: You are in a tough spot because you can’t respond to 3000 submissions obviously so.
JAY DUPLASS: You could just say keep going.
A: Thank you, keep going everybody.
Q: Hey JAY DUPLASS hey MARK DUPLASS, my name is Phard I hope you are, I wonder if you are talking about CREEP because that was one of my favourites that you have done.
MARK DUPLASS: The take a shit movie?
A: No, no that was my favourite my first movie I have watched of yours.
MARK DUPLASS: Glad you liked it thank you.
JAY DUPLASS: Just for your information you can’t take a shit and it turns into a movie it’s not possible.
MARK DUPLASS: I have only done it once so it is not. Yeah.
A: So I was going to ask, how much have you, I know you guys improvised a lot, how much of your comedy is actually written on a script and how much of it is improvised you know completely on the set.
MARK DUPLASS: Every movie we make is wildly different so CREEP was a 5 page outline that we started shooting with we shot for 6 days, the movie was terrible we then went back and we reshot like 70% of it that movie was terrible. So we reshot that movie over and over again and just a raw outline.
JAY DUPLASS: It is so easy you guys.
MARK DUPLASS: Yes so easy you know on a different kind of movie like CYRUS and JEFFALUS at home its 100% airtight full lock down script that is gone through the studio system and the development process, when we get on set we encourage our actors to loosen up the lines that they are saying but still stay within the narrative structure.
Here is where we are starting A, we are going to B to C to D so that improvisation is not going on rant is it actually staying well within the narrative confines of the scene, just trying to find ways for them to re say the lines so it can feel more natural and organic so that’s the kind of a swing of how things go, but every movie is different.
The movie we made The One I Love which has a lot of scenes and a lot of technical details was actually shuffleman (35:17) out line but it was a detailed 40 page outline, every script point was nailed down except for the dialogue so it varies.
A: Thank you guys so much.
Q: Hey there, you guys are amazing, I watched.
MARK DUPLASS: Great question please, thank you I just want to stop.
I watched the PUPPY CHAIR 3 times before I embarked upon a 7 days film making experience making a film from New York to Iowa for $3,000 and I just have to say that that film gave me the confidence to feel like that could actually happen making a film with my friends on that scale.
My question is getting to the point you have I mean you know you having a show like Togetherness on HBO have you found a away to harness and keep that kind of independent film making mentality that you are able to have making a film $3,000 with your friends at that level and what is it then like working with actors on the scale that you are now.
JAY DUPLASS: It’s definitely different when you making you know when you have $20m on your shoulders and you are making a movie, it is hard to have that unbridled freeness about it but you know we still hire a lot of our friends and MARK DUPLASS and I still two dudes making stuff, and we I think the short answer to that question is, the question that we always ask ourselves and have since the very beginning is what do you want to see next.
And that comes in the receiving phase writing shooting editing everything, even on big studio stuff if something doesn’t feel right we question it and that’s something that most people don’t do, it’s not comfortable to tell 75 people on your crew sorry guys we got to go for a walk because something is not right and we don’t know what it is.
This whole industry is built around this absoluteness of vision which is bull shit for us and for a lot of people and I think the Coen Brothers have absoluteness of vision they are unique in that way.
MARK DUPLASS: There are a lot of people that have absoluteness of vision it’s just that you really don’t want to see that vision.
JAY DUPLASS: So we have a very fluid way of creating things and that for us keeps it very fresh and real because we know we are not just going on set to execute what was written, we are trying to capture the most exciting version of that spirit and we encourage out actors to find that as well and if we are not capturing something special we will question it and we will re rig it and we will rewrite it.
We will throw wrench into the scene and that kind of keeps us fresh all the time and it is scary as shit to work that way too, but I think you know I don’t know that’s what we are obsessed with is realness and feeling like anything could happen you know that’s probably maybe what we were doing that’s somewhat unique is people feel that anything could happen in this moment and the truth is because that’s how our sets are anything really can happen and that’s the only way we know how to create that feeling. So when you living in that chaos it’s uncomfortable but it is definitely is new all the time.
MARK DUPLASS: And the only thing logistically I would add to that is there is some little tricks you can do on big budget sets to kind of make it flow more smoothly make it feel smaller like when you yell “cut” on a big set every department head rushes in to make sure that there particular interest in that scene is taken care of so that they don’t lose their job when the studio sees the dailies.
So you going to have people coming in to fix the flowers and fix the carpet and fix the actors hair even though she might be crying in the middle of a huge moment they are going to come in and do that unless you say nobody comes into this room unless we say it is okay and when the time is okay so we have a no running in the room policy.
We don’t yell “cut” between tapes a lot of times we just say hault and then it keeps everybody out of the room and everybody is quite respectful and then we reset everybody to make sure that the mood is right move things around so a lot of times we will run 5.6.7 takes in a row without cutting and that helps keep that flow together.
We try to use that big support team a lot in pre production to get thing rolling a head of time pre light as many rooms as possible so when we walk in it is ready to go but there are not there lightning in between takes and things like that, so there is a lot of little tricks you learn throughout the way to make it feel kind of intimate.
Q:I do have one quick follow up if I am allowed, with that freedom that you found how you work within your actors does that ever cause a problem in the editing room and do you guys work with two cameras a lot when it comes to shooting.
JAY DUPLASS: We almost always have two cameras sometimes we have 3 cameras and it would be a problem in the editing room if MARK DUPLASS and I were not totally obsessive about continuity and story, I mean we are building, if we are redoing a scene in the moment we are building it in our own heads and making sure that we have anything, in general.
MARK DUPLASS: We work as editors for a long time so our brains kind of work that way and we usually track it.
A: Thank you guys.
Q: Hi I am huge, huge fans of your work on both TOGETHERNESS and on your PERFORMANCE and Transparent and that’s amazing.
MARK DUPLASS: Thank you very much, next question.
Q: I mean I am also part of a sibling director team my sister and I work together and my question is how much of your own life and personal experiences do you bring into your work I guess particularly in TOGETHERNESS and also how do you kind of do that in a way where you are able to bring your own personal experience whether it is super specific but then also expanding it to just create this obviously fictional character.
MARK DUPLASS: Yes I mean obviously the two most deeply personal pieces of film making or TV that we made would be the PUPPYCHAIR and TOGETHERNESS I think. PUPPY CHAIR was very reflective of what we were going through in our twenties and being in the dating game and figuring out are we getting married or are we breaking up, what is this and the whole epidemic that seems to be happening to people in our age group and then TOGETHERNESS is very reflective of the soup of our lives and that sort of approaching forty phase of you are either parents and not married and you are locked into your life and you miss your freedom or you haven’t locked into your and you are like Jesus Christ how is this going to happen for me.
I am half way done and that being said a lot of the plot in TOGETHERNESS thank God we never had to deal with, so a lot of that stuff is sort of like made up on the plotting front but the ideas and the core of what that show is, which is we want to be so close to people and we want to be as close as we can and then as soon as we start to get too close we are like get me the fuck out of here I need my freedom and that is very much how we feel and how we live and that kind of colours the whole thing.
Q: Hey JAY DUPLASS and MARK DUPLASS, you guys have made a lot of stuff I don’t know if you realize that or not but you made a lot and lot of cool stuff.
MARK DUPLASS: I am going to check my MDB.
JAY DUPLASS: Again after you checked it 15 minutes ago.
Q: I am sure a lot of film makers here are juggling multiple project as well doing projects on their own with their friends and all that stuff, so I guess do you have any advice on how to prioritize those projects because I know you guys juggle a lot.
JAY DUPLASS: I think the biggest thing that we realize by running multiple projects is that it stopped us from getting too precious a big journey in like us becoming artist that you could just move through, a piece of art is like not being too brainy and precious about it we would over analyze things and get conceptive about things and the more than we can just force ourselves to just make stuff and go with our instincts has been better I think.
I always encourage people when they are writing play to please have another screen play so that you can cheat on the screen play with and it is always the case when you are working on your master piece and you doing this little side project it just seems really easy that’s the one.
The other one would be just this idea that would be annoying to all of your friends, so yea I mean I think having a lot of projects is great as long as you not like overwhelmed and you know that way you can also do what I was talking about before which is you can allow them to breath and have their own life and listen to your friends and listen to their notes when they give them to you like go let the ones lead that get the most traction not the one that you are necessarily most fixated on.
MARK DUPLASS: I would also say know yourself a little bit too not everybody is a multitasker you know and that doesn’t mean that you are not good at making stuff if you can’t do 4 things at a time. A lot of the film makers we work with are just very singular you know they have to have their thing.
If you find yourself being singular I would say try to give yourself a limit of making that singular thing something practical that can be made from a budgetary standpoint, something people miss a lot you know I am passionate about this, it is a period piece zombies on mars it is a $150 million movie and I just have to have write, I am like God bless you.
Write that movie that’s fine but find that beating heart of that story and what it is about and go write another one that cost twenty grand to make with that core theme because you will have a little easier time getting that made.
AARON: Can you think of any specific examples of an idea that was in one project of yours that ended up in another one.
MARK DUPLASS: I don’t know if it works so much that way, one thing is that it’s like this is embarrassing to admit but, like when we were setting about making the ONE I LOVE I was like I love Star Man so much, I love like how Jeff Bridges is like one person and then another person and there you are dealing with person who is the shadow that you love and maybe they are all that and maybe they are not that.
That movie is so expensive I am not going to be able to make anything like that, is there a smaller version I started thinking oh, what if it just a house movie where you got multiple versions and because that’s cheep to make and then we brought that to a film maker.
That was literally my pitch to Charlie McDowell I was like I love what Star Man was there are multiples in a house it’s got to be cheap it’s got to be romantic and kind of weird. Want to write it and he did.
Awesome thanks guys.
Q: Hey, I feel like I should have met anonymous inspiring film maker but.
MARK DUPLASS: You get out of here right now you.
I am interested in the way you engage with projects and you said you did 19 out of 20 maybe to ford with in some capacity and you guys obviously studied in relationships and personal relationship, my questions is more about dating and relationships. Is that how you approach relationship you know when you were dating I think the culture now is you go on a million shitty dates and don’t give anybody a chance.
I am curious the ratio of 95% moving forward should I be giving everybody more of a chance.
MARK DUPLASS: Just to be clear you would like to have sex on 95% of your dates.
A: I think sex is easy relationships aren’t.
MARK DUPLASS: I am kidding, we unfortunately don’t know anything about dating because we have been married for like 13/14 years.
JAY DUPLASS: I have had like 5 girlfriends and one of them is my wife.
MARK DUPLASS: I mean I love your question I love the thoughtfulness and the heart behind it, I have zero idea how to answer it for you unfortunately I wish I could be more helpful because you got a great spirit.
Q: Hi, so you guys talked about your background in music what are three songs that would be on your dream sound track money and right are no object.
MARK DUPLASS: The interesting thing is when you are doing a show for HBO rights to songs are a little bit cheaper because they don’t have to go into theatres so we actually realize that like we can kind of get big songs now and like one of the first ones we went to was Fleetwood Mack, that’s like a big band for us not only just because we just love the music and like grew up listening to it.
Like the weirdly polish vinyl back seats of our parents car growing up but the spirit of that band and how they needed each other so badly, despite the conflicts fight any of those 5 members could have led their own band and be good at it but they were like made the ultimate 5 person transformer and made the great band you know.
It always appeals to us and we always think about that when we are thinking about going off and making our solo projects, we are like people want what Fleetwood Mack dude do they don’t want weird Lindsay Buckingham solo record nobody gives a shit about that so that’s one for me.
JAY DUPLASS: Steven Nix did pretty good.
MARK DUPLASS: Steven Nix did alright, that’s a good point.
A: Holiday Road is a great song track song.
MARK DUPLASS: There you go.
JAY DUPLASS: Dam deep cut, I don’t know I am listening to Fleet Fox right now, but it is weird because a lot of time what you, similar to questions I have answered are that you get really obsessed with songs and you try and force a song into a movie and everyone watching and everyone is like what the fuck you doing man, this makes no sense whatsoever. We are not very bullish about jamming our stuff, and every once in a while it works out great but.
MARK DUPLASS: For instance while we were writing our script the (49:26) the doe dock of thealon, we listened to John Parr’s men in motion the theme song from St Elmo’s Fire over and over to inspire us on the sporting Montague/montage the song didn’t fit so well in the movie.
AARON: You guys don’t make music anymore.
MARK DUPLASS: Just around the house with our kids that’s what we do.
JAY DUPLASS: I thought I should say something about the relationship thing and I think you would probably get this from our stuff, but I think relationships are really hard and that’s the point that’s what I would like to say about that, okay.
Q: Would you both please share your most memorable moments from the last I guess the last 15 years or wherever your career as span.
MARK DUPLASS: Our most memorable moment from however long our career as spand, there is definitely some stuff. I remember specifically being in the Elmo draft house in 2005 with PUPPY CHAIR here and you know we grew up in Austin trying to get our short films in South West South West, we have so many rejection letters and we would go see some of our old favourite Indi films over and over again all around town at the Dobie and at the Alamo and that’s where we got our film education.
It was here and then we were sitting in that theatre we were just busy and stressed out because it was our first feature and we weren’t really thinking about the monumental nature of what was happening and the lights went down and then like our move came up on the screen.
It’s like I am sitting in the seat in which we watched Buffalo 66 in which we watched all of our favourite movies and our movie is playing on the screen, and it was very.
JAY DUPLASS: And a quarter of it was being projected on the ceiling.
MARK DUPLASS: That all part of it, that’s Indi cinema bro.
JAY DUPLASS: That was pretty good, mine was probably when we sat down at the library theatre at Sundance to watch PUPPY CHAIR screened the first time at Sundance, because that was truly, we never dreamed we would get a short film into Sundance much less a feature but we had exceeded all of our wildest dreams in that moment and the screening was like incredible well $15,000 move and there were four five twelve million dollar movies screening at that festival and it was a movie made you know with just family and friends.
And MARK DUPLASS said it’s probably never going to get better than this and he was right, it has gotten as good in different ways but it has never been better than that moment.
MARK DUPLASS: We have blazers but we don’t have our youth, its hard guys.
AARON: Unfortunately these two are going to be our last questions, don’t worry you are already standing there you good.
Q: Hi, my question is pretty much for every movie pitch you guys were saying we keep it cheap we make it quick that kind of thing and back to your Star Man point where you were like it’s going to be like Star Man but it’s this, has there ever been an idea that you guys have had kicked around for a long time and you never really had to sparse down but you still keep I guess seeking it out like you know your version of doomed kind of thing.
MARK DUPLASS: We do have ideas and they are not, we can’t get them because they are too expensive, we can’t get them because we are creatively not capable of cracking them so they. We have the document for over one hundred different movie ideas, so like this would be so great why can’t we figure out how to make this work.
We have so many of those little things and sometimes they come around and we mature as artist and figure them out, sometimes they come as sub plots in another movie, but yes we have so many ideas of things that we feel like God this would be so great if we just figure out how to crack it and we just not there yet.
JAY DUPLASS: We did have the script for Jeff Lewis at home for about 6 years before we made it and we knew that we could not afford it because of the bridge scene with children in the water and the car going down off the bridge and all that stuff and but instead of like pursuing it relentlessly and becoming fund raisers for 6 years.
We just let it sit on the shelf which turned out to be the best thing possible because 7 years later we had I guess whatever the approval to make the $10m movie and I would recommend that as well, don’t try to make a movie that is almost impossible for you to make where you are at because then you would become a fund raiser and not a film maker.
MARK DUPLASS: It’s a good point to bring up there is a misconception about it which JAY DUPLASS and I do, so many people they hear we make movies cheaply and they are like great, so here is my script and it’s like a $50m movie and I would love to make this for $15 million grand and like you guys do it you want to do it.
We are like you can’t take like that big movie and make it small you have to engineer a movie correctly to be made cheaply and on a small level and what we think is a terrible idea is taking that 30 day movie and try to jam it in 18 days that’s awful.
What we actually recommend is taking an 8 day movie and making it over the course of 11 so that you can should 8 to 10 hour days, have to breath to mess up let your crew get some sleep and you can drive them hard core and so we tried to have actually short but gently shoots that are 20% longer than you would normally do but it has been designed so small that you have that luxury.
AARON: Can I give you guys a pre be so you are self proclaimed shitty rocky ass movie.
MARK DUPLASS: Yes.
AARON: How about a create style reboot, that’s a baby.
MARK DUPLASS: No.
AARON: Last question that would be a good one.
Q: Lots of pressure, I don’t know if it is but MARK DUPLASS I first saw you on the league and I know you don’t really talked about it much so I was wondering if you could speak to how you got involved in that because it is so separate from the rest of your work which is more scribal but it actually took me awhile to connect you were the same.
MARK DUPLASS: It is kind of separate from what we do and it is kind of like a thing that I did that liked help me quite honestly like buy my house and take care of my family and I am really, really appreciative of it. let’s have another question that is about us, let’s do something different that includes all of us.
You don’t have to do that because you came up with the league but let’s do one more.
AARON: I want to make it one of you guys I have been enjoying enough up here.
MARK DUPLASS: And you done even have to get up to the mike you can throw your hand up.
AARON: What’s next for you two?
MARK DUPLASS: We are making a bunch of original movies for Netflix right now and we really like that company they are good to us they did PUPPY CHAIR with us a long time ago and then we are making a bunch of TV shows for HBO we have TOGETHERNESS there we have a show called AnimalWe just started airing that it is really fun it is a show that is made independently and something that we really interested in JAY DUPLASS has got in the middle of shooting Transparent right now and we mentioned that earlier we writing a book for the first time about kind of who we are what we have gone through which is great because we kind of don’t know what we are doing and kind of feel like a 13 year old kid picking up a guitar for the first time and just messing up all over the place and the learning curve is huge and that’s really I mean we are getting our asses handed to us but it’s really fun and inspiring.
JAY DUPLASS: In the immediate future we are trying not to puke from too much queso consumption.
MARK DUPLASS: Yes.
AARON: I know it’s like some of you are torn in some many directions but if you get a chance make sure you MARK DUPLASS down on your schedule Asperger’s Are Us and Rainbow Time, thanks so much for coming out.
MARK DUPLASS: Thank you guys thank you Aaron Ellis.
A look inside the creative process from today’s leading writers and directors. This week’s on story, a conversation with Jay Duplass Duplass, talent by the Quirky films, The Puffy Chair and the HBO series togetherness.
Jay Duplass: We all watch movies and I watch so many movies that I think it’s very easy to think that we can all make movies you know but the truth is like it’s an incredibly complex form and craft and art where you’re synthesizing a good story that is well told. And is told in a visual way and where it’s the people that you’re telling the story to are like two years away. That’s a weird thing.
In this episode. Jay Duplass Duplass discusses the challenges of bringing DIY Indie filmmaking to Hollywood.
Jay Duplass: The name New Orleans it was culturally bereft. You know just living in a little suburb, hanging out, making weird little art in our own way we had a kind of a hippie godmother who came and helped us like cook in the oven and makes weird stained glass and then in 1982 it was announced that cable was coming to our neighborhood. What is cable? Is the giant cable laid out on the front lawn or something. We didn’t know what it was so when all of our friends were into Empire Strikes Back. We were watching Hard hitting relationship dramas. With nudity and divorce like Kramer vs Kramer I’ve seen like seventeen times between 1982 and 1984. We didn’t really like the Star Wars movies that much. I mean they were kind of cool but that’s not what Mark Duplass and I were talking about. You know we were talking about the heavy hitting stuff. I mean we were watching and watching a lot of Woody Allen. Well you know I came here in 1991 and it was a magical time in film and Austin Slacker and everyone was talking about film and I was like you mean cable. You mean that thing on the front lawn. And I started to wake up a little bit to the fact that film is an art. Movies didn’t just get pumped in over a cable like human beings made movies very specifically Rick Linklater, I just probably my sophomore year I started taking a class and I started taking more classes and then I ended up. Almost getting another major in RTF and just I started writing and making films and you know we were cutting out. We’re making movies on sixteen millimeter and cutting them with razor blades super old school and you know in true form they were terrible. Early in film school I was trying to emulate the Coen brothers as was half of our film class. Honestly Mark Duplass would like come visit me from high school and I was in UT and I would make a movie and I put a minute and we just kept doing it and they were bad and every once in a while one of them would be so bad and we’d be like what was it so bad about that movie. And you know it really was more of just like feeling around in the dark process but I think all those influences are there always in you, in your try and you know we were always trying to make something that was like deep and funny.
You know if you’re a painter. No one really expects to like sell a painting for a decent amount of money until they’ve made like hundreds of paintings but everyone has this weird subconscious thing in their mind that they’re going to wake up one morning and just write something and then make it and it’s going to be the best thing ever. And I really feel like that just doesn’t happen. So, all this is just to say that I think it’s incredibly difficult thing to make something that doesn’t suck and it took me ten years of making things. I hadn’t made any thing great and I look back on my editing stuff too. And I was like I don’t really edited. I edited like two things that I was proud of. And I was just pushing thirty and getting that point where it’s like how much longer can I do this to myself and to my family and you know my brother said OK we’re going to make a movie today. And I said well how are we going to do that and he said I don’t care. We have mom and dad’s video camera. Low one chip mini DV and he said come up with something. And so my idea was OK this thing happen to me yesterday where I tried to like record the greeting of my answering machine. Yes it was an answering machine at the time. Press the button B. And I kept repeating it. I couldn’t get it right. I kept it up and I had a nervous breakdown. The whole areas right. And you know his eyes just wide and so big when I told him that story which is now the basis of how we create stories, we tell each other stories and when you don’t have to ask if he likes it or not, you see it. And he was just like that’s everything. I had a one button down shirt and some pants with pleats that I had used when I worked for the Kelly people and he went and got it and he looked at the back of the shirt and it was called the John Ashford shirt and that became his character name and he walked in the door and I filmed a twenty minute one take of him doing this and he was in a similar place to me and he tried to get it right and got it wrong.
This is four one six nine seven five four. I am sorry I missed your call But if you could
Jay Duplass: We submitted it to Sundance and the head of the festival called me a month later and said this is my favorite short that I’ve seen in a very very very long time. You know the next movie we made was Tiny bit bigger. It cost fifty bucks and it was involved Marc and his girlfriend in a kitchen that moved to a living room. We had one room and they were playing Scrabble and they ended up having a huge fight and that was the second short film that we got in Sundance.
Well we had made two short films that went to Sundance and we were terrified of making a feature because we had made a couple of really cheap features here in Austin in our mid twenty’s that didn’t work out and we were just terrified to get up again. But we knew that we were really good short filmmakers not because we thought it but because the whole world was telling us. So, we were like OK terrified of feature filmmaking but we were good at shorts. Why don’t we do this? Why don’t we make a feature film that’s basically like thirteen five minute shorts in a row and so that’s what we did and we used all the materials that we had available to us at the time. We had just moved to Brooklyn for dumb reasons basically because all the filmmakers in Sundance were in Brooklyn like we have to move to Brooklyn. I don’t know. So we just moved to Brooklyn apartment. Mark Duplass’s girlfriend Katie had was from a small town in Maine that was not only going to allow us to shoot there but would like beg us to shoot there and like can we come out and be extras in your movie for free and we’re like yeah that’s great. And Mark Duplass had a van for touring with his band at the time and those were the materials that we needed to make that movie that and a DVX100.
Like shoot Mark Duplass for like a few takes and feel like I got it and then I would turn around and maybe shoot Katie on The Puffy Chair for instance but the whole thing is we’re doing the scene from the very beginning to the very end. So if I need a bathroom portion that move in a thicket into the bedroom. I’ll wait in the bathroom for the beginning and once she leaves I’ll ride out into the bedroom and see what I can catch of that and it just kind of puts them in the mindset of like this is something that is happening. And their job is not to give it to the camera, their job is to like do something real and the camera and I think that there’s some special about that in retrospect. I mean the time it was just like this is the fastest way we can shoot this you know or this is the only way we can shoot this because we don’t have crew. But now I realize that it’s a revolutionary to the studio system of filmmaking because essentially in a studio system the actors are brought to the apparatus of the filmmaking apparatus which in a studio system is a massive massive apparatus with like tons of trucks and a percentage of like fifty to sixty to one hundred people and when you change that and you say OK the actors are first now and the filmmaking apparatus which in the case of Puffy Chairs like me and a boom operator is brought to the actors. There’s a feeling that is completely different and I think audiences feel that. I think I know now there’s not a lot of people who do smart comedy well, I mean there’s like crazy balls out comedy like Dumb and Dumber 2 and then there’s drama. But there is a pocket of really smart comedies that I don’t know there’s not a lot of them out there you know and I think people want that and studio heads really want that. So, that they were very interested and in their mind they were irrationally thinking if these guys look what they can do with fifteen thousand dollars. What if we gave him fifteen million dollars the movie would literally be like a thousand times better.
We started you know writing scripts for different people and we have been surprisingly successful in getting famous people to come into a room and bare everything in an audition realm which is rare and then we don’t really rehearse on set because I would say thirty percent of what is in our movies is a first take that is such a big surprise that no one could have predicted it and everyone in the room is like it’s alive.
Jay Duplass: Mark Duplass and I were just you know caveman, we would come out of the cave and grunt and move lights and people around and just like OK go you press the button. You know and then required we had a minimum, we got the crew down as small as we could to like sixty people but it was unionized and you know we had to explain to everyone over and over and over again what we were doing and it was very painful to us because our process is, you know we use a lot of improvisation and it’s all about discovery and trying to create an environment where like lightning can strike and then doesn’t really matter what that lightning looks like we will shape it up later and that is hard to do in the studio environment.
Togetherness came about in a really stupid way my brother’s on the state T.V. show called The League and he goes away for three or four months every fall and I was like I want to do something in the fall. So, like wrote this like pilot that I was going to shoot with my friend Steve this is who’s in Baghead. He’s my best friend that I was just going to have fun. Maybe acting or maybe just makes a web series or something and once it was written all of our friends were like No this is not a web series. Do yourself a favor pitch this to HBO and we pitched it and they loved it and it was the type of story that just could go on forever and ever. It’s about being forty and having kids and trying to make your dreams come true and how both of those things is almost impossible and how it’s like you’re this close to drowning in every second and I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I would say the main thing that’s different about this kind of T.V. in particular which is serial long form storytelling is that you are living in an open universe. You know and I’ve had, HBO has been amazing. It kind of helping me get go through that. It’s weird because when I pitched it to HBO they said yes but I know they didn’t want it to be about one character and three peripheral characters. They wanted to be about four characters that were equal and it. I couldn’t get my head around it because I’m a feature filmmaker and there’s so many things about feature filmmaking that it is Nate natural to the form so this is not a negative comment but there’s a lot of artifice that goes into feature film writing in particular like when you’re writing your first twenty pages everything that all the little nuggets you’re setting up, you’re literally already thinking about how you’re going to pay those off in like one hundred minutes which usually causes weird humane and emotional compromises. Hence,
I’m not speaking. I am gibberish but you know when you’re in a movie and you’re like yeah I can see where this is going. They’ve got to get together and you know the things have to happens, all the things have to go. TV doesn’t have that and that is incredibly powerful and I don’t think it’s just TV’s in everybody’s houses and home theaters that is making this kind of HBO storytelling so powerful. It has something to do with the fact it is an open universe. And I think what I’ve been learning is that you have to do your plotty payoffs in every episode but the big big emotional that’s going on with your characters just keeps expanding and growing and there’s something incredibly natural about it. That is so freeing that I was so excited about it. I can’t even deal with it right now because that’s one of the biggest things that Mark Duplass and I have had trouble with in our features is like finding that perfect sweet spot of how to give people the closure that they need but to keep it real. You know I mean like with Puffy Chair we didn’t really give people. Everyone wanted that couple to get together even though they were fighting their off the whole movie and when we showed it at Sundance. The premiere we didn’t think it was that big a deal because you know we were going through that at the time being in your mid twenty’s and trying to figure out if you’re going to get married or break up and either option seems totally viable. You’re out of your mind you know and the movie ended and they broke up and the movie went to Black. And a dude in the back of the audience went ‘NO’ in an angry way. As a person who makes a full blown living making movies and has been offered fifty million plus dollar movies. All it really is about is expressing the things that are inside of you and sharing them with other people. That’s really all that matters.
[You’ve been watching the conversation with Jay Duplass Duplass on On Story.]
[Next up filmmaker Ramin Serry and a short film Future Hero.]
Ramin: Future Hero is a tongue in cheek sci-fi comedy spoof of a few films. I got the idea from having a newborn baby and the new born baby is actually in the film, my son Henry and wanting to see what my baby would look like when he’s grown up because we’re stuck. You know with in the diapers stage and it felt like I was taking forever and I thought gosh I wish I could just fast forward in time and see what my baby’s going to be like as it grown up and then I thought well what if I see him as a grown up and he meets me and he doesn’t like me so much. It was important for me to tell the story because it was even though it’s a silly comedy it’s about fatherhood and family and it’s about a father and son working out their issues as they battle time traveling killer Android.
The first book I ever read about screenwriting. Syd Field is the forefather of the how-to for screenwriting. He cracked the code of the three-act structure and paved the way for all other screenwriting gurus that would follow. As far as I know, he created the terms like “turning points,” and “pinch”, and much of the language that screenwriters use to describe elements and devices used in their scripts. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)
Immortalized by the film Adaptation, McKee delves deeply into the components necessary for making a great script. I find his principles of “controlling idea” (which closely resembles Lagos Egri’s concept of “premise” in The Art of Dramatic Writing) and “gap between expectation and result” incredibly useful. I always turn to McKee’s teachings for guidance. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)
Vogler takes the workings of Joseph Campbell about myth and archetypes and breaks it down into easy to chew, bite-size portions. What makes Campbell so special? His writings about the universal appeal of mythological tales have inspired many other storytellers to create great pieces of work with timeless resonance — does George Lucas ring a bell? (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)
Seger’s book I found as a great companion piece to Syd Field’s Screenplay. What I particularly like from this book is her method of ramping up conflict by the use of “obstacles,” “compilations,” and “reversals.”
You can see echoes of all the other aforementioned writers in this book. What I like about Save The Cat is that it’s a stripped-down, fun read with a lot of helpful information. I especially appreciate Snyder’s Beat Sheet which shows with almost page number accuracy where to place those particular plot moments that help keep your story moving. Some might find it formulaic, but I think it functions very well and points to exactly the kind of scripts Hollywood has come to expect from writers. One of the best screenwriting books. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)
Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out on how to write a screenplay along comes this book to point out where you may have gotten it wrong. Despite the length of the title, it’s a quick read and VERY illuminating. As I skimmed through the examples of what not to do, I discovered what I was doing right, and most importantly what I was getting wrong. They say you learn from your mistakes, and reading this book sure helped to show how. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)
This book was a required textbook back when I was at film school. Some of the formatting suggestions may be a little outdated, especially if you have Final Draft or Movie Magic screenwriting software, but there’s still a ton of knowledge to be gained about proper formatting. The quickest way to spot a novice writer is by how unprofessional their script is formatted — this book shines a light on the Hollywood standard. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)
Not only do I dig this guy’s first name, but I found his book to be more current as far as the conventions of formatting. It covers a lot of ground with how to write a screenplay and everything else that goes with being a screenwriter and Filmtrepreneur, like how to register your script and how to write a query letter to literary agents. It’s a broad overview, but one of the most informative screenwriting books. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)
This is actually a book for the aspiring playwright, but most if not all the principles can apply to screenwriting. Egri gives examples of poorly constructed scenes and explains why they don’t work — then compares and contrasts against scenes that do. This is one of my favorite books, and one I strongly recommend. One of the best screenwriting books out there. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)
(FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)Have you ever wondered how successful writers do it? If you’ve reached this point on my top ten, I would say, “of course you do!” There are good work regimens and not so constructive methods. This book gives us a glimpse into how the top Hollywood writers work, how they fight writer’s block, as well as deal with the daily grind of writing. I found it very insightful and definitely worthwhile.
A must-read for any screenwriter. Tarantino…nuff said! These are our Top Ten Screenwriting Books You Need to Read. We hope they help you on your journey as a screenwriter. Remember just keep writing!
David R. Flores is a writer and artist (aka Sic Monkie) based in Los Angeles. He is the creator of the comic book series Dead Future King published by Alterna Comics and Golden Apple Books. Website: www.davidrflores.com & www.deadfutureking.com
Alex Ferrari 0:04
I'd like to welcome to the show, Robert McKee. How are you doing, Robert?
Robert McKee 0:08
Very well, very well. Thank you.
Alex Ferrari 0:10
Thank you so much for coming on the show. I am have been a fan of your work for quite some time. I've read your first two books, and I'm looking forward to reading your new one, which we'll talk about later character. But I was first introduced to your work in the film adaptation like so many. So many screenwriters and filmmakers were how, by the way, how, how was that whole process? I mean, it was a very odd request, I'm sure that you got when you got that call?
Robert McKee 0:40
Well, it certainly was, my phone rang one day and producer named Ed Saxon calling from New York and, and he said I am mightily embarrassed. This is a phone call I've dreaded. We've got this crazy screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and, and he has made you a character in his screenplay, and he has freely cribbed from your book and from your lectures, and he has no permission to do either. And, but we don't know what to do. So I said, well, send me a script, you know, I'll you know, see what's going on. So they sent me a script, and I read it. And I saw immediately that he really needed my character as a central to the film, because he wants me to, he wanted my character to represent the the imperatives of Hollywood. And that you have to do certain things certain ways, blah, blah, blah. And, you know, which is on one level nonsense. Such rules, they their principles, and there's genre convention, but anyway, but so I was a typical kind of need to slander Hollywood in favor of the artist. And, and they wanted me to do the slandering. So, but I realized that without my character there to provide some source of conflict. The story didn't work at all. So I said, and so I tell you what, I made two phone calls. I called William Goldman. And I said, Good, he was, you know, a student of mine. And I said, Bill, they there's a film and they want to use me as a character in it. What do you think? And he said, Don't do it. Don't do it. He said, it's Hollywood. And he said, they're out to get you don't do it. I said, Yeah, but I'm okay. But suppose I had casting rights. And he says, Okay, okay, who do you want? I said, Well, let's say Gene Hackman, is it? Okay. Okay. It'll be Gene Hackman, with a big pink bow around his neck. If they want to get you, Bob, they're gonna get you don't do it. So then I called my son. And I said, Paul, you know, and he said, do it. I said, Why isn't because Dad, it's a Hollywood film, you're gonna be a character in the Hollywood film. And he said, it'll be great. Do it. So I talked to Ed Sachs, and I said, Kenny, three things. One, I need a redeeming scene. I said, you know, you want to slander me fine. But then you can't leave it at that. You got he got to give me a redeeming scene. Right? To I have to have the controller the casting, I won't tell you exactly who to cast. But you got to give me a list because I ended need to know their philosophy. I mean, for all I knew this was the Danny DeVito Dan Ackroyd School of casting,
Alex Ferrari 4:28
you know, fair enough.
Robert McKee 4:31
I said, and very importantly, the third act sucks. And I cannot be a character in a bad movie. So we need meetings, they're going to have to be willing to rewrite. And, and those are my three conditions. And, and they agreed to them. And, and so they sent me a casting they gave me my redeeming scene and then they they they sent a list. Have the 10 best middle aged British actors alive? You know, everybody from Christopher Plummer to Alan Bates and I, and and I looked at the list. And I said, I want Brian Cox. And they said, Who's Brian Cox? And I said, He's the best British actor you don't know. Because Brian had been a student of mine up in Glasgow, and I'd seen him on stage in the West End of London and, and what I didn't want, see all those actors. They're all wonderful. But there's always actors have this Love me Love me thing, no matter what they want to be loved. And there's always this subtext like my heart's in the right place. And I really, you know, and I don't want to be loved. I really don't want to be respected, I want to be understood. And I want to inspire people and educate, but I do not want a bunch of people following me around like a guru. Right, loving me, right? And I knew that Brian would not do that. And, and then we had meetings and about the Act Three, and eventually got to a never got to a perfect accuracy. But it got to a point where I could sign off on so and it was, so they took my son to a screening at so at Sony and I said, you know, we think ball, and he said, Dad, he said, Brian Cox nailed you. Which I thought was great. So you know, and it was, it was, but that's not the, you know, I was I put myself in a funny date. So it's not just, but yeah, it was, um, it was a difficult choice. But I think William Goldman was wrong, that, you know, there was a way to you have your cake and eat it too. And I think an adaptation is loved. Oh, and millions and millions of people. So, so it certainly didn't hurt my brand.
Alex Ferrari 7:20
It didn't hurt your brand or business, I'd imagine. It's the term irony comes to play where you would be working with Charlie Kaufman, on a script, where your character is the establishment that he's trying to get away from and to give art but yet you are working with him to put the script together and finish the third act, which is amazing. Charlie,
Robert McKee 7:42
Charlie's one of those guys. He's got, you know, a great talent. But he's a bit delusional. What he wants to achieve is the commercial art movie. He wants it both ways. He wants to be known for making art movies, but they have to make money too. And a lot of it because he knows that, you know, his career. If he loses money, it's over. And so and, and so he wants to he wants to create the commercial art movie and a salsa dance understood, you know, things, the notion of the commercial art movie, you know, the, the, the English Patient and films like that. And I you know, in the meetings with a spike and and, and, Charlie, I, you know, I pointed out to Charlie, so you can't have it both ways. It's a you, you know, you if it's a true art movies have a very limited audience period. And art filmmakers understand this. And they budget accordingly. You want 30 million
Alex Ferrari 8:59
for an art film?
Robert McKee 9:03
Was 5 million we could, but Okay, so anyway, but it was. Yeah, the irony of it is wonderful.
Alex Ferrari 9:10
So, so you've worked with so many screenwriters and filmmakers over the course of your career, what is the biggest mistakes you see screenwriters, new screenwriters to the craft make?
Robert McKee 9:24
Well, it's not mistake so much. Yeah, I guess it is a mistake. But, uh, there's two problems. One is cliches. And they think that it that they want to be, you know, like an artist, they want to be original, but at the same time, they want. They want to be sure that it works. And so they recycle the things that everybody's always done. And they've tried to recycle them with it. difference and which is absolutely necessary, I mean, that's I get it, you're not going to reinvent the wheel, you have to just spin it yet another way. And, but then they get very easy once they sell their soul. It's hard to get it back. And, you know, you can pour on your soul for a while, but you've got to get the cash to get back. And, and so that's the war on cliches is not some, you know, it's not a fault, it's just a problem everybody faces. And, but there's a greater problem. And it's the willingness to lie. In an effort to tell their story to get it out, somehow they get it together. And they will write characters and scenes, and whatever that that lack credibility that they know perfectly well, in their heart of hearts is pure corn of some kind. And it's a it's, they're bending the truth. It's not it's, there's something false to some. And, and, and to, to, to get to something that is really profoundly honest. And it doesn't matter what the genre is, from action, to comedy. to, to a you know, as an education plan, something very interior doesn't matter what the genre is, there's truth, and then there's lie. And somehow they think that because it's fiction, that gives them a license to lie. But but they don't have that license, they have a an obligation to express the truth of what it is to be a human being and in whatever genre, they're they're writing, they have a, they have a an obligation, if they're writing comedy, to really stick a knife in some sacred cow and expose the bullshit of society. I mean, they, you know, it's not enough to be amusing. comedy is a is an angry art, that savages, all those things that, that that that are false in life, and starting with politics. Right. And, and so there's they, there's a willingness to, to fit and lie and in order to please that, okay, let me take a step back. I bulldozing cliches and truthfulness are all the byproduct of the young writer, especially the young writers desire to please they want to be loved, they want people to love what they do they want to please people. And so they write what they think, is pleasing for people, whether it's all the cards in fast and furious. Right, or the sentimentality or whatever they want to please people and and which is fine, but you can't please everybody and so you're going to write for a certain mind a certain audience a certain mentality and an educational level and taste and whatnot in a certain group of people that you know, are out there, they're like you pay and and you can't please everybody. And and so, a film like for example, Nomad land is certainly not trying to please there's an audience for it, that will get it and enjoy it and and recognize this as a deep truth about our society and about human nature.
But it's, it's not going to have a mass audience. And because it will turn off more people than it will turn out. And, but it's, it's a excellent film is an honest film. So that's the I think it's fishing around here. Because when you open the door and say, you know whether
Alex Ferrari 14:53
you're wrong, there's 1000s of things
Robert McKee 14:57
to bring up, but if I can do it down, it's that it's that the willingness to please results in recycling cliches, and basically not telling the the, the, the dark truth of things. And so you have to be it's tough, you have to be disciplined not to copy other people's success, but to, to write what you honestly believe to be the
errors in the central new genre.
And, and be rigorous about that.
Alex Ferrari 15:36
Now, one of the the hallmarks of a good story is conflict. How do you create conflict in a story?
Robert McKee 15:46
Well, depends on where you start. If you start with a choice of genre, let's say you're going to write a thriller. Right? You know, the source of conflict immediately by that choice. I need some kind of psychopathic villain. Right? I need Russell Crowe, in unhinged. Why? And so that's done for you. So that the genre sort of automatically tells you, right, on the other hand, if you're telling a family story, and that will be called domestic. Until the characters are a family and it's a family with problems, wow. The conflict could come from any direction. Who's with? Is it the mother? Is it the father? Is that rebellious children? Is it Whose is it? Some some, you know, older grandfather grandmother figure that's pulling people strings, and you know, whatever, given a family what's wrong with this family? And so you have to figure out what is it and is it social, or psychological? Is it instinctive is a deliberate you have to think your way through all that. And so you, you you start with a family and you create a little you know, a cast? And then and then you ask the question or what's wrong with this family. And a million different things can be wrong in human nature inside of a family. And that requires knowledge, you have to understand people, you have to understand that you know, the mother, daughter, mother, son, Father, daughter, Father, Son relationships, and, and you need to dig into your own experience. And ask yourself, you know, what was wrong in my family? What What do I believe, to be the truth about families? And, and, and that the genre doesn't give you that answer. And so, you have the answer will come from your depth of understanding of human nature, human relationships of a certain personal kind in this case. And, or if you're writing comedy, so as mentioned, the starting place of writing a comedy is to ask yourself what is pissing me off? What in this world is pissing me off? Is that relationships? Is it men women? Always it? Is that the is that the the the the social networks? Is it is it politics? Is it the military? Is it the church? Why what what is what what do I hate? What's pissing me off? Because the root of comedy is is anger. The comic mind is an angry idealist comic comics are idealists who want the world to be perfect or at least and when they look around the world they see where sorry, sick one place it is. And, and they realize that they're complicit, they're part of it too. And so what spacing me off then it points them in a direction to an institution or behavior in society. me like I think that great comedy series. Curb Your Enthusiasm. You know, and, and, and yes, you know, what is pissing me off and he will finds really egregious fault in, in, in people's lack of propriety. Or, or logic or clarity of thought, you know, why should there be a handicapped stall in toilets? Right that no one can use except the two times a year that a handicapped person comes into this particular toilet. Okay. Right. That is
Larry David, that is an egregious absurdity and it infuriates him. And so he goes into the handicap stall, and sure shit, this is the day
a guy in a wheelchair. So, um, so that, you know, that that's, those are the various things, you know, you, you look at yourself, as a writer, and you you have to understand your vision of life, you have to understand the genres. When you make a choice, there's certain conventions. And, and a, you can bend those conventions, what breaker if you want, but not without an awareness of what the audience expects. And so somehow, it'll between picking the setting and the cast, the genre, and then looking inside of yourself, like your comic wouldn't ask you what's pissing me off? You find your way. If I if you're in conflict, and the the most importantly, you know, it has it that you know that that conflict has to be something you deeply believe in. Now, or, or you will do what we were talking about earlier, you will fall prey to cliches because you'll you'll create false conflict, false antagonist empty, a cliched antagonisms. And like that. So it's a very important question. Now.
Alex Ferrari 22:28
So as far as one thing a lot of a lot of screenwriters try to get away from is structure, saying that structure and trying to fall into side of a structure is, it's like holding me back as an artist and I need to be free and I need to run free like a wild stallion, I personally find structure to be very freeing, because it gives me a place to go. How do you approach structure?
Robert McKee 22:55
Well, in this day, people have a course accused me of imposing structural rules in my teaching, and it's nonsense. When
I am opposed to structure, it's inhibiting my creativity do not know what the hell they're talking. They just don't they use the word structure. But they wouldn't understand or know story structure, if it fell from a height under their foot, okay, they just don't know what they're talking about. structure in every scene, ideally, is a turning point of some magnitude, the character's life, they go into a situation wanting something. And something in that moment, kind of prevents them from getting it. They struggle with that. And they either get what they want, or they don't get what they want. Or they get it at a price or they don't get it but learn something. Change takes place. And it's in a simple scene is minor. And then these changes per scene build sequences in which moderate deeper change wider change happens, these sequences build x in it. And then that climax is a major turning point that has greater depth or greater breadth or both have impact on a character's life. And so minor moderate major changes are building a story progressively to an absolute irreversible change at climax. Now, why would anyone object to what I just said? Why would anyone think that you can change Do concrete scenes in which nothing changes. And do that three scenes in a row and people will not be walking up. They come there, they come to the writer, they read a novel, kind of trying to have insight into life as to what forces in life positive and negative, bring about change outwardly or inwardly in characters lives. I mean, that's why we go to the storyteller. And so and so why would you not want change? Or why would you want repetitious change? Because the same change degree of change, that happens three times in a row, you know, we're bored. So because it's not giving us what we want, it's not giving us the insight that into character that we want. And so people who say they're opposed to structure don't understand what structure is it they don't understand, it's a dynamic and a progression of minor moderate major changes. And so I have no patience with that kind of ignorance. Hear the people who say that are the very naive, ignorant, really, people who think that if they just open up their imagination, emotion, picture will flow out of it.
Alex Ferrari 26:30
Robert McKee 26:32
And, and they are childish in that way. I mean, you open up your imagination and see what flows out, then you have to go to work on it. And you have to step back from every, every time you you know, or let me put you this way. What in truth is it to write? What is writing actually, like, as an experience, you open up your imagination, and you have an idea for a character or two or three, and you write a page, things happen? Action reaction dialog, that when you write a page, that takes 20 minutes, then what do you do? You read that page? And you could take it does this work? would he say that? Would she act like that? would this happen with it? Is there a better way to do this? And is this repetitious? Is there a hole does it make sense, you constantly critique what you've written, and you go back, and you rewrite it. And then you read it, again, you critique it again. And this goes on all day long. And so you go inside to create, you go outside to critique, you create, your critique you curate, and the quality of your critique that guides your rewriting is absolutely dependent on your understanding to make judgments, when you ask the question, does this work? You have to know what works and what doesn't work. And, and so that on one level, everything you do is structure. Its structured to have a character say x and another character respond with y that structure action reaction, that the person who said x did not expect to hear why
Alex Ferrari 28:36
right exit Exactly.
Robert McKee 28:39
And that structure that beat of act reaction and human behavior, that structure. So is I said, People say this, say it out of out of emit amateur understanding of what the creativity, what the act of writing really is.
Alex Ferrari 29:07
And I, whenever I've come up against that, when I say no, every you know, every movie has some sort of structure. Most movies, especially popular movies have structure. And your definition of structure is wonderful. They always throw out Pulp Fiction, and I'm like, no Pulp Fiction is an extremely structured film. Do you agree?
Robert McKee 29:28
Yeah. I've when I was we were talking about when I was when they were doing adaptation, and I was working with Charlie Kaufman. Charlie had exactly that attitude. I said, the third act doesn't work. We have to restructure it. And in the end is his face went into a panic mode. He didn't want you know, scared the hell out. He said, I know. I know that. It needs some, you know, just it'll come to me it was a clo and whatnot. And it's as easy as I don't write with structure. He said that I don't write with structure. I said, Charlie, would you like me to lay out the three act design of being john malkovich as because it's a three act, play, want to hear them, act 123. And, and he almost ran out of the room. He didn't want to hear it. He wants to live in the delusion that it somehow flows, and there is no structure. And when in fact, subconsciously, at least being john malkovich is a three activist
Alex Ferrari 30:48
is a great, it's
Robert McKee 30:50
a model, it's a model, BJ Mack is a model three act design. But it's but to the romantic like, Charlie, he doesn't want to hear it. Because he thinks that that's going to constipate his creativity. And I have to agree with it. If he wants to write out of this notion that it's all a flow. And if he is aware that there's a, that there's a design happening, it would, it would inhibit him. So it's because he's a good writer, he's very talented. So it would be better for him to live in that delusion, and let it all pour out. And then he goes back, and his taste guides the rewriting and so forth. And, and, and so if you're talented, like Charlie and, and the idea of structure is frightening, then you should listen to those feelings. And not think about structure and just, you know, do what you do, and hope it works.
Alex Ferrari 32:10
Very, very, very rare. But yeah, but and so for everyone listening, you have to understand that someone like Jeff Hoffman is writing. And as he's writing, he's subconsciously working within the three act structure, honestly, on a subconscious level. And even the great writers is like, Oh, I never even think about outlining or plotting, is because they have such a grasp of the craft, that it's already pre wired in them. It's like me building a house, I wouldn't even think twice about how to pour a foundation, or how to how to how to lay out the walls, because I've done it a million times. I don't have to sit there and think about it, it's just done. But that is rare, and it takes sometimes years to get to that place or you're a prodigy, which happens once in a generation or twice in a generation.
Robert McKee 32:57
And and you're absolutely right. That's very, very well put and, and in fact, it goes beyond that you have been watching the stories on screen you have been reading them in novels, you've been to the theater, that form form is a better word than structure that form of action, contradictory reaction and reaction to that and a giant dynamic of action reaction building to change that is so built into you as a as a reader as an audience member from I don't know two three years old. Mother read your little you know, bunny rabbit stories, right? Your bunny rabbit goes out and something happens that not happy for the bunny rabbit and then you know of bunny rabbits mother comes along and pictures things whatever it takes, I mean that that form is ingrained in you from from the earliest. And so you do know it?
Alex Ferrari 34:08
Without question. Now you do more dialogue is something that is you've wrote an entire book dedicated to dialogue. Obviously, your first book is story. But your second book is dialogue. What are the three functions of dialogue in your opinion?
Robert McKee 34:25
Well, there's many of them and certainly one of them is is the obvious one of exposition by various means. So for examples simple in writing dialogue, a character has a certain vocabulary so for example, you you've done construction on houses, right? Some sure I And so how many different kinds of nails Do you know? From spiked to tact of,
let's say 10? Yeah. Okay. Now most people may know, to me one nail on a screw, basically, that's all they know.
Okay. So if if in there, if a character in their dialogue uses the, the carpenters terminology. And even metaphorically, you know, call something a five, many nail, right? The fact that he knows the difference between a temporary nail and pipe and whatever it is, his exposition is it tells us something about the life of this character, by the very word, the names of things that that this character uses in their vocabulary helps us understand the whole life of this character. So if somebody grew up, you know, around boats, and they use nautical terminology, right? And so that they the language inside of the dialogue, all that just the vocabulary alone gives us exposition, it tells us who is this character? What's their life been like? Etc. Okay, then, at the same time, the characters talking about things that are happening, or have happened. And when somebody says, you know, you're not going to leave me again, we are to instantly know, that's it, she's already left them once, at least before
Alex Ferrari 36:46
it says it says volumes with one word.
Robert McKee 36:49
Yeah, there's no word again. But so we have an insight into what their life has been like, in this relationship. And so that's number one is is, is exposition. And number two is action. When people speak, what they say, is an action they take in order to get what they need and want in the moment, but underneath that is what they're really doing. And it's what in the subtext, the action they take in the subtext is what's driving the scene? So when somebody says, Well, I didn't expect that. Right? What they're really doing, perhaps, depending, right, is attacking, criticizing the other person for doing something that's completely inappropriate. What they say is, well, I didn't expect you to say that I didn't expect you to do that. I didn't expect that. But what that is, is a way of attacking another person for inappropriate behavior. And so it's right. And so and so the dialogue is the text by which people carry out actions. But underneath the dialog, is the true action. And it that's based on a common sense, understanding that people do not say out loud and do out what they're really thinking and feeling. They cannot, no matter how they try, if they're when they're, when they're pouring their heart out and confessing to the worst things they've ever done. There's still another layer, where they're actually begging for forgiveness, let's say, right? So by confessing, actually, you're begging for forgiveness or whatever it is. And so dialogue is the outer vehicle for interaction. And, and the great mistaken dialogue is writing the the interaction into the dialogue. stead of having somebody confess, did they beg Please forgive me, please forgive me, forgive me, forgive me. Right. And, and if somebody is actually begging, there's got to be another level of what they're really doing underneath the baking. And, and so you have to, you know, the writer has to think to that by begging. What that dialogue is actually a mask for manipulating that person. Do what you have to do, right. And so, exposition, action. Okay. And then, you know, just beauty. Just Just wonderful dialogue, in character, and all that, but but a way of creating a surface that is that it draws us. Because, you know, we just love to see scenes where characters speak really well. in there. And even though even if we're using just gangster talk, good gangs, your dog, it's right to talk to each other and that kind of rap and that kind of unite. Right? That's, that's a form of beauty. It's wonderful, you know, it's pleasurable, right. The dialogue ultimately ought to be pleasing, and in his sense of kind of verbal spectacle. And so that's just, you know, that just three off the top of my head functions, but there's is there's much more right and I, I like I'm sure like you, we all love. Wonderful, memorable quotable dialogue.
Alex Ferrari 41:24
Yeah, very much like it's so obviously Tarantino and Sorkin and Shane Black and these kind of screenwriters, their dialogue is just, it's poetic in the way that they write something, certainly is, certainly, and the genius of them is they're able to do the first two things you said, within that poetry, as opposed to just poetry for poetry sake,
Robert McKee 41:46
which is, you know, that is that just decorative. They all happens all at once. You know, you're getting exposition, see who these characters are, whatever actions or reactions are driving the scene, and it's a pleasure to listen to.
Alex Ferrari 42:03
Now, one thing I've noticed in years and even in my own writing descriptions, in a screenplay, a lot of screenwriters, when they starting out, they feel like it's a novel. So, they will write a very detailed description about a scene or about something, where from my understanding, over the years, less is more and it becomes more of a of an exercise in Haiku is than it is in the novel writing. Can you kind of talk a little bit about the importance of of compacting your description?
Robert McKee 42:37
Well, it does need to be economical. Of course. On the other hand, it has to be vivid,
Alex Ferrari 42:44
Robert McKee 42:46
And that's, you know, where does that balance strike you that the ambition is to project a film into the readers head. So that when they read their screenplay, they see a motion picture without camera directions without you know smash CUT TO for transitions and, you know, Dolly on and you know, and you know, pull focus, whatever nonsense, you got to use the language and description to create the effect of a motion picture, then you only use ideally, you only use the master shots, it you you only the the the shots, the angles, the setups, camera setups that are absolutely necessary. And no more you do not try to direct the film. And, and instead, you project a motion picture into the readers head. And, and, and so you need to it over, often in overriding and when, in fact, was not only overwritten, but it's not vivid. It's because writers rely on adjectives and adverbs. And what they need is to know the names of things. You know, he, he, he picks up what we're talking about before a big nail. Well, you know, big is an adjective. And so, put an image in the readers head, he picks up a spike. Spike is a vivid image. A he, he walks slowly across the room, will slowly is an adverb. Right? Right. And so you name the action of verb is the name of an action. He pads across the room he ambles, he strolls he saunters. He you know, Waltz's is an active verb without an adjective, adverb, concrete nouns without adjectives. And we see things and we see actions. And it becomes vivid. It reduces the word count. And, and here's here's something a good it's a good note for writers take your screenplay. And, and search the verb is or our urge is an are throughout your descriptions and eliminate every single one of them. know things are nothing is in a screenplay. Everything in a film is alive. And action. So you know, a name the thing. So a line like a big house, there, there is a big house on a hill.
And what's a big house a mansion or a state? a villa? What's a, you know, a hill, a mountain. At add and add and turn it into a villa sits just that verb sits is more active than is a big house sits with a spectacular with this spectacular view. And so easy, a big house up high with a great view. And it's an image and it's active, it sits sprawls across, whatever. And so active verbs concrete nouns, and and make us see a movie. And every writer finds every good writer finds their own personal way to do that. And Paddy Chayefsky wrote elaborate descriptions. Harold Pentre described, nothing, nothing. He would just go interior kitchen dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, describe nothing. And because his attitude was, we all know what a kitchen looks like. And they'll probably play it in the garage anyway. But if they mess if they mess with my beats of action reaction and you know, in dialogue, then they're in trouble. Okay, so every writer has to find their own way to accomplish the task of a vividly projecting emotion picture in the imagination, as you turn pages who make them see a movie.
Alex Ferrari 48:23
Now, your new book is called character. And I wanted to ask you a couple questions in regards to character because, arguably, I always like to ask the question, do you start with plot or you start with character I always say to people, you don't like Indiana Jones, his plots aren't nearly as memorable as Indiana Jones James Bond's plots aren't as memorable as James Bond. Like I don't you throw me the plot of thunder ball. I don't remember. I remember scenes, but I do remember James Bond. And that's what draws me back to his stories. So, can you talk a little bit about the difference between roles and character?
Robert McKee 48:58
Well, a role is a generic term. And so hero is a role villain is a role victim is a role. You know, sidekick is a roll. goon is a roll. shopkeeper his role in the role is as a position in a in a cast. as defined by its relationship to other characters, and or a profession. Like waiter, asked driver. And, and they're generic, they wrote something waiting to be filled by a character. And as a character comes into a story to fulfill a certain role but it's a it's a You know, it's it's a, it's a generic to that to that genre. And so if you have a family, the roles are mother, father, children guide, they're okay, those are roles, characters are our unique human beings, we inhabit those roles. And and there's a design of a cast, such that the protagonist, and the central character at role is the most complex character role. And they are they, they're, depending on the genre, they are the most dimensional character of all. And they are ideally, they, they are the center of good, there's a, there's a positive human quality, not every way certainly, but there's, there's some quality, within the complexity of that character, with which we recognize we empathize, we recognize a shared humanity, the character is then in orbit around that character that protagonists are less dimensional, but they can be dimensional as as well, then you go all the way out to the second third circles, where you have people only playing a role. cashier, restaurant cashier, okay. Now, even when you're writing a scene where your character goes up to the cashier in a restaurant, to pay a bill, and discovers that his credit card is cancelled, right, you have a clerk standing there, at the at the take, who takes the credit card and finds that it's, it's been rejected that clerk character, he be very useful to imagine that role, very specifically, what kind of human being, you know, is she or he, it because it does the, the way in which that clerk that roll says responds to your card is canceled. Your card didn't go through the, the, the way you write the words and gesture for that character gives her a trait. And so roles have traits and, and to make, even that moment, when there's a human being behind that, that trait. And so if she's sarcastic, if she's fed up with with the job itself or with with people whose cards never work, or she's sympathetic because her cards don't work.
Alex Ferrari 53:19
Robert McKee 53:21
so, even in a in a simple role like that, you try to write it with a as a specific trait in the way in which he deals with that moment. And it creates a character for an actor. And so the actor come in there and realize, Oh, this is an antagonistic clerk or this is a sympathetic cleric, or an indifferent or bored or falling asleep, or glancing at her watch constantly, she just wants to get out of here, whatever it is, you give her a trait. And that makes her a character, she sends the GM to life and it gives the actor something to hang their performance on. And so dimensions the protagonists, the most dimensional of all dimensions are contradictions within the nature of the girl. And so you populate that with in my book on character, I look at characters everybody from from Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey has an eight dimensional character, all the way up to Tony Soprano, as a 12 dimensional character Walter White, as a 16 dimensional character. And so and so the complexity of character today given long form television, especially, is at is becoming your astronomical And then you have to give all the, that every one of these dimensions if a character is, is kind and cruel, okay? Sometimes they're crying, sometimes they're cruel. Therefore, you're going to need a cast of characters where the protagonist, when they meet character a, they treat them kindly character B, they treat with, with a slap with cruelty and, and so you need to design a cast around each other characters. So that when, whenever any two characters meet, they bring out sides of their dimensionality or traits of behavior that no one else brings out of them. And so, every single character is designed that whenever they encounter any other character, they bring out each other's qualities in ways that no other character does. And, and when you have a, you know, when you have that kind of cast, where every single character services, every other character, and no redundancies every relationship is unique. every relationship develops a different aspect or a different dimension. Then you have a fascinating group of people that creates a world that the audience can really
Alex Ferrari 56:38
Robert McKee 56:39
dive into now, you know, when characters when and carrot one characters behave toward each other in the same way, no matter who it is. That, you know, that's it's a boring and do it's false. People do not treat other people, different people the same. Everybody behaves in a uniquely subtly but uniquely different way, depending upon the relationship. And it takes a lot of concentration and imagination in the writer to realize that every relationship brings out different sides of the character's nature.
Alex Ferrari 57:21
Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests. Robert, what are three screenplays every screenwriter should read? You see? I don't answer that question. Okay. For this reason, I don't want people to copy anybody. Okay, fair enough.
Robert McKee 57:46
And so if I say, you know, if I named my, you know, my favorites, like, say, trying to tell people you know, then run to study Chinatown and emulate it. And that's a mistake. The really important question to ask people is, what's your favorite genre? Because they should be writing the kind of films they love.
Alex Ferrari 58:15
It's a good point, what
Robert McKee 58:16
I love, what are my favorites may have nothing to do with their favorites. And so the first question is, you know, what do you love? What kind of movies do you go to see what kind of things do you read? What do you love? And then seek out those? And the second thing is that if I name favorites, and, and that they, you know, they're in their pieces of perfection. Okay. What does that teach the writer? They got a model of perfection. Great. Okay, that's important, you should understand you should have an ideal, what you're trying to achieve. But one of the ways to achieve it, is to study bad movies. break them down and ask yourself, why is this film so boring? Why can't I believe a word of it? Why does this fail? and break it down and study it? To answer what this What does it lack what went wrong, etc. Okay, and then rewrite it.
Alex Ferrari 59:37
Robert McKee 59:39
rewrite it. fix that broken film. Because that's what you're going to do as a writer. Your first draft is going to suck. And you're going to go in and try to fix your broken script. Try to bring it to life. Try to cut edited shape and rewrite it reinvented, you're going to read it over and over again, right? Having fixed broken films, not just one, but many, many, many take bad movies, studying them and make them make them work is practice for what you're going to have to do with your own screenplay. Because it's not going to work in the beginning, it's going to need a lot of work to work. And so having rewritten bad films to make them work is, is a real learning experience. And so I say, study good films are of your genre, so that you have a an ideal that you achieve, rewrite the bad ones to teach yourself how to fix broken work. And so, and that's a personal choice. I can't say what that should be for those people. For every one of them, loves whatever they love, which may or may not be what I love.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:00
Now, where can people find out more about you? And where can they purchase your new book character? Amazon? It's pretty much it is pretty much it nowadays, isn't it? It's pretty much it nowadays, isn't it? Amazon.
Robert McKee 1:01:17
bookstores, I'm sure are opening up. And if you know if you love bookstores, as I do, you know, you can go to a bookstore and get it. But the most direct way that will be there in your budget for the next morning. It's incredible what they do, what Amazon does, and bash, you know that the other other Barnes and Noble stew or whatever it is, but yeah, it's very simple. You just go to amazon.com. Right? Just write the word McKee. And comes story, dialogue, character, in hardcover, in an audio and in Kindle,
Alex Ferrari 1:02:05
and everything else? And then how can people read it? And how can people learn more about you what you offer?
Robert McKee 1:02:13
Ah, the go to make peace story.com. The key story.com will take you to our website. And we have a upcoming. We've been doing webinars now for a year and a half since the plague hit us. And they've been very successful, very, very pleased with it. And in July, we're doing a series on action. Nice on the action genre. And so these, these are every Tuesday, three Tuesday's in a row. And they're two hour events, hour and a half worth of lecture and a half hour of q&a. Then on Thursday, I I give an additional two hours of q&a.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:01
Robert McKee 1:03:03
And because I realized how important it is for people to get answers to things they're working on. So So Tuesdays and Thursdays for three weeks in a row. And there's you know, four hours of material each week. So and we will we will look at the action genre in depth with lots of illustrations and examples of an adage and I love giving these acts. webinars. And it's a favorite of mine. Actually,
Alex Ferrari 1:03:38
I love a good action movie is it's hard to come by nowadays. So I appreciate it. Robert, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to to my audience and I appreciate all the work that you have done over the years and help so many screenwriters as well. So thank you so much for everything you do.
Robert McKee 1:03:54
It was a lovely chat. Great chat. Nice talking to you.
When my team and I were making my first short filmBROKENwe really wanted to have functional and professional-looking guns for the project. Obviously, we weren’t going to use real guns and getting our hands on working prop guns was too cost prohibited. We also wanted to make sure that everyone on-set was safe and that was our main priority.
We knew we could create some bad ass muzzle flashes in visual effects but I wanted to have some realistic looking guns on-set, that had blowback, to enhance the VFX and ultimately make the gun fights to look real.
These Airsoft guns added so much realism to the film. The combination of practical blowback with high-end visual effects was a great combo.
When using Airsoft guns or any firearm prop on set you MUST assign someone to be responsible for all the weaponry. These guns might not be real but they can hurt people. By law if you use professional prop guns you need an armorer on-set at all times. Everyone on a film crew must act professionally even if you are using Airsoft weapons on a low-budget independen film.
The late actor Brandon Lee was infamously killed on-set of The Crow by a misfiring prop gun. (Brandon Lee Death)
Also please check your local state and city laws in regards to owning or using Airsoft guns. Always be careful, responsible and above all safe. Getting some cool shots in a indie film is not worth getting people hurt or worse.
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If I may quote one of my favorite Christmas films:
“You’ll shoot your eye out kid.” – A Christmas Story
It may be funny but it’s true. Have fun and be very careful. Good luck and happy filming.
A lot of the things that we used in BROKEN were done on a shoestring. One of the bigger things that we ended up having to use as far as props were concerned were the weapons and the guns that we decided to go with were airsoft weapons, airsoft weapons gave us the ability to have blowback as well as a realistic feel and look to them, the nine millimeter weapons that we used for a lot of the main characters and the 45, those things had an amazing amount of blowback, which looked very realistic. The shotgun was completely composited and, and, and plastic and metal weapon and the realism that that imparted on to, to the shoot was, you know, insert me it was irreplaceable, because we would never have been able to acquire weapons of either having a real professional there with real guns or some kind of a weapons Wrangler, that would have been able to give us the resources.
Plus from an insurance standpoint, there is no way that we could have afforded to have weapons that were blank firing or squibs going off or anything of that effect. That was just not something that we could have done logistically or financially. The weapons, the guns themselves that have blowback are powered by something called green gas. And what you basically do is the clip that’s normally filled with bullets or any kind of a projectile comes out of the bottom of the gun, you take it, you flip it upside down, and then you force the can nozzle into the top of the weapon. By doing that, you force the compressed green gas into the chamber, which is very, very cold. And it’s pretty, it’s pretty toxic as well.
So you don’t want to inhale it or anything like that. Once you put it back into the weapon, and you caulk it like you would a regular weapon, you have blowback, and it kind of also shot a bit of the cold air because the room was so hot, it’s shot a bit of that cold green gas would come up off the top and gave a great look as well for the the transitions that the vs VFX guys needed for, for the weapons to integrate the visual effects with the practical shooting of the weapon itself. You would think that the the level of these weapons would be expensive, they actually weren’t relatively, we found for a lot of the static shots that we use that we didn’t have to use actual working weapons, we bought weapons for as little as two or $3. apiece, the larger weapons and the weapons that actually had blowback were a little bit more costly, but they weren’t any more expensive than 20 to $30.
We were very fortunate to be able to locate them at the airsoft depot here in South Florida. And we recommend that you either go online or visit one of these locations if you’re going to use these weapons because they’re both safe. And as long as you don’t put a projectile in them. You have nothing to worry about. And just get somebody to be responsible for them and you know, make them completely responsible not anybody else. touch those guns and make sure they get anything else in there because you don’t want a liability problem on your hands.
If you want to be a screenwriter you have to read screenplays. There’s no better place to start than reading the masters of the craft. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) published this list of the top ten best screenplays ever written and I would have to agree.
My personal favorites on this list are Casablanca, Chinatown, and Annie Hall. Click on the links below and start reading. Happy Reading…then get to writing.
1.CASABLANCA Screenplay by Julius J. & Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch. Based on the play “Everybody Comes to Rick’s” by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison
Screenplay by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola.
Few directors are as high profile and equally controversial than Quentin Tarantino. The man is a lightning rod for criticism and praise. Make no mistake, there is no middle ground here—you either love his work or are physically repulsed by it. However, one objective fact remains: he is syllabus-grade essential when it comes to the wider discussion of cinema during its centennial. His impact on film has left a crater too big to ignore.
Having broken out into the mainstream during the heady days of indie film in the 1990’s, Tarantino has influenced an obscene number of aspiring filmmakers my age. 80% of student films I saw in school were shameless rip-offs of Tarantino’s style and work. I was even guilty of it myself, in some of my earlier college projects. Something about Tarantino– whether it’s his subject matter, style, or his own character– is luridly attractive. His energy is infectious, as is his unadulterated enthusiasm for films both good and bad. Despite going on to international fame and fortune, Tarantino is a man who never forgot his influences, to the point where the cinematic technique of “homage” is his calling card.
Why is this admittedly eccentric man so admired in prestigious film circles and high school film clubs alike? Objectively speaking, his pictures are pure pulp. Fetishizations of violence, drug-use, and sex. By some accounts even, trash. If you were to ask me, it’s none of those things that make him a role model. Tarantino represents filmmaking’s most fundamental ideal: the notion that anyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from, can make it in movies if they try hard enough. Any producer’s son can nepotism his way into the director’s chair, but for the scrawny teenager in Wyoming with a video camera in her hand and stars in her eyes, Tarantino is proof-positive that she could do it too.
Born in 1963 to separated parents in Knoxville, Tennessee, Tarantino grew up without privilege or the conventional nuclear sense of family. He was raised mostly by his mother, who moved him out near Long Beach, California when he was a toddler. He dropped out of high school before he was old enough to drive, choosing instead to pursue a career in acting. To support himself, he famously got a job as a clerk at the now-defunct Video Archives in Manhattan Beach, where he gained an extensive film education by watching as many movies as he could get his hands on, and cultivating an eclectic list of recommendations for his customers. He found himself enraptured by the fresh, dynamic styles of directors like Martin Scorsese, Sergio Leone, Brian DePalma, and Mario Bava, and he studied their films obsessively to see what made them tick.
This is noteworthy, because most directors traditionally gain their education via film school or working on professional shoots. Tarantino is the first mainstream instance of a director who learned his craft by simply studying films themselves. Before the dawn of the digital era, aspiring filmmakers had to have a lot of money to practice their trade—something Tarantino simply didn’t have as a menial retail employee. What he did have, however, was time, and he used it well by gaining an encyclopedic knowledge of the medium and making a few crucial connections.
When he was twenty four, Tarantino met his future producing partner, Lawrence Bender, at a party. Bender encouraged him to write a screenplay, which would become the basis for Tarantino’s first film: MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY (1987). While the film didn’t exactly prove to be a stepping stone to a directing career, and still remains officially unreleased, it served as a crucial crash course for the budding director.
MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY was intended to be a feature length film, but an unfortunate lab fire destroyed the final reel during editing. The only surviving elements run for roughly thirty minutes, and tell a slapdash story that only emphasizes the amateurish nature of the project. Set during a wild California night, MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY concerns Mickey Burnett (co-writer and co-producer Craig Hammann), whose birthday is the day of the story. His best friend, Clarence Pool (Tarantino himself), takes charge of the planning by buying the cake and hiring a call girl named Misty (Crystal Shaw) to… entertain his friend. Along the way, things go seriously awry and Clarence must scramble to save the evening.
At least, that’s what I took away from the story. It’s hard to know for sure when you’re missing more than half of the narrative. My first impression of the film is that it reads like a terrible student project, which is more or less what it is. It was filmed over the course of three years (1984-1987), all while Tarantino worked at Video Archives. The characters are thinly drawn, performances are wooden, the technical quality is questionable, and the editing is awkward and jarring. However, Tarantino’s ear for witty dialogue is immediately apparent. It sounds strange coming out of the mouths of untrained actors who don’t know how to channel its intricacies and cadences into music, but it’s there. The myriad pop culture references, the creative use of profanity, and the shout-outs to classic and obscure films are all staples of Tarantino’s dialogue, and it’s all there from the beginning. There is no filter between Tarantino and his characters—it all comes gushing forth like a fountain straight from the auteur himself.
In his twenty years plus of filmmaking experience, Tarantino has been well-documented as a self-indulgent director, oftentimes casting himself in minor roles. It’s telling then, that the very first frame of Tarantino’s very first film prominently features Tarantino himself. Sure, it might be a little narcissistic, but it makes sense when taken into context; his characters are cinematic projections of him, each one signifying one particular corner of his densely packed persona. Why not begin at the source?
His performance as Clarence Pool is vintage Tarantino, with an Elvis-styled bouffant, outlandish clothes, and an overbearing coke-high energy. It’s almost like the cinematic incarnation of Tarantino himself, albeit at his most trashy. He even goes so far as outright stating his foot fetish to Misty in one scene, a character trait we know all to well to be true of Tarantino in real life.
For a director who is noted for his visually dynamic style, the look of MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY is incredibly sedate. Of course, the film’s scratchy black and white, 16mm film look is to be expected given the low production budget. For a film where the camera never moves save for one circular dolly shot, an astounding four cinematographers are credited: Roger Avary, Scott Magill, Roberto Quezada, and Rand Vossler. Visually, it’s an unimpressive film that contains none of the man’s stylistic flourishes, but Tarantino’s rapid-fire wit more than adequately covers for the lack of panache. A distinct rockabilly aesthetic is employed throughout, from the costumes to the locations. It even applies to the music, which features various well-known surf rock, bar rock, and Johnny Cash cues.
Much has been made of Tarantino’s inspired music selections, and his eclectic choices have served as a calling card for his unique, daring style. Music is an indispensable part of Tarantino’s style, from its overt appearances over the soundtrack to certain recurring story elements like the K-Billy radio station (which makes its first appearance here). His signature use of off-kilter, counter-conventional music sees its first incarnation in MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY, where he employs a jaunty pop song during a violent fist fight.
Watching MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY, it’s clear that Tarantino’s films have always been unabashed manifestations of his personality and his influences. Tarantino’s storylines and characters exist in an alternate reality, where extreme violence and profanity are more commonplace. There are whole fan theories that draw lines between his films and connect them together into a coherent universe. For instance, there’s a moment in the film where Tarantino’s character, Clarence, calls somebody using the fake name Aldo Ray. Attentive listeners will note that a variation of the same name would show up over twenty years later in the incarnation of Brad Pitt’s Lt. Aldo Raine in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009). Further adding to the theory of Tarantino’s “universe” is the fact that MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY would go on to form the initial basis for his screenplay TRUE ROMANCE (which was later directed by the late Tony Scott). There’s even a kung-fu fight in MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY, which would become the genesis for his fascination with the martial art form over the course of his filmography.
It’s interesting to watch this film, as it bears every hallmark of the traditional “terrible amateur film”. It has none of the slick polish that Tarantino would be known for, but it makes sense given his inexperience and meager budget. Everybody’s first film is terrible. But Tarantino’s unstoppable personality barrels forth, setting the stage for the firestorm he’d create with his debut feature.
MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY didn’t lead to anything substantial, simply because it was never released. It’s a dynamic illustration of auteur theory at work, where the director’s personality shines through regardless of the resources or story. We can literally see Tarantino finding his sea legs, feeling it out as he goes along. The film is basically an artifact, but it’s much more than that: it’s both a humble introduction to a dynamic new voice in film, as well as a (very) rough preview of the radical shift in filmmaking attitudes that would come in the wake of Tarantino’s explosive arrival.
Even in high school I knew that no one else in the world of cinema could frame a shot like Kurosawa. This is why George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola all called Akira Kurosawa “The Master.”
Akira Kurosawa was born in Tokyo in 1910. Kurosawa began his career as an assistant director in the years just before the World War II. His most famous works include the Rashomon, a movie made in 1950 and which gave him a solid foundation in International cinema.
This internationally acclaimed film was followed by works like Seven Samurai, Yojimbo and Throne of Blood. These films were received well by international audience and Kurosawa was able to establish his position as an acclaimed filmmaker not only in the Japanese Cinema but worldwide regions where Japanese films were appreciated.
Later, Kurosawa had to go through a difficult phase of his career where he had trouble finding sufficient backing for his films. It was a difficult phase on a personal level as well since Kurosawa attempted suicide.
However, the Japanese director was able to boost his career one more time given his influence on a new and younger line of directors. After the rebooting of his career, Kurosawa made films like Kagemusha and Ran.
The emotion, the composition, the framing, and the camera movement was perfection in film after film after film throughout his over 50 years crafting films. I’ve studied almost everyone of his films I could get my hands on.
Some of Akira Kurosawa earlier work is still hard to come by unless you live in Japan, his home country. Though the great folks over at Criterion Collection have been adding Kurosawa’s titles to the collection for years now. They have, by far, the best transfers, picture and sound quality available.
The commentaries, behind the scenes and extras are invaluable. I taught myself a ton watching their collection.
Unknown to the common people, Japanese film industry is one of the oldest film industries across the world. The film industry of Japan has some vibrant and interesting history. There have been a number of Japanese films that left their mark on the film industry all around the world. The credit can be associated with great actors, directors and other film professionals who put their respective efforts to make the Japanese Cinema as we know it today.
In the following profile, we will be highlighting a very famous director and filmmaker of the Japanese Cinema, Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa played a very important role by making films that people still remember today.
How It All Began
Every great artist has to take their inspiration from someone and somewhere. Kurosawa was no different. Born 29 years before the Second World War began, the future filmmaker was taught in his early years about how he was a descendent of samurai. However, Kurosawa’s father was understanding of the fact they were born an era where it would be hard to ignore the western influence.
Therefore, Kurosawa had the opportunity of growing up watching films. One could say that this part of life must have been the inspiration to finally choose the career of being a director and filmmaker.
However, before Kurosawa had any interest in filmmaking, he was more into arts. He went to study at the Doshisha School of Western Painting to pursue this particular passion of his. Later, he submitted an essay application in order to work for the Photo Chemical Laboratories film studio in 1936. This application captured Kajiro Yamamoto.
Yamamoto was considered to be one of the most renowned directors of Japan at that time. Kurosawa was hired as an assistant to Yamamoto and he worked on 24 films during his time with the famous director. During his time as an assistant, Kurosawa learnt a lot and particularly gained knowledge about writing a quality script. We can safely assume that this was perhaps the boost he needed to become the director he became.
During the War
The Second World War lasted between 1939 and 1945, a time of great turbulence. However, Kurosawa took his inspiration from these years as well. After the well documented Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a novel named as Sanshiro Sugata was published by Tsuneo Tomita. Kurosawa was enthusiastically bought the novel in its publication day and completed the entire book in a single sitting.
He found the story intriguing enough to call the author immediately to secure film rights. Kurosawa was right to be quick about this because soon other directors were interested as well. However, Kurosawa was successful and the film based on the novel was his debut movie as a director. Although the final film was missing 18 minutes of footage due to problems with the censorship office, it was quite a commercial success.
During the years of war, Kurosawa met Yoko Yaguchi who was one of the actresses in his movie The Most Beautiful. They became close despite arguments and married in 1945. Yaguchi never resumed her acting career but remained married to the Japanese director until her death in 1985.
After finding much popularity on domestic level, Kurosawa would soon become praised on an international level as well. Rashomon did not only brought international acclaim to the director but is still remembered as one of the best films for its story telling method. Rashomon was a samurai murder story; a murder which was told from the perspective of four different characters.
This method is still considered as one of the most appreciated and innovative devices for telling a story. Following the international success of this movie, Kurosawa would go on to make some great films that strengthened his foundation in the international cinema.
Want to watch more short films by legendary filmmakers?
Our collection has short films by Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, the Coen Brothers, Chris Nolan, Tim Burton, Steven Spielberg & more.
Kurosawa opened his own production company in 1960. Using this new development in his career, he produced Yojimbo in 1961 which also went to become one his most acclaimed works. However, Kurosawa soon fell into bad times. The filmmaking industry was already suffering due to the negative impact of television and things became worse due to the economic depression in Japan.
Being forced by such circumstances, he had to look for work in Hollywood but his projects did not do well. Eventually, Kurosawa became surrounded by financial problems coupled with emotional exhaustion so intense that he attempted suicide. He recovered but was not interested in carrying on his journey as a director.
The Master of Masters
Kurosawa had no intention of moving his career any forward but he was approached by a Russian production company to make the film Dersu Uzala. The production of the movie put a lot of pressure on the director and it made his health worse but he did not give up. Soon, the previous efforts of Kurosawa paid off and his admirer George Lucas who is famous for Star Wars brought him in to produce Kagemusha.
Unknown to some people, Steven Spielberg is also a great admirer of Kurosawa and his works. They brought a movie called Dreams to the screen in 1990. The film itself did not do much wonders with the audience but both got an Oscar from the Academy Awards; especially recognising Kurosawa’s work.
The Final Years
In his final years as a director, Kurosawa did not produce films that were as epic as his earlier projects. He made Rhapsody in August in 1990 and another film Madadayo in 1993. Both films were only successful on an average level not matching the popularity of the films directed by Kurosawa in his peak years. It is unfortunate that an accident that happened during one of his own projects put a damper on his career.Kurosawa had to suffer a broken back when he fell during a project he was handling in 1995. The Japanese director suffered injuries so severe that he had to be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Obviously, he could no longer progress his career as a director
In the final three years of his life, Kurosawa’s health did not improve and took a rapid downhill journey. As his health became poor, he suffered a stroke in 1998. Kurosawa could not fight it this time and died at the age of 88.
One can’t deny the fact that Kurosawa had an epic start to his career. He got the chance to work with Yamamoto and did not waste his time as an assistant with him. Whatever skills Kurosawa learnt during that time were applied in his many successful projects and you can feel the influence of those skills clearly in the films.
Kurosawa was able to come up with some amazing projects during his career and films like Rashomon are still considered to be one of the best Japanese films. Despite the troubling times Kurosawa had to experience after he was forced to seek work in the Hollywood, he was considered to be the best directors of the Japanese film industry.
The film industry in Japan can’t deny that directors like him have helped achieve the status it has today in the world. The fact that Kurosawa was able to gain international acclaim for his work and an Oscar® as well speaks of the quality reflected in his work.
Furthermore, the influence of his work can be seen in the current industry as well. Many directors have found the quality of Kurosawa’s work undeniable and reproduced his projects. The existing and coming generation of directors can learn a lot from the works put forward by Kurosawa. The Japanese film industry will always remain thankful for Kurosawa’s work and it is very clear that his influence still remains very prominent in the West as well.
Besides the Oscar award, Kurosawa was awarded with several honors during his life to recognize his efforts including the Directors Guild of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992.
The Kurosawa Framing
Whether he’s framing his characters to look primitive, or simply disobeying the rule of third for added effect, Akira Kurosawa’s vision and masterful directing is what makes Rashômon the flawless film that it is today.
While the subject matter is intriguing, it would fall apart without the various styles of framing that Kurosawa employs throughout the film. In this video essay, I look at how and why he framed scenes the way he did. The aspect ratio is not an error or lack of high quality footage – it’s to best preserve Kurosawa’s framing in the way that he intended that audiences view it.
Akira Kurosawa – Composing Movement
Can movement tell a story? Sure, if you’re as gifted as Akira Kurosawa. More than any other filmmaker, he had an innate understanding of movement and how to capture it onscreen. Join me today in studying the master, possibly the greatest composer of motion in film history.
Always keep learning, always keep growing no matter what your age. Take at look at both these remarkable video essays below. Be ready to take notes. Love me some Kurosawa!
Your support will help MIT OpenCourseWare continue to offer high quality educational resources for free. To make a donation or view additional materials from hundreds of MIT courses, visit MIT OpenCourseWare at ocw.mit.edu. DAVID THORBURN Kurosawa’s Rashomon is a particularly dramatic example of a film that understands itself to have the kind of claim on its audience that the greatest art has always imagined itself to have on its audience.
So I want to begin by talking very briefly about what I call the moment of Rashomon. There’s a bit of confusion, or at least chronological confusion, or inconsistency in the principle that we end the course with a film that was made and shown internationally before the last two films that we’ve seen in our course. My reasons for that, as I partly explained in an earlier lecture, had to do with my desire to show a certain continuity amongst form of European cinema and the link between Jean Renoir, and the Italian neorealist, and the French nouvelle vague is so intimate that it seemed to me important to show you that progression in sequence. But if we had been going by strict chronological order, we would have introduced this Kurosawa film a bit earlier, because it was made in 1950, and in 1951, it won an important international prize, The Golden Lion, the highest prize available at the Venice Film Festival in 1951. And this had a seismic effect on movies around the world. The dramatic and powerful subject matter of Kurosawa’s film of course riveted attention. But even more than that, the freedom and imaginative energy of his stylistic innovations in the film had a profound impact on filmmakers around the world. And when the film was shown at Venice in 1951, another effect it had when it won the prize was to introduce Japanese cinema to a wider world.
It was the first significant Japanese film, Kurosawa, the first important Japanese director to gain a reputation outside of Japan itself. In fact, there are many film buffs, and especially specialists in Japanese film, who are somewhat resentful of Kurosawa’s eminence, even though no one denies that he is an eminent director, because there are other directors. The two I’ve listed under item in our outline are the most dramatic examples, Mizoguchi and Ozu, who are often thought to be his superior, even greater directors than Kurosawa. This is a debate of nuances. All three of these directors are major artists. But it is true, I think, and it is widely recognized that Kurosawa was the director who crossed that barrier more immediately, more dramatically than any other, and opened the world, not just to Japanese cinema, in some degree, but opened the world in some longer sense to Asian cinema more generally, that the so-called Western world, the European and American cinema universes had been fairly oblivious to Asian cinema and certainly to Japanese cinema prior to this.
And the appearance of Rashomon, its enormous impact in 1951, began to change that. So that what was demonstrated in moment when Rashomon won this reward, won The Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, was a reinforcement of a principle I’ve been discussing throughout the semester, the notion of film as an international medium, the notion that directors from different national cinemas were now being deeply influenced by directors from other nations, and that film itself was in some deep way, a global phenomenon, even an international form. And I think it was in the ‘s and early ‘s that this idea began to become more widely embraced by film goers in the United States and in Europe, but perhaps especially in the United States. And one mark of this, the emergence of cinema as a fully recognized independent art form. Obviously people had thought this, and many directors had achieved artistic distinction before this. But I’m talking about the public understanding of movies, the way people in different cultures actually recognized and thought about movies. It was as if this is the moment in which movies were understood to enter the museum in a certain way, to earn in a public sense, the status that more traditional art forms had had. And one of the explanations for why this would have been so, why it would have had such a powerful impact? Now, I think I mentioned last time that this insight was partial in the United States– especially, that is to say, in the 50’s and early 60’s, it began to dawn on movie critics and scholars of whom there were only a few at that time and then movie audiences that European films and Asian films, especially Japanese films, might have great artistic value. But it was a longer time before Americans began to realize that their own native forms of films had had a similar kind of authority.
So this moment, in the early 1950’s was a deeply significant one. Let’s remember historically what it represented in Europe and in the United States. It’s the moment of the emergence of Italian neorealism, which itself begins to establish a kind of very powerful claim on people’s attention. One irony of Rashomon’s success was that it was not very successful in Japan when it was released in. And the producer, the production company responsible for the film was very dubious about entering it in the competition, didn’t think it was a significant film, even though it transformed Kurosawa’s career because of the immense recognition it finally got. And Kurosawa himself recognized– he’d been making films for almost a decade before that, but Rashomon was his most ambitious film to that point, and it also incorporated more innovative strategy, visual strategies than any he had tried before.
It established him as an international director. And I mentioned the names of two other directors just from different traditions as a way of reminding you of another feature of this phenomenon, another reason, as I began to say earlier, for why this moment was such a significant one. And the term I use here is modernism, modernist cinema. Remember, one of the ways to understand this idea is to recognize that a great revolution in the arts had occurred at the turn of the twentieth century, the end of the 19th century, and at the turn of the 20th century. We’ve talked about this earlier. It’s the movement we call modernism. It’s the moment of Picasso. It’s the moment of James Joyce, and it was a kind of revolution in both visual art, literature, music took place in this period.
And what was among the characteristics of this modernist movement was a newly complicated and self-conscious attitude toward narrative itself, toward storytelling. So modernism in literature and in art involved, among other things if not a hostility or antagonism, at least a kind of skepticism about inherited traditional categories and ways of doing things. And one form this took in narrative was to dislocate or disorient the narrative line. Instead of telling a story in a chronological sequence, a lot of the great works of fiction of the modernist era, books by writers like Joseph Conrad, or Proust, the great French novelist who was so preoccupied by memory and human subjectivity, or the great German novelist, Thomas Mann, a number of other great figures that we could mention began to construct stories in which chronological order was profoundly disrupted. And they also began to create stories in which there were multiple narrators. And the effect of multiple narrators begins– even if you do nothing more than have multiple narrators, you begin to raise questions about the veracity, the truthfulness of any single perspective. And you will understand when you look at Rashomon why this movie embodies many of these same modernist principles.
But the point is that cinema, as a narrative form, lag behind these more traditional arts. And it really wasn’t until the 1950s, and partly because of films like Rashomon, that it began to be recognized that the movies too could embrace and embody the principles of modernism.
So one way to understand what happened in the 1950s is to recognize that directors like Kurosawa and Ingmar Bergman, the great Swedish director, and Fellini, the great Italian director, and the inheritor and expander of the neorealist tradition, going far beyond a narrow realism, that directors like that began to create films that in a formal sense, in a structural sense, and also in terms of their content had the kind of complexity, nuance, and skepticism, and even the philosophic self-awareness that was characteristic of high modernism at the turn of the 20th century. So it’s as if what was going on was the movies themselves were now asserting themselves as a modernist art. I don’t mean as a contemporary art. I’m referring specifically to the modernist movement, and to the dislocated, and much more demanding kinds of narrative strategies that are characteristic of the modernist movement. So Rashomon played a fundamental role in this sort of transformation of what we might call the cultural understanding of movies among ordinary people, as well as among scholars, critics, and other filmmakers.
I want to mention one other point. I’ll give you a kind of note to clarify some of what I’ve been implying, some of what I implied when I talked about Mizoguchi and Ozu as directors who were often even more highly regarded than Kurosawa. I’ll leave that to each individual film goer. All three directors are astonishing and remarkable. But it wouldn’t be appropriate to talk, even about this single film, Rashomon, without paying respects to those two great directors whose dates I’ve put on your outline. I won’t talk about individual films by these directors, but I urge you all to look them up, read about them in David Cook’s history of narrative film, and think about experimenting by extending your knowledge of Japanese cinema by trying films by these two remarkable directors. One of the things that’s characteristic of all three of these directors, of Kurosawa, even more fully of Mizoguchi and Ozu, Ozu most fundamentally of all, is that their films are marked by a kind of impulse toward stylization, toward fabular, fable-like equations that distinguish them in some ways from Western, from European, and American films.
And I think that one explanation for this has to do with the longer artistic traditions of Japanese society. Japanese film grows out of theatrical traditions, like kabuki theater, or Noh drama, N-O-H drama, both of which have profoundly stylized and fable like qualities. They’re anti-narrative, in some sense, and any of you who have ever had even a minimal experience with either of these two theatrical traditions will understand what I’m discussing. These are theaters of gesture and of very decisive, symbolic representation. What we would think of as sort of realistic characters or realistic stories are not a part of these very ancient traditions. These theatrical traditions go back hundreds, even thousands of years.
So there’s a tradition in Japan of a kind of stylized, of symbolic representation. And you’ll see, I think, how in Russia, how powerfully this principle operates in Rashomon. Even when film itself emerged in Japan in the silent era, it emerged in a slightly different way. And one of the most interesting features of silent film tradition in Japan was the appearance of a character who has no counterpart in Western cinema, a character called a benshi, B-E-N-S-H-I. Any of you heard of it? None. Well, he essentially was a narrator and explainer, and he stood next to the movies in a way and gave explanations. He said now, we will introduce the villain. Now, we will introduce– he was like a kind of intermediary, a narrator or a concierge who mediated between the audience and the text, who gave the audience information. Again in one sense, we might think of it as an anti-narrative tradition, as a tradition in which things are presented or spoken rather than literally acted out, and certainly one in which the details of a story are less important than its general outline.
So when we talk about stylization, one of the things we’re talking about is an impulse toward what we might think of as generalized argument instead of specific argument, an impulse to have one moment stand symbolically for many other moments, and what we might think of as a simplification or a distillation of reality into certain symbolic moments that are thought to be emblematic in certain ways, but don’t necessarily have a realistic feel. And you’ll see almost instantly when this film begins, there’s a kind of prologue. And then when the film makes a transition into the first sequence that takes place in the forest, you’ll begin to see what I mean when I say that the film seems to enter into a kind of symbolic realm in which your sense of reality is in some sense undermined, as if you’re entering into a dream or a symbolic space. Kurosawa, talking about that astonishing sequence at the beginning of Rashomon, said that camera’s complex movements and the movements of a character himself—everything is in motion in that remarkable opening sequence. Some people have called it the most visually poetic sequence in the history of movies.
Kurosawa called this moment a moment in which the camera was shown to be penetrating into a space where the heart loses its way, as if you’re penetrating into an ancestral space, into a space that’s dreamlike in fundamental ways. So the very opening of the film, or almost the very opening of the film establishes this kind of complexity. I don’t want to exactly call it an ambiguity, but this complexity about the nature of the reality that you’re watching. And this is even before the film proceeds to present essentially four different accounts of the same event, these four different accounts conflicting with each other in a variety of ways. So these abstracting, or symbolizing, or stylizing narrative and dramatic traditions lie behind and shape the movies in Japan, even movies like Kurosawa’s, which embrace the camera’s freedom in a way that’s much more characteristic of Western directors than of Eastern ones. Ozu, the second of the two directors I’ve listed on your outline, is especially famous for holding his camera almost stationary for a tremendously long time.
And in fact, he’s sometimes called a director who tries to create a zen aesthetic, because the camera is so quiet, and so stationary, and relatively inactive. It’s a style that lays tremendous emphasis on the nuances of facial expression and vocal tone. And both Mizoguchi and Ozu do, in some sense, have an even greater sense of stylization in many of their films than Kurosawa does. But I don’t want to oversimplify, because they are also capable of very great, realistic moments, and they have a moral realism that’s at least as powerful in their films as Kurosawa himself. Kurosawa’s career is a very remarkable one. And I wish I had time to talk about it in detail. Organizational structure of Japanese cinema was not unlike the structures that developed in Western societies in the United States or in France. There were essentially monopolies of not a small number, but a relatively larger number of film production companies operating at different levels of significance. So they were second rate, and then they were second level and third level production companies, as well. But all of them operated in a similar way.
The director was a more dominant than major figure in this system, and surrounding each director were a group of workers and a group of creative people, including usually performers who went with a director from film to film, as well as his technical people. They would often use the same people to write their music, and the same crew to work on the film– if they could succeed, get the same cinematographer. And Kurosawa’s– so Kurosawa’s group was called the Kurosawa gumi, G-U-M-I. It means the group, or cadre. The Kurosawa group worked on a series of films. I don’t mean it was always identical. There were changes, but it was a stable group unified especially by Kurosawa’s vision and supervision. And I’ve listed here a few of his most famous and fundamental films besides Rashomon. Ikiru, maybe his greatest film, a realistic film set in the modern world.
The title means to live, and it’s about a man who discovers that he has only a few months to live. And it stars the actor Takashi Shimura, who plays the woodcutter in Rashomon. The other actor that you’ll see in Rashomon that is one of Kurosawa’s favorites and appears again and again in Kurosawa’s films is the actor Toshiro Mifuni. Rashomon, he plays the bandit. You’ll see what a remarkable figure he is. So I’ve only listed a few of his films here, but among his most important, Rashomon, Ikiru, Seven Samurai– many people would say the greatest of all samurai movies, and probably the greatest of all Western movies, because it puts most American Westerns to shame. It’s influenced by American Westerns, as Kurosawa himself acknowledged. And it was itself, that film, made in 1954, remade as an American film some years later under the title, The Magnificent Seven. And it was so successful that a sequel was made, something like The Magnificent Seven Return. And in fact, one of the deep features of Kurosawa’s work is that many of his films have been remade by other directors, both American and European directors. Rashomon was made 14 years later, remade 14 years later, with Kurosawa given screenplay credit in a film directed by Martin Ritt in the United States called The Outrage. And it retells the story that’s at the heart of Kurosawa’s film. It starred Paul Newman among others, and Edward G. Robinson, among other significant American actors.
Throne of Blood I mentioned, because many people see it as the most successful of all adaptations of Shakespeare. It’s a Japanese kabuki-ized version of Macbeth starring Toshiro Mifune. And many people think of it as the greatest of all Shakespearean adaptations.
Yojimbo is a samurai film, a much more straightforward samurai film in many ways than Seven Samurai, also stars Mifune, and it has brilliant, brilliant sword fight sequences in it that anticipate the kind of thing that is now common in Asian cinema, but much less trivially done in Kurosawa’s than in many of these later films that merely seem to want to entertain us by their sword play and the physical grace of their actors, but don’t connect nearly so powerfully as Kurosawa’s films do to a profound and serious historical setting and story. Yojimbo was also made into an American movie called Last Man Standing, in 1966. I mentioned Kagemusha, only because it’s a later film, and many people admire it, because it shows that Kurosawa was working effectively, even in old age. He made another film in 1985, one of his final films called Ran, R-A-N, which is a remake of King Lear. And these two older films, later films, Kagamusha and Ran, show Kurosawa’s visual sense, visual imagination to great effect, but they feel stylized in the way that they’re– stylized may not be the right word. They feel abstract in a way that earlier, Kurosawa’s films do not. They are extraordinary spectacles, but they don’t have the same interest in character, the same focus on character that his earlier films, despite their stylisation, seem to do.
I’ve saved most of my time to talk about Rashomon itself, because it’s such a central and significant film. And I hope when you watch it, you’ll not be impatient, and especially that you watch for the ways in which from sequence to sequence, the visual style alters. It’s a very demanding film, in that sense. Let’s begin by talking a little bit about the problem of rape in cultural stories, because I think that one of the problems with responding fully to Rashomon is that we, especially in the Western world, are newly struggling with notions of gender identity and of the legacy of patriarchy that put us in a fraught and complex position in relation to stories like that of this film. And I want to confront it right in the beginning. As some of you may know, the story of Rashomon is the story of a rape. There are four different– a rape occurs at the center of the film, and there are four different accounts of what happened, of how the rape occurred. And the film is partly a meditation on what motives do the different tellers have for putting this particular spin on the story?
And part of what’s subtle and disturbing about the movie is that when the first testimony is given, it’s not fully clear yet to us that we should be skeptical of the testimony. And I think the first time– one of the people whose testimony we heard is the murderer himself, or the rapist himself, the Mifune character. He’s the first one to testify. And as he’s testifying, it begins to dawn on an attentive viewer that maybe his testimony is self-serving in certain ways, that there’s certain things he’s saying that maybe we shouldn’t fully accept. And then, when the next account comes, our sense of skepticism is reinforced and fortified. We begin to worry. And then the film itself reminds us of the fact that these tales are problematic, because the film’s structure is so interesting.
Roughly every minutes or so, I’ve timed most of them– a little less than minutes in some cases, a little longer than some–you’ll have an extended narrative sequence which will last about minutes. Usually it’s the testimony of one of the people appearing before the court. And then after that happens, the film sort of shifts into another mode. And the way you can tell is that it shifts back to the scene with which the film opens. All the way through the scene, it’s marked by this. The structure of the film is marked by this return to a scene at Rashomon gate, which I’ll explain in a moment. So one point that I’m trying to get to here is the idea that as we watched the film and we begin to weigh the accounts that different people give of this rape, many of us are likely to feel uneasy and disturbed, because one of the things that disturbs me in the film is the woman’s reaction to her rape. She feels terrible shame. It’s as if she felt– and there seems to be an impulse in the film that certainly some people have certainly gotten there. At least they perceive an impulse in the film or an impulse in the narrative to blame the victim. In some sense, what I’m suggesting is not that that response is inappropriate, but that it’s a little bit off key, off center, because if you recall the idea that the film is deeply stylized, and it’s set in an ancestral past, in a medieval Japan, in a moment of terrible social breakdown in which vestigial or ancestral attitudes towards sexuality and gender are being mobilized or awakened.
And if we understand it in that way, we can begin to recognize that our own discomfort with the subject matter is a discomfort that the film itself may even be aware of and may even be encouraging. And as you’re watching the film, watch how, in some sense, especially in one moment where the victim of rape makes an appeal to her husband right after– there’s a sequence where we see her embracing her husband and looking into his face. Now the problem is she’s giving this testimony, and there’s some reason. It’s after the fact, and there’s some reason to doubt what she’s saying, especially as the film goes on. Nonetheless, it’s a moment of great power. And that moment at least mobilizes sympathy for the victim of rape. That is very significant, because you hear so little of it elsewhere in the film. Not that the woman is treated badly, but she’s subjected to the same suspicions as the other central characters. But there’s a larger thing to think about, a larger way in which we can accommodate ourselves to the slight discomfort we might feel at turning a story of rape into a philosophic discourse as this film does. And here’s how we might do that.
Let me just remind you that stories about rape are at the heart of many cultures. How many of you have heard of the story of The Rape of Europa? It’s a Greek myth. None of you? In many ways, it’s the story of the foundation of Europe. Zeus disguised as a white bull, the great Greek god, the god of all gods. One of Zeus’s best habits or the most remarkable habits in these mythological stories is that when he gets a yen for a human female, he will disguise himself as a creature of the earth and go down and rape her. And he does this with Europa. The rape of Europa is a kind of symbolic story which later Europeans actually took as one of the founding tails of how Europe itself was founded. Can you think of another story in which Zeus was a rapist? How many of you know the story of Leda and the Swan, about which Yeats wrote such beautiful poems? Again, Zeus, the god of gods, disguises himself as a great spawn and swoops down on lead of this beautiful woman and rapes her in the guise of a swan. And there’s a brilliant, almost pornographically powerful poem by W. B. Yeats in which he describes this terrible moment of rape.
It’s one of the great poems of the Western world, and it’s about this rape. So what I’m reminding you of is that the misogyny, that you may sense there is a misogyny that’s embedded in culture. It’s a misogyny that’s embedded in all the stories that human beings tell, in many of the stories that human beings tell themselves about the world, about the relations of men and women, and often, especially about the foundations of society, so that this meditation on human frailty and human deceit focused on a rape from that perspective is one of many such stories. Not a unique object at all. And it seems to me that that’s one of the ways in which we can recognize that what Kurosawa is doing is part of a long, and complex, and in many ways, very disturbing habit of mind that many, many cultures share.
The title—“Rashomon” Western students are often puzzled by it It’s a reference to the name of the gate, but the word gate is complicated too, because it’s not an American gate that just opens and closes. It’s a great, massive entrance to the city of Kyoto in the southern part of Japan in the late 11th or early 20th century. It’s a period of complete disillusion and destructive poverty, political chaos. And the broken down condition of the gate, which you get long shots of, you see this massive structure. There’s a terrible rainstorm going on, under which certain people come to get shelter from the rain. And that is Rashomon gate. And it’s broken down condition symbolizes the broken down condition politically and socially of the society that is represented there. And again and again, the characters gathered beneath the gate to protect themselves from the weather and gauge in conversation about human nature. Are human beings innately evil? Do they always lie? Can we never trust them? And one of the characters who carry on this discourse is a priest who has an idealizing tendency, which another of the character is a commoner.
He’s called the commoner. He’s an ordinary man is constantly mocking and arguing against. It’s almost a kind of argument that reminds me in some ways of the argument between spirit and flesh in Cervante’s Don Quixote, in which Sancho Panza is constantly reminding the idealizing Quixote of the miserable actuality of the world. Look, when you get stabbed, you bleed. When you haven’t eaten, you’re hungry. The world is real in a way and miserable in some respects in a way that idealists don’t like. And so that’s a kind of argument that runs through these interludes as the film goes on.
So the title refers to the Rashomon Gate, and Rashomon Gate is itself a massive symbol for the breakdown of order for the miserable circumstances that individuals find themselves in. And one of the things you’ll see is that it’s chilly. It’s cold. It’s raining like mad, a tremendous torrent, a downpour incidentally created partly by fire trucks. In his autobiography, Kurosawa talks about how difficult it was to create this sense of an immense ongoing, almost a tsunami of rain, and he talked about the technical difficulties of doing so. Very impressive rain, the most impressive rainstorm in the history of movies, I think. So these people are gathered beneath the gate in order to protect themselves, and the gate’s symbolic significance is important.
We will notice that one of the things they do when they get cold is they go over to certain parts of the building. It’s a wooden structure already half broken down and in decay. And they’ll break off banisters or other pieces of wood, and break them up, and burn them up. And the implication is if things go on like this, pretty soon the whole gate will have been consumed by people who have tried to take shelter under it. So it’s a symbol of the breakdown of social order and of the society.
I’ve already mentioned the medium. The Japanese word is miko. And I mentioned it here, just because I wanted to be sure all of you understood what was going on there. The husband is dead when the testimony begins. He’s a samurai who was the husband of the rape victim. And as the story unfolds, you’ll get the basic facts, but even when the film is over, there are many fundamental things you won’t be able to have decided. And I think that’s certainly part of Kurosawa’s point. So the medium is just this clairvoyant type apparently real characters believed in and socially recognizable in late medieval Japan, a character who claims to have access to the words and beliefs of dead people. So the dead man testifies. And another way of reminding you that we’re looking at a very stylised, a story that isn’t in a narrow sense, realistic at all.
The visual style of a film is especially remarkable and astounding, in some ways. It’s almost as if each form of testimony has its own style. And you might want to watch the way in which Kurosawa builds his eclectic and dynamic way in which Kurosawa’s editing camerawork use of music combine to a kind of almost constant visual excitement. One of the most remarkable things about the film is how many sequences in it are without dialogue– extended, wordless sequences, truly entirely cinematic. The opening sequence– almost the opening sequence–the first extended sequence in a forest, which comes after the sort of introduction, which I’ve described earlier, is a magnificently clear example of that process. And one of the things that you may notice in that sequence especially is the way in which you become increasingly disoriented about the direction in which the woodcutter is going.
He’s apparently narrating the story, and his narration sort of segues into a visual experience, as happens again and again in the film. And the visual experience we have shows him going into the woods, walking, and then discovering first the woman’s hat, and then discovering other things, and discovering a body, and then running away in fear. And as he penetrates into the woods, one of the things that happens is the camera is always moving. And the camera becomes as interested in the forest itself, in this densely wooded forest and in the play of light and dark, because the sunlight comes through the wooded canopy in odd and profoundly visually powerful ways. You begin to have a sense that the camera is at least as interested in the woods and in the play of sunlight as it is in the motions of the woodcutter. And the whole sequence has a kind of profoundly lyrical, but also in some degree, disorienting sense that as Kurosawa said, you’re entering a space that’s dreamlike, that’s dangerous, a place where the heart will lose its way, as if you’re entering a symbolic space, not a realistic space–a stylized space in some deep way.
There are a couple of specific strategies that Kurosawa uses in the film to reinforce, I think, our sense that he’s engaging every element of his cinematic palate in order to create his effects. One thing he does, he violate certain rules, especially at the time where it would have been tremendously shocking to professional directors. One thing he does in the film was he points the camera at the sun, and he creates sun effects. That was a no-no. It was a sort of a rule that directors should never do that. Kurosawa does it. And you watch how he does it. It’s very powerful. It also has a disorienting effect, the effect of making us understand more deeply what it’s like to work our way through the incredible dense forest in which the crime occurs, as if the forest itself is a space so complex and so private, so cut off from the outer world that almost anything could happen there–a space of dream, a space of terror, a space of symbolic fable.
And there are a couple of other things I wanted to mention about the way his camera behaved. One is that Kurosawa uses here a device at certain points in the film, a very interesting device. The official name for it, the fancy name for it, the technical name for it is he makes what is called an axial cut, A-X-I-A-L. It’s really a form of a jump cut–that is to say, an abrupt edit which you’re not fully prepared for. A jump card, as you know, breaks the action in mid-stride, or in mid-action, and then jumps to something else in a way that’s slightly disorienting that eliminates. It’s elliptical. It eliminates connection or transitions. But the axial cut does this in a very dramatic way that also calls attention to the apparatus of the movies. The most dramatic places in which this occurs in the film are certain scenes in which you see the samurai husband tied up, sitting on the ground, tied up like this, kneeling on the ground. And the camera’s at some distance from him and moved toward him, but it doesn’t move toward him in a smooth trucking motion characteristic of most films. What it does is it moves forward, and it stops, and then it jumps. It moves forward. And what you feel is it leaps forward. And what’s happening, of course, is that he stops the cameras forward movement, moves it further, makes a cut.
So the effect is the camera moves– not that the camera’s jerky, but it’s as if it’s speeded up in some sense. We can feel that the camera is becoming elliptical. So say this fellow in the front is the person I’m focusing on. I’ll be here. You’ll see this shot. And then you’ll see this shot, and the effect is very abrupt. Watch how it happens. One effect, one consequence of this kind of a shot is that watching it, you can feel how mechanical it is. You begin to think to yourself well, how could that have been created? You’re aware of its mechanical qualities. That is to say, you become partly aware of the apparatus behind the making of the movie. It’s a moment of self-consciousness that other elements on the film also reinforce. So the visual style is profoundly eclectic and dynamic. I’ve mentioned the axial code in pointing the camera at the sun. Maybe I’ll mention one other device. One of the other technically intricate, and at the time, revolutionary thing that Kurosawa did was he violates what’s called the 180 degree rule. And the 180 degree rule essentially has to do with your sense of spatial orientation within the frame.
Essentially the 180 degree rule holds that if you’re showing characters moving in this direction, so you’re showing a character moving this way, you won’t suddenly, if you’re still going in the same direction, show him walking this way, because it disorients the viewer. In our film, in Rashomon, there are certain moments. There are hints of it in that opening sequence, that lyrical, first sequence in the forest that I mentioned in which you can see that the camera’s own movements complicate, and in some sense, confuse our sense of where the woodcutter is going. And it’s in that sequence and some other places in the film as well, where the 180 degree rule is violated. And the effect again is to disorient us, is to feel gee, I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. This guy doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going. What kind of a space is he in? Again, violating certain conventions of traditional filmmaking, in order to create new effect. And the consequence of these choices, the impact of these choices in 1951, when the film won its prize, was profound.
I want to say one other thing, another aspect of the film’s structure, which I’ve described him perfectly. And I apologize for being so tongue tied about it. But as I tried to describe earlier, the basic structure of the film becomes fairly clear. What happens is you get testimony. Then there are interruptions in which you– essentially, all four of the primary pieces of testimony takes place in the past. So what we have are flashbacks, but competing flashbacks. And at various points, the film returns to our scene of reign at Rashomon Gate in which the people under the gate, the three people under the gate– two of them are actually partial participants. The third, the commoner, is just a kind of listener to the story, although a profound commutator on it. The Sancho Panza type who says, look. The world is miserable. Why should you believe anyone? And the priest is constantly resisting him. Well when we return to these moments– so we return to Rashomon Gate several times, many times in the film. And every time we return to that spot, where are we? We’re in the present time of the film.
So one of the things the film does, it creates what I call a drama of the telling of the story in which the conversation that’s going on underneath Rashomon Gate is a kind of meta-commentary on the story that we’re watching. The characters inside the film comment on well, can we believe her? Is this credible? Why did she say this? And the effect of this metacommentary is to create essentially a separate story. What’s the separate story? It’s a philosophic topic. The topic is the telling of stories. In other words, this interruption creates a new kind of moral and thematic complexity in the film, something that’s characteristic of the great novels and fiction works I mentioned earlier in the lecture that appeared at the turn of the 20th century. Not is the principle of unreliable narration being introduced, and the principle of competing flashbacks being introduced, and the principle of dislocated chronology being introduced– all of those things are operating. But what is even more important about it is that these moments of conversation amongst those three characters at Rashomon Gate also constitute a kind of philosophic meditation on the nature of storytelling and the nature of truth. And they actually say oh, how can you believe a person? Or what is truth? How can we believe what anybody says?
So the film calls attention not only to the profound subjectivity of human responses and the profoundly unreliable nature of memory, but also the extent to which individuals themselves have reasons developing from their egos to distort and tell stories that are more flattering to themselves and so that by the time we come to the end of the film, it isn’t clear at all, when the film is over, whether there is a truth, whether there is any final truth that we can embrace. The issues are not finally resolved. But what is resolved for us is the idea that human reality is immensely complex, that human beings are endlessly deceitful, that the stories they tell about themselves and others may not be trustworthy. So in other words, the film opens out into a kind of philosophic profundity that’s partly a function of its structure. So it’s another example, one of the most remarkable examples that we’ve seen in our course, of what I call organic form, of a text whose structure helps us understand what it’s about and whose structure is part of what it means, whose structure is essential to its meaning.
We couldn’t imagine this film as a straightforward, chronological sequence. It wouldn’t be able to do what it does. So what I mean by the drama of the telling of the story is literally that. That is to say, there’s a second story, a second subject matter in these interludes–let’s call them interludes in these interruptions in which we return to the present time, get out of the past. And those interludes are an extended, philosophic, and moral conversation about human nature, about the nature of our human capacity to understand the world, and our capacity to talk about it, to narrate it accurately and fully. So this drama of the telling of the story, this drama of the screening, this drama of the making of the story is as important a dimension of the film as its actual story, as the actual story that it wants to tell.
I have two other points to make about this remarkable film, and I’ll be done. The first is that one of the things I think you’ll notice, as the story goes on, and as different people give different accounts of what happened is that the actual physical conflict between the two male characters, which one would expect to be grand and heroic, is almost always clownish and unheroic. We expect this great– he’s a samurai warrior, after all, and the man he’s doing battle with is a very famous or infamous bandit, criminal—so gifted a criminal that he’s famous. And one realizes in retrospect that when the criminal, the Toshiro Mifune character, gives his testimony. In the beginning, in the early part of the film, he’s exaggerating his own martial genius. Although we don’t fully realize that at first, but it becomes clearer and clearer to us as the film goes on that he has a motive to exaggerate his heroic stature, and his strength, and so forth. Not to mention, a motive to exaggerate and maybe to lie about the woman’s reaction to his forced attentions.
So all of that is an essential part of our understanding of what is at stake, I guess, when we think about the various subject that Rashomon gestures toward. So the clownish, unheroic behavior of these fighters is something to note, because there’s a deep skepticism in the film itself about all forms of human aggrandizement. There’s a skepticism that the film shares with the commoner who maybe is too negative about human nature, who thinks human beings are completely abject, and that this is the justification for the most selfish kind of behavior, because no one can behave well. I have hardly exhausted the film, but I hope I’ve said some things that will be valuable and useful to you on your first viewing.
But let me end by talking about the ending, because the ending of Rashomon presents us with a problem similar to the problem that we confronted in a film like The Last Laugh, Der Letzte Mann, in which there seems to be a kind of optimistic or reassuring ending to this film. The film has been very dark and rainy. And in fact, one of the ways you can tell that the film has changed registers is that the rain finally disappears. Well, as you’re watching the ending, which is quite explicit, even heavy handed about its attempt to return us to a sort of more hopeful view of mankind, you should ask yourself, does it deserve to be deleted? All through the 40’s, when Kurosawa was first learning his trade, he began to direct early in the 40’s. And he directed this film in 1950 is his first real masterwork. He’s become more and more confident and ambitious as a director during this period, but he hadn’t displayed his full capacities as a director until this point, most accounts of his career suggest. But during this period, in the 1940s, Kurosawa took up part of himself what he regarded as a social project, which was to try to help renovate Japan after the devastations of the war. And his films of the 40’s almost always try to suggest various forms various ways in which people could behave decently and heroically–if not heroically, at least decently in an effort to renovate and reconstitute a damaged society, a broken society.
One of the reasons that the breakdown of ancient Japan is so powerful in Rashomon, no question, is that Kurosawa and his cast believed that in some sense, there was a symbolic analogy to be made between conditions in Japan, actual Japan in the 1940s and early 50’s, and the broken, terrifying conditions of society in the 11th and 12th centuries in the past parable that the narrative is telling us. And this film continues that tradition. But I think many, many viewers, I among them, have the feeling that this is more wish fulfillment on Kurosawa’s part than reality. And one could say from an artistic standpoint then, one might conclude that it’s a weakness in the film. I think I might say that the film might be more powerful, more truthful to itself, that the ending that’s tacked on may undermine its deepest energies in disturbing ways.
So it’s another example in which commercial and social imperatives may be interfering with the artistic integrity of the text. But it’s significant, important to understand that this was a tendency that was present in Kurosawa’s work all the way through the 40’s, and that therefore, it’s a kind of expression of a moral sense that the director had that begins to become less powerful after Rashomon, although he remains a deeply moral director. So the ending is a question, and you might want to ask yourself how you would respond to the question of the relevance of the ending to the rest to the rest of the film.
Let me end with a reminder about maybe what is, in some ways, the most powerful aspect of what happens when you’re watching Rashomon. I’ve said that you feel that you’ve entered into if not a dream, into a kind of uniquely stylized space in which what happens resembles what happens in real life, but also distills what happens in real life, highlights it in a way that isn’t true of actuality. And I think you feel this mythic tendency all the way through the film. In a certain sense, one way of capturing what I’m saying is to say that there is a tension in the film between this impulse to be mythic, to tell a story that it understands to have a fable-like significance and its sense of the complexity and concreteness of actuality. That is to say, so there’s this wonderful, constant tension in the film between the enormous persuasiveness of the individual images that you see. But you sense also that you’re in a world that’s not totally real. So the tension I’m trying to get you to feel, you can feel it in the dialogue. But especially you can feel it in the visual images, in the visual texture of the film. You can feel a kind of tension between an impulse to mythologize, and to fable-ize, and an impulse to show the world in its deepest and most concrete elements, in its most authentic actuality.
And the tension between the two– gee, this is so real. Gee, this is so unreal. This is so fable-like, is part of the secret of the movie. And one way you can feel it with an immensely intense power is sometimes when you see the way the film deals with human flesh, there are certain scenes, for example, where a woman’s hand will be on a man’s body– talk about how you can be erotic without offending anyone. There’s a moment where you can see the woman’s fingers pressing into the man’s flesh. It’s an immensely erotic and powerfully concretizing moment. It reminds you of flesh. It reminds you of film’s power to capture actuality with a vividness that goes far beyond what words can ever do, the visual power of movie. And that’s what I mean when I say that there’s this constant tension in the film between the mythologizing tendencies of the story, and of Kurosawa’s imagination, and what we might call the breaking tendency, the concretizing tendency of the film medium, which has this capacity to register the gross, concrete reality of our experiences with a detail and a power that no other medium can.
Now this sense of tension between a story that wants to be a fable and a story that wants to persuade you of its concrete reality is part of what makes the film so memorable and so significant.
You can’t say indie film without saying, Robert Rodriguez. I’ve been a HUGE fan of how Robert Rodriguez makes his films for a long time. His legendary film “El Mariachi” was released when I was in high school and changed my life.
Since then he has gone on to make some amazing films like
Famously nicknamed as the “the one-man film crew” Robert Rodriguez is not only a talented producer, director, and film writer but also happens to serve as an editor, director of photography, Steadicam operator, camera operator, composer, production designer, sound editor and a visual effects supervisor making him a jack of all trades of the film making.
From the famous Spy Kids to Sin City renowned filmmaker Robert Rodriguez is acclaimed for his all-around method of production and appealing flamboyant style, these are the traits that only a few seasoned directors hope to achieve someday after spending decades of work but Robert Rodriguez proved with his first Bedhead a short film that he happens to possess the flair since day one.
Born in San Antonio, Texas, Rodriguez was born to Mexican-American parents Rebecca and Cecilio G. Rodriguez who were a nurse and a salesman respectively. Robert grew up in a big family of 10 siblings. Robert was interested in film from the young age of 11 when his father bought one of the first VCRs which came with a camera along with it.
While studying in St. Anthony High School Seminary in San Antonio, Robert was commissioned to videotape the football games of his school. His sister recalls that he was fired from the work because he had shot the game in a cinematic style and instead of shooting the whole game, he shot the ball sailing through the air and capturing the reactions of the parents. Robert met Carlos Gallardo in high school and together they shot both films and videos throughout their time at the high school and college too.
Robert Rodriguez attended the College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin where his love for cartooning blossomed. Not having high grades he could not get into the school’s film program. Robert created a daily comic strip which was titled Los Hooligans and most of the characters were based on his siblings especially one of his sisters, Maricarmen.
It ran for three years in the student newspaper The Daily Texan. As he was initially rejected from the film school, he taught himself basic directing and editing skills before taking a film program. He continued to make short films. Later on, he won numerous awards for his efforts and gradually was accepted into the film program at the university.
Robert Rodriguez shot action and horror short films on video and edited them on two VCRs. The fall of 1990 earned him a spot in a local film contest of the university’s film program.
There Robert Rodriguez made the award-winning 16 mm short Bedhead (1991). Bedhead starred his younger siblings. The film accounts for the amusing misadventures of a young girl named Rebecca and her quarrels with her rowdy older brother who sports incredibly tangled hair which she simply hates.
After getting telekinetic powers as aftereffects of a slight head injury, Rebecca vows to end David’s unruly bedhead. Another bump to the head makes her a straight-headed kid again she promises to never abuse her powers again though David remains dazed.
The traces of Robert Rodriguez’s signature style are eminent at this early stage with quick cuts, intense zooms, cartoonish sound effects and fast camera movements sprinkled with a sense of humor gave the short an air of cinematic skill and expertise. Bedhead was addressed for excellence in the Black Maria Film Festival. It was selected by Sally Berger who is a Film/Video Curator for the 20th anniversary of reviewing MoMA in 2006. With its success at numerous film festivals, Robert was able to fund his debut feature El Mariachiwhich was his first feature and portrayed his expertise as a filmmaker assisting him in landing a deal with Columbia Pictures.
El Mariachi (1993) was made on a very tight budget of only $ 7,000. Some of the money was raised by his friend Carlos Gallardo and some from his own participation in medical testing studies. Playing both on Spanish and American western themes, the movie is focused on a lone wandering musician who gets caught up in a mess with the bad guys after switching guitar cases with a hitman who happened to have a similar case to carry around his tools.
Rodriquez won the Audience Award for El Mariachi at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival. He has described his experiences of making this film in his book Rebel Without a Crew.
Robert’s second feature film was Desperado which was a sequel to El Mariachi. It starred Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek was introduced to the American audiences. Rodriquez teamed up with Quentin Tarantino of the vampire thriller From Dusk till Dawn (and also both co-producing the two sequels of it) and currently writes, directs, and produces the TV series for his very own cable network El Rey. Rodriquez has also worked with Kevin Williamson on the horror film, The Faculty.
The year 2001 brought Robert Rodriquez his first Hollywood hit Spy Kids, which went on to flourish into a movie franchise. A third mariachi film also surfaced in late 2003 named Once Upon a Time in Mexico which completed the Mexican Trilogy which is also called the Mariachi Trilogy. Formerly known asLos Hooligans, Robert also operates a production company which is named Troublemaker Studios.
In the year 2005, Rodriquez co-directed Sin City which was an adaptation of the Frank Miller comic books of the same name. A scene was guest directed by Quentin Tarantino. In 2004 while production, Rodriquez insisted upon Miller to be credited as the co-director because for him the visual style and technique of Miller’s comic art were as important to him as his own.
However, the Directors Guild of America did not permit it stating that only the legitimate teams could share the credit. This was a big deal to Robert Rodriguez and he chose to resign from the Directors Guild stating I did not want to be forced into making a compromise which he was not willing to make or set such an example that might hurt the guild later.
Rodriquez was forced to let go of his director’s seat in the John Carter of Marsfor Paramount Pictures by resigning from the guild. He had already signed and had been announced as the director and planned to start on it soon after being done with Sin City.
Sin City was not only a box office success but also a critical hit especially for the hyperviolent adaptation of the comic book which did not have much name recognition like the Spiderman or X-men. Robert has shown interest in the adaptation of all the Miller’s Sin City comic books.
In 2005, Robert Rodriquez released The Adventure of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D which was a superhero movie for the kids pretty much the same young audience for the Spy Kid series. Based on a story which was conceived by Robert’s 7-year-old son Racer, this film was liked but did not gain that much success grossing only $ 39 million at the box office.
Planet Terror was written and directed by Rodriquez as being part of the double bill release Grindhouse. Quentin Tarantino directed the other film of Grindhouse.
Apart from films, Robert Rodriquez also has a series of Ten Minute Film School segments on numerous of his DVD release which show aspiring filmmakers how to make good and profitable movies using affordable and feasible tactics.
Along with these, Robert Rodriguez created a series called The Ten Minute Cooking Schoolwhere he revealed he told his recipe for Puerco Pibil, the same food which was eaten by Johnny Depp in the film.
The popularity of this got him started on another Cooking School on the two-disc version of Sin City DVD where Robert Rodriguez taught the viewers to make Sin City Breakfast Tacos which was a dish he made for his crew and cast during the late-night shoots and editing sessions with the help of his grandmother’s tortilla recipe and various egg mixes for the fillings.
A strong supporter of digital filmmaking, he was introduced to this by George Lucas who personally invited him to use the digital cameras at Lucas’ headquarters.
At the 2010 Austin Film Festival, Robert Rodriquez was awarded his Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking Award.
A new sequel to Predator was announced which was to be produced by Rodriquez on April 23, 2009, which was based on the early drafts he had penned down after watching the original.
Robert had ideas for a planet-sized game preserve and different creatures that were used by the Predators to hunt down a group of abducted humans who are incredibly skilled. Acquiring quite positive reviews, the film did really well at the box office.
Robert also planned to produce the famous Fire and Ice, a 1983 film collaboration between Frank Frazetta a painter, and Ralph Bakshi, an animator. But the deal closed shortly after the death of Frazetta.
It was reported in the October of 2015 that Rodriquez is going to direct Battle Angel Alitawith James Cameron. It was also announced in November that he is directing the film 100 Years which will be releasing in 2017.
Hollywood in Austin
Robert Rodriguez has built himself a remarkable filmmaking paradise in Austin, TX. Don’t believe me watch the two videos in this post where he gives you a tour of Troublemaker Studios. He has since purchased an old airport and built sound stages, more post-production, office space, and everything you would need to make a film.
He has also done something that no other filmmaker has ever done before, he launched his own television network called “El Rey.”
In the over two-hour interview that Tim Ferriss had with Robert Rodriguez, he discusses not only his journey as a filmmaker but how he lives a creative life. This is why I wanted to share the interview with you.
Living a Creative Life
So many of us independent filmmakers forget why we got into the business and it’s to live a creative life. Make money yes, but do so by living a creative life. I found the interview fascinating and wanted to share it with the Indie Film Hustle Tribe. Take a listen at the top of the post.
Hope you enjoy it!
Finally, we can start. Welcome thank you all for coming. I know it’s late in the semester but we’ve got an embarrassment of riches here for us at the university. So, let me just take a moment and introduce Robert Rodriguez and begin with a blast from the past. So, twenty-two years ago, I attended an end of semester screening for all the R.T.F. students in this room. So, it was December and we had all the production classes were showing their films and their projects and. That was the world premiere of Robert Rodriguez’s ‘Bedhead’ okay and if you haven’t seen that film see it. it’s on the DVD. It’s just amazing nine-minute film that indicated to me that this guy is really, really talented and had a real way with actors who are his brothers and sisters and really captured something about childhood. So, you know, one thing led to another, within a year he had finished his first feature, El Mariachi, which he made while he was a student here, for less than seven thousand bucks and within months of finishing it, he had signed with I.M. Talent Agency and he had a contract with Columbia Pictures.
And went on and you know, I mean, just brought Spy Kids One, two, three, four, Sin City, Machete, you know the story, okay but I want to tell you a story which will indicate something about Robert Rodriguez as a person and It is a story of when he made the Faculty in 1998, he graciously allowed the Austin Film Society and I’m part of the Austin Film Society, to use it as the Paramount Theater premier, where we could raise money for the Texas Filmmaker Production fund. One of the things we do in Austin Film Society is raise money for Texas filmmakers and so, he graciously let us have a premiere of the Faculty and lots of people came and we made a lot of money to give back to films makers, independent filmmakers here in Texas. And so, we watched the film, the film is over, he comes up we do some Q. and A and then there was a door prize and everybody that came to that got a number ticket and the door prize was, he was giving away one of the cars from the Faculty and he just wanted to give it give it away and so, it came time to pick the winning ticket and he was about to do it and he stopped and he said, I really want this to go to somebody that really needs it, okay, so, he says, if any of you rich lawyers or doctors win it, I would appreciate you give it back, so I can give it to somebody who really, really wants it and really, really needs it and sure enough, okay, we got that car to, I think a single mom, right? who needed it in Georgetown, I think it was, who needed it to get to work and take her children to school and it was wonderful but just for him to say that, to even think that way about something that he was just giving away, I think, tells you something about his generosity and how he feels about the community that he’s part of and that carries on till today, okay and the reason he’s here is because, he wants to share this information with you, okay, a new way of thinking about Latino Images. It’s been quite a year for Robert Rodriguez, it began, 2012 has been a pretty good term so far, it began with El Mariachi, that film he made being entered into the National Film Registry, which is you know, conducted by the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress and the Librarian of Congress picks those films and they have to be culturally and statically and historically important, for the Library of Congress to say, this is a film we want to preserve and so, El Mariachi was picked for that honor, okay, and it’s a very great honor. But imagine, you know, a film he made when he was a junior here at the university. Later on in March, he announced that he was going to head up a new cable channel called El Rey, so, you can read it on his T. shirt and you know, just rethink programming, cable programming in general and Latino programming in particular and I think that’s what he wants to talk to us about. He’s also, he won the award, Arise Entrepreneurship award. He was asked to do the keynote address at the NALIP Conference, the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, about three weeks ago. So, I mean, he’s really had a terrific and busy year but in the midst of all of this good fortune and business and getting you know a channel off the ground, he wanted to come and talk to you and share his ideas with you. So, I’d like for you to give a warm welcome to Robert Rodriguez Rodriguez.
Is that your notes?
Robert Rodriguez: Yeah, see if it works
Charles: That’s some notes
Robert Rodriguez: I’ll only talk a little bit and then open it up to questions
Charles: Like you ask me some questions.
Robert Rodriguez: Okay, twenty years ago, I sat right there or there and I asked you questions.
Robert Rodriguez: So now, you can ask a question, see if I can answer them. I had this one question for you the day that had Charles dumped
Charles: Yeah it’s a good one
Robert Rodriguez: That was a good question.
Charles: Yeah and it was right. I’m telling my alley and I didn’t have the answer
Robert Rodriguez: I see if anybody here has the answer. If you don’t, it is okay, that took me twenty years to figure out the answer myself but, it’s a good one. We’re going to build up this
Charles: Come up if you want to come up, the whole table comes up. Yeah. If I can figure out how to do it.
Robert Rodriguez: Change the button
Charles: Yeah, just change the button. Table up.
Robert Rodriguez: So, how is everybody doing? I was here twenty years ago, it is so strange, so strange to be up here
Charles: On the other side of it.
Robert Rodriguez: I didn’t want to raise my hand, ever ask you a few questions and I think. Now I’m talking. I got some really cool things to share with you, is just Charles asked if I wanted to come talk to the class, I said Yeah. I actually have a lot to tell him, I’ve been on a world tour with this guy and traveling his ideas a lot. There something that happens when you’ve done twenty years of something, things kind of click. A friend mine knows projam and he said, you know, he talked to Eddy Bekam, at ten years they broke up and then at fifteen years he was doing solar project for them and then they hit twenty, they realized you know what? we’re not going to break up ever again and now I know who you are and there’s something about this year, this is twenty years since ElMariachi, that something kind of clicked as to, why I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing, what it all means and how can it affect people in the future and I was never thinking about any of this, I was just going, going, going, following my nose just in a matter of rush, but you end up doing things according to your ( he used to do that even when I was a student, forget about him)
Charles: He’s gotten used to it now, probably not
Robert Rodriguez: Yeah, I mean, it’s just, you just do what you do and somehow, it all clicks together. There is a great Steve Jobs speech where he says, you know, you connect the dots later in life, you go back and you go why did I do this? Why did I do that? Why did I make that choice and fail? or this won’t succeed and then later you can kind of connect it all together, I’m kind of at that stage, for me to connect some of these a lot of these dots together and I want to it share with you because, it’s pretty enlightening and it’s pretty exciting and it’s pretty revolutionary. So, for people. I want to tell you this because, you guys are the future. So, I’ve been travelling with these ideas around, past couple months took me all the way to the White House and told the president about some of these stuffs and they were just blown away, they have never heard anything like this and part of it was because, I’ve just been doing it for twenty years but part of it was that something clicked and why things are the way they are and how we can change that.
Charles: Can you all hear him okay?
Robert Rodriguez: Everybody over there? Thank you. See how I started in 18, I was a cartoonist at a daily cartoon strip, kind of fuligans and I wanted to make independent films. I’d been doing it already at home, it was when home video was just coming into being that I start making movies, around twelve, thirteen years old, making movies on video and I couldn’t get into film festivals because, back then there, was a little bias against video, it’s not at all like today where they called Digital, they called the video. So, if you want to enter into a film contest and your movie wasn’t shot on film, they wouldn’t allow it. Which is why I had to make Birdhead because, all my little short films I made before that were on video, even though they would win local video contests, I couldn’t it into a film festival. So, one of the reasons I wanted to get in U.T. was to go into the film program. I knew they had film equipment, I knew I could make the definitive version of one of my old home movies to send the film festivals and that was Birdhead. So, film one came in guns blazing, I knew I needed to make a film that would win film festivals and so film one, I was in a little wind- up camera for all it, it was worth trying to do something that would give me some recognition and it did. We won a bunch of festivals and I ended up realizing, wow!!! A film scout from the film studio, sees the festival and sees my award-winning short film, Birdhead, they might want to hire me to do a feature and I don’t know how to do a feature. I’ve only been doing short films since you know twelve years old, so, I need to go get some practice making feature, well, I’ve practiced doing shorts and I discovered this niche, this straight- to-video Spanish market at the local go and in the Spanish section there be action movies called (speaks Spanish) or something terrible. I read It, it would be like awful shot-on video, no action, just had a fancy title but then in the back it had an address; Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, those were the issuers in the US. A friend of mine told me that they make these movies for like Thirty or Forty thousand dollars. Maybe three or four, these things are awful shot-on videos, I’m sure we can make one on film like we did Birdhead. Birdbed was a hundred-dollar movie, for the wind-up camera, shot in my backyard, eight minutes long, Eight hundred dollars. I did the math, figured if I shot a feature the same way, I could make an 80-minute movie for me with Eight thousand dollars or even less because, it beats a lot of dialogue, wouldn’t be so action packed. Let’s go make one for the video market, nobody will know I made this movie because, my name is Robert Rodriguez Rodrigues, the name Robert Rodriguez Rodriguez isn’t in the Spanish market, we sell it, it would be in the Spanish section and then we can turn the money right. If we make it for less than ten thousand dollars, turn around, they made it for Thirty or forty, we should at least sell it for fifty or sixty and that’s a business. Let’s go make it, see how much we can sell it for and then not only will I be able to practice making a full feature and I will hire anybody. I’ll be the writer, the director, the editor, the cameraman, the soundman, I’ll learn all those jobs, so, it’s just like the best film school you can think of. I was going to do that during my summer break here, I even told Charles I was going away that summer to make a movie, the summer after I’d made Birdhead. For the summer, I’m going to go make a movie for the Spanish market. Sold my body to science at pharmaco, came over human lab rat to pay for, went down, shot the movie kind of together, took it to sell it to the video market. We were going to sell it for about twenty thousand dollars but then, I gave a trip copy of the trailer to an agent in I.C.M.
Charles: And it had Birdbed was on the tape too
Robert Rodriguez: Not only Birdhead
Charles: Bedhead and the trailer for El Mariachi
Robert Rodriguez: I wanted to just get some advice, I’m going to make three of these action movies, straight to video just for practice, I’m going to then cut together the best scenes from there, I’ll make a little bit of money in each one, I’ll save my money, pocket together the best sequences of those three movies, I’ll just do all myself. I learned all these jobs, they are probably going to be terrible at first but then, I get better and then once I have enough cut-together, I’ll use that as my demo, because, I’m only twenty-one, have plenty of time, I’m not in any rush Marty when festivals. I’m on that track, let me just be as prepared as possible. I’ll make three straight-to video action movie about a guy with a guitar case full of guns and I had to cut together the best scenes, save the money, then go make my American Independent film, which will probably cost more in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range and that was my path, that was my goal. That’s the thing is that, that’s pretty lofty goal for someone who’s a student but I wish I tell people, especially your age, set really high impossible goals, when you set impossible goals, that’s where innovation happens and you look at and you go, how am I going to pull that off? Knowing is half the battle but what I like saying is, what is the other half? Not knowing. You don’t have to know how you’re going to get there; you just have to set the site. This is the thing, there’s so much, so much karma comes your way, if you just move forward. If you sit back and don’t move and try to imagine how you’re going to do the whole thing, you’re already seeing obstacles that you know you don’t want to go face and you’re not going to do it. Something magical happens when you just move forward, set this impossible goal that you thinking maybe you can do but who knows and you go forward, all these other forces comes in and they reward you for that and they pull you along and I’ve seen it, every project for twenty years, so, that’s the truth. So, keep that in mind, when you don’t know what you’re doing, good, don’t have to know but at least move.
When I had a daily cartoon strip, I kind of learned it then but now it makes more sense that I look back. There was a way to make the comic strip, I had to make a comic strip every day, it was a really talented artist who also was here, is a huge comic book right now, it makes sense. He was on the on the road to that but it made all of us better because he was so good, we all look like dog shit next to him. So, we had to like, I did spend more time on my comic strip, done any homework assignment because I knew I had to be up against this guy every day and everybody would look at his and look at mine in a way, what’s that? So, all of us were amazing. I met graining from just before he did Simpsons, came down to his comic book. He just pulled Simpsons and he saw our comic page and this is the most amazing comic page in the country but that’s because of one guy, one guy pushed the rest of us, one guy does that. I want to tell you about that later, this theory I have about somebody who pushes others and that will be inspiring to you, if nothing else, that’s part of the most inspiring story. I would draw, I would have to sit and draw, to make the comic strip, you have to draw like a picture and on a picture and then two pictures are kind of go together and then he would do the strip. So, who wants to get into creative arts, anybody know in the film making or is this general? How many people are into arts or creativity? Okay, so this is important for you, so, I want to make sure I’m talking to the right audience, this will be useful to any of you but especially you guys, you can’t just wait for an inspiration to act, that’s the biggest mistake people here make. Don’t wait to be inspired to do the action, you have to do the action first and then you’ll be inspired. So what I would do is, I would sit there and draw out the comic and I would come up with it. Some days I come home from school, sit down and I was going to wait for the inspiration to hit me in a way, I would wait for the idea to come fully formed and when I got a joke, then I’ll go drive and I sit there for maybe, three or four hours, then go. Alright, screw it. I had to get up and that is, I got to do the process. I had to sit there and start drawing. I don’t even know why or how I going to get there and then two things would come together and I’ll be, oh!!! that’s an idea, oh!!! This is the first part and then it would come together always, it would not take very long. I would fight that process so much because, what was I doing? I was waiting for inspiration before I acted, It’s always the other way round. Act first, then the inspiration will come. Draw first, then the inspiration will come. Just start shooting, then the inspiration will come. Just start moving, then the inspiration will come. Don’t wait. So many people wait, they tell you they’re going to write this novel or they’re going to do this, they are going to make this film, they never do it because, they’re waiting for all this stuff to come to them, it comes through doing it.
So, that’s one of the biggest things that I had to do with all my heart, which actually, I was just going to go make it, have very, you know, I have a really good goal in mind but it failed, it failed that I didn’t even sell it to view. I didn’t secure a super star, that’s what I was missing, that’s what Battle star they also had that I didn’t. They had a washed up super star in mind, they had a bunch of unknowns. We had a superstar lead but she took out, she didn’t show up, so, we found it much harder to sell the movie. So, you know, to the ashes of any failure, there’s the keys to your success. That’s the other big thing to just remember as you go forth. I hope you all go out there in the world, pursue your creative endeavors and I hope you all fail, that’s from the heart because, I found my biggest successes came from my failures. So many people fear failure and what do they do? They sit back and they don’t do anything and because they don’t do anything, they don’t move forward, just a little bit where the rest of forces can take, the rest of the forces take, it’s unbelievable, I had to break it down. I would say, I only have to do maybe twenty or twenty-five percent of it but the rest is paramount. It’s amazing like that and you think it’s magic and you think it’s you but it’s not, it’s just the forces are actually rewarding you and I’ve seen it, I can give you a very concrete example and you’ll be, you’d think I’m David Blaine but it’s exactly what it’s really that thing of action.
So failure, Winston Churchill in my favorite quote he said, “Success is moving from one failure to the next with great enthusiasm”. Because you have to be willing to move forward and fail, you don’t have to know are you going to do it. I made this movie called Four Rooms or it was an anthology film couldn’t turn, you know. Thank you. That movie failed but what is failure, what is failure? People say, why did you make that movie? and you know what? when Taylor Keno came in and said we’re going to make an anthology film, we’re going to make an anthology film with four different directors, we want you to be one of the directors. Place on New Year’s Eve, you have to use the bell hop in the story, place in one room. We’re all going to work on each other scripts, we are all going to write our own script and we’re going to put them all together and see what happens, I’ll do that, that was just my inner voice saying, I’ll do that. Should I have followed that inner voice, the movie failed. Should I have actually gone and done my research, if I’d done my research I would have seen that anthology films never work not only do they not successful, they bomb horribly. Whenever you have multiple directors, like in New York stories with; Scorsese with. Woody Allen Old, bombs not even close, nobody goes to see those. Had I done that research, I would have, what would I have said? Should I have said no? Should I have said yes? it’s the kind of questions you are going to have to face, I’m going to make you show of hands, make you uncomfortable. Who would have said yes anyway? And then, who would have said no? it’s just being using your research, makes sense, either one makes sense, right? It’s a tussle. So many times, I would decide to move with fate by flipping my coin because, I was like either way, it’s a lose-lose situation but what if it’s a win-win situation. But if you think of it that way, it’s a win-win situation. That’s everything I try to do now is win-win, that’s a win-win situation. How? Let me explain. If you move forward in a positive direction, karma sweeps you away, so many ideas start coming, you learn so many things that you would never learn with an activity and no matter what, you’re going to learn something, even if it’s a failure, just accept the fact that you will probably fail, don’t care about it. I know what that feels like, half the reason why I didn’t take anyone to work with me on no money, even though people want to help, one of the main reasons I had no crew, I didn’t want anyone to see me fail. I had this camera I had borrowed, I thought, if I have a bunch of guys come help me, I borrowed this camera, it might not even work, we might get down there and all go, go, go and it doesn’t work, they will be laughing at me and I’ll feel really bad. They don’t go, the camera might still break but at least, I don’t have to face that. I did the whole movie by myself, I didn’t mind failing, I just didn’t want to fail in public. So, I know what that feels like, I’m telling you, you shouldn’t should worry about that because, that wasn’t even a wrong idea, it was the wrong mindset, made for a better story that I did it by myself but those are the wrong mindset. Don’t fear failure, it’s part of the process, especially being artist, you’re going to fail, you’re going to fail, know it, you know that you’ve got to fail but how you look at that failure, that’s important. Some lady asked me, she said, well you are all positive, you do what you tell yourself and you just wasted a year and a half of your life on something that didn’t work, well, that’s a real negative. First of all, can you rephrase that a little better, she said, I learned a good lesson the hard way, that’s still negative, you can do better than that, I said, wow!!! that’s amazing. Okay look, What I did I give the example, I did for him to fail. Now for a while after that I thought, yeah, this is, why did I do that? I can’t really piece together when you connect the dots.
Through the ashes of your failure are the keys to your success, if you look closely enough, you will always fail for a reason. You had this goal in life, set a high goal, you probably won’t reach that goal, you might reach that one, you might reach something more, if you say positive, the karma pulls you along. You’re thinking you’re setting your bar high, I always tell people, aim high, if you aim low, you know, you are going to hit low. I’m just going to go get a job working in a commercial place, that’s what I was going to do, I said, I love just making my cartoon, I’m just going to stay in Austin, I don’t want to go to L.A, that’s aiming too high. I want to stay in here in Austin, make some local commercials, have my little cartoon strip, raise kids, I’ll be happy, I’ll be happy, I won’t take very much to live. That was that was aiming low and I would have hit low but as soon as I had the idea for El Mariachi, that’s high, that was much higher, now I’m aiming higher. If you aim low, you hit low, if you aim high, you might still hit low but now you have the chance that you are either there or there or straight up, right. So what I did for, him, I gave it back and even now, I go, what are the keys to success? They were in there, to keep them there. When I was on the set of Four Rooms and if you’ve seen it in that, US has an ended up as an Asian wife and this little Asian daughter and a little Mexican boy and they leave the kids in the room for new year, so in New Year they are all dressed in tuxedos and I’d already made Birdhead and I was looking for an angle for a family film to do after Mariachi. They would give kids a sense of action like I was doing Mariachi, so I wanted to do Birdhead again because, that was always my most popular genre audience, audience were not prepared, so I thought, I want to do a family film with that kind of action and flavor, kids look like little James Bonds in their suits and Antonio and his wife, his Asian wife, they look like an international spy couple. I thought I was on the set, I was like, wow!!! what if they were spies, these little kids that can barely tie their shoes don’t know their spies, parents get captured, kids have to save the parents, called it Spy Kids. Five years, there are four of those down, by the way. That was the first key of success that was in that failure Four Rooms. The second one was, I looked at it afterwards I thought, okay, anthology films never work but I love the short film format, that’s what I grew up on, that’s what Birdhead was, that’s what I’ve done all through college, I believe in that format. I think the way they’re doing anthologist isn’t correct, four different directors, that’s no thematic real, title it, four stories, too many. The three act structure, classical three act structure, three, group of three, rule of three then comedy, you know, it always comes in three. I bet if I did an anthology with three stories in a wrap around, with the same director, not the multiple directors, it could work. That was Sin City, and I tried to get it on Sin City. Second key from that one. So, looking back now, it’s easy for me to look and go, okay but back then, I was lost in the woods, I thought I had made a wrong choice, I thought I had I followed my voice and I go, I need to question my voice. Don’t question your inner voice, that’s the part that’s wiser than you, that’s the part that you’re not going to be able to consciously ever figure out, until you look back on it like a history book and read the map. So, you have to trust your inner voice and cultivate that, down to the point where you can be playing cards and going, “I know that I’m the queen because my inner voice told me to”. You’ve got to, you know, really fine tune that gift, it’s within all of you. I wish I knew all this stuff but I was, I found out the hard way, so I’m just telling it.
When I graduated, I finally graduated from here because, when I did Mariachi, that swept me off into Hollywood and I didn’t get finish graduating, I wanted to be a good example to my kids, so a couple years ago I finished. I remember thinking, what does that mean, does that mean I’m no longer a student? I like being a student. But you’re a student, you know, you screw up, you just go ahead, I’m a student and you use that as an excuse. So now, I can’t use that excuse anymore, I used that for years, hey!!! I’m a graduate, I’m still a student, still learning, I’m still learning. Well, use that, when you get out of here, you’re always a student, always be a student, always keep your hand up. The best thing about when you’re a kid, just a group of kids, who here can make their own movie for seven thousand dollars? Who here can write and oprah? Who here be the president? all the kids raise their hand because, they don’t know, they don’t know what can’t be done. That positive attitude is what you want, you want to be that little kid forever because, if you get older, you know, we’re going to move so it doesn’t on the air show us by raising your hand? what happened? what happened to you guys? I would have answered this fifteen years ago, you all would have raised your hands, you know. So, that’s what I mean, you want to be the kid who just goes yeah, right? Put your hand up because, do you know how you’re going to do it? No, do you have to know? That’s the whole point. When I said question at the end, you all raise your hand, make me feel better.
I am going to read you a letter I sent. When your student, you can get people of students. I have a friend that I met in Hollywood because, the other thing is your peer group, you know, they always say, when callers are in the high school, be careful who you pick as your peer group, they mean that in a negative way but now, you want to do that in a positive way. Be careful who you pick as your peers because, you’ll only be as successful as those around you, the people you hang out with. You want to be with those people that really dream big and think big and they will challenge you, like if you want to lose weight you don’t want to hang out with a bunch of people whose health is not a priority because, then you’re going to be fighting a losing battle but if you find people who are like-minded, that’s a good thing. As soon as I made Mariachi because I thought higher, I’m going to run into some other students and they said, what are you up? to this said, I just made this movie and I’m going to Hollywood and I’m going to be a hero and they were like, what? Because I jumped right out of that peer group, which was the students into, suddenly I was around George Lucas and Jim Cameron, you know, Sam Raimi, it was crazy, like you are Steven Spielberg and you’re in a room with these guys and that’s your peer group now. So, when they say, “what are you up to?” mehn, you better have something that you’re doing. So, I was like, well I’m building my own studios in Texas and I’m going into digital photography before anyone else because, I think that’s the future and I think I can do 3D and bring 3D back, even though it hasn’t come back in twenty years. And I’m doing this movie called Sin City with a green screen backdrop and a digital backdrop and make it look really close to what the artist is doing, good show. You go through that, that becomes your peer group.
I wrote Jim Cameron a couple years ago, just before Avatar came out. So, I’ve known him for way back the and we’ve been friends for a long time and when I showed him Desperado, he was watching in the screening room when I just finished it and I was in this lobby. He gave me this treatment first, by a man that he never made and his treatment for Avatar, this was 1995, have it in my journal and it’s like that’s pretty color we’re going pretty good, might be a hit someday. So, I wrote him just before Avatar was finished and asked him, this is, outline what it means to be a student. Hey!!!what’s up dude, besides working your ass off? It’s been a long time Jim. You were in my dream last night, we were hanging out with our kids and everything I did you turned around and did it a hundred times better, hahaha, I guess that’s no dream. Can’t wait to see how your movie’s going, hope you are doing well. I know you’re busy as hell but if you’re in L.A. I would love to see you for a few minutes to say hi, even if it’s while holding your coffee as you run from room to room. Hope the family is good and doing great. He wrote back: what’s up, good to hear from you. You know, maybe that kind of humility is what drives you, that’s okay. The truth is, I stand in awe of what you’ve done and look forward my ability to what you’re going to do next. John Brotel told me, you moved out all your furniture and put an avid in your living room and so I had to have my cutting-room in my house but I did, John Brotel, he came over to my house and I showed him. I was the only guy and the only director editing his own movie and in Hollywood, period but also I had in my house, I had an avid, no other movie at the studio was even cutting on an avid, they’re still cutting on film, this is ninety-four and he came over to my house, ahh!!! have an avid in your house and yeah, it’s in my room I cut myself. And he just brought in cutting corners and kind of just all done it’s all in the same system. Hey!!! I hate, I’m going to edit my next movie myself, I’m going to cut, I’m going to turn around my house, I’m going to have. I also want to put an ad in I’m going to do is going to come out next movie Titanic and he got an Oscar for editing and he said, you write, you shoot, you cut, you score, you can do your own study Cam, at least, you know better and intact, sincerely ultimately utterly redefined filmmaking in the twenty-first century. I’ve taken it to heart but someone had to do it first, that’s important, to do it first, be first. I want to mention what that is; you brought Mickey Burke back, people think it’s the rest of what but you did already. Anyway, I’m crazy right now but until mid-March but then if you’re in town, it will be good to have lunch or whatever and I wrote him back and I said, “okay, but can I still carry a coffee? Because I want to learn from the best.
So, always be a student, surround yourself with masters, people that are much better than you, step up your game and seek out that kind of a peer group because, you will just find yourself by osmosis becoming better at what you do or better what you dream of. So, pick your peer group wisely as you move out here and don’t fear failure and I want to show you something that I’ve been working on since then, it’s going to take me into what I was really hoping to talk to you about, it was all sort of the buildup, it’s this network. Last year, when I’ve been busy with my movie career, I went on and I did that, I did that as amazing, as I stand outside of Hollywood and George Lucas told me this, “you know, because you’re outside of Hollywood, you’re going to come up with ideas no one else is coming up with because, you’re outside of the box”. Just like he lives outside of Hollywood, he lives in County. Because when you’re outside of the box, you think outside of box and that’s what you need to do to innovate. So, because you’re in Texas, you’re just going to come up with stuff and sure enough, by staying in Texas and putting my studios here, I started shooting digital twelve years ago before other people in the industry is now catching up. I figured out once I started shooting digital, hey!!! I could put two cameras together and do 3-D digital because, I always wanted to do 3-D before on film but it was impossible, the cameras were archaic but now with digital, you can go do 3-D, I’m sure. So, that was the first digital 3-D movie, it was Spy Kids three, in 2002 I shot that, that became the biggest of the Spy Kids and Jeffrey Katzenberg went,” 3-D is the future, I’ll do 3-D from now on and then, they went on that track but that was a first one And then with Sin City, once I did that movie which was mostly green screen, I’ve realized, why can’t I do something like Sin City and make it look like the comic book by shooting on the green screen, the same way I did that 3-D movie that innovated that technique for Sin City, that people just do now, they just do this kind of movie. You see all those green screen heavy movies, artistic sort of graphic movies.
So, a lot of innovation can come out here and Hollywood will imitate you because, you’re thinking outside of the box. So, whenever you see people going this way, go that way (in opposite direction), like, always think higher. Like somebody said, “What do I do, I got a movie and I’m trying to get into the festival? How do I get people to see it?” but we don’t go to the festivals, won’t go to festivals but you’re competing with everyone else on the same level as you, competing for the same slot. Think bigger, think higher, you know what? there’s less people up there. Everybody is here, trying to get in, up here, nobody, you go up there you find a couple, I think Jim, Jim Cameron is over there, there’s him, there’s George Lucas, there’s you know, thinking up here. No competition, you know, it’s amazing but I thought about getting a T.V. before but why? there’s so many people jockeying for 7p.m. on N.B.C. that it’s like you’re fighting everybody in the industry, think up here. What about a network? What about a network I can put on any show I want it? How many people are for a network?
Last year, a friend of mine who represented in something, he came to me and said, Comcast, the biggest cable provider in the country, is joining with Universal. We’re going to merge, the F.C.C. won’t allow it unless they don’t embrace smaller business, operators are going to kind of go out the window. So they’re making them designate several channels that they have to give away to minority U.S. board owners. They said to me, We’d like you to come on a network that will compete with Univision, my hand went up like that, just like I did with Clinton. What am I going to do with a network? How am I going to that fill up? I already have a film business; my hand went up. What the hell? always follow your inner voice. So, I thought well, I say yes because I have five kids even though they’re bilingual, they live and converse in English, like most second, third generation Hispanics and then there’s nothing on T.V that represents who they are, so just for them. That’s good enough for me to say, let’s start the process and see what happens, I’ll come up with an idea for a network and see what happens but that’s noble enough for an idea, sometimes it starts for a personal reason like that, that’s the best, rather than monetary reason, not that I go make more money, it disturbs me that they don’t have anything T.V. or in media, media images and he taught me, that class I took with you, it is Latin images, that influenced me so much in my career was Latin images, when he showed me the opening to Raiders of the Lost Ark and we all watched and laughed and he said, now look at the line images, look how many cared, colliding, backstabbing lines are in the first-three minutes, he was like, wow!!! you won’t even think about it. We’re like wow!!! I didn’t even think about that. You don’t even think about that, you don’t think about the negative image that goes on and not on purpose, it’s just because people didn’t know, he was just doing it, we need a bad guy, he is a Latin guy. So, I mean, I worked with him later, he wanted to change that by doing Zorro but that’s just what happens. So, if you’re thinking about it consciously, you can actually do the reverse. Whatever we presented in the reverse, there’s a lesser line filmmaker, who’s going to do that. So, I signed up for the network, I went along trying to figure it out and I got it. I gave him a pitch for a network called ‘El Ray’, which was first, second, third generation Hispanic, more male oriented. So I thought movies like Desperado or El Mariachi, Dust to Dawn, see guys, there’s a lot of stuff we’re going to watch, they can watch novellas and be like them, the guys or don’t have anything. And whenever they put like an action movie on ‘Telemondo’, the ranas go to the roof because, they have nothing to watch but then, we decided you know, let’s just make it English though, so we’re changing, we’re kind of adapting with the network, that was the original idea, you know, ideas will change as we go but that was the original idea. They kind of stuck with that already, even though they will appeal to men and women because, you have not heard of the song El Rey, it’s an old classic body actually song called El Rey, which is, guys usually when they get drunk, they sing it to themselves, it’s make them feel like, when you watch this never we’re going to take care of, it’s very historical it’s lot of, actually some pride in it and I don’t know why I picked the name and now it makes sense, now when I tell you this other stuff that’s been happening since this phenomenon, this movement has happened, it makes sense already. Already the words are ready, I don’t have a throne or a queen and I’m on the outside, no one understands me but I’m still the king. It’s like I have nothing but I still have my pride, so, that’s what ‘El Rey’ is. So, I’m going to show you just the images that I’ve been doing over the past twenty years, starting on that El Mariachi because, when I did El Mariachi, I did it for the Spanish video market but also I’m Latin, so the characters are all Latin and when I went to Desperado, I wasn’t trying to make a Latin film with Desperado, it’s just, I want to make an action movie anybody could see but because I’m Latin, characters are going to be Latin probably because, what do you do? they say write what you know or do your Latin and that’s your point of view. So, if it’s not an English straight up action, it’s going to have a Latin actor, Latin character. I found that there was no Latins working in Hollywood, zero and the actors, when I went there ’94, zero. There was nobody, Antonio was the closest thing to a star and he was in Spain doing a lot of our movie, so, I brought him, anchored the movie with him. Some of the water, did think she was anything and this is why being first is important. They said, why didn’t you use Cameron Diaz, he just was in the Mask, that was a hit because It was a hit, see, because somebody did it first and it was okay to use some of the Spanish surnames and link someone that will kind of company Antonio that’s great, I mean, she got in. That was those road racers or you. You know that you could make a hole and with so much to convince them rather but the idea that she said yes but when I realized wow!!! not only do I have to demand to cast Latin but I have to make stars out of them, the first time out. So, I don’t have this problem again because, if I go make another movie, it might be from inspiring another Latin character in there somewhere. If I write it and I’m thinking it’s giving me this hassle every time, I got to make my own stars. So, I did that again on Dust to Dawn. I went to do Dust to Dawn with Quint and he wrote it. He wrote the part that some a place in Dust to Dawn for Madonna who was called Blonde Deft, that’s the character and I said, well you know, it takes place in Mexico, it’s a Mexican bar, so it should be actually a Mexican character, they said, yeah and I said well, I just cast this girl someone had to discover this actress that I did the whole of the movie with just to get to the part in Desperado, so I could cast her in this movie and she’d be great. He said, oh!!! I love her me, let me rewrite the part for her and then I thought, I need her in, I need her to dominate the screen. So, I thought of this dance that she does, this wasn’t in the script, she comes out, does this dance with a snake. A friend of mine had the music for us and that sounds like, it sounds like a snake dance, let’s make a dance where she comes out before she kills everyone. So, when she comes out, Quint is watching, I love her, like the curtain opens and there’s no music, just a curtain, a rickety curtain and she steps out and then the music starts and she does this amazing dance with the snake, even the audience’s jaws to be on the ground, you know, it was like, this is a star. So, there are none of the movies that went out that path, so I just did that throughout my career, even on Spy Kids. Remember it’s a Latin family, it’s based on my brothers and sisters, many things. I wanted to make a movie about my ten brothers and sisters but in a way that wouldn’t turn people off like, oh!!! Why would I watch this guy’s family for? So, when I thought of the Spy Kids angle, I thought, wow!!! that will be an action movie but I still talk about my family. My uncle was a, he was an F.B.I. special agent who brought down two top ten criminals, I was real proud of him, so, I named Antonio’s character after him. My sister Carmen and my brother Cecil Jr Junny, saying after my brother, my Uncle Felix is in there, I mean, my whole family is in this movie in a way and when the studio asked the most amazing question, they go, why are you making them in Latin, I don’t understand it’s in English, why make them Latin, why not just make them Americans, that in America, why are you doing this whole thing? And I go, it is a valid question. So, because my family Latin, it is based on my family, my family’s Latin and it’s going to be like in the Latin ghetto, only Latins are going to watch it. it’s for everybody but to think like, you know, only Latins are going to watch it and then even Latins will go watch if I made it for Latins, they want to be part of the whole world culture. I don’t want to go off a little corner and watch their movies, so, plus, that wasn’t good enough either, then I got to answer, you know what, you don’t have to be British to watch James Bond because, if you make it that specific, it becomes universal right? Okay. So, I thought, wow imagine if I wasn’t a Latin filmmaker, just a regular filmmaker not Latin and they said that, I would go, no you’re right, I would have changed it but we need more Latin filmmakers going to give me the question that you can stump Charles which is. I made a money actually, twenty years ago, I wrote a book on how to do it and everybody want to make movies, you know, you think about going with your buddies and making a movie and maybe getting in the festival, maybe in a studio, that did not exist before El Mariachi,El Mariachi changed independent filmmaking forever. That never happened before El Mariachi, it’s in the Guinness Book of World Records, the lowest budget movie ever released by major studio, that had never happened, that’s just what they call breaking the Enfield. So, it’s looks like, you know, you can only run the hundred-yard dash in seven seconds until someone runs it for 6.8, that’s it, everybody can do it for 6.8, it’s just a mind block but all that was to show people something that they didn’t know was possible, was possible, already works on a much different level which I’ll explain in a minute but mainly doing something that no one’s done before, this horror will show you with this, people hadn’t really done Latin actors in movies before, so, that’s why it was like that, that’s why, yes really there was none, there was none but now it’s everywhere, now even in Sin City, I cast Oprah as an Irish girl because, you can do that now but back then nobody wants to be first, in Hollywood nobody wants to be first. Why isn’t there a Latin network already like this because, nobody wants to be first. It’s a wide open space with the largest, fastest growing minority in the country. The census says we’re one in six now, we will be one in three by 2015 and there’s no Latin network like this at all, why? because, nobody wants to be first, when somebody does it first and they’re successful, then they would go and do it. Once I started shooting digital and figured out 3-D, then they started going and doing it. Once I did Sin City back then, then they started going to do it. See, you always got to be first, we have to be first. I’m going to show you; this is just what I tell people about ‘El Rey’. I going to play this, my band a version of the song for ‘El Rey’, it’s a kick-ass version of it and I just put images from my movies over the past twenty years, you can just see it if you’ve never seen the movies or you’ll get a sense of over twenty years what I’ve been actually doing sort of, it’s the best that I’ve got. I was in Washington talking to the Senator Kerry, what’s the name? it wasn’t Harry but it was one of these straight up Republican, you know and it was like bring back memory, like, yeah, yeah, Spy Kids, yeah, I’ve seen Spy Kids, I was like, what are you doing watching a Latin film, he said, oh!!! I was very entertained. oh!!! Exactly, that’s the whole point, is that, I don’t go have a Latin film, I want to make you feel like, you know, you just want to watch because it’s entertaining, that’s what ‘El Rey’ has to be. Anybody should want to watch it, it’s for everybody and those from Latin can look at it and go, how do we get on T.V. what is this, a pirate T.V. How do we get on that? It was amazing but for anybody to watch, that’s so important, that’s for everybody. So, I’m going to show you just sort of the images that you’ve seen over the years, maybe if you have seen any of these movies, images to the music at this place and then I’ll tell you about ‘El Rey’. This is kind of what I show people, so this what ‘El Rey’ is going to be, what ‘El Rey’ is kind of, this is just taken from my own movies.
(A clip from ‘El Rey’ Network was played)
Please play it again, give it a shot. I don’t mind watching it again. So, I use that as sort of, as a sales pitch, just going to show and then some other kind of programming ideas of what we would do but what I found amazing was, I had to kind of keep the network quiet until a few months ago because, we were working on getting, once I got it, it was an error that I got from these networks and I started hearing it from people in the community. I wanted to go meet prominent people like Antonio, Velma, Jessica, Michelle, just I wanted to go meet them one by one and tell them about the network and the idea of the network, sort of want them to help, you know, populate the network. People started calling me first, the first one, when he saw the photo of a reclusive actor or I were to come you know like, I’ve heard that before, he never puts his head and he said, I want to take you to lunch, what about this network? What’s this network? It’s a T.V show, the show is up. We sit down and we talk, two hours later he gets up get and says, “I got to get away from here, I got too many ideas” next thing he gets up and he leaves. Then I met with Michelle Rodriguez, the same thing, two and half hours later after dinner she’s like, I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight, I got to get out of here, I got to go. It’s like wow!!! this is strange really, this is like really captivating people, this idea. What is about this idea that is captivating them? I feel like because I’m having my own career they feel like, that’s why I’m here, that makes total sense.
I came down to talk to a friend of mine in Austin who has a great restaurant, you’re in there with, you remember that (talking to Charles). The guy name Rene, he’s the chef and I told him, hey!!! we are going to make a restaurant together because, we can make this really entertaining, food show, they have never featured the food in the restaurant on the network, on a show, cooking show. That’s going to be really entertaining, have the guest stars come, they can make a movie. I’ll stick them in the show and we’ll tell you about all these ideas you have, this great idea about food and community and family and I think it’s a great entertaining way to do it because, I need shows for the network, I run a network so I need to start doing stuff like this, and there was this weird thing that happened, like with a lot of Latins I know, his own humility is like something else, kind of has his head down in all off this, he said, no, I don’t really have good ideas. Who is talking about you having good ideas? He says, “well, I’m embarrassed, I’m illiterate in Spanish, I don’t write it very well, read it very well, I can speak it pretty good but the thing embarrasses me and I’m embarrassed by it”. Pretty well he doesn’t want to stick his head too far with his Latin. He speaks Spanish and he says.” Why can’t we just speak Spanish?” and I said, “wow!!! that’s crazy, the Network is in English though, the whole thing sort of is in English, it’s Latin but it is in English so anybody can watch it” and then, he gave me this distasteful look and says, “what do you mean, Porcho?” I was like, how? look at what you just called yourself, you have a negative view of yourself. ‘Porcho’ is, if someone’s like from Mexico. If I go to Mexico I’m not greeted with open arms like a Mexican because I’m born here. You’re ‘Porcho’, you’re ‘Porcho’ means you’re born in the States, speak English and you’re less then, you’re not them and it’s not like a meanness, it’s more like a jab. They jab at you just to kind of say, I know who I am, in Mexico City and who are you? You’re ‘Porcho’ and you are like, okay, because, you don’t have anything to come back with, you’re like, yeah whatever, that’s me open up a whole lot of mess, let me click right then. wow!!! that’s crazy. You have a negative view about yourself and he went, I really never thought about that, I’d struggle with that every day. So, what if I created a network where you could say that’s me, that’s who I am in this country, now, I can show to anyone who’s not Latin, mehn, let’s go watch this film, like it’s cool, like that, I’ve watched that anyway, that’s pretty cool, like the guy who said, “I’ve heard of Spy Kids, I’ve watched Spy Kids”, you know. What do you do watching a Latin network? because, it’s got the coolest shows on it. I said, what if I had that then, that would make a difference and I told the president this, I go, Mr. President we are even more shocked, you tell Latins that we are one hundred and six right now, we’re going to be one hundred and three in 2015, we are shocked, we are like; where is everybody? where are all these guys? where are all these people? where did they go? Well, they all got their heads down like that, you know, so, we give them something that they can say, that’s me, that’s who I am and anyone can watch this and they go, that’s you. That’s you by association, that’s cool, because, that’s freckling cool, I watch that all the time.
And it’s essential that you keep a place like that in Texas because, it would be outside of the box. You don’t need another network, there are so many networks and I found that there’s actually a dog network, there’s a dog network before there’s a Latin network, it’s a dog affair, you actually to put it down in front of it in place and you play sounds and your dog can watch, your dog got, everybody got a network. You don’t need another network, all networks you bring them that way, you got to go the other way. So, the anomalies that hold up a network today, the one or two shows that hold up a whole network, whether it’s like Walking Dead or Madman or Sopranos, or one of those, the whole network changes have. This is the anomalies in a business that just, there’s a C.S.I. they go to C.S.I. and there’s like all these C.S.I. type of shows all the time of this kind of like what are you doing? nobody wants to be first, they wait till someone else is the first and then they copy it, that’s the business, so, go this way, they try to look this way, go that way. So, we go this way and that’s all we do are the anomalies, all we do is something, is cutting edge, cool like M.T.V. was in the old day that what ‘El Rey’ could be, ‘El Rey’ could be something where you go, that’s cooler, underground, independent than anything they got on the T.V networks, who watch that? and if you’re Latin and somebody says, what are you, you’re Porcho or you’re normal ‘El Rey’? I’ll share that on my phone, I’ll share that on my computer, I’ll share that anywhere and they go, “that’s cool, I want to see that, I’ve seen that, actually they have Tivo in ‘El Rey’ now, that’s you, okay, that makes sense”. I mean you have some to come back with, so that’s such a huge thing. So, Mr. President you put something like that on T.V. that anybody can watch, people raise their head from there to there because, suddenly they feel like they belong to something, they don’t feel less than, you feel the number, in fact, even if you’re a number, you want to be a people. We have to move from being a number to being a people because right now, we’re a number that nobody understands and you’ve got an entire population, second, third generation of Spanish, that don’t have an identity. So, not only does a network like this reflect the identity of the people, it shapes their identity because, they don’t have an identity. Yes, they can move your land, they get all wishy washy on you and then you go, I don’t really speak Spanish, I’m not Latin like that, I’m not really American, kind of floating in between somewhere and we’re not on T.V. so obviously, our stories don’t mean anything. So, you do this and they go that’s me, that’s my experience and I can contribute, t’s a huge thing. Now, it’s the big question, it stumped even Charles. This is where the student became the teacher for a moment, when I asked him too because, there’s a big question I ask everybody and it stumped them; how come there were more land filmmakers? I made El Mariachi and I showed everybody how to do it. I get a book, everybody copied it from Blair Witch Project, to Turn Around Activity and everything in between. Anytime some guys want to get together, make a movie and they saw it, they get in because El Mariachi did it but I was part of it
Charles: but it stumped you too. The question stumped you too
Robert Rodriguez: that was twenty years after and I wonder why
Charles: I remember you would come back and you’d say, well I went to this festival or that festival and I stayed afterwards to talk to the crowd and I looked for the Latinos and I didn’t see any Latinos and the years went by and we were both looking for them
Robert Rodriguez: yea, the people make for them break out, I mean. So, I remember, I really wanted that to happen to me because, I remember a friend of mine. Let’s get a car. Okay, but yeah, I just wondering where are the Latin filmmakers, if I asked anybody that question, they go, I don’t know, because they don’t have the means? I did it for seven thousand dollars and if I did that movie today, it would have been seven hundred dollars because, I would have shot digital. So, that’s not an excuse and this is where it gets amazing, I mean, I’ve been telling people. I was in Washington and I was talking to the head of one of those big organ land organizations, the head of that organization and he came to me and he said, “we have identified all these students, some of them are in U.T, some of them are in Stanford, some of them are all over, they are Latin students who are trying to get into the film industry and we’ve identified them, we’re giving them scholarships” (That’s cool, he gives a whole list with their names, that’s cool). We’re trying to build a bridge, that’s where it gets tough of course, trying to build the bridge to Hollywood to try to introduce them to Hollywood, so that they know who to come to, to tell their story”. oh!!! Right there, the thing is going to shake you already but he says, “okay, you don’t need a bridge, you need a battleram”, ‘El Rey’ is the battle-ram because, I’m telling you, if you try to go make a bridge to Hollywood, nobody is going to meet you on that bridge, no one is going to meet you there because, they’re not making this stuff. How come there not a lot of Latin filmmakers? I asked him, he said, well, maybe you don’t have enough self-esteem. I said, really? I don’t believe that and then he said, well you and I are both from south Antonio, maybe, we both have strong mothers. I said, oh!!! really, the others don’t have strong mothers, you believe that? We don’t believe in others; we don’t have enough desire. Oh no!!!, goners, there’re no goners, no goners, stay at home, don’t even try. And I say, keep going, I love hearing we beating each other up, that’s not it either though.
When I made El Mariachi, I didn’t make it for Columbia Pictures, Columbia Pictures bought it, they released it in Spanish, made Guinness Book of World Records because it was to perform. What was I doing? I was making it for that little Spanish market, that got me excited. that got me excited because, I knew they’d buy it for fifty thousand, I could make for ten thousand, that’s a business. I could go turn that around, that got me up my butt, from doing being comfortable, being a cartoonist, to go, that’s an opportunity, I’ll go take a chance on that. Anyone who got excited about my story on El Mariachi, they are Latin. You don’t go think you’re moving, this is why I just barely figured this out because, I was doing that already. If you go to make a movie with your buddies, you go, come on, let’s all get together, let’s make something really famous, contribute fifty thousand, hundred thousand, they’re not going to get very far if we put on your business head and you go, who’s going to buy this? who’s going to distribute this? What four or five buyer can I take this to that can start a bidding war against? They’re all want this project, no one’s even putting this product out. They go, Jesus is making it His little movies up there, but there’s no market for it, it’s in a different studio each time, there’s no like a studio that does these kind of movies, we are even on T.V., Who’s going to buy this? So, what do you do? You sit back down. Why would you so much work to make a movie, to go make it and put the money in and go and have no buyers? that’s not a good business man. You got to know that there’s somebody is going to buy this thing, that’s why there’s no filmmakers and you need a filmmaker because, when I first got to Hollywood, there was all kinds of old guard thinking, you get there and people would say, we got to go protest so that Hollywood puts more Latins in their movies. That’s wrong, that didn’t feel right, what? you want to go make them put Latins in a movie. If you’re an American writer, just like Jewish American writers are writing a story, he’s going to be writing what he knows, he’s going to be writing about his own family or his own personal experiences. He goes to make his movie in the studio and you come to him and say, now, you got to put a Latin in it because, they’re outside protesting, you got to change it to Latin. That’s not going to work, that’s ridiculous. You need more Latin filmmakers, where are the Latin filmmakers? you need Latin filmmakers to sit there and go, no, because, you don’t have to be British to be James Bond, no, because it’s based on my family, no, we’ve got to do it this way because, it’s going to be more universal, you need somebody to make that argument. So, you need a Latin filmmaker, not go and protesting and complaining and whining, you know, they do this close the blinds out there, they don’t look. That’s not the right answer, those guys are always going on the wrong direction but again, if you think differently, you keep thinking and you’re going to find another way and that’s why I’m going to tell you guys and I’m telling everybody around there and I told this guys like, you got to stop beating yourself, I don’t want to hear any more, I don’t want to hear any more reasons why we can’t do it because it’s those are all wrong and you are starting to embarrass yourself. The reason is because, there’s no place to go, they had no place to go. If I put a network like ‘El Rey’, that takes care of all that but I have a network up for all the reasons you can’t get in Hollywood, you can go here, that would get you excited. We make a movie and we send it to Robert Rodriguez, he likes it, he puts it on the network in ‘El Rey’ and he lets us own it because, I’m not a greedy bastard, I don’t need that money. I do that because, when you go into the business, the doors are a lot closed, when you get access to something like this, you don’t want to do it the same way, you do it the reverse. You open the doors up and flip the pyramid, so people would have a chance with this that they would have before, people will make things that they wouldn’t have made the day before just because something like ‘El Rey’ exists why? because, the hope and the dream exists, that if we make it, it will go there. People would make things, if they won’t show it to me, even if they don’t send it to me, they’ll make it because, where hope and dream exists, that there’s a place to go, that’s huge, that’s phenomenal. I had idea for a show called, I try to think of some cheap programming I can make, this really inexpensive to just fill out this schedule because we will need some tearing down, some premiere shows and some of the, I’m trying to think we are all cutting edge differently, something I want to call an El Mariachi theater, where every week we show a movie made by somebody that I gave seven thousand dollars to. They come and they show it and we talk about how they did it, we show the movie, might give another seven thousand dollars to go reshoot some of it. They’ll come back a couple weeks later, we’ll show it again, that’s another two hours of programming and it cost nothing because, this show cost five bucks but at the end of the season, audience decides. The winner gets the El Mariachi treatment, they get to remake the movie like I do with Desperado, they get to remake it and it goes and I was talking to the guy Warner Brothers, the head of Warner Brother, having dinner with them, I was telling them about this idea, they were like, it sounds amazing and he said, the winner gets to, I mean, the networks get to and he said, “that sounds amazing, the winner will get a movie produced, released by Warner Brothers”, anyway, I do that, I do in a second. Nobody wants to help; they are just going to help for the right reasons, you do for the right reason, the right way in mind, people will help you and this great thing that, if you compete against other people, no one will help you, if you compete against yourself, everyone will help you. Something like a raise, that’s competing against ourselves, making ourselves better, improving society because, this affects the whole country. Imagine, if the whole country is growing, where their minority group is exploding like that and it’s an explosion of people who don’t know who they are, what a disservice it is to the entire country, if you know you can change that with imaging, that’s amazing. As I took this to the president, took this to the White House, which sounds like a big deal and it’s not, you get there and you realize because you aimed high, I’m going to take this to the president, I’m going to take this to the White House and I got there and you get there and you are like, this is it? this is good as it gets?
You guys can do anything, you guys can’t even get a posse pass because, it’s so much gridlock, I’m going this way, so you go this way. Bill Cosby said, the most amazing thing, remember The Bill Cosby Show, before you turn, there’s a show called The Bill Cosby show, African-Americans show, before you turn, I was in high school, you guys must not know what it is but there was a show called The Bill Cosby Show, it was phenomenon, everybody would watch that show, everybody; Anglos Latin, Chinese and African-American and Bill Cosby and it was a huge show, people just want to watch it because it was about an American family, it was really entertaining, that one show changed the country. Bill Cosby said, because the show did more for civil rights and the civil rights movement and he was right and that’s the power of entertainment, the power of imaging. If you show people something like ‘El Rey’ and they watch it and they see the kind of programming we have, that is entertaining first, because, it’s got to be subversive about this stuff like, I didn’t know he watched Latin films, he just watched Spy Kids, I didn’t know. So you got to be like that, first be the change everybody wants it, like a drug, they want to watch this because, it’s so different from network T.V. If we go do the Latin C.S.I. we’re dead, we can’t do that, we have to go this way, it’s going to be like M.T.V. when it first started, it’s going to be really cool, it’s going to be so renegade and so different, so always thinking outside the box that people, Hollywood would be imitating it the next year because, that’s that and by getting new voices and getting fresh voices from people and inspiring people to go make things, that’s where it’ll be really cool. If you do that, people watch the network, you change their mind, if they don’t watch it, if they just see this viral clip that goes out continually from this network, that changes their mind. If you don’t even do that, you just put toss of light; “did you hear that clip, have you seen it yet?” They say, “I haven’t seen it yet”, you say,” that’s on the Latin Network, El Rey”, you just changed that person’s mind with a line is in this country, you can change the country like that, that’s how fast it is, that’s how important imaging is. When he (pointing at Charles) taught me in my first class here, twenty years ago, he was showing us the negative side of it, I’m showing you the positive side, what you can actually do because, you know it, what I’m telling you is and you’re nodding your head because you know it, that sounds right, doesn’t it? But who, when and why no one has done this? Because, somebody has got to be first and I only got this opportunity because, two companies wanted to merge so badly that they gave us the network, so now, we’ve got to do something great with it.
You have to do something great with it because, the idea of something like a ‘El Rey’ is bigger than me, it’s bigger than the network. It’s why when I went to talk, I told him about this idea, he was like, it changed his whole way of thinking, he is like, wow!!! it’s amazing, meets our idea, this is crazy. So, he said, where are you work at? we have this idea for a movie and she told me the idea and I said, that’s a series. I’ll show you how to finance that movie so that, you own it and you control it and you can leverage a T.V. deal that I’ll give you and we can use some of that money to start paying for a T.V. series that will continue through the series and you own it, that’s a business, that’s not just an idea that’s a business and she said, “I not going to be able to sleep tonight” and she just takes off. It just changes people’s thinking as it clicks, it clicks in their head and it’s an amazing opportunity to build something, I mean, I’m casting for a new Machete right now and I meet with like Sofia Vergara, Demi Ambicha, who just got an Oscar nomination this year, Michelle Rodriguez and all these people. It’s supposed to be like an hour meeting time on Machete, fifty-two minutes of it talking about ‘El Rey’, by the end I say, ‘do you want to be in Machete, they go,” oh yeah”. But there is other reason, there are other ideas, like all revolutions going on in my head and what we can do as part of this network and it’s such a cool idea because Michelle Rodriguez even said, “you know, I have to go learn a lot of these Latin words in Hollywood, they are just so old-school, they are just so much negative, they are the old guard of this film, negative chip on their shoulder, we always kind of steer away from because, it was not how we wanted to do things, the whole let’s go protesting, it was just like not who we were” and I said, isn’t that amazing, look at the career you’ve had on your own, you’re an avatar, on your own, against all odds, you got an Oscar, Jessica Hermes, Sam Antonio, with his, with the career that I’ve had, that’s on our own. Imagine if we all came together because, who is the new guard? if I was the old guard who did nothing better than new guard who’ve accomplished so much, the old guard just complains a lot, they to do very little. The new guard, that’s the new guard and what do we say? we’ve got to give people heroes and who’s the heroes; the audience is the heroes because, we’ve got to empower them to be the next, like I’m here talking to you because, I’m here but I already know it’s passing already. I just barely got here, you know, like my reign is over, it’s about turning it over to somebody else.
So, when you make something like ‘El Rey’, you can do anything, so, imagine that show like, imagine that show, how do you get that message out, that the audience is the hero? Like I show El Mariachi hour, like I show ‘El Rey’ right here. You can use seven thousand dollars to go make a movie that’s really entertaining, that anybody is going to want to watch, it’s got the message involved in there, somehow subversively in a lot of angle, subversively, it’s like hitting you with a laden stick again and for instance, we give them different criteria each time, like and you can use again. So, I built the whole career on using guns and it’s a cheap trick and I want you not to be hobbling with a crutch, I want you to run because, you’re the hero, so, that’s how you’d like to turn it over to people. What if I fail? As people have asked me; what obstacles do you face and what are your biggest challenges with creating a whole network, that’s insane, how are you going to do that? keep aiming higher. Why would I want to go run a network when I’ve got a whole movie business? Because, there’s such a great reason to, which is why all these guys would want to be a part of it because, you’re going to change people’s minds. You have to go make more money, that’s a result, you’ve got to have a why, it’s another big thing. It’s a whole of another talk, I’m going to give you the quick version of that. When you wake up every morning, you need to know why, start with why. What are you right now, are you students? that’s what you do. How do you do that? you go to school. Is it like taking online courses or is it all classes like this? classes like this, that’s how you do it. So, many people start from what they do, to how they do it, very few people think about why, you’ve got to start with why. so, let me explain why that’s important; because when you know why you’re doing something, you can attain things much better and much clearer, your decision making becomes much more important, much easier too.
Apple for instance, does it like perfectly. When you have a computer company that just makes computers and they say, what do you do? I make computers. How do you do it? I use the highest grade of technology, the coolest products, the coolest gadgets that speak to you, that’s how I do it. Do you want to buy a computer from me? No. Apple starts the other way; they start with why they are doing it. We think differently, we think you think differently too, we think you’re an individual and you see one of our ads, there’s not ten people enjoy it, even if there is one, we want to make product that speaks to your individuality, how are you going to do that? Well, already you believe that, yeah!!! I’m an individual, I think differently than other people, I want something that’s customized to me, how are you going to do that? we use the best technology to make the sexiest equipment that you’re going to want. What do you do? I sell computers or I sell phones; do you want one? Yes. Talk about why; why are you doing this? So, people wanted to compete with the network and they didn’t get the network and they say, why are we not at the network? Why do you want to do a network? comes down to always like a business reason. Well, I made a bunch of movies, we don’t have a T.V. deal and I’ve had a network and I could sell my own movies to myself and make money that way. You know, you don’t deserve to be there, you got to have a good reason why you are doing it. So, if you clarify why you’re doing anything, you’ll find the rest of the success comes much easier and what if I fail? What if I fail at this? this is the other reason I told that lady; what if you invested a year and half your life and you failed? Well, if you fail, you look for those keys to success but if you can’t find any keys in there, what do you tell yourself then, well, tell yourself, maybe you’d connect the dots later, you’ll realize why later or there’s another reason. My dad told me the most amazing story, so, I’m going to try and succeed as much as I can with the Network, I’m going to go as fast as hard as I can, try to break through many barriers. I don’t know what barriers there are and if I did look and know, I probably wouldn’t do it but I’m going to go figure now as we go. My process is, when you hit a wall, you back up and you hit it again harder and you hit it again harder and then, when you’re bleeding, you are like, okay, I’m going to go around it or over it but you always figure out a way but you don’t have to worry about how many walls that’s going to be, just go, go, go, as fast as you can.
My dad told me the most amazing story, I thought about just a couple months ago because, I’ve forgotten it. I was in high school and he said, “come here, this guy on the news, he just won marathon by a lot, they thought he cheated, he was so far ahead of everyone else, they just interviewed and asked him why, how he did it”. he said, “well, when I started off the race, I was running with this guy I didn’t know, he’s ran a really fast clip back, too fast to win the race and we were running, I figured he had slowed down after a while, we were leaving everybody in the dust and we were going, going, we can’t keep this pace but keep going at that pace. Funny, halfway through, we get distracted, we were talking, we were growing at that pace, halfway through the race he goes, I’m out of here. He didn’t intend to run the whole race; he was only going to run half, that was his goal. He left, I kept running at a pace and I won, I won by a lot because I just kept running at that pace already”. And my dad said, what? wow!!! it’s amazing. My dad said, sometimes you’re not the guy who wins the race but the guy who sets the pace for someone else to win.
Charles: Thanks Dad, thanks Dad.
Robert Rodriguez: Yeah, that’s my Dad, thanks Dad. Well, that kind of caused my whole career, now I know why I never won a race, I’m always like the guy who set the pace. But then, El Mariachi, El Mariachi changed everyone’s mind on how they can make movie, they took that and they ran with it. El Mariachi made only about a million dollars at the Box Office, Blair Witch Project later on, it was the biggest independent film of all time, like you know, that’s my success, I helped to set the pace for that. Ran half way, as fast as I could, that’s where everybody else went, that’s part of my victory. When I did 3-D, people remember Avatar, they don’t remember Spy Kids 3-D you know, that was the biggest of the Spy Kids at the time, that’s what started that whole three rays. People would think, are you going to shoot a movie, people would say, “are you’re going to shoot Sin City again on the green screen, like 300?” 300 came after Sin City, it was actually Sin City but you remembered 300 and nobody remembers Sin City but that’s what you do, you set the pace and you go. So, if we go as fast and as hard as we can with this network idea, because it’s such a big idea, it’s bigger than the network because the network is just a foothold, the network is actually an archaic-type system, that we’re retrofitting to sell an idea, an idea that can capture people’s imagination to become a movement. If you can do that, run the race, get my buddies, go fasts and hard as you can, break as many barriers down, if we crash and burn, from the ashes of my failure, please come pick up the key to success, take the baton and finish the race for me, please because, that’s what will happen and that’s great because people would get an idea off your failure. Your success could be the success of the society if you’re doing it for good why, if you have a good why, it’s more than just for selfish reasons or results, like just to make money, that’s a result. Think about why you’re going to do anything before you get into film, whatever you do, why am I doing this? that way your success could be the success of society. Your failure could trigger the success of society, you crashing and burning would give someone the idea and go share the right idea. She did this way, what if I did it this way. You help somebody make it across the finish line that they never would have made it, it will make sense and that their success is your success, that’s not so bad.
I’m open it up to some questions, first from Charles, because I just want the thrill of being asked a question by Charles, something and then to whatever you guys want to talk about, I just wanted to bring this to you because, I was telling everybody else, ‘important people’ and I thought you guys are the most important because you’re the next wave. Thank you.
Charles: When we were emailing back and forth and you know, trying to figure out a date when this could work and all of that and you know, now that one won’t work, we would try this one and you know and we have a cancellation and I apologized but in the midst of all this, I just said thank you for doing this and he said, no, no, this is important, this is a way to touch the future, this is you know, this is how I get to talk to the future. You know, he’s thinking of you and he’s thinking of what’s the next generation of Latino filmmakers, media makers, going to be like and it’s going to come from people in this room, I hope. So, one of my questions is, it almost sounds like if you become N.B.C. you will fail
Robert Rodriguez: N.B.C is owed by a collogmorate
Charles: I know
Robert Rodriguez: this is an independent network and we are already not like them but it depends in which way you know
Charles: In another words: if you start regular programming and you’re trying to get, you know, C.S.I, you are trying to get that one hit that will keep everything going.
Robert Rodriguez: No, that’s not the way to go, you wouldn’t want to do that, that’s what we don’t want because, I don’t think we would be successful because too many networks, they have their own strategies to keep up their own success, how do you even stay relevant? a lot of it is why, why do they even exist? A lot of them exist to make money.
Charles: Well and they’re using a model that’s about sixty years
Robert Rodriguez: An old model. You really need an idea, like I’m working with Facebook right now to create the social media aspect of the network because you know, they say, conventional works says, make 8 shows in a season, we will make six and spread them out and spend more in social media, when people see this stuff, they’re going to want to talk about how it affects them and they’re going to that through social media.
Robert Rodriguez: We want the social media aspect to be really strong because, that’s what this thing is and I never feel like I was part of something till now, I really feel like I’m a part of something. I mean, I see how it unites just the actors that I’m with.
Robert Rodriguez: It’s crazy, it’s crazy how that works.
Charles: I’d like to see Bennie Detroit program on acting.
Robert Rodriguez: You know, all those crazy stuffs he does on acting, I mean and then other things that he hasn’t even thought of yet, that he will now think about because it exists. Now there’s a place to go, you get, that’s why he got up because, he’s selling off Florida with ideas, just because there was now an opportunity, that’s how much an opportunity changes and I wouldn’t have made ‘El Mariachi, have I not heard of that opportunity in that Spanish video market, that allowed me, I went up there but I mean, that at least got me moving right. When you start moving again, what happens? Karma meets you halfway, at least halfway and takes you through the rest of the work, all those stuffs start clicking.
Charles: Do we have any questions from the audience?
Are you going to have news?
Whether we are going to have news? We might, I mean, I was talking to Michelle and she said, “wow!!! you mean you could do a new show, like the real news, like real stuff, you are to be dangerous, whatever gets people talking, you know, if it’s good for people, maybe we should do it but after a while, you start thinking about all the shows that don’t exist, all the stuffs that doesn’t exist, wasn’t the first question, how are you going to feel a network? by the end of the night we’re talking and she was like, we are going to need three networks, there are so many things that don’t exist out there, it’s amazing and specially if you’re Latin, that’s actually a good thing because no one is telling your story. See, you actually have this gold in your pocket, you realize you have it, something no one has had before. Everything is so recycled these days that you forget there are original things out there and there’s original things that other people are going to want to hear because, they feel part of it and it’s bigger, it has a bigger response that you can imagine, I didn’t know that. I put my hand up last year, I didn’t see this, I just thought, oh!!! it’s something I can do for my kids. I didn’t see this, it wasn’t like this idea that I did that people outside grow like a weed, the next morning, they would call me with all these ideas and I’m like, that’s a movement that’s not beyond you and you know, it’s a movement because there’s a close encounter, not everybody goes to Devil’s Tower. I started going, how I’m going to do this network by myself? and when you get there, you start meeting these people, they all start coming, they’ve all been on the same journey and they’re meeting you and they go, you got a network? I’ve been running a show the past year, I don’t even know why and you are like, I know, I can imagine that, I had a feeling you were going to tell me that, they’re really bizarre, why last year? Michelle started well last year too and we never talk to each other, that’s what this thing that happens, that’s when you know something is in the air because, you have been growing, growing and we don’t have a place to go and it’s going to manifest itself and that’s just the beginning.
You mentioned a very important step helping to define and embrace a Latino identity is providing the image and the media some people can say I belong there. How about the next step; empowering them and given them political voice. Do you see yourself with a mission in that direction, helping to articulate that? Empowering and giving political voice to the people, so they can see okay, this is how we get…
Charles: Giving people a political voice.
And through the network? I mean it’s possible, we could do it, I mean, that’s the thing, we can do anything we want, we are going to define the network any way that we want but we definitely, you know, why I’ve been talking to both Democrats and Republicans is to get support for this network because, it’s important that everybody believes in it and they all got it, it was amazing how many people just got it, it’s actually a hundred percent at the time and they all got it, they knew that it was necessary for the country. And they’re all trying to reach the same audience, I mean the president was like, you’re identifying something really important by allowing an identity and we’re trying to do the same thing, we need your help too, so anything that you can do to help us. So, very like-minded in what we’re trying to do, their hands are tied a lot because of how this system works, so wacky, you can actually do more through entertainment and politics sometimes, that’s pretty amazing, you know. That’s why if you want to get into the entertainment business, don’t think of it as kind of a fame things, you guys actually could do a lot with that, when you think about The Cosby statement and you think through it.
Charles: Well, the thing is, we don’t even know if we can do, we have no idea what the potential could be because, we’ve never gone down that road.
Yeah and the potential even for the business itself, the industry is changing all the time, I mean, there will be other ways to create imaging and get to people that people haven’t thought of, that you’re going to think of because, you’re going to be thinking outside the box. When everyone’s trying to T.V and movies, maybe there’s something new and you would come up with something new.
As part of your idea of thinking outside the box, are you wanting to base it here in Texas rather than in Hollywood, like most of the studios?
Yeah we’re going to base this in Texas, definitely.
Where? In case we want to Intern.
At least a bunch of the stuff, I mean there’s a whole network, so some things will have to be made, maybe other places and Latinos are all over the country. So I’m thinking, wherever you are, we will have you make from where you are. I mean. here we’re going to do a lot of stuff here, the bigger shows that I’m doing, I’ll be doing from Austin.
Are you thinking of having like internships?
Yes, we are going to have internships for sure. Everybody wants to come work for ‘El Rey’. I mean, I had this older gentleman, he didn’t even hear this pitch, he just saw ‘El Rey’, Latin network and he came to me and said, I’ll quit my job and I’ll come running errands for ‘El Rey’, because I want my kid Justin to believe in me. So yeah, I want to open it up to everybody because, I want to empower people to go like, this is your network, not my network, ‘El Rey’ belongs to the people, you know and for everybody who wants to watch too, It’s not just for Latins.
Hey Robert Rodriguez, I was just curious. I’m currently taking Latino images in film right now and I was just curious, how do you think ‘El Rey’ will help combat maybe stereotypes, that have been perpetuated through the media of Latinos just throughout the years?
Well, he is just giving another point of view because again, there are not a lot of Latin filmmakers, you are not given the point that there were. Like, if I just watched the news, we are the most horrible people in the world, like there was another Robert Rodriguez Rodriguez that will just like kill ten people, what’s that? Most of the people I know aren’t like that but you never see those stories. So, is not like that there is negative imaging, it’s just imaging isn’t, you know, they are not providing another view. So, it’s so unnecessary, you know, that population is growing and that’s all they’re seeing? they even start thinking that about themselves, look at this guy who runs this organization, look at all the horrible things he said about us because, he can figure out why we’re aren’t filmmakers. They bring up all kind of reasons that were not even true, so because someone didn’t just hand him their idea, that was true. So when you can show people the truth, that’s how you change things and that’s what you can do through entertainment, subversively to entertain them, you just entertain them and while they’re laughing, they learn something that they don’t know before. Sometimes they hear it on the street and they go, that’s not right, I know this now, right because now, I know the truth and that’s how you can change everything with that, Imaging, popular entertainment, you can change the world with that, for the Beatles there, you can do everything with that. So it’s very important, there are a lot of ways you can go, I can do more in politics, I can do more than the government, I can do more with entertainment and that’s really empowering to know that, you know, you now have a famous studio on your laptop, where you can change the world.
Hi Robert Rodriguez, I’m from Chile actually. You talk a lot about the filmmaking so if the future. I want to know if you could recommend or suggest some new names of filmmakers from Chile, Argentina, Mexico, that maybe you can suggest or maybe we can be aware of their steps and new people, what people you can then say, maybe, I heard you have good friendship with Nicholas Lopez from Chile, maybe, what others can you suggest?
Robert Rodriguez: There’s a lot of filmmakers from every country and I just got one right now that wants me to see a screening, (clean the nose) there’s this guy from Mexico that wants me to go see his movie. People are reaching out to me now because of the network, they’re saying; come see my movie, we’re trying to find a distribution but it’s a big hit even at the agency which is not a Latin agency. And they’re excited about this movie that’s winning all kinds of awards like, it got a record of Ariel Awards in Mexico, I can’t remember the name of all of them but it’s like some of these people I haven’t even met yet. A lot of these guys I haven’t even seen their films yet and what I’m going to get to do with the network is not just show and that’s the big thing with the network, the movie is your own, tell the movie and all of those stuffs.
Robert Rodriguez: The stuff is made in other countries and is imported here, some are made here but a lot of it’s not even made here, so we don’t have programming for Latin films made in this country. So, that’s what we’re going to do for this but just want to introduce filmmakers and movies from other countries as well, like, you know, we might create something where you can show your films that we’ve selected as being things, that this audience we think would really like, so that people would know where to go, they’ll know what to watch them, know where the movie is created because, there is so much out there. We need something that kind of narrow the focus for us, so that we can get exposure to these filmmakers, exposure to maybe that’s an idea, like how do we feature like a different country besides this country because, we want to do a lot of stuff in their country too. Thanks. A lot of questions here, it’s good, people don’t normally ask questions.
I know this filmmaker but he’s from Greece but he’s based in L.A, I know he’ll be interested in ‘El Rey’ and producing something for it, how should he connect with the network?
That’s good a question. How do you get to meet ‘El Rey’? You know, you guys are hearing this early, we haven’t set that up yet but the thing is, if we do, we’re going to put it out through the media, social media and how you can actually clue up, people could submit things because we will, need programming right away for the network. The network launches at the end of next year and there’s not a lot of time to make stuffs, we will have to acquire content, we want to have people make content for us and we’ve already started making content now that we can start leaking out on the internet, with you know, there are a lot of people know what this thing’s going to look like and they would want it, they would want to go see it and so, we can already start to change now but it really hits the Internet next year. Thank you. But we’ll let you know how you can do that.
Hey!!! Robert Rodriguez, I know you’re a musician and I was wondering what ideas you’ve been throwing around for inter-musical content to bring that to the ‘El Rey’.
Robert Rodriguez: Good question, I mean we think that’s one of the big things is, there are more question back there is the music, it’s the music that hasn’t been featured before or heard before or seen before, I mean, I told a musician friend of mine and he goes, wow!!! he cared for the show like on the spot, how he could travel around the country like in twenty- four hours, put a band, get these different bands put a show together and introduce all kinds of bands and he can just travel around and do this and set this up. That’s cool, that wouldn’t even cost anything, everybody wants to put on a show for you and we could put it right on the network, no strings attached, that would be great.
Robert Rodriguez: You know, it’s a lot of ideas and music is a big one because, I mean even that thing I showed you, that was just my band playing the music. I did this show where I show those images where we played music from the movies and we made stars out of these; Antonio and Salmon and all of those guys, half of that was in music, I think, how you identified with the picture, it’s not just the image that you are seeing but the music as well, really important, so, I think music will be a big stuff. That’s my band, Bill Dorca still plays in that band, those other guys, same guys, that’s the singer you heard, that’s correct, that’s our version of ‘El Rey’, on iTunes, of course.
Robert Rodriguez: You know, it’s a lot of ideas and music is a big one because, I mean even that thing I showed you, that was just my band playing the music. I did this show where I show those images where we played music from the movies and we made stars out of these; Antonio and Salmon and all of those guys, half of that was in music, I think, how you identified with the picture, it’s not just the image that you are seeing but the music as well, really important, so, I think music will be a big stuff. That’s my band, Bill Dorca still plays in that band, those other guys, same guys, that’s the singer you heard, that’s correct, that’s our version of ‘El Rey’, on iTunes, of course.
Hi Robert Rodriguez. Thanks for coming today, I seen you a couple of times here on campus and I wanted to ask you two short questions
Robert Rodriguez: I was lost when you saw me walking around, by the way
Two short question, the first one I was going to ask is in the same line of two people up there in front. When it comes, everyone’s wanting a piece of this and I really appreciate your enthusiasm but I’m wondering, when it comes to advertising in the commercials and people wanting to kind of march off your great idea, are you going to be cautious with what they’re going to do with the Latino image and are you going to have like an advisory council? I know you have, you know, celebrities and a lot of people around you, giving you advice and everything like that but I’m wondering about commercials and advertising, I don’t know if you’ve seen that Taco Cabana commercial; with a lady who’s talking about her mother-in-law and her throwing away. She’s speaking Spanglish
Robert Rodriguez: Oh!!! you know what? if not seen that but I feel what you are saying, will they make special commercials just for the Network? You know, it’s a really good question. I mean, the advertisers, we want to attract something, I’m still learning all that stuff about T.V, I’m learning about it, it makes total sense. Who you choose as your advertisers shows your audience the quality of your network.
So, you only want to start with people that are, you know, of category, where they don’t like cheesy stuff but also like you’re saying, if they go and they make commercials that think might be doing something good for the you when they are doing the reverse, of course you have to catch that, that’s a whole lot of a problem that you should run. It’s about you think about your wife like a watchdog and make sure that they don’t have something slippery and they don’t notice and it’s not like they’re doing it on purpose because, they don’t know yet. If you educate people, they will know that that’s not right. You will be amazed how people don’t know that’s wrong, I mean, I haven’t even seen it but I imagine that’s not right, from what you’re saying.
Robert Rodriguez: Robert Rodriguez: Yeah and with your network here it seems like you’re so open- minded and you’re willing to show all these perspectives and that’s also something to think about because there’s really all kinds of Latinos right?
Robert Rodriguez: Yea, there are all kinds but you want to include everybody because they are some that are blonde here, blue-eyed, they feel like they’re less than they’re like in the subgroup of a subgroup of a subgroup, right? And it’s crazy
and the second thing I really wanted to tell you is that; every day at my school, I have to tell the kids because, they always ask me where is Maxi’s Journal here, Maxi’s journal, go to the fiction section R.O.D, the author is the same as Rodriguez and they go there and it’s never there, it’s always checked out or Maxi’s Journal was actually stolen.
Robert Rodriguez: What school is this?
Robert Rodriguez: It’s on the east side, it is called Sanchez.
I got a bunch of copies of those books, Linda, you talk to her and get her a bunch of books.
I would love that, I’d really appreciate that and I’ll share with other librarians because we’ve talked about that on the list sort like, anybody know where we can get Maxi’s journal? and all the kids love it.
Robert Rodriguez: Well that’s a real hard on, people will get that for a lot of money
And for all these collegians that don’t know, it’s this really small manual and when you open up the pages, it’s a kid writing his journal and they love it, I mean
The journal came from a movie; the images from Shark boy, my son came up with that movie, my nine- year old son.
And if you want to touch more lives come to my school I invite you. You’re always welcome.
Thank you, I might I bring Shark boy himself, the boy who created it
Robert Rodriguez: He likes to go talk to students, he’s fifteen now but he came up with that when he was eight.
Hello, I just want to ask you, I had been reading on Yahoo about how you want to start an animation house. I want to know like where are you in the process of developing it and how’s it?
Wow!!! we just started an animation company called Quick Drawing Animation, we’ll be doing a couple of animation features here in Austin and we will open doors on next Wednesday, we are just getting first funding drops and it’s outside people funding. We don’t have to go to a studio, we do it outside of the system and when we create an animated product, it’s here
Is that like a full service, like animation house, you know, like 2-D, 3-D
It’s going to start off with a core group of artists I work with directly and they will start expanding, stuff out to different like-minded vendors at first until we build up the artists here but we just start, we don’t want to go starting too big, we want to start smaller with projects or maybe you can make your idea big, you’ll spend a lot on it rather than doing a small idea for a big budget, do a big idea for small budget.
I mean how are you going to make money, are you going to use the normal business model that, you know, that everybody uses in cable television or are you trying to do something different?
Robert Rodriguez: What’s the business model or actually it’s been interesting to figure this out as we go overnight and a couple of people that have done this before you guys. I hooked up with the guys that actually brought me the idea originally, they had already created a Network and they had found that they couldn’t get there, there was an agent that used to represent Salmon, that’s where I knew him. He was working with guys like Michael Bay and he was a big agent and he did Transformers and I found he was working with Hasbro, he’s the one who brought Hasbro to Michael Bay when he went to go put some of this programming on T.V. And he choose those networks that say, we don’t let you put anything on unless we own it, so he said, let’s go make our own network, so they went took Discovery Kids, refaced it and called The Hub he created and they can put any programming they want on there that doesn’t have to be owned by the network, that other people can put on and then he came to me with this idea and said Comcast is going to merge and you should own the network and we will help you put the business plan together and we’ll get find answers. So we’re not going to go for the short term sell it out just get enough to get going there. I mean it’s interesting it’s all of the side to it but just be creative every step of the way you want to think outside the box, you want to think, how can I do this different. We were doing something really different here at the start, just do it. They say like for you to go the traditional route, you have to go traditional all the way, even down to the finest. You’ve got to rethink the whole system and think more like an entrepreneur.
Hi Robert Rodriguez, my name’s Allie and I’m inspired by you mostly because, you really pushed envelope and like you said, you went over bears were there for you and sort of created this whole independent market. So I mean, I’m Latino but I feel inspired by your drive and your passion. So I guess, I wonder like who you really marketing to with this network and it just supposed to be for Latino’s or like that sort of viewer or is it more meant for people who want to push the envelope and follow their passions and do something new. With the last thing you said, if I want to push the envelope to do something new and see something really innovative and creative and entertaining, first and foremost and then for those looking deeper will go, wow!!!! it’s Latin content, made by a Latin but it’s not Latin in a way that makes it for everybody because, everybody’s going to have to want to watch it, if you make it for Latins, even Latin might never go do watch that. Already almost to make all these great movies, you know, how come nobody came? because you’re making it, you’re making it have a Latin stake and Latins don’t want to go feel like they’re in school, they want to be entertaining. It is a great movie but it still feels like you have to go to school to watch, that’s not what you want, you’re more subversive than that. You know, want tRobert Rodriguez: o laugh, they want to enjoy things, they want to pass it around to their friends, they say, check this out. So, how you do that, that’s how you become an edge, that’s how to be innovative, how do you accomplish that? So, that’s what it has to be first and foremost and that’s what I believe, that’s a good question. No, not just Latins, we want it to be as inclusive as possible. Over here they will go back this way.
Are you going to have shows made for and by Latinos to just break these gender stereotypes?
Are you going to have shows made for and by Latinos to just break these gender stereotypes? definitely, ask why I’m talking about you guys having a bunch of show ideas, we already have some bunch show ideas, you know, people that can start inspiring other people to make stuff too, so that you go. We’re just going to start but you guys have to come finish. So, you will get inspired by those things, got to be how you get the first you know people to look at the network by using the star name but really the stuff that I know is going to be more attractive to people but people there are going to really like it, it’s going to take off as the new stuff, by new voices they’re thinking differently, not in the establishment so much, we need something that is going to start the football and get attention. And the flash is really good for that but who’s going to deliver the goods, are going to be like, people like wonder, they came out of nowhere came out of nowhere, I came out of nowhere. So, that’s where the next generation is and what I mean the next year, that’s where this generation is going to be coming from. Those are the people they’re going to pop up the meal, they are hungry and ready to go and they wanted to make stuff that nobody seen before because, they’ve already been feeling it. It’s like I say, it’s like Devil’s Tower, it’s all going to be shown up there where you’re with your guns, it’s going to be fantastic.
Hi My name Adina. I am an Irish G-major, which is international relations and global studies and my culture is arts media. I don’t know how bold this is of me or like I know a lot of people are thinking this because, you’re so amazing and so cool and laid back. But first thing, I will try but I could fail, so, could I work for you, maybe?
I don’t want you to work for me, I want you to work for yourself.
Well, like I mean, I could start somewhere, I like to learn, you know, like you started making films so maybe it’s never started me
Robert Rodriguez: It’s going to take an army to put this whole thing together. I came to you all really quickly because, I’ve only been taking this around, like the big wigs, normally I would probably wait till we had something to hold up and go here, you know put your voice here so we can get in contact with you but I don’t have that set up yet. So I’m a little premature but we will soon. And you all will be the first to know because you’re in Austin, so, I’ll tell Charles to let you guys know.
Charles: We have time for one or two more question
Hello, so how are you going to rethink television shows or something, you know, you have the standard series or season twenty-two shows, like a year.
Why are you doing Network? Well, like when you start thinking about I was talking to somebody today and they came to me, why is it thirty minutes? why is it now? or why is it?
Yeah, I mean, I’m a I’m a huge fan of the Novellas
Robert Rodriguez: Make it go on one direction. You make it anything you want, that’s what’s so exciting. It’s like come up with an idea and don’t think, well, as much as I want to do this, that’s not the model, we’ve got to follow what everyone else is doing, we throw that out the window. So, you know, we’re just coming up with something, now I can’t say, with some many ideas and I’ve told it to some people, people that I Robert Rodriguez: have told to, they just go. Nobody’s doing that and nobody would do that because, the people are trying to come do stuff here too, people that would never work in television but they’ll come work for ‘El Rey’, well, it’s cool, it’s independent, it’s different, they’ll come do stuff for this network. People will come work for this network, they will never do anything for a network otherwise because, it’s not a network, it’s like something else and they can come up with anything because that’s what’s going to, people will start copying what we do if we do outside the box.
Robert Rodriguez: We don’t copy them whereas we imitative, we do our own thing, we innovate and it’s got to be about innovating and what happens if you go that direction and it fails, so what? look at what you did figure it out and you go, that will take you some other direction. So, we will seek failure all the way because, you know, you might tumble upon the right idea. Go try something, doesn’t work switch it out, try to get this, do something else and we’re going to find five hit shows, where one network might just have one because that’s the anomaly, we’re all going to do it anomalies, so that the whole thing has a chance to be really crazy successful and entertaining and like mean people want to see it. So you have to go that way, so it’s like, don’t go this way, go that way. See, I don’t want to follow the traditional route, we’ll just do it despite maybe, there’s some good ideas, to go twenty two’s show but that never made sense to me anyway. So people are already rethinking those, there are a lot of networks that put on a show, there’s only six shows in a season now, sometimes, they just can’t afford to keep up their money, so they just keep the quality up and do less, if we did more like that, did less and put more social media in between and that would be the key thing to try to choose how people actually watched up today, use up things, share things like today.
Robert Rodriguez: We don’t copy them whereas we imitative, we do our own thing, we innovate and it’s got to be about innovating and what happens if you go that direction and it fails, so what? look at what you did figure it out and you go, that will take you some other direction. So, we will seek failure all the way because, you know, you might tumble upon the right idea. Go try something, doesn’t work switch it out, try to get this, do something else and we’re going to find five hit shows, where one network might just have one because that’s the anomaly, we’re all going to do it anomalies, so that the whole thing has a chance to be really crazy successful and entertaining and like mean people want to see it.
Robert Rodriguez: So you have to go that way, so it’s like, don’t go this way, go that way. See, I don’t want to follow the traditional route, we’ll just do it despite maybe, there’s some good ideas, to go twenty two’s show but that never made sense to me anyway. So people are already rethinking those, there are a lot of networks that put on a show, there’s only six shows in a season now, sometimes, they just can’t afford to keep up their money, so they just keep the quality up and do less, if we did more like that, did less and put more social media in between and that would be the key thing to try to choose how people actually watched up today, use up things, share things like today.
Okay, You’ve talked a lot about narrative, I’m curious if you have thought about documentary programming at all, is there are opportunities for documentarians and socially conscious programming?
Absolutely. You know, I think you want to make it a place, you know, where we’re just thinking this through but that was one of the places, when we gave our pitch, we had documentary in there too because, people are going to say that this is a place they can go hear stories they’ve never heard before, that always have to be dramatized, they can be, you know, reality, they could be real, they could documentary and I think that will be so far more powerful programming, I think it will be.
Charles: The last person
Last but not least. I just wanted to say; I drove here from Dallas to see you, like, last minute, yeah I found out last night. So I’m kind of nervous because, I love you. If you have a minute, I would love to take a picture with you afterwards.
She wants to take a picture with me, okay, sure, absolutely.
and one more thing the network, I just love the idea. I used to have that idea, oh!!! I want to have a Spanish Network that caters, so but it’s going to be, you know, I see it like BET, you know but it doesn’t have to be, I know a lot of people, I watch BET, you know, so you know, I think that it’ll be great and I’m excited.
Robert Rodriguez: Yeah, I try to say, I mean, it’s hard to say what it’s going to be like but I try to say, I want to remember when I was a kid and M.T.V. had first hit, we all couldn’t get our cable hooked up fast enough to see this thing, that was so different, that had never been there before, it was so innovative, so renegade, that you bought into the idea of the whole network. You don’t go to watch it for like, if you watch
Robert Rodriguez: You don’t go to watch it for like, if you watch Walking Dead, you like Walking Dead, it’s not that you’re, you don’t think I’m an emcee guy. You don’t say that, you don’t say like, everything they put on, I’m going to watch because, it follows an idea that I believe in, doesn’t do that, that’s like, if you have a network that has an idea that you believe in, that you identify with and you go, that makes me feel a certain way, that is me. That’s like Apple, that’s like Nike, that’s like a lifestyle brand, that’s like I’ll follow that wherever it goes; that’s what we are trying to create. Thank you all.
Charles: Thank you Robert Rodriguez.
THE ROBERT RODRIQUEZ 10 MINUTE FILM SCHOOL
Welcome to the class. A famous Film maker a while back said something about everything you need to know about film, you can learn in about a week. He was being generous, you can learn it in 10 minutes. So for watchers we’ll be out of here in 10 kits. Okay so you want to be a filmmaker?
Well you are a film maker. The moment that you think about that you want to be a film maker you’re that. Make yourself a business card that says you’re a film maker, pass them out to your friends. As soon as you get that over with and you got it in your mind that you’re one, you’ll be one, you’ll start thinking like one, don’t dream about being a film maker, you are a film maker. Now let’s get down to business.Let’s play. We’re doing a moment that being creative is not enough in this business, you have to become technical. Creative people are born creative, you’re lucky. Technical people, however, can never be creative, something they’ll never get. You can’t buy it and study it. You’re born with it. Too many creative people don’t want to learn how to be technical. So happens, they become dependent on technical people. Become technical, you can learn that, through creative and technical, you’re unstoppable. Experience, do you have experience in movies? You do, you watch movies. Now you need to have movie experience. You’re not going to learn from just watching movies. You’ll learn some things, you’ll learn more picking up a camera by making your own films, your own mistakes. Mistakes don’t have to be mistakes, everything is subjective. A mistake to one person is actually a piece of art to someone else, hide behind that, and tell everyone its art. You can get away with a lot.
Let’s play. We’re doing a moment that being creative is not enough in this business, you have to become technical. Creative people are born creative, you’re lucky. Technical people, however, can never be creative, something they’ll never get. You can’t buy it and study it. You’re born with it. Too many creative people don’t want to learn how to be technical. So happens, they become dependent on technical people. Become technical, you can learn that, through creative and technical, you’re unstoppable. Experience, do you have experience in movies? You do, you watch movies. Now you need to have movie experience. You’re not going to learn from just watching movies. You’ll learn some things, you’ll learn more picking up a camera by making your own films, your own mistakes. Mistakes don’t have to be mistakes, everything is subjective. A mistake to one person is actually a piece of art to someone else, hide behind that, and tell everyone its art. You can get away with a lot.
Start with a screenplay. Does anyone here know how to write? No good. Everyone else writes the same way. Start writing your way that makes you unique. You can take writing classes, that’s good but don’t bother to go to film school or you’ll be making films like everyone else. People want to see new film. How do you write a script? Well you actually don’t have a lot of money or you wouldn’t be in my class. So you want to make a movie. You don’t want to spend a lot. You’re going to come up with problems everyday on your set. You can get rid of the problem one of two way. You can do it creatively or you can wash your way with the money hose. You have no money, you have no hose. So just make a screenplay for a movie that you can actually make without having to make your parents poor. So make a cheap movie. How od you make a cheap movie? Look around you, what do you have around you. Take stock in what you have. Your father owns a liquor store. Make a movie about a liquor store. Do you have a door, make a movie about your dog. You’re mom works in a nursing home, make a movie about a nursing home.
When I did 02:26 I had a turtle, I had a guitar case, I had a small town. And I said I’ll make a movie around that. How do you visualize a movie? In storyboards and do that. You can pre visualizing you movie and draw them up, which you should really do. Just make a blank screen for yourself and sit there and watch your movie. Close your eyes and stare at this, imagen the screen, imagine your movie, shot for shot, cut for cut. Sit there and close your eyes and get rid of everybody. Get rid of all the thoughts in your head, except your movie and watch your movie. Is it too slow, it is too fast, is it funny, does it make sense? Watch it and then write down what you see. Write down the shots that you see. And then just go get those shots.
Equipment, okay let’s go to equipment. The worse, the better, you don’t want anything too fancy, remember this is your first movie. You’re no Spielberg yet.
I use this one for 03:23, almost the same one. This is the 16M. I used the 16S but this is exactly what I had. It helped me move fast because it was light, it was very noisy, so I had to do the sound in a whacky way but this thing here would cost you about $2000. Don’t spend that kind of money. Find some monkey who owns one. I found somebody who had one of these sitting around. He wasn’t using it. I borrowed it from him. I shot my own movie.
This is a nice stand, it’s a very solid stand. You know what’s going to happen? The camera is going to stay on the stand. You’re going to just keep it there because it’s so nice. Meaning your movie is going to look stiff. Take it off of there, sit in a wheel chair, and push yourself around. Get some energy in your film. That’s the great thing about first films is they have so much life and so much energy. Big productions can’t even duplicate that energy because they’ve got too good a stand, they’ve got too much crew and everything is really smooth and polished and it’s lifeless. Ad life to your film by getting rid of the fancy stuff. Too good, too heavy, too good, just use your hands, better.
There is a 04:29 this isn’t the right one, I broke my other one. This is the spot meter, that’s okay but it’s too fancy. You just need one with a little 04:35 on it. Point it to your subject, read the light, look at your number on your light meter. Remember the light meter is your friend, feed that in to the lens and the iris and then they are set and start shooting. Don’t over light, actually I had 2 lights. Regular light bulbs, they were balanced for indoor film, so they look fine. In fact everyone said the lighting looked moody because there was very little light. So again your mistakes, your short comings, suddenly becomes artistic expression.
Finally post production. When you finish shooting a movie, what do you do? These are your friends my friends. Video editing systems, computer editing systems. Anything like that it’s immediate, it’s easy, it’s cheap, do not cut on film. Film is your enemy, you may be shooting on film but don’t cut on film. If any of you want to cut on film, get out of my classroom now. Go spend $20,000 in the real film school and do that. You’ll never get a job done believe me. Everything is on computers or video these days. Film is slow, film is expensive, film is not creative, and film takes too long. To get one of these little movie 05:38 and it’s such a pain in the butt to get the thing to cut, you’re not even going to try any options. You’re not even going to try to expand. The use video, it’s fast, it’s immediate. Cut on tape, that’s what I do. I shot Madiachi for nothing. I cut on this video machine, I edit it on video. I had a 3 quarter inch master that looked beautiful because the negative was transferred right to tape. There was no middle man. So it looked like 35 millimeter clean, pristine, and colorful. I made VHS copies of this, sent them out all over Hollywood. I never made a film print. Waste of money. You have to string them up. They get worn out. They are expensive. They are copies of your negative, you don’t want that. You don’t want copies of your negative. You want your negative on tape, where people can duplicate it and watch it and get you work.
Okay, so you’ve made your movie. You’ve cut it, you’ve got it out, and people want you. What do you do? First thing you want to do is get an agent right away. Hollywood is full of sharks. You need a shark working for you. These guys go and they get you the best deals, they get you the best prices. They get you the best movies but you have learned of something that no one else as. How to make a movie dirt cheap. NO one else in Hollywood knows how to do that. You guys can make them cheap, you guys can make them better. Don’t get swallowed in the system. Take advantage of your position. Now I make movies that are still low budget but they look like big budget movies because I learned the techniques that I just showed you today.
So what you want to do is go into Hollywood, make lower budget movies, do whatever kind of movie you want. They will look big, they will give you more freedom, more money, final cut, make your own posters and that’s where you want to be. If you make a big budget movie, don’t be fooled. Money doesn’t get you anything. Suddenly you’re working for somebody. Suddenly they start telling you what actors to put in your movie because they are spending so much money. They have to make a lot of money back. If you keep your budget slow you don’t have to make back that kind of money. It helps to have money but it’s not everything, what it is its power though. The more money you make in that town, the more people respect you, the more freedom you get. That’s really what you want, the money is a means to an end. I don’t have all day, I’ve got to go back and do my own films, so I hope you guys learned something today. I hope you grab some of these cameras and go shoot something of your own. I hope you write down the ideas that you have, the dreams that you have, stop aspiring, start doing. Get to it. See you in Hollywood, be scary.