Top 15 Indie Filmmaking Podcasts (Oscar® and Emmy® Winners)

Indie Filmmaking Podcasts have been so important to me over the past few years. Indie Film Hustle entered into the podcast space in 2015 with the launch of its first original podcast series, The Indie Film Hustle Podcast.

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.

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1. Oliver Stone

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.

2. Joe Carnahan

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.

3. Richard Linklater

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. 

4. Edward Burns

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 McMullen was 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.

5. Jason Blum

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 Blum of 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.

6. Edward Zwick 

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.

7. John Sayles

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.

8. Neill Blomkamp

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.

9. David F. Sandberg

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.

10. Albert Hughes

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.

11. Taylor Hackford

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.

12. Troy Duffy

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?

13. Barry Sonnenfeld

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.

14. Alex Proyas

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.

15. Sean Baker

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.

Bonus: Eric Roth

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.

Bonus: David Chase

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.

Bonus: Billy Crystal 

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.


How to Make a $1,000 Feature Film with Mark Duplass

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 John of 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 Swanberg and 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

  1. Strictly follow the line of low costs.
  2. Protecting the vision of the filmmaker.
  3. 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 Jay starring Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson and directed by Alexandre 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


How to Get Professional & Safe Looking Prop Guns for Your Film

When my team and I were making my first short film BROKEN we 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.

After doing a ton of research we discovered Airsoft Guns or “Air Guns”(our prop guns). These are basically jacked up BB guns. They range in price from $12-$50 for good looking plastic replica pistols (excellent for wide shots) $20-$95 for metal replica pistols with realistic blowback (great for close-ups).

You can also get some remarkable looking replica rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, and even a grenade launcher. Crazy!

These Airsoft guns added so much realism to the film. The combination of practical blowback with high-end visual effects was a great combo.

Safety First

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)

More recent there was a terrible incident on a professional film set in New Mexico where actor Alec Baldwin accidentally killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza with a misfiring prop gun. Prop guns, even Airsoft BB guns are no joke and NEED to be respected as if they were real.

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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Where to Find the Guns?

If you want to have real looking guns in your film then this is the way to go. We purchased most of our guns through a local Airsoft or Air Gun reseller, Amazon.com and eBay.

We even asked the local reseller if he had any broken Airsoft guns in the back. He gave most of them to us for FREE and charged $5-$10 for $100 pistols. They didn’t work but they look great on camera.

Click on any of the links below to get some examples of Airsoft weapons.

Airsoft Prop Gun – Pistols Metal Pistols (with Blow Back):

Airsoft Green Gas (Fuel for Blow Back)

Airsoft Prop Gun – Pistols (Non-Blow Back):
Good for background and nonfiring shots

Airsoft Prop Gun – Shotguns:

Airsoft Prop Gun – Rifles:

Airsoft Prop Gun – Grenade Launcher:

Airsoft Prop Gun – Sniper Rifle:

BONUS: Realistic Prop Knives & Prop Weapons

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.

IFH 009: Suki Medencevic ASC & the Art of Cinematography

I have found over the years that cinematography is one of the biggest technical issues in independent film. Someone borrows a friend’s RED Camera or Arri Alexa and thinks that’s all you need. Cinematography is not only a mystical art but imperative in today’s gluttony of indie films in the marketplace.

Just because you own or have access to a RED Camera or Arri Alexa does not make you a cinematographer. Many first time directors get fooled by this time and time again.

Good cinematography can really make your independent film project rise out of the gluttony of poorly produced indie films. Today on the show I interviewed Suki Medencevic ASC (American Society of Cinematographers).

super 16mm film, Kodak, 16mm film, 16 mm film, 35mm film, 35 mm film, filmmaking, film school, filmmaker, indie film, ARRI SR2 ARRI SR3, Bolex, Eclair film camera, film camera

Cinematography over Espresso

I’ve known Suki Medencevic for many years and I loved talking shop with him over an espresso at Starbucks on the Westside of Los Angeles. I wanted to bring that experience to the Indie Film Hustle Tribe.

He’s a wealth of knowledge when it comes to cinematography, lights, cameras, lenses, and so on. He also is shooting on film, yes 35mm film on the hit FX Show America Horror Story: Hotel.

He works alongside the show’s lead cinematographer Michael Goi, ASC, a legend in the business. He also has a new Walt Disney film “Invisible Sister” coming out Oct 9th, 2015. He’s a busy guy! Prepare to be enlightened in the art of cinematography.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:02
Guys so this this week, we have an amazing guest. He's a longtime friend of mine, Suki. Now please forgive me Suki Suki Medencevic. Suki is an ASC cinematographer. If you don't know what an ASE cinematographer is, you will learn after the show what an AC villain photographer is. He's been a cinematographer for decades now. Not to make them feel old or anything but I've known him for over a decade as well. Suki is a really good friend of mine and I he teaches over at USC at New York Film Academy and a few other places as well. And I thought he'd be an amazing guest to talk about cinematography, the artists in photography, and also working on his new show American Horror Story. Now one thing he did not discuss, or we didn't get a chance to discuss, or I forgot to ask for him to tell this amazing story that he had with Steve Jobs. I always call Suki, the most interesting man in the world. He is a very worldly, he shot all over the world. His stories are legendary, to say the least. And he has this one story with Steve Jobs. He was shooting a documentary for Pixar and Steve Jobs. He was going to shoot an interview with Steve Jobs. The late great Steve Jobs and Steve Jobs came in and started being Steve Jobs. You know, he's like, Hey, you know, I want to move this here. I want to move this there that and Suki coming from Bosnia. I guess the more European vibe of of who is Suki. He just didn't care who Steve Jobs was. And he just like, no, this is how we're going to shoot it. And this is why this is we're going to move this here. We're going to put the lights here and we're going to put the camera here and Steve, Steve from what Suki Tommy Steve basically just looked at him and he goes explained to me why are you doing it? And Suki explained to him the purposes of why he was doing and he goes Okay, no problem. But when Suki said no to Steve Jobs, the entire crew, the director, everyone you could feel a pin drop. And he the director came up afterwards like what did you do? What did you say? And he goes Look, Mr. Jobs might know how to make iPhones but he doesn't know how to light a scene I do. He has no idea about lenses or cameras or anything like that. I do. That's my specialty. I'm not going to go into his place and tell them how to make an iPhone. So that is who you're dealing with here with Suki. And that's why I love him so much. He is very honest, very straightforward. And extremely funny guy. And he's just an amazing amazing not only a talent as a cinematographer, but a great person. So without further ado, here is the world famous Suki. Suki thank you so much for joining us on the on the indie film hustle podcast where we are grateful for you coming on to the show.

Suki Medencevic ASC 3:29
Well, I'm very happy to be part of the show.

Alex Ferrari 3:32
So for you guys who don't know Suki and I are good friends, we go way back. We met over oh god over. It's getting close to almost 1314 years ago now. Something like that. And we've been friends ever since even from my days in Florida. We always stayed in touch. And he always told me to move out to LA as soon as possible. And what was the thing you told me about moving out to LA?

Suki Medencevic ASC 3:55
Well, there's regret the regret of Well, no, the main thing was, I guess if you want to make it in Hollywood, you have to be in Hollywood, California, not in Hollywood, Florida. So that's the

And that the only thing I would regret not moving to LA is I didn't do it sooner. Right? And in many ways you were correct, sir, but I'm out here and I've been out here for a while now. So thank you for that. So let's get into it. Um, so Suki. One thing I you know, when we work together, I you told me about your film school experience, which was very unique film school experience as opposed to film school experiences here in America. Can you tell us a little bit about your school where you went to school and how is it different from American film school?

Well, the school I went I actually went to film schools. My very first film school was in Yugoslavia in Belgrade, which was a capital of Yugoslavia. And it's a school of Dramatic Arts that pretty much covers theater, film, television, and acting tool. So cinematography is one of the one of the just departments there. Unlike schools, United States or most schools in other states, that particular school basically has a program master program for every department that you actually major in right away. And you're studying for four years, your field and you're basically whatever you choose editing, cinematography, directing, that's what you get massively beautiful thing about the school is that's free. And like most of the schools in Europe, but the biggest challenge is to get in the school because the school is very limited, they take only five students a year per cow, per department. Yes, so that's kind of competition is huge. And it's like,

It's like fame.

It is, you know, because it's so you know, the, it's very expensive school, so therefore, they cannot have like 2030 students of cinematography and also the program is scheduled. And structured, the whole curriculum is structured in a way that graduates from the School can immediately get a job in industry or in production. So they will be not like unemployed cinematographers or directors, basically, there is a certain guarantee that you will be employed right after school. But one thing I did was kind of a little bit unusual. As I was already in a third year, in school in Belgrade, I went to Prague to visit a friend who at the time was at a very famous one of the most famous film schools in the world, pharmo, which was a National Film School in Czechoslovakia back then. And I came to visit my friend over at Prague film school. And I instantly fell in love in school with a city with all white with all energy, and basically decided to drop out from the Belgrade school, even though I had only one more year left to get my degree, go to Prague, start from the beginning, and basically repeat my school for another four years, four and a half years. And it was kind of crazy at the time, nobody believed that there was any logic in it. And to me, it was just kind of a gamble because I felt if I go to if I ever get accepted in that school, that school will get me far better preparation. And and really, you know, make me ready for for my career as a cinematographer, which proved to be true.

Now cannot Can you tell me that story? You told me this years ago? I don't know if you remember it or not? How they prepare you for? Like the kind of questions they asked on a test about the girl with a bra in the by the lake, like, how long do you have between the time she takes off the bra to shoot a scene? Yeah, yeah, explain that. Because I found that fascinating. When you told it to me years ago,

One of the questions that you will have in the written test if you're filming the girl, by the lake and in the morning, and how, how much earlier, she has to be ready for the scene to be shot properly. And of course, you have to think about all these details on the light composition. But also detail about the wardrobe because if she's very tight outfit, and if she's very bright, if she takes it off too soon, there will be there will be marks like Rama is of course, yeah, Brian marks and then of course it takes about please well in an hour for Brad marks to kind of fade out so you have a nice smooth skin that you can photograph. And these are kind of important things you have to, as a cinematographer, think about so it's not always about lighting and composition and movement, and it's much more much more kind of like comprehensive approach to cinematography.

Now, I know a lot of you're you're an ASC member. And I know a lot of people, especially in the indie film hustle community might not know what ASC stands for or what it is or how even you get in into this kind of exclusive club. Can you explain a little bit about that?

Well, ASC stands for American cinematographer society. And it's the organization founded in 1919 by a group at a time, Hollywood, cinematographers with a goal to preserve the artistry and integrity of cinematographers profession. So it's also support club that creates the community of highly respected professionals. Were in very friendly and relaxed environment. We can exchange all our ideas get advices complain about to get a drink, you know, things like that to be it's a fraternity almost it's kind of fraternity. It's kind of like place where you have like safe haven and and it's been also place which really nurtures nurtures artists of cinematography and keeps the level of our craft and our art to the highest standards. And based on American cinematographer society's structure, many other countries have formed the same organizations basically modeled of the American civil society. And, and I think it's a great way to keep keep cinematographers especially nowadays, when everything so global, keep us all together and keep exchange of ideas and information to the maximum. So how do you become there? Well, who become a member of American Cemetery for society, it's the organization that is by invitation only. So, you cannot apply for it that there is no application form, you have to be invited by at least three members, three active members of the ASC they have to invite you and then they have to write a letter of recommendation to the membership board, American cinematographer, society is very active in many aspects. They have education, board, science and technology board, which is one of the very, very important groups also has educational, reach out international dinners, you know, we have our dinners when we have movies and discussions and so there's a lot of a lot of sub committees within the American Astronomical Society. So one of the subcommittee's for the members, the group which is open and any member of American cinematography belongs to that group basically, everybody has a right to interview and ask questions any prospective candidate and find out if the candidate meets standards and requirements of the ASC not only based on on their work, but you know, you have to share certain certain values which are common among amongst cinematographers and and if the committee finds your suitable candidate The board has to approve but then it goes to all the members of the FCC to finally give agreement. If there is one. If there is one, basically you have to be alone unanimously accepted. If there is one objection, you will not be able to Wow, really? Yes. And that has to do with if you if you treat it down the line in your career at some point if you treated your crew members or somebody unfairly, unprofessionally, you never know when this can come back to you and haunt you, and maybe a very high price. So professional integrity is one of the highest values that Americans have our society holds. Very cool.

So I was always I always fascinated how you got in and what the process was. So thank you for sharing that. Now, when you're working with a director, what do you look for in in a director, indie filmmaker, or indie director or just regular director?

Well, either we'd really like it varies like I I'm looking always, with every director, I'm looking for a partner or somebody who can speak the same language, I do visually, cinematically, somebody who is passionate about what they do somebody who is who is able to challenge me and I will say probably the most successful collaborations I had came from directors who who would challenge me in like, in a way that as a cinematographer, I will have to come up with a with a with a solution to the ideas that director might have. And my job as a cinematographer is to facilitate this idea into facility division. And, but also I like to challenge director also if if I see the director sometime is going very safe, safe path in process of filmmaking. You know, playing it safe, it's never a good option never gets you anywhere. So you have to be able to find, find your own identity, find your own language, find your own way to to express yourself, but be slightly different. And that's when you look at all these great directors, why they are who they are, is because they have a recognizable style and that ever played it safe.

Very cool. Now when you're when you're choosing a camera for your project, what how do you choose a camera for your project? Is it budget is it look what's what are the factors?

Well, it's really interesting how things have changed. When it comes down to the position of cinematographer an older practice it used to be not long time ago that cinematographer is the one who decides what camera will be used. What this what of him stock, water lab, water processing, water finishing, basically cinematographers will completely in control of all visual and technology aspect of the filmmaking with arrival of digital technology and an arrival of the new category called owner operator basically, market gets flooded with people who were able to afford and purchase equipment, equipment cameras, they became much more affordable and much more accessible. So the choice of the tools for your for your work became something that sometimes would be already decided before cinematographer gets hired. And especially during the read craze, about 10 years ago when everybody was really trying to jump on a bandwagon and buy the most amazing digital camera that can provide you with 4k whatever resolution for is

25k now 25k

There is going to be no more k the better picture

Of course you don't even need a cinematographer revenue for

The character we have this new cameras which doesn't even need a light so

I've seen those cameras to actually quite incredible

Like today's cinematographer, you just press the button and make sure you have fresh battery but going back to the ask for how you chose your equipment I still decide I still on I was fortunate to most of my project to to insist that we use particular camera or particular lens or particular approach or process or post production workflow because it is part of what I do as a cinematographer so how the image is captured in many ways defines how the final look after the post production and color manipulation color correction we will how the image is going to look like so yes I always try to brings my expertise and my knowledge of course within the budget and and very often people specially production they think if you are asking for some higher end piece of equipment that's out of price range which is not true You will be surprised that sometimes much easier you will be able to afford something that is really high and it's something that everybody wants so the only advice I could give to any filmmaker is to think about the story think about what you really need and then take it from there I remember somebody recently some of my colleagues from from the SEC talk about shooting a film on Super 16 very very good budget this budget but decided to go super 16 for aesthetic reasons wow and and it made perfect sense to go super 16 because they want to get this kind of like old grainy kind of like the wrestler yeah like the wrestler for instance. This one is particularly talking it's called the paper boy

Yeah, I've heard of it. Oh yeah,

Yeah, yeah shot by Roberto shaper. So I mean, it should be your aesthetic, aesthetic creative choice and like currently I'm working on American Horror Story as additional tandem units cinematographer with amazing Michael going a see cinematographer who was Emmy nominated and also used to be president of the ANC So Michael goy created actually style for the film for this particular TV show is by shooting on film on 35 millimeter and and we are actually shooting on 35 millimeter film is already the the the TV series is already in its fifth season being shot on polyhedral cameras 35 millimeter quarter film, and

It was one of the few shows that is being shot on film right?

Yes, one of the few not wanting to shoot on 35 millimeter Kodak they shoot on black and white 35 they shoot on color reversal. 16 separate you name it. It's been all used on the Trump

Nice very nice. Yep. Now can you explain the difference between prime and zoom lenses for our audience?

Oh, well. The basic basic difference between prime and zoom lenses is that with a zoom lens you can change the viewing angle without taking lens of from from the camera buddy and zoom lenses well without going too much into history. zoom lens is really our tool of the television from the 50s and 60s when Israel's like Yeah, so the news reels when you need it to be able to get from same vantage point tight shots as well as wide wide shots and that's when really a lot of zooms for 16 millimeter cameras were developed. And then obviously technology unable to, to do the same thing for the motion picture. And as we all know back from 60s and 70s, every movie you see has to start from the zooming in or zooming out, like every piece of equipment that gets overused and becomes kind of like a cliche. So the zoom basically is just more flexible tool to get precise composition, precise framing. And prime lenses, as the name said, they're actually lenses which have set for collect. So if you actually do on 18 or 21 or 2527 32 by 40, or any focal length, you know that you shop will have specific perspective and specific viewing angle and therefore, you have to as a filmmaker, you have to understand right away in your mind before you even put a lens on a camera, what it means to put 21 millimeter or to put 14 millimeter or put the 10 millimeter lens what is the look what is the what's going to happen with the image. If you choose layers or another what's going to happen with the closer if you shoot it on 27 or if you shoot it on an 85 or maybe who showed it on 100 millimeter, what will be relation between your foreground elements and background elements. there's a there's a whole like aesthetic to each of these lenses and that's subject to whole different podcasts about aesthetics of wide or long lenses sure, but it's a known fact that many directors they have their own favorite lenses or something like for instance Roman Polanski did a movie called Rosemary's Baby pretty much with two lenses with 18 and I think 14 millimeter lens and everything's just that way in between

Now the there is some downfalls to using zoom lenses obviously you need more light depending on the scenario because you got more glass that light has to go through. So there is a kind of give and take and obviously primes give you just very different look but there is a little bit of a downside to zoom lens can you explain the data without negatives are

Basically you know basically a zoom lenses just by by its nature they have in order to accommodate a wide range of different viewing angles. The construction and design of an optical elements is much more complex than design of the prime lenses so therefore there is a certain inherent light loss that if there is something you can do about it because light travels through 20 something pieces of glass and only when it leaves the lens and goes to your sensor it might lose half or more of its initial amount of elimination so you just have to that's that's kind of trade off and also because of the large amount of glass that everyone minds has it's very easy to introduce certain mistakes that no matter what lens will do something they don't want the storage room certain level of flaring or loss of contrast or the breathing you know there's a lot of elements elements that can affect affect the quality of of sudden and so, only the highest as most expensive zoom lenses the call can go easily up to $100,000 apiece are very much free of many of these typical mistakes you will have with his own so if I can suggest anything to to filmmakers, especially aspiring filmmakers I suggest to stick with prime lenses and and develop understanding what is basically aesthetic of 18 millimeter and what is that equal 50 millimeter lens and you will figure it out very soon that you do not need 50 lenses in your package that you can actually make very interesting projects with very few lenses as long as you understand how to properly use them

And there are options nowadays before to get a prime set of lenses used the cost you know 3040 50,000 or more to have a full prime set where now there are other options like the rokinon sets which are very affordable for under $2,000 you can get five prime lenses mind you they're not going to be the same quality as as ICER as a slicer or Canon or what the other one the other one besides size which is the other big guy I

Chose the other one oh Sumi Crohns summicron lights like like like Chrome yeah

Those guys so but but this is another affordable way for at least a learning tool and you can get some pretty images out of them and they're not they're not bad horrible lenses but I mean I want to set myself in the second I put it up against some Zeiss. I'm like, oh, or cooks cooks I was the other one or set of cooks. I'm like, oh well there's a difference. But it's a great learning tool. And for someone starting out it's I think a good way to experiment with with products. do great

Oh yes, yes, absolutely I agree and one one thing that you will have to always ask yourself okay, when you're doing a project are you doing it for the big screen of course you always have a vision when whenever you're shooting something well, you want to, you want to end on a big screen. So you have to set your standard as high as possible. Because if you're doing something small and you're just not caring too much about what's going to be the final outcome and you're doing something interesting something for the to be viewed on iPad or or iPhone or some other portable device. Well shooting with the full genomes or some high end, Leica whatever. Hey way overkill and you really don't need it. But if your project ends up being picked up and released, and somebody can see it on the big screen, everything looks great on iPad, and the moment you started the moment you started going past 26 inch mark all of a sudden, all the all the mistakes of the lenses are starting to be more and more obvious. So yes, you can get the decent image from rockin arms or some co wires or some other one interesting thing that happened lately is that a lot of cinematographers are discovering old lenses like oh, all the Bausch and Long's and some other old old lenses some bell towers. Now the bell towers Yeah, yes, but there's always was made like 50 years ago and the reason why these lenses are now kind of popular, you know, as well as the old panavision lenses which they just get to reintroduce is that through the history of technology that was basically trying to get as sharp as possible as contrast the as color accurate image, because of the analog nature of the film, lasers have to be really sharp really light contrast and get to get the performance to the absorb the highest specs. Because dealing with the film, which is analog medium, when the light hits. film grain, no matter how sharp your lens is there certain diffusion, certain loss of sharpness and contrast and quality that that is, you know, inevitable just by the nature of the film. But with the with the sensors with the digital sensors, you don't have that you have very specific precise photosite on your audio chip that is always going to be in the same place and always capture the photons which are coming through the lens. So all the sudden you have all these lenses, when you put them on the digital sensors, they become super sharp. But they're basically over compensated for what Sanders needs. So what we do now well, we have to put some filters, some you know, softening all types of subsidy filters to kind of take away this digital to digital electronic lock or, or you just

Fix it in post.

Order you know or just par by yourself if you're lucky on eBay, you can still find some you know old ball towels and have somebody who can who can actually retrofit it for you then you will be lucky and you will get you will get a true nice set of old lenses. That will work really well. So I mean, yes, I agree that you can get very decent results. But you know, obviously, with a cheaper lenses, you have less forgiveness, which might be actually a good way to train yourself because when you go with cheaper lenses, the moment you start going with a higher contrast we do get flaring in the lens, well you have to take care of it. There is no like high quality coating the globe eliminate any kind of flare that you might get by having highlighted picture so it's really I think it's always good way to start. Okay.

Very cool. Now, I know you get asked you t chat, which will do t chat right now.

USC Yeah, Medical School of Cinematic Arts.

Okay. And I know a lot of you have a lot of cinematography students as well. I know one of the questions they ask you all the time is how do you get started in cinema? Like how do you start a cinematography career? So what would be your advice?

Well, that was kind of question I asked. I asked myself when I came to the United States, back in early 90s. There are basically two ways how you how you break in business and how you start your career. The old Hollywood traditional way would be that you would somehow get a job in a camera department or in any department for that matter and somehow make your way to camera department as camera intern and maybe loader and then second assistant and first assistant maybe operator and then by the age you're about to retire you might get transferred to shoot the movie as a dp or not. It's kind of that's kind of how it is that's kind of how it was and nothing wrong with that. You know, by the time by the time you are actually dp. I mean, if you're really good, you can actually make this transition much quicker. But you had trends at least to observe other DPS or other professionals do their job and learn well and learn properly.

We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Alex Ferrari 30:24
But still doesn't mean doesn't mean that you might make the transition, you may end up being discouraged operator and never make transition. Another way of becoming cinematographer in Hollywood is very interesting is starting with the light working as a gaffer or in electric department. And basically just being the technician who deals with the lights and creates lights and works closely with the DP, you sharpen your skills, you learn your craft, and eventually you get the break. To make transition from being referred and becoming the DP. There are many great DPS in Hollywood actually took that route and became very successful, successful cinematographers. And the third way, which is more and more and more popular, especially in last decade, is basically going to the school. And depending on the school, that you go, you might get really good education, or you might get really well prepared. And and then basically coming out of the school, you decide, okay, well, if you're a cinematographer, is that what you do, and you start by small projects and gradually create your resume and portfolio and eventually start shooting bigger projects. But my, my, my path was, when I came to LA was basically I had to make these choices. And I simply decided not to do any of that previous of the dimension of being taking traditional gradual way because I felt coming from the school, I was already well prepared to start as a cinematographer, but the problem is, nobody can trust you. When you come from the school, nobody will trust you with their money that you can actually deliver a motion picture or whatever budget it is. And you just have to be persistent. And and basically, just keep going until your opportunity arises. And then eventually you get to feature film, after your first feature film, then things go much, much easier. Because from this point on, you're not anymore. First time cinematographer.

And it's also it's also a long game. It's not a short game, this is not something that's going to happen in a year or two. This is something that could happen over a decade or more.

Suki Medencevic ASC 32:39
No, it does have to be over a decade. But you know, to get chance to get your first feature film, it took me three years, which I think it's normal. It's normal for somebody who comes into town and just start from pretty much

Alex Ferrari 32:48
Which, which if I may, if I may interject, it is your your cinematography debut here in America is one of my favorite films growing up. For obvious reasons. You remember that movie, I'm assuming, but of course, it is called embrace of the vampire, starring the lovely and very naked, Alyssa Milano. So yeah, as a growing up teenage boy, I thank you.

Suki Medencevic ASC 33:15
Yes, I'm happy to provide beautiful images that can stay in our minds for a long, long time. Yes. And also Jennifer Tilly was part of this project as well as Martin camp. But that was kind of this situation, when you get a chance to do your first feature film, you don't ask what it is, you're right, this is your chance. You have 12 days, you have to make it and you did that in 12 days in 12 days. Yes. And that

Alex Ferrari 33:39
Was back in the night. Those eight eight.

Suki Medencevic ASC 33:41
That was 9393 93 or 94. I think it's about it was something

Alex Ferrari 33:45
Like that. And that back then was that's an obscene pace nowadays. That's what indie filmmakers do all the time. They got a movie in five or 12 days. But

Suki Medencevic ASC 33:55
Yeah, that was shot on 35 with two cameras up to full production packages. And that was one beauty. beautiful thing about being in Well, in this town and in this business that no matter how big budget you are, you can still get the top notch equipment, the best things best cameras, best lenses as you're in town. Yeah, I mean, you get to Boulder. We shot this in Minnesota, but still.

Alex Ferrari 34:18
And then and then you followed up with one of my other favorites. Poison Ivy? Yes.

Suki Medencevic ASC 34:23
So the actually the secret to original Poison Ivy and that was also with Alyssa Milano. Yes, it was. Yes. And that was Yeah, that was interesting, interesting project. But what happened after this, I did another couple couple films. of this. I would say medium, medium, over budget, or under 5 million. And then I did a film in in LA. I'm very proud of not many people have seen it, but we've had amazing cast, including Burt Reynolds Keith Carradine, Pat kingo

Alex Ferrari 35:00
Yeah I forgot to

Suki Medencevic ASC 35:01
Call the the hunters mon

Alex Ferrari 35:04
Oh yeah sir that was beautiful. I remember seeing that on your reel back in the day

Suki Medencevic ASC 35:09
Was gorgeous that was a nice nice film that we shot all around LA and I was very very proud of this film Unfortunately, it didn't get wide release but it was definitely one of the films that I was very very very proud of. And then industry changed obviously later on with with the rise of tentpole movies and yeah, this appearance of medium budget films are so as we all now pretty much we all have either a lower budget under three four or 5 million and then 50 million and up in that is very rare you'll find any project that is in the range between five and 15 million so because of the market and the way the formula works

Alex Ferrari 35:52
Now as since you started out you know doing low budget films What can you can you give advice to filmmakers on a low budget to make their films look high budget, what can they do? Are there any tricks in the cinematography and possibly in posts with color grading? What can they do any tips that they can like take their film up a notch look wise

Suki Medencevic ASC 36:16
So how to make your film not is not up how you can do this there really there's only one way you have to put yourself 110% there's really no you cannot cheat one thing about cinematography you cannot cheat you cannot. You cannot really I mean you either know, or if you don't, I mean it's obvious it will show on the screen immediately. And you just have to trust yourself trust your gut. And the key thing I think it will be to be able to develop trust between you and director you have to make sure that director trust you and that you trust director so that you have full support and full backup that you are free to do whatever creatively you want to do and not to be afraid to try to do things and because this is how you This is how you make your mark if you if you try to play it safe Well it might not get you where you want to be so you have to be able but again it all comes from constantly working on your skill if you're just waiting from film to film to sharpen up your skill and and and raise the level of your professional experience it's going to be very slow process. I always suggest to my students and my friends though as a cinematographer your your 24 hours a day except when you sleep you're a cinematographer, you have to observe things you have to look at the things you have to have a camera all the time take pictures of something that is that is intriguing or interesting to you that's the key thing so you have to have your eyes constantly working remember images remember images and when you when you show up on the site you can say oh I remember when I saw that looked really cool let's try this or let's try that let me do this. But again, you have to have a trust how to make something look bigger than it is doesn't depend only on you depends on many other people I think your cooperation with other departments the production designer and the costume designers is a crucial that you can get support if you don't have a set that can support your your idea of having a bigger one yes, then you will not be able to if you have a director who doesn't understand that staging scene just in the corner will make film look very claustrophobic in very small versus taking it away from the wall and making opening up and giving the depth Give me the space you know that's all part of the process so you can just do your part and then hope the rest will follow.

Alex Ferrari 38:54
Now another question I know your students ask you is how do you prepare and conduct yourself in a job interview as a cinematographer?

Suki Medencevic ASC 39:03
Um, people think that Hollywood or I don't like to was born Hollywood but let's say industry is very careful. He Yes, it is casual on one way but also it is very judgmental in many, many ways. My experience for most of the time going for the interviews was when you go for interview quite often depends again, who are you talking to? And depends what they're expecting from you. Quite often you will be actually more asked and you will be interviewed for the reasons not to hire you then reasons to hire you. And they will just talk to you and find out the reason why you are not the right person for the movie. So it's a system of elimination basically. So you cannot or try not to give the record producer, whoever else is interviewing you not to give them trends to eliminate you, you have to be prepared to show that you have integrity that you have artistic vision, that you also have managerial and leadership skill. Because in deposition, you are a leader of the group. So you have to be able to communicate, you can have great idea, but if you cannot communicate, that's not going to help anybody, right? Everything, everything is important. I've done interviews where I was prepared to the maximum, bringing all kinds of elements, visual reference, total analysis of the script, total analysis, breakdown of the visual, creating more books, doing all kinds of stuff, because some directors really expect that you do your homework. And that can leave very, very strong impression and I've been in a situation that you know, I would get the job just because they were impressed by my preparedness and my willingness and my enthusiasm to put to work and really show that I care and I'm really enthusiastic about the project. And I think enthusiasm is I think the key element that you have to show you don't have to necessarily hit all the points when you are presenting the visual concept for the film there might be sometimes even completely different than what the director had in mind. But if they're smart enough he or she might realize well, at least I'm dealing somebody who understands or who has a visual culture so maybe we can do something we can come up with something interesting. I've been also to interviews where I'm simply to sitting and listening to what the director or producer have to tell me how they want this film to be photographed and what they expected for me to deliver got it there is no wrong or right but you have to be as a cinematographer when you offer interview you have to pay attention to everything you have to present yourself because your this is your as you know there is no second transfer first impression you have to leave as best impression as you can and even if you don't get the job if you do well on your interview believe me they will remember you and and they might call you for some other project some other time or at least if you've already gained for the interview they will remember you and so you can keep your standards up

Alex Ferrari 42:22
Yeah and I think a lot of that advice works as well for directors going for a directing assignment or directing jobs as well. Even if it's a small indie project that they're going into direct drive to get a job for or larger ones that's a I think a lot of that stuff transfers over pretty pretty easily and seamlessly

Suki Medencevic ASC 42:40
Yeah, we'll have stuff it's you know a lot of stuff it's very much common sense and you can you know like how conduct the interview I mean you can even read a tips there are a bunch of books written on this on the subject how to conduct yourself how to prepare yourself for the interview, any corporate job or any other office job that you go for interview well of course if you're going for an interview you don't want to show up in flip flops and T shirt Alice This is your style and this is what you're going for which is nothing wrong with that right but you might be a little bit more on you know torn down now until you get a chance to show your your your eccentricity and but at the end it's really all about your work. But think about it when you go to the interview that means people get in people are intrigued by you by your work that's how they get your resume and they'll look at your resume and say oh yeah I want to meet with this person and now it's all that you have to do the what's what's necessary to get the job

Alex Ferrari 43:41
Got it. So let me ask you a question. Well how do you feel about and I know this is a question that will we can go on for a whole podcasts about but how do you feel about digital taking over film?

Suki Medencevic ASC 43:53
Well, you know, obviously this is a subject that is being discussed. ad nauseum like in the last whatever few

Alex Ferrari 44:00
Years and a few minutes a few minutes a few minute like kind of wrap up of what your your feeling is because I know we can go on for hours on this topic alone.

Suki Medencevic ASC 44:07
Well, my feeling is my feeling is the same way that television didn't kill radio and cinema is still around even though everybody has home theater. I'm seeing the digital as a just a great tool that expedites the process of filmmaking makes it far more efficient, which is true but doesn't mean necessarily just saves you money or saves you time. There are pros and cons in one or another. What field has that digital labor network never has it never will have a feel has a level of excitement. film has a level of mystery and magic. That if you really care, that's the only way I really you can have it. The quality that film has is something that generations So filmmakers are raised on and they using film as a benchmark as the as the point of reference for everything else. Even digital camera makers manufacturers are using film and performance of the film to design their chip so the chip can make look of the film are not by servers. So I believe, I believe and thanks to efforts of many important directors, including Tarantino and JJ Abrams, Chris Nolan, that as long as there are people of that caliber in Hollywood who can actually who have power to say and make decisions Phil will be around and and valuable valuable tool for just yet another tool for cinematographers the show I'm working on which I mentioned earlier it's been shot on film and I'm sure it will be short film as the film does exist because it is such a part of identity on the show and switching to digital would take the whole the feeling and the flavor and the magic that that has and it's been it's never five years ago

Alex Ferrari 46:15
Very interesting so there is still a place for film and filmmaking

Suki Medencevic ASC 46:19
I truly I truly believe the only unfortunate thing is that because of the very sharp decrease in the demand that we are all witnessing you don't have any more you know lab around the recorder that's pretty much like in one lab now maybe two labs one in East Coast one here and that's it so I think if you're shooting something you better make sure that you have plays that you feel can be processed and prepared for for scanning and so it is it is it is adding additional logistical challenge which you know earlier we never had to think about

Alex Ferrari 46:59
Now what is your favorite camera to shoot with and why

Suki Medencevic ASC 47:04
You know, I like different cameras for different reasons. I like depending again on type of the project if I'm shooting punch shooting on film my favorite camera would be every every cam because it just it just amazing camera and it's pretty much what comes out to the design of the film camera this is like as best as it can be and I simply could not see what else could be improved to make any camera better than ericom unfortunately nobody's making any film cameras anymore panavision always had amazing cameras which are known for its reliability and beautiful design and precision and to me I think more than camera it's really lenses because lens is what creates your images lens is what what makes the picture and then cameras adjust in digital in a digital world cameras adjust computer that has actually some image capturing device which is your sensor and everything else is just the like electronics how you process the information created by your sensor and what you make out of it it's your your algorithm and your workflow and I mean yes I could I could say as far as the digital cameras My favorite is array aerial XL or, or any of the Eri digital cameras why because they made it right, they made it from the very beginning they made the camera that is very much made for cinematographers that the image that creates is very much even digital but very much in its feeling and texture very close to the sensibility of people who are used to working with the film and and you know when you're dealing with cameras which are made by a camera manufacturer that's been doing this for decades, then you can rest assure that they know how to get it right first time.

Alex Ferrari 49:04
The very cool now what do you have any fun stories of working abroad? Because I know you do a lot of filming overseas.

Suki Medencevic ASC 49:14
Oh my god, I could write a book about about as you should my experiences different countries different places. Well, you know, I think I think that the the key element I think the key element for anybody working in different places if that's also applicable even to working in United States and I've shot all over United States. Don't assume that if you go to different places that everything will be as it is in LA No, it's not. There is a lot of things that people do differently and if you try to change it and and force them to do it your way. Yeah, well, you're gonna have a problem there. Because are you talking about?

Alex Ferrari 49:58
Are you talking about crew or just Have you ever

Suki Medencevic ASC 50:01
Thought about the Chrome and how you're gonna handle the CRO how you're going to handle the equipment how you're going to deal with production? There is a lot of a lot of, I would say cultural differences between places between countries. I could maybe just mentioned one, one story that kind of comes to my mind. And it's earlier on, I was working on my second feature film in Taiwan. And that, that film particularly was interesting, because I went to do the movie, literally, from the set of bow of my embrace of the vampire. As we are filming last last night, and the night we're finishing early in the morning, and I got to get in the car, went to the airport and flew to Taiwan, to do my other movie. That particular experience was very, very unique, because here we are on 12. They super fast pace completely on adrenaline, no sleep, no nothing, you go to a place where you have a film, leisurely scheduled to be shot over like 50 days, we still managed to finish it on, I think 37 shooting days, we still had so much time that we didn't need all this time. But the challenge was working with a crew that I learned that nobody speaks English. And nobody speaks English, except I had one assistant who spoke English, and he was my only liaison who can help me to kind of, you know, let me know what's going on. I was given just the storyline what the film is about. And I will be picked up every morning in a hotel without knowing where I'm going, what I'm doing. And then when I show up on the set, they will tell me Oh, this is where we do the dinner scene. And then we will do the dinner scene, I had no idea what is about who's doing what, who's talking what, but somehow I will use the sign language somehow figured out how to how to light it. And one moment, which I remember was we were supposed to do the scene where one of the characters sets several cars on fire. And, you know, we did it on a backlog of the studio in Taipei. And we are just about to roll. We're just about to turn on the camera. I asked about the cars. How did they? How did they get discouraged? They're just casual question like, how did you? How did you get cars here? This is all we draw them in and park them. And I okay, and did you drain the fuel? And they asked me why. And I just looked and I told him Well, you're telling me that now. All the tanks are full of the fuel. Mike said yes. And I said on that note, thank you guys very much. I'm going out to my hotel would night. It was first of all the time I walked away from the set. Because basically I said you know there is no no film that is worth anybody dying or being injured, just because of the no somebodies negligence basically, and I told them that you know, I will be back when the fuel is drain and they have studied by fire truck, with fire extinguisher and everything so we can actually properly because, you know, I'm very safety conscious. And of course next day, everything was there, they told me Okay, now we can go we can assure that the fuel is drained. And wow. And they I asked Okay, so where is the fire truck, they told me you know, we don't need it. We have hand extinguishers. And I said well, I'll see you later. I said let's try to but I have seen on this monitor on the camera and walk away because because I don't want to be even nearby because I know how the cars burn. And of course set cars on fire. And of course, shortly after cars are all full of blaze we cut but you could not actually extinguish the fires because they had just couple of hand extinguishers which could do nothing. And at some point somebody I think from the neighborhood or whatever actually call 911 and they send the real fire trucks and and eventually real fire trucks came but I think what happened is production really didn't want to spend money on real fire trucks. So they realize it's they want to come anyway. So let us go. So yes, we didn't get the shots. Nobody fortunately got injured. But that was the lesson I learned and it was something that I remember.

Alex Ferrari 54:45
So I'm gonna put you on the spot a little bit with the last two questions. Who is the best photographer of all time and why?

Suki Medencevic ASC 54:54
Well, that's very tough question. I know it's really tough question because every cinema Before you ask, will tell you different, different story and the reason why. Ah, yeah, I mean depends how far you want to go if you want to go in the days of old Hollywood Yeah, Greg talan comes to mind like, like legendary cinematographer, from his collaboration with Orson Welles and some other directors. You know, obviously, there's some amazing cinematographers from the time of, you know, golden era of Hollywood from you know, golden Technicolor,

Alex Ferrari 55:28
Let's say, let's the current era,

Suki Medencevic ASC 55:30
Well, I would say probably, maybe not the greatest, but probably the most influential would be probably Vittorio storaro, who actually had a chance to meet recently, although I've known his work since I was kid. And probably Vittorio storaro, because being the being European cinematographer who worked all over the world, he maintained his vitality or vitality from days, early days, a freebie from his first films to his latest film that he just finished in Iran, which I was able to literally see at the special screening last week. When you look at his work, he's always innovative, he's always pushing blame it, he's never the same, he always does things differently. And, but not only that, he does things differently. He sets the bar very high to everybody else. He He has incredible visual culture, he has incredible visual aesthetics that he he knows how to apply and incorporate in every film that he does. And everything from performance last time or in Paris, one from the heart. Apocalypse Now. Bulworth? I mean even tissue is doing that he did about 10 years ago, and some small films in Europe that nobody has ever seen, and including this film from Iran about Prophet Mohammed, which was just big epic film that he did, just, of course, amazing, masterful job. So to me, this is somebody that's what cinematographer should be always fresh, always innovative. always pushing the limit. So yeah, I would say single handedly probably storaro would be my choice of the most not the greatest, but probably the most influential photographers

Alex Ferrari 57:24
Now this is a question I asked all of my guests and it's always a tough question so just do the best you can What are your top three films of all time? Not in any order?

Suki Medencevic ASC 57:35
Oh, top three films probably would be a blade runner Yep. Lawrence of Arabia okay. And the third film would be abyss the Abyss

Alex Ferrari 57:50
Really the fish you put that on your top three

Suki Medencevic ASC 57:54
That's my top three and I have personal reasons for this because Tommy oh well. Lawrence of Arabia is a film that I saw as a child and also have a fourth film also Enter the Dragon

Alex Ferrari 58:06
Wow wow you really wow

Suki Medencevic ASC 58:06
These are the films which made important important important impact on me in different phases of my life Enter the Dragon was probably the film that going this way was a film that I don't think any other film made such a such impact on me that made me really believe that I'm I'm invincible like Bruce Lee I watched the movie he can do it I can do it I completely identify myself but has nothing to do with cinematography or anything but it just the the power of cinema the way as a kid I experienced Enter the Dragon. To me that was unbelievable. So yes, I'm not ashamed to say it was important in my childhood. Absolutely. Second important film was Lawrence of Arabia. I've seen it also as a kid. And no other film that I've seen so far had such a strong ability to transform and really transform me and my whole experience and made me really believe that I'd right there in the desert. With with Lauren cinema, Sharif and all these other characters and just experiencing it in of course, later on, I realized Well, it's because of the just amazing cinematic work of everybody. Of course, it was pretty young as a cinematographer. The third film was the blade runner and blue Thunder came came at a time in my life when I was deciding, okay, what should I do? What's my path? I was in my teenage, teenage phase and very much interested in photography. And then when I saw this film, I realize that just how photography in this particular film was so powerful and left and played such an important role. In a storytelling and overall feeling of the movie I felt that's something that I would like to do I would be able to I wish I could be able to do to create images that are so so powerful in storytelling that you can watch more without even listening to dialogue and then fourth film production for film so this list is the best came in my in my life when I was finishing my school or I was about to finish my film school and I know it was very controversial but maybe there was a point but I was just in special particular mode to watch something like this to get this underwater adventure Space Odyssey underwater and just whole experience of what's happening under the water and the world underwater and the end and you know, just all this drama that was happening. It was to me just amazing. And but what what really hit me was the fact that there was probably a moment of realization that I will never be able to make movies like this that I just wasted four years of my life and and I'm really now in trouble because I have no choice now you have to stick to it because there's no way back.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:15
So basically had the opposite effect that entered the dragon.

Suki Medencevic ASC 1:01:19
Yes, very. Like it was. As much as I loved the movie is also like wake up call for me realizing that I'm on the wrong path.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:29
Interesting how film works with people. My Blade Runner story is I actually I'm shameful to say that I finally sat down and watched Blade Runner for the first time about eight years ago. And before that, I always seen clips of it here and there and when I was working in a video store, when I was in high school it's just one of those I just never got around to it was always one of those I got to watch I got to watch it. But when I saw it, it was it is mesmerizing, in a way that I never it like jumped to the top three of the top five list of all time for me instantly just the cinematography the story, the world that Ridley Scott put together it was just every frame was a painting. It was gorgeous grid I'd never seen a film so gorgeous. It's just stunning. Like it was just amazing how that how Ridley was able to do that. And the cinematographer remind me who the cinematographer was Jordan

Suki Medencevic ASC 1:02:23

Alex Ferrari 1:02:24
Yes, I remember I think it was you that told me that you saw his reel once and his reel was just the titles of the movies he did

Suki Medencevic ASC 1:02:34
Well you know when you reach a certain point in your career you do not need a reel however you know you might get in a situation that sometimes especially with some young cinematographer, young young directors they would write simply asked for reel of our w or you know like

Alex Ferrari 1:02:52
Yeah like and it's funny to say but the but the he his response to that was oh, I did Blade Runner. here's the here's the titles for you guys. Just found it funny.

Suki Medencevic ASC 1:03:02
I have interesting interesting with it. I think it has to do with our daddy but basically I think the anecdote is about very experienced cinematographer who is not like other 50 something films and he was working with some very young gun first time were very enthusiastic director. So they came to the set he came to the set, he put his cane and just stood there resting on his cane and director was going all over the place with his viewfinder checking on the strength and going here and there and at some point came to him where he was standing at he said oh actually I think the camera will be here and I'm disappointed yes that's why I put my cane here.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:44
There is something to say about experience

Suki Medencevic ASC 1:03:46
Yesterday and for all the young filmmakers if you ever have opportunity to work with people that are more experienced use it to your advantage because there's always something we can learn and and I have people to contribute Don't be afraid I remember one of the directors I worked with on several occasions told me interesting data from his career he told me that when he started as as Director He always needed to leave impression that he knows what he's talking about and you know then security authority that nobody is questioning him which is fine. And then it reached the point when he was on his fifth film that he realized that actually it's perfectly okay to show up and say that you know I don't know what we want to do here but let's come up with something and nobody will take it personally.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:39
Right it's it's insecurity it when you're first starting out.

Suki Medencevic ASC 1:04:42
Yeah, it's this eagerness to show that you are absolutely in control. You are absolutely dominating and.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:48
But that's but that's for any young person.

Suki Medencevic ASC 1:04:52
Yeah, no. So it comes it comes with when it comes with the territory. I think you know, as the director and the level of pressure and responsibility. You need to don't convince yourself that you know what you're doing even though quite often you're clueless. But you know, but if you're smart as some famous director said once like the key, the key to success of, of directory surround to surround himself with talented people and let them do their job.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:22
Correct. Absolutely correct. Suki I won't take up any more of your time. Thank you so, so much for being on the show. You were a lot of great gems and nuggets of information in this in this episode. I think a lot of people get a lot of use out of it. So is there anything else you want to say?

Suki Medencevic ASC 1:05:38
Just go ahead and shoot something.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:41
Never better said my friend. We'll talk soon my friend. Thanks again for being on the show. Thank you. I hope you guys got a lot out of that episode. I know I did. I know cinematography is almost kind of like a black art to a lot of filmmakers. They don't understand what it takes to actually make a good image. And that's one of the problems with a lot of independent films is they just grab a camera and they go shoot something sometimes. And they don't take the time to hire a good dp or understand what good lighting is. And I hope this episode kind of shined a light no pun intended on the importance of cinematography, the art of cinematography and what what it really takes to create amazing, amazing images. So don't forget to head over to filmfestivaltips.com that's FilmFestivaltips.com to get my six secrets on how to get into film festivals for cheap or free. These six secrets help me get into over 500 international film festivals for cheap or free. And please head over to iTunes and give the podcast a honest review. It helps us out dramatically in getting more exposure for the show. And we really appreciate you guys doing that for us. It does help us out dramatically with the rankings on iTunes and help us get more listeners and get the word out on the indie film hustle movement. So thanks again guys. We will be bringing you a great new show next week. Stay tuned, we got some amazing guests coming up. And some couple other things I might be doing in the future with our podcast that you guys might be excited about. So stay tuned and remember keep that hustle going never stopped following your dreams. Talk to you soon.




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IFH 006: Indie Film VFX Masterclass with Dan Cregan

In this episode, we tackle what visual effects artists can do to help you in your indie film. Visual Effects in Indie Film is really hit or miss, mostly miss. Many indie filmmakers don’t have any idea what to do when it comes to visual effects.

Uber visual effects artist Dan Cregan takes you through a master class on indie film visual effects and tells us how he went from indie visual effects to huge studio films like Guardians of the Galaxy and The Hobbit.

Dan started working as a visual effects artist with my visual effects/post-production company Numb Robot over 10 years ago. We’ve worked on countless independent films and projects over the years, some good and some painful.

We even co-directed our Japanese Anime Short Film  Red Princess Blues: Genesis.

His road from indie film to tentpole studio films is a long and painful one but it has a very happy ending. I hope you enjoy to film geeks talking about the film business and hopefully sprinkling in a few nuggets of knowledge for you.

Here’s a list of a few of the films he has worked on:

The Martian
Fantastic Four
The Equalizer
Guardians of the Galaxy
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Game of Thrones
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Enjoy my conversation with Dan Cregan!

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
This episode is going to be fun. It's it's our have a good friend of mine, Dan Cregan, who is a big visual effects guy now. When I started out with him, he was my visual effects guy on my small film broken. And also on my red princess blues. We've co directed the animated movie references blues Genesis, where he did all the animation on that as well. And, and involved with lipstick and bullets, my blu ray as well. So then I can call him one of my best friends. And it's been amazing to see how he is grown in the visual effects world. He went from broken to films like guardians of the galaxy's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Games of Thrones, Mount Millicent 47 Ronin, and The Hobbit just just to name a few. And he just got done off of Fantastic Four as well, which we do discuss a little bit of Fantastic Four, as well in this episode. So it's a long one, it's about an hour and a half long, you know, it's a couple film geeks talking, but a lot of great information about visual effects visual effects in indie film, and, and just general good times. So without further ado, my good friend Dan Cregan. And thank you, Dan, so much. Are you there, sir?

I'm here.

Thank you so much for joining us on the show today. I really, really appreciate it. I saw I wanted to thank you, man. I wanted to talk a little bit about there's It's no secret I don't think that you and I have been real good friends for going on 11 years now. So I wanted to I wanted you to tell the audience how we met and all the fiasco that we've gone into since then.

Yeah, it's been a few. Well, where to start?

At the beginning is always at the place

At the beginning. Alright, um, well, 11 years ago, just about I was working as a professor at a digital art school that sent me to a film festival to do a talk about high definition animation. I think it was at this point, because that was like a new thing then.

Yeah, I remember I remember that panel. It was like, you know, HD is gonna change the world.

Dan Cregan 4:04
Yeah, it might catch on. Yeah. So it was like a panel discussing I don't know render times and how it was gonna change the workflow for animation, visual effects, post production and things like that. Because you know, it's like 2004 and it's just starting to get out there. Anyway, I do this panel as excited because, you know, I was pretty fresh out of school, and I was teaching and I was like, oh, now they now they want me to be on a panel. So I feel all professional and whatnot. So both so I knew so little, I knew so little

Alex Ferrari 4:36
That we all we all we all knew so little and we still do in many ways.

Dan Cregan 4:41
And then I was we were given the talk and my buddy Ken, who we also work with. He was on the panel with me and I guess we got two bantering pretty good on the panel and, and, and you were in the audience and and sure enough, you kind of took a shine to us, I think because you approached us after the panel and That's where it all began.

Alex Ferrari 5:02
The rest is the rest of the worst day in your life, I'm assuming.

Dan Cregan 5:08
I remember, I remember you asking if we had business cards, and I was like, really I don't, I'm a visual effects artist, I don't have a business card. And, and I said, but here, here's my phone number, whatever, here's my email address, I think it was at the time. And I don't think it was a day before you would contacted me and said, we're doing a short film. And I wondered if you'd come down to the studio in Hollywood, Florida. And

Alex Ferrari 5:33
Then for that distinction,

Dan Cregan 5:35
And check it out, you know, and, and see, if you want to be a part of this, there's no money, but maybe you'll be interested in working with us. So that's kind of where it started. And I just wanted to work at the time working on projects, that meant something or, you know, just film projects, I have done one movie at that point, and not even as a visual effects artist as a concept, designer, storyboard artist. And it excited me to have the opportunity to just work at that point, I was earning money teaching, I just wanted to work. So yeah, I came in and we did a meeting. And then the rest is, as they say, history.

Alex Ferrari 6:16
So what? Why did you decide to work with a young, independent filmmaker who had no real credits to his name? at all? I mean, I know I was, I was a working editor at the time. And I had us had a room, or an office in a production facility in Hollywood, Florida. So I know that might have like, legitimize me a little bit. But beyond that smoke and mirrors, what was it about the, the project about me? I'm asking this question, because I want other filmmakers to understand the reasoning why, and how I was able to, you know, get to work with someone of your caliber, for, you know, for free, at the beginning of basically the beginning of the real beginning of my directing career.

Dan Cregan 7:03
Well, I think the first thing was when I came in and did the meeting, it was a good location, I hadn't been in a studio setting before so location was one thing that it was impressed with, right off the bat. The other thing was your passion for your project. There was, I don't know if it was justified or not, but the secrecy that you had around the project, you were like, you got to sign something before you can read the script. And it's gonna be huge, and we're gonna make we're gonna change the world. And, you know, I was like, Oh, this is this is the real deal. This is something serious. Yeah, man.

Alex Ferrari 7:41
Well, you, you really just fell off the turnip truck.

Dan Cregan 7:45
I really, really did. And,

Alex Ferrari 7:47
And I saw you coming from a mile away, sir,

Dan Cregan 7:49
You did take advantage of me, I know, um, you know, I knew I had a lot of ability at the time. I just didn't know what to do with it. And I saw somebody who needed it at that point. And I thought, you know, I had been involved in, in one independent project before, and I've seen other independent projects go. And this was different. Broken was a film. And that's what it was called. And that was the start of our collaboration. It It was a film that had a lot of visual effects and action and it was a thriller and it wasn't the typical independent you know, talking heads drama, you know, it was it was more of a mainstream you know, just exciting thing to do. And I immediately said, Well, this is how I want to spend my free time I want to do this. The other thing was that I mentioned the production setting first. Alex that you also showed me your reel and like all this stuff that looked like you had done MTV promos, music videos, you know, mainstream commercials in like a dozen films before that. So to my eyes, you know, you always knew you always knew how to look pro and to my eyes, I said, Well, this guy's the real deal plus he's making me sign legal documents to read a script, he's got to be the real deal. And you know, I just I was taken in by the whole thing and like I said, I was young and naive, and and you know what, that can be a good thing. Because I think that's, that's when you do some of your best work is when you have nothing but passion. I think later on, you become a little jaded by the process and you kind of lose that spark. And I kind of missed that spark at this point. So yeah, it's a good time. It's really a good time.

Alex Ferrari 9:39
Well, I mean, I think just so just so you understand, I've been faking it till I make it since the beginning of my my since I was 19. When I when I started in this business. So all those demo that demo reel that you were looking at were all fake commercials. I happen to grab a bunch of footage at a at a commercial house that I was working on. I was a double I was dubbing reels I grabbed the whole bunch of raw footage that they had in the back, re edited it myself on the weekends and threw on a Nike logo and threw on different kinds of logos to make myself look bigger and that's the real that started getting me work so you know sometimes you got to fake it till you make it and obviously it worked with you so if there's a lesson swindled well if there's a lesson to be in and I think you've we've done a lot of work in the over the year so I'm sure you know you fake it till you make it thing is very viable and in many ways needed if not you can't even you can't even crack the door you know if you show you're very very true so so let me ask you a question since broken obviously your greatest work you've worked on massive massive movies hobbit guardians of the galaxy and the recent Fantastic Four as well how did you leverage or better yet let's let's go back I know how you got kind of got in because you and I were bumping around doing a lot of independent film visual effects and things like that for many years and and I know it's very difficult for you to kind of crack the door open for anyone to even give you a chance to even look at you can you tell me a little bit about the the digital domain experience and explain to the audience what digital domain was what happened at digital domain and Florida and how that you leverage that into where you are today?

Dan Cregan 11:30
Sure um you know it's everybody needs a first big break some people though they kind of wait for their big break you know working with you and doing other independent shows I think we did six years seven years of independent film well yeah you know, I'm just building a real kind of cutting my teeth on on on not all great projects but professional level projects you know as professional as you can get working in the film industry out of Florida you know, able to get myself to a certain level where when digital domain happened to build a studio in in Port St. Lucie Florida that I said wow you know, I just submitted my stuff and and hope for the best and you know, it kind of helped everything kind of came together the choices you make really do have an effect on on where you end up I mean, people ask me all the time How do you get there how do you get into the industry How do you break in there's no one way there's so many different ways and there is a great element of luck. I mean, but you got to work hard i mean you know my father always says luck is when you know preparedness meets opportunity and it's so true you just have to work and work and work and you may not get your big break right away. You it might come way down the line. But you know you it will come you know and some people do get that big break really quick. So you know, it's funny like seven years I worked on independent film six years seven years, I got into digital domain I started and I sat down next to a kid who was 19 my buddy rich and he's like yeah, I just worked on Thor and I'm like you know I just felt like

Alex Ferrari 13:26
You felt like slapping it yeah they

Dan Cregan 13:29
Digital domain pulled him out of community college to work on the program and brought him right in they were looking for a lot of young fresh you know potential talent you know they brought me in as an experienced artists but still I hadn't done the big shows and seeing everybody get an opportunity I felt good for him but obviously you start feeling like what have I been doing for seven years I guess you know, I know we talked about it a lot of times you always thought I should move out to LA and maybe I would have gotten into the industry sooner if I had moved out i didn't i like Florida I still live here in Florida and you know I kind of wanted to go my own way and

Alex Ferrari 14:08
Yeah so what happened what happened at digital domain once you've got in there? What happened with the the fall the rise and fall of digital domain and then how did you leverage that into the next phase of your career?

Dan Cregan 14:20
Well, digital domain lasted for me and for most everybody at the company for about two years. There's a lot of available out there on the internet, you can pretty much find the whole story. It basically you know, john texter who was running digital domain, you know, he had a lot of big dreams. He wanted to do so many things. And he wanted to do it in Florida, you know, and he wanted to, you know, kind of get digital domain, you know, into new avenues like an animated film and military simulation and video game design. And he wanted to do it all and he wanted to do it all right away. And you know, they They had a lot going. I mean, the animated film was the big thing. And I think that's what we were counting on to help us survive as a studio and grow and creating your own content is really important in this day and age. And the problem is that making an animated film, you know, is a long, long process, it takes four or five years, maybe, you know, best case scenario, from conception to theater, to get one of those out, you know, you know, the Pixar is the DreamWorks, they can do it faster, still not that much faster, but they can do it faster, because they've, they've got a good pipeline, we were building our own pipeline, you know, we were using digital domain Venice's structure, but for an animated film, they were creating it as they went. And you know, we had a lot of great people, you know, people from Pixar and from Disney, you know, and, you know, industry veterans, they all knew what they were doing and everybody had great intentions and you know, the money just kind of fell through you know, I it kind of comes to, you know, everybody going where they get help from states and help from governments and you know, it's just the reality of the industry right now and, and you kind of need that subsidy money to keep it going. And that wasn't the whole story with digital domain, but that was kind of part of it, you know, you know, kind of running the company on, on on government money, which was it's working to a certain degree he was we were employed 300 people here in Florida. You know, and you know, that's a lot in industry, a lot of people came from other studios and other places around the world. And, you know, they they wanted to get away and settle in a nice quiet place and go to the beach and have no traffic and, you know, they bought houses, but the problem is that when we fell when, when we were all let go and in the company restructured, you know, you can't work in the industry here. So a lot of these people who had moved here, had to move back or go someplace else, or switch industries. It was a, it was a tough time. But you know, for a lot of us for myself, and a lot of the people who started out with digital domain, it became the springboard to bigger and better things. You know, you can work on independent film for a long time, but until you've done some major films, a lot of studios won't really treat you like you're a veteran. But once you have a major studio on your resume, all the sudden you remember the club and it's like hey, you know, you were good filming You're good. You're in here

Alex Ferrari 17:29
And you've been vouched for

Dan Cregan 17:30
Yeah, so all of a sudden you know, the email start coming and you start having choices to make and it's not Can I work it's where do I want to work? You know, and, and I think I've said it many times I I was told this when I was in school and I didn't understand it and it was that artists would come into my my eyes where I went to school and say, networking is the most important thing if you want to work and and there is nothing truer people I met at digital domain I still work with at studios around the world. And you know, we kind of are a special group because we were a part of something that was starting up here and there's there's nothing like a startup there's nothing like starting out something new when people up those people become an extended family and, and working with them. You know, in other studios has been fun. But who you know, they're like, Hey, I worked with him in another studio here. Let's bring him in here. You know, it's the most important thing when people know you and you have a good reputation. That's how you get into other studios. So after digital domain, it wasn't really that difficult all the sudden, after seven years of, of trying to break in through the door. Now, everybody wanted me to a certain degree. I mean, it's still you know, challenging to get a job. But you know, you were taken seriously. And that was a nice change. So, you know, right after digital domain, I went up to New York and I and I worked at Blue Sky, which is really in Connecticut, but they put you up in New York. So it's kind of the same, you know, on a movie called epic and I got to see how animated films are made. And after that somebody I worked with a digital domain and at Blue Sky said, Hey, we're going to Ueda and they're looking for people. Do you want to come? I'm like,

Alex Ferrari 19:18
Yeah, they're doing. They're doing independent film called The Hobbit.

Dan Cregan 19:21
Yeah. You know, so it's like, oh, New Zealand. For 6000 I got to go there. Exactly. It was five months. And you know, and I said, Okay, that's a long time to be away from home. But how many times Am I gonna get paid to go to New Zealand to work on a, you know, a huge film, I mean, it's probably still the biggest film I've been a part of, you know, as far as worldwide coverage and events and, you know, Buzz and hype. You know, I'm not saying they turned out as good as Lord of the Rings because they didn't, but I was. I was really proud to have gone down there and worked with what I also got to do. Donna, the Planet of the Apes when I was down there. Which was an amazing film. I'm proud to have worked on that. So the weather trip was great. And then of course, you know, then people start looking at your rain on your reel and your resume go Oh, you worked at what a blue sky digital domain and then it just snowballs and snowballs. And, and before you know it, you know, you're you're in you can then it's just choosing where do you want to work and for VFX artists now, you know, it's, you know, Vancouver, Montreal, London, New Zealand, Australia, these are the places where the work is. So you kind of have to choose what you want to do. Do you want to go to move to one of these places? Do you want to stay at home and just take short contracts? Do you want to, you know, leave the industry, it's it. The industry is in a strange place right now. And, and you kind of have to decide what's best for you as a person, and how you want to move forward, you know, but you know, I love working on movies, there's no anything I've ever wanted to do. Really. I mean, they've been a passion of mine since I was just a kid. And I can't imagine doing anything else. Really. It's it's hard to imagine do anything. thing else.

Alex Ferrari 21:07
So that's awesome. That's a great story. I'm not I'm not jealous at all.

Dan Cregan 21:16
I couldn't get there without you, sir.

Alex Ferrari 21:17
No, no, no, no, it's too late. It's too late. Let's move on. So let me ask you a question. What are your experiences? And I've been on a lot of these experiences with you, but what is your experiences in visual effects? When dealing with independent films? As a general statement, what kind of problems do you run into what kind of issues things like that?

Dan Cregan 21:39
Well, I think for independent films, the worst, the worst thing is probably the lack of understanding about the visual effects process. So the people who are making the independent film tend to be a little bit less educated in how to VFX work. Therefore, when they're shooting, they don't prepare properly, either what they're shooting, how they're shooting it, what their expectations are, about what the result is going to be. I mean, the lack of knowledge is, is definitely the most difficult part, when you're working on independent film, when you have a tight budget, and you have a, a lofty goal, if you will, it's it's you, you have to plan, you have to figure out how it's going to get done. And you have to plan everything out precisely, you don't have extra money extra time, you know, you know, in big films, when I work at big studios, if, if there's something wrong, and it needs to be fixed, you know, big studios can just throw more money at it independent films don't have that luxury. So, you know, they have to plan more, they have to prepare more, and they have to get educated about what they're trying to accomplish. And the problem is that they often don't. So they often think they go to the movies, and they see all these things, and they're like, I want that I want, you know, a character a full CG character like Gollum in my, in my short little independent film, you know, you know, there's just a button on the on the, on the keyboard for that, isn't it, it can't be that difficult. And, you know, they, they don't really, they don't really think it through precisely. And, you know, and I think it's just, it's just not knowing, you know, so if you're an independent filmmaker, get educated about the process about what it takes the man hours, the computing power, you know, the preparation, how you shoot something, the difference between, you know, visual effects and a locked off shot versus visual effects and a moving shot. I mean, how to light a green screen properly. You know, we could talk hours and hours about just everything that needs to be done for things to work smoothly on the post production side. And I don't think enough young independent films makers really do that unless they come from a visual effects background, which you're seeing a lot of like, you know, on YouTube and whatnot, you're seeing visual effects artists doing short films, right, like, like, like the pixels short, which they bought and turned into pixels. And well, we

Alex Ferrari 24:13
Don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing at this point.

Dan Cregan 24:15
Well, it was alright. But you know, it's, I'm just saying those those those people maybe aren't the best filmmakers, but sometimes they are I mean, it's, it's what's Where are you coming from? Are you a writer that wants to be a filmmaker? Are you a visual artist that wants to be a filmmaker, there's many different types of filmmakers. And the problems are different for everybody. So there's never any one answer to any of these questions about, about how you, you know, do it correctly. It's just, it's just kind of a it's just kind of every situation is different. That's it?

Alex Ferrari 24:51
Yeah. So what like when I had a client of mine or a student, call me up asking for quotes on visual effects and general When we work together, I work as your visual effects supervisor. More for the client not supervising you, but kind of just the middleman. I can see I can speak your language they can so I translate for them for you. And the guy told me he's like, Okay, did you see that scene in Avengers? And like, you need to stop right there.

Dan Cregan 25:17
There is that that is the problem.

Alex Ferrari 25:21
If there is nothing in Avengers that we can do nothing, nothing at all. Just stop. Just stop right there. Nothing. So and I think there was a lot of that going on in indie film, and I've, I've gone I mean, we've dealt with it on God, numbers of numbers of features that we've worked on. And I agree with you, I think it's, it's getting a little better. But there's still a lot of lack of knowledge and just ignorance.

Dan Cregan 25:47
Well, yeah, I mean, if you think about it, the audience is becoming more knowledgeable. You know, people are you know, the the argument out there Oh, CG sucks, or this is too much CG or, you know, I'm you know, there is a, you know, a lot of visual effects out there. And these big tentpole films and people are getting tired of it. It's like a lot of noise and the filmmaking is, is what's being neglected in favor of a lot of, you know, razzle dazzle visual effects in the audience, though, is starting to understand and their eyes are getting more developed. And they're starting to see, you know, the process on their own. So if the filmmakers are going to come from the the new filmmakers are going to come from the audience, they are going to have a more, I don't know what the best way to put in a more thorough understanding of the visual effects process. But you know, it's still a little different tinge to knowing it when you see it, to knowing how to create it.

Alex Ferrari 26:44
Well, yeah, I mean, my wife, for God's sakes, who's who's not in the business at all, she will go to a movie and go, Oh, that was a horrible green screen, in major in a major motion picture, none that you've done, of course. So I find that funny, but if she's doing that, I can only imagine the, everyone's becoming more the visual effects literate, is as things go, as all the behind the scenes come out, and, and people have just got become much more knowledgeable about how the process is, in a lot of ways. I think it's kind of ruined the film industry a bit because the magics kind of gone. Because before you would look at, you know, King Kong back in the 30s. And nobody knew how they did that. They just, were amazed at the spectacle.

Dan Cregan 27:26
Now, what about Star Wars? 1977? I mean, when I was when I was a kid, you know, we could I couldn't even fathom what was creating the imagery I was looking at, I just accepted as real. And I feel bad that people aren't having the same experience today, and maybe they are maybe kids are nowadays, but sometimes I don't know how to look at something from that from that perspective anymore. And I wonder if anybody does, you know, because because, like you said, all the behind the scenes and the common knowledge and, you know, in all the technology that's available to every person, everybody has a video editing program that can do a key and they know what green screen is, and they and they can do basic stuff. So you know, Photoshop, you know, a lot of people know Photoshop and and, you know, they know what's possible. So, you know, it's a, it's, it's kind of a challenge now to actually Wow, people nowadays requires a crazy amount of, you know, you know, innovation, I would say,

Alex Ferrari 28:28
So, I agree with you, 110%. That's why avatar did what they did. Like when avatar came out, it was the kind of First time I've felt magic at the movie theater. Again, because I really, I kind of got what he was doing Originally, the technology hadn't been explained quite yet what he would he had done with Avatar with James Cameron did with Avatar, but it was amazing. If you watch it today, you're like, Jesus, man. It's like ridiculous. What is it, and I can only imagine what the next three movies are going to be like. But he's one of those directors that constantly is pushing the medium forward. And so it was exciting to see those kinds of films, which are rare and rare nowadays.

Dan Cregan 29:11
Well, they're always kind of been rare. The problem is that, you know, we all know, you know, hollywood does, what works. And so if something works, they copy it over and over and over again. So we as an audience, get to see the same product over and over and over again. And you know that that's the problem. But every once in a while, a visionary comes out and pushes the envelope. So you have the matrix in 1999, you've got Terminator two, you've got, you know, Jurassic Park. I mean, and all these things have in common is that they showed you something that you've never seen before. So that so that's like, you know, one of the things you have to do, it's either something you've never seen before, or you have to do it better than anybody's ever done it before. So you know, like, you know, Think recently, you know, gravity was impressive, I think, you know, Donna, the planet of the apes, I worked on at some kind of disqualified, but I thought the looking at the apes in that movie, I started to really, truly believe that digital, you know, actors were just a fact of life at this point. So but it's still have to take a studio to the level of what to do something like that. So independent films, no, not so much. So, you know, that's, you know, but independent films have their own place.

Alex Ferrari 30:35
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Dan Cregan 30:45
Do other things really well?

Alex Ferrari 30:48
No, I didn't mean to interrupt you. But I think now, are we kind of like 20 years behind in technology in the sense. So let me explain, like, Jurassic Park came out in 1992. So 9393, excuse me. So you know, to make a dinosaur back then was insanely difficult. Nowadays, you can almost, and I hate to say, touch a button or two, and get a dinosaur. In other words, it's a lot easier for us to do it today. Even in an independent film world, I wouldn't, and maybe dinosaurs, not a good analogy. But that technology is a it's a lot more accessible. So now before, keying used to be a huge event, now it's in every editing system known to man, and really good cures, especially if you know what you're doing. So a lot of this stuff, so like, you know, in 20 years, are we going to be looking at avatar, like, That was cute, and I think, and I think we will get to a certain extent, cuz you look at the matrix now, which is now what, 1516 years old, oh, 99, it came out in 99. So like, 16 years old, a lot of that stuff still holds up, like, most of that movie still holds? Very, very well. But a lot of the technology that they were using then, is much more accessible now. So do you, do you think that we're like about a 1520 year gap between the everyday man everyday filmmaker, the indie filmmaker being able to even attain that kind of technology? Or are we or am I just talking out of my butt?

Dan Cregan 32:23
Well, you know, I don't know about the gap, it's more of a knowledge gap and a hardware gap. And not the complexity of the hardware and software, just the actual, you know, amount of it, right. So, you know, if you have a really good gaming rig a good computer at home, and you've got a lot of talent, you know, you can do some pretty complex CGI. But you know, to really render, you know, a lot of it for a film, you would need a render farm that was massive. So like, transformers. So the so the alleyway scene, when you see them all transform, and we're all introduced to the Autobots. The first time, I think, that was taking four days a frame at ILM with their world class render farm back. So back then, you know, and and, and they're still doing stuff, and Noah, you know, broke their render farm with all those animals in the ark just a year ago. You know, so it, you know, it, it's not so much the technology change, it's the process, yeah, it's the horsepower or the sheer amount of computing power. And as you get more of it, you can do more of it. So it's never really a knowledge thing. It's never really a software thing anymore. It's Yeah, it's more of a actual horsepower, you know, you know, problem. And not only that, you know, it's, it's something I love to tell people, and anybody who will listen, it's the problem is that more isn't better. You know, the reason why the matrix, you know, holds up is because they, they could do what they could do on a budget they had and they had to be creative. The reason why jaws holds up is that the shark wasn't working. So Steven Spielberg had to come up with different ways to build suspense, and it makes for a better film. So over the years, with visual effects, more or less is better. So actually, from an independent standpoint, having limitations is good. And, you know, I think when you look at the matrix sequels, and they have all the computing power and all the manpower and all the, you know, the biggest and the best, and was the product a little bit inferior than the first one, well, maybe for a variety of reasons, but you see the seams more in the work in the second two movies than you do in the first one because they tried to do more and be more ambitious, and more usually equals something that's going to age badly when you have to be reserved, and just kind of sneak it by the audience. You actually get a better product. I In my opinion, it's just my opinion, but I think it you know, struggle breeds a better product a better art, you know, when when you have everything available to you, you know you tend to get lazy or not not try as hard, you know. So you know there is an upside to struggle, there is an upside to having limitations. And I think it's an important thing for every filmmaker to go through.

Alex Ferrari 35:27
Well, it's I'm going on that theme of less is more. Hitchcock famously said, What's more suspense? what's what's more suspenseful, to see someone get murdered in a bedroom, or to be outside the room and hear a murder happening in the bedroom? You know, it's obviously the second one, because your mind fills in all the blanks. So that is, that's what, that's why when you watch Reservoir Dogs, when they when he cuts off the ear, you don't see it. And he actually shot it with them cutting it off. And when he looked at it in the editing room, quit and said, No, no, no, no, it's much more powerful. Letting letting your imagination run wild. And that's exactly why people are so disturbed by that scene, because their imagination is much more vivid than any visual effect can ever be.

Dan Cregan 36:15
That's true that is that is 100% correct. And I don't care how good the art form gets, you know, it's never going to match what you could the worst that you can imagine, or the best or the best that you can imagine. So you know, it's it's it's good, it's good that that is a is an issue because I think filmmakers still need to learn that technique. You know, I thought, Boy, this is gonna get me in trouble but I thought m Night Shyamalan actually knew that pretty well you know in the early days in his career, and you know,

Alex Ferrari 36:48
You don't have to worry about it I completely agree with you yeah, you know,

Dan Cregan 36:51
I just felt like that's why he there was so much hope behind him and his work Yeah, because you know, it felt like he was a filmmaker that got that you know, and

Alex Ferrari 37:01
You know, he got a few films I'll give it to him he i mean but look, most of us will never have a sixth sense in our in our lives as a creative artist, you know, so I can't knock them too much. But or an unbreakable I enjoy science but but I agree with you yeah, let's make it on the M night bandwagon right now

Dan Cregan 37:25
Because that's a whole other show that's a whole other show

Alex Ferrari 37:28
We could just talk about what directors we're all directors have failed and we are so no joke a good joke all failed we've got and then some my friend and then some so um, so what advice would you give independent filmmakers when it comes to visual effects I know we went over a little bit but any specific advice maybe about I know you and I talked about green screen and tape among other things, so some basic stuff that that you see that we've seen come through the door and use Command if they could just get these three or four things right. Got it make things so much easier, so much more affordable, and a better product at the end?

Dan Cregan 38:06
Well, any any you know, we've talked about it in the past and I think that in our in our work, and I think anytime you have a lock off shot you you factor down the difficulty of the shot by 10 you know, it's it's so much easier to work in a locked off shot now. I know dynamically are I nowadays film you know, we're used to seeing the camera move a lot. But you don't necessarily need that to make a great film. You know, Fincher will have a lot of locked off shots so it can be done. A lock off will will save the digital artists a lot of work because it eliminates tracking, it eliminates You know, a lot of the complications, perspective changes, things like that, that come from a camera moving, so it allows you to cheat more when a shot isn't in motion. So I would say that's like the number one thing you could do to help a visual artist on a very low micro budget film or low budget film.

Alex Ferrari 39:07
Now the the other thing is also though, with technology the way it is people shooting 6k and now 8k, if your final output is going to be less a to K or or just HD. If you shoot something even just old, good old fashioned red camera, 4k and do the visual effects at 4k. You should be able to do small camera movements within the frame in post without losing quality issues. It's as a cheat. Would you agree with that?

Dan Cregan 39:35
Yeah, I think that's a really you know, good point. It's it's definitely better to do a post move you know, as far as it would allow you to still work as if it were a lock off and you would still get the motion that you want. So yeah, that's, that's a fair. That's a fair thing except you do introduce a couple new problems when you're working in 4k or five calves working on a hobbit and 5k boy, everything goes slower you know I think there's no I think way back 11 years ago we were talking about that HD in animation panel where we met you know we're talking about oh render times with HD and you know how is it going to slow down your computer? Well nowadays you know 4k 5k you know 48 frames a second like we did on the hobbit 60 frames a second like Cameron wants to do on the avatar sequels this creates it's beautiful stuff but it creates so much more work for the digital artist it actually slows down the process you know, so much to go bigger because every time it will every time you throw a paint stroke down the computer's got to think about it you know, twice as hard or four times as hard and 10 times as hard whatever it's just it's just so much more for the computer to deal with when you're dealing with large file sizes so there is that factor if you do go that route you have to be aware of it as well. So So yeah, but that is that is definitely something and as far as green screen goes for independent films, lighting it well is the key thing people think that you can put anything in front of green I've seen so many so many projects right they'll they'll throw a green towel over one part of the background behind the actor and be like oh you can just remove that right that's how official effects are done.

Alex Ferrari 41:16
No Don't you forget Didn't you forget that we had a movie back in Florida that we did that had four different visual four different greens is part of the green screen like they use like a paper than paint then a blanket and it was all and then of course the actor crossed all four of them and I'm like are you kidding me? Like seriously

Dan Cregan 41:41
What is it What is that supposed to do? I mean at that point you just wrote a scope but it was mastered you know what are you doing it's it's it comes back to what we were talking about it's a lack of understanding of how the process works so you know the whole point to throw an even color you know with with no variation is lost on people who don't understand that that's the whole point of a green screen you know,

Alex Ferrari 42:05
Right and then also the tape marks because I know a lot of a lot of filmmakers see on behind the scenes that there's a couple markers on the green screen Yeah, and they go a little nuts don't they?

Dan Cregan 42:15
Well, they immediately think we got to have those Well first of all, if we go back to my point number one if it's a locked off shot you don't need to have any tracking markers on your green screen because you're not tracking there is you're not tracking but if you are moving the camera Yeah, I understand you need tracking markers, but guess what, you don't need 600 of them, you know, all you need is more is better. All you need is a couple that the artist is head can see that is visible in the frame, you know, every frame so definitely you know yeah, it's it's on the hobbit we had a problem with that actually, there was there was a few too many tracking markers in the scenes. And it took the paint department quite some time to paint them out. So

Alex Ferrari 43:00
And then look at that even on a multi billion dollar budget No, not $100 million budget films. And I see I look I've seen $200 million movies with bad visual effects in it. So it happens. It's not it's not a perfect art by any stretch. It's always about the artist and the team behind it. bad decisions

Dan Cregan 43:19
Are made by people with $200 million and with people with a million dollars or $200,000 you know, dollars or $2 bad decisions are made across the board that's just life that's people so yeah, it's it's something that you're gonna have to deal with, you know, no matter where you go and what you do, and the only thing you can do is be a little bit more prepared and educated and do a better job than the people who do that because I guarantee you'll have less headaches.

Alex Ferrari 43:46
So I'm going to take you back for a second back in I just remember their story and I think you'll get a kick out of it. It kind of illustrates what we're talking about. You remember the Star Wars fan film?

Dan Cregan 43:58
Yeah, I do remember that. What a great example.

Alex Ferrari 44:01
So for the audience there was this Star Wars fan film guy was putting together you know that there was a run of star when there still are a lot of Star Wars fan films made out there are some very good ones some very very good some very talented people some are amazing like amazing. My favorite of the old school one was trooper as a troops true troops true true cop the cops parrot that was that was kind of like the first big one that kind of popped out right?

Dan Cregan 44:28
The one that hit the mainstream. Yeah, we're passing around on the internet, you know, or passing

Alex Ferrari 44:32
Around on DVD. I don't even think the internet could handle the load.

Dan Cregan 44:36
I saw it on the internet. I think I think it was the early days modem internet. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 44:40
Were you watching it on AOL, sir.

Dan Cregan 44:42
Yeah, I think it took like, you know, an hour load or something like that. It was well worth it. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 44:47
Um, so this guy came to us with this. This um, the Star Wars fan film, and he literally thought he was gonna sell it to George Lucas. He was Going to have he was going to be a director of one of the Star Wars shows he had a whole vision for this so we saw the footage that he had shot and he had worked so hard and had put together so many people to put this thing together and when we saw it we looked at him and we just go this is unusable it's going to cost you a fortune to fix he had wires everywhere he had green screens in places that didn't need to be green screens he didn't have any motion trackers he didn't have I just remember the stunts like there were there's camera gear in the way he's like oh you just you know you'll just take that out or just take this out and I remember sitting there with you Dan just tell it look at I'm like this is gonna cost you a fortune. Like first of all we can't do this you can't afford us to do this and I don't even know where the film ended up I don't even know if he ever finished it

Dan Cregan 45:54
But it never come out because I don't I don't know if I ever saw it come out

Alex Ferrari 45:57
I don't remember it either. We kind of looked for it you know months later and i'm not i don't i don't know if it ever got released or not but that was a perfect example of a filmmaker not not just doing their homework and figuring it out and being so in love with their own project and in love with their own and love themselves in many ways that the project suffered the art suffered and it was sad it was really sad for us to because we were excited because it was a cool Star Wars film. You know they'll be cool, but it it was just so grossly poorly done as far as visual effects when starred in a film that is visual effects heavy is almost unexcusable. Do you remember the whole process right?

Dan Cregan 46:46
Yeah, you know, I was just thinking it you know, I do admire his his ambition and it's kind of like what I was saying at the very beginning I missed that spark you know like that's a good spark to have you know absolutely just want to do it to say I'm going to do this and it's going to be amazing and you know I love that I love that enthusiasm but a little knowledge helps yeah the knowledge could have saved him you know it could have saved him a lot you know I thought it was a little ironic because I think I remember correctly on that project they were like yeah, and we're we got to this point of the movie and it looks like it's coming out really good but we're kind of out of money so can we do the visual effects for i don't know i remember the amount I think

Alex Ferrari 47:29
It was like 500 bucks or something like yeah for like for 4000 visual effects shots and oh yeah it was paint work and and then you know we were we're gonna bring in our buddy Sean, who also worked with us on broken and other movies. And we all looked at I'm like, You're out of your mind like you're crazy like I love Star Wars is next you know as much as the next guy maybe a little bit more. But I'm not I'm not doing I can't I can't do that that you Dan would be Dan you'd be doing this for what a year

Dan Cregan 47:59
It would have been bad we that was at least a six month project. I think it might have we could have done it if it was like our full time job. And you know, but there weren't enough of us to do it to the level that they needed to be done honestly they needed a small boutique visual effects house that was staffed with you know 30 people or something of that nature maybe they could have done it but

Alex Ferrari 48:21
We're also looking back I think that was like 2006 or something like that. And in 2006 the technology wasn't up to par just yet that there wasn't as much horsepower as there is to do that kind of job now it sounds like oh yeah, you could do this this and this because a lot of the Mac's coming out now have insane amounts of horsepower and you could buy video cards and render cards and all this kind of stuff now that could you could do some cool stuff but back then you really needed like a mini ILM to deal with yeah and there weren't they weren't around

Dan Cregan 48:51
He kind of he kind of did okay if he was a studio because then he could have just thrown out more money you see if he had more money all the problems could have been fixed but it's it's what you have to remember when you're an independent film you don't have more money so you can't fix these problems you know, they're people who shoot giant films still you know do what we're just saying that have bad habits you know, they they leave too many tracking markers in or, you know, they leave crew people in the shot or they leave camera gear in the shot. But they have the money to tell an ILM to just remove it. And I love Okay,

Alex Ferrari 49:32
Yeah I remember when you were working on the hobbit you were telling me that Peter Jackson like everything was being painted out. Like he just left everything he didn't matter. Like he just saw us paint it out. I'll just paint this out, paint that guy out. paint this out, paint that out.

Dan Cregan 49:46
And it was all the time but he's owns wetter. Yeah. And you can do that when you own what and that's that's an awesome thing. Like, like Joe like, yes, there are very few people who have this kind of power. You know, George did with his whole his whole empire. have, you know post production facilities and, you know, visual effects and all that and, and Peter Jackson built the same thing with weda and stone street studios and Park Road post, and he had the same freedom that George did. And that's, you know, I can rework this film until the day it hits theaters. And I can do it at a super high level, because I have the resources, having the resources changes everything, but when you don't have the resources, you have to think in a completely different manner. So yeah, I mean, there's a different ballgame.

Alex Ferrari 50:32
But there's literally like, you know, you can count them on one hand, how many guys on the planet can do that?

Dan Cregan 50:39
Yeah, it's true there, there are very few people with the kind of power I mean, it's not so much even power. It's, you know, besides, you know, Lucas and Peter Jackson, and maybe Robert Rodriguez, who kind of built a mini version of this, how many people have that whole control over their film and their process, you know, so they're, they're powerful directors of Chris Nolan, James Cameron, you know, these guys can get their films made, and studios will throw a bunch of money at them to do it. But very few guys have control over everything. And you know, like Lucas or Jackson and Cameron kind of does have the same I was

Alex Ferrari 51:15
I was about to say, the, the only guy do whatever he wants. Well, like I was saying, I forgot someone interviewed Cameron about avatar. And, and I think he said something like, I'm, I'm pretty much like one of two guys on the planet that could do this. Like literally, like what, like literally, who else is going to do avatar? Who else is going to be handed arguably what $400 million budget on a property that has never been seen before? It had to basically launch an entire property an entire brand, invent new technology along the way? How many guys right? It's just it's so rare.

Dan Cregan 51:56
You know, it's, it's absolutely, you know, miniscule the the percentage of people who get to play in that kind of sandbox. And the The problem is that they kind of give everybody a you know, like, James Cameron is kind of famous for saying go out and shoot it yourself. Go out and shoot something, you know, and it's just that if you do go out and shoot something, don't expect it to look like a James Cameron movie. You know, it's, it's, it's, it's so such different worlds, you know, that they play in such different fields. You know, in Cameron, I was gonna say the thing that separates him from a Lucas or, or a, or a Peter Jackson is that he hasn't really built his own Empire. But his films are so successful, that he can just borrow other people's Empire and they'll just hand them the keys and go, go ahead, go do whatever you want. You know, so he has a blank check all he does, because he's literally has a nearly unblemished record. I think his worst performing movie was the Abyss and I love the abyss. So he has a almost a perfect record of filmmaking. How many people could say that,

Alex Ferrari 53:01
And the Abyss being the arguably I think they rated it the toughest film shoot in history. Yeah, outdoing Apocalypse Now, you know, as as, like the most difficult film shoot in movie history. And if you ever watch that documentary on his on that blu ray, which I've watched a million times since I was in college, it just, you just sit there going. There's just there's just very few human beings directors on the planet that could do something like that. But we're going off topic, we've kind of swayed off into movie geek land.

Dan Cregan 53:34
Let me That happens a lot with us. We apologize.

Alex Ferrari 53:37
But but a lot of good information popping out. So um, what kind of advice can you give young visual effects artists starting out and trying to break into this extremely diluted market and difficult market to get into in the visual effects world?

Dan Cregan 53:53
Well, this this answer, it changes and it doesn't change. Because, you know, I think it's the thing I get asked more often than any other thing whether, you know, wherever I go, if people know what I do, they're like, oh, how do I do that? You know, they're, like I said earlier, there is no one way to get into the business. I mean, you could argue so many different paths, right? We could say, well, you go to school, but then if you go to school, and you pay an exorbitant amount of money to go to an art school and you build up 40 $50,000 in student loans, that's not exactly a good way to go. If you could have learned the same on the internet, which you can. Nowadays, the information is all out there. If you want to learn, you can learn on your own. But then what's important to get in the industry is to know people in the network, one of the best place to start your networking is at school. So you can go back and forth over which first step to take self learning or school. Either one of those is the first step. But you're going to have to make some concessions, whichever way you choose and once you taught yourself what to do, whether you You're in school or whether you self taught, then you've got to get in the door of a company and how do you get in the door? When, when nobody wants to give you a chance? When is visual effects is one of those fields that has a quote unquote, you know, a glamour, kind of, Oh, yeah, you know, around it. And it's funny because it's very unglamorous. You know, and I know a lot of people like to say that, you know, some people even say, being a movie star is unglamorous because you spend a lot of time in a trailer waiting on set. And there's a lot of doing nothing and you know, a lot of strange locations, but, you know, visual effects is very similar in that the idea of what you do is amazing, and what you actually produce is amazing, but the actual process of doing it is very difficult. 16 hour days, seven days a week, months on end, living out of hotels, you know, traveling a lot, which can be a good and a bad thing. I mean, these things are very challenging. So, the next thing if you want to do this, make sure that you love it, you have to love this more than anything else, otherwise you're going to fail, you know, so I've known a lot of people starting out who said Oh, kind of sounds cool, I like movies, I'll go learn to be a visual effects artist, but that's not enough. You have to you know, you have to love it and you have to want to work on a movie more than anything else in the world because otherwise this industry will just eat you up and spit you out. I mean, when you get in your first job, I mean, you're going to be excited and you're probably going to not understand how tough it's going to be. And then you know after you work three months at you know, seven days a week for 16 hours a day you start to feel not human anymore and you might at that point wonder whether you want to keep doing it or not. And it's an important question to ask yourself because the internet is full of people who will complain about this field and complain about how hard it is but you know if you love it, it's still worth doing and that's definitely for sure. As far as getting that big break you know, I would say even today the best place to get your start is in stereo I know that sounds a lot of people like oh I don't want to do 3d conversion or whatnot but a lot of places will hire inexperienced people to do stereo so it a break in

Alex Ferrari 57:27
I hate to interrupt the can you please explain to people what stereo is exactly

Dan Cregan 57:31
Okay. It's you know the process of making a film 3d a lot of movies that come out nowadays are 3d and you know, it's you know what it has to be done a lot of films are shot two dimensionally and then converted into 3d by VFX artists so the film has to be essentially dimensionalized or any other word you want to call it at any rate this is a good starting out job for a visual effects artists because there's not as much creativity I really hate to say that because because you know the people who do 3d well are extremely talented and have an extremely you know, specialized skill set and they they do really good work that that produce amazing effects good 3d is awe inspiring and the people that can do it I have so much respect for you know, but but a lot of 3d today is just done for the sake of saying our movies in 3d Let's charge $25 a ticket you know, so it's done for not artistic reasons like a Cameron would do you know, it's done more for let's get more dollars per head in the theater you know, and the rest of the world loves 3d so you know, that's a 3d is a whole discussion onto itself to got it but it's a good place to start out if you're a visual effects artist because you can they hire a lot of inexperienced kids and it's a good place to get in the door and you don't have to be kid if you just anytime you're in entering the industry, you know, it's a good place to get your start. The the trick then is you're not out of the gauntlet yet, if you get into a 3d company like legend in San Diego, stereo D in Toronto, prime focus, your next challenge is getting out of 3d and into 2d because there's a whole kind of invisible wall that tends to block those two disciplines and rightfully or unrightfully so I think unrightfully so there's plenty of artists who do stereo that can really do 2d, you know, normal visual effects as well. So, you know, after you get out of there, you can get another job, you know, that you know, is closer to what you want to do, you might have to do undesirable jobs. And that's that's the kind of the lesson here. The other thing you can do if you don't want to go the stereo route, you can kind of do what we did, which was more independent film much, you know, which a lot more painful because you weren't working on big films. You can you know, go out out there and, you know, push your services on every independent film that just needs digital effects done for very little money.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:09
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Dan Cregan 1:00:19
And so when you're when you're starting out, yeah, and when you're starting out, if you got good skills, but nobody will take you in as an artist, your best way to improve your reel is to work on independent films that look good. That's a kind of a different distinction than just independent films. As an artist, if you really you know, as a visual effects artists, your reel is everything right? So you're judged by your reel doesn't matter what your resume says, You're judged by that. Two minutes, you can put on screen that shows this is who I am, this is what I can do. And when you come out of school, or you have self taught lessons, you tend to look just like every other person of that level, either work tends to all look the same. And it's not even close to professional. So the best thing you could do is kind of offer your services to a good looking independent film. Now this is kind of like why I hooked up with you, Alex, because your stuff looked good. At the end of the day, when I looked at your reel, regardless of whether it was a real Nike commercial or not, you know, I liked it. Well, I knew what I was looking at was done by somebody with a lot of talent. And I said, Well, I'm going to combine my talent with his talent, and we're going to make good looking stuff, we may not make any money, but we're going to make some good looking stuff. And that's a good thing to have on your reel that pays off later. There's a lot of people, you know, and rightfully so who will say don't work for free, don't get taken advantage of. And it's true, you shouldn't. But sometimes, you kind of have to do some pro bono work to, to get the real looking good, you know, but make sure that you choose correctly, you know, you've got to be a good judge of project, if the stuff that they're shooting for their film looks terrible, any VFX work that you do is going to look terrible, because it's combined with that footage. So make sure that you're working with good looking footage, that's, that's number one, if you're going to work cheap, make sure the work comes out really well or free. You know, and then hopefully, if you do enough of these projects, the people you're working with will start paying you. And that's that's hope, number one. Hope number two is that you build a real that will grab the attention of a company that is looking for new artists then and be prepared to make less obviously when you're starting out you're going to be making the entry level and your greatest asset when you're an experienced to a big, big studio is that you work cheaper. So you know it's gonna be a long road up and you know, that's that's just the reality of it. And there will always be that person who knows somebody who has a some good student project that gets picked to go right into the Big Show, and gets paid a senior rate right off the bat that this is happens everywhere. Like, I know, I've heard you tell people Alex like, you know, The Blair Witch guys, or, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:03:23
Rodriguez, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith,

Dan Cregan 1:03:25
You know, this doesn't happen to everybody, right? It just doesn't. And everybody thinks, oh, I'll do that one great thing, and I'll be on my way and a lotto ticket, the lottery ticket Exactly. And if they do, it does happen to you. That's awesome. That's amazing. And, you know, and I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna downplay that, you probably earned it, and it's probably a great thing that had happened to you. But for the 99% of the rest of us, we're gonna have to grind and work and toil and and just kind of pull ourselves up under our own steam. And, you know, it takes time and you know, like, you know, an overnight success if, if, if, if somebody said, oh, wow, you know, you're pretty successful, you know, you know, it happened pretty fast. You might, you know, I started a digital domain in 2011 it is now 2000 you know, 15 and most of my big work has been done in the last four years, but guess what, the seven years before it, were what made me it'd be in a position to actually do the last four years. So you know, that's that's an important step. You know,

Alex Ferrari 1:04:31
So and if you told me correctly, that one of the reasons why you got hired at digital domain was because of our work together with non robot.

Dan Cregan 1:04:39
Oh, yes. Yeah. Though, those seven years of independent films, I picked the best of what we worked on. And, and the best stuff was the stuff we had done together and created together because we had control over what we were creating. You know, you're kind of at the mercy when you're working for a client. You're at the mercy of their I have their Once you know of their preferences, so, you know, the stuff that we did together ended up being the best stuff on the reel.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:07
But you also had some, it never hurts to put a star on your reel. Oh, no,

Dan Cregan 1:05:13
Well, that's that's a good point, too. I mean, you know, it's funny just, you know, just just being doing an independent film, when you're when you're choosing an independent project from where I said, choose good looking, you know, footage. The other thing you should choose is uname. Actor, if you if it has a name actor, and you can get shots with the name actor, people tend to take you more seriously, as I know, you worked on a professional project. Why? Because I recognize that actor, you know, I mean, for me, it was, you know, a couple things, but I think the big first big one was Richard Dreyfuss, right, like numbers first, you know, and, and having that on the reel helped. And so I went to digital domain. It's funny, it's it's a strange story, because when I interviewed with the person later on, that person ended up being my lead on the floor. And, and I asked him, How did I do in the interview? And what was it about my reel that got me hired and he said, You fell right into the right category. We weren't looking to hire really experienced people, because we don't have the money to pay really experienced people. And we weren't looking for people who do nothing. We were looking for somebody right in the middle segment. So the Goldilocks Yeah, it kind of worked out for me at that point, I had just enough professional work to where I look like I knew what I was doing. But I didn't have the big shows that look like I would have been way too expensive for for them. So you know that that worked out perfectly. And, you know, I'm really I'm really, it's been a strange road. It's been a long, strange road, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:44
We're still on it, sir.

Dan Cregan 1:06:45
Yeah, I know it. Sometimes. It's a, it's, it's it, I don't know, it's, it's hard to wrap my head around at this point.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:55
So, um, we're gonna start wrapping it up. I have a couple more questions for you. I know, I know the answer to this, but I want you to answer it for the audience. How important is design, marketing and promotion when it comes to promoting yourself, or your film projects out to the world?

Dan Cregan 1:07:16
I mean, it's hard to quantify, but it's definitely one of the most important things I would say that you need to do. I mean, it's got to pass the eye test, everything you do has to pass the eye test, you know, we usually people see something they can tell right away, whether it's professional or not. And looking like a professional is more important than being a professional, when you have big dreams. So when when you're trying to when you're trying to impress people or get noticed or be taken seriously, let's just, we don't even have to change the world, right? You just want to be taken seriously, you have to look professional. So, you know, the presentation of something is the most important thing to me. You know, I mean, this is one thing about independent film that I've I am not particularly fond of, you know, since way back before I had any credits or any experience, you know, I would go to film festivals and and see a lot of the product and and I would be like that looks terrible. I mean, maybe the idea and the art behind it is in the right place in the hearts in the right place. But Wow, the audio is terrible. The lighting stereo terrible, or the or whatever they shot it on is an inferior camera. All that matters so much and, and then their movie poster, you know, looks terrible in the in the you know, everything just screams Don't take me seriously, I don't know what I'm doing. And that's unfortunate, because I want to take people seriously I want people to do well. presentation is everything to me. I can't make a blanket statement and say it's the only thing that matters because

Alex Ferrari 1:08:56
It is of course not. It's a combination.

Dan Cregan 1:08:58
Yeah, it's you kind of have to have everything you have to this is why this is a tough thing to do. It's not easy to make art. Because you have to put a lot of things together and, and even I won't even say go as far as art. I'll say something as commercial or because to make commercial something for public consumption. It has to be it has to hit so many notes. It has to look good. It has to sound good. It has to be good. You know, it has to, you know, be interesting, you know, no, but I guess good design and good promotion. That's got that's to get people in the door. If you want people to actually look at what you did, you're going to need that. Now maybe what you did is amazing, and you better hope so because if you can, but if you can't get the people in there, it's not going to matter. If if you do all this work and have all this heart and soul buried in a project and then 100 people see it on YouTube or on some film festival then I don't know, you could argue is that worth it? Or is it not worth it, it's not something that I want to do, if I want to do work, I want to be seen a lot of people, you know, doing the work is the reward. And I agree with that, too, that's perfectly valid. But if you want to go somewhere, if you want to be a professional, if you want to make more movies, if you want to make a living a living, you have to have an audience. And the only way to get an audience is to look like you know what you're doing, and to get the people in the door to actually see it. And, you know, I think even today, it's my favorite thing about what I do, you know, there'll be hard days, and we'll be sitting around and talking with other artists, and they'll be saying, wow, this is really bad, or this is really good. And, and, and I said, we'll just stop and go, how cool is it, though, that at the end of this process, our work will be seen by millions of people. And that's a great and that's, that's where it's at, you know, that's, that's an amazing thing to, to create something and maybe it's, it's commercialized, and it's watered down for the mass audience, and whatever else you want to get into, you know, an artistic argument about it, but it's still, you know, it's, it's an art form, and it's seen by millions of people, millions. And that is, that's what makes cinema so great. And that's what makes working on movies, so great. And, you know, and I think, you know, to even the most artistic, you know, outsider creatively, you know, a counterculture person, I still think they could benefit from from really good promotion, self promotion, you've got to, you've got to package stuff you have to, that's the way it gets out to the people.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:43
Well, I think with the gluttony of product that there is out there, and whether you're selling yourself with a gluttony of people vying for the same jobs, or the gluttony of movies out there, there's no way to kind of shift sift through that without presentation presentations, the equalizer at that point, it's the only thing that that equalizer is the only thing that's gonna make you stand out. So if you have a great movie poster, if you have a great trailer, if you have an amazing website, and you're able to build this kind of world around your project, same thing goes for your for yourself, if you have a great demo reel and a great website, and you present yourself in a professional manner, and package yourself in a professional manner. That makes you stand out from all the other guys, that's the only thing that you really can do, you will never even get a chance that's anyone to see how good or bad your work is, unless you know how to present it. And I think that is honestly one of my goals for indie film hustle is to show people how to present their work, how to get attention, how to package their work in a way that they can make a living, doing so and with all the options that there are out in the world now for self distribution, and Kickstarters, and all that kind of stuff that you can actually make a living, you're not going to get rich, but at least you can make a living and you can continue to make art and make a living doing it. So I do I believe like you it's it's so important to be able to package yourself or your project in the proper way. No, it's true.

Dan Cregan 1:13:15
And, you know, it's it's not even that hard to do, you know, out there, you know, how do we learn, we learned by emulating that since we're children, that's how you do it. So if you see an ad campaign, a poster, movie, anything, a trailer emulated, if you I mean, I know it sounds like copying or a key to or, you know, but it really isn't because this is how we learn when I used to be an illustrator. And like any illustrator, when you start drawing, you emulate your heroes, you emulate the artists you like the most. Same for filmmakers. Same for visual effects artists, you know, you start emulating what you do the most. So what you like the most. So I would still say this is a good thing, not a bad thing. So when you're starting out to fake it until you make it thing, emulate the best and emulate what you love. And really look, I don't think they look closely enough to really look at the details, what makes it what makes it great, what makes a poster look professional, what makes a website looks professional. And I don't care if you have to copy a professional website down to the letter, do it because that's how you're going to learn the actual form of what makes something good versus something that doesn't look as good.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:38
And generally when I when I do work, I always start with something I'm trying to emulate, let's say and then by the time I'm done, I doesn't even look like what I started with. But at least I got a starting point. And then it kind of grows from there. And that happens with every art form, whether that's painting, photography. I mean Tarantino has made an entire career out of that, you know, he emulates every movie. She's ever seen. He writes amazing dialogue and he's an amazing, you know, he's an amazing talent. But he's the first to say he goes, I can quote him. I steal from every movie ever made. And that is a direct quote from him and it's but everyone does it. You know, as a filmmaker we're all stealing from DW Griffith and from an Orson Welles like everybody, you know, who are who did the first two shot. Well, someone stole that, you know, who moved the camera first, someone stole that, you know, it's, it's there. Everyone's always stealing from everybody. And, as as Coppola said, steal from if you're gonna steal, steal from the best. It's true. And it's industry. I think it was Picasso. I think they said that as well. If you're going to steal steal from the best, so um, anyway, so um,

Dan Cregan 1:15:46
I don't know, his his line wasn't his line without great artists. Good artists borrow great, great artists steal or something.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:53
Yeah, exactly, exactly. Thank you for correcting me. So I know, it was awful.

Dan Cregan 1:15:57
I might be wrong, too. But it's what popped into my head.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:00
So um, are there any stories? We're going to wrap it up in a minute? So is there any stories, working any fun stories working in the in the big leagues that you would like to share that won't get you in trouble? Or deported?

Dan Cregan 1:16:16
Yeah, um, you know, it's, it's, it's tough, because, you know, when we're working, I think, you know, I would say that it's a general blanket statement, it's not specifically directed at one film that I've worked on or another. Now that that's my, my, my little my legal speak there. But I've noticed something that happens in the big leagues, and, and you don't feel like it's gonna come together until the very end. So a lot of the projects I've worked on, have felt like the film wasn't going to be a film six weeks from the time it's hit hits theaters. So you know, we'll work these horribly, long hours, and clients will have really crazy notes. So usually what happens is, about a month from the movie being done, you'll start you're starting to finish things. And when they start seeing the finished product, invariably, people have opinions. You know, the client always has opinions. So they'll say, No, can we just try it like this, this and this, and then it's like, well, we've just been working six months to get it to this point. And I thought we were done. Yeah, but you know, we've got a month let's let's try this, this and this. Alright, so we tried this, this and this, and then they'll send it back. And can we do a little bit more of this a little bit more of this. Another week goes by and we'll do it again. And we'll do it again. And before you know, we're right on the deadline, and they'll go you know, that shot, it looked good a month ago, let's go with that. And so that's usually what happens in the big leagues is this weird kind of circle of doing it good. The studio wanting to make tweaks making a bunch of tweaks for the client because you've got to please the studios, and then ended up right back where you started from? I can't count how many times that's happened in the creative process. And always feeling like the movies never going to get done. There's too many things too many moving pieces. We haven't nailed down this we haven't nailed down that. And then like two weeks before the film's supposed to come out you're like hey, it's looking pretty good. You know, I mean, it just seems to be that you know, we have to have our backs against the wall sometimes to produce what we need to produce you know, I wish it didn't have to be like that. Maybe it doesn't but that's kind of the way the business works now. And I always found that was kind of, you know, an interesting way to work to put it to put it out there. I don't know interesting would you call it

Alex Ferrari 1:18:48
It's basically art is never finished. It's abandoned?

Dan Cregan 1:18:52
Yes. I mean, I don't nobody wants to let a movie go to the cinema. You know, almost everybody wants to work on it another day. Do another revision, try another thing. And sometimes you have to have deadlines, because deadlines are the only thing that make you stop. You know, as an artist, absolutely. Yeah. Otherwise you'll tweak something to death. So you know, if you're experiencing that out there, don't worry. It happens all the way up to the all the way up to the top of the chain.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:18
So I'm, I'm going to ask you the question I ask all my guests when they come on, name your top three movies of all time. Oh, I know. And everyone's not there. I just picked three that you really enjoy and tell me why. All right, well, no order doesn't have to be an order. Yeah, there is no order.

Dan Cregan 1:19:40
Man, it's it's really tough. I've got to say Star Wars only because regardless of whether I think it's one of the best films of all time, it was one of the most influential films of all time for me, you know, so I would have to say there's no way to not have Star Wars in the top three. You know, I'm gonna have to go just off the top of my head because there's just too many movies that I love to death and watched a million times but I'm going to go with the Shawshank Redemption because whenever it's on TV, I watch it endlessly and each time it's like I'm watching it for the first time. And I think I've seen the thing hundreds of times hundreds of times and I love it every single time. I don't know what it is about that film. If I could bottle it, I would it's it's just such an amazing film. And for number three got to be jaws another film that I watch every single time I see it on TV good. And I'm captivated by it frame for frame. So if I absolutely am boxed into a corner off the top of my head today, those are the three I would choose

Alex Ferrari 1:20:43
The three very good choices to know one Spielberg one Lucas and the Darabont. Yeah, Shawshank and I'm going to just throw in my two cents on Shawshank Redemption because I have analyzed it in my own mind and this is my ramblings of why I think it's so so amazing and how it touches a chord with everybody. I have yet to though anytime any of my movies or any of my projects get a bad review. I always just look up online. Bad review for Shawshank. And there are out there so you got to be kidding me. Oh no, just google it bad reviews for Shawshank. And then I read some idiot. Shawshank Redemption in a negative light and I go Oh, I feel better now It happens to everybody and that's saying that my films or my projects are anywhere near as good as Shawshank but it makes me feel better that I'm not the only one that has to deal with bad reviews

Dan Cregan 1:21:38
So what you're saying is that there's hope for fantastic for yet

Alex Ferrari 1:21:41
And and absolutely not whatsoever for fantastic for sir. So the reason why I feel that Shawshank Redemption has touched his touched a nerve with so many people throughout the world and has has quietly risen above the Godfather is arguably the best movie ever on IMDB at least but considered in the pantheon of one of the best movies ever made. Is that I feel that in many ways, we all feel like any frame we all feel imprisoned, whether that be in our jobs, whether that be in our marriages, whether that be in our relationships, whether that be in any million of ways you feel imprisoned, and and wrongly imprisoned that that you don't feel like you deserve to be imprisoned. That's why a Count of Monte Cristo I think has as touched so many people that story over the course of so many 10s of 1000s hundreds of years well I don't know when was that written I forget when it was written but anyway and and I feel that one we all get when we see Andy go through that pipe full of crap it's us it's an analogy for us. We if we just go through enough crap especially as indie filmmakers if we go through enough crack crap we'll just break through the other other side clean ourselves off get the money from the man who's been screwing us all this time and move to Mexico and and sand the boat and wait for and wait and wait for your best friend to show up. You know I feel that's one of the reasons why it it touches everybody I've yet I haven't met anyone who doesn't like Shawshank yet.

Dan Cregan 1:23:19
I mean really have you I mean Yeah. Is there a person who doesn't I least like The Shawshank Redemption

Alex Ferrari 1:23:25
There are people out there because I saw the reviews so there were at least that you look there were people who gave Star Wars horrible reviews I remember George Lucas walking around with a T shirt that had that review on it and it's just ironic and hilarious that he did that. But but I've never met anybody who didn't like Shawshank nor do I really want to meet that person honestly. It says something about no I'm joking but I think that's one of the reasons why because it's on my top three as well that that that without question is on my top three

Dan Cregan 1:23:55
I think it's my number one I quite honestly I keep coming back to it over and over again. Whenever my head goes into the hole. How would you do and usually it's a top 10 or top 25

Alex Ferrari 1:24:04
And it's it's one of those but it's not it's one of those movies that it's not like you're not watching it because Spielberg or Hitchcock or Fincher did these cool camera moves or or Scorsese, like did this thing. It's just the purest storytelling that there is honestly and in so many ways it was just good writing, good character, good direction, good music, his scores, remarkable everything just jelled

Dan Cregan 1:24:31
Everything lightning in the bottle. I mean, sometimes I don't even think the filmmakers have absolute control. You know, Lucas himself has said, You know, sometimes movies just work and sometimes they don't and sometimes you all you can do is put the pieces together and hope you know that it works and sometimes it's just the perfect, perfect storm. And no, I think Shawshank is one of those perfect storms.

Alex Ferrari 1:24:54
Well, I mean, there's the famous, the famous screening of Star Wars that George did for all of us. Friends Brian depalma Spielberg and all those guys. And they all you know every one of them came out like poor George man, you know,

Dan Cregan 1:25:06
Except for Spielberg was the one who said it was gonna be the biggest thing ever

Alex Ferrari 1:25:10
He from what I from what I've read Spielberg was the only one that kind of got it he's like you might be onto something I don't think he predicted that it was going to be this monumental hit. But he did say I get it I get what you're doing I think you're gonna do well with it. But the other like Brian De Palma and and john melius. And all these guys like port George man, he spent all this time on this thing. It's gonna be horrible. And then the same thing happened for Quentin Tarantino. On Pulp Fiction. I just recently found out watching a documentary about him that he showed his he showed Pulp Fiction to a bunch of his friends and he's famously good friends with Robert Rodriguez who wasn't there he was in Austin shooting something so he couldn't make the screening. And then Robert called the friends and everyone was like, Quinn's gone man it's not this is not no one gets it No one's ever seen anything like that this is going to be a horrible thing. And one of the guys went as far so I don't think anybody got I think there was also the only person who quit and said that got it was Kathryn Bigelow. Kathryn Bigelow saw it and she's like, I get it. This is gonna be huge. And she like literally showed it to everyone she like went over to James Cameron's house is like, you're gonna watch this. You can't even imagine what you're in store for like you've never seen anything like this. And like the matrix and Star Wars, I think Pulp Fiction in the has also moved to cinema and moved cinema in a certain way, maybe not visual effects wise, but story wise, but even to a point where one of the one of his friends was going to have a quote and said, I had one of my friends was going to give me a call and had a stern talking to about Pulp Fiction need to do better work. And this is right before or right after he won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. He calls up because I was gonna give you a stern talking to but what do I know?

Dan Cregan 1:26:57
Yeah. opinions. You know, everybody's got them. You know, it's, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:27:03
It's very true, man. Well, listen, let's wrap it up. Man. I really appreciate you taking the time. You know, talking to the indie film hustle tribe, and spreading out your your pearls of wisdom. And as always, then you know, you're one of my best friends. So thank you so much for coming on board and, and you have been with me for almost an hour and a half.

Dan Cregan 1:27:24
My pleasure, sir.

Alex Ferrari 1:27:25
All right. Talk to you soon, man.

Dan Cregan 1:27:27
Talk to you later.

Alex Ferrari 1:27:28
Hope you guys got a bunch out of that episode. I loved having Dan on the episode I've been wanting to have him on ever since I launched indie film, hustle, I thought a lot of the knowledge of visual effects, which is something we really want to focus on also on any of your puzzles, a lot of the post production and visual effects because that's where I come from. And Dan is a great teacher. He is also a teacher as well. So I thought he'd be a great guest. I hope you guys got a lot out of that. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below. In the after the show notes I'm going to put a bunch of cool links in the show notes as well. And if you want to learn how to get into film festivals for cheap or free, my six tips to get in are at Film Festival tips.com. That's Film Festival tips calm and I'll show you how I got into over 500 international film festivals for cheap or free. So guys, thanks again for joining me on the episode. I really hope it was beneficial to you guys. And I will see you in the next one. Thanks again.




  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
  2. AudibleGet a Free Filmmaking or Screenwriting Audiobook
  3. Rev.com – $1.25 Closed Captions for Indie Filmmakers – Rev ($10 Off Your First Order)

IFH 004: What’s a Producer’s Rep and Can They Help You?

A good producer’s rep is an advocate for your film. They can get you indoors that you wouldn’t be able to get into by yourself. They can be an amazing part of a marketing and distribution team for your independent film if you got into some of the major festivals.

Like in every part of the film business there are good and bad people. I was burned by a producer’s rep many years ago, early in my journey as an indie filmmaker and producer.

This producer’s rep, which will remain nameless, took me for over $10,000, the standard upfront free for the bottom dwellers of the profession, though it can range from $5000 – $15,000. She promised me and the director I was producing for that the HBO deal was all but a lock and that she could definitely sell it overseas.

The rep has since left the industry after being sued multiple times. Her actions have left a bad taste in many filmmakers mouths, including me but this should not sour you on producer’s rep.

I suggest you do a ton of research on the producer’s rep you plan to work with. Call other filmmakers that they have represented. Do your research. As I said before

“A good and respectable producer’s rep can do magic for you and your film.”

Good luck out there!

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
Today we're going to talk about producers reps, I've had different experiences with producer reps. So I'll give you a little bit example what a producer rep is. a producer's rep is basically an agent for your film. So let's say you're going to a film festival that's going to Sundance and you have a movie, a producer's rep would actually represent your movie to different bidders and things like that that would come across to you. So I have a film at Sundance, Harvey Weinstein wants it. A Paramount wants it, Disney wants it. Warner Brothers wants it and there become a bidding war. Well, your producers rep will act as the middleman, negotiating deals talking to you and basically being your agent. And it's a wonderful job, and they do a great job when you find a good one. Unfortunately, like agents, they're good ones, and they're bad ones. And then they're scum buckets. And I unfortunately had to deal with some scum buckets in my day. If an agent ever comes to you, this is not a producer's rep or an agent, an agent ever comes to you and says, I'll be your agent, but I need your retainer. I need you to pay me up front. You would say go to hell, that's not the way it works. And that would be illegal. Well, for a producer's Rep. most reputable producers reps, do not ask for any money up front. They do the work like an agent, and they get paid on commission. Many producers reps will ask for a retainer upfront. Whether they sell your movie or not, you lose your money. So let me tell you my story. I was a producer on a film a few years back a documentary. And I was approached by a producer's rep, apparently a well, a well respected one. I was still kind of wet behind the ears. And I had no idea what really what I was doing. She told me I sold I just sold this movie to to HBO had Mark Wahlberg in it, we got you know, $60,000 $100,000 and then I sold it overseas, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Well, fast forward to when she's like, Okay, well, I'll be more happy to represent your movie. I think I could do really great things with it. My retainers. 10,000. So I talked to the director of the film, and I decided because I wanted to be the producer and really wanted to give this movie the best shot I could. I paid the $10,000 and as a retainer fee. And needless to say, I did not get my money's worth. I lost money. I did get some money here and there. I think the deal that we did get the director actually finally got us I'm not sure. I don't remember exactly. But it was a couple grand if that. It wasn't anything big. So when I told her this, she was like, well, that's just the way it is, you know, we did our best. I'm like, well, that's great. But now I'm out eight grand or 10 grand. And you didn't do me you didn't you didn't do anything that you promised me do. And I was pretty much out of luck. So I lost that money. So I've been I've been actually approached by other filmmakers who saw that I dealt with this specific company on this specific person and asked me if what happened and I tell them the truth exactly what happens. So my advice to anybody in the in the in the indie film world, if you're going to get a film a producer's rep, make sure that they you do not pay a dime upfront. most reputable producers reps will not ask for money up front. If they believe in your movie truly, then it's it's you know, it's them worry about they will make their money back. So it's the ones that go well I'll just do it and you know, whatever. It he'll make a few phone calls. And if nothing comes up, nothing comes up and they got 10 Grand 15 Grand 20 grand in their pocket. And you as an indie filmmaker, that's a lot of frickin money. It still hurts even talking about losing that kind of money on a movie that I didn't even direct I was just a producer on it. Which was really, really frustrating. And to this day still bothers me. But you live and you learn its lessons that you you learn during the journey. So hopefully this podcast I can help you a little bit not to make this mistake. So please stay away from any producers rep that tells you I need money up front. They're generally scammers, or they don't believe in your movie and they're just going to take your money and just kind of throw things away and see what happens, throw some, some something at the wall and see what sticks. Now with that said, though, there are places for good producers reps. So if your movie is going to Sundance Toronto, Cannes or Tribeca, you need to put together a team, a PR person or company, your agent and possibly a high level producers Rep. They will put together there will be putting together a whole premiere for you. They're doing a lot of preparatory work. And this is where producers rep is invaluable. They can be trimmed out tremendously helpful. And if you have to pay a little bit upfront at that point, it's a different ballgame. You have a team around you. And you're not just dealing with a predatory producers rep who's just trying to steal your money. Because basically again, once they once they do take your money, they're just gonna shotgun it into a with a stack of 30 or 40 other movies that they're representing to Miramax or Lionsgate or any of these places, and your movie will be one of many movies on that pile. So buyer beware when dealing with producers reps, sometimes they're awesome. Sometimes they're just just there to take a suckers money. So I hope this helped you a little bit. It's a short episode this week, guys. As always, if you want to know the six secrets to getting into film festivals for free, I'll head over to film festival tips.com that's Film Festival tips calm. I'll show you how I got into over 500 film festivals, international film festivals for cheaper free over the course of a few years. And please if you love the show, please go to iTunes Subscribe, leave us a review and give us a five star rating You have no idea how much that helps us in the rankings of iTunes and helps more people get access to the show. So thanks again guys so much for your time. And as always keep on filming. Keep the hustle on and I'll see you guys next time.



  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
  2. AudibleGet a Free Filmmaking or Screenwriting Audiobook
  3. Rev.com – $1.25 Closed Captions for Indie Filmmakers – Rev ($10 Off Your First Order)