Screenwriting Books You Need to Read – Top Ten List

1) Screenplay by Syd Field

The first book I ever read about screenwriting. Syd Field is the forefather of the how-to for screenwriting. He cracked the code of the three-act structure and paved the way for all other screenwriting gurus that would follow. As far as I know, he created the terms like “turning points,” and “pinch”, and much of the language that screenwriters use to describe elements and devices used in their scripts(FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

2) Story: by Robert McKee

Immortalized by the film Adaptation, McKee delves deeply into the components necessary for making a great script. I find his principles of “controlling idea” (which closely resembles Lagos Egri’s concept of “premise” in The Art of Dramatic Writing) and “gap between expectation and result” incredibly useful. I always turn to McKee’s teachings for guidance. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

3) The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

Vogler takes the workings of Joseph Campbell about myth and archetypes and breaks it down into easy to chew, bite-size portions. What makes Campbell so special? His writings about the universal appeal of mythological tales have inspired many other storytellers to create great pieces of work with timeless resonance — does George Lucas ring a bell? (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

4) Making a Good Script Great by Linda Seger

Seger’s book I found as a great companion piece to Syd Field’s Screenplay. What I particularly like from this book is her method of ramping up conflict by the use of “obstacles,” “compilations,” and “reversals.”

Also, check out Linda’s amazing podcast interview here: Making a Good Script Great with Linda Seger (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

5) Save the Cat by Blake Snyder

You can see echoes of all the other aforementioned writers in this book. What I like about Save The Cat is that it’s a stripped-down, fun read with a lot of helpful information. I especially appreciate Snyder’s Beat Sheet which shows with almost page number accuracy where to place those particular plot moments that help keep your story moving. Some might find it formulaic, but I think it functions very well and points to exactly the kind of scripts Hollywood has come to expect from writers. One of the best screenwriting books. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

6) How Not to Write a Screenplay by Denny Martin Flynn

Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out on how to write a screenplay along comes this book to point out where you may have gotten it wrong. Despite the length of the title, it’s a quick read and VERY illuminating. As I skimmed through the examples of what not to do, I discovered what I was doing right, and most importantly what I was getting wrong. They say you learn from your mistakes, and reading this book sure helped to show how. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

7) The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats by Cole Haag

This book was a required textbook back when I was at film school. Some of the formatting suggestions may be a little outdated, especially if you have Final Draft or Movie Magic screenwriting software, but there’s still a ton of knowledge to be gained about proper formatting. The quickest way to spot a novice writer is by how unprofessional their script is formatted — this book shines a light on the Hollywood standard. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

8) The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier

Not only do I dig this guy’s first name, but I found his book to be more current as far as the conventions of formatting. It covers a lot of ground with how to write a screenplay and everything else that goes with being a screenwriter and Filmtrepreneur, like how to register your script and how to write a query letter to literary agents. It’s a broad overview, but one of the most informative screenwriting books. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

9) The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri

This is actually a book for the aspiring playwright, but most if not all the principles can apply to screenwriting. Egri gives examples of poorly constructed scenes and explains why they don’t work — then compares and contrasts against scenes that do. This is one of my favorite books, and one I strongly recommend. One of the best screenwriting books out there. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

10) The 101 Habits Of Successful Screenwriters by Karl Iglesias

(FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE) Have you ever wondered how successful writers do it? If you’ve reached this point on my top ten, I would say, “of course you do!” There are good work regimens and not so constructive methods. This book gives us a glimpse into how the top Hollywood writers work, how they fight writer’s block, as well as deal with the daily grind of writing. I found it very insightful and definitely worthwhile. 

BONUS: Pulp Fiction – The Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino

A must-read for any screenwriter. Tarantino…nuff said! These are our Top Ten Screenwriting Books You Need to Read. We hope they help you on your journey as a screenwriter. Remember just keep writing! 

David R. Flores is a writer and artist (aka Sic Monkie) based in Los Angeles. He is the creator of the comic book series Dead Future King published by Alterna Comics and Golden Apple Books. Website: www.davidrflores.com & www.deadfutureking.com

Transcript for Robert McKee Interview:

Alex Ferrari 0:04
I'd like to welcome to the show, Robert McKee. How are you doing, Robert?

Robert McKee 0:08
Very well, very well. Thank you.

Alex Ferrari 0:10
Thank you so much for coming on the show. I am have been a fan of your work for quite some time. I've read your first two books, and I'm looking forward to reading your new one, which we'll talk about later character. But I was first introduced to your work in the film adaptation like so many. So many screenwriters and filmmakers were how, by the way, how, how was that whole process? I mean, it was a very odd request, I'm sure that you got when you got that call?

Robert McKee 0:40
Well, it certainly was, my phone rang one day and producer named Ed Saxon calling from New York and, and he said I am mightily embarrassed. This is a phone call I've dreaded. We've got this crazy screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and, and he has made you a character in his screenplay, and he has freely cribbed from your book and from your lectures, and he has no permission to do either. And, but we don't know what to do. So I said, well, send me a script, you know, I'll you know, see what's going on. So they sent me a script, and I read it. And I saw immediately that he really needed my character as a central to the film, because he wants me to, he wanted my character to represent the the imperatives of Hollywood. And that you have to do certain things certain ways, blah, blah, blah. And, you know, which is on one level nonsense. Such rules, they their principles, and there's genre convention, but anyway, but so I was a typical kind of need to slander Hollywood in favor of the artist. And, and they wanted me to do the slandering. So, but I realized that without my character there to provide some source of conflict. The story didn't work at all. So I said, and so I tell you what, I made two phone calls. I called William Goldman. And I said, Good, he was, you know, a student of mine. And I said, Bill, they there's a film and they want to use me as a character in it. What do you think? And he said, Don't do it. Don't do it. He said, it's Hollywood. And he said, they're out to get you don't do it. I said, Yeah, but I'm okay. But suppose I had casting rights. And he says, Okay, okay, who do you want? I said, Well, let's say Gene Hackman, is it? Okay. Okay. It'll be Gene Hackman, with a big pink bow around his neck. If they want to get you, Bob, they're gonna get you don't do it. So then I called my son. And I said, Paul, you know, and he said, do it. I said, Why isn't because Dad, it's a Hollywood film, you're gonna be a character in the Hollywood film. And he said, it'll be great. Do it. So I talked to Ed Sachs, and I said, Kenny, three things. One, I need a redeeming scene. I said, you know, you want to slander me fine. But then you can't leave it at that. You got he got to give me a redeeming scene. Right? To I have to have the controller the casting, I won't tell you exactly who to cast. But you got to give me a list because I ended need to know their philosophy. I mean, for all I knew this was the Danny DeVito Dan Ackroyd School of casting,

Alex Ferrari 4:28
you know, fair enough.

Robert McKee 4:31
I said, and very importantly, the third act sucks. And I cannot be a character in a bad movie. So we need meetings, they're going to have to be willing to rewrite. And, and those are my three conditions. And, and they agreed to them. And, and so they sent me a casting they gave me my redeeming scene and then they they they sent a list. Have the 10 best middle aged British actors alive? You know, everybody from Christopher Plummer to Alan Bates and I, and and I looked at the list. And I said, I want Brian Cox. And they said, Who's Brian Cox? And I said, He's the best British actor you don't know. Because Brian had been a student of mine up in Glasgow, and I'd seen him on stage in the West End of London and, and what I didn't want, see all those actors. They're all wonderful. But there's always actors have this Love me Love me thing, no matter what they want to be loved. And there's always this subtext like my heart's in the right place. And I really, you know, and I don't want to be loved. I really don't want to be respected, I want to be understood. And I want to inspire people and educate, but I do not want a bunch of people following me around like a guru. Right, loving me, right? And I knew that Brian would not do that. And, and then we had meetings and about the Act Three, and eventually got to a never got to a perfect accuracy. But it got to a point where I could sign off on so and it was, so they took my son to a screening at so at Sony and I said, you know, we think ball, and he said, Dad, he said, Brian Cox nailed you. Which I thought was great. So you know, and it was, it was, but that's not the, you know, I was I put myself in a funny date. So it's not just, but yeah, it was, um, it was a difficult choice. But I think William Goldman was wrong, that, you know, there was a way to you have your cake and eat it too. And I think an adaptation is loved. Oh, and millions and millions of people. So, so it certainly didn't hurt my brand.

Alex Ferrari 7:20
It didn't hurt your brand or business, I'd imagine. It's the term irony comes to play where you would be working with Charlie Kaufman, on a script, where your character is the establishment that he's trying to get away from and to give art but yet you are working with him to put the script together and finish the third act, which is amazing. Charlie,

Robert McKee 7:42
Charlie's one of those guys. He's got, you know, a great talent. But he's a bit delusional. What he wants to achieve is the commercial art movie. He wants it both ways. He wants to be known for making art movies, but they have to make money too. And a lot of it because he knows that, you know, his career. If he loses money, it's over. And so and, and so he wants to he wants to create the commercial art movie and a salsa dance understood, you know, things, the notion of the commercial art movie, you know, the, the, the English Patient and films like that. And I you know, in the meetings with a spike and and, and, Charlie, I, you know, I pointed out to Charlie, so you can't have it both ways. It's a you, you know, you if it's a true art movies have a very limited audience period. And art filmmakers understand this. And they budget accordingly. You want 30 million

Alex Ferrari 8:59
for an art film?

Robert McKee 9:03
Was 5 million we could, but Okay, so anyway, but it was. Yeah, the irony of it is wonderful.

Alex Ferrari 9:10
So, so you've worked with so many screenwriters and filmmakers over the course of your career, what is the biggest mistakes you see screenwriters, new screenwriters to the craft make?

Robert McKee 9:24
Well, it's not mistake so much. Yeah, I guess it is a mistake. But, uh, there's two problems. One is cliches. And they think that it that they want to be, you know, like an artist, they want to be original, but at the same time, they want. They want to be sure that it works. And so they recycle the things that everybody's always done. And they've tried to recycle them with it. difference and which is absolutely necessary, I mean, that's I get it, you're not going to reinvent the wheel, you have to just spin it yet another way. And, but then they get very easy once they sell their soul. It's hard to get it back. And, you know, you can pour on your soul for a while, but you've got to get the cash to get back. And, and so that's the war on cliches is not some, you know, it's not a fault, it's just a problem everybody faces. And, but there's a greater problem. And it's the willingness to lie. In an effort to tell their story to get it out, somehow they get it together. And they will write characters and scenes, and whatever that that lack credibility that they know perfectly well, in their heart of hearts is pure corn of some kind. And it's a it's, they're bending the truth. It's not it's, there's something false to some. And, and, and to, to, to get to something that is really profoundly honest. And it doesn't matter what the genre is, from action, to comedy. to, to a you know, as an education plan, something very interior doesn't matter what the genre is, there's truth, and then there's lie. And somehow they think that because it's fiction, that gives them a license to lie. But but they don't have that license, they have a an obligation to express the truth of what it is to be a human being and in whatever genre, they're they're writing, they have a, they have a an obligation, if they're writing comedy, to really stick a knife in some sacred cow and expose the bullshit of society. I mean, they, you know, it's not enough to be amusing. comedy is a is an angry art, that savages, all those things that, that that that are false in life, and starting with politics. Right. And, and so there's they, there's a willingness to, to fit and lie and in order to please that, okay, let me take a step back. I bulldozing cliches and truthfulness are all the byproduct of the young writer, especially the young writers desire to please they want to be loved, they want people to love what they do they want to please people. And so they write what they think, is pleasing for people, whether it's all the cards in fast and furious. Right, or the sentimentality or whatever they want to please people and and which is fine, but you can't please everybody and so you're going to write for a certain mind a certain audience a certain mentality and an educational level and taste and whatnot in a certain group of people that you know, are out there, they're like you pay and and you can't please everybody. And and so, a film like for example, Nomad land is certainly not trying to please there's an audience for it, that will get it and enjoy it and and recognize this as a deep truth about our society and about human nature.

But it's, it's not going to have a mass audience. And because it will turn off more people than it will turn out. And, but it's, it's a excellent film is an honest film. So that's the I think it's fishing around here. Because when you open the door and say, you know whether

Alex Ferrari 14:53
you're wrong, there's 1000s of things

Robert McKee 14:57
to bring up, but if I can do it down, it's that it's that the willingness to please results in recycling cliches, and basically not telling the the, the, the dark truth of things. And so you have to be it's tough, you have to be disciplined not to copy other people's success, but to, to write what you honestly believe to be the

errors in the central new genre.

And, and be rigorous about that.

Alex Ferrari 15:36
Now, one of the the hallmarks of a good story is conflict. How do you create conflict in a story?

Robert McKee 15:46
Well, depends on where you start. If you start with a choice of genre, let's say you're going to write a thriller. Right? You know, the source of conflict immediately by that choice. I need some kind of psychopathic villain. Right? I need Russell Crowe, in unhinged. Why? And so that's done for you. So that the genre sort of automatically tells you, right, on the other hand, if you're telling a family story, and that will be called domestic. Until the characters are a family and it's a family with problems, wow. The conflict could come from any direction. Who's with? Is it the mother? Is it the father? Is that rebellious children? Is it Whose is it? Some some, you know, older grandfather grandmother figure that's pulling people strings, and you know, whatever, given a family what's wrong with this family? And so you have to figure out what is it and is it social, or psychological? Is it instinctive is a deliberate you have to think your way through all that. And so you, you you start with a family and you create a little you know, a cast? And then and then you ask the question or what's wrong with this family. And a million different things can be wrong in human nature inside of a family. And that requires knowledge, you have to understand people, you have to understand that you know, the mother, daughter, mother, son, Father, daughter, Father, Son relationships, and, and you need to dig into your own experience. And ask yourself, you know, what was wrong in my family? What What do I believe, to be the truth about families? And, and, and that the genre doesn't give you that answer. And so, you have the answer will come from your depth of understanding of human nature, human relationships of a certain personal kind in this case. And, or if you're writing comedy, so as mentioned, the starting place of writing a comedy is to ask yourself what is pissing me off? What in this world is pissing me off? Is that relationships? Is it men women? Always it? Is that the is that the the the the social networks? Is it is it politics? Is it the military? Is it the church? Why what what is what what do I hate? What's pissing me off? Because the root of comedy is is anger. The comic mind is an angry idealist comic comics are idealists who want the world to be perfect or at least and when they look around the world they see where sorry, sick one place it is. And, and they realize that they're complicit, they're part of it too. And so what spacing me off then it points them in a direction to an institution or behavior in society. me like I think that great comedy series. Curb Your Enthusiasm. You know, and, and, and yes, you know, what is pissing me off and he will finds really egregious fault in, in, in people's lack of propriety. Or, or logic or clarity of thought, you know, why should there be a handicapped stall in toilets? Right that no one can use except the two times a year that a handicapped person comes into this particular toilet. Okay. Right. That is

Larry David, that is an egregious absurdity and it infuriates him. And so he goes into the handicap stall, and sure shit, this is the day

a guy in a wheelchair. So, um, so that, you know, that that's, those are the various things, you know, you, you look at yourself, as a writer, and you you have to understand your vision of life, you have to understand the genres. When you make a choice, there's certain conventions. And, and a, you can bend those conventions, what breaker if you want, but not without an awareness of what the audience expects. And so somehow, it'll between picking the setting and the cast, the genre, and then looking inside of yourself, like your comic wouldn't ask you what's pissing me off? You find your way. If I if you're in conflict, and the the most importantly, you know, it has it that you know that that conflict has to be something you deeply believe in. Now, or, or you will do what we were talking about earlier, you will fall prey to cliches because you'll you'll create false conflict, false antagonist empty, a cliched antagonisms. And like that. So it's a very important question. Now.

Alex Ferrari 22:28
So as far as one thing a lot of a lot of screenwriters try to get away from is structure, saying that structure and trying to fall into side of a structure is, it's like holding me back as an artist and I need to be free and I need to run free like a wild stallion, I personally find structure to be very freeing, because it gives me a place to go. How do you approach structure?

Robert McKee 22:55
Well, in this day, people have a course accused me of imposing structural rules in my teaching, and it's nonsense. When

I am opposed to structure, it's inhibiting my creativity do not know what the hell they're talking. They just don't they use the word structure. But they wouldn't understand or know story structure, if it fell from a height under their foot, okay, they just don't know what they're talking about. structure in every scene, ideally, is a turning point of some magnitude, the character's life, they go into a situation wanting something. And something in that moment, kind of prevents them from getting it. They struggle with that. And they either get what they want, or they don't get what they want. Or they get it at a price or they don't get it but learn something. Change takes place. And it's in a simple scene is minor. And then these changes per scene build sequences in which moderate deeper change wider change happens, these sequences build x in it. And then that climax is a major turning point that has greater depth or greater breadth or both have impact on a character's life. And so minor moderate major changes are building a story progressively to an absolute irreversible change at climax. Now, why would anyone object to what I just said? Why would anyone think that you can change Do concrete scenes in which nothing changes. And do that three scenes in a row and people will not be walking up. They come there, they come to the writer, they read a novel, kind of trying to have insight into life as to what forces in life positive and negative, bring about change outwardly or inwardly in characters lives. I mean, that's why we go to the storyteller. And so and so why would you not want change? Or why would you want repetitious change? Because the same change degree of change, that happens three times in a row, you know, we're bored. So because it's not giving us what we want, it's not giving us the insight that into character that we want. And so people who say they're opposed to structure don't understand what structure is it they don't understand, it's a dynamic and a progression of minor moderate major changes. And so I have no patience with that kind of ignorance. Hear the people who say that are the very naive, ignorant, really, people who think that if they just open up their imagination, emotion, picture will flow out of it.

Alex Ferrari 26:30
Very true.

Robert McKee 26:32
And, and they are childish in that way. I mean, you open up your imagination and see what flows out, then you have to go to work on it. And you have to step back from every, every time you you know, or let me put you this way. What in truth is it to write? What is writing actually, like, as an experience, you open up your imagination, and you have an idea for a character or two or three, and you write a page, things happen? Action reaction dialog, that when you write a page, that takes 20 minutes, then what do you do? You read that page? And you could take it does this work? would he say that? Would she act like that? would this happen with it? Is there a better way to do this? And is this repetitious? Is there a hole does it make sense, you constantly critique what you've written, and you go back, and you rewrite it. And then you read it, again, you critique it again. And this goes on all day long. And so you go inside to create, you go outside to critique, you create, your critique you curate, and the quality of your critique that guides your rewriting is absolutely dependent on your understanding to make judgments, when you ask the question, does this work? You have to know what works and what doesn't work. And, and so that on one level, everything you do is structure. Its structured to have a character say x and another character respond with y that structure action reaction, that the person who said x did not expect to hear why

Alex Ferrari 28:36
right exit Exactly.

Robert McKee 28:39
And that structure that beat of act reaction and human behavior, that structure. So is I said, People say this, say it out of out of emit amateur understanding of what the creativity, what the act of writing really is.

Alex Ferrari 29:07
And I, whenever I've come up against that, when I say no, every you know, every movie has some sort of structure. Most movies, especially popular movies have structure. And your definition of structure is wonderful. They always throw out Pulp Fiction, and I'm like, no Pulp Fiction is an extremely structured film. Do you agree?

Robert McKee 29:28
Yeah. I've when I was we were talking about when I was when they were doing adaptation, and I was working with Charlie Kaufman. Charlie had exactly that attitude. I said, the third act doesn't work. We have to restructure it. And in the end is his face went into a panic mode. He didn't want you know, scared the hell out. He said, I know. I know that. It needs some, you know, just it'll come to me it was a clo and whatnot. And it's as easy as I don't write with structure. He said that I don't write with structure. I said, Charlie, would you like me to lay out the three act design of being john malkovich as because it's a three act, play, want to hear them, act 123. And, and he almost ran out of the room. He didn't want to hear it. He wants to live in the delusion that it somehow flows, and there is no structure. And when in fact, subconsciously, at least being john malkovich is a three activist

Alex Ferrari 30:48
is a great, it's

Robert McKee 30:50
a model, it's a model, BJ Mack is a model three act design. But it's but to the romantic like, Charlie, he doesn't want to hear it. Because he thinks that that's going to constipate his creativity. And I have to agree with it. If he wants to write out of this notion that it's all a flow. And if he is aware that there's a, that there's a design happening, it would, it would inhibit him. So it's because he's a good writer, he's very talented. So it would be better for him to live in that delusion, and let it all pour out. And then he goes back, and his taste guides the rewriting and so forth. And, and, and so if you're talented, like Charlie and, and the idea of structure is frightening, then you should listen to those feelings. And not think about structure and just, you know, do what you do, and hope it works.


that's rare.

Alex Ferrari 32:10
Very, very, very rare. But yeah, but and so for everyone listening, you have to understand that someone like Jeff Hoffman is writing. And as he's writing, he's subconsciously working within the three act structure, honestly, on a subconscious level. And even the great writers is like, Oh, I never even think about outlining or plotting, is because they have such a grasp of the craft, that it's already pre wired in them. It's like me building a house, I wouldn't even think twice about how to pour a foundation, or how to how to how to lay out the walls, because I've done it a million times. I don't have to sit there and think about it, it's just done. But that is rare, and it takes sometimes years to get to that place or you're a prodigy, which happens once in a generation or twice in a generation.

Robert McKee 32:57
And and you're absolutely right. That's very, very well put and, and in fact, it goes beyond that you have been watching the stories on screen you have been reading them in novels, you've been to the theater, that form form is a better word than structure that form of action, contradictory reaction and reaction to that and a giant dynamic of action reaction building to change that is so built into you as a as a reader as an audience member from I don't know two three years old. Mother read your little you know, bunny rabbit stories, right? Your bunny rabbit goes out and something happens that not happy for the bunny rabbit and then you know of bunny rabbits mother comes along and pictures things whatever it takes, I mean that that form is ingrained in you from from the earliest. And so you do know it?

Alex Ferrari 34:08
Without question. Now you do more dialogue is something that is you've wrote an entire book dedicated to dialogue. Obviously, your first book is story. But your second book is dialogue. What are the three functions of dialogue in your opinion?

Robert McKee 34:25
Well, there's many of them and certainly one of them is is the obvious one of exposition by various means. So for examples simple in writing dialogue, a character has a certain vocabulary so for example, you you've done construction on houses, right? Some sure I And so how many different kinds of nails Do you know? From spiked to tact of,

let's say 10? Yeah. Okay. Now most people may know, to me one nail on a screw, basically, that's all they know.

Okay. So if if in there, if a character in their dialogue uses the, the carpenters terminology. And even metaphorically, you know, call something a five, many nail, right? The fact that he knows the difference between a temporary nail and pipe and whatever it is, his exposition is it tells us something about the life of this character, by the very word, the names of things that that this character uses in their vocabulary helps us understand the whole life of this character. So if somebody grew up, you know, around boats, and they use nautical terminology, right? And so that they the language inside of the dialogue, all that just the vocabulary alone gives us exposition, it tells us who is this character? What's their life been like? Etc. Okay, then, at the same time, the characters talking about things that are happening, or have happened. And when somebody says, you know, you're not going to leave me again, we are to instantly know, that's it, she's already left them once, at least before

Alex Ferrari 36:46
it says it says volumes with one word.

Robert McKee 36:49
Yeah, there's no word again. But so we have an insight into what their life has been like, in this relationship. And so that's number one is is, is exposition. And number two is action. When people speak, what they say, is an action they take in order to get what they need and want in the moment, but underneath that is what they're really doing. And it's what in the subtext, the action they take in the subtext is what's driving the scene? So when somebody says, Well, I didn't expect that. Right? What they're really doing, perhaps, depending, right, is attacking, criticizing the other person for doing something that's completely inappropriate. What they say is, well, I didn't expect you to say that I didn't expect you to do that. I didn't expect that. But what that is, is a way of attacking another person for inappropriate behavior. And so it's right. And so and so the dialogue is the text by which people carry out actions. But underneath the dialog, is the true action. And it that's based on a common sense, understanding that people do not say out loud and do out what they're really thinking and feeling. They cannot, no matter how they try, if they're when they're, when they're pouring their heart out and confessing to the worst things they've ever done. There's still another layer, where they're actually begging for forgiveness, let's say, right? So by confessing, actually, you're begging for forgiveness or whatever it is. And so dialogue is the outer vehicle for interaction. And, and the great mistaken dialogue is writing the the interaction into the dialogue. stead of having somebody confess, did they beg Please forgive me, please forgive me, forgive me, forgive me. Right. And, and if somebody is actually begging, there's got to be another level of what they're really doing underneath the baking. And, and so you have to, you know, the writer has to think to that by begging. What that dialogue is actually a mask for manipulating that person. Do what you have to do, right. And so, exposition, action. Okay. And then, you know, just beauty. Just Just wonderful dialogue, in character, and all that, but but a way of creating a surface that is that it draws us. Because, you know, we just love to see scenes where characters speak really well. in there. And even though even if we're using just gangster talk, good gangs, your dog, it's right to talk to each other and that kind of rap and that kind of unite. Right? That's, that's a form of beauty. It's wonderful, you know, it's pleasurable, right. The dialogue ultimately ought to be pleasing, and in his sense of kind of verbal spectacle. And so that's just, you know, that just three off the top of my head functions, but there's is there's much more right and I, I like I'm sure like you, we all love. Wonderful, memorable quotable dialogue.

Alex Ferrari 41:24
Yeah, very much like it's so obviously Tarantino and Sorkin and Shane Black and these kind of screenwriters, their dialogue is just, it's poetic in the way that they write something, certainly is, certainly, and the genius of them is they're able to do the first two things you said, within that poetry, as opposed to just poetry for poetry sake,

Robert McKee 41:46
which is, you know, that is that just decorative. They all happens all at once. You know, you're getting exposition, see who these characters are, whatever actions or reactions are driving the scene, and it's a pleasure to listen to.

Alex Ferrari 42:03
Now, one thing I've noticed in years and even in my own writing descriptions, in a screenplay, a lot of screenwriters, when they starting out, they feel like it's a novel. So, they will write a very detailed description about a scene or about something, where from my understanding, over the years, less is more and it becomes more of a of an exercise in Haiku is than it is in the novel writing. Can you kind of talk a little bit about the importance of of compacting your description?

Robert McKee 42:37
Well, it does need to be economical. Of course. On the other hand, it has to be vivid,

Alex Ferrari 42:44

Robert McKee 42:46
And that's, you know, where does that balance strike you that the ambition is to project a film into the readers head. So that when they read their screenplay, they see a motion picture without camera directions without you know smash CUT TO for transitions and, you know, Dolly on and you know, and you know, pull focus, whatever nonsense, you got to use the language and description to create the effect of a motion picture, then you only use ideally, you only use the master shots, it you you only the the the shots, the angles, the setups, camera setups that are absolutely necessary. And no more you do not try to direct the film. And, and instead, you project a motion picture into the readers head. And, and, and so you need to it over, often in overriding and when, in fact, was not only overwritten, but it's not vivid. It's because writers rely on adjectives and adverbs. And what they need is to know the names of things. You know, he, he, he picks up what we're talking about before a big nail. Well, you know, big is an adjective. And so, put an image in the readers head, he picks up a spike. Spike is a vivid image. A he, he walks slowly across the room, will slowly is an adverb. Right? Right. And so you name the action of verb is the name of an action. He pads across the room he ambles, he strolls he saunters. He you know, Waltz's is an active verb without an adjective, adverb, concrete nouns without adjectives. And we see things and we see actions. And it becomes vivid. It reduces the word count. And, and here's here's something a good it's a good note for writers take your screenplay. And, and search the verb is or our urge is an are throughout your descriptions and eliminate every single one of them. know things are nothing is in a screenplay. Everything in a film is alive. And action. So you know, a name the thing. So a line like a big house, there, there is a big house on a hill.


And what's a big house a mansion or a state? a villa? What's a, you know, a hill, a mountain. At add and add and turn it into a villa sits just that verb sits is more active than is a big house sits with a spectacular with this spectacular view. And so easy, a big house up high with a great view. And it's an image and it's active, it sits sprawls across, whatever. And so active verbs concrete nouns, and and make us see a movie. And every writer finds every good writer finds their own personal way to do that. And Paddy Chayefsky wrote elaborate descriptions. Harold Pentre described, nothing, nothing. He would just go interior kitchen dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, describe nothing. And because his attitude was, we all know what a kitchen looks like. And they'll probably play it in the garage anyway. But if they mess if they mess with my beats of action reaction and you know, in dialogue, then they're in trouble. Okay, so every writer has to find their own way to accomplish the task of a vividly projecting emotion picture in the imagination, as you turn pages who make them see a movie.

Alex Ferrari 48:23
Now, your new book is called character. And I wanted to ask you a couple questions in regards to character because, arguably, I always like to ask the question, do you start with plot or you start with character I always say to people, you don't like Indiana Jones, his plots aren't nearly as memorable as Indiana Jones James Bond's plots aren't as memorable as James Bond. Like I don't you throw me the plot of thunder ball. I don't remember. I remember scenes, but I do remember James Bond. And that's what draws me back to his stories. So, can you talk a little bit about the difference between roles and character?

Robert McKee 48:58
Well, a role is a generic term. And so hero is a role villain is a role victim is a role. You know, sidekick is a roll. goon is a roll. shopkeeper his role in the role is as a position in a in a cast. as defined by its relationship to other characters, and or a profession. Like waiter, asked driver. And, and they're generic, they wrote something waiting to be filled by a character. And as a character comes into a story to fulfill a certain role but it's a it's a You know, it's it's a, it's a generic to that to that genre. And so if you have a family, the roles are mother, father, children guide, they're okay, those are roles, characters are our unique human beings, we inhabit those roles. And and there's a design of a cast, such that the protagonist, and the central character at role is the most complex character role. And they are they, they're, depending on the genre, they are the most dimensional character of all. And they are ideally, they, they are the center of good, there's a, there's a positive human quality, not every way certainly, but there's, there's some quality, within the complexity of that character, with which we recognize we empathize, we recognize a shared humanity, the character is then in orbit around that character that protagonists are less dimensional, but they can be dimensional as as well, then you go all the way out to the second third circles, where you have people only playing a role. cashier, restaurant cashier, okay. Now, even when you're writing a scene where your character goes up to the cashier in a restaurant, to pay a bill, and discovers that his credit card is cancelled, right, you have a clerk standing there, at the at the take, who takes the credit card and finds that it's, it's been rejected that clerk character, he be very useful to imagine that role, very specifically, what kind of human being, you know, is she or he, it because it does the, the way in which that clerk that roll says responds to your card is canceled. Your card didn't go through the, the, the way you write the words and gesture for that character gives her a trait. And so roles have traits and, and to make, even that moment, when there's a human being behind that, that trait. And so if she's sarcastic, if she's fed up with with the job itself or with with people whose cards never work, or she's sympathetic because her cards don't work.

Alex Ferrari 53:19

Robert McKee 53:21
so, even in a in a simple role like that, you try to write it with a as a specific trait in the way in which he deals with that moment. And it creates a character for an actor. And so the actor come in there and realize, Oh, this is an antagonistic clerk or this is a sympathetic cleric, or an indifferent or bored or falling asleep, or glancing at her watch constantly, she just wants to get out of here, whatever it is, you give her a trait. And that makes her a character, she sends the GM to life and it gives the actor something to hang their performance on. And so dimensions the protagonists, the most dimensional of all dimensions are contradictions within the nature of the girl. And so you populate that with in my book on character, I look at characters everybody from from Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey has an eight dimensional character, all the way up to Tony Soprano, as a 12 dimensional character Walter White, as a 16 dimensional character. And so and so the complexity of character today given long form television, especially, is at is becoming your astronomical And then you have to give all the, that every one of these dimensions if a character is, is kind and cruel, okay? Sometimes they're crying, sometimes they're cruel. Therefore, you're going to need a cast of characters where the protagonist, when they meet character a, they treat them kindly character B, they treat with, with a slap with cruelty and, and so you need to design a cast around each other characters. So that when, whenever any two characters meet, they bring out sides of their dimensionality or traits of behavior that no one else brings out of them. And so, every single character is designed that whenever they encounter any other character, they bring out each other's qualities in ways that no other character does. And, and when you have a, you know, when you have that kind of cast, where every single character services, every other character, and no redundancies every relationship is unique. every relationship develops a different aspect or a different dimension. Then you have a fascinating group of people that creates a world that the audience can really

Alex Ferrari 56:38
dive into,

Robert McKee 56:39
dive into now, you know, when characters when and carrot one characters behave toward each other in the same way, no matter who it is. That, you know, that's it's a boring and do it's false. People do not treat other people, different people the same. Everybody behaves in a uniquely subtly but uniquely different way, depending upon the relationship. And it takes a lot of concentration and imagination in the writer to realize that every relationship brings out different sides of the character's nature.

Alex Ferrari 57:21
Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests. Robert, what are three screenplays every screenwriter should read? You see? I don't answer that question. Okay. For this reason, I don't want people to copy anybody. Okay, fair enough.

Robert McKee 57:46
And so if I say, you know, if I named my, you know, my favorites, like, say, trying to tell people you know, then run to study Chinatown and emulate it. And that's a mistake. The really important question to ask people is, what's your favorite genre? Because they should be writing the kind of films they love.

Alex Ferrari 58:15
It's a good point, what

Robert McKee 58:16
I love, what are my favorites may have nothing to do with their favorites. And so the first question is, you know, what do you love? What kind of movies do you go to see what kind of things do you read? What do you love? And then seek out those? And the second thing is that if I name favorites, and, and that they, you know, they're in their pieces of perfection. Okay. What does that teach the writer? They got a model of perfection. Great. Okay, that's important, you should understand you should have an ideal, what you're trying to achieve. But one of the ways to achieve it, is to study bad movies. break them down and ask yourself, why is this film so boring? Why can't I believe a word of it? Why does this fail? and break it down and study it? To answer what this What does it lack what went wrong, etc. Okay, and then rewrite it.

Alex Ferrari 59:37
Just thing,

Robert McKee 59:39
rewrite it. fix that broken film. Because that's what you're going to do as a writer. Your first draft is going to suck. And you're going to go in and try to fix your broken script. Try to bring it to life. Try to cut edited shape and rewrite it reinvented, you're going to read it over and over again, right? Having fixed broken films, not just one, but many, many, many take bad movies, studying them and make them make them work is practice for what you're going to have to do with your own screenplay. Because it's not going to work in the beginning, it's going to need a lot of work to work. And so having rewritten bad films to make them work is, is a real learning experience. And so I say, study good films are of your genre, so that you have a an ideal that you achieve, rewrite the bad ones to teach yourself how to fix broken work. And so, and that's a personal choice. I can't say what that should be for those people. For every one of them, loves whatever they love, which may or may not be what I love.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:00
Now, where can people find out more about you? And where can they purchase your new book character? Amazon? It's pretty much it is pretty much it nowadays, isn't it? It's pretty much it nowadays, isn't it? Amazon.

Robert McKee 1:01:17
bookstores, I'm sure are opening up. And if you know if you love bookstores, as I do, you know, you can go to a bookstore and get it. But the most direct way that will be there in your budget for the next morning. It's incredible what they do, what Amazon does, and bash, you know that the other other Barnes and Noble stew or whatever it is, but yeah, it's very simple. You just go to amazon.com. Right? Just write the word McKee. And comes story, dialogue, character, in hardcover, in an audio and in Kindle,

Alex Ferrari 1:02:05
and everything else? And then how can people read it? And how can people learn more about you what you offer?

Robert McKee 1:02:13
Ah, the go to make peace story.com. The key story.com will take you to our website. And we have a upcoming. We've been doing webinars now for a year and a half since the plague hit us. And they've been very successful, very, very pleased with it. And in July, we're doing a series on action. Nice on the action genre. And so these, these are every Tuesday, three Tuesday's in a row. And they're two hour events, hour and a half worth of lecture and a half hour of q&a. Then on Thursday, I I give an additional two hours of q&a.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:01

Robert McKee 1:03:03
And because I realized how important it is for people to get answers to things they're working on. So So Tuesdays and Thursdays for three weeks in a row. And there's you know, four hours of material each week. So and we will we will look at the action genre in depth with lots of illustrations and examples of an adage and I love giving these acts. webinars. And it's a favorite of mine. Actually,

Alex Ferrari 1:03:38
I love a good action movie is it's hard to come by nowadays. So I appreciate it. Robert, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to to my audience and I appreciate all the work that you have done over the years and help so many screenwriters as well. So thank you so much for everything you do.

Robert McKee 1:03:54
It was a lovely chat. Great chat. Nice talking to you.


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.

Click here to subscribe on iTunes,  Spotify, Stitcher, or Soundcloud.

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.

Top Ten Best Screenplays Ever Written

If you want to be a screenwriter you have to read screenplays. There’s no better place to start than reading the masters of the craft. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) published this list of the top ten best screenplays ever written and I would have to agree.

My personal favorites on this list are Casablanca, Chinatown, and Annie Hall. Click on the links below and start reading. Happy Reading…then get to writing.

Screenplay by Julius J. & Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch. Based on the play “Everybody Comes to Rick’s” by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison

Screenplay by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola.

Written by Robert Towne

Written by Herman Mankiewicz and Orson Welles

Screenplay by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman

Written by Charles Brackett & Billy Wilder and D.M. Marshman, Jr.

Written by Paddy Chayefsky

Screenplay by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond.

Screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo.

Screenplay by Frank Darabont. I had to add this remarkable screenplay to the list.


Want to read more screenplays by the best screenwriters working in Hollywod today?

The Bulletproof Screenwriting collection of screenplays are organized by screenwriter's & filmmaker's career for easy access.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Rodriguez Interview: Building an Indie Filmmaking Empire

You can’t say indie film without saying, Robert Rodriguez. I’ve been a HUGE fan of how Robert Rodriguez makes his films for a long time. His legendary film “El Mariachi” was released when I was in high school and changed my life.

Since then he has gone on to make some amazing films like

He also wrote an amazing book documenting the making of El Mariachi and his rollercoaster ride in Hollywood called “Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player,” a must-read for any independent filmmaker. Whether you love Robert Rodriguez films or hate them, you have to respect how he makes them.

Famously nicknamed as the “the one-man film crewRobert Rodriguez is not only a talented producer, director, and film writer but also happens to serve as an editor, director of photography, Steadicam operator, camera operator, composer, production designer, sound editor and a visual effects supervisor making him a jack of all trades of the film making.

From the famous Spy Kids to Sin City renowned filmmaker Robert Rodriguez is acclaimed for his all-around method of production and appealing flamboyant style, these are the traits that only a few seasoned directors hope to achieve someday after spending decades of work but Robert Rodriguez proved with his first Bedhead a short film that he happens to possess the flair since day one.

Born in San Antonio, Texas, Rodriguez was born to Mexican-American parents Rebecca and Cecilio G. Rodriguez who were a nurse and a salesman respectively. Robert grew up in a big family of 10 siblings. Robert was interested in film from the young age of 11 when his father bought one of the first VCRs which came with a camera along with it.

While studying in St. Anthony High School Seminary in San Antonio, Robert was commissioned to videotape the football games of his school. His sister recalls that he was fired from the work because he had shot the game in a cinematic style and instead of shooting the whole game, he shot the ball sailing through the air and capturing the reactions of the parents. Robert met Carlos Gallardo in high school and together they shot both films and videos throughout their time at the high school and college too.

Robert Rodriguez attended the College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin where his love for cartooning blossomed. Not having high grades he could not get into the school’s film program. Robert created a daily comic strip which was titled Los Hooligans and most of the characters were based on his siblings especially one of his sisters, Maricarmen.

It ran for three years in the student newspaper The Daily Texan. As he was initially rejected from the film school, he taught himself basic directing and editing skills before taking a film program. He continued to make short films. Later on, he won numerous awards for his efforts and gradually was accepted into the film program at the university.

Robert Rodriguez shot action and horror short films on video and edited them on two VCRs. The fall of 1990 earned him a spot in a local film contest of the university’s film program.

There Robert Rodriguez made the award-winning 16 mm short Bedhead (1991). Bedhead starred his younger siblings. The film accounts for the amusing misadventures of a young girl named Rebecca and her quarrels with her rowdy older brother who sports incredibly tangled hair which she simply hates.

After getting telekinetic powers as aftereffects of a slight head injury, Rebecca vows to end David’s unruly bedhead. Another bump to the head makes her a straight-headed kid again she promises to never abuse her powers again though David remains dazed.

The traces of Robert Rodriguez’s signature style are eminent at this early stage with quick cuts, intense zooms, cartoonish sound effects and fast camera movements sprinkled with a sense of humor gave the short an air of cinematic skill and expertise. Bedhead was addressed for excellence in the Black Maria Film Festival. It was selected by Sally Berger who is a Film/Video Curator for the 20th anniversary of reviewing MoMA in 2006. With its success at numerous film festivals, Robert was able to fund his debut feature El Mariachi which was his first feature and portrayed his expertise as a filmmaker assisting him in landing a deal with Columbia Pictures.

El Mariachi (1993) was made on a very tight budget of only $ 7,000. Some of the money was raised by his friend Carlos Gallardo and some from his own participation in medical testing studies. Playing both on Spanish and American western themes, the movie is focused on a lone wandering musician who gets caught up in a mess with the bad guys after switching guitar cases with a hitman who happened to have a similar case to carry around his tools.

Rodriquez won the Audience Award for El Mariachi at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival. He has described his experiences of making this film in his book Rebel Without a Crew.

Robert’s second feature film was Desperado which was a sequel to El Mariachi. It starred Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek was introduced to the American audiences. Rodriquez teamed up with Quentin Tarantino of the vampire thriller From Dusk till Dawn (and also both co-producing the two sequels of it) and currently writes, directs, and produces the TV series for his very own cable network El Rey. Rodriquez has also worked with Kevin Williamson on the horror film, The Faculty.

The year 2001 brought Robert Rodriquez his first Hollywood hit Spy Kids, which went on to flourish into a movie franchise. A third mariachi film also surfaced in late 2003 named Once Upon a Time in Mexico which completed the Mexican Trilogy which is also called the Mariachi Trilogy. Formerly known as Los Hooligans, Robert also operates a production company which is named Troublemaker Studios.

In the year 2005, Rodriquez co-directed Sin City which was an adaptation of the Frank Miller comic books of the same name. A scene was guest directed by Quentin Tarantino. In 2004 while production, Rodriquez insisted upon Miller to be credited as the co-director because for him the visual style and technique of Miller’s comic art were as important to him as his own.

However, the Directors Guild of America did not permit it stating that only the legitimate teams could share the credit. This was a big deal to Robert Rodriguez and he chose to resign from the Directors Guild stating I did not want to be forced into making a compromise which he was not willing to make or set such an example that might hurt the guild later.

Rodriquez was forced to let go of his director’s seat in the John Carter of Mars for Paramount Pictures by resigning from the guild. He had already signed and had been announced as the director and planned to start on it soon after being done with Sin City.

Sin City was not only a box office success but also a critical hit especially for the hyperviolent adaptation of the comic book which did not have much name recognition like the Spiderman or X-men. Robert has shown interest in the adaptation of all the Miller’s Sin City comic books.

In 2005, Robert Rodriquez released The Adventure of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D which was a superhero movie for the kids pretty much the same young audience for the Spy Kid series. Based on a story which was conceived by Robert’s 7-year-old son Racer, this film was liked but did not gain that much success grossing only $ 39 million at the box office.

Planet Terror was written and directed by Rodriquez as being part of the double bill release Grindhouse. Quentin Tarantino directed the other film of Grindhouse.

Apart from films, Robert Rodriquez also has a series of Ten Minute Film School segments on numerous of his DVD release which show aspiring filmmakers how to make good and profitable movies using affordable and feasible tactics.

Along with these, Robert Rodriguez created a series called The Ten Minute Cooking School where he revealed he told his recipe for Puerco Pibil, the same food which was eaten by Johnny Depp in the film.

The popularity of this got him started on another Cooking School on the two-disc version of Sin City DVD where Robert Rodriguez taught the viewers to make Sin City Breakfast Tacos which was a dish he made for his crew and cast during the late-night shoots and editing sessions with the help of his grandmother’s tortilla recipe and various egg mixes for the fillings.

A strong supporter of digital filmmaking, he was introduced to this by George Lucas who personally invited him to use the digital cameras at Lucas’ headquarters.

At the 2010 Austin Film Festival, Robert Rodriquez was awarded his Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking Award.

A new sequel to Predator was announced which was to be produced by Rodriquez on April 23, 2009, which was based on the early drafts he had penned down after watching the original.

Robert had ideas for a planet-sized game preserve and different creatures that were used by the Predators to hunt down a group of abducted humans who are incredibly skilled. Acquiring quite positive reviews, the film did really well at the box office.

Robert also planned to produce the famous Fire and Ice, a 1983 film collaboration between Frank Frazetta a painter, and Ralph Bakshi, an animator. But the deal closed shortly after the death of Frazetta.

It was reported in the October of 2015 that Rodriquez is going to direct Battle Angel Alita with James Cameron. It was also announced in November that he is directing the film 100 Years which will be releasing in 2017.

Hollywood in Austin

Robert Rodriguez has built himself a remarkable filmmaking paradise in Austin, TX. Don’t believe me watch the two videos in this post where he gives you a tour of Troublemaker Studios. He has since purchased an old airport and built sound stages, more post-production, office space, and everything you would need to make a film.

He has also done something that no other filmmaker has ever done before, he launched his own television network called “El Rey.”

In the over two-hour interview that Tim Ferriss had with Robert Rodriguez, he discusses not only his journey as a filmmaker but how he lives a creative life. This is why I wanted to share the interview with you.

Living a Creative Life

So many of us independent filmmakers forget why we got into the business and it’s to live a creative life. Make money yes, but do so by living a creative life. I found the interview fascinating and wanted to share it with the Indie Film Hustle Tribe. Take a listen at the top of the post.

Hope you enjoy it!



Stunt Driver: The Definitive Guide To Becoming A Pro

“Professional stunt driver” may be the greatest job title in history. I am not a Hollywood A-lister, but I’ve claimed the title of professional stunt driver several times. I’ve worked on many film projects and have been hired as a full time stunt driver on two live-action stunt driving thrill shows.

When I introduce myself to people they usually ask: “how can I do what you’re doing?”

Well if you’re ever wondered how to become a stunt driver, you’re in luck. I’m going to share my personal methods that got me to where I am.

There are so many shallow websites and articles on the internet that give useless information about becoming a stunt driver. They always tell you what to do (and they’re often wrong) but they never tell you how to do it.

I’m going to give you real and actionable steps that you can start using immediately, including:

  1. What to expect before you get started
  2. How to acquire the skills needed and how to perfect them
  3. What tools you need to exist inside the film community
  4. How to tell the film community you’ve joined the biz and how to build your stunt performer network

So let’s jump right in.

Actionable Step #1. Learn what to expect.

There are some very critical things you need to know before jumping into the film industry. The most important one is this:

Becoming a stunt driver is easy. But getting work can be extremely difficult.

The last thing I want to do is turn you away from something that excites you. But I want you to know the truth so you have the greatest chance of success. If you haven’t tried to survive in a freelance environment you may be in for a shock.

Nothing is guaranteed, nobody owes you, and you can’t expect any handouts. Especially when you’re new.

It sounds scary, I know! But I need you to know this so you can prepare yourself for the struggle that lies ahead. Is it hard? Yes. But if you’re determined enough and remain resilient you can absolutely do this!

Why is it so hard to thrive in the film industry?

Well, in the case of stunt drivers, the market is simply flooded. Several years ago the only way to get experience was on a film set actually driving cars. This method of bringing new stunt drivers into the industry meant that unless someone needed some new stunt drivers, there wasn’t a good way to learn.

But today there are probably a dozen stunt driving schools that teach professional stunt driving in various courses. And as these stunt driving schools pump out scores of graduates every year, the market becomes more flooded with qualified entry-level stunt drivers. This means:

  • Everyone’s wages go down (at least in the non-union sector)
  • The probability of getting a gig becomes lower because more people can complete the gig
  • It becomes harder to stand out in a crowd

But take a breath! There are some great things you can do to rise above the frenzy of new stunt drivers.

But before I move on I want to make it perfectly clear that I don’t hold the stunt driving schools accountable for making life harder for us. They found a great way to generate income and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Actionable Step #2. How to acquire the skills you need and how to perfect them.

When I decided I wanted to explore the world of stunt driving I did what everyone else was doing. I attended a high-performance stunt driving school that taught professional stunt driving techniques.

Since I lived on the east coast I choose Drivers East (www.driverseast.com). My instructors, Mike Burke, Roy Farfel, and Kevin Rogers were (and are) at the top of the New York City film hub food chain.

The benefits of going to a professional stunt driving school are unbeatable.

  • Personal one-on-one instruction from industry leaders – guys who are actually out there making a great living doing what you want to do
  • Condensed learning with no trial and error
  • You get to use the stunt driving schools dedicated vehicles
  • NETWORKING. I can’t stress how important networking is in the film industry. Not only did I meet three ace professionals/instructors (two of which have called me and offered me work), but I met another prominent stunt coordinator and a life-long friend, both of which were taking the course like me.
  • The instructors are eager to answer your questions about getting into the industry. Not only do you get professional training, but professional consulting – at no extra cost!
  • This is well worth the $2175 that it now costs to attend the two-day course

Here’s a tip: whichever stunt driving school you choose to attend, make sure you take LOTS of video. It’s about to come in very handy.

Learning the skills is easy and ridiculously fun. But now you need to become consistent.

Anyone can go to a stunt driving school and go through the motions of learning. But you need something more! And this is where you start to set yourself apart from everyone else.

At the school you learned how to perform certain types of slides and skids. Now you need to learn how to be consistent and nail them perfectly every single time.

Consistency is what separates average stunt drivers from incredible stunt drivers.

When I reached this point I knew I needed three things:

  1. A car that was specifically dedicated to stunt driving
  2. A placed where I could practice stunt driving skills
  3. A demo video that showcased what I was capable of

I went slightly overboard when I purchased my stunt car. I saved all summer long and found a pristine 1988 Ford Mustang Cobra clone with a radically cammed fresh motor. This car had an X factor that stood out everywhere it went.

I eagerly bought the car and it was absolutely perfect. That being said, a good stunt driver can wrangle any car for stunts.

Here’s where it can get tricky: how do you find a place to practice?

To get started on this you’ll want to sit down and make a list of local places that might work for you. You should be thinking of parking lots that are big enough to make mistakes in. Ideally, the parking lots you’re looking for are attached to businesses that are closed on Sundays.

Using Google Maps is a great way to search your area from above to get a rough idea of what’s nearby.

Once you have a list you’ll need to stop into these locations and explain what you’re doing and that you’d like to use their parking lot on Sundays when no one is around.

In my case I made sure to impress that I could cordon off the lot so no one else could accidentally enter while I was practicing. I also offered to place their business logo on my attention-getting vehicle, which would give them extra exposure as I drove around town.

I was surprised at how easy it was to obtain a practice space and build relationships with local businesses. This was a great lesson for me:

“Getting what you need can be as simple as asking.”

How to leverage other companies to get on board.

Once I was successful in finding a practice space I decided to take things a step further. I knew that I would need to buy parts for the car to keep it in perfect condition. Instead of having to buy them myself I was able to approach a local used car dealer with a similar offer.

They agreed to give me discounted auto parts in exchange for having their logo on my car.

But that’s not all! Rather than paying to have the companies logos put on my car, I offered to give the rear window of my car as free ad space to a local vinyl shop in exchange for free vinyls.

They readily agreed, which left me with the following:

  1. A practice space
  2. Discounted auto parts
  3. Free vinyls
  4. Zero money invested!

After having acquired everything I needed, I quickly made a great demo that I could market my skills with. A great demo should be quick, to the point, and highlight everything you’re good at. This video will be proof that you’re serious and have the chops to get the job done.

The video below is my first demo. You can tell that it’s quite old now, but it was directly responsible for getting me my first gig.You can see that I used a lot of footage from Drivers East, which adds a lot to the overall feel.

A few quick notes about stunt driving practice sessions.

  • Get out and practice as often as possible. I’ll say it again: consistency is what separates decent drivers from amazing drivers. If you can’t execute all your moves the same way every single time, you need more practice.
  • Film everything. Make sure you bring a couple friends and have decent recording equipment.
  • Don’t let anyone else drive. You made a deal with the property owner that you’d be driving. You’re the professional. Whatever you do, don’t let your practice session turn into a hooning fest with a bunch of wannabe stunt drivers who have no idea what they’re doing. That’ll put you on the fast track to losing your practice space and a bad reputation.
  • Make sure to call the local police department before you get started. Your sessions are going to be loud and maybe obnoxious to some people. But you have permission to be there, so it’s OK. Calling the police and letting them know what you’re up to is a great courtesy so they don’t come rushing out to investigate complaints. In the video you see a patrol car stopping by our lot, but they just stopping by to hang with us. It was neat.

NOTE: Most stunt work doesn’t involve stunt driving. To give myself the best chance of success in the industry I was always looking for opportunities to cross train with staged combat, high falls, ratchets, and any other skill that a non-driving stunt performer might need. In my case I learned to fight and choreograph great fight scenes. All these things have come in handy.

Actionable Step #3. Get the tools you need to exist inside the film community.

Ok. So far you know what you’re doing, how to do it consistently, and you have an awesome stunt driving demo to prove it. The problem? Nobody knows who you are yet.

It would be a huge mistake to sit back and wait for someone to discover you. If you want to be successful you have to take matters into your own hands and learn the hustle.

There are a number of things you can do to expedite your exposure:

  1. Get a website. You want to give people an easy way to learn more about you. Since you’re marketing yourself I suggest buying www.yourname.com and building a simple site to showcase your resume, headshot, demos, and measurements. Website building is ridiculously easy. You can have a site built and live in under an hour with services like Bluehost or Wix.com (check out this guide on How to Build a Website). If you need some inspiration, have a look at my personal site at www.mattcovert.com or my business site How To Become A Racecar Driver.
  2. Get a professional email address. First impressions are everything. Stop using your high school email and join the professional world. Most website services make it easy to link your domain to an email. My film business email, for example, is [email protected] It doesn’t get any easier than that.
  3. Get professional business cards. The film industry is all about networking. If you work a gig and don’t walk away with six new business contacts you’re doing it wrong. Your business cards should be unique, simple, and stand out from the rest. Less is more. Here’s what my current card looks like.

Actionable Step #4. Learn how to tell the film community you’ve joined the biz and how to build your stunt performer network.

Once you’ve followed the first three actionable steps you’ll be in a great position to start booking gigs. But here’s the truth:

From here on out you’ll spend 95% of your time hustling for work, and 5% actually working gigs.

That doesn’t sound nearly as fun as you were hoping, right? With so much non-driving stuff to wade through is it really worth the effort?

The answer is yes, and here’s why.

When people reach the point where the real work begins, many of them will become uninterested and slack off. Use this to your advantage! This is where people are dropping out of the game. This is the time to double your efforts.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to leave you hanging! Let me show you exactly how to build your network.

If no one knows you exist, then no one is going to hire you.

The film industry is a network type of industry. There aren’t any job applications or fairs or any other common recruiting practice. This is where the hustle begins. You’re entirely responsible for your own success or failure. The more effort you put in, the better results you’ll see.

Your reputation is all you have. If people know you, like you, trust you, and believe you have the skills to make their film incredible they will hire you.

So what do you do if you have no reputation at all? Simple. You have to create one. And I’m going to show you how.

Every state has a Film Office that acts as a liaison to production companies that are interested in filming in their area. To make the process as easy as possible for these companies, each film office has a Production Guide that lists every service or individual that the production companies might need to hire to complete their film.

Let’s use the Massachusetts Film Office as an example.

On the homepage, at www.mafilm.org, you can see the Production Guide is readily available on the left sidebar.

After entering the Production Guide you’ll see an option to “Search Crew Listing.” Click that.

Now select the two categories entitled “Stunt Coordinator” (people who might hire you) and “Stunt Utility” (other stunt performers). Update the search.

The next page will show you people in the Massachusetts Film Office Production Guide that have gotten professional stunt work. The results looks like the grid below. Let’s click on the first result.

Now we have the contact information for a professional stunt person in your area.

You’ll want to repeat this process for every stunt person listed in the production guide. Get as many names and email addresses as possible. More is obviously better.

When I was starting out, my initial list had at least forty names.

To add as many names to your list as possible, search through the film offices of your surrounding states as well. This will also give you exposure in a larger geographical area.

What do you do with all the names?

Once you have your list together, it’s time to start reaching out! This can be intimidating, especially when you’re new. But I promise that people are generally cool and appreciate your initiative.

But what should you say? Well, I’ve got you covered. Here’s the exactly email I sent to dozens of stunt professionals when I was getting started.


My name is Matt Covert. I’m a professional stunt driver and stunt performer for TV, film, and live entertainment. My resume, demo reels, and headshot can be seen at my website. I specialize in stunt/precision driving, but I’m also familiar with fight choreography, falls, air ram, ratchet, and action acting.

Please keep me in mind as you book gigs that may require additional drivers or performers. I’m local to the Boston area, but am willing to travel. I’m currently non-union and am seeking opportunities to join SAG/AFTRA. Please feel free to contact me at any time with any questions you may have. I hope to hear from you soon.

Matt Covert

cell: 207-860-6296
bus: 207-370-0129
[email protected]

And you know what? IT WORKS.

I received lots of replies from people saying “hey thanks for reaching out to me” or “I’ll be sure to keep you in mind.” Remember, people are generally cool and want to help you.

In fact less than a week later I heard from a local stunt coordinator who was looking for a stunt driver for an easy gig. He booked my services for $200/day simply because my demo video showed that I could do the job.

So don’t leave any of these steps out. If I hadn’t made the video I wouldn’t have had any credibility and I probably wouldn’t have gotten the gig.

Incidentally, I have a great relationship with that same stunt coordinator and have been working with him for several years. RELATIONSHIPS ARE EVERYTHING.

Now that people know who you are, you can just sit back and wait, right? WRONG.

Sitting around and waiting for someone to contact you is a huge mistake that I see all the time. I know I’ve said it several times now, (because it’s extremely important) but you have to hustle!

If you aren’t being productive, assertive, creative, inventive, or revolutionary. . .you aren’t hustling. There will be many times when you feel like you’re up against a brick wall with no more options.

Well, let me tell you this:

If you want to make it in this industry, you have to work. And if there’s no work, create some.

This doesn’t mean go out and produce your own movie. It simply means that someone out there needs a stunt driver. . .they just might not know it.

This is where independent films can play a huge role in someone’s success. Here’s why:

  • Most independent films are extremely low budget. But this isn’t a bad thing! I’ve worked several projects where I was the only person getting paid. If you can convince people they need you, they’ll come up with the money.
  • Most independent filmmakers are inexperienced. This is great thing, because you are too! Everyone in film has their own specialty. If everyone works together, everyone can learn a lot in a day. If you aren’t learning something new, you’re doing it wrong.
  • Believe it or not I’ve booked work based completely on the cool factor of using a stunt guy. If a new filmmaker can say they’ve used a professional stunt driver in their films. . .if makes them feel cool.

There are a lot of places to find casting calls for independent films. Here’s a few Google searches that can help you find the hot spots. Remember that you’re not looking for calls that have anything to do with stunts. Just film in general.

  • [your location] casting calls
  • [your location] casting companies
  • independent films [your location]
  • [your location] production companies

If you can find a local site that lists casting calls, you’ve hit the jackpot. This is a prime website that can connect you with aspiring film makers.

It doesn’t matter what the listing is asking for, or if they specifically say the roles are paid or not. While you aren’t applying for the acting roles they’re hoping to fill, you can always use the contact information to offer your services.

Once again, I’ve got you covered. Here’s another form email I’ve used hundreds of times while seeking work. It’s very similar to the first one, but with some key changes.


My name is Matt Covert. I’m a professional stunt driver / performer and stunt coordinator for TV, film, and live entertainment. My resume, demo reels, and headshot can be seen at www.mattcovert.com. I specialize in stunt/precision driving and also have experience with fight directing and fight choreography.

I’d like to be involved with your film, INSERT NAME OF FILM. I can work with you and your actors to create realistic results for any action/fight scenes, stunts, firearm work, or doubling required for your film.

I’m local to the Boston area, but am willing to travel. I’m currently non-union and am seeking opportunities to join SAG/AFTRA. Please feel free to contact me at any time with any questions you may have. I hope to hear from you soon.

Matt Covert

cell: 207-860-6296
bus: 207-370-0129
[email protected]

I’ve gotten great responses to this type of email as well. When people read an email like this they believe you want to you help them, which is true. Your skills can make their production better.

And when you send emails like this one, make sure you use the title of their film as the subject of your email. There’s no way an aspiring film maker is going to ignore an email that’s about his work.

There is one last key point about independent films. While many new film people are eager to work for free, you don’t.

The allure of getting quick experience by working for free is a short term plan that will get you nowhere.

You’ve invested both time and money into your endeavor as a professional stunt driver. You’re worth the money. And never let a filmmaker say he can’t afford you. Anybody can come up with a hundred bucks for something they see as valuable.

If you don’t charge money for your services, you don’t look valuable. If you can’t negotiate a payment before filming, politely walk away and leave the door open to work with that person later. Invest your time into something that will generate income for you.

You now know everything you need to become a professional stunt driver.

I’m thrilled to be able to share my experiences about what works and what doesn’t. Remember, success in the freelance environment is all about the hustle.

If you aren’t hustling, you’re not doing everything you can to be successful.

Robert Rodriguez: 10 Minute Film Schools

I’ve been a huge fan of the way writer/director Robert Rodriguez makes his films. The almost total creative control within the studio system is remarkable. Before Youtube film schools there was the 10-minute film schools on every DVD release of any Robert Rodriguez film.

These 10 minute film schools, produced by the man himself Robert Rodriguez, was an inside look at his tips and tricks on how he created the movie magic in his films. It was the inspiration to my DVD set for my short film BROKEN. They are a treasure trove of filmmaking knowledge. I learn a ton from each one and now you can as well. Get ready to have your mind blown.

“Too many creative people don’t wanna learn how to be technical, so what happens? They become dependent on technical people.  Become technical.  You can learn that. If you’re creative and technical, you’re unstoppable.” – Robert Rodriguez

The Robert Rodriguez: 10 Minute Film School (The First and Original)

The Making of “El Mariachi” – The Robert Rodriguez Ten Minute Film School

A behind the scenes look at the making of the Robert Rodriguez ultra low budget film “El Mariachi”. Rodriguez explains the tricks filmmakers can use when working with extremely limited budgets.

Desperado – Ten More Minutes: The Anatomy of a Shoot Out

This is the second installment of Robert Rodriguez’s 10 Minute Film School. Here he shows how he was able to storyboard his film Desperado using a video camera. He uses a simple mini-DV camera to figure out which angles he will use for the film.

From Dusk Till Dawn – 10 Minute Film School

Planet Terror – 10 Minute Film School

Once Upon the Time in Mexico – 10 Minute Film School

This is an episode of a long series of 10 minute film school segments that Robert Rodriguez does for all of his films. These tutorials are on advanced digital film-making and go into detail on how to write, produce and direct your own indie film. This is very interesting if you are a DIY type of person or just a movie buff.


IFH 280: Misadventures in Micro-Budget Filmmaking with James Morosini

Right-click here to download the MP3

Today’s guest is actor/writer/director James Morosini. His film Threesomething is a micro-budget film that he jumped off a cliff to make. With this being his first feature film as a director he definitely had some misadventures. In this interview, we go into the details of his journey making and distributing his film. We also discuss how he made a clip from the film go viral on YouTube.

Zoe, Charlie, and Isaac spend a night flirting with the idea of a threesome… until it finally happens and all hell breaks loose. While two fall deeply in love, two test their sexual limits. They each discover fantasies they never thought they had and try things they never thought they would. This sexy comedy will make you squirm with its hilarious awkwardness and challenge your ideas of sex, love, and friendship.

Below James wrote an amazing article detailing his misadventures so when you are do listen to the interview the article is required reading.

Enjoy my conversation with James Morosini.

Alex Ferrari 1:47
Today on the show, we have Writer Director James Morosini. And he directed a micro budget film called three something and it's pretty interesting his story and how he made this micro budget film and, and truly his misadventures making it because he had really never directed a feature film prior to this movie. Now he is an actor, and he's been in many films and TV shows like American Horror Story and lethal weapon. But this is kind of his first journey into making a micro budget feature film. And he truly did have some misadventures in it. And it was a pretty fascinating story. He wrote an article on the blog many, many months ago when it came out, if not a year or so ago, when it first came out. But we finally got our schedules to match and have him on the show to tell us all of these crazy stories of how he made it, how he got it out there, and so on. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with James Morosini. I like to welcome to the show James Morosini man, thank you so much for being on the show, brother.

James Morosini 2:52
Yeah, man. Thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 2:54
Yeah, man, we we, we connected a while ago and very before you started making you move while you were making it a try to put it all together and talk a little bit about your making of and stuff like that. So I'm glad to see it actually Finally, was finished.

James Morosini 3:10
I know man, me too. I it's been quite the journey. Yeah, I think we're talking about when I was still kind of shooting it and, or editing it. And I was You and I were talking about kind of like, the best way for me to go about, you know, on the next steps of like, you know, the whole festival experience. And the best way to think about that.

Alex Ferrari 3:32
Well, before we get into it, so how did you first get into the business because you have a unique story how you've got to this point as a director. Oh, yeah, dude. Um, okay. I mean, I guess I might do my uncle was Christopher Reeve, the actor. I'm sorry, Your uncle is Christopher Reeves. Yeah, it was even Superman.

James Morosini 3:56
Yeah, yeah, it is pretty awesome. I know. So I grew up with it kind of in my family, but I didn't really do much but I would like mess around with the video camera and stuff when I was younger. And then and like, make stupid little videos, but I didn't really do any plays or anything in high school. I'm, I'm for context I'm, I make a living. I am an actor. And then I and then I write director I'm not acting. So So yeah, and I, you know, I did a my first play was right after high school, I done a bunch of like little film projects in high school. How I did this play with it at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts. And then from there, I went to USC, and studied theater for a couple years and then started kind of studying independently, and then really dove into learning about film and stuff and making my own projects and then And then afterwards, I did a pilot with Comedy Central and then that just kind of snowballed into other projects and other opportunities.

Alex Ferrari 5:11
Cool, man, I mean, you've been acting I mean, your IMDb is fairly impressive. So, as an actor, you you are working actor. I'm a working actor anymore. You're a unicorn. a unicorn. Exactly, no. I mean, it's, it's funny for you to say like, you know, I act as my full time job. And I just direct on the side. It's, it's weird for you even to hear those words. Because so many people are killed dying just to be able to make a living as an actor.

James Morosini 5:40
Yeah, man. I mean, I, you know, I am also dying to make a living sometimes. And then, and then it works. And it's like, great for a few months, you know?

Alex Ferrari 5:49
Yeah, it's up and down

James Morosini 5:50
Back to like, not working and just kind of living off the money you've made. Yeah, that's

Alex Ferrari 5:55
And hopefully those residual checks come in.

James Morosini 5:57
Yeah. And they're there. They're like, you know, it's like finding like water in the desert sometimes. Oh, fuck, you're in this. They're definitely, definitely happy to get them when they go.

Alex Ferrari 6:09
So you decided to jump in and make a kind of micro budget, independent film? And you kind of learned along the way if I'm not mistaken.

James Morosini 6:19
Yeah, I mean, I had made a bunch of shorts before. And I, I've always since I was younger, you know, I've, I've pretty much been watching a movie a day, for for a really long time. And so I've always been kind of obsessed about making a full length film. And I've made all these like, little shorts and taught myself kind of how to how to do it, you know, just by watching like, videos on YouTube and stuff and asking a billion questions. And so yeah, man to make the feature, I just kind of I, I the idea that was so scary to me. Because it seemed like such a different thing. In terms of like, you know, like, how do you make that much content? And so, yeah, I felt like I was kind of, like, my attitude through the whole thing was like, I'm okay. I just want to finish this film. And I'm gonna try to have faith that as we go, we'll be able to kind of figure out the things we don't know. And, and, and I think we're, I think we're really successful in doing that. Because it's like, you know, we shot, you know, we had, like a scriptment knows that.

Alex Ferrari 7:34
I'm very well aware of those.

James Morosini 7:36
Yeah. But we Yeah, we had, like, you know, some scenes were totally written, some were kind of more vague and outline, and then we were also able to kind of like, we shot chronologically, so we're able to, like, adapt that to how things were going.

Alex Ferrari 7:51
That's, it's, it's, I mean, as an actor, I know. A lot of actors love to have the the security of the of the script, the security of the words. And it scares the hell out of a lot of actors having this improv, like, free wielding, vibe on set, how did you feel about it working with the actors?

James Morosini 8:12
Sure. I mean, I think it was such a small production among friends that we all there was kind of the energy in the room that like, we're only going to use this stuff that works. So there was, there was really a lot of room to fail and be bad. And I've found that and I found that room to be bad is the only thing that allows really room to be very good. Because if you're playing it safe, it just kind of ends up being pretty middle of the road. Yeah, so we, you know, it would shoot a ton. And then we use like slivers of footage, where things really popped and connected. And it was usually the moments where people were kind of caught off guard or like, you know, where were things weren't going as planned?

Alex Ferrari 8:59
Where was raw and natural,

James Morosini 9:01
It's raw and there's, you know, authentic? uncertainty and yeah, we'll figure things out.

Alex Ferrari 9:08
So the name, so the name of the movie is called three something. Three, something Yeah. Can you give the two minute pitch? Or what two second pitch?

James Morosini 9:16
Yeah, sure. It's about a group of friends that try to have a threesome, and the reality falls short, or it turns out differently than their fantasy. And that's kind of what the movie explores, is the difference between fantasy and reality. And it also explores kind of explores, like people trying to live up to images, you know, the guys in the movie are really trying to be to experience their masculinity and do this threesome and it turns out it you know, they're actually way more sensitive than they'd like to admit. You know, and ever, everybody's kind of like falling on their faces. It's kind of about people like, in their 20s and cute 20 somethings. No, it's it's, you hear that pitch a lot. That's why I make that joke. But But yeah, I mean, it's, it's, it's about kind of fantasy and reality and how that plays into things like love, sex and friendship.

Alex Ferrari 10:29
And what is what was the budget of some of you on me asking?

James Morosini 10:32
Um, I don't want to say it on here. Under a million? Definitely under a million? Yes. Okay, how long did it take you to shoot. So we shot, we basically did it in a few different legs of shooting, we did like 11 days of production. And then I edited a rough cut, showed it to a bunch of people basically got tons and tons of feedback. And then, and then we did like, a few other legs of like, pick up three or four day bursts to, like, fill out the film and to kind of like, you know, some of the stuff we threw away, and then added to and, and, yeah, I mean that our intent around the whole thing was realizing like, because we didn't have a ton of money, the thing we could do really well was to be nimble, and to like, and to, to, you know, go about doing things in, in a less rigid way, where like, we were really trying to just get stuff that felt really, really raw and honest. Because I think that's, that's, that's one thing, when you're doing something with a lot with less money that you have on your side is the ability to do that.

Alex Ferrari 11:42
Now, how did your acting experience help you in directing the film?

James Morosini 11:47
Yeah, I mean, I think my, my bullshit meter for myself is is fairly high. So like, I I'm really aware when I'm, when I'm not being truthful, in my own acting, or if I'm like, pushing or manufactured, or, I'm just not, if I'm, if my acting is kind of like, if it feels, it feels fake, it really bumps me and it's like, I can't, it's, I know when I'm phoning it in, or when I'm, or when I'm not, and I'm really connected to something. And so I think I have a heightened sensitivity around that with other actors as well. And I, I kind of just tried to talk to other actors, how I am talking to myself in my head. And and I think, I think as an actor, you know, actor directors have the thing on their side where they can they kind of can use vocabulary and, and express nuance in a way that they would to themselves. There's they kind of understand like this, this other way into communicating that there's really subtle things.

Alex Ferrari 12:55
Now you're the style of the film, when you were shooting it, it was a very kind of Joe Swanberg Mark duplass style, kind of running gun.

James Morosini 13:03
Um, yeah, I mean, yeah, it was like a mix of, you know, things being super structured and specific. And then a mix of times, we're like, Alright, let's just kind of like, let the camera run and and figure it out as we go. And then, you know, we turn it off. Talk about what was working, and then we've refined stuff and then and then, you know, shoot it again. And, yeah, it was like, it was like, it was like a, it was kind of like an iterative refining process. So like it, we wasn't like, we went into it, we're like, here's exactly what we need. The whole thing was kind of exploration, you know, and, and we refined it as we went.

Alex Ferrari 13:51
You're kind of doing the rewriting process while you're on set, like Yeah, exactly. Just kind of just kind of chiseling away at things, trying things experimenting. And apparently sounds like you had the luxury of time. Yeah, sure. It's such a low budget,

James Morosini 14:04
Also the luxury of enthusiasm. I mean, we were all like we really really want to make this film and we were all not paying ourselves so like the only reason we were there was to make something really cool that I that that's an experience that is is really amazing because it's rare yeah cuz nobody because then nobody's there wondering when they can you know go home people are just like let's you know we're here to make something and to connect in a real way and you know, when there's that energy on set I feel like it it it really adds to the to the peace

Alex Ferrari 14:43
Oh, there's no question about it I from firsthand experience, when you have that kind of energy on set where everybody's they're all going towards the same goal all no one's giving you attitude, no egos are involved. We're just trying to make the best work possible. It is a wonderful experience.

James Morosini 15:00
Because it kind of leaves room for people to go like, I don't know, or like to not need an answer right now. And there's kind of flexibility in that, that can be really nice and, and can can find, like, unexpected things and kind of follow your whim in a way that you're not really able to when you're like, you know, really trying to make your days and write

Alex Ferrari 15:23
It because every minutes costing you 1000s of dollars.

James Morosini 15:26
Yeah, exactly. When there's when there's a little bit more room like it. It's hard to put my finger on exactly what that gives you, but definitely something of value.

Alex Ferrari 15:36
I think it's I mean, from speaking from someone who did to have these kinds of features, it's it's the wonderful world of being completely free. Yeah, yet being terrified because you literally have just a sliver of something to hold on to.

James Morosini 15:53
Right. Yeah. Yeah, no, that terror is definitely it feels ever present.

Alex Ferrari 15:59
Like, but it's a good kind of terror. It is, you know,

James Morosini 16:04
I mean, it's it's the terror of like, feeling embarrassed. Really, like you're Yeah. Cuz you're like, you just really don't want to screw the pitch. Yeah, I think they're really afraid to look stupid. I think that's like a really a driving force for everybody's like, people want to, people want to appear to others, like they really have their shit together. And and it's scary when you're at a place it not knowing because you're like, should I need to know the answer now? Or it needs to be good. And, and? Yeah, I kind of found it. Like, it was like, we were constantly going between, like, wanting there be space to play and find it. And then we would go to be like, Okay, well, we need something right now. Like, let's, you know, what's the best thing we've got? And you know, and just roll with it. Yeah, man. And then it's like, you know, you'd, you'd get what you got that day. And then you cut it down to kind of like the exactly what it needs to be and how it fits into the already existing footage. And then from that, it's it's like, you're kind of like, I guess it, I guess it's kind of like, You're, you're building a puzzle. And then you're like, Oh, we need a piece of this. And then you're going out and getting that piece but it but it's almost like starting with a partial puzzle

Alex Ferrari 17:28
Your writing with, you basically have a rough draft, and you're going out and writing the story with the camera and the actors.

James Morosini 17:35
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And then you're keeping expenses as low as possible, so that you have that luxury to do that. And there's something about, okay, we're on, we're on set, everybody's here, we have to make something, there's something about that pressure that can sometimes lead to like it like because then there's not all the steps between the moment of inspiration, when you're like, Oh, I have a great id