Jason Satterlund has been writing and directing films for about 100 years. He’s directed multiple award-winning feature films and, in 2021, he wrote and directed 28 episodes of television.
His Star Wars film, Kenobi, clocked one million views in 24 hours, and landed on Steven Soderbergh’s watch list. This resulted in a cover page article in the New York Time’s arts section.
His latest feature film, “The Abandon,” just sold to Lionsgate is will be seen in theaters across North America.
When he isn’t busting his hump on his own projects, he enjoys teaching filmmaking workshops and shaping the filmmakers of the future.
Enjoy my conversation with Jason Satterlund.
Jason Satterlund 0:00
Approach that problem optimistically your mind is 30% more active. 30% pessimism literally shuts your mind off. So that as you get angry and twisted and frustrated, it is killing your creativity.
Alex Ferrari 0:17
This episode is brought to you by the best selling book Rise of the Filmtrepreneur how to turn your independent film into a money making business. Learn more at filmbizbook.com
I'd like to welcome to the show Jason Satterlund. How you doing Jason?
Jason Satterlund 0:44
I am fantastic. Thank you.
Alex Ferrari 0:47
Thank you for coming on the show brother. I appreciate it man I've I've been a fan for from a distance for a little while man and I'm glad you reached out dude I saw could no be a while ago because I'm a Star Wars geek. If many of you before my show, I used to have a life sized Yoda that sits in the back behind me. But now Yoda sits over here right there he's right there and right off the camera and I'm never There's never too much there's always there's always a Yoda somewhere and life at one point or another so I am I am as they say a full blown full blown Star Wars geek. So when that came out anytime those kinds of really high quality fan films comes out I always interested in yours was one of the best I've ever seen but we're gonna get into we're gonna get into Kenobi in a bit but first questions dudes. Why God's green earth would you want to be in the film be a filmmaker Insane business sir.
Jason Satterlund 1:44
Same wonderful. Love it. You know what, I love this industry. I love it. I love making telling stories. I've always loved it ever since I was a kid. And I think you know, my story is probably similar to a lot of people where it's, I saw that one movie as a child, you know, and for me, it was close encounters. You know, when I saw those UFOs, you know, the police chasing UFOs down the freeway, I was so hooked. And from that moment forward, you know, when I was a kid, I wasn't allowed to watch movies. You know, I grew up in a very conservative Christian household where movies are bad and Hollywood is the lion's den. And it's don't go there, you lose your soul. My mom still says that. Anyway, I just the magic of Spielberg really captured me as a child and I would I would get to see the movie like once I couldn't go back and see it again. I would imagine it in my room I would just go in and like play the movie over and over my head and I just desperately wanted to be a part of that industry. You know, storytelling is just to see the the on an actor's face, you know, when the camera pushes in and and I just I couldn't I was a dog with a bone. I could not stop until I got there.
Alex Ferrari 2:57
Is there? Is there a filmmaker in modern history or in history of film at all? That has inspired more filmmakers and Steven Spielberg, right. I mean, I'm just I'm, I'm literally like, is there because you think back in a Kubrick IAM, of course, and Kurosawa, and then you can start, you know, you know, lien and all that stuff, but none of them were as popular. And as big as Spielberg made he is when you think directing, Spielberg is the name for our generation. Absolutely. Without question, is the name that pops up. And he's, I've no idea how many people have been on the show. It's amazing, that have been inspired, have inspired by Spielberg, and were mentioned a Spielberg movie that inspired them to become a filmmaker or had the chance to work with them. And, and tell me the stories of how, how they like these insane stories of Spielberg, you know, coming in and working with them. And I said this on the show so many times, he has touched so many filmmakers, personally, like, literally made a phone call and sent a letter who opened the door, gave an opportunity to hundreds of 1000s of filmmakers, let alone people from behind scenes as well over the course of his career. I don't think there's been a more influential filmmaker in the history of cinema. That's just my opinion.
Jason Satterlund 4:22
I think you're right. I mean, the amount of people that I know I mean, the amount of people I have met that are just inspired to do movies because of Jurassic Park. Like that was the one generation Well, I want to make
Alex Ferrari 4:35
Close Encounters Jaws et for me it was et I saw you t for the first time I was like,
Jason Satterlund 4:41
Raiders like who didn't watch raiders and when I want to make one of those like so yeah, that was 100% me as a kid and probably everyone listening is you know, has that film that pops into their brain more than likely a Spielberg film but I had a dad Get into it just now. And it was very difficult for me to get into it because I didn't know anybody but it just that. That magic that's created. I think Spielberg I think the reason why he inspires so much is because especially early Spielberg the golden age of Spielberg, you know, JAWS Ethan, he's a Raiders Last Crusade Jurassic Park. Like, there is a charm to his films that is very rare. You don't see it very often. Yeah, and it and you can create that they have the opportunity to actually build something that feels like that.
Alex Ferrari 5:37
Oh, my gosh, it's just No, it's It's, it's insane. I hope to have him on the show. One day, he is on my bucket list. He is on my bucket list. I'm putting it out into the universe. Everyone listening? Take a second right now. Put it down to get Spielberg on on the show on Alex's show, and I will ask him the questions you guys want me to ask him?
Jason Satterlund 5:59
I don't know him. But I'll make some calls.
Alex Ferrari 6:01
If anyone out there listening, you never know. Who knows? Maybe Steve is listening. I don't know. Wouldn't that be insane? Now, so look, as a director, I mean, I feel like you and I are of similar vintage. We've been we were we've we've we've walked across the same, you know, battlefields. And same, over the same. We have the shrapnel to prove it. What happens as a director when no one gives you have the opportunity to direct because unlike a writer, you can write, but a director, you need an opportunity, you need to do so many things to practice your art.
Jason Satterlund 6:39
So, yeah, that's a really well, it's a great question. And I don't know how much time we have. But I could talk about this a lot. Because it is the one job that's the hardest to get. It's far harder to get a directing job than an acting job, because there's just fewer of them. You know, when you look at you look on any filmmaking website, whether it's Mandy, or you know, where you look for jobs, rarely do you see need director needed, it's always crew. Right. And that's just sort of the nature of the beast, because the director is generally the one creating the project. And it's, you're, you're in a position where all other departments, right, so from producers, DPS, Aedes makeup, all of them get hired by directors or producers. That means and so you're working with your friends, but directors get hired by usually clients, or studios. So it's a different whole universe that you have to be connected to. So stream ly difficult to land directing jobs. And it's very, very difficult for me. And it was a real source of depression, anxiety, frustration for many, many years i i lived in. I grew up in Portland, Oregon, I lived in Nashville, I moved to Nashville when I was in my 20s to pursue filmmaking. I don't know why I didn't go to LA, probably because I don't know why. Because my mom told me it was dangerous there. So I was probably I think that's why I was too afraid. I went to Nashville and could not get. I mean, I wanted to be a director, but who was I? I didn't, I didn't know anything. I didn't know anyone. And I ended up in like doing music videos. Because Nashville's Music City, right? So I worked in music videos as a PA and all sorts of different jobs. And I ended up in corporate work. And, you know, when you're in corporate work, you're shooting like an instructional video or a live event. And I would do hours of this stuff. And still, it's not directing, right? It's not, I might maybe get a chance to do a little short. But the biggest opportunity I got is I wrote a script called searching for winter. And I met a business guy, because you know, that's what you need. You need the business guy to help you get some money to get your film made, right? So I do the I make the script, this business guy liked the script, and he said, I'll help you, like, raise the money. So he gave me a little bit of money. And we shot a little trailer for it. And so excited in the trailer. I mean, it came out pretty well, you know, considering it's however long ago it was. And nobody wanted to touch it. Everybody looked at it and like Yeah, that's cool. Like, but you've never made a movie before. So how am I supposed to know that you can actually make a movie. And that was really devastating because I could show them all the car commercials I've done and music videos like look at this. Isn't this cool? Yeah, but it's not a movie. So that was really disheartening for me. And I kicked around for a long, long time. And finally I realized one day well, okay, if no one's gonna give me the opportunity, I have to make it. So I sat down and wrote up. I wrote a script around the assets that I had access to things that I knew I could do, like I knew how to shoot underwater. And I knew, you know, I noticed dunk guy. And you know, I knew I had some friends in the industry. So I wrote a script kind of using some of those assets. I set out to raise $40,000 I raised 12. That's how much I suck at raising money. So I
Alex Ferrari 10:15
I'm gonna stop you there, right there. So you raise $12,000 For a movie. That's a frickin win my friend. Just because you went for 40 You only got 12 you get over 25% of your budget as a filmmaker. Come on, dude.
Jason Satterlund 10:33
Yeah, it was. It's funny, because this film. It's probably the most proudest accomplishments I've ever done in my life. Because I had no help. Really, the actors didn't really want to be in it. The DP was a really close friend of mine. I kid you not his first comment when I said, I'm just going to make a movie. I just want to make one his first comment to me. He was like my best friend. He's like, I just don't want to make any more crappy movies. Like, Oh, thanks. Wow, thanks. I appreciate that. So I repeated myself. So I had three film interns to two full sail graduates and one guy who just yet full sail. And one guy who just wanted to be in the movie business. They were basically my crew. I had this stunt guy friend of mine and his wife. And that was it. And I shot for six straight weeks over Christmas and shot this thing. We had two underwater sequences, we did mob scenes, we car chases, and all kinds of crazy stuff. And I actually put myself in the hospital from exhaustion. I, I ended up passing out at one point and from I think a panic attacks, probably what it was, oh, yeah, yeah, I've had those. Oh, yeah. Yeah, it. But I did it. I got it across the line. And it was, it really changed a lot for me, essentially, I mean, going back to your initial question, how do you get hired, I just had to invent defend myself, I just had to go out and make it happen. And I did. Now the film never went anywhere, but I at least was able to plant that flag. And I do think that doing the first one helped kind of unlock the dam for future things. Because now I'm a feature film director, I can say that, and no one can take that from me. You might watch the film and say it sucks. Because you can't take the fact that I made a movie. And that's it was a real source of pride.
Alex Ferrari 12:29
I'll tell you what, man, it's exactly what happened to me. I took it took me years before I had the the, I guess the the courage to actually go make a film, I had the skill set probably 20 years prior 15 years prior. But it took me a while before I jumped on that board in this second I did it. I it just opened up the dough, like okay, um, I proved it to myself, I proved that to myself that I could tell a story that looked decent, a shot at myself shot and then eight days, you know, it was a small little film. But we sold it to Hulu. Nice. You sold it internationally and had a really great cast. And it was done in LA and we you know, pulled a bunch of friends together, we made it happen. But you had to kind of go out there and just do it. And I think it's also the idea. And I've said this on the show many times about the the this lottery ticket mentality that we have as filmmakers going like, if it's going to be our first feature has to be Reservoir Dogs, or it has to be JAWS or it has to be, you know, you know, whatever Memento or whatever that film is, that's going to blow us up as a director. And that's generally not, that doesn't happen for most directors.
Jason Satterlund 13:35
Well, there's a reason for that. I think that every filmmaking book that you read, I mean, we've all read Rebel Without a crew and and Kevin Smith's book. I forget the title offhand. But like all those, you know, when they talk about the story of their life, we are kind of sold the dream that we will be cherry picked from obscurity and placed on high into the upper echelon of work and most books are written kind of from that framework. Most How To books about moviemaking are built like that, like you're gonna make, I saw an interview with the Duplass brothers. And I basically laid out just like, you make your first movie, it's gonna get into Sundance or some big festival. From there, you're gonna get a bigger actor interested in your film. From there, you're gonna get the bigger film. Yeah, but what if your first film doesn't get into Sundance? What if it doesn't? What if the only festival it gets into is the Cedar Rapids Film Festival in Iowa? And then that's it, like, how do you then function so this we're all hanging on to the dream that we are that special person that will get cherry picked? And it's not impossible. It still happens like it does happen, which is part of the allure. But that but 90% of us that doesn't happen to it's 99.9% of us.
Alex Ferrari 14:55
It doesn't happen. It's the lights I call it a lottery ticket mentality. Do people win the lottery every day? In Absolutely, the bulk of the people who play the lottery don't win. And that is the mentality that were stuck with. I agree with you 110%. And by the way that do plus example, they shot a movie for $3, which was DV tape called forgot something. What about an answering machine? Dude, that guy was destined. Those guys were destined that just like you look at those stories, and I've studied all of them. And I've had some of those filmmakers on the show. And ask them the questions I got it just kind of worked out. Like they had no indication that a movie about a guy leaving a message on an answering machine for an ex girlfriend shot horribly, to their to their own, they've set it to shut horribly, got into Sundance, and then that kind of led into right, all these other dominoes falling. But you can't live your life like that. You just got to do it.
Jason Satterlund 15:52
We're all we're all we've all been told this. We're all believe this. And I want to make sure that it doesn't come off that I'm trashing the people that this happens to because oh for that, because that's great, like Kevin Smith, if his film had not been seen by Weinstein, like, we wouldn't know who he is today, like, a good for him. I mean, he does these people that make it and and succeed and continue succeeding, they do the work, they've honed their skills, these are talented people. But you know, the majority of the people working that didn't happen to that that Cinderella story. I think it's important to just understand that because I think especially those who don't live in Hollywood, don't live in LA. They're living in Toledo or something, and they're hanging on to that dream that that will happen to them from there. It does happen. I mean, the guy from the guy that directed Shazam, I forget the director's name.
Alex Ferrari 16:47
But David Sandberg I had him on the show. Yeah, his short films
Jason Satterlund 16:52
Exactly the same. He was in Sweden, boom, picked from on high
Alex Ferrari 16:56
Literally told me the whole story. It was fascinating to hear this story. And he's like, yeah, and then I was flown over. And I, we were in LA, and me and my girlfriend didn't know, we didn't know what to do. And, and they were putting us they put us up in a house, it's the lottery. It's literally a lottery ticket, you could be
Jason Satterlund 17:14
And that's what we are hoping for. That's what we all dream that will happen to us. But I do think there is a it's really important to get grounded and understand that it might be a little bit longer of a slog, just a bit. And I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I think myself, I'm kind of glad that my first film didn't blow up like that. Because, you know, I didn't know a whole lot back then. Man, I would have been like 25, if that film had blown up, and the amount of times I would have shot myself in the foot just because I'm so young and immature, and didn't know how to deal with people. Because film directing is very much about managing a large group of people and worrying for the biggest client you can imagine. So there is a maturity. That's, I think, very important with that.
Alex Ferrari 18:10
Yeah, I mean, there's no question about it, man, no question about it. Now, you you've, you've gone down, I was looking at your filmography, and you've done a tremendous amount of shorts, you've really kind of dug into shorts a bit. What is the value of making short films? I mean, obviously, other than the lottery ticket idea, which I did that multiple times in my career, but you've really went all in, and we'll talk about the fan films in a minute that you did that short, specifically, what was your value in that you think?
Jason Satterlund 18:40
Well, it's it's interesting, because there's, it's kind of a two prong thing that happened to me personally. For one thing, shorts are not going to make you money. For the most part, I mean, yes, sometimes they'll get bought and put as a package to something but generally that you're not going to get make money from that. You might get noticed from that. That's sort of what we hope. But really shorts as what it boils down to is practice. It's just let me put shoot something and put it out there and see how an audience reacts to it. It's and it's, I think it's vital for everyone to do. I had a really interesting journey, though, because I was doing shorts just like we all do. And it took a lot of work and a lot of effort. But I reached a point in my career, where I had done one movie I was doing, like I said, a lot of corporate work, live corporate work, and I was I found myself being exceedingly depressed and anxious and I was F realized I was very angry a lot. Where I would be I was literally the guy in the platform in the middle of the audience, shooting a speaker walking left and walking right across the stage. And oftentimes, you know, it's a TN T 's annual convention and he's giving the report of Have the annual sales blood riveting riveting stuff revenue. Yeah, eight o'clock in the morning, you're in a suit and tie and you're doing and I'm up there so angry. I'm like, almost in tears like just, this is not where I thought I'd be at 29 or 30, or whatever. I don't even remember what age
Alex Ferrari 20:18
But like you just use but you but you did use the Spielberg analogy, right? Like Spielberg made Jaws at 27.
Jason Satterlund 20:22
That's right. And that we have all these stories that we're continually comparing ourselves to, like, if I'm not doing what Spielberg did at x age than I am a failure as a person I like and wait, that, and I was exactly trapped in that spiral. And it is a terrible spiral to get caught in. And most people I know, struggle with this. And I found myself very bitter, very angry. And just just this twisted up person, and I don't want to be that guy. I don't want to be because no one wants to be around that person. That is not a source of creativity. There's a there's a book I would highly recommend people read called The Happiness Advantage. It's the study of joy. Yeah, so this is study of joy. And in that book, they talk about where if you encounter a problem, let's just say that, let's say you got an edit. And the edit is an actor that wasn't very good. And you have to try to make this work with a bad performance. And if you approach that job with man, I can't believe I have to work with this crappy actor and I can't believe that this is my job and poo poo poo wag this bad pessimistic view versus All right. What do you got for me today after I'm gonna make you look like a frickin rock star? You know, really an optimistic approach to it the problem still the same, but you're approaching it from an optimistic versus a pessimistic mindset. They have done studies where they will attach electrodes to the brain and if you approach that problem, optimistically, your mind is 30% more active 30% pessimism literally shuts your mind off. So that as you get angry and twisted and frustrated, it is killing your creativity. It is these are this is scientifically proven. And I'm finding myself in that same position. And one day I was watching the movie Jurassic Park. And you remember in Jurassic, this is so funny to me, because Jurassic Park, how old is this movie? 30 years?
Alex Ferrari 22:30
93 93 Yeah.
Jason Satterlund 22:32
Okay, so do you remember the scene in Jurassic Park where all the characters are sitting in the little ride? Right in the little, they're getting introduced to the park and they're all inside that theater, and had a little cartoon comes up. This is dyno DNA. Yeah, this movie is 30 years old. And everyone remembers the same, which I'm gonna come back to in a second. And the little cartoon says, This is how you make dinosaurs. Sometimes the mosquito gets stuck in the staff that the staff turns to Amber, we extracted that data and suddenly you have done Oh, DNA, right? That whole scene. That scene is a corporate instructional video, which is exactly the kind of videos I was creating. Do you think when Spielberg went to make that part in his movie, that he pissed and moaned and wind that he has to make a corporate video? Or did he go oh, man, how can I make this thing really cool? How can I make this thing like memorable and fun, and it's the scene in a 30 year old movie that everyone remembers. It is the it is absolutely vital to understand how that movie works. It's the informational piece. Anytime you have a sci fi piece, a time travel movie, there's always a scene where you have to describe the way the mechanics work. That's a corporate video. So here I was. And I suddenly had to select the Epiphany, like, wow, what if I approached my work that I'm getting hired to do in the same exact way? What if I just pretended that this video about how to make car seats? And I just thought about it, like, maybe this is part of a bigger movie, that this is just one little piece of it? It didn't really change much in the way that I shot it necessarily. But well, actually, no, I take that back. It did. I started thinking about how can I make this look more cinematic? How can I move the camera in a way that I would do for my movie? How can I craft the script, so it really pulls the audience in and makes them engaged? I'm telling you, man, everything changed for me in that moment. Everything changed. So I was doing shorts. I had made a movie and then all of a sudden the clients started looking at the little videos I was making and went you know, this feels different than the other videos I'm seeing. Can we hire you to do a short and I have made quite a career out of making shorts for corporations. I just finished one about a month ago. We shot a 20 minute long, epic Roman soldier story about a plague that hit Rome in about 200 ad. And it was essentially the story was about the first hospital that was born, and how it was made. And it was freaking amazing. Like we had a big budget, great actors, we had a full, you know, full on set, we shot in Texas. And we had this really cool middle eastern style we can set and it was so much fun, so much fun. And
Alex Ferrari 25:35
Yeah, so if I can, if I can unpack a little bit of what you're saying here, because I think it's something really valuable for everyone listening, your perspective and your attitude change. definitely change the course of your career. Because if it was, and how many of us know the angry and bitter filmmaker, how many of us know that. And I always tell people anytime I do, anytime I talk in front of people I go, how many people here know an angry and bitter filmmaker and a bunch of people hands right up, if you didn't raise your hand up. You are the angry and bitter filmmaker that everybody else knows. So if you change your perspective on how you approach things, that comes through in the work, and that's exactly what happened to you. And we can't get stuck in this idea that we're all going to be a Spielberg or Fincher or Nolan or Tarantino or Kubrick you, you can't get that stuck. If you stuck. That way, you'll never be able to move. If you wake up every morning going, I need to be as good as Steven Spielberg. You're never going to pick up a camera. Because you're talking about a master, you've got to be the best version of yourself. And I think that's what you did. And then you carved out this beautiful little niche for yourself.
Jason Satterlund 26:49
Yeah, it's been it's been amazing. And you know, when I'm on set doing that stuff? Is it a big Academy Award winning film? No. Am I having the time of my life? Yes, that's, and that's not saying that none of that other stuff ever will happen. I believe that it still will. It's not that you have to let go of your dream. Because here's the big thing that will happen. And I think this is so important. My my flag that I will waive here is that our number one goal, as artists, the number one thing that you have to fight to protect is your mental state, your the way you think about your approach to art, because it your your anxiety that comes up, because we live in a business that is undulating, it's constantly moving, it's you get really busy for a season, and then it crashes to a halt. Sometimes it's the nature of what we do. And I don't care if you've been working for two years straight or two months straight, the minute that work stops, the anxiety begins. And it's usually the same kind of questions. Crap, I hope I work again, you know, I hope I booked another job and that desperate. Think about it like dating, like if you are sitting there going, Gosh, I really wish I was married. I really, really want a wife. I just wish someone would love me go on a date and see how far that gets you that desperate, anxious energy, your partner I mean, imagine being on a date with that person, you're like,
Alex Ferrari 28:12
Oh, Rome, the aromas in the air. It's like yes, like bad your car.
Jason Satterlund 28:18
That's the energy that you're projecting if you don't really carefully watch the mental state that you're in. And another thing a second piece of this is, once I started, you know, the car seat analogy that I used before making a car, this is how you install a car seat into a Mercedes. Well, if you approach that, like, Alright, I'm going to be imagine this as part of my movie. Suddenly, a really interesting thing happens and it happened to me, I start having fun, I start it brings this level of joy to the work. And I think that's a vital because if we don't allow that to happen, and I don't care if you're shooting a wedding video, or a corporate interview with a CEO, if you don't find a way to bring that joy to your work, all you're doing is postponing your joy to somewhere down the line. You're going to sit there and go, I am not going to allow myself to be happy until I get whatever it is that you defined that Universal Studios movie or the Marvel film. I'm going to sit here and be miserable until I get there. All you're doing is setting yourself up for complete disappointment and frustration and you're going to be you're going to become that twisted person that you don't want to be. I think it's so important to think about this.
Alex Ferrari 29:35
Do you know the story of how James James Cameron got his first shot as a director? I do not. So he was working for Roger Corman as a props guy. And he was doing a really bad Roger Corman film back then. And he was like just shooting I think second unit. They gave him like a shot. A shot of maggots. like coming out of some sort of meat. That was it was an insert shot, which is the equivalent of a car seat. It's the equivalent of the car seat analogy that you gave. But Jim was so excited about doing that shot had such great energy that he was trying to make this be the best maggots coming out of meat shot in movie history. This is the way he was looking at it. So what did he do? He was doing something that Roger Corman was walking behind, and he just saw this kid. And then he would turn the camera on and he would give he would he was doing something that made the magnets dance. Ah. Oh, yeah. Electric. Yeah. Great. So so he turns the camera off, and then they stop. And Roger Corman is like if this kid could direct magnets, I'm gonna give him a movie. And he what he was doing was he's sending electrical shots through the sheath through the the meat. So they would just does it and then we just go down. So that was what he was doing. And then he got Parana to the spawning the greatest flying Parana film ever made.
But that was, but look at the look at that example. And look at the career that James can imagine if he would have just said, Man, I gotta shoot. Yeah, I guess I don't want to do that. I want to be making a movie I don't want to be. But I don't want to be doing that. Yeah, who wants to be doing that shot? But he did me super excited about it.
Jason Satterlund 31:30
It's, well think about if you were in charge, looking for a director. And if there was someone who was saying your words, would you hire you? Would you want that energy on your set? I you know, if I'm, if I'm watching the guy doing that same shot, and I see him smiling, and he's just having fun with it. You know, hey, that's the kind of energy that that's that's an optimistic kind of approach. I think there's also this weird it's sort of this unspoken law in film, where there's legitimate and illegitimate kind of work. And I think a lot of us look at every single book written is written towards the upper echelon of Hollywood where we that's where we want to work, we want to work way up here and everything between point A and point B is somehow illegitimate. It's look down your nose at the whatever you call it, you know, the wedding video or instructional videos somehow that's just not. Right,
Alex Ferrari 32:28
Right. And I'll tell you what I had. I had a director on the show years ago. And he has directed over 100 features around features he's made. And he's done a lot of Hallmark and Lifetime movies. He does three to four movies a year. He's been doing it for 30 years, like he's just pounding it, pounding it 345 movies a year. And I was talking, we had a serious conversation. I go, You know what, if anyone has a problem with the kind of filmmaking you're doing, tell them to go screw off, dude. Because you're living the life you're being paid to direct. You have a good life. You live in Los Angeles, you get to fly out to exotic locations and gets directly make the movies you're making. Who gives a crap or what anyone else says? Because a lot of people were like, Oh, he just makes Lifetime movies. Screw off. He's living his dream. If he's happy, what the hell? So like, I would guarantee like most people listening would kill for a career like that, you know? Because we all want to do Jurassic Park man, who does it? You know, I mean, Fincher wants to be Kubrick. Nolan wants to be Kubrick. Spielberg wanted to be Kurosawa. Lucas wanted to be Kurosawa. Coppola wanted to be cooler, or Sawa. Like everybody wants to be something they're not until they figure out oh, I'm going to be the best version of me. And that's greatness happens.
Jason Satterlund 33:44
Yeah, it doesn't mean you let go of any that dream. All it means is, I'm just going to enjoy this what I've got right now. And, you know, are you in your little corporate? Let's say you're doing a corporate training film? Are you not working with a camera? Well, yes, I am. Are you not working with an actor? Actually, we cast for this and there's a subject in front of me doing the thing? Are you not working with a makeup artist or a DP? Like, you're all the elements? It's the same mechanics are there what you're getting to do is someone's paying you to practice your craft you're getting, and now you're not gonna like, if it doesn't work, who cares? It's just an instructional video about how to install a car seat. Big deal if
Alex Ferrari 34:23
You're but if you're directing Tom Cruise, and it doesn't work, you're done. Right! Exactly.
Jason Satterlund 34:28
You get to work out all these kinks along the way, before you actually get there and that there's a real joy in that a real freedom in that and it's,
Alex Ferrari 34:37
I agree with you 100%. Brother. Now there's, there's a, you know, one of the big things that you've did was you've done a couple of two or three fan films that have been very well received. The first question when you reached out to me was like, I have to ask him this. I have to ask because I've been dying to find out because there's fan films that get made all the time. You know, and fan you know, there's like Star Wars fan films and Ghostbuster fan films and so many different types of anthems. And sometimes, you know, the copyright holders are not as friendly, let's say as Lucas Films is now from what I understand Lucas Films has been, has a very open, loving relationship with the fans and fan films and encourages them. But with that said that was before the mouse bottom. And secondly, how do you dance the line between copyright and fandom? Yeah, just something that so many filmmakers out there would maybe want to make a Star Wars project because I've been involved with with with shorts and the post world that the copyright holder said stop it. or We're suing. Yeah. So how did you dance that line? And did you and by the way, did the mouse did the mouse call?
Jason Satterlund 35:46
No, they did not. So there are certain IPs that exist, you're exactly right. There's certain IPs that exists where they are very cool. With people making fan films, the biggest rule is you just can't make money on it. If you start trying to charge for views or something. That's where you'll get in trouble. Star Wars is one of those. In fact, they even have a contest. For the best fan film, I don't know if they still do it. But back when, when for The Force Awakens came out there was a big fan film contest that I think JJ Abrams even was like, hey, send us Your great fan film. They even had music on their website that you could download and use in your film and stuff like that. So they're very encouraging to filmmakers. And that all came from George Lucas. Video games are the same. They're usually very open welcoming to IP. But there are other IPs that are not you should do your research if you're going to do and I think one of those is Doctor Who I don't think that they take too kindly to other people making fan films about Doctor Who I think Harry Potter, they're open to it, you just kind of have to, it's a weird thing.
Alex Ferrari 36:55
BC kind of comes and goes depending on what they want to do. And a very famous idea, the very famous case was Star Trek when they that would have been very, very cool for most of, of its life of the IP it had been very cool for with with fan films, but then the but then they they went too far. They raised like $1.5 million for a fan film. And it was going to be this feature length fan film and it was like one and then that's when Paramount's like okay? Yeah. And they're now there's rules. So they actually had to lay out like a rule set for film people like you can't make it this much money. They're not because it got too big. It got too big the fandom got too big. Because now you have no control over the IP. It's one thing to do a 20 30,000 Maybe even 50 $100,000 you no fan film, but when you're making a $1.5 million fan film, the danger of things going awry becomes exponentially more.
Jason Satterlund 37:50
Yeah, you just you just have to be careful. And before you shoot anything, you should probably make sure before you go through all this effort that you don't end up with a million dollar home movie. Like you want to make sure people actually there's good, go ahead. Go ahead.
Alex Ferrari 38:06
No, there was a there was a filmmaker I had on the show who made a infamous Punisher Oh, really an infamous Punisher fan film. That was like, handed around the comic cons and people were like, but it was so violent. It was I think it was Punisher Wolverine, I think or something. It was like really a badass Punisher, Punisher led fan film, but then Marvel called them. And I think that and then said, That's No. And he had to pull it off. And I asked him like, is it exist? It's like, no, no, I've burned all the copies. Yeah. If you're not if you're not watching the interview, my eyes did a little shifty thing. But I'm like, you know, can I see it? And he's like, I doesn't exist, Alex. So you got to be careful with fantasize always fascinated with fan films. Now you did a fan film. Your first Star Wars fan film without mistake is the force in the fury, which I'm going to put links to all these on in the show notes of the show. And I tell everybody, if you're interested, watch it. It is fascinating to see a well produced fan film of Star Wars. Because there's so many bad ones. There's just so many. Yeah, there's really a lot of bad ones. But this was so beautiful, because you did something that was really interesting. And that's short that you use the environment, which was low cost was like a forest. But it looks so beautiful. And the production value looks so big. It was basically just two people fighting the historic battle inside of of the forest, but the quality of the imagery and the color grading and everything was so solid. So it was so beautiful. How was that film received? Because I was the first big Star Wars fan for me.
Jason Satterlund 39:53
Yeah, well, I did. So I've done three fan films. The first one I ever do is for Splinter Cell Games. So it's called playstyle extraction. So this was my second attempt at doing a fan film. And yeah, it, it did quite well, people really liked it.
Alex Ferrari 40:09
And it didn't do anything for you like on a career standpoint,
Jason Satterlund 40:13
I will say that what it did was grease the wheels. So it didn't necessarily get me in a room, but it got the door open at least. And here's the reason why you do a fan film. I mean, yes, it's fun to play with lightsabers. Of course. That goes without saying, sir. Yes, it's really fun to play in these universes. But the real reason is, you know, if you think about it, you make a short hay, and you get it done. And you're telling your people about it, like, oh, I made the short film. So it's about a guy who doesn't know who he is. But he realizes he's got wings. And he starts to think maybe he's an angel or whatever, you know, I'm just spitballing. But like, and the people listening are like, uh, huh, yeah, cool. Cool. What's the name of it? Oh, it's called a job well done, or whatever. And, and then the next question is always, how long is it? So basically, my point is, you have to talk people into watching, you're short. You're trying to sell it all the time, right? Yeah, your mom's gonna see it. And of course, she's gonna love it. And your all your friends will watch it, you know, I'd be a little premiere. But then beyond that, you're going to have to try to talk everyone else into watching it. Unless it's just so phenomenal. It catches fire and spreads the world. Great, good for you. Or you go. So I made a Star Wars film. Generally the reaction is really, what's it called? On until we're gonna check this out. My cousin loves Star Wars. My mom, let's start we're gonna do the check. That's the difference. The most views I ever got on any short that I ever did was like 20,000 views, 30,000 views. I haven't looked lately to see what force and fury is up to. But it's in the hundreds of 1000s
Alex Ferrari 41:51
I believe 453,000
Jason Satterlund 41:55
And I, I've barely promoted it, like, boom, it's just like everywhere. Kenobi when we did Kenobi that hit a million views in 24 hours. And that's why you do those like because your work and the whole name of the game is to get your work seen, right? You want people to say, oh, this person knows what they're doing. You do a fan film it just more eyeballs watching what you're doing.
Alex Ferrari 42:18
I mean, one of the most famous fan film stories of all time is the Mortal Kombat one, which was done by John. He did the movie Fame, which, okay, I had a miserable death at the box office. And he was pretty much going to be thrown into director jail. I forgot his name is John something I forgot his last name. But he was already he's like, I'm done. I'm done. It's over. I no one's gonna hire me. So he's like, You know what, I'm gonna make a mortal kombat fan film. And he made a such a good Mortal Kombat fan film, that the rights holders hired him to do a web series of it. And then that turned into the feature version of it. And now they're making the sequel of the feature. all started with a fan film. Now he wasn't established director. So he wasn't an unknown quantity. But he took a shot because he had no other choice. He's like, I'm done. He made fame. And I mean, it died. It was like, it's almost as bad as almost as bad as gem in the holograms. When I showed up, it just died. It was dead on arrival. So he that's how he made it and that and then he just dumped it. He just dumped it into the, into the internet. And people lost their mind because it was really cool. It was like basically a violent, cool version of Mortal Kombat with backstory and story arcs. And he went all in. So that's a really famous version of it's I think, that's another thing that filmmakers have a dream of, is when they make they make a Star Wars fan film. And they all want Catherine Kennedy to call them up or John. John favorite to call them up and go, Look, man, I saw your fan film, I'd love you to do an episode of demand DeLorean? We all that's the now the new dream of doing a fan film. Yeah, that hasn't happened to my understanding yet.
Jason Satterlund 44:05
Well, I know that people have seen it. I know it made the rounds at Disney. I know that we actually ended up on Steven Soderbergh put out a list of films that he watched. Whatever year we put that out, I don't remember off top my head, but it was on his list. It actually got me on the cover of The New York Times, which is pretty great. So like, it did get a lot of mileage. Yeah. And you know, that's not to say that the life is over. Like it may come up, but it's all but it has helped get me in the room.
Alex Ferrari 44:36
Because there was a guy who made this car this beautiful short, this is back in the day. 2008 2005 2006 He made Batman versus the predator versus alien. Oh, yeah, that one. I forgot. I forgot his name. He he is so talented, but yet never could get farther than where he went with those things was interesting to me. I always always found that interesting because it was like he's obviously super talented. And he did. He did a few of those. But there was also the timing, I guess it was the timing of it all and things like that. But it didn't go any farther than that. So I'm glad to hear that these films have done good for you. And Oh, for sure. But look, Kenobi Kenobi has done 18 million views. I mean, 87 77 million, sorry. 87 million views. 80. Millions was the trailer for the Kenobi show. I just thought they were next to each other. But you had over 7 million views? For a short that, you know,
Jason Satterlund 45:42
Yeah. And it's been great. Because I know there have been situations where I want to meet somebody, you know, that I would like to connect to. This is Jason, he's done this, that and the other. He deleted and use a lot of times they've seen it. Like, holy crap, you did that? Oh, what what was your name? Jason. So it's, it hasn't necessarily like, I haven't gotten a call from on high. But it has like, opened the door helped grease those wheels. So I would say it was absolutely worth doing. And even if nothing ever happened from it, the people I met on it and the connections I was made through that was really good. Jamie Costa being one of them, who is you know, he's become a close friend. And he's, you know, very successful actor and things like that. So, you know, that's another reason why you do these things, is to like, you know, you're just trying to make as many friends as you can.
Alex Ferrari 46:36
Yeah, and I think that's one of the things one of the reasons I want to jump in and show is to kind of demystify the fan film. And also demystify what you should expect out of a fan film, if you're gonna go down that road. And I love your approach to it, because it's a very practical approach. Hey, man, I get to go play with lightsabers and skirmish repairs, and have a good time and playing. And you came out with Kenobi before they came out with this. So that was, that was pretty awesome. You know,
Jason Satterlund 47:04
We were on set filming when they announced when they announced that they were going to do it.
Alex Ferrari 47:09
That's so cool. Oh,
Jason Satterlund 47:11
We gotta hurry up finish filming.
Alex Ferrari 47:15
Yeah, cuz then I wouldn't be like it would be the same. You better hurry up and get it out there fast.
Jason Satterlund 47:20
Obviously Yeah, if you're gonna do it. First of all, like I said, it's exactly that comparison of like, if you're gonna make a short a fan film was a really good option. A lot of people will watch it if they're fans it same thing with Splinter Cell like people just really like Splinter Cell, they're gonna watch it. I just met somebody recently who said, Dude, I used to work at Ubisoft when Splinter Cell came out, we all loved that film, we were hoping you'd put another one out, you know, it will get eyeballs, they will help you a lot. But but if you're going to, let's say you're gonna make a Star Wars film, make sure that you do it with love and do it with quality, like make sure that you're filling a gap that the audience needs. Don't have Jedi as be for example, I don't want to make a Jedi be an assassin. Because that's just an understanding. You don't understand what the Jedi are. They are not attackers. They are defenders. They are you know, they're monastic. You know, people, they're more about peace. So understand the lore. Because you'll get crucified the audience. Oh my god, could you imagine what people see that stuff is sacred, you know, their precious Star Wars. So like, come at it with that and make sure you know, if you don't understand the lore, get someone who does to help you with the script so that you can really embed it. And it can be a beautiful thing. Beautiful thing if you do it
Alex Ferrari 48:43
Right. Now, I'm going to give you I'm going to ask you a question a little geek fandom. trivia question. What was the first Star Wars fan film?
Jason Satterlund 48:54
Was it troops? Yeah, it was a truth.
Alex Ferrari 49:02
If you can find an SD version of it somewhere on the internet troops was the first time anyone to my understanding or knowledge, took the Star Wars universe and made a fan film from it. And it was basically it was following Storm Troopers on the kind of like cops follows cops. Yeah. As it was. And it was like all about and it was it was a domestic disturbance at Yeah, uncle, Uncle Ben's. And there was late and then there was so funny and hilarious. And that thing. That was what early godmen that must have been a long one. 2002
Jason Satterlund 49:42
I think before that, I think it was like the late 90s
Alex Ferrari 49:45
No, no, it was late 90s. It was the internet. So the internet hadn't really kicked into the good points. So it was probably late 90s And I remember seeing like a thumb like a postage stamp version of it on. Wasn't even quick time I think was flash. Oh Um, you know, playing on the internet and everyone was just like, oh my god, I was like, oh so funny. But that is for everyone. If you curious to see an amazing fanfic those lightsabers no lights it because it couldn't do the visual effects back then. So they just had a bunch of Stormtroopers out there. And it was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. So when you were making Kenobi man, because it was so well put together, and beautifully shot and I mean, there was there's some complexity to the action sequences and things like that. I gotta ask, there's always that day on set, and I asked a lot of us, there's always that day on set generally is almost every day. But there's one specific day that everything's gone wrong. Worlds coming down crashing around you, and you're making a fan film with no expectations to ever make $1 from it. So now, it's just like, This is pure love, and things aren't going right. What was the worst day of that? Well, and how did you get through it
Jason Satterlund 50:58
Every day was pretty much a disaster on Kenobi. And I know this isn't against any people, like, people were great. We're in the desert. So in a positive side, like Jamie and I worked tirelessly on the script, to like really make sure that we understood who Konami was and we understood this whole planet and where he was in his spiritual journey as a most all that stuff. So when we got to sit there was very little conversation needed because we'd already gone through he was dialed into that character data that it up, but so we shot in two separate locations. One was in Odessa caves, I think it's called Odessa caves. And that went okay, except it was a night shoot and then complicated. And then we went to a place called trona pinnacles which is kind of Near Death Valley. And so we're shooting out there in the middle of the desert with stormtroopers and those helmets, they can't see anything below. Like if you were to take your fingers and put them below your eyes. You can't see your feet. That's what it's like to wear those helmets. They also can't sit down because of the way the armors sits on the body. So they just to like walk around. It's really cumbersome for those guys. Day one, we had wind gusts up to 3040 miles an hour. You we had our props truck got into a car accident on the way to set so we had no landspeeder we didn't have the moisture evaporator. We didn't have anything. We had no set. We had the actors, we had to costume so I was trying to direct the I was basically I had to start backwards to start with insert shots of like, I have no set to shoot on and I've got the winds were blowing so high that I could barely record dialogue. So I had to shoot all these extra pieces. It was the biggest jigsaw puzzle it was so hard. So like the there's a shot where all the stormtroopers come up over this hill and and James Arnold Taylor, sidenote, who is the voice of Obi Wan Kenobi and all the cartoons, comes up on over the hill and he says, oh, and baru greetings on behalf on behalf of the Empire. That scene. It was I have a behind the scenes on my phone. It was. I mean, the wind was just blowing, blowing and blowing. And the stormtroopers kept tripping over rocks and boulders and stuff because they could not see and they're trying to stay in formation. Oh my gosh, you must have shot that 15 times. Try to get that right. The second day. The wind died down and we had a set but then we had a child there. And Audi who played our little Luke preciouses, cutest little kid was just young enough to where he didn't quite understand. They were on it. We were making a movie. So to him, it's sort of like, playtime, pretend and you're having you surround him with these scary Stormtrooper outfits in the hot sweaty desert. He would cry and like we would do a couple takes you'd like it. And it was really challenging. And what kept happening was is we ended up causing, like, I just shoot a whole bunch with him and kept pushing our dialogue.
Alex Ferrari 54:18
You're stressing out as you're
Jason Satterlund 54:22
Oh, man, it was so hard. It kept pushing our dialogue scenes back because all these things that end up happening. So our dialogue, you're getting push, push, push, push, push until the fight sequence came up, and we had no time. So we literally so in the end of that film, he basically fights all the stormtroopers blinded. That's two takes. When we went to shoot that scene, the Sun we were in this bowl, the sun had already disappeared behind the bowl. So there was no sun. We had to run out. And we had to run out to this big open area we and the sun is sitting on the hill. right isn't sitting right there. And I'm like, we're gonna do a wide shot and a close up shot. And then we had the Steadicam operator just run around in a big circle. And there's a behind the scenes shot of, of the sound guy and everyone running as fast as they can like the arms of a clock around this whole lightsaber thing. People are dying to get out of the shot. And that was our entire battle. We shot in two separate takes, and it was like, and then boom, the sun goes below the horizon where you're just, we all just collapsed in a big heap. And we barely had enough to put the fights team barely had enough to put it together, but Well, we got it. Yes. Hair of our chinny chin chin.
Alex Ferrari 55:43
I love these. I love these stories, because you know, filmmakers who have not been able to make the first movie yet or even the first short. This is the reality of what directing is. Oh, yeah. It's all its compromised and problem solving. It's all compromise and problem solving. And by the way, it for everyone listening, it can happen at the level of making a fan film. And it can happen at the level of making a real Star Wars giant, big bunch of Star Wars movie. I've heard the stories they've been people. People go crazy. I had a director on the other day, who made you know, $200 million movie and they're like, Yeah, we were we were with the sun was going down. We had we only had that day with that stat action sequence. So we just shot the damn thing and a wide. And and we have two other cameras, and oh, no, that's that action sequence had seven cameras. When the moment came for the shot, only one two worked. While everything else was done,
Jason Satterlund 56:41
Yeah, that happens. It doesn't matter what the project is. It could be anything. But this is what you plan. This is the importance of planning of meticulous you no further than you even want to go. When I did my first film, the $12,000. One I couldn't throw money at my problems. So I had I went and measured every single location and put it on grid paper and how big each room was. And I could measure like Will it dolly track even fit in this hallway, or is it going to be a moot point so that I could really so when I got to the location, I knew exactly what I was gonna do, because problems, they just will happen. On my last feature the abandoned. We had to do a wartime sequence that opens with these two soldiers caught in a firefight. Well, first of all, we're shooting it's supposed to be at a rack. And we were shooting in Spokane, Washington surrounded by snow. So we had all this snow that we were trying to frame out, we had about four lights and a couple of flame bars and we're setting the scene up and the DP gets a migraine. And it's so bad that he can't stand up straight. And so our entire production grinds to a halt because he is just in agony and can barely hold his head up. By the time we got that fixed, we only had like two hours to get the whole thing. So the only way it worked was because he and I had very meticulously everything was storyboarded, we knew exactly what shots to get and what we needed to pull off of the action scene, the only way you'll get it done. And that's that holds true for every single project that you do. Plan more than you'll ever think you'll need to.
Alex Ferrari 58:23
Now, one last question I have in regards to the fan film brother, the VFX. Man, how did you get those done on a budget and make them look good on all of your all of your fan films because that's something that that's that's always the sticking point. And then if I may, if I may tell you just one little Star Wars fan film story, of course of one I was going to I wasn't going to do it. I was brought in as a VFX supervisor in 2006, I think I think six or seven I was called in because I had done a lot of visual effects on my my first short film that went did viral and did a whole bunch of good stuff for me. And, and this guy came in and he was absolutely mad. Like, he was so mad. In his mind. He was delusional. He was crazy. And he thought that he truly thought that George Lucas was going to come and give him a job. Like, it wasn't even. It wasn't even a thought in his mind that that wasn't going to happen. So they shows me this, like this thing that he's so proud of. And I'm looking at it and I'm like, It's okay, it's okay. It's fine. But then it's like I need you to get rid of all of these. These stunt guys, rig rig and all the cables, all the wiring and all the wiring and the green screen and stuff. But I'm like okay, this is 2006 Okay. 2006 So everyone listening 2006 V effects and capabilities at the budget level of an indie film. And there's no trackers
Jason Satterlund 59:57
Anywhere. Oh man.
Alex Ferrari 59:59
There's no track Think marks anywhere. And it would have to be hand painted, shot by shot in 2006 with 2006 technology, as far as processing power and everything today, it could be done. It'd be a pain, but it can be done much quicker, much easier than it wasn't. And I talked about did you hear it you useless you can't go anywhere with it. And then he's like, Oh, you just don't know what you're doing. And he went off and did it. And he wouldn't often try to get it done somewhere else. And I always wondered whatever happened to it. So a year later, I checked to see if it still wasn't finished. I don't even know if it ever got finished. But it was it was. So the delay, and I'm sure you've run into some delusional filmmakers along your path over the years, and it's sad to see that because we've all have like, we have to be a little delusional to do what we do. Yeah, to think that you could go on to make a Kenobi short film in the middle of the desert with a bunch of Stormtroopers and lightsaber battle. You gotta be a little insane. So there's that got to be a little great. But you got to be able to balance that off. So anyway, that was my little VFX story. So I have to ask, how did you get?
Jason Satterlund 1:01:04
So when it comes to VFX, I tried to be as practical as I possibly can. It doesn't matter if I'm doing because we, I approached my last feature the same way. So with, I've seen a lot of shorts and features that basically never get released. Because of the VFX. I have a friend who's working on a short right now. And they're trying to create this floating orb thing that is given him fits. Because, man, we got to shade it, right. So it looks organic in the scene, like it's, it's and there's like, you know, 50 shots with it in there, like it just grew exponentially grows, because they didn't really think about while they're filming, is there a way to do this where I don't have to make a VFX shot for every single shot. So I think it's really important to think about that. I try not to shoot green screen whenever I can. I try to do as much practical as I can. And if I know I'm going to need to map out whatever a ship flying by in the background, to try to incorporate in as much realism as I can. So here's a perfect example in Kenobi in the beginning of it, he's in a sandstorm. And every single person on the crew weirdly thought I was going to do that digitally. Which was like, why would I do you know we made that we had two leaf blowers and a bag of dirt and a couple of fans. And you're out the door? Well, yeah, like you just had we kind of staggered a couple of fans deeper into the shot so like they would continue to blow the dirt. We had used fuller's earth, it was really light and fluffy. We had a leaf blower right behind the camera blasting Jamie in the face. Wow. And he and I talked about this since like, it's really effective for him as an actor to like have the visceral wind blowing, he's just fighting against it. It really helped him and to keep his face safe. We just blew smoke into his face as opposed to dirt. So it had two layers to it. The dirts heavier the smoke is lighter. And that's it. And it became a I think a pretty realistic windstorm. So lightsabers are pretty easy to do to be honest. Your facts nowadays they are
Alex Ferrari 1:03:17
Jason Satterlund 1:03:18
Now I will say on forcing the theory. The crew is much smaller. And there is this moment in in the film. I think it's like five minutes and 46 seconds where I've didn't put the I think I missed it in the reflection of a piece of pane of glass. If you scroll through the comments of that video, like everyone's like, four to six, you missed the lightsaber, fake lame, like everybody's like, Oh, by the way you screwed up. Thanks. Thanks for letting me know like, it's it's hilarious asters jerks are not perfect. I know it's hard to really, lightsaber steps are pretty easy. But when you start to go beyond that, I would strive to be as practical as possible. In my feature, the abandoned we had to do some weightless stuff. We there's multiple sequences in the film. And the premise of the film is this guy trapped in this cube. So essentially a large 20 by 20 room. And at several points in the film, gravity starts to change and he gets thrown all around inside the box. We basically used every camera trick in the book to make that happen. We built sets on their side, we built them in V shapes, we had rotating boxes like Inception, we did wire work, we had a camera on what's called a lambda heads so that the camera could be tilted to the side. So when he's going sideways to the camera, it looks like he's flowing from top of the frame to the bottom of the frame. So like we did every kind of trick in the book. And it's crazy how some of those simple camera tricks actually will do huge favors for you. I would go there first when you're doing VFX look at what the camera can do for you, as opposed to this third Green screen up. And I figured out how to do it later that that usually is a recipe for problems
Alex Ferrari 1:05:06
Listen, I have a many good friends who work in the VFX VFX world. And they work on Marvel Movie Star Wars movies, Bond movies, and I've seen some of the shots that they get to clean up and I'm like these aren't these professionals? Aren't these professional filmmakers making these shots? Now like dude, and I'm talking about Oscar winning filmmakers, who just like, whatever, let them deal with it. And they do because they have the money to do so when you're making or making any film. You just can't do that.
Jason Satterlund 1:05:39
Yeah, if you're in a position where you can't throw money at your problems, try to find a way not to use the VFX. And I don't mean that you can't have the effect. Doesn't mean you can't use the explosion or something. But there are so many cool to go look at the original Dracula. Do you ever seen Dracula with the one that was started by Allah 92 So some of the stuff that he did, and that was practical was all magic tricks systems, the
Alex Ferrari 1:06:08
All of it was practical. Very,
Jason Satterlund 1:06:11
I mean, there's facts in there. I can't figure out how they did like when he turns into a demon thing and he backs up into the corner and you just see his eyes. And then the lights turn on and it's all rats. Like that's some sort of in camera trick that they did it is yeah,
Alex Ferrari 1:06:24
I'm kind of an expert in that film because it was one of my favorite films growing theory as the criterion LaserDisc. So I discovered a lot of those. Cool. So just as like Kiana Reeves walks in to Dracula's castle for the first time. This is something so simple. This is Copalis genius. They do a close up shot of his foot crossing the threshold. They shot that in reverse. Oh, they did. And they just that that little hesitation. Just makes you go there's something wrong here. Something as simple as that. And then every other trick he did an old school like, you know from the silent era. He was using all sorts of in camera tricks, matte paintings. That's all he did a lot of hand crank over crank under crank reverse shots. He did every man if anybody wants to see how they how master shoots practically go watch Dracula, Bram Stoker's Dracula with Gary Oldman and went on a writer. Absolutely a masterpiece. Absolutely.
Jason Satterlund 1:07:27
Well, yeah, that's a perfect test. Yeah, that's perfect. Because I would say that's, that's the real key to making practical effects work. So when we didn't Kenobi there's a bunch of laser laser, blasters shooting glasses. laser guns. Wow, I just wow, that's not very Star Wars. The Stormtroopers are shooting blasters. Well, we didn't want to just do the blasters. What we had was we had a paintball gun with dust hits. So we're hitting the ground with actual dust hits. And then when you layer in the blaster shot, it just makes it feel more organic and the same. That is the key to making VFX work is seeing how much you can build on your own. And then the VFX just becomes a nice little polish to the top of it.
Alex Ferrari 1:08:17
So it's a it's a nice layer on the cake. Absolutely. That's same thing I did with my first short film, I use air airsoft guns that actually had blowback shot, I would do the muzzle flash digitally, and I would light up the scene. The guy's face in shake, so we'd light up to face and went but the gun was shooting off. Yeah, and it looked like a real gun. That was the thing I always got. So pissed off about indie films is like, the guns never had blowback. But when I found an airsoft gun, I was like, Oh, that's good. So if you could combine practical with with it, it's always the ethics and if you're smart, and you do it that way in, in, even in a big budget films, that's when things start looking really, really good was a movie that just came out that was well, I mean, I just saw the Bond film. The other day, they knew that no, no time to die. And you just are no no, I was that Top Gun. Yeah, practically all practical. And it just you could sense that you can feel it you can sense that it's something that you just can't do in the camera and digital effects.
Jason Satterlund 1:09:20
That it just it just has that visceral feel like yeah, no difference between Lord of the Rings in The Hobbit like it's
Alex Ferrari 1:09:27
Yeah, no question about it. Now tell me about the new film abandoned, man. How did you get that? How did you get that off the ground? How did you get the financing for it? All that kind of good stuff.
Jason Satterlund 1:09:37
So the abandoned Yeah, it was a really interesting story. So I met the writer at The Austin screenwriter Festival, which if you're a screenwriter, I cannot recommend that festival enough. It is probably one of the best festivals I've ever been to excellent panels and speakers and things like that. So I went there and I met Dwayne oreille. He was on a panel we became fast friends. And he sent me a script that it was one of those I sat down to read it. Thinking, I'll just read the opening scene and go to bed. I read the opening scene, I'm like, Whoa, this is this is really, really good. And I let me just read the next scene. Before I knew it, I'd finished the whole thing. I've never happens, read the script, front to back. I was blown away. And it the whole thing is essentially about a soldier who is in the middle of a firefight in Iraq, he gets hit with a bright light, and he wakes up in this room. That's like a prison cell with no doors, no windows, no exits, no furniture, nobody talks to me has no idea how we got there is all his weapons and equipment. And then things start getting weird. Writing starts appearing on the wall. And, you know, gravity starts to act odd and the room the temperature of the room starts to fluctuate really wildly from freezing, freezing cold to incredibly hot temperatures. And every time you think you know what's happening, it changes. And essentially, the whole premise of the movie is that he's he's got to try to escape. And the only person he can find help him is someone on the phone, who claims to be in identical room. And it's a big mystery from there. And it was an incredible script. And as you're reading it, it's like, this would be a great low budget film, because it's one actor in a room. How easy would that to be? Little did I know. But so I took it to a production company. And they immediately liked it. It was it was just someone else. Actually, I met them in Mammoth, I met them. After one of their screenings, we became fast friends again, pass them the script, they said, This looks good. And boom, it was kind of what you dream of Hope happening when it comes to getting films off the ground. You know, after all the years of struggle, this one just like boop, boop, boop just kind of fell together. And it was very cool. That so that's how it was born. The shooting of it was a whole other thing. Because, you know, when you read a script about one guy trapped in a room, and you think this would be super easy to shoot, then you sit down to shoot it, you're like, How the hell am I gonna shoot this? It's one guy in a room and I can't cut away from the room because it's like, you can't cut to the next day, because you were in the room with him. How am I going to cover that? And man, that was tough to figure out how to do it. It was like directing a play, to be honest. It really forced me to pull out my all the stops when it comes to working with an actor because it's all on the actor space. And it's all about them, giving a good performance and making it believable that he's trapped there. Yeah, so
Alex Ferrari 1:12:52
That's awesome. It's gonna be picked up by Lionsgate?
Jason Satterlund 1:12:57
Right! It got picked up by Lionsgate. I don't know where it's gonna go from there. There's rumors, it'll get the magical. We're all hoping for that. But I don't 100% now. It's called the abandon. Yeah, and I'm exceedingly proud of this film, and very well, it's, it's got a lot of really positive reviews, people are really enjoying it. It's a sci fi thriller on the vein of like, primer or the queue. I mean, the obvious comparison is the cube but as a smarter version of the cube, I think because it's, it's it's very emotional kind of journey to for these characters.
Alex Ferrari 1:13:33
And how did you raise the money for it?
Jason Satterlund 1:13:36
While the production company that I went to Milhouse they, they funded it.
Alex Ferrari 1:13:41
Awesome, dude. That's a great it's good work if you can get it, sir.
Jason Satterlund 1:13:46
Now what, that's what I love about this industry is it's all possible. Anything and everything is possible. You know, it's is it easy is it hard yet? It can be very difficult but but not impossible. You can actually get there and it was this is just one of those cases where everything fell together really well. Yeah, it's I love it. I love it.
Alex Ferrari 1:14:09
I'm so glad maybe you could see could sense the the love coming from the other side of the screen about your project, man. It's It's so awesome. I hope I hope it does. Well for humanity. And you keep and you keep rockin and rollin, man, I want to see some more cool stuff from you, man. Yeah, absolutely. It was nice to see us old folks, you know, man, watch. I know my head still thinks I'm 25 But then when you could feel when it's gonna rain. Oh, clouds coming back.
Jason Satterlund 1:14:45
I love this industry. I love making it. You know what, it's a privilege to do this? Absolutely. I was on a I was on a shoot recently, where we were out in Joshua Tree. We had to get up it was interesting because we got number four o'clock in the morning. It was really long commute. We had a hump all the gear out to the base of this clicker shooting a rock climber. And I looked over at the first AC and the gaffer. And I'm like, isn't as cool. Like, Isn't this cool? What we're doing? And they laughed at me. They were like, they thought I was being sarcastic. I said, No, no, I'm serious. Like, look at where we are. We're in Joshua Tree getting paid to shoot a rock climber. Are we tired? Sure. But we're getting to participate in the magic of storytelling. And it isn't. There's a lot of people in the world who would love to do this who can't. And we're privileged to be a part of it. And it is the best job in the world. As far as I'm concerned.
Alex Ferrari 1:15:47
I agree with you. But I could only imagine that the gaffer in the grip they were talking to were just like this bitch. Carrying all the freaking gear across the rocks of Joshua. And this guy's like, Hey, guys, is this great? It's like, Screw you, man. Screw you, dude. My back's killing me. But you are absolutely right, sir. Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all of my guests. Yeah, what advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?
Jason Satterlund 1:16:18
You know, find a mentor. Because I personally wasted a lot of time fishing around to try to figure out how to get from A to B years or waste years and years, I burn just not having someone to ask advice to. And they don't have to be Spielberg. They can be anyone who's further down the road than you are like, I wish I wish I had someone to even tell me where to live, or how to budget or anything like that, that could have saved me a lot of pain. Yeah, so yeah. 100% find someone to connect to.
Alex Ferrari 1:16:56
What is the what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?
Jason Satterlund 1:17:03
You know, I'm gonna go back to the whole thing about the mental attitude. The Battle of keeping the optimism in your life keeping that spark there. It's become so important to me that I will listen to motivational speakers on my pillow before I go to sleep. I've just heard people like a Tony Robbins, or a Wayne Dyer like, of just keeping your eyes up and not cry into the position that you're in. And you know, a lot and just understanding that the position that you're in is probably the one that you chose. So
Alex Ferrari 1:17:42
And it's temporary. And it's temporary. Yeah,
Jason Satterlund 1:17:44
If life is if there's anything consistent about this business is that it's inconsistent. You know, it's it goes up, it goes down, it goes up put seasons of harvest and seasons of scarcity. It just happens. And just the, it's, and I'm still it's still a process. It's not like I've got it all figured out. But like, seeing this business, for the beauty that it is and the creativity that it can be and how to fight the frustrations that come, you know, to focus on the abundance in your life as opposed to the scarcity. I think it's a big one for filmmakers. Because it's really easy to think about what I don't have the job that I don't have, or that someone else got ahead of me or the money. Gosh, I wish I had x dollars in my account, or I wish I had a manager or an agent, instead of all you're going to do is continue to attract that into your life. If you keep focusing on what you don't have, you're basically going to attract the same thing. So instead of shifting it to look how amazing how many amazing talented friends I have, these are talented, wonderful people who bring opportunities to me. You know, it's like if you find a penny on the ground, you're walking down the street, you see a penny on the ground, you have two ways to look at it. You can say great, that's all I get is a penny. Compare that to what all I can get in my career as a wedding video, great screw your universe, or you can look at that Penny and go. I am so surrounded by abundance, that money is falling from the sky. It changed it can change everything for you so that and it's it's a process to retrain your mind like that. But I believe it's very key to to the survival.
Alex Ferrari 1:19:27
Amen, brother. Amen. Preach brother preach. And, and what are three of your favorite films of all time?
Jason Satterlund 1:19:33
Ah, man three, it's hard to narrow it down. I always fall back to my favorite film of all time as aliens and I'm sure other people probably said that but so just imagine all the elements I love it's it's Semester Action is part thriller. It's comedy. It's got great all the characters are very three dimensional and thought out and it's got great escalations, it's it's a, it's just such I love them and we've always loved it. It's kind of movies I'd love to make I'd have to throw back to the future in their massive back the future,
Alex Ferrari 1:20:04
You could throw the trilogy you could put all three this one, that's fine.
Jason Satterlund 1:20:08
It's about as close as it gets to a perfect movie. It's pretty much the way it's built. The way it's laid out is is absolute brilliance. And you know, I probably put the third one up there as maybe Raiders. Yeah, gotta throw it over. I mean, how cool is that? What a cool. Such a good movie. And all these films hold up, by the way, like you're watching them now. And they're still great. Still.
Alex Ferrari 1:20:34
I'm waiting for the moment that I give my daughters Back to the Future. I'm waiting. I'm waiting. I'm waiting a minute. Just so they understand. And they appreciate it. So I just got them through three seasons of Stranger Things. Oh, there you go. And they were like, Hey, what is that movie that they're walking out of? I'm like this back to the future. Can we watch that? I'm like soon. Soon.
Where can people find out more about you and the work you're doing brother?
Jason Satterlund 1:21:03
Yeah, so you know I've got my website which is Jasonsatterlund.com. I'm also on the old IG at the same place Jason Satterlund and on YouTube Jason Satterlund when you just look me up on YouTube. You'll find me I am here.
Alex Ferrari 1:21:18
Jason man. It has been an absolute pleasure talking to another film geek and and elder statesman in a contemporary sir, I appreciate you brother. Thank you for for the the knowledge bombs you've dropped and hopefully this has helped the filmmaker avoid a little bit a couple of pieces of shrapnel that's going to come their way. But I appreciate you brother. Continued success my friend.
Jason Satterlund 1:21:43
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