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SPECIAL SUNDANCE EDITION of the Indie Film Hustle Podcast
I wanted to do something special for the Indie Film Hustle Tribe this year. I’m in Park City, UT interview some AMAZING filmmakers, producers, agents and actors. In celebration of Sundance, I’ll be releasing a podcast a day during the week.
I wanted to launch this special Sundance Film Festival series with a bang. In this episode, I speak to indie film favorite and all-around amazing human being Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings, Sin City) and his remarkable partners Josh Waller, Daniel Noah and Lisa Whalen (Company X) over at their company SpectreVision.
I have to say that this is by far one of my favorite interviews I’ve ever done. It was part of the filmmaking masterclass, branding lesson, James Lipton interview, and party. I learned a ton from the gang and really felt the passion these friends and partners have for making the kind of films they want to see.
All of these Sundance Series episodes will be co-hosted by Sebastian Twardosz from Circus Road Films and a co-production with Media Circus PR.
Alex Ferrari 0:06
So without any further ado, here is Elijah Wood. Josh Waller, Daniel Noah and Lisa Whalen from SpectreVision. Hi, I'm Alex Ferrari.
Sebastian Twardosz 6:20
And I'm Sebastian Twardosz. Thanks for joining us. We are here with spectrevision. And company x. Yes, yeah. Alright, so I want to introduce everybody real quick. And then we'll just get right into it that Daniel Noah, Elijah Wood. Josh Waller and Lisa Whalen. Thank you got it. Right. All right. Well, um, do you want to go through the I think the first question really is one that you've probably heard before, but we'd like to just get it and
Alex Ferrari 6:46
How does this happen?.
Sebastian Twardosz 6:47
How does this happen? The four of you
Elijah Wood 6:50
It's a long story. He's the best at doing it.
Alex Ferrari 6:52
Sebastian Twardosz 6:53
Elijah Wood 6:53
Let him go up the mic.
Alex Ferrari 6:57
Well, what is tell everybody what SpectreVision is.
Daniel Noah 7:00
Sure okay. So so the the three of us who started speculation, we met in what Walter and I've been friends for last several decades. Yeah. And we met Elijah on a film that never got made that that was in development that I had written. And while I was directing, Elijah was was attached to star and, and even though that movie never happened, we the three of us became close friends and kind of bonded around a shared love of genre films. And at that time, in 2010, the kinds of movies that we really loved were the kinds of genres that we really loved, were not generally being made in our country and in our language. So films like let the right one in and the orphanage. And so we we founded the company to try to create a hub for filmmakers who are interested in that kind of filmmaking. But also, the other thing was kind of that the company was born out of a frustration that the three of us had felt that it was often very hard to find producers that we felt were material driven, and as passionate as we were as talent, they were generally very transactional. And so we kind of it was, had a very like, like Goonies kind of quality to it of like sitting in his apartment and deciding to try this thing and kind of like writing up an oath and making a pledge to each what was the oath in the pledge was that we would always be motivated, we would always react to material from the heart and not look at it. transactionally? Can we transact off this that the first response was a heart response. And if we had a passionate response to a piece of material, we would commit to it, and then figure out later how to bend the economic reality around that movie.
Alex Ferrari 8:44
I like the economic reality.
Sebastian Twardosz 8:49
What is the difference with company x? What is that?
Daniel Noah 8:52
So do you want to take that one?
Josh Waller 8:54
Lisa, Lisa, should take that one.
Lisa Whalen 8:56
The difference basically, is that with company x, it can be anything Spectre vision, you know, these guys spent a lot of time crafting, you know, beautiful company with a beautiful mission. And, but it's really specific what a spectrum is, and film is, and we can't always classify it exactly. But it's really specific, it's unique, it's compelling. And we wanted to be able to do things kind of outside of the genre space.
Elijah Wood 9:25
I mean, I think the thing with with spectra vision over time, is we would come across so many films where we would fall in love with something, but really, it doesn't quite fit within the confines of this thing that we're trying to create. And with company x, it gives us this freedom to do anything, you know, there would be some things that we're like, ah, somebody else is doing this or it's a little too broad. It's not weird enough for whatever the fuck it is that we're trying to do is vector vision that we can't always articulate. There would be there would be these things that we'd have missed opportunities with that we would like. Love and want to be a part of and with company x, it gives us that opportunity to actually invest in things that are sort of outside the bounds of what we're trying to do with Activision.
Josh Waller 10:09
So I think a perfect example is like, what if someone had approached?
Alex Ferrari 10:12
He's got too much for you, he's talking to Josh talk, you
Elijah Wood 10:26
Now, like, what if someone had approached us with like something like When Harry Met Sally? Yeah. I love that film. I adore that film. Is that film a spectrum vision film? Absolutely. It does not fit within the brand that we create.
Daniel Noah 10:41
He met her and killed her.
Elijah Wood 10:44
By the way, it's where my mind goes on immediately when I watch.
Daniel Noah 10:48
Just copyright Yeah.
Josh Waller 10:51
You heard it here first.
Daniel Noah 10:55
We should just end the interview, because that's the only thing
Elijah Wood 10:57
That's gonna be quoted. But like, if we want to do a movie like that, we can't do it with inspector vision. But that doesn't mean that I don't adore the script, adore the filmmakers adore the actors involved. And don't want to see that film get made. So what are you going to do like defer it to some other producers that you don't trust more than more than your own partner? So it's like watered down let's do this
Josh Waller 11:27
It's like watered down let's do their craft for a long time as well?
Yeah. Why can't we bring the same principles that we brought to all of the films within Spectre vision? two films of all genre?
Sebastian Twardosz 11:37
What are your principles?
Alex Ferrari 11:41
With films with the with the films you made.
Elijah Wood 11:45
Yeah. What are those for us? Like our main very simple, we're always trying to do things that other people aren't trying to do. So if it's if it feels like within the genre space is being weld covered, those aren't the kinds of movies that we want to make. We're looking for. I don't know we're looking for things that things that won't. It's a heart response, but it's it's something that we feel isn't being expressed, how do they get to you? A good example, actually is the greasy strangler, that is a movie that probably wouldn't have been made, if it hadn't been for us, and the other maniacs involved to sort of rally support behind Jim Hosking to get that movie made. That's a really good example,
Daniel Noah 12:30
Like minded friends.
Alex Ferrari 12:32
So your base, so basically, the films you were trying to make are things that would might not have a chance anywhere else. Well, we have some case, in some cases like this, there's just no chance that this movie, and there's some quality there,
Daniel Noah 12:43
A girl walks home alone at night is my favorite example, because it's so clean is that like, that was our first film. And when we told people, hey, we're mean, we got our first movie going. It's got a really long names called girl walks home alone at night, it's, it's in black and white. It's in Farsi. It's a horror movie that has nothing scary in it. And it has no stars. And everyone's like, what are you doing?
Elijah Wood 13:08
I don't understand. I mean, really exemplified what we were perfect. Like we back for all exemplifies who we were, if there was ever anything that was like an easy way to define ourselves at that time, all we would have to say was that film, and the reason we got behind that film, it felt like, Okay, this is kind of the it's it, it almost like it fit within the context of our mission statement.
Alex Ferrari 13:39
Now, I read somewhere that you said, you guys said that profit is not always money. It's other things as well. There's other kinds of profit. Can you explain that?
Elijah Wood 13:48
Well, yeah, I don't know. Which is that for me, it gets actually it dovetails into the question that was just asked, which is like what we're looking for. And to me, it's like, it truly comes down to the heart responses between the three of us and now the four of us with company x, where it's like, we just have to connect with something and I think because the three of us and now the four of us are such different people.
Josh Waller 14:17
We are partnering that's exactly what we want to hear like very different personalities.
Yeah, like I'm the asshole it's true, and I'm okay with that.
Alex Ferrari 14:28
You were a marine.
Josh Waller 14:30
That's true I still am memory. Okay, so I want to hear Okay, I didn't want to pull out the marine I have to put like
Sebastian Twardosz 14:36
Why did you Why did you join? Why did you do it?
Josh Waller 14:39
Why Why did I join the Marine? Yeah. Well, I was not expecting that question.
Sebastian Twardosz 14:45
I wanted to it's a big it's a it's an important part of your life.
Elijah Wood 14:51
James Look, it's a very deep question. I'm a I felt that at 17 I needed a bit of direction. I knew I wanted to be involved with film and the arts. But I didn't know how to go about doing that. I also knew I didn't want to be stuck in like hometown kind of syndrome where you stay there, you get someone pregnant, you end up working some job that is just strictly manual labor for the rest of your life. I just didn't want to get caught in that. So I was like, No, there's something easier. I'll join the Marines. And I'm also a fifth generation marine. Oh, my great grandfather founded the Marine Corps Association. And there would actually be no yet whatever. Anyways, yeah. So there was a bit of a pole there to go into. Yeah, there was a bit of a calling that my even my dad said, when I came home one day in high school, and was like, you know what I did today? And he goes, No, what do you do? I said, I signed up, I signed up for the Marines. I joined the Marines. And he was like, what, cuz I basically had this hair. He was, I was, I, like, danced. It was a musical theater. And it was like, oh, and my dad said, Great. He was like, well, don't do it because of some stupid tradition. If you're gonna do this, yeah, that was super cool. That was the only cool thing No, no, it was, he just said, Do it for yourself. And like, what that I heard that and like, what I can say is that, like, I've been able to take my experience in the Marine Corps, and bring it to our mission. As filmmakers, there's, there's a certain amount of like, I went through something where it's like, it's one of those situations where if I can do this, I can do anything. Alright, making movies. Don't make me fucking laugh. Like, it's like, you just set your sights on the goal. And you don't stop. It's just that simple. And that's what like I was able to take on that and like kind of bringing the arc
Daniel Noah 17:02
Mitchell and he and while he runs production for us, and runs our sets, you you do it with the mindset of the military. And but I would also, by the way, be tremendous warmth and kindness, as well.
Elijah Wood 17:15
But I would say 95% of it is warmth and kindness. The 5% is like the part that like I will get caught up in which is just like the eye on the prize. That's my own life.
Sebastian Twardosz 17:28
So you gotare you always on set then always good.
Elijah Wood 17:31
I try to be there's there we've always talked about, like, if we want to be successful as a company, as in war. I think that's relevant, that there has to come a time where you're like, I'm not going to be able to person to be the person that's in every place at every time, it's going to come down to us, hiring people that we really believe in, and that we really trust. And then we say we believe in you and we trust you so much, that we're gonna let you go out and do our thing, because we're like minded. And that and that is filmmaking, is surrounding yourself with the people that make you make you look amazing and look like they're smarter
Daniel Noah 18:14
And looking out for each other to make sure that you know, mistakes don't happen. I've been watching. I've been here as he talks, three more minutes.
Elijah Wood 18:28
It's second read the serie the screenplay page. So you write about this. You know, Daniel slowly watched as
Alex Ferrari 18:40
Cut to a close up, cut, cut. Get closer.
Josh Waller 18:45
Danny, we got to get your story to, oh, we're gonna know what
Alex Ferrari 18:48
I was gonna ask you. Um, there's a lot of young filmmakers who are watching this and listening to this. I want you guys to talk a little bit about because yeah, you guys thought about talking about the material being important. He knows we'll talk about the importance of the filmmaker, the importance of being able to and this is something a lot of young filmmakers don't understand this, that you have to be able to get along with someone for a lot, because this is a journey making a movie and you can be flexible. Yeah. So tell tell. Tell the filmmakers as you guys get along. Yeah, obviously there's Yeah, there's there's a gap. But yeah, can you talk about, like what you're looking for? What your advice would be?
Elijah Wood 19:20
It all starts with a vision, ultimately, I mean, for us as producers, we're looking for material, we're looking for films that we want to invest our time in. And sometimes that's four years, five years, right? So we're looking for filmmakers that have a unique vision that we you know, couldn't find it any other way. But yeah, to your point, it's also about the notion of being flexible, and I don't know
Alex Ferrari 19:51
I guess, sometimes sometimes I've worked a lot of filmmakers. They get these these tunnel visions. And then when you work with experienced filmmakers, like yourself, You know, you got to bend, you got to move, you got to kind of just because that's the way the business is,
Elijah Wood 20:04
But to a certain degree that I think that's where we come in, yeah, you're there to guide we meet filmmakers that have a specific vision, and we can help them in that process in regards to getting it made. Got it, you know,
Daniel Noah 20:15
And we, you know, it was never by design, but we've ended up working with a lot of first time filmmakers and, and we kind of noticed it one day. And I was puzzled by it. And I realized, you know, we're looking for unique visions, and I talk all the time because I run development. So my job is bringing these projects and it makes sometimes come from other places. But you know, I always talk about this concept of outsider art, is that term, you guys actually hear what they term? Yeah. Which is to say, you know, an artist with no formal training. And sometimes that lack of training can produce something really, really powerful. If you even just google outsider art, like in terms of visual arts, you are incredible, you know, like someone who looks their drawings look like a child's drawing, you know, but it's kind of thing that someone might train 25 years to achieve, but this person because of the way they were born, and the way their brain is wired, they just happen to nail it right out of the gate, you know. And we've had, I mean, I think Lucas, Amman, who's a young filmmaker, that we're making a film, an incredible visionary film with this year, called popsicle is a great example of that. And he had cold contacted us on Facebook. And that was back when we had the bandwidth to read those that. And I remember I read, I saw his thing. And I thought, this pitch sounds really interesting. So I reached out to him, and we read it read his script, and it was magnificent. And we called him and it's been, I don't know, maybe four years. And a lot of that time it was spent training him really, to be ready to handle it, because it's a big film. And so it speaks exactly to what you're saying is, is, it's, I think, I think a lot of people in our position would have immediately passed him over, right? Because it's work. Yeah. And there's a lack of, you know, he doesn't have the professional experience. But for us, we're going that doesn't matter to us. The visions is what matters. Yeah, we can help him get ready for the professional demands. That's easy, in many ways. But I think what Lisa said is really vital is that that I think what what what all directors need to understand is that it is one part a certainty, but vision and another part flexibility. And and sometimes what you want to do is just simply not achievable, for whatever reason, and you have to be ready to change it up on time. So if you are in touch with the sort of emotional intention as a director, and there are 100 ways of achieving that emotion, it's not just the one that you have in your head, you have to be ready to drop it on a dime, and then that's what happens on set. And that's when you know, if you forget it. But like that is the test. I agree
Elijah Wood 23:12
That it's the test is when like when that really gets going tough. Yep. When you're forced to go, Okay, how do I figure it all the things that I think that we are most, I myself as a director, but also we as producers, I feel like the things that we're the most proud of? Are the things where where it didn't go the way we want it. Yeah, it was the times when like, it was like you're not gonna get that money that you really wished you had for this scene. I always feel like you're gonna you're gonna happen you're gonna have to you're gonna have to rely on your team and like get real getting get truthful and go, okay guys. I shot let's I shot listed this whole thing. It was at another location that we can't get, what are we going to do? And, and you just trust each other. And those are always the scenes that end up being like the most magical, the most relevant, and the most just truthful,
Josh Waller 24:14
I found that one of the most difficult personality traits of a young filmmaker is rigidity, surprisingly, is is a real terror about someone's messing with my vision. You're dead, you're dead, you're dead, if that's how you're approaching it like
Elijah Wood 24:33
But the industry doesn't set you up to not be rigid because you have to start going into it you don't know where to where to find the producers that you truly are there's also an amendment to that, you know, we worked with Lily on the poor on a lonely on the poor on on girl walks home alone at night, and she had a rigid perspective. Absolutely. That was unquestionably her And it became very clear as producers when we met her, we don't have a lot to say here like
Daniel Noah 25:06
Same with Jim Hosking that we realized really quickly just get out of the way
Elijah Wood 25:09
This is her like, it was very clear, clearly her film and same with him. And so to counter that, like sometimes there are filmmakers that you encountered that have a sense of what they want. And to a certain degree, you have to buy into that or you're ultimately going through with their vision.
Lisa Whalen 25:28
That's why it works for the four of us. instinctually.
Josh Waller 25:33
However, which the and that that's a benefit for those filmmakers. Also, and we know this, both of those filmmakers heard every single one of our notes, yeah, they they heard them, they took them into consideration. And whether they took those notes or not, is irrelevant. But they heard them.
Lisa Whalen 25:54
But I think that's why it makes sense.
Daniel Noah 26:01
We've never done an interview like this. I love it.
Lisa Whalen 26:08
I'm gonna write the ship here. Thank you. That's why it makes sense why we work with a lot of first time filmmakers is because they're such a good the three of them are so good at creatively being the support system they need. And the kind of reality of getting a first time filmmakers movie made is kind of where I come in and go oh, this insane idea that you have I'm going to translate it to this and this is what finance ears want to hear. So the combination of them having full support creatively
Daniel Noah 26:45
Why was that the prop
Sebastian Twardosz 26:50
Funny that you should I actually planted that prop. We have a we have a drinking game here.
Lisa Whalen 26:57
Wait, this isn't enough for you.
Sebastian Twardosz 27:02
There's a drinking game so there's a danger tonight. I teach at USC
Elijah Wood 27:10
I think this is our favorite interview we've ever done.
Sebastian Twardosz 27:15
There's there's a number for every bottle. You roll it three times we mix those drinks, you name it, and then you shouldn't and actually Tim league came up with the idea came up with the idea we haven't totally created this game. What does it call? Do we have shot shot? So this is the games every so this is sort of our favorite prop that we like to keep around. Right But we haven't number we haven't set it up yet. Right now.
Lisa Whalen 27:51
It's okay. He wants the mic?
Sebastian Twardosz 27:54
Well, it's it's nice, so
Alex Ferrari 27:56
I'm gonna make this point. I see that. That Lisa is a balancing force.
Daniel Noah 28:02
Yes, we like to call she's our Wendy.
Alex Ferrari 28:04
Yeah, she seems like a balancing force to you guys. I could see the energy just on the couch.
Elijah Wood 28:09
I really feel that I am not as strong of a human without my partners. That's very Wait, no, my God. I know that sounds super sappy. I think that, to me is the core. I'm not gonna get emotional. But like this is this means a lot to me this stuff. Yeah. And like, shut up.
Sebastian Twardosz 28:38
Just get it out now because your going on stage later
Elijah Wood 28:42
Where you can emotional.
Josh Waller 28:44
James what's your favorite color?
Alex Ferrari 28:47
If you were a tree?
Josh Waller 28:49
I can't I don't know. Jim's anyway. No, I was gonna say that, like, each of the filmmakers that we've worked with, have become our close friends. And like, we started the company. And like, yes, we wanted to start it to, you know, watch films that we wanted to see. But we also wanted to form it, as you know, respectively as like a director, producer, an actor and a writer director as like to try to be the producers that we truly wish that we had. And I don't know that even. I'm speaking as a director that like I've had that yet. You know, and like to date, like all of the filmmakers, we've worked with our friends. And when you surround yourself with your friends, you just want to support them and make them be the best version of themselves. And that doesn't necessarily always coincide with what they think they want to watch and that that comes down to trust. And yeah, we were we've been talking I'm about this a lot over the course of this past week, you know, just with this film because Marianna Palka the writer, director and like lead actress of bitch. You know, she's been a friend of ours for a very long time. And we believe in her. And like, before we made this film, it was like, we want to show them we want to show the world. Mariana 2.0 I said that her
Elijah Wood 30:25
I said that her unlike even beyond what people
Josh Waller 30:29
I said, like we're gonna challenge you, like, in a good way as friends challenge you, as family should challenge you as people that love you should challenge you and are willing to say, like, I love you. I love your passion in this moment. This moment, you are wrong. And, and, and, and, and. And that's okay to say, because it's coming from a place of love. Sure. And that, that little like that dance starts to happen. And that's when like things. No, no.
Alex Ferrari 31:02
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Lisa Whalen 31:13
He makes it sound happens. He makes it sound really easy, though. Like they're just friends with all of these super talented people and so that these movies get made, but it's so easy to become friends with you guys that it's like they're becoming friends with the filmmakers. They're filmmakers first usually often. You know, I'm
Alex Ferrari 31:31
I'm really like, Yeah, he's like, you're awesome, sir. Yeah, you're awesome, sir. I got to put that a
Lisa Whalen 31:36
Cut him off.
Sebastian Twardosz 31:39
I didn't want to miss out on Daniel story too, though. Because you you you actually started as a writer, you went to NYU Tisch did? And then so what was your story from there?
Unknown Speaker 31:49
Well, I, I started at what I thought I wanted to be an actor. And hopefully, as I think a lot of filmmakers do that sort of Waller because it's the closest you can get to making films or, you know, telling stories is just pretending. I was I started studying acting. And within weeks after mean, meaning like in college, I realized that all of my interest my scene partner, and making sure that it was a good scene, and I actually had no desire to be in the scene. So I, yeah, so but but I have this profound passion and interest in the craft and art of acting. You were very unusual in that way. Yes, that's why we're here to announce that Elijah Wood will no longer be here first. We're leading with that that's actually leading with that just usurped when Harry killed Sally that
Alex Ferrari 32:46
It killed with her killed nobody, he brings up something
Elijah Wood 32:52
Of working with a fellow actor in an acting class and being more interested in the scene and facilitating the scene than performing himself. That's how I feel as an actor. I'm far more interested in in facilitating the ultimate vision of the director or the thing that we're creating than being you know, the star or standing out as the character, I just want to be a part of making this thing work.
Lisa Whalen 33:18
But he has his business
Elijah Wood 33:21
It extends to why I want to be a producer. I love filmmaking, it all just comes back to this ultimate core of the baseline is we're all here trying to create something that we're really proud of, at the end of the day, and I love and I've been fortunate to have a career as an actor. What that has facilitated is ultimately, the experience of working with a lot of people in a creative environment. We're all working together to create something that they really believe in. That has been the thing that I'm addicted to. And so as an actor, the mo I'm always just looking for that I'm looking for, you know, ultimately sure a role that I want to play. That's interesting. That's challenging to me, I love doing that. But more importantly, I just want to be a part of a thing that that guy's trying to do with another group of people. You don't I mean, dude, you're such an asshole, and
Daniel Noah 34:23
I just was like, it just went in a completely different direction right now. No, no, but I'd like this to pay a little homage to my partner and my friend. Is that like, I feel like you're such an intellectual. And you get your intellectual side out with the producing side. And but you're also you have like such a strong physicality and you get that through. You get that kind of like that box checked. With acting Sure. You're like I need to like this catharsis is an actual physical catharsis. I needed to happen. Through my acting for me to be sane as just a human being, you know?
Alex Ferrari 35:05
But, but isn't it like, some of the best actors are exactly they, they they want the other partner in the scene to be better. I like the horror.
Daniel Noah 35:13
I find there are two things or two. Yeah, they're they're the they're filming there they're the actors who get who burrowed deeply into the the very, like deeply deeply inside that character and that's where they live and then there are actors like you who are more a total filmmaker it's a term I like to use a lot where you're you're doing that work, but you're doing it more in service of a greater design, you're more aware of the greater design you're not just myopically focused on your character and both ways work you know, I mean there's great you know, they're great great film actors of both of both types
Elijah Wood 35:54
That's so interesting to hear about your process in trying to be an actor right? He's ultimately you realized
Daniel Noah 36:01
Yeah, I'm also terrible that's another
Elijah Wood 36:10
But that's irrelevant in that process of discovery you ultimately realized I'm more interested in facilitating these group of people to make the scene or whatever it was that you were working on good Yeah. And that led to your right your role as a writer and a filmmaker
Daniel Noah 36:26
Well I think now you know like you know for me like I Mabel to write I can direct the movie I can produce the sound itself noxious I do three things but but Okay, okay yes
Lisa Whalen 36:38
Sebastian Twardosz 36:39
I'm actually interested in transition because you were a writer you w j did all that Yeah, what was working and then what was what wasn't working or what changed that you decided to go with
Elijah Wood 36:49
a more passive stance in there in fairness, which part of the producing part and never something that you wanted
Daniel Noah 36:56
Oh no, I had no inclination that I would be a producer none whatsoever well i was i came out I made a I wrote directed like a no budget film a long long time ago. So what's it called 12 it's you can't see it it's not available
Sebastian Twardosz 37:12
Well we could change that
Elijah Wood 37:15
We know people Waller also very positively reviewed on by Ronnie tarkio
Alex Ferrari 37:28
Very cool writer of Dr. Strange 2000 Yeah.
Daniel Noah 37:33
Anyway so I um so I made this film and then and and then kind of like Hollywood came calling and and and I found myself working as a writer like a studio writer and yeah, so I was you know writing Writing Studio movies and selling TV pilots and I did that for years and nothing got made except one thing
Josh Waller 37:50
Yeah, that's the problem
Daniel Noah 37:52
Yeah, so I you know, I had this terrible crisis it after doing it for you for a few years in which I had had the kind of a bucket list project which is one of my favorite authors is Graham Greene. And I love the cinema of Graham Greene and I had always wanted to adapt the graham green novel so I convinced universal to pay me to write an adaptation of a gram Green Book. And I was I couldn't believe it by the end of the process, it had been so perverted from from the source material and I don't mean that like you have to throw away the book when you adapt it that's healthy this was something else this was changes that were so clumsy and I was like to use the analogy of when you're a kid and you've got your popcorn and your dad wants some and puts this giant hand like gets all over the cap like that was how it felt working with the studio was like Jesus like be a little careful about what you're doing when you reach into the bowl You know, it was so it was so distorted from and changes that just seemed arbitrary and I was so disappointed and then I got the call from an agent like great news. They're they're going to continue developing the project and I said what does that mean? They're they're going to keep it in active development. What are you telling me and what I realized was Oh, I'm being told that I'm being fired and replaced by a bigger writer right? And that is considered a success. Right?
Sebastian Twardosz 39:17
So yeah, and because it could get made and he'll make some money but
Daniel Noah 39:24
It won't be the movie that will be the movie that I that I was excited about right? It won't be something I'm proud of. The only thing it will do is make me money and give me another thing like another notch on my belt. And so I realized I don't want this this is not what I want with my life and and it was really hard to let it go because there were you know, I knew there were so many people who dreamed of being a Hollywood screenwriter and, and that I felt like I had no business turning that away. But I did. And I and I kind of went out in the wilderness and I told all my reps and I said I'm gonna focus on independent film for two reasons. I want to be able to take matters into my own hands. And not be at the mercy of someone else and to I've realized that I want to tell stories about people intimate stories about people I'm not interested in all this, you know, gunplay and it's not it doesn't get my juices flowing. So they all drop me like there was not even a moment of like pretending to be supportive like it and and I had to kind of like complete completely start over and so you know eventually then you know I met these guys and you know here we are and and now you know i'm i'm I couldn't be happier. You know this is I got what I wanted. We're making small movies with people I care about. And movies I'm proud of
Sebastian Twardosz 40:41
And you may make some other films too actually, you're gonna
Lisa Whalen 40:47
Let me be clear about what I mean by small, intimate I mean intimate. Yes, yeah, we will we are incapable of running and non intimate. Friends.
Alex Ferrari 40:58
We can kind of tell based on this interview.
Sebastian Twardosz 41:00
Yes. What I would like more more more from you guys. There's one thing because you know, the specter fest. Are you going to do more spectrum fest? Because I think that's very interesting.
Alex Ferrari 41:09
Can you tell? Can you tell everybody about what Spectre fest is? Yeah.
Daniel Noah 41:13
Sebastian Twardosz 41:15
Oh, I know. It's loaded. Oh, no. Okay,
Daniel Noah 41:20
No, no, no, it's that's okay. spectrefest. So we have a really nice relationship with cinna family in, in Los Angeles, which, which is like, I mean, widely considered the best repertory cinema in the country? Yeah. Well, very different. Very different. No, no, very, very, very different. Very, very. There's room for both. So it started with Hadrian Vila who's the artistic director approaching Elijah and me and because we both knew him and saying, Hey, would you guys want to like do a weekend of horror stuff? And we're like, yeah, that sounds great. And we started like feeding him these ideas and he was like, you have a lot of ideas like do you want to do something more than a weekend and it exploded into this thing that lasted for a month and it was really successful. So it you know, curation is a huge part of the way we approach producing we talked about that all the time that we you know, and that's one of the reasons that we're so fussy about what we will and want to take on for spectrum vision is that we talk about it as a record label that when you like a band, you go well what other bands are on this label? This label has earned my trust and and while they're also different, but they all have certain things that are in common and and you start you become a fan of that label. There's almost no film entities that are like that. There are a few a 24 Yeah, draft house, you know, Miramax back in the day. Annapurna yeah but but so that we approached specter vision that way and also like not repeating ourselves and so uh, so the curation was something that was really already very much in our in our in the way that we operated and and we just found that we really loved it and it seemed to work and it's also great because we get really early looks at New filmmakers and we get to meet them really really early in like you know, things that haven't been released yet we see them when we screen their movies months in advance and I mean, I'm blinking an example but I feel like we have movies that have come out of that festival. So yeah, so we do it we do it every October and the reason everyone laughs is that spectrum fest is in a state of transition that was
Josh Waller 43:37
Present came out of that That's right.
Lisa Whalen 43:39
Yeah, factor fest is the curation the fact that people seem to be interested in what what you guys are curating where we're curating isn't something that has to live in October you know like it so we're kind of just figuring out what is the next world for spectrum fast so yeah, this was a while from now we'd be like we have a great thing to tell you about Spectre fest
Daniel Noah 44:09
And I love it I you know, I love I'm a ham and I love talking you know doing interviews and stuff and you know, we've had incredible You know, we've
Sebastian Twardosz 44:16
I wouldn't know
Daniel Noah 44:20
I mean sitting in your seat you know, we've had like Eli's marriage Can't we you know, he's a friend we convinced it you know he's got he never does anything and we you know, we convinced him to come out and do an evening with us. Like we brought Larry Fessenden out who was a huge You know, he was a huge impact on me as a young filmmaker and did like a two hour conversation and just really um, and you know, I think also like we're always learning to it you know, from from the from these.
Sebastian Twardosz 44:45
Speaking of Shadows of Empire, I've always wanted something to happen on set. When German expressionist cinema they all wore lab coats. I thought it was a coolest thing. Like Dr. laptop. You should bring that back. That's like the coolest thing ever. lab coats on set everybody was it
Daniel Noah 45:01
Feels a little vaguely ominous.
Alex Ferrari 45:04
What are you gonna do for visitors on the hell's going on? One thing I find fascinating about speculation in general is that you guys are very clear about your brand. Can you talk about the importance of when you create a company or an entity? How important is because you literally bought the company have to kind of
Elijah Wood 45:21
Look, it was, it was the most important thing. When we when we started our company, we literally met at his house, we sat around and we were like, what are the movies we want to make. And we made like a kind of like a bucket list of the films that we want to make, with varying genres within the context of horror, the notion of identity was everything to us when we started. Every year, that was all we had. And that was all that we were focused on. The choices that we would make the filmmakers that we wanted to make films with, and ultimately the scripts that we found all related back to this notion of Who are we? What are we trying to do?
Josh Waller 46:02
Who are we? Because it couldn't be like, if everyone directed it towards like, who is Elijah Wood? As an actor? That's a different question that had to be like was the con, who are we as like a group? Yeah. And like trying to figure that out,
Elijah Wood 46:19
And what is Spectre vision, and ultimately, trying to craft a space that became familiar to people based on that identity of, oh, that's who they are, that's what they do, we can go there for that thing you had, I mean, it was trying to establish something that was like, based on a certain number of films and a certain sense of taste and focus. This is a place to make this kind of film to attract these kind of filmmakers and these kinds of distributors. And that then would, you know, in theory, establish us as a home for this kind of thing that would then allow for for a certain amount of growth and ease of getting these kind of things made that ultimately were a little harder to make initially. You don't mean it's perfect.
Josh Waller 47:09
So we're unanimous we chose initially that we were unanimous over you were nothing at all in terms of selection in terms of like, like, what the three of us because we felt like going into like again, like how different the three of us were when we got it started. It was like the three of us could not be any more different. But for some reason the universe has connected the three of us and we become close friends,
Sebastian Twardosz 47:38
Guys, it's working seriously because they're succeeding. I mean,
Josh Waller 47:46
Dude, like, like, we just relied on our friendship. And now they if we're like, it's it's kind of like, Oh, god, this is fucking dumb sounding. It's totally Three Musketeers type shit. It's like all for one one for all. We we were kind of like, if the three of us agree on something, then it must be working because the three of us are very different people. And we're very close friends.
Lisa Whalen 48:17
But I think to like that that magic in a bottle of that is like when when I was deciding if I was going to come take the job these maniac. musketeers, right? Yeah, be the forethought Musketeer.
Elijah Wood 48:35
Sebastian Twardosz 48:37
I call that the intersection
Lisa Whalen 48:42
Okay. When I was deciding if I was going to move cross country to work with these lunatics. I asked around to everybody else like so. Are these guys. And unanimously people were like, Oh yeah, spectrums is great. The brand is really strong. And I was like, Well, what about their business? Like, that's what I'm, that's what I'm doing. I'm moving across the country, like, what's the deal with their business? And they were like, I have a job. And they were like, I, I don't I don't know anything about business and that but, but they're great. Like, he says, like, okay, okay, so they had put something out into the world that people couldn't even communicate, but they knew they liked it.
Elijah Wood 49:24
But that's a crazy thing for us to like, we that was our goal. That was the thing that we had set out to do, set up in a in you know, establish an identity, establish a sense of a brand, and a sense of who we are. And also like, a space for which there's a comfortability for artists to come and express themselves right and be supported. That was it. And the fact that within two years of having had conversations at his house, the three of us with our ultimate goals in mind, the kind of movies that we wanted to make that there was A sense in the industry of who we were was insane to us. Yeah. And also to Sundance and that's still a crazy notion right? Because all we ever did was just lead with what we believe and heart and trust in material and trust in our vision and somehow that has managed to come back to us very quickly and been received by people in the artistic community and it's it's way beyond
Lisa Whalen 50:34
That's why we had to make company x because you can see it's not that spectra vision is a brand that you can just throw any movie into right that it's like we want to do this you don't want it kept coming to me and saying like, we want to make this movie but does it make sense respect division? It was like, Well, what do we that's that's what we do. So there had to be something else where we could participate in these films that we were so passionate about, but that just didn't fit in that scary
Daniel Noah 50:59
A great example of that although it's company x company. It's funny that I mean it is people are saying that it has horror elements which I think kind of surprises us but but that was a good example of something that I don't you know, it didn't really meet the kind of genre requirements of spectra vision and thank God we had another avenue for it because that movie is so vital. Company x gives us an opportunity to do that in a way that doesn't confuse the clarity of the specter vision thing which is it is about specialism genre is about is about the unknown and as another phrase it like something very unique and I like a term I like his museum grade pop art, I think is a very nice and clear kind of
Elijah Wood 51:46
Exploration of the uncanny of the uncanny yes you know yeah, it's relatively specific
Alex Ferrari 51:51
Yeah I'm pretty I'm very grateful that there is an entity like you guys out there because there's so I mean seriously we're grateful to I mean, seriously because there's so many like all the movies you released what are the chances of they actually getting made elsewhere? You know, like and you put that art out there and and you're wondering like how come it's come back to us so fast is because it's coming from the heart and you can see it you can hear their voices you love you love but you but you the love for what you guys do is just just just spewing off you guys so of course it's going to come back to you so quickly. It's it's really remarkable. You guys are doing Thank you. I wish there was like another 20 of you guys. Well, we don't know companies. No, no, no, no, no, no. You know what?
Josh Waller 52:33
Towards those 20 companies
Alex Ferrari 52:35
Yeah, you get you get residuals, of course,
Elijah Wood 52:38
But there are Yeah, I mean, yeah, between 824 and Annapurna Drafthouse, you know, kay period, but they're the stuff they're producing, there's really interesting people and entities that are out there making great films for just go for it. Yeah, totally. China fucking exciting time. It's not, it's not in a dire for film, we're in a really interesting time where there's so many different methods for which a movie can be financed and distributed, that it's equal playing ground. And there's great taste and and you know, festivals, like Sundance, allow for some of these movies to get a platform. The greasy strangler was released at Sundance last year, that's insane, that will be so fucked up. And it found it found in the audience. We're also seeing, we're seeing equal opportunity within the context of a sort of meld of genres. Prior to like four years ago, films like that would have only been in the midnight section. And we're seeing those kinds of films genre, bleeding into other sections of, of the festivals, and that is a shred Oh, and that's very exciting. I don't know, I think we're in a really exciting time for filmmaking. And we're really psyched to be in the midst of it. And you know, meeting all these people,
Josh Waller 54:05
Honestly, contributed. Like there's a really there's a really strong community that's growing right now. In like the filmmaker community. It's just really that the web is growing. And it's it's a web of, it's a web of honesty. The trick is guard when I was about
Sebastian Twardosz 54:34
The trick, though, is still getting more people to see
Lisa Whalen 54:36
Well that's the problem. I think, I think that to take it a little bit out of the heart and into the business side of it is that there's so many platforms right now that need content. So we're in a really good spot because we can create TV or film or streaming or just everything is just watchable narrative. And so we're in a great one, all those voices are getting to be heard. And maybe they're not getting to be heard in a normal theatrical platform, but people are seeing them and they're loving them. And
Elijah Wood 55:10
That is premiering on Netflix like,
Lisa Whalen 55:12
Yeah, it's awesome. By the way,
Alex Ferrari 55:14
Can you guys talk? Can you guys talk a little bit about the business side as far as distribution? Because I know that's a big mystery for a lot of people, and especially how it's changing daily. Pretty much now like every other day, there's some new way of getting it out. What are the what's your like, model for distributing like a movie like bitch, like, how is that going to go through the pipeline?
Elijah Wood 55:33
Honestly, I don't know, I just went through this experience making this film with making Blair for Netflix. If If you can get your film finance, and made with full creative control, he kind of doesn't matter. I mean that, like, we all hold on to that sort of, you know, ideal of something being released theatrically that we can all have the dream of something coming out. And having a relatively nice, theatrical run. That's awesome. Those days are kind of over. It's Yeah, it's what's more important to me, I think, and should be to other filmmakers is, what's a scenario in which you can your film can be financed, and you have the ultimate creative control. That's the important thing, not the distribution model. Do you have the freedom to make the movie that you want to make with the relative budget that gives you that freedom to make it to get make it the way Get the way the way that you conceived? That's way more important than the run of the film. As it turns out with something like Megan's film, we got that made through Netflix. So that's going to be seen by 94 million people, right? Right. On a platform that's fucking insane, bigger than a theatrical and he totally and he got full creative freedom to do that. So that's the most important thing to me. And I think you know,
Daniel Noah 56:54
The, in the years since we started we've added this arc of understanding about letting go of the old model and and you know, like, when I was coming up the term straight to video met you fail. Yeah, you're done. You're done. Yeah. But But now, I'm even I've even gotten to the point where I when I hear about theatrical run, I'm like,
Alex Ferrari 57:16
Why would you do that?
Daniel Noah 57:17
Yeah, like, a lot of money. I don't know. Like, you know, and I think that for filmmakers, the spiritual reward of the theatrical experience isn't this it's festivals you that's where the filmmakers get that that that feedback that and but we're but we're most average consumers see these films in their living room, and that's just a reality. Reality.
Sebastian Twardosz 57:43
Look, it's iPad, it's actually more intimate. Now the people you bring it to you and your bed, or whatever. And it's far more intimate. Like when I grew up the TV's like way over there. My beds here, TVs over there. But now it's like you're watching it like this. It's actually much more intimate.
Daniel Noah 57:56
I don't watch it like that a watch on 55. Because we're older
Alex Ferrari 57:59
Cuz you live in an ivory. You live in an ivory tower, sir.
Sebastian Twardosz 58:03
Kids watch it like this
Lisa Whalen 58:05
I know, I don't want that. That's a generation. That's the thing. Like everybody, I've been in a lot of meetings coming coming from a corporate space where people everybody wants to figure it out. And I was previously in TV so that that model is even more messy right now. Yes, then film, and film, we have a million opportunities with TV, they need to try to figure out the opportunities to go to TV studies while you're including streaming, exactly everything. And you know, everybody in the room is going well, this is how my kids watch TV. So this is gonna, this is the future. And it's like, the truth of it is, nobody knows, nobody knows that your kids are gonna watch TV in 10 years. Nobody knows how it's gonna be different when they have their kids. You know, so it's, it's being flexible. And you know how it's hard to be flexible? If you're a giant corporation, but what we are is a very pivotable we're all very late. But you know, we're able to, yeah. But um, it's, it's nice to be able to with each movie, just go. We don't know how that's going to get distributed. But we have these five options. And then we're going to pursue what's best and find the best partner for the film and its content. What makes sense. But nobody should.
Sebastian Twardosz 59:23
I think we should we should kind of wrap it up. I think actually. Thank you.
Alex Ferrari 59:27
Thank you guys. So much. Can I ask you one more question. One for Elija and one for everybody. As
Sebastian Twardosz 59:36
One question in 20 parts?
Alex Ferrari 59:37
One and a half I could please know Elijah as a as an actor who's obviously done a lot of films. Yeah. What do you look for in a director because I know a lot of directors are listening to this. And they you know, working with an actor of your caliber, what do you look for in it but what helps you or what helps you and what what do you look for when you're working with a director
Elijah Wood 1:00:00
I'm someone with a distinct voice. I mean, I don't know, I feel like half the time I'm responding to material. And the other half or in tandem, I'm responding to a director. No I know sometimes there is okay. Sometimes there is but I mean, I'm looking for someone who has a unique voice you know, making it just sort of set a recent example. I don't feel at home in this world anymore came together because a lot of reasons but I had fallen in love with Megan's work as an actor initially. Blue ruins extraordinary. I met him at Fantastic Fest, and Austin was like, Oh my God, this guy's incredible. And he was like, can I send you a script. And for me, that was an incredible honor. This was someone I admired. And he'd written something so I read it and fell in love with it. Um, so that was about this person, having written something, both someone I'd already had a sort of relationship with in regards to his ability, but also something that he read that he wrote that I was in love with, um, I don't know, man, it it ultimately comes down to a specificity of vision, be it in the material itself, or within the context of the director. Okay, but I'm always looking for something that I emotionally respond to. And it's not different from what we're looking for as filmmakers. From the standpoint of what we're doing with Spectre vision, we're looking to get ourselves behind something that is unique and different and something we've never read before or we've never seen before. filmmakers or material your material that we're wanting to sort of get our, you know, get behind and that's the same for me as an actor.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:01
Very cool, great answer. And then the last question is always asked us of all my interviewees three of your favorite films of all time any of them at this moment?
Daniel Noah 1:02:10
Yeah, well, my favorite films vertigo, excellent. Three, or you have to go with one each McCabe and Mrs. Miller with vertigo
Elijah Wood 1:02:23
How we say Harvey Oh, that's
Alex Ferrari 1:02:25
Great. That makes me That's awesome. Yeah, that's a great movie
Josh Waller 1:02:29
Lisa Whalen 1:02:34
I'm go nostalgic because I was just talking about this earlier. I know this is silly clue.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:40
Wow. Which which ending which ending?
Lisa Whalen 1:02:43
The Tim Korean
Alex Ferrari 1:02:44
Sebastian Twardosz 1:02:46
We have to do yours though. So what's your favorite?
Alex Ferrari 1:02:48
My favorite? Um, oh no, you guys put me on the spot.
Sebastian Twardosz 1:02:51
Oh, come on. Your favorite.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:53
Lisa Whalen 1:02:56
Check out that score for Blade Runner. 2049
Alex Ferrari 1:02:58
I cannot wait to see that. Yeah, you're nice and you're sir.
Sebastian Twardosz 1:03:03
Elijah Wood 1:03:05
I have never cried more in a cinema than watching you. I don't even like talk you when you first saw when you first saw it. No. So there was the 2k restoration. Yeah, but I saw it said you
Daniel Noah 1:03:18
were not the one with the added scene.
Elijah Wood 1:03:19
No, no. The God forbid. And I had never seen in the theater. I'd seen it so many times. Sutton theater for the first time in stitches. I have never cried more. Wow, the impact was absolutely devastated. Wow. Yeah, dude, that that was heavy. I'll never forget that.
Sebastian Twardosz 1:03:40
I actually named my son you know after my two favorite movies ET and Star Wars Elliott. His first no his first
Daniel Noah 1:03:45
No, your sons named et and starwars?
Alex Ferrari 1:03:47
That is awesome. If that's true.
Daniel Noah 1:03:49
E.T Star Wars dinner!
Sebastian Twardosz 1:04:00
It's Ethan. E t. And then Han. I think that I got that through.
Lisa Whalen 1:04:12
Yeah, what's your wife like? Ethan? That's a good name. And then she was like, get tricked into a nerd name.
Alex Ferrari 1:04:19
No one will ever know. Guys, man. Thank you so so much is awesome. Yeah, yeah. Thank you guys. I cannot tell you how much fun I had doing that interview with Sebastian and the crew from Spectrevision. They were so awesome. And I can I hope you can tell that we were having an absolute ball. during that interview. Afterwards, they said to us that they had never done an interview. They've never had more fun doing an interview ever. Like that was the best interview they've ever had, ever. So we're very humbled and grateful that they gave us that, that, that great review on this interview. So I hope you guys learned a lot. I'm talking to Elijah and to Noah and the Daniel and to Lisa, their, their passion for what they do came through so clearly that it inspired me. And I hope it inspires you to continue to do what you do, and not give up and to be very, very pinpoint sniper focused on what you want to do, and what kind of movies and what kind of stories you want to tell. And when you create a brand accompany whether that brand is you, as a filmmaker, a company or something along either company or yourself, you've got to understand your brand. And really focus on that brand. And your brand might be like a Steven Soderbergh who jumps genres all over the place, Kubrick did that all the time, he never made the same movie twice. So that could be the brand, you know, or you could deal with the island that does a specific kind of movie, and so on. So just keep that in mind. But don't give up. And again, it was so so so inspired, and blessed to to have them on the show. So, guys, if you're listening, Elijah, Daniel, Josh and Lisa, you guys were awesome. Thank you so so much for dropping some knowledge bombs on the indie film hustle tribe. And I also like to thank Subash and tortoises from circus Road Films, as well as Adam Bowman from three ring circus. Without him, you wouldn't be hearing the audio that you're hearing. So thank you guys so much for listening. And, again, I'm going to try to do it weekly or daily this week, get you as many of these podcasts out as possible. I got some awesome guests coming up. So stay tuned guys, right. Now I'm gonna go rest for a little bit because it's probably gonna be another crazy night here on Sundance. And it's, if you guys haven't noticed, or if you haven't heard of you haven't seen any of the photos I've been posting. It's effing cold out here it is. Blizzard stuff. I feel like I'm in the shining. That's how much snow there is outside. I literally feel it's shining. And jack nicholson is gonna come in at any moment. So it's kind of crazy. But I want to do I'm making this effort because I want to get all this stuff out to you guys. While it's going on at Sundance, so please hit me up. Let me know what you think of this episode. And all the sudden that stuff that I'm doing. Of course, the show notes are going to be at indiefilmhustle.com/130. And you'll get contact information, perspective vision for Sebastian, and everybody else that we talked about in this episode. So as always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. Stay warm. And I'll talk to you soon.
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