IFH 442: No-Budget, $600 Camera, 3 Lights & Still Sold Worldwide with Elliot and Zander Weaver


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Today on the show we have two filmmakers that shot a sci-fi feature film with a $600 camera, three lights, no budget, no stars, and a dream. Amazingly they were still able to get worldwide distribution. The film is called COSMOS and the filmmakers are brothers Elliot Weaver & Zander Weaver.

COSMOS is a no-budget sci-fi feature film directed and self-produced by brothers Elliot Weaver & Zander Weaver, taking on all key crew roles throughout production, with the exception of writing the score.

The film is a contemporary sci-fi mystery following three amateur astronomers who accidentally intercept what they believe is a signal from an alien civilization. Realizing they may have just stumbled across Mankind’s greatest discovery, they must race to document their finding, prove its authenticity and share it with the world before it is lost forever. But the truth they uncover is even more incredible than any of them could have imagined.

Inspired by Amblin-era adventure, set over one night and against the backdrop of a World-changing discovery, COSMOS offers spectacle and thrills but reminds us success is nothing without people to share it with.

You can see the insanity that they went through to make this film. They started pre-production in 2013 and production in 2015. They shot it on my favorite camera the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 1080p, the same camera I shot my indie feature On the Corner of Ego and Desire with. Their soundstage was built in their garage where they would build up and break down the set every night. The film took 5 years to complete.

The pure insanity of these filmmakers is awe-inspiring. The brothers and I discuss what it took to make COSMOS, the tech they used, how they keep the actors for years and so much more.

Enjoy my inspiring conversation with Elliot and Zander Weaver.

Alex Ferrari 0:02
Now today on the show, guys, we have really inspiring and unique filmmaking story. Today's guests are Zander and Elliot Weaver, the mastermind independent filmmakers behind the feature film cosmos. Now on a daily basis, I get pitched just tons and tons of filmmakers wanting to get on the show. And as much as I want to help everybody out, I gotta, you know, I got to make sure that the stories that I put on the show are really good and really inspiring to the tribe. And I heard about Zander and Elliott's film Cosmos just by running around the internet. And what made their films so unique is that they shot their feature film, just like I did on a Blackmagic Pocket camera 1080 P. and that alone is not enough for it to really grab people's attention. Because like I've said before, no one cares about what you shoot it on, as long as it's a good story. And these guys were able to shoot a sci fi adventure film, Allah Spielberg's a mecca style about three amateur astronomers who intercept a faint signal from an alien race, and stumble upon something potentially world changing. Now they shot this entire film for about 7000 bucks. And I was so blown away with how good it looks.

And what's even more impressive is they got distribution, and they're selling their movie around the world, and making apparently good money with it. So the film was shot with three people in a friend's garage on a $600 camera, three LED lights and a decade old software post production software package, they shot with two lenses, one old and one cheap. One was a Tamron 18 to a 200 zoom, which they bought for about 100 bucks, and some vintage glass from the 60s from a brand I'd never even heard of. This is the kind of story we as filmmakers need to hear. We don't hear these stories very often. But I want to highlight these guys so much and I can't wait for you to hear their inspirational story. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Zander and Elliot Weaver.

I like to welcome Elliot and Zander Weaver, man How you guys doing? Very well. Thank you, Alex, thank you very much for having us on the show. Oh man. Thank you for being on the show man. You know, it's, I get I get I get bombarded with requests to be on the show all the time. And they're like, Hey, I made this really low budget movie and, and I, you know, and that was cool, like five years ago, like I made a movie for five grand like, that's, that's cool, but I get 30 of those a week. So it's not I need something a little extra. And I actually you guys came up on my radar with your film Cosmos a little while ago, we've been trying to do this for a while now. So everyone listening, the reason why it's taking so long as schedules, technology, all sorts of things to finally get to where we're at. But I saw what you're doing. And I was pretty blown away by not just the efficiency and the cost and all that stuff that you did, you did a movie for about 7000 bucks, as you told me, but the camera you used and we'll talk about that, and five years. And I say that with like, oh, God help you. You know, all that stuff. I feel it, brother, I feel it's, but I just love what you're doing and the quality and everything looks so great. So we're gonna get deep into Cosmos today. But before we do that, how did you get into this ridiculous business?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 6:14
Well, we ever since I think this is a story of many people who make movies and love movies, we've been doing it since we were kids. You know, since we were the first film we actually made, Elliott was five years old. And I was three. And we got the home video camera. And we made a film called when the toys came, came to life when the toys come live. And I've toys in our bedroom came to life. And after that we were just we were hooked and all through high school, we were making shorts with our with our mates and making music videos for them and stuff. And we decided to just go straight from high school and jump in, you know, we didn't go to a film school, we didn't go to a university. There aren't really the same kind of level of establishment like there are over in the US for film school options. So we were just we just thought we'd jump straight in get some experience and start trying to you know, find our feet in the industry really. But yeah, passionate since since very small, very, you know.

Alex Ferrari 7:11
So the question is, did you sue Pixar for stealing Toy Story from you guys is the question. Oh, yeah.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 7:18
But you know, we're working on it.

Alex Ferrari 7:21
Because obviously, I mean, I broke the story here that Pixar stole they saw your short stole your idea and has made billions of dollars

Elliot and Zander Weaver 7:31
that were like seven or six and we were fuming in the cinema. We were like ready to walk out. This is our first taste of you know, the sippy cups flying everywhere. It was just it was just rough back then I'm saying filming out of his birthday party.

Alex Ferrari 7:51
Can you imagineit to be fair, I'll give them that? They did was the production a little bit better than yours just slightly.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 7:59
Slightly. Alright, so

Alex Ferrari 8:01
let's um, let's talk about cosmos. How did Cosmos come to be?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 8:08
Cosmos came about because we were actually trying to set up another project. As Anna said, when we left school we tried to set Well, when we left school, we both tried to jump into it and sour hearts on directing a feature film, you know, finally getting around to this thing that we wait to get out of high school to do. And we set this project up, we started writing a script. And we we kind of faced that challenge that all indie filmmakers face, which is do we write a script we know we can achieve? Or do we write the script we'd love to see and look to me, I love to make but and we'll cross that bridge later. And of course being like 19 and 21 years old, we wrote the script we wanted to see, obviously, you know, we'll cross that bridge. And then we had to cross that bridge. So we were talking to finance and we were talking to investors and we got a crew together. And it was all looking really good. But understandably we were we were young guys, and we were asking for something like 5 million quid for a budget or something because they all snowboard for the people. We got involved, it was going really well. And all the investment people kept going. This is fine. Your story sounds great, fantastic. Crew look good. But you know, you haven't done this before. And you're young, and it's a lot of money.

I mean, a reasonable.

Alex Ferrari 9:18
I'm just I'm just saying it's like the equivalent of saying, hey, I need 5 million to build a house. I've never built a house before. I've seen it. I've seen it on TV, it seems fairly easy. So and by the way, by the way, at the end of a $5 million house, you have a house at the end of a $5 million movie. Maybe you make money, maybe you won't.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 9:41
So we were like, okay, you know, reasonable reasonable concerns. They kept saying go away and make a film and prove that you can make a movie and we were frustrated because we were like this is what we're trying to do. Anyway. We put that initial film on the shelf which was called encounter, went back to the drawing board and went okay, let's, let's probably do what we should have always done. Look at what we've got available. You know, we've got lots of computer screens, we've got a station wagon, you know, that's kind of Volvo car. We love astronomy and all this sort of thing. What can we do? Robert Rodriguez filmmaking? What can we make a movie out of that we've already got. And that's how Cosmos was born. And our initial concept was to make it in about 12 to 18 months, and then go back to those investors and go, Hey, there you go. Like there's a blu ray told you, we could do it. Let's get back to business. But because we wanted to do it the way we wanted to do it, where we could prove we had, or hopefully prove that we knew what we were talking about, and we can take a script and deliver it, we wanted to basically do as much of it as we could ourselves. And that meant it took a lot longer. But we fell in love with the project. And we just ran with it. And it took five years in the end. But we're thrilled with with the journey.

Alex Ferrari 10:49
So you so you, I mean, I'm assuming you made this on the weekends, and whenever you had spare time and stuff like that.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 10:57
Yeah, well, initially, we did. So the first, basically the first year and a half of work on the film, the casting, finding locations, costume, making the props and everything. And yeah, the first year and a half of the movie was was done in our spare time while we were freelancing, and we run a production company as well independent production company that makes TV documentaries, then from the end of 2015 onwards, we were like, if we're going to make this happen, we've got to commit to it. So we went full time on it. And we, it sounds a bit rock and roll. It's not rock and roll. But we we lived off the royalties from our documentary production, which is something that we talk about, to filmmakers a lot. We say, you know, if you're looking for that liberation, to be able to spend the time making your feature, film, your narrative feature, consider making some TV documentaries and getting them out on the market and letting them do some work for you. So those documentaries gave us that freedom. And for the next three years, or two and a half years, we work full time on the movie.

Alex Ferrari 12:01
Now what was the crew situation like?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 12:06
The situation was limited, right? So we had on the production crew, there was three of us. And that was our set myself, Zander and our mom. And we did. Right, we did everything. So we we rigged all the gear, we lit the sets, we rigged the mics we shot we did all the props, we did a lot basically we directed as well,

Alex Ferrari 12:32
there's that there's that.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 12:35
And with a shoot the shoot was 55 days spread over a year. Basically, we shot in blocks. And that was dictated because the actors, you know, were busy, and they had other commitments, and we tried to work around their commitments. And then in post production, it was just, it was predominantly the two of us, Sandra and I. And then we worked with a composer over about three months to do the soundtrack. So again, it was just xandra night for, like 28 months of just post production just staring at computer screens and just chugging away through, it seems like a really, it's a it's a mad way to make a film. But again, from the very beginning, our objective was we want something that we can show people, and that they can look at, basically, they can't take anything away from us. They can't sit there and go, Well, you know, it was well edited. But that was because you hired a professional editor wasn't it, or it's well graded. But that's because you hired a professional calibrator we wanted to for better or worse, whether it ended up being a good film or a bad film, we wanted to have something that we could show these investors and they could go. So apart from acting in it, and writing the soundtrack, everything else is you and we can go Yeah, now, on our next movie, we don't want to do that we want to work with people who have honed their craft and their masters of their skill and they can bring so much to it, but at least hopefully demonstrates that, you know, we have an understanding of visual effects. And we have an understanding of editing and we have an understanding of Foley and all this sort of stuff. We don't want to do it professionally. But at least we can be part of those conversations as directors. That was the end anyways. So

Alex Ferrari 14:16
I mean, cuz I mean, I've heard of these stories of projects going on for five years, and it generally never ends. Well. It generally doesn't end well when you hear like yeah, been making this movie for five years and like oh, okay, and if it's something I've worked I've worked on features that took that long to make and it just never got released just they paid it they did it and they just couldn't get it sold because it was either too bad or for whatever reason, so that you guys actually got it to the finish line. And and it looks as good as it did and it made as much noise as it did. Is is a feat in itself. Man. It really really I mean you are guy you guys are definitely the indie film hustle. personification? There's no no question about it, because to stay on a project for five years, man, you got to be committed. And that also says a lot about you as filmmakers. You know, if I'm an investor, I'm like, these guys are serious, man, they stuck on this thing for five years better or worse. And there's a reason why it took them this long. It's not because they were crazy, because it didn't have any money. And if they would have had a decent budget, this could have been done within a year all in. Yeah. So now you chose the Blackmagic Pocket camera, which has just a dear place in my heart because I shot my last film on the black bag. It's a pocket camera as well. I've been saying this for a while. It's a stunning image. It's gorgeous. It's tennety p i don't care. It's gorgeous.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 15:44
I yeah, we totally agree. We think it's this unsung hero of the film world and it's completely it's quite overlooked actually. Yeah, we saw when when we shot the film in 2015 we started shooting the film in 2015 and the pocket camera the original pocket camera I think was it did it come out in 2013

Unknown Speaker 16:05
something like that. Yeah, something like that.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 16:07
Yeah. And we we we saw the footage coming through online or people doing camera tests and we were just absolutely blown away by it. We just thought it just has such this filmic quality to it just looks absolutely lovely. So as soon as we could we could we were freelance cameraman at the time and we we bought a camera to use for work and then we were like this is it we've got to use this for Cosmos so it served us incredibly well there are there are you know bumps in the road with the camera battery life for example is no good the screens a bit iffy and all that kind of stuff but once you've got those things in place Yeah, what you've effectively when you buy the camera is this beautiful sensor really and we were we were very happy with the results of the film so much so actually afterwards we approached after the film was released we approached Blackmagic sure they gave it to give away to the filmmaking community which was wonderful like to have that association and that affiliation with them was a real moment of pride.

Alex Ferrari 17:06
Yeah, what I love about what I love about the camera yes the battery power I use the juice box so I just like used to have that. I just I put it in with the juice box at last I we shoot we shoot six hours.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 17:16
Oh yeah, it

Alex Ferrari 17:16
keeps going. It just goes and goes and goes with the juice box. It was solid that part and then I got the was it did you guys get the speed booster?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 17:26
We did we did get a speed boost. Yeah, meta bones. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 17:28
the meta bone speed booster just automatic gives you another step and a half. It's wonderful. And yes, the monitor in the back can have issues can have issues but you could plug it in if you're if you're so inclined, a little little monitor, pop it out or something like that if you want to. But the speed that you the the speed, you can move the size of it. I mean, and now that I mean now they have the 4k pocket camera or actually the six k pocket 4k is old school now that the six k pocket cameras well, so they have these other versions are a little bit more beefy. But this has this super 16 dial it's a super 16 image. It's a sensor it's a super 16 sensor. So for me like with my film, I wanted that like 1990s Sundance indie vibe with a little bit of green I actually added it was too clean I added grain to the image and post but it's such a beautiful camera now what lenses did you use?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 18:24
We shot most of the movie actually on a single stills lens that we had a 28 mil 1960 stills lens that we just talked. Yeah, and it just like you said it, I don't know what it is about that sensor. But the way sort of the light blooms it does have like a grainy, although it's obviously digital noise it does have a grainy look to it. It looks like film grain.

Alex Ferrari 18:50
Yeah. But it's what it is. But it's pretty clean. But it's pretty easy. If you shoot it right, it's clean. And but the aesthetic of the image has that super 16 clean look. And you and if you just add just a little bit of digital grain to it which a little film grain onto it on top of it, it could just take it to that

Elliot and Zander Weaver 19:12
that other beautiful it worked it was perfect for our needs. You know, cosmos is a film set predominantly in in this car you know in the station wagon so we had to get a camera and all the you know a slider and stuff inside this car and shoot in the confines of the vehicle and to have this small camera was just absolutely you wouldn't have been able to do it otherwise,

Alex Ferrari 19:36
you would have to like cut the car in half and fly you know fly in and out and all this kind of stuff. Like I actually Yeah, like I own the Blackmagic 4.6 K camera, but I chose to shoot with a little camera because of the ease. Even if you would have had a red or an Alexa you couldn't have shot this film.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 19:56
We couldn't we say that to people sometimes and they kind of look at us and they go What do you mean and you Go. Well, I mean, it's tough to get a camera in a car. Like it's not it's actually our car. It's not a set. Car chop the roof off, we've got to drive home. So, yeah. And also up and again, some filmmakers look at you like, you know, you've landed from Mars, because Yes, he does. But he doesn't he doesn't matter to me and it doesn't matter in general. But be there is something beautiful about like film is high resolution but it's soft. It's a delicate image. It's not pin sharp, crystal clear high fidelity. And I think the 1080 p Blackmagic. It has the same texture The film has it's a bit a pinch sharp image if you want it and it's clean, like you said, but

Alex Ferrari 20:48
it's soft, it's it just softens the edges in a way that film does. I mean, they I've talked to Blackmagic a lot about this when I work with them. And I've told them that camera is just like an all of their actually all of their images, they always have this, this kind of like beautiful like it's like red is frickin just scalpel esque. In their image. It's so crystal clear. It's a bit it's a bit much where Alexa is also a soft image, but the Alexa costs 80 to 100,000 as opposed to the black magic and and all of that Now, one thing I found interesting about your story is that you guys, you had a soundstage obviously they don't tell you don't tell don't say this publicly, but you had a soundstage It was your garage, you actually built a garage soundstage where you shot a lot of the filming. Can you explain that processor? service?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 21:44
Yeah, yeah, well, we did the Garrett's actually a friend of ours. So we have one of the challenges that we faced is that the actual set of the movie is the is this car. The vehicle that we would use to get from the garage every single day. So you know, at the end of filming, we would end beginning of the day, we'd get there and we get all the gear out and we set the props up in the vehicle we shoot. And then by the end of the day, we had to direct everything, put it all back in the car and drive up, we could leave it all set up. That would have been but but the film takes place across one night effectively. And instead of having the car out in the middle of a field and shooting actually in the middle of the night. For the interiors. We just drove it into this garish, we put up a black psych and we shot during the day and faked it as if it was at nighttime and it worked superbly well. But we all we did all start going a bit early by the end of it because we weren't seeing any daylight it was middle of the winter here in the UK and we drive it in the dark shoot in the dark all day and drive out in the dark. So yeah, we craved the lunchtime daylight that we got every day.

Alex Ferrari 22:53
Now, I want to go back real quick. The whole 1080 p aspect Did you shooting untended p affect your D your distribution deal? Your sales? digit they go oh, no, we can't take your film because we need four k? Can I just want because this is a myth. People think you have to master in 4k, you have to shoot in six or now 12 K or something like that. I want you to I want you please tell the people please tell the people the truth didn't matter.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 23:24
No, it doesn't matter. Well, it didn't matter to us. We spoke to a handful of distributors, we spoke to a handful of sales agents. We even got two distributors bidding against each other for the film. And even when we settled on one and assigning all the deals up, not once in the sort of six months that we were doing distribution. And since have we been asked about what resolution The film was shot on not once did they ask us during the negotiation process? What what resolution is that? You know, what did you shoot on? It didn't matter. And in fact, when we got the deliverable, the tech specs in the tech specs for our distributor it actually said if you have shot your film in 4k, can you please let us know because we will have to set up a special pipeline for you. Basically, not many people do that. You know, in other words, not many people do that. And we'll have to go a special route for you. So yeah, not once were we asked Is it into k four k six K, they just they watched the screener. And that's all they really want it to talk about. So we often get asked to we get emailed by people going oh, you shot on the six k i read you shot on the Blackmagic six K and we're like no, no, we shot on the television. And they're like no, no, the

Alex Ferrari 24:44
same thing

Elliot and Zander Weaver 24:47
will happen right now get in touch and they'll say we watched the movie you know really impressed with what you achieved with the limited resources and UI Oh, that's amazing. Thank you. And they say well what do you what what camera Did you see on you tell them and like Elliott said They assume success. Okay, 4k, you know, it's the 10 ACP one and they go really I'm shocked and say, well, you you watched it. So like, do you like did it work for you? Did it distracts from the story for you? Or did you just watch it and enjoy it and not really worry? So yeah, I think it's very easy to get lost in the kind of K war with all the modern technology. But ultimately, I think as storytellers I focus should be more on the script and the acting and the soundtrack. Stop it on how many cakes stop

Alex Ferrari 25:29
it stop it, sir. You're talking crazy talk, sir. Crazy Talk. It's all about the cameras. It's all about the gear. If you've got a 12 K camera. If you have an Alexa with $100,000 lens on it. That's all you need. You don't need a story or acting that said that automatically makes your movie good isn't that that's what I've been sold. That's what I've been doing. Am I wrong?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 25:55
asked you know what codec we shot? We shot people go shot raw then right. And we we asked we shot pro res Lt.

Alex Ferrari 26:03
Well, that's not that's not honestly. Okay. Now I'm gonna have to say that is kind of crazy talk. Why didn't you shoot it? Come on, guys. You could have shot raw, well, wait a minute, but you edited and Final Cut, which we'll get to in a minute. So raw would have been a big pain in the butt for you.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 26:15
It would have been it would have been I mean, we just we did our own little camera tests. We put our nose to the screen and we were like

Alex Ferrari 26:20
LTE, you should have LTE not even pro res just to tell the difference. Lt. Yeah,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 26:26
we did HQ pro res and not an Lt. He tests and we were like, looking at our monitor, you know, our Mac monitor going up? Which one is this? I can't tell.

So we also like wanted to just like we wanted to, we're big fans of like committing on basically what it looks like and how it is lit and the color and you know, and so because that's those are the directions that we look up to from our childhood. You know, they didn't have that kind of flexibility that is now available to filmmakers. And I think it can hone your abilities in your craft. So to some degree, we wanted to test ourselves and go look, we're gonna bake this and we're gonna just shoot, and what we get is what we get, and we're gonna live with it. And that's, that, to us is part of the thrill and excitement of filmmaking. It's crazy man.

Alex Ferrari 27:13
Crazy talking guys crazy talk. And but you also have a limited theatrical right? We didn't Yeah, how could you How could you do that with a 1080? p? That's not possible, sir. How could you do that?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 27:25
Wow, great question. Yeah. held up beautifully on screen. We did actually do an upper as two cameras. Yeah, for the DCP using DaVinci. resolves upscale, which is nuts. In fact, I've heard that many people are selling the Blackmagic, six Ks and four KS, going back to the originals and just raising them because they prefer the image, how it looks on the original. But yeah, we had a limited theatrical release, the movie was in nine cities across the states, which was just mad for us, right? We are not anticipating that like two kids from Birmingham, UK, making a movie of its gonna be shown in cinemas in America. That was that was a dream come true. And we've seen it, we saw it twice on the big screen. We had a premiere here in the UK premiere out in Los Angeles as well. And it just really holds up incredibly well considering and I just, I just wish that filmmakers could, you know, stop worrying so much about it because of the kit that we've got available at our fingertips now. It's just so incredibly powerful. And there is just no excuse, I think

Alex Ferrari 28:34
no one and that's why that's another reason why I wanted you guys on the show because you shot with this camera because I shot with the camera as well. And everyone says what, all the same things you would get I've gotten with my film. And and I did the same thing like cuz on my monitor here where I calibrated it looked great, but when I was I premiered at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood with my father and I was like, this is amazing and but to understand I was terrified I just upwards I did a dp a DCP up to two k I'm like, Is it gonna work? And it's I don't know what it's gonna look like I'd like it's gonna be super grainy and like, Okay, well, it's supposed to be kind of grainy because I wanted it. And when I saw projected in the Chinese and I just sat there before the audience came out that we did a little Tex Tex scout on it. I was like, oh, Mike, it looks amazing. It's gorgeous. It was so and we did the DCP to the to the Vinci and I was just blown away. It's honestly I've shot with all the cameras known to man 3560 and I've tried everything. It's probably one of the most beautiful things I've ever shot that film. It's such a great camera and that's why I wanted I want people listening to understand. You can buy that little camera right now on eBay for six to $800 maybe less, maybe less. You can find you can buy the full like a full kit for like 1000 1200 bucks and that comes with like, a lot. I mean I bought my I bought mine off of ebay I bought it like it for I think 1000 bucks, but it was like a full kit case, batteries, all of that stuff and then to rig it out. It doesn't cost that much like you. Yeah, if you need if you need a matte box, I got my matte box for like 150 bucks. Yeah, it's it's you can really you can pimp it out, man, you can pimp it out. Really? Really?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 30:25
We made our camera rig. Oh,

Alex Ferrari 30:28
yeah, I heard about that. Yeah, yes. So please tell it tell us about your your rig sir. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Yeah,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 30:47
we actually put up a video on our Facebook page a few months back just to show people because they kept we've spoken about the fact that I've made this rig. And I don't think some people believe that it was actually true. But yeah, it's one of those very kind of Heath Robinson held together with gaffa tape kind of affairs, really. But just you know, when I was looking online, we didn't have a budget for this movie. I was looking online, and there's some wonderful rigs out there. But I think there's like two kinds, right? There's, there's these lovely machine milled beautiful things, right, that are quite expensive. 1000 bucks. Yeah, but cheap, plastic ones, and you think they're gonna snap when I first use them. So I just thought, because we had some very specific requirements with Cosmos getting in the car and being able to adjust the rig setup and what we wanted to do with it. I was like, why don't I just make a custom one. So went to the hardware store, got some word, got some copper pipe, got some nails, and just put it all together early. And you can see the behind the scenes. It's not pretty, right? It's not but

it's as part of the fun of this film. You know, we are very proud and very like, humbled by how well it's done. But we're also really excited because we've done it in sort of the most kitbashed ad hoc way, you know, we've got a cardboard matte box, and we've got ankle weights on the back of our rig. And we're using a wheelchair for a dolly and it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter to us. And it was film about it wasn't about standing behind a camera with a cap on and posing and looking cool. It was about making a film no matter what. And it wasn't about being cool and being seen with a red epic or Alex Yeah, we'd love love to work with that, you know, it would be a dream, but we fought we fought went that. That's sort of the image of feeling good about ourselves in exchange for actually being able to get a film made.

Alex Ferrari 32:44
Yeah, no, it's in that when I saw when I saw the behind the scenes and I saw you guys in a wheelchair. I was like, oh, Robert, Mr. Rodriguez has helped us out so much. Because he's, I mean, I'm a bit older than you guys. So I came up around the same time Robert did I speak of him? Like I'm my friend. I'm not but but Robert. Bobby, Bobby. Bobby, no. Robert, he did the wheelchair thing with his with El Mariachi and I did a wheelchair thing every everybody of my generation did the wheelchair like we and to be honest with you this is what how I got because wheelchairs are expensive. They're not cheap. So what we did this is back in 1994 I think we went to the mall where you could rent a wheelchair for the day for $1 25

Elliot and Zander Weaver 33:32
Oh wow.

Alex Ferrari 33:34
But we just took it home

Elliot and Zander Weaver 33:37
Wow. morally questionable.

Alex Ferrari 33:39
No, wait, wait, wait used it, returned it afterwards got my dollar I got a quarterback because I returned it. So the essential rental would be it was just a because no one does that like and there's also the 90s and they didn't you know and it's a different world way less less cameras let's cameras in the you know, security cameras less security. It was it was the Wild Wild West. But yes, that's that was what I do.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 34:08
Right. That's the indie film hustle.

Alex Ferrari 34:09
No, man. I since I've been I've been I've been living the brand since 92. Sir. What is the biggest mistake you made making this film? I'm sure there's a list. But what's the one that you like? Oh, um,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 34:27
I think I think the biggest well, so this is this is an interesting question. The thing that we often say we would do differently is we would just get some help, right? We would raise a bit of money, right? very obvious, like two people, three people. But the challenge that the reason it's not that simple, actually for us is because part of part of the marketing for Cosmos has been leveraging this kind of indie film spirit. It's been Connecting with the filmmaking community by saying, look, we're just doing this with nothing follow us along, be part of it. And, and so if we'd have done it, how most of the people do it, when they put a band together and they kickstart and they raise $1,000, then you're just the same as everybody else, right? So to some degree, this nuts stupid way of doing a movie was took ages, but it paid off because it's allowed us to open up conversation, we're talking to you now because of it, we wouldn't be otherwise. So I would say if I wanted to get it done quicker, with less stress, just collaborate with more people get it done sooner. But you know, I'm very proud of like, the way we've done it and and the experience that we've obtained from it, it's just like, God, it's a measurable way to just have a bit of a glimpse in and understanding about all these elements and aspects or it's like the ultimate film school. So it I, you know, it's a really interesting question.

Alex Ferrari 35:59
What did what did mom do, she was a third crewman who woman

Elliot and Zander Weaver 36:05
was essential so our mom professionally Not anymore. But before we were born, and while we were kids, she was a professional TV makeup artist. So we the one of the main disciplines that she had on the film where she was hair and makeup, and that obviously, you know, sort of rolled over into continuity so she was keeping track of all the beard length and the hair length and the colors and all that sort of thing. And then we did also just like rope in and pull it a good use doing the clapperboard every now and then sometimes holding the boom and sometimes running the smoke machine man. She was sort of almost like the third director really we were we were all in it together but she was also we often say she was the onset mom and every set needs a mom you know and all the older guys they kind of she mother them and they adopted her so we all we had this sort of family family unit on the film. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 37:05
Now what did you guys use for smoke machine? Did you actually like buy one of those like party smoke machines? or?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 37:10
Yeah, we had we already had like a Mr. Like a disco smoke machine type thing. But we tested outside we're like, this is just not not gonna happen. Like in the windy British winters like okay, it's

just lit a cigarette. That's not gonna work.

So actually, the single biggest expense on the movie, we bought a gas powered our temp smoke machine. Yeah. The propane ones. Yeah, the proper drums, you know, and, and, but for us, we, we could justify it in our heads because we were just like, this is gonna give us a production value. We're going to be out in a forest and it's going to give us the depth and allow us to kind of make it look like we have more likes than we do. And we're big fans of like having that smoke medium to light in and all that stuff. So for us

it was it was about it was over 10% of the budget. Yeah, on this moment.

Alex Ferrari 38:03
But I want to get it I want to ask you something because I've shot with a ton of haze machines and smoke machines in my career. And you guys didn't shoot RAW. So I know from shooting with smoke machines that smoke doesn't take direction quite well. How? How Tony Scott shot every scene of every movie that he ever did with a smoke machine or a haze machine and it looked perfect every time how he did it? I don't know. I could only imagine I've had struggle with full crews. How the hell did you wrangle smoke or haze in a shot? And how did it not how did you match it in post? And how did you deal with it in color? Because sometimes if it's one shots hazy and then the coverage is not hazy. How do you like how did you do it?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 38:54
Well, it's difficult

Alex Ferrari 38:56
it was hard to sell Alex I have to tell you it was ridiculously hard.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 39:00
It was impossible. We almost Set everything on fire and third degree burns and the whole lot really no yes so we did get quite good at like timing the smoke machine so you can we could sort of like leave it off on its own and it would just trickle out and it's very against the rules of owning a propane gas. smoke machine is never leave it unattended but you know, we were all grown ups we were only a few feet away.

We all think we do like a blast right? We do. We'd like one of us would run around with a smoke machine blast into the grass and all that kind of stuff. And then you sit back and it should be this enormous fog cloud right here behind the camera ready actors are we ready? wait for it Wait for the moment wait

for the video. And then just when it was right we went for it.

Alex Ferrari 39:50
I have to I just have to point something out that you were judging me morally about my my wheelchair scam, sir, you left row pain machine unattended, sir Which actually could have killed people. My little scam did not kill anybody. And it was returned sir. So I both of you, I just I just wanted to point that out.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 40:10
I take everything back I'm sorry.

Alex Ferrari 40:13
So yeah, so that even even in post though, like, matching, matching that haze

Elliot and Zander Weaver 40:21
did it for the most part we it was okay. For one reason or another, we didn't have too much problems, but we did this there is always that you know, there's always that balance isn't there when you come to your color grade and you

think you did a bit of smoke stuff in it. Yeah. pasting backgrounds and paste that can you just take the smoke from behind this guy's head in this shot? Yeah. And put it in this guy and he would just be like,

Alex Ferrari 40:47
okay, yeah. I mean, it's, it's, I just want people that hearing this understand shooting with a smoke machine or haze machine is not easy, and it's time consuming. It is. You shoot it up. Settle. Wait, wait, shoot. Oh, cut. Do it again. And then like, Oh, you I've only done an insight. I've never done it outside. So I can only imagine shooting it outside where you guys had

Unknown Speaker 41:16
action as well. Like you'll be for 10 minutes. And then suddenly, you put the smoke machine over there. You know, it's it's you chasing your tail all night long.

Alex Ferrari 41:27
Now, can you talk everybody because you guys did purchase a very high expensive wind machine. So can you tell people what that wood machine was?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 41:36
Yes, yes, absolutely. Well, you know, in the, in the spirit of all high end special effects that you see in all the blockbusters. We we went into our garden shed and we were digging around and we were aware that you know once upon a time we were the proud owners of a leaf blower. So we got that Dyson leaf blower out gave it a bit of a blast and thought okay, well we can't record any dialogue while using this but we can have winds so yeah, that was one of one of our jobs. In fact, my job on the end of the shoot I was directing and blowing hot dusty air into the faces of the actors so you were just directing right yeah.

Alex Ferrari 42:16
Smith and it was Yeah. You want him to cry so you just show just slammed dirt into their eyes basically at high speed.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 42:29
Yeah, teary, glassy eyed look. That's great. Oh, sorry. No, you've just got your face amazing.

Alex Ferrari 42:38
Now what I want to talk about post because what I read what you guys didn't post again made my heart just just warmed my heart because you were using two pieces of software that I use on I look I'm a recent convert from Final Cut seven when I say recent was probably like four or five years like four four years ago maybe I think four or four years ago I think I switched over to editing four or five years ago I switched to editing to in resolve strictly but I had seven solid and with 10 ATP when you guys were shooting a pro res so I actually I mean with my first film I had to actually go to resolve because I was shooting RAW on the sim the old Cinema Camera the original the original 2.5 k Cinema Camera so I had to go rock because I'm like I finally have to leave poor Final Cut seven so you edit it in Final Cut seven and then you colored in color to Apple color if I'm not mistaken right

Elliot and Zander Weaver 43:41
sound design in Final Cut seven as well.

Alex Ferrari 43:44
oh yeah oh yeah

Elliot and Zander Weaver 43:45
yeah,

Alex Ferrari 43:45
so you guys are doing and what year was this?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 43:49
This was yeah started a

Alex Ferrari 43:53
truly truly no excuse so as I'm saying cuz I I did all this in like 2006 so there is there's no excuse no base you have what you had and that's again that's another great lesson here. You have it you own it use what you got

Elliot and Zander Weaver 44:09
that's it that's what it's all about and for us we we we produce all of our documentaries using Final Cut seven this system and again our philosophy is just like look there's been Oscar Oscar winning movies that have been edited on Final Cut seven we have no requirement to push to a new piece of software we're not shooting in 4k or 8k or something crazy. Shooting 10 Hp if it's good enough,

or parasite when the best time Yeah, john. Seven.

Alex Ferrari 44:38
Yeah, no parasite was edited.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 44:43
Yeah, it was so

Alex Ferrari 44:46
easy. I didn't know that.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 44:48
Yeah, it's still strong is a

small band of FCP seven users and

Alex Ferrari 44:53
like come on, keep it alive.

Software is a great piece of software, though. I do like music. Have a little bit better than color, I have to say,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 45:03
yeah, we're in the process of kind of switching over to resolve for all things, all things generally really, you know, cutting and grading as well. So, I mean, just black magic all the way.

Alex Ferrari 45:15
And that's another thing that people want people to understand is like, if you if you stay within the Blackmagic ecosystem, man, it works beautifully, like you, you shoot RAW, bring it into resolve, and you can do everything in resolve and then you don't have to actually even go out to online anywhere. it all stays in visual effects are connected sound is connected. It's it's a pretty amazing piece of software.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 45:39
You're talking some kind of unknown future world to us, Alex, we're still dealing, Final Cut seven and kind of

get a floppy disk. Floppy? No, no,

Alex Ferrari 45:51
get the zip, get the zip disks or get the zip disk. The zip disk in the jazz? Do you know even know what a jazz drive is?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 45:58
No.

Alex Ferrari 45:59
Do you know what a zipped is? Do you know what a zip disk is? You guys are so young. You're so young.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 46:07
Copy this right?

Alex Ferrari 46:08
No floppy disk was a 1.2 meg, if I'm not mistaken, disk that are held like 1.2 make the zip disk held 100 Meg's plastic disk. And then the jazz was the big brother of the zip. It was all by iomega it was a company this now I'm just I'm dating myself. And only like 5% of my audience is going. Oh, I remember that. No, I'm much, apparently much older than you guys extremely much, much older than you go. We

Elliot and Zander Weaver 46:39
used floppies at school putting our coursework on floppy disk. The USB flash drive thing was like, wow.

Alex Ferrari 46:48
Science Fiction, isn't it?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 46:50
Yeah. Now it's like, oh, he's

on USB stick. We were talking to someone not long ago. And they were talking about mp3 players when they listen and what was it and they said, Oh, you say they were saying something like, Oh, yeah. parently there was a time when mp3 players couldn't do this. And we were just like, oh my god. Like, there wasn't a time when mp3 plays existed. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 47:12
yeah. Yeah, there was this thing called tapes. CDs, records, eight track. I yeah, a track vaguely in a car in a car. When I was a kid. I remember. Ah, anyway, I'm so I'm so I'm so effing old. I appreciate you. You reminded me. Thank you.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 47:31
I said so children have a tape. Recording you you mixtapes on?

Alex Ferrari 47:36
radio and waiting? Yeah, waiting for the radio, just like I hoping the DJ does not say a damn word over the song.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 47:45
The song in your life? This isn't right. Where's that?

Alex Ferrari 47:50
Because you hear that said 1000 times and you're like, Hey, welcome back. Like he's just waiting for that.

Oh my god, I used to do that all the time. So weird, because you guys, you guys were the DPS in this as well. And it looks By the way, fantastic. It looks gorgeous. So that's extremely impressive. You got what I love about the film is that you you really made it used so much production value, but yet in a very condensed very small space. Really, it was a small group of characters. And a lot of people think that you have to make a very contained movie like yours, which is contained but it wasn't contained. There's like big outside scenes, and there's excitement and things like that. But it doesn't have to be in a room. I mean, you you can think outside the box a little bit. And it's still you did a car. But it was a car with outside and you know the sky and there was a lot of production value and all this stuff that you did with it. But we did look at the film is really great. When you got into color, though. How much did you do? it? Was it like you guys were close to where you want it to be. And that's scary, man. I'm like, I'm just I'm letting you know, I've been a colorist for 1012 years. I have to shoot RAW because I need that. The freedom to like save me. For me. thing to do. Yeah,

it is the correct sensible thing to do is what you're saying?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 49:18
I mean, why not? Is the real answer to that question. Why would you not use those tools that are available? But ya know, we shot as we previously mentioned, we lit with the colors. We wanted it. You know how we wanted it to be lit with big fans of splashing color in their sky? Yeah, Tony. I mean,

you know, and we're not likening ourselves to No,

Alex Ferrari 49:41
no, no, no, it's just like Tony Scott. This is what I do. No, no, we understand. Yeah, we understand Tony. Rest in peace, Tony. But I mean, Tony and Ridley both. Yes, yes.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 49:54
So yeah, we our goal was to just capture that as much as possible on location and then When we got to, to the color grade, for the most part, it was a few kind of vignette power windows here and there. We pushed we did a thing. We did some tests early on, when we were comparing the Blackmagic footage to film footage. And we noticed that film had like a kind of slight greeny yellowy tint in the highlights, that's something we just saw. And so we just pushed a bit of that in the saturation of the contrast ever so slightly, it was a very time consuming process, because it always isn't it with the with the color matching and everything. But in terms of how, how much we push the image, we didn't do a huge amount to it. We were quite delicate with it.

Alex Ferrari 50:42
And how about visual effects? Because there's a couple of visual effects in the movie. There is

Elliot and Zander Weaver 50:46
70 visual effects of the film, how many? 170? Yeah, nice. Most of them are not visible there. We call them invis effects, because they're just not even supposed to be noticed. They're like set extensions, and skylines, and stars in the sky, and all that kind of stuff. But yeah, I handled the visual effects. While Elliot was doing all the sound design and the Foley for the film. I did the visual effects on blender, which is fantastic open source. VFX software is just getting stronger and stronger. And man, it's exciting to see what they're doing with it. pioneering stuff. And, yeah, and After Effects as well. But for the most part, like I said, it was some stuff extensions and skylines. But there were more involved things. For example, the front of the telescope, we replaced the front end of the telescope in the movie, because it looked pretty awful. Actually, it was a it was a visually a tripod carry tube. And we created a prop for the front to make it look like a telescope. And then we got into the Edit. And we were like dad just does not sell

rubbish, rubbish,

rubbish, absolute trash. And so he turned to me and he said, Can we do something about that? So I had to figure that out. It was very much a learning process as we went. But yeah, I always say that like, when it came to the visual effects, it was something I was doing for fun before Cosmos was even a consideration. So if you ever get that kind of tinge of excitement about anything, just just explore it a bit because filmmaking is such a diverse discipline there's so many different elements to it, chances are it'll come back and help you at some point

Alex Ferrari 52:27
and you get so you can't then after effects you become a competent After Effects visual effects. 3d in Blender 3d, Final Cut, edit, and color and then you also mastered sound and final couple, which I know is ridiculous. Because I've done it myself. It's not really built not built as audio. Not at all. Not even a little bit, not even a little bit. And then you guys also did Foley as well.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 52:52
We did a lot yeah, we did the Foley and I did that. So it was it was doing the visual effects like I was stomping around and rustling and breathing into microphones and all that sort of thing and

Alex Ferrari 53:03
amazing 66,000

Elliot and Zander Weaver 53:03
sound effects were put in onto 100 audio tracks.

Alex Ferrari 53:08
So what what machine were you running because I know Final Cut seven fairly well that's going to tax the that's going to tax the software, sir. Yeah,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 53:19
I don't I just an iMac and iMac.

Alex Ferrari 53:23
That's an iMac with a with an operating system that still runs Final Cut seven because now officially, it's dead. Yeah, you can't upgrade. Yeah.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 53:33
We have to IMAX right. This one today and the one we made Cosmos on which we cannot change.

Also, the Mac is like dead now you turn it on and you just try and open up chrome or something. You just think we kill this computer trying to make that film? Yeah. It just wants to retire. It wants to graze.

Alex Ferrari 53:55
Is it something about Baxter? Or is it something to say I still have three towers of old max that I just I can't get rid of them. I just there's there's just something like I can't there's no I can't get rid of my Mac I don't like just just in case you need that CD ROM for some reason. You know,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 54:17
absolutely.

See the floppy disk drive on it. So you gotta keep gotta keep the options open.

Alex Ferrari 54:26
Just in case, everything goes to goes to hell. You got Final Cut seven. Let's rock and roll. Now, and so you finish this whole movie, you're ready. It's been five years. And you're like, Okay, let's get this out to the world. Tell me your adventures in distribution. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 55:01
Okay, yes, so we finished the film. And we then set about putting together the marketing materials that we thought we would need in order to get a distributor. So we did our own poster, and we cut our own trailer. And we put a screener together and all that sort of thing. And then we decided to, in the spirit of the film, continue to do everything ourselves. So,

Alex Ferrari 55:25
of course, why wouldn't you? Why wouldn't you?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 55:28
Why wouldn't we have learned our lesson after five years? So we started, we actually tried to submit or we did submit the film to probably a dozen film festivals in sort of the tear of film festival that you hope your film might

Alex Ferrari 55:44
sell Sundance, Sundance, Sundance, or South by Southwest, you don't you donate it to Robert Redford's retirement, understand, as

Elliot and Zander Weaver 55:51
I'm sure he appreciated that, we obviously got flat out rejected from from every festival we submitted to. And then we decided to just sort of, we were going well, we're gonna go to we try to get into festivals, so we can connect with distributors. But I wonder if we can just connect with those distributors directly. And we spoke to a few filmmakers, that we knew we've done that route. And that's what we pursued. So with our marketing material, and a screener of our film, we set about reaching out directly, and sent out some introductory email, sent out some screeners and just started talking to people really, and we spoke to sales agents as well and try to suss out whether that was the right route for us. And in the end, we, we we got we actually got two distributors competing in a bidding for the film and push that up the or, you know, yeah, push the bid up and make it more favorable for us. And then ended up going with one that we felt offered something that was worth, you know, the deal worth signing up to. And, and that's what we did, that process took about six months from, from the day of finishing the fill to, but that's

Alex Ferrari 57:01
nothing. But that's nothing for guys like you you've already taken. He's taking you four and a half, five years to make a movie six months of distribution. That's nothing.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 57:09
I sense of time. It's like, we were like six months. Yeah, it was an interesting process for sure. But we used IMDb pros free trial to create a list of distributors that you know, in the in the kind of realm that we were looking for, and we just, we just went down that list. And ultimately, it worked out and we found a home for Cosmos that is done for the most part what we wanted it to do, although no distribution stories, plain sailing, for sure.

Alex Ferrari 57:44
Yeah, I haven't heard of one of those. yet. That ever it's like, yes, it was fantastic. They only gave me money. I actually didn't know what to do with all the money and attention I was getting was generally not not not something you hear. But but generally speaking, though, you're happy with where you went with the distribution company and how things have been how it's been put out into the world and everything like that, because I look, I've seen it everywhere. And I've seen it pop up a bunch of different places. So I'm assuming that you guys as far as marketing is concerned,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 58:14
yeah. It is. It is for sure. Yeah, we will. We will. We we've got us ventures. And I think their model is very much given to the producers, they know their movie, they can market it, you know, we'll put it on the platforms. And so as far as we're aware, most of the marketing of the movie is our work really, you know, we put the post in the trailer together, we did an ad spend on some social media to try and get it out there. And we're just trying to engage with the filmmaking community and share the process read as much as we possibly can. But you know, we are, we're certainly happy with the reach of the movie. It's available on you know, many platforms. In the US. It's on like Hulu, TV, it's on prime streaming and Vimeo. It's a all the all the all the S VOD, and VOD options that you could hope for, to be quite honest. But there's also certainly a strong argument for that kind of independent distribution route where you handle yourself if you do all the marketing anyway, right? Like, why not? Why not made that final step for us. We our goal was very much to be able to finish the movie, give it to somebody else have control over the marketing, because we didn't want it to be in someone else's hands were worried that it could be marketed incorrectly. But but to not, to not have all that time spent on getting that movie out there. So it made sense to hand it to somebody else because we wanted to start writing a new project to start moving forwards and not get kind of like bogged down in the in the personal distribution of the main thing

Alex Ferrari 59:50
now but the other thing is to you guys have a very different endgame for this film. And that's something that's really important for filmmakers to understand listening is that your goals with the film We're not to make a million dollars, or you know, or be, you know, rich or anything like that off the film, money's nice. We would like to have money if we can't keep going without it. But because I'm assuming you don't want to do another five years like this, I'm assuming this is it, you're not doing any more. No more of these movies, you have to promise me no more. But um, but you but your goal was to get it out there and and get your name out there for people to see you to have conversations about other projects to talk to other investors. That was the end game for this film, correct?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:00:38
Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, the film has, the film has been out six months now. And we are starting to move into a phase where the film is making us money, which is great. Because that's a real uptick. But you You're right, our goal was, we have the philosophy that like, we couldn't buy our way into the movie industry, even if we had loads of money. So we've got to find something of value, beyond the finances that would allow us to progress as film directors. So if we could trade, the financial reward for the exposure, and hopefully people are liking the movie and the word getting around, and maybe people in industry hearing about it and going Oh, yeah, I've heard about this film, actually, that was more valuable to us as filmmakers. And and we do try and stress that to people we talk to and, you know, on things like this, that we're not at all sort of suggesting, but this is a business model for

Alex Ferrari 1:01:37
the $77,000 five year model than No, not so much.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:01:42
We were you know, we run a production company. Aside from this, we got other projects and other fingers and other pies. The reason we wanted to make this movie initially was as a bargaining chip to get that initial film off the ground. In the end, it was just supposed to be something that we could barter with. But now you know, it ended up becoming something bigger. And it's actually acting in a way as like a crowbar. So open industry doors, and since the film has been released, we've had people from, you know, Hollywood, email us and you know, we've been talking to managers and we're potentially talking to people and it has, it has given us that sort of springboard. So yeah, we we traded the finances for potential, you know, to be able to help a career move further on.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:31
But the other thing is that you also didn't make a $200,000 movie and had that goal, then you made a $7,000 movie. Yes. You know, very, very Robert Rodriguez esque. A nice round seventh house.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:02:46
Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:49
Exactly. No, that's, that's amazing, guys, you guys are definitely an inspiration, an indie film inspiration. And in, you know, it's, it's an you did it in today's world, but get a little bit in the past, because it took me five years to do. But but all the things that you did travel to this point right now. And the, the basic spirit of what you do is, is getting out there and doing it. And not everyone needs five years. Some my son might need seven. But um, but you did it and you did it on your own terms. And you told the story you wanted to tell, and it's doing exactly what you want for it. And you can't really ask for. I mean, you could ask for a bunch more. But generally speaking, you got what you aim for.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:03:34
Yeah, we absolutely, we actually got a lot more than we aim for. I mean, we've walked away with a movie that people are watching, and they're enjoying it. And we have people contacting us every single day to say, you know, I checked out your movie. We're in lockdown. And it's brought me hope and it's brought, you know, and it sounds corny, right. But like, ultimately, as filmmakers, our goal is to, like tell a story that people connect with and to hear that people are enjoying the film, and wanting to kind of connect with the community and be part of it. It's just, it's an absolute dream. And on top of that, the actors that are in the movie, they're like family to us, you know, like, we've been to weddings, and we've moved houses and we you know, we're all part of it together now. And it's been a testing experience, but it's just an incredible one as well. Very, very lucky.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:24
Now, I'm gonna ask you a couple questions as my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:04:32
Blimey. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:37
Take five years, take five years and

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:04:39
go to take me nuts. I would say be be passionate. Because I think there are a lot of people, you know that and I talk to a lot of people we've crossed paths with filmmakers. And I think you can and also young crew, you can sort of sniff out the ones You kind of want to be in it because they think it's cool. And I'd love to walk the red carpet. And I'd love to be it's a glitzy glamour industry. And then you can also immediately tell the people that don't care about that at all. They're just, they have to do this because they love it so much. And I think, I think that people who are in positions of power can tell why, why you're sitting in front of them. And if you're passionate, and you love it so much, I think that that you're gonna win them over. So I'd say be passionate about what you do,

I say, really identify what it is about making movies that it's gonna make you happy, though, why do you want to do it, because if you're doing it for the end goal, if you're doing it, because it's going to get you somewhere, someday, that's just not really going to get you through those challenging nights where you're, you know, you can finally get seventh crashed on you for the 100th time and you're in the middle of a render, and you just lost your head. You know, it's to me, a big thing that I've learned through the making of Cosmos has been about just enjoying the process. Don't forget that it's filmmaking that you love. Not the next movie, not the movie you're making 10 years, not where you'll be or what you could be doing some day. It's right now. And if you're on set with a camera, and you're making a movie with actors, you're doing it, you're just doing it. So just enjoy that and try to hold on to that through the whole process.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:25
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:06:31
things take time? Yeah, I'm gonna say exactly that. Patience. Yeah. God. Yeah.

Patience, persistence. things take time, things take longer than you ever thought they could just accept it. And don't face it. You know, you're doing the best you can.

I remember hearing, there's a phrase that I we our dad used to tell us, he heard and he told us, and he said that people overestimate what they can achieve in a year. But underestimate what they can achieve in a decade. Yeah. And it's like, that's, that's great. I remember leaving school 18 and be like, this is it. You know, by the time we're 22 should be

Alex Ferrari 1:07:08
any time now Oscars, should I should I get the tux now? What should I do? Now? I'm

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:07:13
32. It's been 14 years since I left school. And I've just, you know, it's been six months, we've released our first film, it took a lot longer than we thought it would, but we didn't give up and we all now hear. So patience. Don't give up. Keep working hard. love what you do. And it will come

Alex Ferrari 1:07:30
and three of your favorite films of all time.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:07:34
Definitely et

Alex Ferrari 1:07:35
Yeah, I figured, man, I don't know. I feel when I saw cosmos. I'm like, Oh boy. These guys love that Spielberg boy, they just love it.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:07:47
Steven Spielberg. Yeah, I mean, it's good. It could easily be three Spielberg films be top three. But I tell you what, we watched the other day again. The first time in a while Meet Joe black.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:59
Of course. Yes. Cool. Yeah, love. I love your black

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:08:02
love me. 201 movie. Wow, incredible. Um, but yeah, you go and pick some pick one.

It's hard to pick a favorite man. I tell you what, not picking a favorite movie. But another good Martin breast movie Scent of a Woman. Oh, yeah. And seen anything Spielberg jaws close encounters are classified as so good, man.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:30
I mean, you can watch jaws right now. And it is perfection. It's just the shark. I don't care. It's just perfect. It's exactly what it needs to be. I don't want to see g shark. I want I want I want that shark. It's It's so so perfect. And did you know I'll give you a little bit just trivia. The scene in the boat where they're drunk. It's the night before the big thing and what's his name? Oh, the old Robert. Robert Shaw is doing that whole, like, long diatribe about like the dialogue. He's like talking about that. That was actually written by john Milius. Ray Spielberg called them like the night before and said, Hey, john, man, we got to shoot the scene tomorrow and we need a scene and john is not sure and he wrote the scene out for him.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:09:23
Just tie this up for it.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:25
Yeah. What's like it's like you calling one of your mates and going Hey, dude, can you can you help me out with this shot but that's who they were they like the yes young filmmakers

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:09:33
Beto.

That's amazing. I mean, it's funny because we will have this we'll talk to the film, you know, Trump's gonna make yourself and you'll have this phrase like, what's a perfect film and people say jaws and suddenly everyone goes up jaws jaws.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:46
Mommy jaws is a perfect is it? Yeah, there's, I mean, Spielberg has a few perfect films. I mean, there's he's, he's got a couple in his you know, and, I mean, I could go into the Kubrick I can go into Fincher and I can go into Nolan. I can go tomorrow I can go into Marty. I mean, Coppola, I mean godfather obviously.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:10:09
We love Gladiator as well.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:10
Like Blade Runner. Blade Runner. Alien aliens if you want to go down.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:10:19
overlooked isn't a camera camera.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:21
So this is the funny thing of okay. And now there's just two. This is from geek stalker guy, so just bear with us. Cameron, I went Titanic came out. I people were like, you know, I don't know how old you guys when Titanic came out?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:10:36
Yeah, okay. Have you seen it?

Alex Ferrari 1:10:39
Yeah. So, so Okay, so nine, so I was a bit older than you 97. But when when to everyone, it was a big hoopla $200 million is gonna bomb who's gonna want to watch Titanic? I mean, we all know how it ends. Like, why would you do that? And I just kept saying to everybody who was saying that anyone I talk to him, like in Cameron I trust.

Yeah, I love it. Cameron I trust because he has yet to make a bad movie. And if you look at his filmography, from the abyss, aliens Terminator, Terminator two True Lies. Amazing. He just always delivered it just always. So then, when fast forward a decade, and then avatars they're saying the same thing about avatar. I'm like, Hey, can I trust Cameron? Cameron, we trust. He's one of the most underrated filmmakers. I think in history, he's the most one of the most successful filmmakers in history. And the funny thing is that and I always tell people this like, do you understand that nobody else can make avatar? Like there is no Spielberg Spielberg is not getting half a million half a billion dollars to go develop a new IP new technology about blue people with arguably no major bankable stars like major stars involved no other like you said born with nothing that could support a half a billion dollars that today Yeah, today stars, you know, yeah, so nobody, not Peter Jackson. Definitely not Fincher, definitely not Nolan. like nobody else to do it. Other than someone like James Cameron, and there is nobody else. And when you when you realize, and I've heard these interviews, like when you're the only person on the planet that could do something like there's no there's not an argument here. Could Spielberg make a movie like avatar? Yes. But not by himself. He doesn't have the skill set. camera isn't like a whole other level, like with the technology and and you know, and Nolan and all that, you know, there's just nobody else that could do that film. No one else would write and get a check for half a billion dollars.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:12:52
Now you're right, actually, that's something you quite easily overlook because you just go

Alex Ferrari 1:12:57
Yeah. You take it for granted. You just take it like Oh yes, James Cameron, but there's nobody else.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:13:04
I love watching behind the scenes footage of especially on an interview series in the water camera on his shoulders. His waders just did you did you?

Alex Ferrari 1:13:13
Did you guys listen to my interview with Russell carpenter, the DP from Titanic. So you have to have to listen to about to quit Cameron's story. And every one again we are now you guys can leave. It's now just between us. We're just we're just talking now because we're geeks. Russell Carpenter gets called in to his Malibu house. And it's like, we're gonna do True Lies. It was about True Lies, because he didn't realize that he did Titanic and now he's doing all the avatars. And he calls them up and James Cameron just brings them into his mansion in Malibu, and they're walking around and he's just talking to Russell like, he got the job. Like, there's no offer. There's no nothing. He's just talking to him. Like he's been hired. So we get out he leaves. He's like, I think I was hired. And and. and Cameron during that time, even during the Titanic time, his his reputation is he's rough. Let's just call his rough. He's a little bit of a taskmaster. Let's call it Cameron's legendary for being that dude on set. And so then his students realize and everyone's like, how's it working with James Cameron? He's like, it's great. I have no problem. I don't understand what everyone's having such an issue with James like, we've been shooting for a couple days. It's been peaches. It's been great. So they're in his Malibu house again, his screening room in Malibu, and there's in there seeing dailies and he's shot comes up from Arnold and then I'm gonna guys everyone Prepare yourselves I'm gonna curse I don't care. So I'm just quoting Mr. Cameron at this point. And he goes, What the fuck is that? And Russell's a he starts like big and the production designers. They And the first ad is there and a couple of their keys are there. And he goes, Hey, Russell, I just spent $20 million in the biggest movie star on Earth. It'd be nice if I could see his fucking face. Oh, wow. And then all of a sudden the next shot comes up and he just goes to town at every single shot and Russell's just like, okay, okay, so he leaves. He's out in the parking in the parking area. And he's like, he's calling his wife's like, I've been fired. I've been fired. I've been fired. I've just been fired. There's no way I can go back. I mean, obviously, James Cameron wants to get rid of me. Then the production design in the first day they come out and it goes, Russell Russell, he does that to everybody. Because none of us he didn't call all the other DPS has worked with he does it to everybody. He calls up the DP from the from like the Abyss and he goes, does he goes, did he try the whole? I want to see the face guy. Yeah, he does. He does it to everybody. It's not you. You're fine. Just keep going. And that is James Cameron.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:16:00
We saw recently, we saw the some of the behind the scenes from the Abyss as

Alex Ferrari 1:16:05
I was about to say that. Did you see that documentary? Did you see the set up? Or did you see the documentary? Did you see? Yeah, you've seen the whole documentary, right? The whole like,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:16:15
why am I looking? I mean, all the way from the beginning, right, Cameron? You go Oh, yeah, the guy that made avatar you go No, no, no, no, no See? This? Like, Oh, yes, a nuclear silo? Let's fill it with water and build a set. Why are you talking about

Alex Ferrari 1:16:28
he's been, and I'll give you one more camera story. And then we will end this interview. Because we could just keep talking for an hour. Can I read it? I read one of Cameron's biographies on the Abyss if you saw the behind the scenes of this, and by the way, anyone listening here should go watch the Abyss if you haven't seen it, and get the DVD and or Blu Ray, and watch. arguably one of the best filmmaking documentaries I've ever seen up there with hearts of darkness for Apocalypse Now. It is amazing to watch. You just sit there with your mouth on the floor the entire time they're doing it. And the suits at 20th Century Fox, it was way over budget, it was like a 50 million at that time was like 50 million bucks $60 million to make the movie. And it was just going up and up. And like, you know, the tarp broke and the filtration system broke. So people, and they had to buy these really expensive, like design these really expensive suits so people can not only see, and we can see their faces. So he has like he's so on the line item. It's wardrobe. It's wardrobe, but it costs like $10,000. And everyone like no one knows what's going on at the studio in the studio and like they're somewhere in North Carolina. And so a suit flies in. And if you saw that the behind the scenes cameras, you know, you're underwater for 10 hours. So you have to decompress for two or three hours underwater, so you can come up without getting the bends. And Cameron was doing this all day every day. He was he was in the water more than anybody else. So he was a taskmaster. But he was proving he's walking the walk. So this he he's just getting out of this decompose the composition and he takes off that that that you know that that element that he that they built right. And this guy comes up who's obviously a suit an executive, he comes up and goes, Hey, James, I'm here from the end before he could finish the sentence, James took the helmet and slammed it on the guy's head. So now the guy can't breathe. Because it's without oxygen. That thing is airtight. So now he can't breathe. He grabs him by the by his tie, and Dre and lifts them over like he's dangling from the edge. And if he falls into water, the dude is gonna die. If he falls into water, unless someone gets to him, he's gonna die. And he dangles them there while the guy's like barely breathing for like 10 seconds. Then he pulls them back in, rips the thing off he goes, if I ever see you on my fucking sin again, I'll kill you. And

now you see, this is the 90s. Guys, this is early 90s. This is a whole other world. I don't suggest you do something like this. But these are the legendary stories of James Cameron. This is one of a billion of them. But I have heard or read about over the years. And I know a lot of people who've worked with him. And every single time I I meet with somebody like I had another guy. Okay, one more story. And that'll be the last James Cameron story. A buddy of mine. He was at the DGA. And he's a DJ director, and he's, you know, he's a good director in his own right and has a couple films under his belt and he's big and music videos at the time. And I think it was Spielberg and Cameron. I think in Jackson or something like that, where they're giving a talk to the other day. And they're like, yeah, you need to do this and we're doing this is the new way and do this. And my buddy comes up he stands up he goes, Hey James, that's really nice because you're James Cameron. I don't have access to that kind of stuff. Like in front of everybody called out James Cameron in front of all these other directors. James goes, Well, what are you doing tomorrow? Do you want to come set? That? No, this is this is avatar before anybody knew what the hell avatar was. Before anyone knew what the technology all you heard was rumors about what the technology was that was being built. And I even heard I was here at that time I was here in LA. So I heard like through the grapevine, like James Cameron's doing something like this now. So he shows up, shows up onto set, which is the what is that the volume, the volume, right? And he's the volume. And there's this and they're basically developing technology. This is all brand new technology they're developing. So behind them in the soundstage is like three rows up with just computers, it must have been 40 people with wires and computer gears and just servers and shit just because you know, and you see James Cameron with this monitor in front of them. And in the monitor wherever he moves the camera. You see, avatar, you see, whatever that I forgot the name of the planet, Pandora, you see Pandora, right? So you see Pandora in real time. In real time, you're seeing everything in real time. So he sees everything, but it's all virtual. So then, my buddy standing behind him because he's shadowing them. He stands behind and he's watching. And he goes all right action. And it's the scene where they like they arrived the first time the helicopter and they jump out that thing, right? So he does and he goes in the take action and they he jumps off like a stool. He jumps off the camera, and he runs and he runs into a digital tree. Like he runs into a digital tree. And it goes, Hey, Jimmy, can you move this thing? About 20 feet that way? And he goes, sure, James. And all of a sudden, like from God, a mouse from God comes into the screen, clicks on this tree in real time, lifts it up roots and all moves it over 30 feet and plants it over there. Let's go again. These like and then they do it. So then my buddy comes up to him after like a few hours of this and they're like prepping something and he goes James man, this is. This is pretty cool technology man. And this is where you understand where James Cameron is in a completely different playing field than any of us are. He goes, you know, it'd be really fucking cool. If I didn't have a cable to this damn thing. This cable has been driving me nuts. I wish we could figure out a way to do this without a cable. It's the most cutting edge technology in film history at the moment. And he's like, but the cable is buggy.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:22:32
not perfect yet. And that's

Alex Ferrari 1:22:36
and that is and that is James Cameron. I'm sorry, everyone for listening if you're still with us, and we turned this into a James Cameron love fest. I apologize for that. But, guys, guys, where can people find you? What you doing your film all that good stuff?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:22:52
Well, we have a website Cosmos movie official.com, where you can find out where you can check out the film and follow us on social media and even buy some merchandise. If you fancy

Alex Ferrari 1:23:01
works. Are you selling

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:23:02
merch? We're selling caps, and they're they're flying off the shelf. But yeah, we're on all social media and we make we make it our personal quest to reply to every single piece of correspondence we get. So if you have any questions about the process, or about your own movie, and how distribution might work, or this or the other, just get in touch, we're always happy to talk genuinely,

Alex Ferrari 1:23:26
thank you guys for being an inspiration to the to the film tribe and to filmmakers everywhere. We need stories like this, to keep us going. Because it is a fairly depressing time that we're in currently. And, and before before, you know the situation that we're all in. It was still depressing. 29 eight it was still fairly depressing for filmmakers, especially independent filmmakers and making money and making your movies and all this kind of stuff. So these are the kind of stories I like to promote and and really give people inspiration to go out there and make their movies. And you guys are the personification of indie film hustle. So thank you guys so much for being on the show. I really appreciate it.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:24:07
Well, thank you very much for having us. It's honestly it's awesome to be on the show. Thank you.

Alex Ferrari 1:24:15
I want to thank Zander and Elliot so much for coming on the show and inspiring the indie film hustle tribe, with their misadventures in making cosmos. Thank you so, so much, guys. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, please head over to the show notes at indie film, hustle calm for slash for 39. And if you haven't seen cosmos, I highly recommend you check it out. links in the show notes. And of course, if you want to check out another film shot on the Blackmagic Pocket camera, of course, you could check out my film on the corner of ego and desire shot at the Sundance Film Festival. And you can check that out at ego and desire film.com thank you so much for listening, guys. As always keep that also going, keep that dream alive. Stay safe out there, and I'll talk to you soon.

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IFH 253: No Film School Needed – Direct & Sell Six Features in Two Years with Elizabeth Blake-Thomas

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I have an inspirational treat for you today. On the show, we have writer/producer/director Elizabeth Blake-Thomas. She has recently financed, written, directed and sold six feature films in the past two years, with no professional film school training. Elizabeth has been involved in the creative industries for over 30 years. Studying drama from a young age led her to run theatre schools, train other students and companies and work in various creative industries, culminating in where she is now, a director and writer.

When I heard her story I had to hunt her down and find out how she did it. BTW, she’s not stopping, Elizabeth is currently in prep for three more feature films. Talk about hustle. She is the definition of the phrase “INDIE FILM HUSTLE.”

She is proof that no film school is needed. Enjoy my conversation with Elizabeth Blake-Thomas.

Alex Ferrari 1:52
Today's guest is Elizabeth Blake Thomas, who is a writer, producer director, who has just directed six feature films in two years. And the kicker is she didn't go to film school. She didn't know anything about the film industry per se. Before she got into it though she had been around the entertainment industry for 30 odd years in plays and working with actors and things like that. But she had never shot a feature film or even a short film. And she just hit the ground running, learn what you need to to learn, and started making movies. And not only did she make movies she had these aren't like movies that she pulled, you know, five bucks out of her pocket to make. She had them financed and sold and continues to make more and more movies. And if that's not enough, she has two or three feature films in prep as we speak that she's going to shoot back to back and we'll get more into that in our conversation. But I really I heard this story. And I reached out to Elizabeth because I was like I got to get her on the show. I got to get this inspirational story to the tribe. Because I want you guys to understand it. You can put obstacles in front of you, you can go out and do it. And it doesn't matter. If you're not educated in filmmaking. You learn along the way, as long as you have the will to learn, you can make it happen. Please enjoy my conversation with Elizabeth Blake Thomas. I'd like to welcome to the show Elizabeth Blake Thomas. Thank you so so much for being on the show.

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 3:26
Oh, thank you for having me, Alex. It's an absolute treat to be here.

Alex Ferrari 3:30
Thank you. Thank you. And and if if the tribe if you hear some noise in the background is because Elizabeth is literally hustling on the streets of Hollywood as we speak. So you might hear some things in the background.

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 3:43
Do you know what that's that's one of the wonderful aspects of being in this industry, isn't it? We never know where we're going to be. And today I happen to be on the streets hustling.

Alex Ferrari 3:53
Right? And you're going meeting to meeting, jumping, jumping in the meeting. So that's awesome. So I wanted to have you on the show because I read an article about you on stage 32, about how you were able to make six feature films in two years, which is a feat in itself. So that's the reason why I wanted to bring you on the show because I wanted to hear your story. And you have a very unique story and very unique background. So before we get started, first of all, how did you get into the film industry in the first place?

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 4:25
Well, I was a theater director back in the UK, I ran my own Theatre Company for about 16 years old. And I love that side of things. I love characters. I love actors, but I'd never considered the film industry, I think, coming from the center of England. theater was something that we all you know, loved. We did it at school. It was something that was obtainable, and you had the West End. Film just didn't register with me until my daughter was nearly five years old and got lead in a TV show. And then she kept being given these wonderful opportunities to be in films, and I would be on set. And I would be naturally immersing myself in this environment. But again, in all honesty didn't didn't register with me that that was possible. And then Isabella, my daughter got off the opportunity to be in LA. And, and I was like, wow, this is Hollywood, this is this is fun for her, again, nothing to do with me, right. And I kept being asked on set to help out, they kept seeing me instruct Isabella or, or kind of have an understanding of what was necessary in a way, you know, producing on a very simple level. And so I thought to myself, this is quite fun. Maybe I should do something for my daughter. So I produced just a short for her. And it went really well. And it was a very good friend of mine. Sean said to me, You should be a film director. And I said, How do you do that? And he said, you just say you all. Okay,

Alex Ferrari 6:09
What a ridiculous What a ridiculous business we are in.

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 6:13
But I would like to make sure that there's a caveat of understanding that this wasn't just that I was some random, I don't know, a let's call a swimming pool maintenance person. Never been involved in any form of industry. You know, it was it was a shift, a big shift, but a shift that was within something I understood.

Alex Ferrari 6:35
Right! Exactly. You've been you've been a theater director for a long time. You've you've worked with actors for for most of your career. So you you knew that person. Now all you need to learn was the technical aspects of things, of actually how to work within the media, but film.

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 6:50
Absolutely. And and of course, that is never ending. never learn everything. And so that's, I think that's what gave me the courage to do it. Because I thought, well, I don't have to turn up to this job knowing everything. I know what I like, I can use my own insight to what I already know. And if I surround myself with incredible knowledgeable people, then that might work.

Alex Ferrari 7:17
My oh, my God, that's that's, that's actually smart, and intelligent and logical, as opposed to so many first time directors who hire first time, DPS, first time production designers first time grips. Like, you're like, why would you do that? hire people who are smarter than you, and have more experience than you so you can learn from them?

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 7:41
Yeah, always, I always surround myself with people that are much, much more intelligent than me.

Alex Ferrari 7:48
And that's, that is a, that is a sign of a good leader, and a good director, people who, who feel more you feel comfortable in your own skin, you don't have to prove yourself. So that's why you're hiring people who know more than you and their departments, so you can learn from them. And that that's why your films come out good.

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 8:05
Definitely, definitely. And don't get me wrong. You know, we started with a very basic crew of 10 people, and it grew to 35. So everybody learned along the way, I kind of took everybody under my wing and said, Do you want to join me for this crazy ride?

Alex Ferrari 8:22
I did. No. Speaking of the crazy ride you did you set out to do six features? Or do they just happen to be that you'd made six features in two years?

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 8:31
Oh, that's a good question. Again, I was given a great piece of advice that once you shoot your first move straight on to your next one, and it was the best piece of advice I've been given because I'd seen a lot of my friends creating their first film. And then 234 years later, deciding to work on another one. So for me, it was within two months, I thought yeah, absolutely. Let's make another one. So I did. And then from that one, I naturally found an exact producer, he wanted to find the next one. And I said, Okay, well listen, if you're gonna give me that amount, I could make two for it if you give me a bit more, so I made two. And then suddenly I was able to make the next one. And then the next one. And it's a lot of hard work and I I often laugh because I am absolutely exhausted all the time. When I'm on such a high the whole time. Then it kind of you know, outweighs each other.

Alex Ferrari 9:26
Because I know look I've directed a few features myself. I understand the the the the amount of energy it takes to direct a feature film, let alone to prep it, let alone to write it let alone to do the post on it. Are you done with the first film when you're starting? The second Are you still kind of in post

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 9:47
I will say I basically had six babies over two years. That's how it feels. birthing a baby every time. No they they did coincide. Which again is always fun. One of the days we were I was finishing shooting one film. And the next day, I was screening my other two, back to back at an Arc Light. And we were finishing them. I really under some pressure. That's insanity. I know, I know that if you don't make yourself accountable, and yeah, I mean, I do work in extreme conditions. But you know, you make yourself these deadlines and dates, I find that you stick to them.

Alex Ferrari 10:30
Well, yeah, when you have no choice like that absolute choice. I mean, I mean, so how did you finance the first one? And tell me the financing strategy behind all six? Because as I'm sure a lot of people are like, Where does she find the money for these things? And how did that come about?

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 10:49
Absolutely. Well, the the kind of, again, the caveat behind all i got six films funded needs to be taken back to, you know, many, many years ago, when I was able to learn the skill of networking, you know, networking being around people being a good person. Because what I didn't realize was, my films were funded from people that I met, just by being a good person, 510 15 years ago, maybe maybe even a wee bit longer, and not knowing that then I didn't even know I was going to end up in the industry. So it's very important. I think that people understand the skills of networking, being a good person, and having a good heart. And that might sound a bit naff, but it's very important that I, I get that across.

Alex Ferrari 11:37
And so then, so those people financially, like you basically went after financing for your first film, and you said, Hey, I'm going to make my first feature film. Can you give me some money to make it to somebody?

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 11:47
Well, well, this was a, this was a wonderful lady who actually had been a location for a film that my daughter had been in. And they actually really liked. The people that had this location, really liked my daughter, and myself, and I just stayed in contact with her. And then when I thought I was going to do something with Isabella, I remember she said, If I ever wanted to approach her about something I should, and I did, and I thought I was going to get you know, about $5,000, which for your first film, I was quite excited. And then, and then she actually said, Hold on a minute. Now I want to produce I've got a story to tell, do you want to make this, and here's a lot of money. And, and so I did. So my first film was actually funded brilliantly by this wonderful individual. And I was able to work with my crew for the first time. But the thing that then got me on to that next one, again, was okay, I need to make another film. How do I fund that. And actually, what I did is I approached six friends who all had children, who were all proper actors, and wanted to be in the industry. And I said, if you all give me a myself included, four or 5k age, I can make a feature film. So we put this together. And again, I use the same crew, but I make it a fun experience. So it's an enjoyable thing to be part of. And all the friends and all these wonderful people said, I'll help I'll be in it. I'll be in it. So we shot that film. And from that film, there was someone that said, I believe in what you do and who you are. I'd like to fund a couple more. So again, I said, Okay, well, instead of just funding this one film for X amount, would you put some more into that? And I'll make two and I shot two back to back. Because I just knew that last I had this momentum, you have to keep on going. Yeah. And then that's what happened with the next one and the next one. So it's really about building that momentum. And that's what I do. Now. The minute I have something the minute I'm there, I keep it going. Because you never know when it's going to stop.

Alex Ferrari 13:56
Now, how many days did you shoot like on your first feature?

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 14:01
12 days is what I average. But I have given myself 15 days if necessary.

Alex Ferrari 14:07
On a on that second feature that you did when you put you pulled together all that money. You made it for about 30 30,000. Yeah, that was probably only eight or nine days on that one in all honesty. Okay, so but even for 30, even for 30 or 40 grand and that general world, that's still a good amount of time. And how did you do post production? Did you do edit yourself?

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 14:30
No. Now I have, again, this wonderful team that have been with me, and they all basically they all believe in me, I seem to have created this wonderful confidence and trust in what I do. So because they'd seen my first film, and this is my second and I said there will be more. Everybody did it almost as a favor. I mean, I still was able to pay them something but I said look by doing this for me. You know, I'm going to give you more work. And I did. And I couldn't have continued to do that. So it's people believing in you. But you know, I always say you can never ask for a favor more than once. And that was my favor, right? No, that was the Come on, guys believe in me, I'm going to make this happen.

Alex Ferrari 15:18
And you can say you cashed in that favor, and then and then followed up with more and more work? And then just build from there?

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 15:25
Yes, definitely. And we have this wonderful little team now that I love and adore. And we're very, very much like a family and work hard.

Alex Ferrari 15:34
And you've made six of them. You're already in pre production for the second, the seventh one?

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 15:38
Well, I'm in pre production for two, I'm shooting back to back in two weeks time, of course, these of course,

Alex Ferrari 15:44
Why wouldn't you be? Why wouldn't you, you should be shooting right now you should be shooting, right? I'll get my camera out. I could I could be shooting myself doing I mean, seriously, that's the see.

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 15:56
I'm letting it down and letting the whole side down. Now those two are very simple features, they are being shot over, you know, five to six days, each one single character. They're very artistic. They're very experimental. I'm working on these two subject matters. One is a death of a child and grief. And the other one is, you're kind of coming of age being a 15 year old teenage story. So those times shooting in the next couple of weeks. And then after that, I'm actually in the scripts development. So they've been all developed so far. So I've got six scripts that I will then shoot over the next. I don't know, what should I give myself?

Alex Ferrari 16:41
I say I say 12. I say 12 to 18 months. I mean, yeah, I mean, you've you've been I've been, you've been a little bit lazy, semi sick. You're sorry. Let's push. So you have a book that came out as well. Yeah. What? I was gonna talk about your book in a little. Okay, so what is your writing process for these for these books? I mean, for these

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 17:06
Very technical, very technical, I write a vomit draft. So again, surrounding myself with excellent people, I seem to have a plethora of ideas. I don't know why. They just come to me titles, concepts, ideas, I will write a vomit draft, which is a very bad version of a screenplay. And then again, I've surrounded myself with excellent screenwriters and support. And I find there are certain certain people that take on those certain scripts. So I have somebody that's currently working on that the family comedies, I have someone that's working on, you know, the, the serious version of something or whatever it is, I have three or four screenwriters that then help and support me?

Alex Ferrari 17:48
That's insane what you've been able to? I mean, it's literally insane. It really, really is. Now, the big question I have for you, distribution plan. It's great to make movies, and we a lot of people can make them, but can you make money? Can you sell them? How are you getting? How are you? Are you? How are you getting your money back? How are you making profit for your investors? And how are you distributing these films?

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 18:14
Okay, so I won't be able to mention exact names, of course, but I can give you the, the basic understanding of how I achieved it. Okay, so I, I have a my best friend is head of acquisitions at a very large company. And she gave me advice on the stories pre kind of pre finalized scripts, because to me, it's about saying, hold on a minute, what is the element of this story that is going to be interesting for the the audience, you know, if this isn't for an audience, do I want to make it and of course, that's why I'm making my next two, they're very arty, that, you know, they will get some form of distribution, but not the masses. So I was able to work out. Okay, this is a Christmas script. This is a Halloween story. This is a so in my head, I already had a target audience. Once I've done that, and I've made a script that I believe is suitable to get distributed, I will then find out what those distributions are looking for. Actor wise, you know, obviously, I can't get Angelina Jolie in my films at the moment. But who is it that they like? What are they looking at? So I do quite a bit of research behind my ideas. I might sound like I'm crazy and just do it. But I'm quite business oriented in the, in the kind of the behind the scenes aspect. And so again, once that's sorted, I actually don't think about that, until I have shot the film. I make sure it's the right length. It's got the right characters, I know where it's heading. I will have looked at what other distributors like these kinds of movies.

Alex Ferrari 19:56
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 20:07
And then I have, I mean, the world nowadays is so different. I don't have expectations on things being able to get out theatrically, unless you have certain elements, you know, that's great. They don't have to be nowadays, right? So if I make my budgets affordable, then the way my, the exact producers or finances get their money back, is because it doesn't take very long for those films to recoup that money, because of all the various platforms. So each film actually is with a different sales agent distributor does nothing, that's the same. And if that my next films, every single one has got a different producer behind them, again, enabling me to have a different market, different target audience.

Alex Ferrari 20:54
And then basically, because you've now proven yourself six times over it's becoming easier.

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 21:01
Oh, my gosh, unbelievably. So because you have evidence, you have proof of what you've done proof of concept, proof that you can do it. I'm being asked to direct things now, which is a wonderful position to be in movies. And also I have that belief in myself, I very much believe in earning where you are. And so there is no way that after my first film, I would have been happy going, yes, I know what I'm doing. I needed to earn it. Every single film I've gone through, I've learned through something I've learned through something that's happened, whether that be a good thing or a bad thing. And in fact, I've written everything down because my book that will be out later this year, filmmaking without fear. Why not? is based on these six films, and very, you know, the truth behind them? Because it's not easy. You know, it's not, it's not like I'm going to make a film today. And it just go ahead and do it. You know, it takes so much effort behind the scenes, which a lot of my you know, crew might not see your, you know, other people involved. In fact, it's quite amusing when I get a phone call from a friend of ours I see met at the cinema, like, probably not any good, or they don't think it means that it's worth something. Sure. We have all these platforms now that make everything so much more obtainable for so

Alex Ferrari 22:29
I mean, there's 1000s of movies made a year only, like 50 or 100. Make it to the theater. If that. If that if that. That's insane. So basically, you are the personification of what I preach. You are the personification of indie film, hustle. Without question. I mean, you you basically done everything I preach about you, you, you have a system in place, you start you started on you keep your budgets low, you started smart, you hire people that know more about things that you do. And you start building in a building and you're doing it so fast, that you have to succeed at a certain point. And you know, your marketing, you know, your distribution, you know who you're making it for, you're already speaking to the distributors before you make the movie. You do it everything I've ever preached about on this show. And

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 23:24
I'm so I'm so pleased about that. Also, one other thing that I think is important, I have surrounded my for myself by very supportive people that are in the industry. Again, I've met them organically. I haven't gone out and looked them I've gone to film festivals. When I first started, I had a nonprofit, which enabled me to go to film festivals. And that's where I started to learn everything. And it was after about a year of interviewing these filmmakers that I thought Hmm, I know what they're talking about. I understand this. So that that and that hard work that went into that enabled me to meet these wonderful people who now support me and mentor me and, and I do a lot of mentoring because I believe in giving back and my next two films. I have some incredible, all ages, actually male female people that I mentoring that are shadowing me. And that's really important. Really important to me.

Alex Ferrari 24:18
That's That's amazing. And then again, during all of this time you had time to write a book.

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 24:23
I did I did what angles a divorce. Oh, I have to throw that in. Oh, like, top of it all. I will say that first film was one of the hardest, most painful times in my entire life. And I actually think by me working on that film, I got through everything because I could focus on that. It was it was an intense time. It was life changing. And I learned an awful lot about myself.

Alex Ferrari 24:59
Now what What is the biggest lesson you learned shooting six feature films in two years?

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 25:04
Oh, good question. Oh, I think the biggest thing I learned, hmm, ah, the biggest thing I learned? Oh, my gosh, that's a really good question. I mean, because every time I did something, I learned something, I think it was definitely, maybe to have the belief in who I am and what I do. Because if you can have that your team respect you and follow you. And I have a very definite way of running my sets. They're very holistic, it's very family oriented. I try to be environmentally friendly. I try to, I think, having set myself the way I do things, and having belief in that. I think that's what what I learned was okay to do. And I'm very happy to say it works. I mean, you know, again, changes can happen. Of course, that belief, I think, and who you are and what you're doing.

Alex Ferrari 26:03
Now, what drives you to hustle as hard as you are, as a very good guy seriously, because people ask me that all the time. But like, why do you do this? I'm like, Yeah, I do it because I have to. I have no other choice.

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 26:16
Yeah, I get it, I get it. And everyone's gonna have a different answer. I mean, there's this, there's a deep psychological reason behind it, as well as a much simpler reason. And the the deepest psychological reason is that I feel due to various experiences in my life with various fathers and things that have happened to me and friends, that I needed to prove myself. And that was a, you know, that can be a negative thing if you're doing it for other people. So that was a, I was able to shift that over time to know that I do it for myself. And I like to prove to myself that I say, I'm going to do something, I do it, that I have learned something new. So there's this innate belief system in me that says, if someone says you can't do it, and including, you know, sometimes your own self doubt, makes me want to do it even more. I love this conversation. I love the fact that I can sit here and say, I did that. Everybody said, it wasn't possible. They say, it's not possible to me every single day, I hustle and say, I've got this, I'm going to do that. And someone say, oh, but you haven't I say no, no, but I will have Don't worry about it. And it's that it's that proving to myself,

Alex Ferrari 27:41
You know, it's fascinating, because it's, it's, it's, you know, I haven't met many people like you in the business. Because, because because you remind me a lot of what I do, because I'm crazy like you and doing what we do. And I want to ask you the question, what, because I've had this happen to me so many times with people in the industry, when you tell them you're going to do something that they tell you is impossible. You see the look in their eyes, it's kind of like a glazing over that they cannot comprehend what you're achieving, or what you're doing.

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 28:17
Yeah, in fact, somebody last night question the amount that I make a movie for. And of course, I get that. But for me, it's about everybody has their own Hollywood's and so I think people immediately go to a place that they, oh, this can't be made, because I'll be done. Because it needs theatrical release. And because it needs this amount of money. And because you need this star, we all have the ability to make our own Hollywood's, for me the passion every morning is getting up writing, creating, knowing that I'm going to get a group of people together to make something that could maybe make a difference in someone's life. Whether that's even just to make them smile and laugh. It doesn't matter. That's what drives me. And so yes, there's there's definitely a lot of people that look at me and say, well, that's impossible. That's ridiculous. You can't just go to a film festival and meet an investor. And I very much with the belief of the universe and putting things out there. And the minute I verbally say something, yes, and I've put it out there. So it has to happen now, and I but I'm not someone that says things that aren't going to happen. Right, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 29:25
Like I'm going to go win an Oscar, which is a horrible, horrible goal to go.

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 29:32
Well, I think if that's your only goal, then you've lost the reason to do it. Christ would like to have the highest accolade possible for the accolade but more because I've made something that has really affected millions million people, millions of people exactly. So that's why I'd like it's just the posh Film Festival, but it's it happens to be the most famous film festival in the world. You know that that's if that's a goal again, it's why Are you aiming for this, we have to have the right reasons for why we're aiming for doing what we're doing. And I think that's why I've been able to do what I've done. Because my sincerity behind it and my belief system behind it, and the way I'm doing it is so far so good.

Alex Ferrari 30:17
I think that one of the reasons for your success is that you're one of the, you're something that is very rare in this town, you're genuine. Oh, you're genuine, like that. But you can hear it in your I've, we've never met in person, but I could hear it in your voice. I could hear it in the passion behind it. And it's real. And then you know, as well as I do in this town, that is rare. You do not meet people who are genuine. And then when people do meet people who are genuine, honest, real, coming from a good place with good intentions, they want to help you because hopefully, I feel that at least in this in this business. There are good people who really do want to do good work and help people. And you attract those people to you by the energy you put out.

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 31:03
Yes, yeah, I agree. And that energy is huge. Because I someone said to me, I think again, yesterday or the day before, they said, Gosh, you're on you're very happy person. Because even if I'm not feeling happy, or something's not good, I will always default to that feeling and that emotion, because that is what I'm very privileged. I've worked my way to get here, but I am hustling the streets of Hollywood making films. I remember actually going to a festival and someone said to me, so what do you what do you do? And I said, Well, I'm a director. No, but what do you actually do it? No, no, I'm a director. So I feel very privileged. I'm allowed to say that and be that right?

Alex Ferrari 31:46
Look at this. Exactly. You're not a director who does Uber on the side, you're

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 31:51
I fell very lucky. But I will say again, I make that happen. I'm very frugal. You know, I don't live a lifestyle that maybe other people would like to live if they earn that money. I'm very savvy with it. I think okay, I need to put this into the next project. How am I gonna make this work? And you know, we all have different ways of living and doing things and this happens to suit me again, it would not suit everybody at all.

Alex Ferrari 32:21
We got to you got to find what works for you. And and again, a lot of people want to fit the Hollywood system of movies, or the this kind of directors way of making movies or this kind of directors way of making movies, the all the very successful directors who are in our world in the indie world. They find a way to make movies the way that they can make them and make them happy doing so. Like the duplass brothers like Joe Swanberg like Lynn Shelton, like Kevin Smith or Richard Linklater, or these guys are Robert Rodriguez, these they found their way of making it and they're not trying to insert the Hollywood system because if you talk to someone in the Hollywood system, you're a lunatic. You're You're a lunatic, I'm a lunatic where you're crazy, like, make a movie for five grand, it's gonna look like something you shot on a home video, but they can't grasp the concept that like no, you can make a movie for a certain a certain budget if you know what you're doing. And you can tell a story at the end of the day.

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 33:22
Yes. And that's what it's about, isn't it? It's about telling a good story. We all know that. We all know that. That's what makes a film. Because even those massive budgets if they've not got a good story, no one sits there goes. Yeah, but the camera was excellent. Wasn't it? Or the quality of the lighting works. You know?

Alex Ferrari 33:41
The CG was fantastic. Yeah. Yeah. Basically is imperative. Absolutely as as the almost the entire DC Universe that's proven. I will I will only one of them is good. And other than the Batman movies, original Batman movies that Nolan and Wonder Woman Other than that, just horrible. Anyway, alright, so I'm going to give you I'm gonna ask you a few questions to ask all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 34:16
So and they haven't done anything, this is something that they'd like to do. Okay, I would, first of all, do as much research as possible. And that means going to film festivals going to the markets, finding out about the you know, the behind the scenes of filmmaking, because I think that's quite hidden. And, and for you to interview and ask and talk and research for as much information as you can on what it is that the filmmaking is not not about the cameras or the equipment or the styles, none of that yet it's the background information behind I you know, what, what a film needs to have what film is about because I went to the Cannes Film market for you know, many moons ago with my daughter actually had a film there. And I'll never forget that day of walking into the marketplace and going, Oh my god, there's a film with Sharon Stone in and that can't sell. Like what? Yep. So having that expectation and realization of what it really is about, that's what I would do first.

Alex Ferrari 35:24
Okay, now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 35:32
Oh, gosh, um, I think actually, nothing to do with film or drama. I'd say a lot of the Malcolm Gladwell books, okay. You know, I love the way that you have to have had 10,000 hours before you become an expert. I love the fact that it's all about who you surround yourself with. Yeah, I'd say the Malcolm Gladwell any of his. And actually, I also do like he's called Ken, and wrote a book about education. Because the whole point I'm going to I think it's Ken Livingstone, but that's, I think, also might be my ex, Mayor of London. I don't know. Anyway, he wrote a book about how education has an impact. So for me, that actually helped me bring up my daughter. And I did things I do things very differently. She writes screenplays with me, we have mother and daughter entertainment together. We she's only 15 and a half. And to me, it was about creating something bigger than the norm, what everybody does, and going to school. So I think Malcolm Gladwell and can something or other. I'll remember it. We'll put it on your blog.

Alex Ferrari 36:44
Yeah, we'll put it on. We'll put it on the in the show notes. Now, what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life? You've got good question. I wish you'd send them to me. I don't I don't often I don't often I

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 37:03
I know. Okay, a lesson a lesson. Well, I have to say, I am always learning. And I would say that even yesterday and the day before. And today, I've learned a new lesson. One of the most recent ones was about my words, actually really thinking about how a word has an impact on somebody that's in life as well as on a script. And that's, I think that's quite a good lesson. I wish I'd learned maybe 30 years ago.

Alex Ferrari 37:35
Yeah. Now what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 37:40
Oh, are you getting to laugh?

Alex Ferrari 37:43
No, go for it.

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 37:44
So okay, so Gone with the Wind.

Alex Ferrari 37:46
Okay, cool.

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 37:47
Okay, um, probably, it's difficult one between sound and music, Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but I like all of them.

Alex Ferrari 37:55
Why does all of those Make sense? I have no idea.

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 37:59
They are wonderful. And then I would also say, Hmm, I probably like Midnight in Paris.

Alex Ferrari 38:08
It is a good movie. I'd love

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 38:10
to you know, because I just love that era. And then I know you said only three. But I do like all the old Gerard Depardieu movies. They really affected me growing up, man on the sauce and 200 about jack and yes, I loved those.

Alex Ferrari 38:25
Awesome. Awesome. Now, Elizabeth, where can people find you online?

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 38:30
Online? I was gonna say in Hollywood.

Alex Ferrari 38:33
Where are you right now?

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 38:37
Sunset Boulevard. Exactly. Well, I am I have an Instagram at Elizabeth_B_T. I have a Facebook, Elizabeth Blake Thomas. My website, ElizabethBlakeThomas.com, mother and daughter entertainment. And all my details are are there as well.

Alex Ferrari 38:55
Fantastic. And I'll put all those links in the show notes. Elizabeth, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, you are an inspiration. Hopefully you've given a lot of inspiration to the tribe, to prove that you can do it and not to be afraid of doing it.

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 39:11
Well, I'm very, very grateful that you invited me on I really, really am. And thank you. And if anybody ever needs any help, they can just contact me. I'm always available.

Alex Ferrari 39:20
Be careful what you wish for.

Elizabeth Blake Thomas 39:23
Thanks, Alex.

Alex Ferrari 39:26
I like to first thank Elizabeth for literally doing the podcast on the streets of Hollywood while she's hustling between meetings. That is what I call an indie film hustler. So thank you so so much, Elizabeth, for not sharing not only sharing your story, but sharing the inspiration that anyone can go out there and do it. If you're willing to put in the work and educate yourself. Surround yourself with good people. You can make it happen. Every single filmmaker, even the biggest ones in the world. All started out just like you and me. With a small indie film, small project and got their feet wet, so don't put obstacles in front of yourself. As a famous quote says, if you don't have the best of everything, you need to make the best of everything. Never give up. Never surrender, just keep on hustling. I'd also like to thank our new sponsor streamlet comm now if you're selling your film on amazon prime and noticing that you're not getting a whole lot of cash for nowadays, think about also putting it on streamlet. It is a SVOD platform, a subscription based platform where your movie will not be buried. It's free to submit and has a royalty rate three times as much as Amazon, so you get to keep all the rights. So if you want to submit your film today, go to streamlette.com. That's streamlette.com and I'll leave a link to it in the show notes. And those show notes our indiefilmhustle.com/253 for links to Elizabeth and everything we talked about in this episode. And as always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.

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IFH 215: How to Become a Working Director without Film School with Cole Walliser

Right-click here to download the MP3

I’ve always said that “film school” isn’t for everyone. There is so much noise and advertising telling filmmakers that you NEED to go to film school to be taken seriously. I disagree COMPLETELY and so does today’s guest! On the show today is director Cole Walliser. Here’s a bit on Cole’s amazing filmmaking journey so far.

Cole Walliser, born in Steveston, BC Canada and bred in Vancouver, now lives in Los Angeles doing most of the same things he did in his country of birth – playing guitar, drinking scotch and directing cool videos.

“I started with filming skateboarding at about 14. For some reason everyone kept handing me the camera. I guess I had a knack for getting cool shots. Music videos has been a natural progression.”

Once he decided to pursue directing as a career, he knew he had to be in Los Angeles to reach his full potential. In LA, Cole began shooting videos for professional dancer friends on a pro-bono basis when a dancer, returning the favor, asked him to be involved in some dance videos for Miley Cyrus.

These videos impacted the entertainment industry bigger than anyone could of imagined with everyone from Ellen DeGeneres to Madonna to Ryan Seacrest reporting and commenting on the videos. These videos then led him to direct Miley’s 2008 Teen Choice Awards performance featuring LL Cool J.

In 2009 Cole was introduced to P!NK’s management, led by industry heavyweight Roger Davies. The meeting proved fateful, providing him with his next project directing the opening video for her Funhouse World Tour (originally slotted for Dave Meyers).

Cole continued working with P!nk on the record-breaking Australian tour where he gave fans a glimpse into P!nk’s life on tour with a 30-minute documentary “On Tour with P!nk”. His successive work on four new P!NK music videos (Please Don’t Leave Me, Funhouse, Leave Me Alone [I’m Lonely], Mean), along with the documentary, found their home in P!NK’s ‘Greatest Hits So Far’ DVD.

Enjoy my inspiring conversation with Cole Walliser.

Alex Ferrari 0:00
Now today's guest is Cole Walliser. Now, he has directed music videos, commercial high fashion spots, and done some crazy stuff and his work with some of the biggest stars in the world like Katy Perry, and pink. And he did all of this without going to film school. And that's what I really wanted to highlight in this episode. Cole went out and just hustled his way into a job and many jobs after that and learned along the way. And I just wanted to bring them on. So to show you guys that you don't have to be you don't have to go to film school to succeed in whatever you're trying to do it Everyone has different paths, some film school, some people like film school and is great for them other people's don't. It's just different options, but you don't have to go if you don't want to. So without any further ado, enjoy my conversation with directorCole Walliser. I'd like to welcome to the show Cole Walliser our man, thank you so much for being on the show.

Cole Walliser 3:29
Of course. Thank you for having me. I'm super stoked.

Alex Ferrari 3:32
You know, we've never had a commercial director, high fashion kind of guy on the show because we focus mostly on indie film, but I that's my roots, my roots come from commercials and, and music videos. And then that's how I kind of transitioned into independent filmmaking. And I still do those every once in a while as well. But there's a lot to be learned, especially in today's world about, you know, commercials and music videos and digital content and a lot of the stuff that you're doing, I think there's a lot of lessons to be learned. So I'm really excited to to get into it with you.

Cole Walliser 4:03
Cool. I'm super happy to share. I mean, I think that the landscape of filmmaking and content creation is changing rapidly, as we all know. So I'm happy to contribute to the plethora of information you're putting out there. This is great.

Alex Ferrari 4:15
Thanks, man. So you didn't go to film school? So how can you share how you became a world dominating director?

Cole Walliser 4:24
Well, I'm still on my way, but I appreciate the comment there. For me, you know, it started with I think a lot of people to this this kind of occurs this way like through skateboarding and snowboarding. So I used to skate spike Jones model spike. Exactly, totally. Yeah, the spike Jones route, you know what I mean? I don't little bit different route overall, but still the same sort of beginnings where it's like, we would just film each other skating and I kind of had a knack for people who just generally Hand me the camera more often than not like, Oh cool, you can get cool shots up or you know how to shoot this stuff. So I started kind of getting into it back then this is like in the 90s then learn how to edit VCR to VCR. And then I was like, Oh, let me try to tell like a story or let me try to shoot something and you know, and it just basically progressed and got like one little job like a tiny little thing and a tiny little thing and it just kind of like, worked my way up, essentially. And, uh, you you are based in LA So were you doing this all in LA? No, I'm from Vancouver, Canada originally. So that was a big that

Alex Ferrari 5:18
That's why you're so nice

Cole Walliser 5:21
I could be a part of it. Yeah, I try to perpetuate that stereotype for sure. Be friendly Canadian. But yeah, you know, I was in university or going to school. I have a degree in psychology and during my schooling I started you know, I bought a Mac I bought a dv x 100. A. Yeah. Yeah. Like that's that's my roots like mini DV 24. pl is amazing.

Alex Ferrari 5:43
Final Cut just like data ingested it beautifully. It's just so work. Yeah, well, don't get me started dv x. dv x 108 was the beast man, that was the beast of its day.

Cole Walliser 5:53
So you know, I really started getting into it during during college and you know, I would just do my school, but like, go home and shoot and edit. And then so in the midst of it all, I just decided I was like, Well, what don't want to do like, I enjoyed my degree, but like, what am I going to do with a psychology degree and I'm like, I really want to be a filmmaker. At that point, I was like, I got to go to LA. Because for me, you know, there wasn't, there was no avenues back then, for someone in Vancouver to direct. There was a big film industry up there. But it's like, it's crew. It's gaffer grip, you know, whatever. Right? Sure. So I was like, if I want to direct I gotta go to LA. So I got a lawyer and got the whole deal and made the jump. And that was 11 years ago.

Alex Ferrari 6:30
And yeah, and you just literally landed, it's like, okay, let's start making.

Cole Walliser 6:34
Yeah, basically. So the other part of my background is I used, I mean, I still dance, but I used to dance a lot I used to, you know, be boy breakdance. And like, do hip hop choreography. And so when I came out to LA, my group of friends were very much involved and still to this day, like very much involved in that world. And so for me, you know, being a video shooter and editor back then, dance, obviously, was the easiest slash coolest thing I could shoot. And so a lot of the stuff I did back then was involved in dance community. And that actually got me my first couple big brakes. And so, you know, for me, it's just like, it's, it's so it was, it was really helpful to have that because otherwise, it's like, it's just so easy to make cool. dances like you get people to just do some cool stuff. Like oh, my footage is awesome, you know, the easiest way Doug make some cool stuff. I'm at the top of my career for sure.

Alex Ferrari 7:28
Now you so so basically you were using it because a lot of there's so many people that come you know 11 years ago who showed up to LA and trying to be you know, trying to become a director, but you use what you had your resources you have available to you which was your talent as a as a dancer to kind of open up to get into that kind of subculture Yeah, and then start growing from there. So similarly to and I'll use spike Jones again as an example because I studied spike stuff back in the day in New York and he was just doing constantly doing these skateboard videos till someone found them in yeah in literally in a club they were watching some videos up and who shot that or that that skinny kid on the corner. Oh, wow. And then and then he started getting commercials and then from there yeah, it took off. But it was it's it's interesting because a lot of people always want to know how do you break in how do you break in and how long did it take you to get like that first gig after doing all those kind of cool videos

Cole Walliser 8:21
I mean, it started it wasn't I there's a moment that I attribute as sort of like my quote unquote big break because there was sort of like my first bigger job for like a major artists but like I had been sort of quote unquote working prior to that even within the dance me so one of my first jobs out in LA was like editing, dance like reels and choreography reels and shooting little dance numbers for dancer friends so those are like my first jobs you know what I mean? But it was just like a friend going out shooting a dance video in a park and cutting it together and like putting it on DVD because YouTube like wasn't even a thing back then. I mean, so those are like my first kind of little jobs and again, like you know, I started getting better and starting charging more but like my first brake job I would I just kind of this thing for Miley Cyrus so in 2008 she did these online dance battle videos were like two crews of like dancers one from the movie step up to and Miley Cyrus and her whole crew dancers like had these online dance videos. And so I was, I mean, the dance community, everybody's friends with each other. But I was better friends with Miley's choreographers. So these two women Allison Paul countrys Espinosa, I've been friends with them for years. So they're like, they're planning to do this dance video and they asked me to shoot it. So that was like, the first thing that I had with like a major artists because at that time 2008 like Miley was Hannah Montana, like, just taking over the world right here. So that was like a really cool thing for me to have something kind of like on, you know, out in public that people were talking about. And I met a bunch of celebrities and stuff through that, but it still was like, everybody kind of gets together and like shoot this little thing. From there. Alison went on to choreograph for pink for her 2009 funhouse tour. And she brought me on just Well, actually, I came for free. She wanted to get some footage of her working with with pink. So I just started hanging out one or two rehearsals and shooting some stuff. I'm at the tour director, I met her and they brought me on for like, a couple days BTS. in that mix, they needed the opening video for her tour directed, and Dave Meyers, who's a huge, huge, you know, music video, yeah, huge music video director, he does all her music videos, he was gonna do it. But they're like, time was short, they didn't have that much money and like, they needed something done. And so they, they just took a chance on me and asked me to put together a budget and see if I could do this little opening video for the tour for cheap. And I was of course, like, Oh, yeah, I'll do it, you know. So I feel like, that was like the first job that was like, you know, for major artists for like a more traditional platform, and that they really, like took a chance on me. So I sort of attribute that big break, to working with pink. No, would you? Would you also say,

Alex Ferrari 11:05
Would you also say that, because I talked a lot about on the show about you went to work for free. And you know, kind of stuff up my first big, you know, Job was because I worked for free for four months just hanging out? Because I had nothing else to do. Yeah. And then they finally just like, Hey, he's been here for four months, let's give him a job. So do you feel that your personality being nice being someone pleasant that you can sit within a room, which is also a very big, you know, factor in these jobs, as well as just offering yourself up your services up for free? Because you saw the value of doing that? Is that obviously one of the keys to getting your big break?

Cole Walliser 11:46
Absolutely. You know, if I wasn't willing to come shoot rehearsal for free, I would have never have gone down that path and never sort of working with pink. And like that turned into like eight or nine year working relationship across a number of albums across a number of different types of media with her, you know what I mean? So like, it was this huge, huge thing. And if I was like, had an attitude about it, like, and now you need to pay me to show up when people do and like I have that attitude sometimes too. You know what I mean? Right? Definitely. But But if I wasn't if I wasn't, if I didn't sort of like see the potential value of that and be okay with working for free, I would have never had this career path. And and so many subsequent things came from that moment, like my whole career sort of was based on that. Because from pink, I got Katy Perry. And then from both of them, I started doing CoverGirl and then CoverGirl, Pantene, and Alma and like, all this other stuff started from me going, Oh, yeah, I'll come shoot you for free for a day or two. Sure, why not? You don't I mean, like, just being willing to, to invest in that, I think is, is hugely valuable. But you have to be, you know, you can't work for free always. You got to know Phil's right. It's important to find that balance. And what you're touching on to like these other factors, like what, you know, when you first get into directing, it's like, I you know, my vision of it is like, oh, like, here's a guy that is really creative and has all these really cool ideas. And yes, it's a huge part of like, being a director especially in like the music video and like short form content world come up with cool ideas. But there's so much more to like, like you said, sitting into the room and like having a good meeting, or like, you know, being either good to work with or, or being good at communicating or just being like a good manager and team builder, like, those facets of directing are so much more valuable than I ever thought. And it took me a while to like be in that world and working as a director to really realize those lessons, you know,

Alex Ferrari 13:35
So from the moment you landed in LA to the moment you got that job with pink, working for free. How long was that? Well, I drove I don't know I wrote down No, not from the literally when you landed in LA, how long did it take in general? Like how many months? How many years? Before you got that thing

Cole Walliser 13:54
I paint was I guess three years, three years? Okay, I started in like 2006 and I started working for pink 2009 Miley was chosen a pink start in 2009.

Alex Ferrari 14:06
So and you were just doing any job you can get along?

Cole Walliser 14:10
Yeah, there's just a ton of dance stuff like editing, you know, choreography, real shooting dance numbers, you know, a couple little music videos, a ton of dancers that are trying to be artists, so we did music videos for them. And just just anything, anything I could shoot, I was down to shoot, you know what I mean?

Alex Ferrari 14:24
So that the reason I'm asking is because I want to impress upon the audience that like it doesn't happen overnight. And before you even got to, to LA already had years of work that you were building up in Vancouver?

Cole Walliser 14:36
Absolutely. You know, I was shooting a ton of stuff in Vancouver. It wasn't like when I lead in LA it's like, oh, here now I'm here now and I'm gonna start shooting stuff. You know, it was it was yours. You know, just staying in Saturday night being like, Oh, I'd rather edit something then like go out and party and especially at like, 21 but I found magic. I found myself you know, I found myself wanting to stay in and wanting to just like create stuff on my computer rather than go be socials was more satisfying for me.

Alex Ferrari 15:05
Now, can you discuss a little bit about your work with digital content? Because I feel there's this is an area that a lot of filmmakers don't even know about. And it is a potential place where they could start working.

Cole Walliser 15:15
Yeah, absolutely. It's, it's growing exponentially. And it's really, I've been fortunate enough to sort of be in the mix. And even with some of these really big ad agencies, as the tides are sort of changing in this respect, right. So when I first started working for CoverGirl, which I think was, I don't even know the year 2010 or 11, I think there was just like Facebook, I mean, YouTube was a thing, but like, we make some content and like, okay, we're gonna put on Facebook, right.

Alex Ferrari 15:43
And Facebook was in Facebook in 2010 2011. Yet, it was still not the way it is. Yeah, it was growing, it was growing, MySpace was still all the rage.

Cole Walliser 15:50
Yeah, definitely. Right. We were like making content, you know, there was like, kind of some ways to put content out, but it was just that good to like, have behind the scenes were right. Sure. And it was very much like, you know, for a campaign, they would do a print ad, a broadcast ad. And then like, they'd have me or somebody, they're just shooting some behind scenes. That was like, the very first thing as time went on, like, as a few years started to pass, you know, they started to realize, and I started to realize that all of the eyes on their, like, from their demographic, we're not reading magazines, we're not watching TV, they were consuming almost all of their media, from digital content from social media, from Facebook, from Instagram, from YouTube. And so there was a moment where, you know, the ad agency pulled me and this other still photographer that does a lot of this stuff together, aside, and was like, Okay, here's the deal. We don't care about broadcast. We don't care about print, we only care about what you're doing, because what you guys do is what are our sort of demographic, you know, consumes? And we're like, oh, this is crazy. Like, you know, it's been, you know, the broadcast and print ads have been standard for decades. Yeah. And so now they're going like, we don't care about that we care about what you're doing. So the pressure was on. But then also, I was like, Well, can we get the budgets that you give out for the broadcast ads? So, but it was, it was interesting to see it grow. And you know, over time, they start giving us more more bigger budgets and like, more to do as far as digital content, because there's so many outlets in so many formats, and it can be annoying, but there's a huge market, because that's really how people, especially young people consume media these days.

Alex Ferrari 17:27
And what is exactly the digital content, just basically behind the scenes commercials for

Cole Walliser 17:33
Well, it you know, it originated as behind the scenes, but now we do like our own content. So, um, you know, it, it's hard, it's hard to put in a box, because it's really like any really anything. Yeah, thing. Yeah, it's, it's anything but like, there's really cool jobs. And even, you know, I got a job just recently, where I flew to Albuquerque to shoot like an Instagram story and make a little video from this, like, hot air balloon event. But I was like, This is awesome. Like, I get to go to this cool event show like, and the budget was like, not bad. Like, she didn't like worth my time. And, and granted, it was just like me and another guy, we hired a local guy to this small crew. But you know, we're there just to make a really cool Instagram story. And I was like, that was a revelation for me. And my Oh, companies are like putting money behind this content, they realize how valuable it is. Because it's such good target marketing. It's like everybody who follows that company is interested in that company. So if you're making good content, you're gonna engage them rather than the traditional media, you know, print ad, it's like, you know, only 10% looking at that printer is caring about what you're saying. So it's like, it's very low targeting, you know what I mean?

Alex Ferrari 18:43
Right, right. It's more, it's getting away from the interview interruption, marketing, as opposed to more of a content marketing.

Cole Walliser 18:51
Yeah, but but you know, it could be short form, it could be anything from, you know, like an Instagram story video, or, you know, an edited piece or whatever. But the cool thing now what brands are doing, which I'm finding really exciting, is they're basically paying for cool ideas by just attaching their brand. So there's a lot there's a big market nowadays, where if you have a cool idea or a cool story, you want to tell you can basically go to any company or go to like a marketing company be like, Hey, I have this story about, you know, these like this homeless skateboarding crew. That's super cool. You know what I mean? Like, I want to go tell this story, you can partner with a brand the brands gonna give you money to tell that story and then they're gonna just use it, you know, as a thing that might go viral. So it's like, companies are now funding all these really unique stories that are short form anywhere from like three to five minutes.

Alex Ferrari 19:40
Yes, I kind of like what Casey Neistat does on YouTube. And those guys all those YouTubers do similar stuff like that. Where they go to it. Yeah, and they get sponsored by Samsung or Red Bull or something like that to go off and direct a short film basically.

Cole Walliser 19:53
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So there's there's just a, there's infinite amounts of opportunities and options. In the digital sphere right now that actually have money behind them,

Alex Ferrari 20:03
And it's growing exponentially, like you said.

Cole Walliser 20:07
Absolutely. Yeah. So it's an exciting area. And for me, you know, like when it started, I was not against it. But you know, like, growing up, I was watching broadcast commercials. I want to do broadcast commercials. Like, I don't want to do this, like digital stuff. Because at first, you know, nobody was doing anything cool on it, right? Sure. But now I'm like, oh, everybody's making cool stuff. And, and it's a great sort of ecosystem to be a part of,

Alex Ferrari 20:30
Yeah, it's like being a YouTuber in 2005. Not very sexy.

Cole Walliser 20:33
Yeah, no. But now it's like, yo, there's youtubers making a hun making cheese 100 400 grand a year off making YouTube videos. And I'm like, wait a sec,

Alex Ferrari 20:43
Some are making that a month. Yeah,

Cole Walliser 20:46
Yeah, the top one of the top ones are making millions but like, there's a huge population that people don't even know about. And they're making a couple 100 grand a year.

Alex Ferrari 20:54
That's what I find fascinating about the whole landscape is that there are people out there because before that, you know, there was three only only three channels you could watch. And there was only so many movies that that was it. That was all it was. And the stars were the stars even those Tom Cruise, it was Brad Pitt. And you know, these are the stars. But now you've got these little guys like on YouTube somewhere with 5 million followers. Yeah, pulling in like a male, two mil, three mil a month, or maybe a year. And and just like, Who the hell is this? The you know, it's all it's, it's kind of instead of trying to hit the broad market now everything's become much more niche. Would you agree with that?

Cole Walliser 21:29
Absolutely. Absolutely. It's like, you can find your lane, you know, anywhere and like build, build a brand and build an identity that you can then market it's, it's so crazy the power that it's there's so many good, like pros and cons with the way it's working right now. But the pros is like, you really can be in control of your own fate as a content creator. Man, there's people hold on, I gotta shut my window.

Alex Ferrari 21:57
On show. Yeah, lawn gardeners are out there. Um, yeah, you know, oh, well, no, I lost my train of thought. You were talking about content creators and making your own brand.

Cole Walliser 22:09
Yeah, there's just so much opportunity to like to, to find these niche markets. And I think that's like, what Netflix is doing really well, the, the world of like, network TV is so different. And like, it's so hard to, to successfully make content in that world. I had a TV show and development with NBC for a number of years. And just the revision, like the idea changes a million times from the, you know, from the original pitch. But in that process, I learned about how you know, their approach on making TV. And like, they basically because it's so expensive, and because they're putting so much behind it, they need everything they put on TV to be a hit. And that's why they cancel shows after three episodes, because if it's not a hit, they got to put something else in there, because it's just too expensive to do. Whereas you have Netflix might also also like NBC or networks, like it gets watered down, because they're trying they need like 3 million people to watch it. So it's like Brian never get to yes, super broad and like, everybody's just like ants, okay, you know, but like, you don't get to dive in any particular topic or niche, because they're trying to appeal to everybody.

Alex Ferrari 23:21
Well, same thing with movies.

Cole Walliser 23:23
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. You know what I mean? Whereas Netflix, it's like, it doesn't really cost them as much to put it on, they just, you know, push upload, right. And so but but their model is so different, where it's like, they'll pay for 10 shows, which is the cost of one network show, and maybe eight will be horrible, but two will like just pop. And so and then these two are such these like niche things that people love, it's a much better way to create good content to be in these niche niches. So it's like with your own branding, and with your own social media, your own content, you know, you look at it, you should look at that digital model, where it's like finding your own lane to create something that either isn't been hasn't been creative or have your own identity or like creating something that people can connect to. is is a far better way to try to then trying to appeal to everybody like the network's have historically been doing.

Alex Ferrari 24:16
Now when you work with when you were working with your first big star, like pink, let's say what was it like on your first day on the set?

Cole Walliser 24:25
Um, well okay, so with her, you know, I showed up at rehearsal, you know, I met met her and I knew some of the dancers and stuff already. So that was like a very nice, like, chill introduction, because it was just like me hanging out there doing the thing. But the first day on set, I was like, we shot at her house. And that was like, I was definitely nervous because it was just like such a big thing. And I'm like, oh man, like I'm making this video for like, it's going on tour for a year and a half and like 15,000 people gonna watch this like is the first thing of our show like it was on for sure. So definitely just nervous going in. But I feel like the actual day of it was fine. I just made sure I was super prepared as far as like, shots and what we needed and what the plan was right? Because I definitely don't want to be caught on set going, like, I don't know. Which happens sometimes. So I was just I was definitely nervous. But I, I think I probably over prepared just to make sure we never fell behind, or nobody was looking at me like, what should we do? And I didn't have an answer, right?

Alex Ferrari 25:29
This kid doesn't know what he's doing. Get out of here.

Cole Walliser 25:31
Yeah, exactly. That was my biggest fear. I was like, as long as I just get through the day and don't look like an idiot, I think I'm fine.

Alex Ferrari 25:37
Now, how do you deal with agency clients and talent on these high profile commercials that you do?

Cole Walliser 25:44
It's, it's tricky. And I will say that that's, I feel like, that is a huge part like that skill is a huge part of continuing to work in that arena. Because the you know, everybody, all those people have power. Right? So it's like, talent, talent ultimately has all the power, right? So talent doesn't want to do anything that's like they're not doing it, right client has power because they're paying for it. So you know, they'll say, Oh, this and that. And then agency has power, because it's like, they put that idea together. So hopefully, they're all in alignment, but often they're not. Right, and most of the time they're not. And so it takes a certain it's a very specific skill to like, you know, manage all these different personalities, but still get what you want to get in the Can you know what I mean? Because you're still there trying to do your best job to so often. For me, I've been fortunate to come in usually with the talent side, like, with CoverGirl, I came in with pink and like, with a pre existing relationship with Katie. So it's like, I can always kind of defer to being like, with them, you know, so, you know, I can always go Oh, okay, doesn't wanna do this. It's like, we can't do that, or whatever, you

Alex Ferrari 26:58
You're in, you're in the talent camp.

Cole Walliser 27:00
I'm on the talent camp. Yeah, yeah, I always I try to align myself in that way, because they ultimately have all the power, right. So that's one thing, but you know, there's been so many instances where you're on set, and you know, the creative director from the agency is wanting to do something, the clients wanting to do something, and you're just really trying to appease it and make your day and your schedule. I don't know if there's any, like, specific piece of advice, other than just got to do just being nice. And like, but there's there, you know, I think one lesson I've had is that, like, there's a limit, where I realized that I can't do what I set out to do. And I don't, I don't necessarily give up, but I'll sort of like, I know that like someone is like, going to over bare overbearingly force their opinion on the production. And I'll fight it for as long as I can. But there's sometimes a point where it's like, okay, like, we're just gonna do all these ideas that you want to do, because I can't even convince you otherwise. So that's not a fun position to be in, but it happens, you know, but most of the time, you can usually reason your way out of it, you can be collaborative, you're there also for a reason, you know what I mean? Like they hired you, to create something for you to bring your vision to it for you to like, materialize their original idea. So I think that's an important thing not to forget, you're not just there, as an employee, it's like you're there to contribute to. So it's really, it's really about a balance, knowing when to push back. And actually, here's a piece of advice, picking and choosing your battles. That's a huge thing. Because sometimes it there's things that are worth fighting for as far as like, what the creative director or whoever wants to do. And so sometimes it's really important to go, Okay, I'm gonna let you have this one, we're just gonna do that, because I know that we're gonna like butt heads later, and I'm gonna want to fight for that, whatever this thing is later. So picking and choosing your battles is super important, when to just sort of like, give in and when to really fight for what you believe in, I think is an important tactic to sort of putting your belt. It's

Alex Ferrari 28:56
it's kind of like the opposite Joe pitka. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I don't take the job approach.

Cole Walliser 29:06
But I mean, if you can, you know,

Alex Ferrari 29:10
Just for the audience to know who Joe pitka is, if you guys have not heard of Joe pika Joe pickers, that legendary commercial director has been around for probably thinking 50 years. It's been around forever. And he's worked on He can't even tell you what he's working on. He's He's and he's also director of a feature film called Space Jam. That he did back to space. Yeah, he. He directed Space Jam. Yeah, because it was my because it was Michael Jordan, and he did all the Michael Jordan commercials back in the day, and that's how they kind of put it all together. And Joe is legendarily the biggest one, let's say the, the biggest. He's, he's he's rough. He's a rough person to deal with. I've heard him I've heard of stories with him, you know, literally breaking a client's bones or agency's bones while playing basketball. Oh, wow. That was his favorite things like hey, you have a problem. Let's go play some basketball and That would be the end of the problem. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. So he had multiple lawsuits against him. Yeah, but he was just one of those guys. That and like you said, if it I mean, I would never condone that, but but I guess if he could do it, I guess that's what that was his process.

Cole Walliser 30:28
The other the other thing that sort of comes to mind that's really important to like, understand, like, working in this industry is is when and where you have leverage, you know, and it's always, it's always this balance of like whether or not you have leverage. So for Joe, you know, having, you know, created this massive career, he almost inherently becomes like talent, you know, what I mean? Oh, this is Joe doing a commercial. So now he has like that talent leverage. So he throws a hissy fit. If he tells client to screw up. It's just like, it's talent. Now doing that, because he has that leverage, because he has that history.

Alex Ferrari 31:02
You know, I mean, it's like Michael Bay doing Victoria's Secret commercials. Like he's, he's as important as the models are.

Cole Walliser 31:08
Absolutely, absolutely. So like, whatever he says goes, and it's like, you can't really fight him on stuff, right? Because he has that leverage. And so I don't think the goal is to, like, have enough leverage. So you can be like an asshole, right? Like, understanding when and where you have leverage is really, really important to sort of assert, however you want to navigate the job or your career. Because without any leverage, it's like, it's really tough, you know, and even if you're just coming in as a job, like, and you're, you feel like they're everybody else's sort of like, at a higher place than you, you know, you still there's always an angle where you're like, oh, like, what am I bringing to the table? Like, how can I leverage my benefit to this production to sort of like, not get what I want, but make this a good experience or like, contribute in a meaningful way. And, you know, knowing knowing what you can and can't do by understanding your leverage, I think is really important.

Alex Ferrari 31:57
It's a great piece of advice. Actually, a lot of people don't understand leverage, and when and when you can apply it. And when you actually have it

Cole Walliser 32:04
It's, it's a tricky thing to understand. And I think for me, it's taken time, you know, over the years to really understand it. And that's the first that's honestly the first thing, whenever I go into any negotiation, or any sort of like, any discussion about collaborating, or whatever it's like, I mean, I guess most of the negotiations, I try to identify as fast as I can, what my leverage is, you know, to mean, like, why am I in that room? Why are they asking me to do something like and how, how do I benefit them? And how can I use that to sort of either if it's negotiating your deal, like, you know, how can I get the best deal because of my value in this in this project? You know what I mean? Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 32:41
Now, when, when you're working alongside artists, like ping Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, what is the collaborative process? Like?

Cole Walliser 32:49
You know, it varies. Sometimes it really surprises me, how much like free rein I have. So for some of them, it just depends on the job, obviously, you know, for like, when we're doing like CoverGirl stuff, you know, the agency is very specific with with the whole campaign and sharing need and, and very regimented. Yeah, exactly. Right. But you know, I did these four music videos for pink and 2010 or 11, that we're playing for this festival tour she was doing and the whole theme was like a freak show Carnival thing. So her management said, here's four songs, we want you to write treatments for general ideas, kind of, you know, it's like she's a circus ringleader and like, she's a bearded lady. And then she's a giant, like all these different freak show ideas for like these four music videos. So I went home, and I wrote out four different concepts for these four different music videos. And I sent them off to management into her, and I didn't hear anything. And I was like, their notes or like, you guys are, there's a good, and then I got a word like, Okay, good. We're just gonna, we're gonna shoot them. I was like, nothing like, No, no, no, it's no considerations. Just like, okay, wouldn't first like draft, you know, like, we're just gonna go shoot it. So that really surprised me. But at that point, you know, we had, we had a really good working relationship, and so they trusted me. So it but it varies from that, where it's like, you know, come up with some ideas, and we're just going to go do them to very, very detailed, specific things. So it really it really spans the whole the whole range, like sometimes people are cool, and sometimes there's, they're micromanaging what you're doing. So it doesn't it varies every time. Unfortunately, I can't I can't be more specific than that. Sure, of course.

Alex Ferrari 34:33
Now, what are some of the challenges of working alongside, you know, mega stars? Because I'm sure there are some.

Cole Walliser 34:40
Oh, yeah, definitely. I mean, scheduling is the is the, the trickiest aspect because they're so busy. It's like, you know, your shoot can always get pushed, you know, last minute, you're like, you're there and they're like, oh, they're not coming because they have like, you know, this extra XYZ thing they got to do so scheduling is always an issue, and even if The day, you know, they're always like, you know, the crews doing 12 hours, but they're three hours in the chair. And then like, you know, they have a heart out at this time. So you're really only getting, you know, six hours with them, right? So scheduling is always like a tricky thing. But you know, usually, usually the, the process is pretty, like fun and cool. Like, most of the time, especially when I'm doing like tour stuff. I'm creating stuff for their tour. So they have like a vested interest to like, make it as best as they can, like, you know, this is this is for them. I think in the commercial world, it's best for them, if they're doing like a campaign for some company, if they're doing the campaign for that company, they're less invested in in doing everything that they can to make it the absolute best that they can. But when it's for their tour, I get like that super hard working that they're to the last minute version of them, because this is like for their tour. Right? Right. A prime example is when we were shooting the stuff for Katy Perry's California dreams tour, it was this monstrous thing. So basically, you know, I wrote and directed, I think maybe six or seven little short segment videos that played between all the acts of that concert that told a short story throughout the whole show. So the whole concert had a narrative. And these short films like interweave between all the acts to tell this little story. So we shot over three days on this stage. First day, it was like a built in pre light, and then we shot two days with her. The first day was 14 hours. The second day was like almost 17 hours. Yeah, like insane shoots. But you know, she was there to the last shot. And you know, we were like our 15, she went up to her greenroom, she grabbed a bunch of beers, brought them all down for the crew and just thanked everybody for being there, handed up beers. And then we got the last hour in. So like that kind of thing. I'm like, oh, like, you're really, you know, you're working just as hard as everybody else, you know. So that was really, that really impressed me and always sort of stayed with me, as far as you know, working with Katie on that.

Alex Ferrari 36:59
Now, what are your views on the ever changing landscape of filmmaking? technology?

Cole Walliser 37:05
I mean, that's a great question. I think that there's like, you know, like we touched on before, there's so many benefits. I mean, I think that there's some negatives, but there's so many more benefits that I think are so cool with what you can do today. It excites me, you know, like the idea that you can, you know, go shoot a feature edited on your laptop and put it out to the world is awesome like that. That literally was like there was gatekeepers, and you literally could not do that 10 years ago, right? So that's super exciting. And just like how, you know, technology is getting better and better, you can shoot better and better. I think the determining factor now is talent, not so much equipment, because before it was like equipment, if you had access, you know, to film cameras, like whether or not you were good, you were making something because no one else was making it because people were watching. Yeah, it was so itself. People watch it. Right. Right. So a, it's harder to get noticed, because everybody's making stuff. But you have that opportunity to like go make your own thing. And like, you know, the cream will rise to the top and like the best stuff will get seen. So I think that's really exciting. And even if your stuff doesn't get seen, just keep making things until you're better until it doesn't get seen. That's sort of like my approach

Alex Ferrari 38:17
Exactly what it was, like, just keeps Yeah, beep if you can't be good, be prolific. Yeah.

Cole Walliser 38:22
You know, and because I, you know, people ask me all the time, I want to start directing, I want to start doing this. I'm like, just go shoot stuff. Like, if you really want to direct you're gonna have a lifetime of making things. So don't be so precious about what you're doing or make something perfect, like, go make some garbage. And the next time make some little bit less garbage. Still, until it becomes good. I push that, that that concept all the time.

Alex Ferrari 38:46
Now, how do you achieve a work life balance, man, because you're constantly running around all over the world shooting these things? You know, what kind of advice you have to have that kind of work life balance, which I think all of us as filmmakers have a problem with, because we're not we're carnies. We're carnies. In general,

Cole Walliser 39:02
Of course. Yeah. I think that, that that's been like my biggest lesson, you know what I mean? Because, you know, when you first moved to LA, it's like, you're hustling so hard, and you're like, trying to get every single job. And it's like, again, Saturday night, 10 o'clock, you could go out, or you could like work on a script, or like work on some edits, you know, I mean, and so, and when you're really driven, you want to do that. Right. And I think that that's good. And I think that there's a part of your career that like, you have to put in those hours, and you have to put in that work. But at some point, you know, after years and years of doing that, I sort of like took a step back and was like, why am I working so hard? Like I'm just working to work more I need to really like find this balance. And so, it it's one of those things for me that I have to actively put effort into creating a balance into stopping work, you know, certain days, like 7pm I'm like, Okay, I'm done. I'm taking, like, a mental break from whatever, whatever. I'm working Get on to just not think about work. And I ultimately think that that makes me a more productive, and a more proficient, sort of, you know, creative and worker, rather than just hammering it non stop, I don't think that that that actually serves you better. It's important to be able to buckle down, but I have to schedule time to go relax or to go surf or to go workout or whatever. You know what I mean. And I think that it's just it just took time to realize the importance of actually scheduling that in to take a break, because you need it. I I'm a better director, because I let myself have that balance.

Alex Ferrari 40:42
I think, yeah. Because if you burn yourself, if you if you keep burning and burning and burning, you don't, it just is tough, especially when you have a family. And when you don't have like your kids or stuff like that. It's so easy to just keep going.

Cole Walliser 40:53
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. And you just like, you just become uninspired, you just become tired and uninspired. And like, you lose your excitement, because you're always just so in the weeds about every little aspect of your career, it's refreshing to take a break, and then come back and be like, amped to be like, I'm excited to like, dive into this script. I'm excited to dive into this edit, and to get back to it. But if you were working non stop the three days prior, you'd be like, Oh, I can't believe on you, for some reason, feel obligated you force yourself because you think that that's the only way to, to make it happen. Sure, you know it. That's what I mean. It's like balances is the perfect word. It's like you have to bust your ass sometimes. But you have to take a break sometimes do.

Alex Ferrari 41:36
Now, can you talk a little bit about the importance of having an audience in today's digital world?

Cole Walliser 41:43
Yeah, I'm realizing that importance now. And the way I realized it was, you know, we touched on this on this earlier was like these young kids that are out making videos, you know, that have a couple 100,000 followers, they're getting jobs that I would want as a director. Wait, wait a second, you know what I mean? Like, you know, these kids are like, I mean, they're making cool stuff. I don't want to discredit them. But like, they're, you know, they haven't. They're not as versed in like production. You know, as someone who's like, been in the industry for a while and have no fault of their own. They're just out making content, but they're also getting jobs for brands with decent budgets to make cool stuff. And I'm like, I want that job. You know what I mean? So and they're getting it because they're their audiences built in. And so upon that realization, and it was mostly this year, I made it, like a commitment to push my presence on social media, because it's only going to get bigger, it's not going away. And I think that for me, like where I'm at, in my career, like I have enough relationships, I like if I never did social media, I'd be fine. I know, I keep working. I don't necessarily, I don't get I mean, I, I have gotten some jobs from social media, and gotten some cool ones that I'm excited about. But the majority of my work doesn't come from from that avenue, right. So I feel like, I'd be fine without it. But if I invested my time into this aspect of my career, I can get better jobs, I could get more jobs, I can get different jobs that I normally wouldn't get. So I'm really trying to put like energy into it and looking at it like an aspect of my career. Sure, it's fun, and it's cool. But I'm like I need to post every day, I need to make sure I'm like, letting people know what I'm working on. And like really committing to having a presence because it's only going to be more valuable to your career as we move forward.

Alex Ferrari 43:29
Right, because I was watching some of your vlogs that you have on your YouTube channel, which were, you know, I want to go to Bali and surf. Yeah.

Cole Walliser 43:36
Those are so fun. I mean, for me to like, it's the cool thing about the extra little bonus about doing that stuff is that's how I started filming. I just started filming stuff, you know, me and my friends and putting together fun videos. So like, the idea of these vlogs is very much in the same spirit of of who I was when I started when I picked up a camera. And it's like just film some cool stuff and put it together cool and put it out there. That was the essence of like my early beginnings of my career. So it's fun for me to make these videos now. And to put them out while I still have other jobs that I'm doing. I still can have that fun that I used to have, when I started started with a camera. Very cool. Now we also have it be beneficial to my career, you know, so it's, it's a it's a win win.

Alex Ferrari 44:19
Now, what advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business?

Cole Walliser 44:25
You know, it's you know, it's interesting, because like, I've always been obsessed with that question. And I would, you know, I google stories and I try to read how people got their big breaks. And, you know, the only thing I determined from doing years of research on that is that no one person did it the same way. That's the only thing that's the only similarity I could draw. And so I the advice would be because of my the way I I sort of came up and I you know I push what what worked for me which is going out making videos getting better and just making as much stuff as you can. And I think that's even more of like a valuable tip today, because you can have you have these avenues of distribution. But it's important to just make cool stuff and to keep making stuff and to keep getting better. Because as you get better, people are going to take notice, you know, and it's, I just think it's important to learn by doing rather than, you know, just have your I mean, you guys should read books, too. I'm not saying don't read books, but like, don't just have your head in the book, and then think about why you can't go actually make something, go make something. And also maybe read a book or two, but definitely go make something,

Alex Ferrari 45:33
Educate yourself as much as you can read books, re take online courses, all, you know, watch YouTube videos, but then go make stuff.

Cole Walliser 45:41
Absolutely, absolutely. And and I think that, you know, most people that are not quite fully jumping in the step that they're missing is just to go make something, you know, I mean, they're just, they're right, right, before they can go pull that trigger and go do it, there's whatever is getting in the way. And there's all these different things that get in the way, be it like money, or time or equipment or whatever. But I think that you know, anybody who's even considering it has that ability. It's like, sure, not everybody in the entire world, but like, you probably have a phone you can go shoot with, you can edit a video on your phone now. And and even if you do a short little 32nd thing that has a beginning, middle and end, that's great practice. And so it's like you can show your friends, your close friends that are your mom that and be like, look at this little thing I made. And just like that's literally where I started, and you know, all the way up to doing, you know, tour videos for Katy. It was just one step at a time. Just getting a little bit better each time. So that's, that's what I push. Go do that, for sure.

Alex Ferrari 46:44
Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Cole Walliser 46:51
Oh, that's a great question. Book. Um, I mean, there's definitely a few. There's one that stands out as far as for filmmaking. You know, because when I when I was learning, you know, I buy books, I'd read books, but there's so many books out there that are like, these 500 page like filmmaking Bible that, like so much information and like it's really hard to they're like, hard read sometimes, you know, and they get into all these, this minutia of stuff that like doesn't really matter. Not that it doesn't matter.

Alex Ferrari 47:23
It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. I've read those books.

Cole Walliser 47:26
Yeah. So I found this one. It's called, I think it's called the bare bones guide to indie filmmaking. It's super thin. It's like maybe like 40 pages and like, has stick drawings in it. But it breaks down just the basics of like, what you need to understand like, enough about how a camera works and how editing works to like, go and make something after that. So it literally is the bare bones, like basics, and I think it's on Amazon for like 15 bucks. No, but but that I would tell everybody, like go buy this book, you can read it in 25 minutes. And it explains like what aperture is explains like how it changes depth, the field explained explains like how much of an angle you want to change when you're getting different angles, like just the basics that you need to then go Be creative within knowing those parameters of like the general filmmaking tools. So I found that book to be really beneficial to clear up a bunch of all the craziness that was written in like these 500 page books.

Alex Ferrari 48:25
Now what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Cole Walliser 48:30
Well, like we touched on the balance thing, okay, know for sure, I would say, you know, there was probably like five or six years in LA, of just grinding non stop, and then having me take a step back and go, Wait a second, like, like, Where am I enjoying my life? Like, after I found a bit of success and been like, Okay, I'm not worried about like, next month's rent, you know, I mean, I'm okay for a second. What am I like? Like, how, where is my enjoyment coming from other than just working? You know, and so I think that the balance is, it's still a lesson that I'm trying to, you know, navigate around and trying to figure out exactly what the right balance is for me, but it for me, it's super important for just my overall happiness. And and it's been a work in progress for a number of years now. So I would say, yeah, the balance thing.

Alex Ferrari 49:16
And what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Cole Walliser 49:20
Oh, that's a great question. That's a hard question. But it's a great question. I have Yeah, I thought I've thought about this actually. So I think, you know, it's, it's very, my answers are sort of classic in some way and not sort of surprising, like Pulp Fiction for me, because of my age when it came out. Oh, such said it was such a like, atom bomb going off. Yeah. You know, like, that was, that was a film that really, like inspired me to tell stories. Like I was so enamored with how that story was told. And I was such an impressionable age. I was just like, you know, my mind was blown, like what you could do in a film, you know, so that was like that really inspired me to like want to go make films. Then in similar vein, El Mariachi, you know, Robert Rodriguez was like, I realized, like, Oh, I could actually go make something, you know. So like looking at Pulp Fiction was like this huge, you know, sort of a bigger budget thing like with all these stars, it was like, that seems like a pipe dream a little bit, but I want to do it, you know, whereas El Mariachi was like, Oh, this guy went to Mexico with a buddy and shot this awesome movie like I can you can do it, you can actually do it, you know what I mean? So those two really like inspired me to go actually pursue film. And then I was at a loss for the third but I think this is a funny one. But Aladdin is one of my favorites that I can watch all the time. And and I think it's actually like a really good film to watch for filmmaking because the story is like, so the story is so good as far as like the setup the hero's journey.

Alex Ferrari 50:54
Yeah, sure.

Cole Walliser 50:54
Oh, totally. It's such a great, like, like, example of that. Not only is like that, it's just a great marriage in between the music and the story in the world that they created. If that's ever on TV, I'm like, I'm definitely watching. You know,

Alex Ferrari 51:11
This is the first time I had Aladdin as one of the out of almost 200 episodes. No one's ever said a lot. And so you are Aladdin. Yeah, that's awesome. No, it's a good flick man and Robin and the performances like Robin Williams performance is so amazing.

Cole Walliser 51:24
Legendary. The music was amazing. There's nothing there's nothing that fought with that movie. So

Alex Ferrari 51:30
I don't know. What do you think about the live action that they're gonna do?

Cole Walliser 51:34
Are they doing a live action?

Alex Ferrari 51:35
They're doing a live action of all the Disney other good all of them,

Cole Walliser 51:38
You know I mean, I didn't. I didn't see beauty in the beast. So I don't know how that came out.

Alex Ferrari 51:43
It was okay. It's, there were moments but it's like, no, it's not as good as the first no

Cole Walliser 51:51
of course, jungle the book

Alex Ferrari 51:53
Jungle Book was amazing. Like Jungle Book. Yeah. And Lion King. I mean, Lion King they're doing right now. Yeah, and they're doing Milan too. I hear yes to do Milan as well. And Cinderella. I didn't. Oh, but they've made so much money. That's why they get like, wait a minute, how much money can we make? Let's just get back to the well,

Cole Walliser 52:10
Totally for business sense. Like it makes perfect sense. Because like people are gonna go Well, I mean, I'll definitely go watch Aladdin. I'm not I wouldn't expect it. The thing that that irks me is I think that people expect to be enamored with like the remake the way they felt about the original, and like, and then if people get disappointed, so I'm like, I'm gonna go in being like, I'm gonna hate this because it's not as good as the original and then find something that I like about it. You know what I mean? Right, right, right.

Alex Ferrari 52:33
Now, where can people find you online?

Cole Walliser 52:36
I'm most active on Instagram is my most active so the Instagram for Instagram? Yes, but Instagram. Yeah. I like calling it the the Facebook. The Instagram is kind of the Twitter. Yeah, the Twitter. So Colione is a nickname I've had for years. So Colione. And that's kind of like where I I put all my stuff out. And then and then YouTube, of course, for other blogs, which is my full name Cole Walliser youtube.com\colewalliser. I'm on Facebook and stuff, but not, not really. So those are the two avenues. I think you can find me and keep up to date. I mean, also on my website, koalas calm, I post everything I create, and all my work is on there. So that's a good place to see that stuff. And obviously be the three spots.

Alex Ferrari 53:19
Cole man, thank you so much for taking the time out to share your adventures in the music video, commercial and digital content world with us. Man, I appreciate it.

Cole Walliser 53:28
It's been a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me. It's been great.

Alex Ferrari 53:32
I hope you guys got some inspiration from coal. And just to know that you guys can go out there and do it. No matter what you don't need film school, you can go out there and just make stuff make on shoot films, make commercials, make music videos, shoot short films, shoot feature films, educate yourself, there is more than enough education out on the internet alone, that you is like having a film school on demand, either from YouTube or getting, you know low cost online film courses, reading books, educate yourselves, you can go out there and make it happen. So I want to thank Cole for coming on and inspiring the tribe to go out there and make it happen for themselves. If you want any information about anything we talked about in this episode, please head over to indiefilmhustle.com/215 for the show notes. And then there of course, we'll have the information about the slam dance talk that I'm going to be doing on Saturday, the 20th between 2:30 and 4:30 at the treasure mountain in at the top of Main Street. Now I have a lot of stuff going on. It's at Sundance This year, we're going to be doing already got some amazing interviews lined up, I cannot wait to share them with you. I'm going to probably release them when I get back because I'm just going to be doing too much stuff while I'm there. There will be some other podcasts going out this week. And then I'll start one next week around Wednesday. I'll probably release the next one. And then I'm going to start releasing all of this content. 10 out. While Sundance is still going on next week, just wanted to give you guys a heads up. And I've got, you know, a really big kind of thing I'm working on. I'm going to talk to you guys about that later. But just know that there's a big surprise for you guys coming up very, very soon. And I think you guys, your minds are going to be blown when when I tell you guys this stuff. So don't forget to share this podcast with as many people as you can as many filmmakers as you can. Please retweet. Please share stuff on Facebook, email your friends, let them know about the podcast because I really want to get this information out to everybody and build up the tribe and build up the indie film hustle movement to show as many filmmakers screenwriters and artists out there how to survive and thrive in this film business. So keep that also going. Keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.

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