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IFH 466: Billy Crystal – An Exclusive Conversation with the Comedy Legend

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There are performers that impact your life without you even knowing it and today’s guest fits that bill. On the show, we have comedic genius, multi-award-winning actor, writer, producer, director, and television host, Billy Crystal. We’ve seen Billy’s versatile work across all areas in the entertainment world, stand-up, improv, Broadway, behind and in front of the camera, feature films, television, live stages like SNL, and animated movies. 

It’s fascinating how much the man has done over the span of his career—and his lengthy IMDB page is only the tip of the iceberg.

Billy’s career took off for his role in the 70’s sitcom SOAP, where he played a gay character, Jodie Dallas. This launched him into box office hits such as When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers, Analyze This, and the kids’ favorite, Mike Wazowski in Monsters, Inc. just to name a few. 

Aside from hosting the Oscars® a record nine times and being only one step away from an EGOT, he’s a philanthropist. Billy, along with Whoopi Goldberg and the late Robin Williams created the annual fundraiser stand-up comedy show, Comic Relief, in 1986 that has over the years, raised over $60 million to support the homeless. 

The late 80s and early 90s were a really magical time for Billy’s career. He had the box office hits Running Scared and Throw Momma from the Train. He had scene-stealing parts in the classics This is Spinal Tap and The Princess Bride

There’s the 1989 box office smash hit When Harry Met Sally, starring Billy alongside Meg Ryan and Carrie Fisher. The story follows Harry and Sally who had known each other for years, and are very good friends, but they fear sex would ruin the friendship.

You can’t talk about Billy Crystal classics without mentioning City Slickers for which he won a Golden Globes award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical/Comedy. On the verge of turning 40, an unhappy Manhattan yuppie is roped into joining his two friends on a cattle drive in the southwest.

Billy’s interest in entertainment started way before college. But his decision to go to NYU put some goals into place for him. He was a member of an improv/comedy group in college and soon he started to host solo standup shows. By 1978, he landed his first starring feature film role in Rabbit Test in which he starred with Joan Rivers

Towards the end of the 90s, Billy joined iconic Robert De Niro and Lisa Kudrow in the box blockbuster hit Analyze This and its sequel to Analyze That.

Billy’s work transcends generations and Gen Z is his newest fandom; distinctively for his role in Monster Inc. and Monsters University, Mike Wazowski. Monsters University revisits the relationship between Mike Wazowski and James P. “Sully” Sullivan during their days at Monsters University when they weren’t necessarily the best of friends.

Billy will reprise his role as Mike Wazowski in the Monsters at Work Disney+ series that is set for release later this year.

One defining element of Billy’s work, be it writing, acting, or directing is that he pulls from real-life experiences and balances funny and hard conversations effortlessly. Having started out in the business since he was 20 years old, it is absolutely thrilling to watch how he’s knitted together diverse platforms and filed into an accomplished career. 

This Friday, May 7th, Billy’s newest film, in which he wrote and directed, Here Today, stars himself and the incredibly funny, Tiffany Haddish, will be released only in theaters. These two make a seamless pairing and their chemistry is oh so charming. The intergenerational teaming of Billy and Tiffany tells a love story that is of friendship, support, and empathyI absolutely LOVED the film. Do yourself a favor and go out and catch this gem of a film. 

When veteran comedy writer Charlie Burnz meets New York street singer Emma Payge, they form an unlikely yet hilarious and touching friendship that kicks the generation gap aside and redefines the meaning of love and trust.

Billy has always been there to make me laugh, in good times and bad. I can not tell you what an honor and thrill it was getting to sit down and speak to a filmmaker, writer, and actor that has meant so much to me in my life.

Enjoy my entertaining conversation with Billy Crystal.

Alex Ferrari 0:03
I'd like to welcome to the show Billy Crystal. How you doing, Billy?

Billy Crystal 0:07
I'm great. I see Alex,

Alex Ferrari 0:09
thank you so much for being on the show. It is. I am humbled and honored to to have you on the show. Truly it is I when I was speaking to like I was telling you earlier speaking to my wife that was gonna have you on the show. And we both kind of geeked out a minute. It took it took us a minute, we kind of kicked out and I've, I mean, we just kind of like oh my god, it's it's you know, it's Mr. Chris, I'm not gonna embarrass you. I'm not gonna embarrass you. But I mean, I when I was when I was going, coming up, in growing up in high school, I was in a video store. Wait a minute, calm down.

Billy Crystal 0:40
I know. I know. But you know, when I said when I was a kid I loved you know. My mother was listening to city slickers. I heard you in a womb. No, you're

Alex Ferrari 0:51
not that young. I'm not that young. Thank you. Thank you, though, for saying that. But I'm not that young. When I was in high school. It was the 80s, late 80s, early 90s. So that was kind of like, a really magical time for your career from running scared and 86 When Harry Met Sally city slickers in that whole kind of that run. So, you know, you, you, you've been a very big part of my life growing up, and I just want to say thank you, before we even get started. Thank you for all the amazing things you've done over the years. And now my daughter's when I told them, they go my daughters now who are nine, they say, I told them like, oh, we're gonna I'm gonna, they always want to know who I'm talking to. I'm like, I'm talking to Mr. Billy Crystal. And they tell me, and they go, city slickers. And I go, yeah, yeah, because I showed him sleeve slickers. The other day, literally, like, probably a month or two ago, we showed him city slickers, and he loved it. And then then they go, what else is he done? I'm like, oh, his Mike was our ski. And their eyes just exploded like you're talking.

Billy Crystal 1:50
When, when, you know, I have four grandchildren. So when they first started to be aware of grandpa in a different way, other than the guy who carried them and put them into bed and stuff. So now we were walking in very interesting, beautiful mall here called the Grove. And in LA, and some paparazzi just started taking pictures of us and it was was weird for them. What is what what is? What, what, what, what, because I hadn't mentioned anything, and they will let you know. So I said, Well, you know, I'm in the movies, I do movies. And and we're who I while I'm Mike wazowski. And they flipped out. They just flipped out like your daughter's except they're my granddaughters. So they will call the house looking for Mike wazowski. So if I answered Hello. Oh, is Mike there? I'd have to be Hold on. I'll get him that went on for like three years. It was it was just every day. I'll get him. Oh, I said those kids again. Yeah, Mike. Oh. So I appreciate you know, we have a new series coming out called monsters at work, which will be July 2 under Disney plus, we just finished 10 of them john Goodman and I and a whole new cast of wonderful new characters. So it'll be it'll be kicked up again. You know? If it's Mike, they know we buy I'm very happy about that. He's one of my if not my favorite character I've ever played.

Alex Ferrari 3:21
He's the Monsters Inc. I mean, let's we have to get started with monster take up. And when I first started, like that last scene, just like tears, just me. I don't care if you don't have a heart. You have to cry in that movie. It's amazing. It's amazing. Now how did I want to let the audience I want to go back a little bit into your career. How did you get started in the business?

Billy Crystal 3:40
Um, you know, I in the bit? Well, it's two separate kind of answers, Alex, I mean, I got started when I was about three, four years old, literally making what your parents laugh, your relatives laugh to older funny brothers. They're hilarious still. And, you know, when you're the youngest in the shortest, you tend to be the loudest. So I had a fight from my, my spot, you know, and usually when we had an act together, I would close. And I'd be on the coffee table. And I was sort of like a little Jewish, Don Rickles at three, four or five years old, I could imitate them and so and so but and that never stopped. That just has never stopped. And when I graduated from NYU film school, I had two wonderful friends that we did improv together because I was always, you know, still doing comedy in some way. And we formed a comedy group. And we've been together for a long time, like four years. But all during that time, I knew that I was sort of hiding and that I needed to be out there by myself that I was at my heart really a stand up. And so we have to four years towards the end. It was just a really emotionally hard time I had a baby already. And and I was substitute teaching and the junior high school that I went to. And which was weird because I'd be in the teacher's dining room and they would teach us that I had. And now I said, it's okay to call me by my first name. And I would say, No, you're still Mr. Graf. You're Mr. tardy? No. So, so then we started working, working and, and I said, I just got to, I just kind of get off on my own and out of the blue, a friend of mine calls from NYU and said, Listen, do you know what I wanted to do stand up at a fraternity party zbt house on Mercer Street, in the village and and I instantly said, I'll do it. I'll do it. And he goes, well wonder, when did you start doing stand up? I said, oh, I've been doing it for a wild lied my ass off, put together a bunch of, you know, lift 1015 minutes that I thought would be okay. You know, this was a Tuesday and the gig was a Friday night. This might work that went work, but I just, I just had to do it. And I got up there that night. And I I just exploded? I did. I just improvised for like an hour. And, and that was there was no turning back. I mean, that was that was really it for me. So that was like 1973 and change.

Alex Ferrari 6:21
And I mean, I've I've worked with stand ups a lot in my career as a director and I, it's it's hard to improv, yes, it is hard to get up on that stage. And do you know, and you always think you're the funny guy? Yeah, like, Oh, yeah, I could tell jokes. Yeah, with three or four people, but you get in front of a bunch of strangers with that light on you. And that mic, all of a sudden, you're not as cute as you might have thought you were?

Billy Crystal 6:41
Yeah, no, it's, it's until you get your feet underneath you and, and your brain working the right way. Right. And you're able to put yourself into your act, you know, and not not just do like an act, but talk, talk about what's important to you and find the funny about that, then that's, that's really something, you know, for me, it's, it's, you know, all these years later, it's, there's only a few places I'm really comfortable. In my own skin, and onstage is one of them.

Alex Ferrari 7:15
Now, what did stand up do as far as helping you prepare for the very gentle and inviting and warm film industry.

Billy Crystal 7:30
And I think about that. Because, you know, it's hard when you do your own things, and you believe in what you're doing. And then suddenly, as you you know, you're, you're starting to show work to people who tell you no, but or we don't like that we like this. And it's a different audience. But and a powerful one, because they can say yes or no. So that was, you know, that's it still is always a challenge. That's why I you know, we're here today, I am so thrilled that we were able to get something made. And, and, and finished during the pandemic, but that we were able to write a funny, moving movie, full emotional journey for an audience that and I have to say, at this age to get to get something done, and have people embrace it the studio people embrace it like Sony has with this movie. So yeah, so it's the standup. Or it's always the place that I returned to for new ideas. You know, if if and money, but it's

Alex Ferrari 8:57
mostly money. It's mostly man, let's just because

Billy Crystal 8:59
It's just downtime and and God knows there have been, you know, well, why don't I this isn't happening, that's not happening. Well, you know, what if I can't let's, let's book some days, and I'll go out on the road, like three years ago, I did 35 cities, and I had the greatest time. And then your mind starts getting all oiled up, you know, and and you start seeing things differently. And then, you know, I, we were on the road, you know, Janice, and I've been married almost 51 years. So right from the beginning. She'd be making notes in the audience for me, or I'd run back to the motel after I did a gig. And and she'd be there and we go over the notes. And so so now, three years ago, we're running back to the hotel and doing the notes. You know, we're just and then seeing all that could be this that could go that that that could be that that's funny that workers and then it's just it's all how it started out and it all feels very right.

Alex Ferrari 10:00
That's amazing. And it's amazing that, that you you still you as you were explaining it to me, you were like, a 20 year old, you were like a kid like, yeah, and then we got this and that the juices flowing, we got this and that and this and that. And it is fascinating. The, the the creative mind and how it works, especially, again, the stand up comic is very interesting creature to say.

Billy Crystal 10:25
Well, the thing, the thing about it I love the most are the surprises, right? And it's thrilling, it is absolutely thrilling when you can knit together an entire sequence off the top of your head because the juice of the audience is so good. And then it's like, you know, you're, it's a there's a power about it, that it's very hard to explain unless you experience it yourself. You're walking, you're talking you're thinking you're thinking ahead. You know, you're it's almost like chess, you three moves, you're setting up things, you're setting the audience up where they don't see it coming here, but when you get on a riff and it's in it's, it just comes and you get on a roll. It's it's really it's, you know, it's really something it's, it's still it still is a great feeling to have.

Alex Ferrari 11:23
Now, I have to ask you this because my father told me, I have to ask you this. He was a monstrous fan of soap. One of your early shows that really kind of arguably kind of blew you into the into the mainstream a bit and, and your character Jody that you brought to life on soap was, I mean, I remember watching it later, like when I was in high school, I would watch episodes, and my father just so obsessed, obsessed. He couldn't stop laughing with that film with that show. But it was a pretty, pretty bold character in the late 70s to be bringing out a gay character on television was where you were the first I don't even know if you were the first Yeah, it was the first

Billy Crystal 12:06
week recurring starring character in a network television show. They are like films. And but nobody, you know, approached it with humor, right? The way that the brilliant really, you know, they say boys, she, he's a genius. She's Susan Harris, who created so it was a genius to me. She wrote the first 65 or 68 episodes all by herself. Wow. For a lot of characters. You know, we had like least 12 main characters and then supporting characters in one eight people and so on so forth that would come in and out of the story. The jokes are great that the characters were fantastic and amazing cast. And, and and Jodie Dallas was when they approached me about playing him after seeing me on a Tonight Show with Johnny and and I met with him and I was nervous about it until I met with him. And it was Susan and her late husband, Paul Witt and Tony Thomas, great producers. And to me the best director in television at the time j SandRidge, who would was Mary Tyler Moore director and and just, you know, one of the MTM heavyweights and, and we talked for a long time, about what Where's he going? What what's what's to be said, you know, what, what, what? how honest is this going to be how, you know, and, and it started out, honestly a little rubbery I thought and and, and then it's settled in into a real interesting, thoughtful, funny, stood up for himself strong character who knew who he was that most of the time, there was some confusion about his to himself, his own sexuality and so on. But then, you know, he just was very endearing to people. And it was four years of it. And I think the test of it, Alex was he had a one night stand. And he ends up fathering a baby girl. And his mother sues for custody. And it was a big court battle. That was my story, you know, because it was a soap opera. So that you know your story comes around every couple of months sometimes, which was frustrating. But Jodie wins custody of the baby. And they did a poll. I remembered ag xavc did it who should get the baby and it was almost unanimous that Jodie should get the child and I thought that was the victory. Have the character, the trust for a gay, single gay man to get cut to the child, so I'm very proud of those years, you know, it was four years. I saw on Twitter that I don't know, two weeks ago was the last episode of soap aired 1981 I guess two weeks ago, I don't know. But it was a great group of actors to work with, that really was supportive of me, knowing the pressure that I was under. And Richard Mulligan, who played bird Campbell was a genius. And, and Catherine Hellman, who passed away last year also just really nurtured me. And rock, you know, was, so who played best you know, but Bob was very, very, always such a strong man had to play a black servant for white, white people, or rich white people, that he played it with dignity and with humor, and, and sometimes was the the only sane one on the cast, and sometimes both portrayed that way, the only two same people or, or, you know, the gay guy and Ben Benson, you know, back then they would say stuff like that. And Bob was very nurturing for me. And, you know, he would wait for me when I would do a scene, and I'd come off the set, and he'd be like, one of the first ones there to give me a hug and say, that was really good, so and so forth. And, and we had a long talk about it once. And it was really, it was really beautiful. He said, you know, art to carry characters are minorities. And, and, you know, so we have to stand up for each other. And it was, it was a beautiful thing. All the people there were were great, just great.

Alex Ferrari 17:04
Well I mean, from there you I mean, you obviously you're, you know, a legendary actor who it's been in so many classics, and I said again, don't wanna embarrass you, but you're a very event a veteran actor who's been in tremendous amounts of you know,

Billy Crystal 17:19
legendary better than veteran price means he's all in good shape everybody.

Alex Ferrari 17:30
You get you get you get paid more as legendary as as opposed to veteran I think that's generally the difference. But you've not only been in so many amazing films as an actor, but what a lot of people don't realize too is you're very accomplished writer and also an accomplished director. And one of the things I've noticed in a lot of your writing and and directing and some some of your projects, but writing is that you pull from real life experiences as as a writer with things like my giant, Mr. Mr. Saturday night, America, sweethearts, the comedians, do you find it easier to write that way? Like the pull from, from things that you know, because I remember watching, I might have been one of those PR junkets from America's Sweetheart, that you said the story like, Yeah, I just, we just kept doing these things. I'm like, this is kind of ridiculous. Someone should write a movie about this. And my giant was about you and Andre and Princess Bride. Like, is that a fertile place for you to write from?

Billy Crystal 18:27
Oh, yeah. I think that's, you know, you write about what you know, what you feel. And, you know, the longer the longer I'm around, the more material I have to draw on, either as a writer or as an actor, is his life experience. And sometimes those aren't fun experiences. But you know, I liken sometimes my word to Rumplestiltskin. The, the mean, fairytale character would turn straw into gold. And, and sometimes you take the straw in your life, and you turn it into into gold. And I did that, you know, throughout your chapter, trust it, that if it's real, and you know, you make it you make it something, you know, artistic, there's a line in here today is I, I take the truth and make more interesting. Yeah. And as a writer, and you know what that was, that was very true for what 700 Sundays was on Broadway was a story of my life and my relationship with my father, both alive and when he passed away in the aftermath of a sudden loss when I was just 15. And, and so, yeah, so it's real, it's painful, but you know what happens out if you tell it the right way. When you're on stage, you see the audience nodding their heads. You see them engaged, you feel the laugh. They're Of course you feel the tears is very powerful feeling to be on stage on blood I did every night for years on Broadway, feeling the audience feeling your own your pain, because they're feeling their own. And I think that comes with, you know, a confidence that sometimes you just have to unburden yourself and in let it go and just hope that it resonates.

Alex Ferrari 20:29
Now, there was another movie that you did. I think it was your first it was if not your first feature was jeffie your first feature that you were the star or carried it which was rapid test. Oh, yes,

Billy Crystal 20:41
the book is gonna be pleasant. Yeah, with Joan Rivers directed it's about the world's first pregnant man. It's a farce. It's just seemed It was.

Alex Ferrari 20:56
It was. It's fascinating because I saw because first of all, it was a woman director back then was a big deal. I remember seeing her and then she was in the marketing of it, but she wasn't in it. If I'm not mistaken. I remember that.

Billy Crystal 21:09
All the posters, all the posters for me with a belly and have pointing to it with a going like this. You know? Yeah. Something on that said director person.

Alex Ferrari 21:21
Right. Exactly. Center. Right. Exactly. So director person,

Billy Crystal 21:24
y'all had a jump was first of all, she was a phenomenal comedian. just hilarious person. And one of the hardest working funny people I ever met was was Joan. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 21:41
yeah. And was that was that when you got that job? As an actor? You're like, well, I'm a star of a movie. How would What did that feel like? I need to get back to that.

Billy Crystal 21:49
of all First of all, I wasn't the first choice for that movie. Okay. And I have to say it because he maybe he'll watch it but we laugh about it every time we see each other. Dennis Dougan who direct Yeah, so many of Adam Sandler's films and is a really good funny director and was a wonderful actor. He had a series called Richie Brock on the private eye and he was at Hill Street Blues all the time. And he was he shot for like a week. He was shooting for a week. So I was at a Dodger game. And these days, remember, there was an announcement by Billy Crystal to the white courtesy phone please Billy Crystal to the white courtesy. My wife was pregnant at the time so don't Oh, no. Oh noes have seven a baby now now and now. So I run to the Hello. This is a belly Hi, it's Joan. Listen, I made a mistake. Can you come over to the house? You'll start tomorrow start tomorrow what the movie is that? It didn't didn't work out with him. It was the end that was wrong. And so that ended the bummer. So I have to leave the game. go to her house. Walk script weather and and start the next day. And yeah, and they said they Yeah, it was that's how that happened. The highlight of that movie for me and then we were Alex no matter what you say we're moving on?

Alex Ferrari 23:15
Yes, absolutely.

Billy Crystal 23:19
Was I got to work with imaging coca. And imaging was from the original sin Caesar your show shows its uses our she was a genius, comedic performer, comedy actress, and I just loved her. So I had a chance to work with her. So that was that was the highlight for me. And now we will move on now.

Alex Ferrari 23:44
Now, when you're writing I always love to ask this about writers do you start with character? Or do you start with plot?

Billy Crystal 23:51
Um well here today started with in the sometimes you just the whim of like, Well, what about this guy to do a story about something and then you start like fleshing it out in your mind for weeks making notes here and then then if you guys don't you start to see if you start to write it. Here today started out of the totally out of the blue. My my co writer and one of my closest friends ever Allons y bell. Allen was an original Saturday Night Live writer created Roseanne Roseanne Adana with Gilda, we've been friends. He was like the first friend I made and when I started doing stand up, we live near each other in Long Island and I would pick them up on my on our way to a wonderful club called catch a rising star on the Upper East Side of New York. We'd hope to get on by one o'clock. Then I drive them home, I lived in an hour outside of Manhattan. We'd listened to the cassette tapes of our shows that we just don't know sets and forget and help each other get better. So we we were very, very close. as friends, and then I saw him, and he worked on seven or two Sundays with me and collaborated with me on seven or just Sundays and was invaluable. And then he's on Letterman. And he's telling the story about this auction luncheon that someone had purchased. He was the prize of this luncheon that someone get to have lunch with him. And, you know, as we often do, and raise money for a charity. So he's at the restaurant with this, this woman who's really not into comedy at all. And he said, Well, how much did you pay? I'm just curious. For the charity says, Oh, 22 is 20 $200. That's good. No, no, no. $22. So now he's sort of like hating her. And I teach there, then she then has reaction to the seafood salad she has she blows up, she goes into shock. This is true, totally true story. He's telling the story on Letterman. It's hilarious. And he has to take it to the hospital, there's total stranger, she doesn't have insurance. And it's charity lunch and cost them I think, like 20 $200. So I'm watching the show. And you know, because he's on, and I started typing right away on my computer. And I sent him an email saying out what a hilarious story. This is a great way for two people to meet. Who are they? Where do they go from here? If you're interested, this could be a really, really great way to launch a movie. So we talked the next day, and then we shouldn't then we just started, you know, who could they be? What could what can happen to them? And and, you know, I wanted to do a story about an intergenerational teaming. And not a love story, but a love story, but not a romantic love story. Right? But the movie about friendship about support about empathy, which I feel is so lacking, you know, and, and then so now, alright, so then you go, who are they, and so on, so forth. And Alan and I both had a very wonderful relationship with a senior writer at SNL. From the beginning, and from when I was there, and at 45. His name is herb Sargent. And herb was in his 50s, when everybody wasn't, and he was very much who Charlie burns is in here today. And we just loved him. He was witty, he was funny. He was he wrote most of the jokes for a weekend update in the beginning helped create that section and, and he just sort of like, would roam around and approve or disapprove of what you were writing, you always ask them, you know, what do you think and he'd give you an honest, and he was just the greatest. And so we thought that was a good guy. And then, and then I was in Penn Station in New York. I was heading out by train, and I and I saw this little band is woman singing with a combo in the waiting room at Penn Station. And I thought, well, that's interesting that I saw her again, in Soho on the street, with like a gypsy jazz band. And she was great. And I and I emailed Alan immediately said, this is who she could be. She's a performer, she's got bravado, she's sassy, she you know, and and she's got a career that may happen, and so and so. And so then we started writing and, and then here we are,

Alex Ferrari 28:31
you know, I can't believe that. Most of the movie which which, by the way, I saw, and I had the pleasure of watching and as I told you, before we started recording it is. So there's so much heart in the film, and it's just almost took my wife and I back, because we're not used to watching content like that anymore. Because it's just not something unless you start going back into older movies of you know, 1015 2030 years ago. That's what we can act what I kind of grew up with the you know, the city slickers of the world, and the winner made salad, there's heart in those films. There's art in those those stories. And it just was so wonderful. I can't believe that a lot of that was based on kind of based on a true story,

Billy Crystal 29:12
or a short story he wrote called the prize, and Alan was the prize. And so it just just took off from there. And then, you know, the added element of, you know, that he was had suffering from the early onset of a form of dementia was something that I was dealing with, with a relative of mine who was a novelist, as my aunt was a brilliant woman. And she came to me one day and said, I'm I, I'm losing my words. I'm losing my word. And that was profound to care for and we thought, Well, you know, what if Charlie is has that a funny man, who who's losing his funny, who's losing his currency, which is his words, just I want to go broke, has a great deal of drama about it. And and then, you know, as they become friends for her to give up a promising career to take care of him as the ultimate kind of friendship, and and really defines love. So we decided to go that way and then and we did and we're, you know, it's, it's a really funny movie Don't get me wrong

Alex Ferrari 30:28
that was about to say how do you how do you balance? How do you balance that, that is a pretty heavy comp, it's a pretty heavy conversation when you're talking about dementia onset, but yet it is funny and heartfelt. So you get you really balance that so beautifully, to the point where it wasn't too sad. And it wasn't too funny. It just has a perfect kind of just right balance between them. How do you balance that as a writer and a director?

Billy Crystal 30:52
Well, it's just, you know, as the writer, that's, you know, you lm, we're very careful in where we were going. And as a director, it's, it's making it real, and trusting the performance, and when you have somebody as wildly funny and charming as Tiffany and, and being able to play off her and counterbalance that with his appreciation for and is affected for which grows. So the movie, and the story grows on you and keeping those at the right levels was really, you know, I think the task and and creating a whole other life for him, which I think is, for me very interesting in a movie about his late wife, who comes to life in his mind. And shooting it with, you know, the subjective camera, which is me, and you get to know her. And you get to love this woman who you know, was taken from him. And she's funny, and she's charming. And, and so I would play I would shoot her would I be right behind the camera. So she would talk right to the camera. So she's like talking to Charlie, because when you remember things out, you don't remember them in two shots or wide shots. Or you just remember that you remember what you see. So that was that was, you know, I think a choice I made while we were writing. I said I could I could shoot it this way because I knew right away I wanted to direct this and I told them that I I know what this should be. And when that happens. It's It's a wonderful feeling. I hadn't directed a film 20 years, like 20 years from an a movie, which would just honor the night again, honoring the 20th anniversary of 61 about marrison mantle who I knew very well and I was so I'm not in that movie. But there's as much of me and 61 as there is in here today. Because I I love those guys and that that year, but you know, you have to just make sure that the balance is right. And it's it's a tricky one to pull off. But I but I know we did.

Alex Ferrari 33:16
Now how do you direct a force of nature like Tiffany haddish? Like, I mean, she is an literal force of nature as an as a performer. She's so wonderful. And you guys have all the chemistry in the world. By the way. She's you guys, you could just tell that you love each other. How do you direct that? And not only directly from off camera, but how do you drink it while you're in the scene with her? Like that's a that's a juggling act to say the least.

Billy Crystal 33:41
Oh, for sure. Um, she's a brilliant talent. And she she, from the time we first met. I told her what I needed from her and what I didn't want from her. And that yes, so I said, I need Emma, I need Emma page. And when there are moments where I need Tiffany will plug those in. But But you but you have to, you know and she was so grateful for the chance, I guess. And and looking forward to it so much to to stretch her talent. And she just gave herself over to to what I wanted her to do. And if it wasn't comfortable, we talk like it would with any actor actors. And then there are moments where just let us sprinkle. You know, I need something here. What do you think what do we got? I'm here, I'll be right that you know. And so and I needed to get emotional in a way that she hadn't before which he was very scared of. I said and I kept telling him to just stay in these moments. It's hard, you know with movies are frustrating to do because they're forever And then you have to hit that moment. You know, and, and as many texts as it is, I, the director needs to satisfy the movie. And the movies are a collection of moments, so we have to get to a certain place. So there's a moment where she cries, which was very difficult for her to do, but I was sitting there with her on camera, and the cameras behind me. And she was fighting it. Because that's a natural instinct for anyone not to, you know, show emotion in their life, you know, and she's, uh, she had a tough childhood, and she, you know, would and, and she didn't want to get there, but I talked to him, just very quietly while and as hard as the crew was all around. So you know, everybody that that doesn't need to be there is just me and her in the camera behind us. And I just talked to her and it came, it came in, it came in and suddenly that's there as a beautiful moment, where she's listening to Charlie talk about the darkest moment in his life. And it's, it's just Bond's them forever. And you know, I think she's, she has extraordinary personality and and there's so much so much there for the world to see. And I'm excited for what she's going to do next.

Alex Ferrari 36:31
You know, and I i can i can tell when you let her go a little bit. And when it was Emma and when it was Tiffany because you can kind of sense that while you're watching because I've watched Tiffany I've been a huge fan of her so I can see when she goes off that you know she does Tiffany when she's Tiffany you can tell so like that scene in the bedroom. With that, that's all all Tiffany

Billy Crystal 36:52
love a girl and I you know what? I said you know what? It's going. I love it. She looks at She looks so looks so cute. With the way she smiles and looks at him. And it's it's just a great little. But those of you know what Rob Reiner used to call freebies. Those are freebies. Yeah, you know. But that's when you work with somebody like that. And, and they can just do that. It's it's, it was very exciting to you know, and I'm sitting opposite are trying not to laugh and no one. This is good. This is good. And then she just went, and then you know, an editing room I just said, Now let's keep that. I want that.

Alex Ferrari 37:38
Yeah, you've worked with some of the most remarkable film directors in history. really remarkable. I mean list of people you've worked with, is what is the biggest lesson that you've taken from one of those directors, any one of them?

Billy Crystal 37:54
I guess, rob the because it Rob's got a fantastic year. Robert does. And and there's a line that the Charlie says in a meeting with the two other head writers of the show that he he works on in the movie. And he turns to her and says there's a music to comedy. There were notes. Yeah, that's a great line posts. And that was very much Rob thing about when we were doing Harry and Sally about hearing it the right way. It the inflection which drives trolley crazy would like

Alex Ferrari 38:41
oh my god, the inflection thing was that that blow up was genius.

Billy Crystal 38:44
Oh, yeah, that's great. And yeah, so I think you know, Rob Sure. And, and then directing yourself. I learned so much from I love this guy, Danny DeVito. I just adore Danny and Throw Momma from the Train is a really, really funny, odd and to watch him handle both things. You know, both jobs so effortlessly. And you know, the DP and I movie was Barry sonnenfeld.

Alex Ferrari 39:16
I've had Barry on the show. He's remarkable.

Billy Crystal 39:19
Yeah, and he was a dp he also shot When Harry Met Sally. Yes. And raising Arizona and on and on and on the Coen Brothers movies and those big wide angle shots and so on. Gorgeous and, and hilarious person himself. And yeah, so I would say I would say those two guys for sure.

Alex Ferrari 39:38
Now when you're when you're working on When Harry Met Sally, did you I mean, I'm not gonna ask you to Joe was going to be a hit. But did you did you know that it was going to have this cultural spark as far as like a conversation about men and when? Because when you watch it, you go on? Well, yeah, women and men can't be can't be friends. And then you're either on one side or the other. Like, yeah, you can. No, you can't. You can't. No, you can't. Did you know Did you guys know? When you were writing this? I was gonna spark this kind of because it was it was for people listening, you have an understanding 89 when that came out? I mean, it was everywhere.

Billy Crystal 40:09
Yeah. Oh, yeah. Everywhere was a provocative, it was a provocative one liner can men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in a way that was nor as you know, that was their premise. And, and then, you know, handled in such a beautiful way and witty way in a very realistic way that, you know, the and I hope this happens with here today that people want to movie ends they walk up the aisle talking about it and they go out for coffee and they're talking about it. you stimulate conversation you you know, and Harry and Sally definitely. That, you know, because you know, Alex You know, there's so much you said about the fake orgasm scene. Because nobody had nobody had really used the word orgasm, you know in a movie, except Ron Jeremy. And so

Alex Ferrari 41:08
let alone with fake orgasm and then to have her do it on camera that was like,

Billy Crystal 41:12
mine. It was it was Mind blown. By

Alex Ferrari 41:15
the way, Rob and Rob's mother's line, still, arguably the best line in the entire movie. I'll have what she's having with your mom or his mom.

Billy Crystal 41:23
No, no, no, it was.

Alex Ferrari 41:24
It was it was it was the

Billy Crystal 41:25
line that I wrote. So I did so Oh, so Oh, yeah. Yeah, Estelle Rhino was one of the my favorite people. And the late Carl of course was like a, like an uncle and, and to me, amazing people. But But yeah, but it, it got people yapan that for sure. And here it is. All these years later. People are discovering it. Younger people. And the people who grew up who were at the ripe age of falling in love When the movie came out, and now telling their kids to watch it. We're now falling in love. And and so if the beat moves on to beat moves on, you know, so I, we had a 30th anniversary screening, I guess, what, two years ago that the beautiful Chinese theatre here in LA and Meg and I were there and and you know, Chris and Rob and Rob introduced us and they brought us out on a loveseat like we are in a you know, in the end of the movie and and the place went berserk. They really was it was really kind of it was really nice. It was really nice.

Alex Ferrari 42:42
That's amazing. Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions asked all my guests What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Billy Crystal 42:51
Have a rich uncle

Alex Ferrari 42:54
that's the best way to get in

Billy Crystal 42:59
it's so hard it's so hard but you know write write something that you believe in you know and just don't don't don't ever get deterred from from your your goal in your in your career and in your life. You know, things happen, things happen.

Alex Ferrari 43:26
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Billy Crystal 43:39
I guess patience is mine.

Alex Ferrari 43:44
Patience is the big is the big one and three of your favorite films of all time, as of right now not forever but just today that you can think of

Billy Crystal 43:57
Some Like It Hot genius. Both godfather films will count them as one even though

Alex Ferrari 44:07

Billy Crystal 44:09
Oh, and you know I visit but it's a movie from the I guess the 40s every time I see it, I cry. It's called the best years of our lives. And it just it just kills me. Myrna live Frederick March Dana Andrews. It just is. It's just a killer about America after world war two and soldiers returning home. It's just that that's I you know, when I need a bit of something. Go to that. I just I just adore that movie.

Alex Ferrari 44:54
Now and where can people watch here today?

Billy Crystal 44:57
theaters only, man. The only

Alex Ferrari 45:00
Yeah, so 99 so 2019

Billy Crystal 45:08
We have Fred Bernstein who is a mic producing partner who's a fantastic person who, you know, from the time he read the script until, well, well, till the day we open has been just such a strength for me and the movie always getting me everything I needed to make the movie The way that I, I saw it. And yeah, so we had a lot of offers to stream. But after a while, the streaming thing, it's a great was great because we couldn't get to theaters, but then everything just sort of got to look like television. And, and, and we held out and held out. And then Sony swooped in, really like a month and a half ago and said, We love this. And we want to put it in theaters. That you know, if America does what it's supposed to do, and and get vaccinated and wear masks all the time, you can get your life back. And, and that's why I don't understand people complaining about it and and then that stops everybody else from you know, getting our life back, we can do this. And so so they came in and we're in theaters only starting May 7 all across the country. I think we're 1200 theaters, and hopefully, you know, Mother's Day people will want to go and take mom and have a cup of laughs and and feel something that's it's a real family is very together. It is about the movie,

Alex Ferrari 46:43
and it does spark a conversation. It will spark a conversation without question. But it has been an absolute honor and pleasure talking to you on the show today. Thank you so much, not only for being on the show for making here today, which I tell everybody you got to go see. But also for for the years of, of just making me laugh and now making my children laugh.

Billy Crystal 47:05
It's a pleasure, Alex, I'm a veteran,

Alex Ferrari 47:08
obviously, as a veteran as a veteran actor, writer and director. But thank you so much for everything, Billy. Appreciate.

Billy Crystal 47:15
You are welcome, nice talking to you.



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IFH 196: How Much Revenue Can a $100K Indie Film REALLY Generate

Right-click here to download the MP3

Total Transparency: How Much Revenue Can a $100K Indie Film Generate with Liz Manashil

Have you ever wondered how much revenue a real indie film can make in the marketplace? Wouldn’t you like to see the real and raw numbers for a nontheatrical film with no major film festival premieres? Today’s guest has been brave enough to do just that. Filmmaker Liz Manashil decided to open up the accounting books on her debut feature film Bread and Butter, starring SNL’s Bobby Moynihan and Lauren Lapkus. 

Liz Manashil earned her B.A. in Film and Media Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, and her M.F.A. from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. Post-graduation, Liz spent several years as a film critic for the PBS/Hulu series JUST SEEN IT (which she also helped produce and direct). Overlapping this, Liz worked with distribution guru Peter Broderick.

Her debut feature, [easyazon_link identifier=”B0142KKMQU” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]BREAD AND BUTTER[/easyazon_link], was called “an absolute must-watch for women everywhere” by HelloGiggles. It was released by The Orchard and can be seen on VOD nearly everywhere (including Hulu!). Liz is currently in pre-production on her next feature film, SPEED OF LIFE, and lives in Los Angeles with her dog, Laura Palmer, and her partner, Sean Wright. She is the Manager of Sundance Institute’s Creative Distribution Initiative.

Here’s the breakdown (taken from her amazing article on Moviemaker Magazine:

Our film, Bread and Butter, is a digital success. A digital success you’ve never heard of.

Let’s break it down.

  • Our film cost $100,000 to make
  • We grossed $96,000 a little bit more than a year into our release (and we’re still making deals)
  • Our distributor did have a marketing spend but we invested in no other resources outside of that (other than me running our social media campaigns and newsletter)
  • We got two airline deals, two SVOD deals, and decent promotion of transactional and cable VOD
  • We’re operating in the black with the distributor’s marketing spend and heading toward eventual recoupment in terms of our expenses

In an age where people debate the utility of making independent feature films, there is hope.

Liz Manashil, Bread and Butter, Bobby Moynihan, Lauren Lapkus, Saturday Night Live, SNL, The Orchid

I had a ball speaking to Liz and we get into the weeds on traditional distribution and self-distribution. If you want to sell you film in the marketplace perk up your ears and take some notes. Enjoy my conversation with Liz Manashil.

Alex Ferrari 0:43
So today on the show, we have Liz Manashil, she is a director of the movie bread and butter. And I wanted to have her on the show, because it loves her story about how she was able to get the financing for the movie, how she put it together, how she was able to attract name talent, people that you actually recognize, to her project, her tips or techniques on how she was able to, to reach out to this cast her experiences through distribution. she happens to be the manager of the creative distribution initiative at Sundance. And she's going to talk passionately about that and a little bit. And at the end of this episode, we have a little surprise that we're going to be sharing with you that you guys might be interested in. But I really wanted to get into the into the weeds with Liz and really just see her perspective on the state of independent film today. Oh, and also did I mention that Liz is going to be completely transparent on how much she made. Distributing her film, she's going to go into detail breakdown of what the distributors doing, how much she made, where she's making her money, where she's not making her money, and really give you guys an idea of of what a movie of her budget actually will make in the marketplace. So you guys will get a sneak peek into what the distribution world is like for independent films. Without any further ado, here is my conversation with Liz Manashil. I like to welcome to the show, Liz Manashil, how you doing?

Liz Manashil 2:48
Hey, I'm great. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 2:50
Thank you for being on the show. I really appreciate it.

Liz Manashil 2:53
Oh my gosh, thank you. This is a pretty cool opportunity for me. So I'm psyched.

Alex Ferrari 2:57
Awesome. Awesome. So let's let's start off with how did you get in this crazy business? And why don't we have a real job?

Liz Manashil 3:05
Well, Oh, God. Okay, so I tell this story, who to anyone who wants to listen and whether you want to listen or not. I'll tell it really quickly. I saw this movie when I was 16. It's a really pretentious French film called stolen kisses and

Alex Ferrari 3:23
It sounds pretentious.

Liz Manashil 3:24
Yeah, it's super, super pretentious. And I had this moment or the character looks at the lens. And I thought, you know, 16 like the world revolves around you. I thought he was looking at me. And I felt like a lightning bolt hit me and I had to make movies. And that's why it's all everything that I do is based off of this one RIDICULOUS MOMENT where I felt like I had to be in this crazy business. And so I went to film school and I work at Sundance and everything I do is film film related.

Alex Ferrari 3:55
And you went to USC, right? I went to USC. Yeah, that's a great I've spoken there a couple times. It's it's like it's like Wonderland when I went for the first time I'm like, and there's the Lucas building and there's the Spielberg building and here's where here's where john Carpenter you know, grab some stuff to go make Halloween I'm like Jesus.

Liz Manashil 4:13
Well, I call it the Las Vegas hotel now because it like transformed to this like ridiculous plastic looking place.

Alex Ferrari 4:19
It actually is you absolutely right with the big fountain and everything.

Liz Manashil 4:22
Yeah, I was there like we had one year in Las Vegas hotel all the other years. We had an old building. We called it the old building. And I loved that building. That was a beautiful building. Because just you you had everything you needed, even if it didn't look flashy.

Alex Ferrari 4:38
Yeah. And before these ruffins Lucas and Spielberg came and get buildings,

Liz Manashil 4:42
Right well, it's kind of like use that money for something else. Like I get really frustrated when people waste money. I mean, you and I both know we're we're micro budget filmmakers. I want every dollar to go to something really useful.

Alex Ferrari 4:53
Yeah, exactly. And buildings, but hey, you know what, who are we to talk about their, their USC for God's sakes. So how did you get your your awesome little film up bread and butter off the ground?

Liz Manashil 5:07
Well, I graduated from film school and I had a moment where I was like, hey, what am I going to do with my life? I really want to make a feature. I'm just I'm just gonna do it. I'm going to make a movie. I crowdfunded, I crowdfunded. While I didn't even really know what the budget of the film would be. I just crowdfunded. I made about $36,000 through crowdfunding, awesome. I'm really proud of that. It was in 2012, though, when it was a little easier.

Alex Ferrari 5:36
Yes. I was gonna say, that's, that's a lot for nifty.

Liz Manashil 5:39
Yeah, yeah. And I found an investor through crowdfunding, who was a colleague of mine, who, for some reason, just wanted to get involved with investing in films. And she brought on her her boss at the time to breathe to be a second investor who just wanted to help out a female director, actually. And then, you know, we started cutting pages and studying cutting characters to fit the budget that we had access to.

Alex Ferrari 6:08
And, and that's the answer you got.

Liz Manashil 6:11
So you start a crowdfunding, then you had an investor come in for the rest of the money. And the budget of the film was, it ended up being about 7070 for production, and the 30 was for post. So as 100 all in, and if you cut in distribution expenses, there's about 120.

Alex Ferrari 6:30
Wow that's a pretty that's a pretty big micro budget. I mean, in the in the grants, I mean, in the grand scope of your first feature film, and I'm assuming you had directed a shorter to before.

Liz Manashil 6:42
Yeah, well, I went to film school, but actually, I studied documentary. So this was my first real fiction project that I put time and care into, like, at USC, you do little short projects, but nothing for more than a few weeks. So this was like, actually my first real fiction, and it was terrifying.

Alex Ferrari 7:03
So I just got to ask on your first day, well, first of all, how did you get your cast? Because that will, that will lead into that next question I had, how did you get this? The cast is awesome, really awesome cast? How did you get them?

Liz Manashil 7:14
I could not afford a casting director. And so I cast it myself. And when you don't have money, sometimes you have time. So we took like a year and a half to cast our film, The the name actors that that I think people are, you know, kind of excited about when when they find out the budget of the film. And that's the first filmmaker is Bobby Moynihan and Lauren lapkus. Sure. And we had many other actors who were incredibly talented and just as valuable, you know, but in terms of Bobby and Lauren, they share a manager and I reached out to Bobby directly and just wrote an offer letter to his team. And I met him and I, you know, basically I wrote him a letter that involved like, lots of pictures of, you know, me and films that I liked. And I tried to make it really warm and friendly. But it takes months right, it takes months to break through those gates. And that's and that's what we did. But not to get too long winded, but the lead actress in my film, we got her through essentially, I wrote an article about how I was having trouble casting her role because it was a part that was really close to me. And she wrote a comment on that article like I think she actually wrote me a direct email just saying like I read your article I really like it by the way if you ever want to bring me in, here's my reel and we did and she was perfect. So it was just one of those situations of Kismet to find our lead actress she just directly appealed to us and she was perfect.

Alex Ferrari 8:46
So a tip to filmmakers listening if you're going to try to go after some sort of main talent or recognizable time like Bobby and Lauren and by the way guys, Bobby Moynihan is from Saturday Night Live he was on the for God I don't know how many years he was hilarious. And and Lauren lip This is she just did Jurassic World, little small indie movies. And if you see her face, she's one of those recognizable faces that she's been in 1000 things. So when you're trying to go after those kind of that kind of caliber of talent, you have no money you have no casting director. So you you literally hit the heartstrings. It was your was your marketing plan.

Liz Manashil 9:24
What's the combination of offer letters and heartstrings. So what I advise other filmmakers to do is to be a human and talk like a human all the time. So when you write letters to agents, you know, don't sound like a robot or a machine who's trying to like name drop and you know, impress them and every opportunity, really talk about how important that film is to make you know how it's your top priority and baby drop a few things that makes them makes you sound a little bit more legitimate and you're in their eyes. And then ultimately, if you send it offer letter they have to consider it. So it's a combination of I think warmth, I hope, hopeful warmth. And then, you know, playing the system, which is drafting an offer letter with a lawyer and making them consider that offer.

Alex Ferrari 10:12
So this was not like a letter, an offer letter that you kind of just kind of threw together. This was an actual letter that was put together with an attorney. And it was it was a real offer.

Liz Manashil 10:22
Yeah, it was a real offer was a deal memo. And one of my producers, my lead producer is an entertainment lawyer. So that was invaluable. Also, that's, if you're trying to put together a crew for micro budget, see if if you know any entertainment lawyers who really want to get into producing, because you'll get a deal on on all your contracts. And it's awesome. That's incredibly helpful. She's a huge asset to our film.

Alex Ferrari 10:47
Now, what was it like? You're arguably a first time director doing the feature film, and you're working with this caliber of talent? And it's your first day on set? How are you doing?

Liz Manashil 11:00
I'm already a really anxious person. I don't know if you could tell from my fast talking and my like, breathiness. But like, yeah, I'm super on edge all the time. So when I was on set, I was very nervous. What, what's interesting, though, which, you know, you know, very well is, there's not actually a lot of directing that's involved in directing a feature, which I was super surprised by. People say this all the time, everything's casting, right. If you pass the right actor, you really can take a step back. And every now and then when you feel something's off from your vision, you adjust things. But for the most part, I did not give a lot of notes. And so I got to have a little break in anxiety, especially but I didn't learn that until like after the first few days.

Alex Ferrari 11:47
Yeah, I when I worked when I shot mag, and I had this insane cast. I it was honestly one of the first times I'd worked with an ensemble like that the head that was just one person that was good, they were all good. And it's so true. Like, you just sit back and just capture the magic. I said, I was just there to capture the lightning, because it gave very little direction here and there. Because they just know who they just know. It's amazing when you have a good actor, and you know, trying to pull a performance out, you just kind of, hey, let's let's let's just go It was so it was so nice. So I'm assuming the same hat thing happened to you?

Liz Manashil 12:24
Absolutely. And I had a conversation with an actress who's going to be in my second feature. And she said something. And I was, I was taken aback by at the time, but now I completely understand. And she was saying like when she was working with a director, she needs to be very forceful, and ask for that for another take when she feels it's not right. Because in her eyes, she feels she Her job is to replicate human behavior. And that the director's Job had nothing to do with guiding her. It's like she took on that onus. And I think as directors, we often feel like it's our responsibility to get the actor there. But it was interesting to hear that the actor thought it was only it was her whole, her sole responsibility, and she needed the space to get there herself. So there's different ways of approaching it.

Alex Ferrari 13:12
Every actor is different. It's so you know, when you're working with the actors, some actors want hand holding. Actors want the space to do it. And I interviewed a director who worked with john malkovich on his first feature film would tell me what he said, or she said, and he basically, which was, I think, an amazing piece of a direction, if you will, he walked because it's john malkovich. I mean, like, it's john, F and milkovich. Like, what are you gonna do? And he's like, you know, he came from the Kevin Smith camp. So, you know, it's all dick and fart jokes, you know? And it was a comedy, and it was, you know, all this kind of stuff. But he walked up first day. And Mr. Malcolm, john, how do you want me to direct you? Huh? And I thought that was such a brilliant way. Because I asked Mike, how do you direct john malkovich? And he's like, I don't know. I just walked up to him. And I said, How do you want me to direct you? Because that's such a wonderful way of who's showing? You're being humble in front of Obviously, I'm like, Look, you know, I hired you as an actor, but you're at john malkovich. But we're here to do a job, how do you want to work and I will adjust to you. And I thought that was such a one because every actor is different. You know, like, imagine if you had Malkovich, Daniel de and Meryl Streep, like all three of them have very different ways of performing. And how do you you know that I would actually watch that movie.

Liz Manashil 14:41
I think there's a fear that if you're not saying enough things to an actor, then you're not directing. And it's actually the confidence and not not say anything that that you need to have as a director to have confidence in your vision and let other people do their jobs which is hard, but excited. At the same time

Alex Ferrari 15:01
Without question, and that is something that you just get with experience and age, because you just feel that confidence just like and professionals and seasoned pros, they can sense it. They can smell it very quickly on you. If you're just barking because you're insecure and then that creates all sorts of havoc. Or, and everyone especially the crew, oh my god, the crew can smell it like a mile away. If you know what you're doing or not. They smell blood in the water and you're done. I've seen it happen. I've been on once you'd I had I had a poor kid. They threw as a first ad. And I was like, Oh my God in the crew Am I live a them? Because they were all seasoned guys like from TV like TV guys, which are really seasoned. And yeah, and they just taught and then at day two the guys yelling I'm like, dude, you gotta stop yelling, man. It's not good, because he was trying to do something. Oh, God. But yes, back to what we were talking. This is just like two filmmakers. just telling more stories. I love it. Yeah, been. Yes, exactly. Now, how many days did you shoot, by the way? 16. But I always say that I could have done it in 15. That's awesome. And it was? I'm assuming 15. So you had What? Two days? Just two weeks? Basically? Do you do Wednesday off?

Liz Manashil 16:16
Six on? One off? Five? on two off? Five on two off, I think or I guess, you know, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 16:26
Got it. Now. Whatever. Did you come? Did you encounter any problems? I know this? No, the answer is yes. Did you encounter any problems while shooting your project? And if any of them What? What came out? Like what sticks out to you and your memory?

Liz Manashil 16:41
I mean, I've been asked this before and I gave an answer that I don't even know is true. Like, I feel like I heard that a crew member who I didn't really hire died at some point during the course of the production, but not on our set. And now that I've told the story, like I don't even know if it's true, I think it's turned into an old wives tale within the space of like, six months in my head. So, I mean, that stands out.

Alex Ferrari 17:13
When a crew member dies on set or off, generally as a standout of the film,

Liz Manashil 17:18
Yeah, like totally like, of course, of course. But I'm still not sure if it happened or not. And we had a camera problem one day, but again, like I was really protected. And I would say the major problems that I experienced or internal problems where I felt doubtful or I was worried that we even had a movie in the first place or you're an artist decision. Yeah, just all the personal emotional problems that we all are battling.

Alex Ferrari 17:44
We all we all have that I was I was just I just saw the Martin Scorsese masterclass. And, and he's like, if you don't fit if you don't physically feel ill after the first cut, you're not a filmmaker. And he's like, he's, it's Martin Scorsese, and he's talking about it, like, Hey, you know, I don't even know if we got a movie here like your Martin Scorsese, you'll be fine. But in his mind, he didn't even know if he had cuts like when he shoots like, you know, Raging Bull. He's like, I don't know. I don't know, maybe we got something I don't know.

Liz Manashil 18:13
I'm plagued by doubt. But it's like, you know, when you write the film, and you have a feeling for what the films about, like, you feel the character you feel the whether you write it or you read it, you have a like a some sort of abstract sense of what you know, the film will be and how it will be received. Like, I didn't get that until a year ago on our film has been out for, you know, two, almost three years. Like you still don't know if you have a film. Like you're just down the line. I think sometimes, right now is the only time I feel confident where I was like, Oh, no, that was a thing. And it happened, and I'm really proud of it.

Alex Ferrari 18:50
Exactly. Now, what camera did you shoot on? By the way?

Liz Manashil 18:54
It was one of the it was a read. I think it was it was a scarlet, but I'm not positive.

Alex Ferrari 19:00
Okay. Okay, Scarlet. And now, did you run into any issues in post production?

Liz Manashil 19:07
Well, we my editors are saying so I had two editors who each cut half the film and then swapped so that each could get their hands on the other other's work. And then essentially, our cutting style became a combination of the two of them. So we didn't have problems other than the fact that we had two very different editing styles come together. So there'd be moments where I would want, you know, a really long take, and my editor who has a short attention span would cut it in half. And then my second editor would split the difference, and we had to kind of negotiate the pace a little bit. But like no technical problems, we had an amazing colorist amazing editors. Wonderful sound team. I mean, we really, we lucked out, but it takes a lot of patience, right? Like I wish you know, I wish we could have taken Three weeks and edited this whole film that it took it took several months. And that's super normal. In your, your micro budget, like you don't have any control over when your editors want to edit, because they're essentially doing you a favor, and we were lucky that they were willing to do us that favor.

Alex Ferrari 20:17
That's awesome. Now let's let's talk a little bit about distribution. Okay. Yes. Distribution. And, and you are a big, you're a big advocate for transparency and distribution and the horrors of distribution. Can you talk a little bit about First of all, who was your distributor on the film?

Liz Manashil 20:40
We worked with the orchard. So I have quite a history in distribution. I worked for a distribution consultant for three and a half years. His name is Peter Broderick.

Alex Ferrari 20:50
And I know Peter, I don't know him personally, but I know the name.

Liz Manashil 20:53
Yeah, yeah. He's kind of fancy. He's kind of he was very cool. Yeah. So he helped me he negotiated my distribution deal with the orchard but the orchard found us because they were looking at Lauren lapkus his IMDB page. Like they were just looking at recent projects that she was involved in. And they reached out to us. So that's like, one of the major things I talked about when I talked to emerging filmmakers is like even if you make micro budget, you have access to talent and that talent will change the the future of your film like we would not have had this fabulous distributor reach out to us. Had it not been for our cast. Like we played Cleveland and Woodstock and Phoenix Film Festival. We played about 13 to 14 film festivals. But none of them were tried back our can or Sundance or south by. So it's not as if a 24 was chomping at the bit to to distribute our film. Everybody wants a 24 Well, there were so cool.

Alex Ferrari 21:56
They are the cool kid on the block, aren't they? They're the jacket High School, aren't they? They really? They're the cheerleader.

Liz Manashil 22:03
The portraits like cash, who would it compare? I feel like the orchards like the one who's like the lead at all the plays. So they're like popular too.

Alex Ferrari 22:12
Yes. Creative? Yes, exactly. Friends. Yeah. By the way, for people who don't, for the audience that doesn't know who the orchard is. They do a lot of the duplass brothers work and they've done a they're a really good distribution house. And they're a good distributor for my experience. Yeah,

Liz Manashil 22:29
I've been very happy with them. And they wanted a digital deal. So I was like, immediately insulted because I think every filmmaker thinks

Alex Ferrari 22:37
Yeah, you know, 5000 theaters,

Liz Manashil 22:38
Theatrical Exactly. Or give me an advance or that, you know, there's all these terms that you're expecting. And they were like, No, no, no, no advance, you know, you're just going to be get a digital deal with us. And they were the best option we had. And they turned out to be a really good option. Because, as I'm pretty open about we have grossed, you know, in our gross revenue, we have recouped our production budget, we will probably never recoup in net revenue. And I'm getting really nerdy here.

Alex Ferrari 23:14
We'll get into all of that we'll get

Liz Manashil 23:15
Yeah, but but like, we're, we're doing well, which is you know, what you need to do if you're making a first film if you want to make a second one. So

Alex Ferrari 23:24
Right now, can you talk a little bit about deliverables? Oh, God, and we'll get back into distribution, but deliverables the evil of the deliverables, because it's something that literally always sneaks up on filmmakers. And they, they just like, Oh, I just need a quick time, right?

Liz Manashil 23:40
I'm like, Wow, well, I didn't even think about it. I don't think filmmakers really think about it, they don't even know that you need to pry from my experience. I didn't know I needed to prep deliverables. I didn't understand how the distributor would get the film from me and then put it on various platforms, because it's my first feature. So they sent me like, Oh, they sent me a list. And then they sent me to an FTP that they had, you know, there's like an aspera or something like that. And, and I had to kind of figure it out on my own. And my amazing editors, you know, they created you know, the master and the digital Master, and they helped me get all the deliverables. But ultimately, the upload was what was the most terrifying, hardest thing of everything was just finding internet connection, that could have done an upload for like a six hour upload. That's what they need. They need you to like, take this massive 100 to 500 gig file or whatever it is and get it to them. So

Alex Ferrari 24:42
Flash, your flash drive flash drive in the mail.

Liz Manashil 24:44
Ultimately, that's what I did. And I should have just started with that, like crazy.

Alex Ferrari 24:49
They said do not upload them. Like I've got an experience in this field. I said, No, no, I'll just I'll just send you a flash drive and it just works so much nicer because you're super smart. By you That Yep. Now as far as other deliverables are concerned, you know, Music cue sheets, to chain of title, all that kind of stuff you have to put together as well are you had your your producer help you with all that?

Liz Manashil 25:11
Well, my producers are lovely and they worked really hard. But it was me pretty much overseeing a lot of distribution myself, because it's micro budget, they moved on to other projects, I really didn't want to bother them. They were helpful when I felt like they, you know, they could do things that I couldn't do. But again, when you're doing a micro budget project, you don't know what those delivery deliverables are going to be. So I went to my sound team, I went to my music team. And I approached them only once we had distribution with what we needed. And so they all had to work backwards. That Music cue sheet we had to put together last minute. You know all the files with like, all the files from the sound team. And all that kind of good stuff. Yeah, I had to like pay separately, stipends that I wasn't expecting in order just to even get those files. So that was fun.

Alex Ferrari 26:04
That's that shouldn't have been the way it goes that's usually negotiated at the beginning of that deal. So yeah, next time.

Liz Manashil 26:11
Next time, there are lots of things that I've learned that you go, when you talk to your crew members, make sure you figure out what you're going to need from them at the end of the production and make sure they are prepared to give it to you. Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 26:24
Without question. Now, can you discuss the deals that you got through orchard and good you're being fully transparent, so I'm being very rude and asking all of these numbers. So like I never asked filmmakers? It's like asking your weight like you like you don't say it like you don't ask someone there that that situation. So for everybody who who's listening, I'm not being rude. Needless spoke about this earlier. So can you talk a little bit about the deals you got what what kind of money you got for those deals, so people can kind of really get an idea of what they can expect in the marketplace with a cast like this. And also the genre This is which is a comedy drama, if I'm not mistaken, right?

Liz Manashil 27:04
Yeah, I call it a dramedy, I actually caught an anti romantic comedy. But that's a little specific.

Alex Ferrari 27:09
That's a little harder to sell, as far as genre is concerned.

Liz Manashil 27:13
Well, yeah. back to what you were saying, though, I think it's really funny that, that you were worried about being rude because like our department, a Sundance, which I won't get into too much, because I could go on forever. But like, we're all about data transparency. And we really want to decriminalize filmmakers talking about all these details, because it feels like we're not supposed to. And and actually, to segue to my answer for you, I'm not allowed to share a lot of information still. So what I did is I went to the orchard and I said, Hey, can you break down all the revenue for me? Can you tell me exactly why we've been successful? I'd like to write a story about it. And even then, the only numbers I'm allowed to talk about are my gross gross revenue. So that's just all the money that we made without the distributor taking a card or the platform's taking a cut. So that's, as of several months ago, was $96,000. And we made the film for 100 100 120. Yeah, so now that's gross. And that's before anyone takes a cut. Yes. And it's actually several months ago, and we've we landed another deal since then. So it would be higher than that now.

Alex Ferrari 28:29
No, what No. Can you talk about what? What's sales you got? Like? Did you sell? What do you do? Do all that kind of stuff without the numbers?

Liz Manashil 28:37
Yeah, I can talk about that. I mean, we're on all of the transactional platforms that are open. So that would be like the iTunes Xbox Google Play VUDU. Yeah, Amazon Video, amazon video, I put my I retain the right to sell DVDs and streams from my website. Like that's something I negotiated. So I'm doing physical between me and my editor. We're doing physical sales. But I also do VA checks links on my website, so you can buy directly from me.

Alex Ferrari 29:07
Now, how and how did you have you sold DVDs?

Liz Manashil 29:11
Yes, I've sold. I have a spreadsheet I probably sold around 50. I mean, it's really not that many Sure.

Alex Ferrari 29:16
Are you making them as you go? Or did you have them pre built

Liz Manashil 29:19
We made we've done like two manufacturing stents. And then I'm actually just about assign ideal with allied Vaughn for manufacturing on demand for DVD. Okay. So I mean, it's been two years since our release, and they reached out to us, because I wrote this article about being transparent about how much money we made. And they were like, hey, do you want to do physical? And what was really phrase

Alex Ferrari 29:43
And what was the name of that company?

Liz Manashil 29:45
Allied Vaughn,

Alex Ferrari 29:46
Allied. I'll get that information because I want to put that in the show notes.

Liz Manashil 29:50
Yeah. So they do manufacturing on demand. So it's not like doing 1000s of DVDs that you're not going to sell. It's based off of you know how much you actually are going to sell. So the overhead is much Less.

Alex Ferrari 30:02
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Liz Manashil 30:13
Okay, so we did all of those open transactional and ESP platforms. And then we did a Hulu deal, which is like, like, I'm sure for you. Pride of my life. Really, it's

Alex Ferrari 30:26
It's a badge that I wear with great honor. When I got that one, I got that call. And they're like, Hey, we sold you a hula deal. I'm like, What? Yeah, it's like, it's like getting a Netflix deal. Like, what? Yeah, for like a little indie movie. Like,

Liz Manashil 30:37
It's magical. I think it is in right. Well, it's funny. My distributor didn't didn't call me up like they called you like and said they have the sale. They were like, Liz, we have some news. We're really surprised. We weren't expecting this. We're really like, they were like, shocked that Hulu even wanted the film. And I just think that's so funny. It's like, we all have low self esteem about my film.

Alex Ferrari 31:03
I'm so glad and I, my distributor has low self esteem about my film. It's great. Like, it was kind of a shock to me, too.

Liz Manashil 31:11
So Hulu, and then we got two airline deals. So that was a total that's crap.

Alex Ferrari 31:16
Like international International Airlines. Right.

Liz Manashil 31:19
One was Royal Jordanian. Yeah, both international Royal Jordanian airlines, which I think is hilarious. Because like, Who would have thought that you sold Jordan? Yeah, like Who'd have thought that they really thought Who would have thought they would have seen value. I'm really, I love them now. And then Aer Lingus. So we were in Ireland, and you know, wherever, air Lingus flies, and then flying over the Middle East, but they censored a few scenes from the film because we get a little sassy. So that was something I was willing to abide by in order to get on planes. Sure. Of course, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 31:59
You can't make it a little. You gotta gotta do a little an airline cut. Yeah, yeah. And that was, but that was a good, those are made if you can get airline deals. Those are nice. That's it.

Liz Manashil 32:08
Yeah, that's something that like I, we always talk about self distribution, and filmmakers working with aggregators, and all that fun, nerdy distribution stuff. But aggregation is still not figured out airlines. So that's something that I really look forward to a time where we have more of a direct channel to airlines other than through distributor,

Alex Ferrari 32:28
No. And same here. I mean, I've self distributed digitally here in the States. But I am using a traditional distributor for international. And it's been, it's been great, because I get to have the power to do whatever I want here. And, you know, for my film, but yet, I'm getting opportunities, like, you know, it's selling in a different in different territories and stuff that I would have never gotten done by myself. So I think I agree with you, there is a balance to be made. And it also depends on your movie, also your audience, and we can get into we could talk for hours about that, about how to actually self distribute a film. But But yeah, I think it's a it's a it's very interesting. That's why I wanted to kind of have you on the show today to talk about your path and your journey through distribution. And what else did you sell it?

Liz Manashil 33:15
Um, we got a few paid tv deals mostly in the Middle East. Again, again, I'm like

Alex Ferrari 33:20
Jerry's, you're huge. And Jordan, you're huge in

Liz Manashil 33:24
The Middle East, North Africa region, the MENA region, like there was actually a there's a squad company, a smaller company called, it's called Sundance international or something. It's called like something with the word Sundance in it. It's not Sundance now. But it's something completely it's like, run by AMC or something. And that was so weird to me that I worked at Sundance and Sundance is also the name of this company that the Middle East. So that was a sign. But yeah, so we got like, a lot of little deal, little pay TV deals, little little airline deals, that really contributed to us feeling like we made a dent. It was really exciting.

Alex Ferrari 34:09
That's amazing. And I'm sure you attribute a lot of these sales to your cast.

Liz Manashil 34:14
Yeah, I mean, will the orchard and they're pitching, you know, everything that they did to pitch the film, of course, but yeah, I think comedians, I think comedy people, sometimes you when you're on your plane, maybe you just want a comedy to escape into. I've been trying to figure it out exactly why we got the deals that we did, but it's got to be the the recognizability of our cast, and that it was just such a good movie.

Alex Ferrari 34:39
That obviously Yeah, obviously, obviously, obviously. No, no, I feel like I feel you I since having faces in my movie. I don't think I would have gotten Hulu without the faces.

Liz Manashil 34:49
I mean, I just, I just don't think so. So the recognizability of those faces, really, and they're not bankable stars, and they're the first ones to tell you. They're not monster, bankable stars. They're just recognized. Visible faces. And at a certain budget level that makes sense at 200, at a 234 $5 million movie, you know, you can't even need to have some something else going on. I like to use a mix, because I feel like as filmmakers, we're really there still that romantic notion of putting in what you think is this great talent who hasn't been recognized yet. And like, developing a relationship where you guys grow together as director and actor. And then of course, the bankable actors who are willing to do your project and collaborate with you. For me, it's like great to see if you can find a way to do a hybrid casting. Like, my boyfriend's an actor. And so I kind of like try to fit him in roles. But then I also am super honest with him where I'm saying, like, Sean, you're not good for this role, because I need x in this role in order to get distribution. So it becomes like a way to honest conversation sometimes about what you know, what our relationship means, and what's possible for him. And when whatnot.

Alex Ferrari 36:03
You are married, you're married, but your boyfriend is an actor. So God bless you. I dated actresses when I was younger, and no, no, no, no, no, no, no, I'm good. My partner. Yeah. It's a lot. Maybe it's different with actors, but with actresses. It was rough when I was in my 20s. I know what you're talking about. I'm not gonna say anything. But I know you're on your feet. You're feeling you feel me? I gotcha. Yeah. I love my actresses. I mean, Jill is one of my best friends in the world. But I told her like, You're crazy. She's like, Oh, I know this. Never. She's like, Oh, I understand.

Liz Manashil 36:38
You have to be a little crazy to have the brilliance to perform. Like, there's,

Alex Ferrari 36:42
There's a she's a comic, and she's a stand up comic as well. So there's that whole other world. But yes, you have to be a little bit nuts to be in front of the camera. But I do believe you know, it's a special human being. And it's why I love my I love actors so much. Because what they do is, is so magical to me. It's something I just can't do. Yeah, we get to witness it. And it's very cool. God, it's it's your front row, your front row, if you do it, right. Meaning that you're not like sitting in village, you know, a village 15 miles away. And you're there actually, with the performance, you know, I'd like to do a case of Eddie Stiles, you know, kind of right in there with them. I'm usually behind the camera, so I'm literally right there with them. That's, that's kind of the way I like to work. But my back doesn't like it. So my back does it, but I love it. Um, so what is the biggest lesson you've you learned making this film?

Liz Manashil 37:42
Okay, I think the biggest lesson for me is that making a feature is not impossible. It's not mystical. There's no I don't know, I I've never read Moby Dick. But I always compare it to like the white whale, right? You know, like, you think about making a feature until you made a feature and it becomes elusive, and it becomes scary. And all you want to do is complete this one thing. Once you complete it, you realize, Oh, it's just a long short, it's a long shore with, you know, more money invested. And some, for some reason, people want to talk to me more and take me a little bit more seriously. Right. But ultimately, I thought that I had to have this like, unknown quality or this specific, mysterious talent in order to make a feature and I didn't you just have to really, really want to do it. And, and you can

Alex Ferrari 38:35
Without question, I felt the same way. I thought I was like a dragon. Who's this monster dragon that I slay. And you know, and if it's my first feature your has to be, you know, Reservoir Dogs or mariachi or slacker or something cute pressure

Liz Manashil 38:49
You put on yourself is so unfortunate because it's not necessary at all.

Alex Ferrari 38:54
Because it's not you can't do that. It is what it is. And some people that pops like those guys just talked about. And and others. It's just like, Look, I mean, look at Nolan, Christopher Nolan's first feature, got rejected from Sundance, it barely got into slam dad's, you know, we're finding and he and he's

Liz Manashil 39:12
Doing okay now, but also just like looking at me, like, I get to talk to you. Like, that's genuinely how I feel. I'm like, this is really cool. It's open this door for me where I get to talk to other people who I respect and who I it allows me to share something with the world. In any filmmaker who reaches out to me via email, I set a time to talk with them about making their first feature. And I mean, I why, you know, I don't doubt that you probably do the exact same thing.

Alex Ferrari 39:40
I try. I get a little diluted with emails. I get I'm not that fancy. But I but I try to I try to answer questions through the podcast so it reaches a multitude of people but I do the best I can to respond to everything everybody that emails me, and it's really remarkable. I don't know if you got this or not. But I get emails about, you know, hope that, you know, I give them hope. And the work that I'm doing is giving them hope. And because of what of the podcast they, they want, they made their first feature because it gave him the courage and I'm like, wow, that's massive. And even that little bit of help that you give an artist like Kevin Smith says, it costs effing nothing. Yeah, to be encouraged encouraged an artist.

Liz Manashil 40:25
It's true. Wonderful. That's really cool that you get those messages. I'm I I'm running a right currently right now on micro budget mentorship, where I checked for film, well, I picked three films, and I'm basically just trying my best with the time that I have just to like, push them to get things done so that they can make their first feature. And, you know, maybe in a few months, we'll open it up again, if anyone listening wants to do this with me, be careful what you wish for. Basically, yeah, went before I made the feature, it's, there's, as you know, there's so much that you have to do. And it's terrifying, and it's overwhelming. But I guarantee like it is absolutely worth all the pain and frustration. It is the thing I am most proud of is making this movie. And even though I have the like amnesia of all the pain, it's coming back to me bit by bit on getting ready with this second film. And I still think it's going to be worth it to make a second one. It's like It's like giving birth.

Alex Ferrari 41:27
And I didn't give birth, but I forgot all of those first two or three years of my daughter's life, that it's so painful. You don't sleep the views. And now all of a sudden, like they're turning like for something like my wife, and I'm like, Hey, you know, it wasn't that bad. Was it more like it was? And I turned to her. I'm like, it was absolutely horrible. Are you kidding? I love my daughters. But are you? Are you serious? She's like, Yeah, no, it was pretty rough. Worth it now. Well, you know, worth it. It's a good investment. There are annuities. I hope they pay off soon. So not 10 years. Yeah, 18 years, hopefully kind of get a job. I mean, seriously, they're just a financial drain on this family. But anyway. Now what is in your opinion, what is the biggest challenge you see filmmakers facing today?

Liz Manashil 42:13
distribution and marketing, mainly marketing. You know, this is a big thing, what we do every day. But with the overflow of content and the market being saturated, it's really hard to set yourself apart. I know I sound like a suit when I say that. But I really mean it. Because it's so hard to get attention. As a filmmaker these days, it's just so like, my big thing is when you make a film, from my vantage point, filmmakers are not making a lot of money making movies like really not making any money at all in movies. So I encourage filmmakers to make the movie for themselves to do it as like some sort of emotional experience because they feel like they have to do it. And then to try their best to get as much attention as possible when they do finish it but to not hold out hope that they will get anything in return.

Alex Ferrari 43:08
And it's, Hey, I know I teach I did something slightly different, I kind of preach something a little different was like you got to build your audience up, provide value to that audience and let them grow with you slowly but surely, and it takes years. It's not something that happens overnight.

Liz Manashil 43:23
That's the that's the gospel, what you just said is the exact thing that we say and they and what I truly believe in. But when you talk to a filmmaker who doesn't want to write a newsletter, or doesn't want to write on Facebook, it's done. Yeah, it's really hard. So I say, you know, I can't change everyone to become like a little annoying self promoter like I am. So at least I can say, Well, here your expectations, you know, bring your expectations lower. And then if you really want to make a difference with this film, like you were talking about, you have to hustle. And you have to bring people in you have to be really inclusive,

Alex Ferrari 43:57
Without question without question. Now, can you talk a little bit about why it's so important to produce micro budget films, and why it's so important to independent cinema in general? And this kind of see of, quote, unquote, independent films, the importance of doing micro budget films for filmmakers, especially when they're starting out?

Liz Manashil 44:19
Yeah, there's so many reasons. I mean, the first reason that I thought I was, you know, I've never experienced, you know, major institutional sexism. But that's because I've always controlled the budget for my film. And the way I control the budget for my film is keeping the budget low and being the person who holds the purse strings. So I mean, that's something I could be wrong. Maybe I just have been really lucky. And I'm going to be, you know, go through something really horrific in five minutes. But I think part of it has to do with having having the control of the money. Be I think there's a lot of financial waste in This world where people are spending money that they don't need to. And I'm not saying like, I know, we're gonna get into this because it's like, crew members deserve to be paid actors deserve to be paid. But when you're making a labor of love, it's a different situation where everyone is volunteering to make those sacrifices. So I hope that I'm clear in saying that when people are being wasteful financially, I'm not talking about you know, regular salary,

Alex Ferrari 45:29
Like food, like, What a waste, they can bring their own food, dammit.

Liz Manashil 45:33
The way that the system supports the special treatment of talents, and, you know, just like these multimillion dollar salaries, it's just absurd. So I encourage people to be involved with filmmaking that comes from the heart, and is not wasteful financially, where you have creative and financial control over everything. I mean, and then also, it's, it's sometimes the only way to make any content is to make Mike our budget, because I've never had an investor, you know, just come up to me and say, let me give you money for your work. And it's like, that's not normal. And I think that I thought it would be normal. If I made a feature, I thought people would be like, Oh, I would like to invest in you. If it was 19, if it was 1982, maybe, maybe, maybe happen anymore. So my boss Peter was talking to Shaun Baker A long time ago. Yeah, I don't know him. And that's really cool. But anyway, so I'm gonna paraphrase the story. But basically, you know, by doing micro budget content, he was allowed to produce a lot more work. That friends of his who waited to be anointed or waited to be granted those opportunities. Micro budget allows you to start yesterday.

Alex Ferrari 46:56
Yeah, great. I've spoken to Sean he's a I don't call him a buddy, but I've spoken to him many times. He's, he's an awesome guy. And I'm, I'm hoping to get him on the show because I'm dying to see his new movie that everyone's talking about with William to fall is gonna get nominated. And when I had him on the show last time you think, yeah, I'm doing this movie in, in Florida shooting 35. And I'm like, Oh, great. We're in film because I'm from Florida and all this kind of stuff. And now the trailer comes out. I'm like, Yeah, me Sean. You man, Jesus. Yeah, he's such a talented filmmakers. Such a talented filmmaker. And humble. Such a humble soul. He's a very humble so I went off track what we were talking about just went on the shop Baker carpet and like, yeah, yeah, exactly. And that was what I stopped. That's why I waited myself. I waited so long to be anointed till I finally said, Hey, I'm just gonna go out and do it. And yeah, and next year, I hope to do some more as well. And it and it gives you the power. It's the whole Joe Swanberg Mark do plus roadmap, like, I'm just gonna make movies. And I'm just gonna go and I don't care. And I'm just going to keep going and try to keep keep pounding it. And micro budget is the way to do that. But I think a lot of filmmakers also get a little too grandiose, and they try to make the hobbit on $10,000. And that generally doesn't work. And I'm not trying to be discouraging, but it won't work.

Liz Manashil 48:17
Well, I agree. You're, well, unless you're a visual effects artist who's also a director, and even

Alex Ferrari 48:23
Then $10,000 is not gonna do it. It's gonna take seven years to pull that off. That's a very good point. But yeah, you can be ambitious, depending on your resources. I mean, you know, I have my own resources in post production, so I could do certain things that other filmmakers have to pay for. But still I think ambition in the in the scope of their stories, I think a lot of times what catches filmmakers off guard and and causes them to fail, where if you can do like Robert Rodriguez did who did great action movie, and mariachi but he took the resources he had with him, a Mexican town, a turtle, a some guns and a guitar case. And he made a movie, but that was his set of circumstances.

Liz Manashil 49:05
Well, and my next feature is, is a science fiction feature. Which I'm really excited by because I recently became a nerd. So it's like, really up my alley right now. But all of the things I'm doing are to keep costs low, even though it's it's genre. So it's, it's time travel, but the time is 2016 and then 2040. You know, it's

Alex Ferrari 49:29
God, God bless. Oh, geez. Oh, you're trying to make 2040 Oh, that's gonna be awesome.

Liz Manashil 49:34
One location, it's, you know, the wormhole that we're creating in the film is going to be in an apartment, you know, like, and probably off screen like there's lots of different things that you need to manage creatively and to find different substitutions for if you want to be that like dynamic filmmaker with a really high concept idea or whatever. Like, there are hacks, but you know, obviously literally think through it thoroughly. Because if you're trying to build an entire Middle Earth, that's gonna be real tough.

Alex Ferrari 50:07
It's gonna it's gonna be a tough situation and you can get there eventually, you know, but not at they're not your first time out all these guys. I mean, if you look at Peter Jackson's first movie, which was a micro budget horror movie, which was a slasher gory movie, you know, you look at it look like something like Evil Dead, almost had that Evil Dead vibe to it forgot what the name of it was, I escapes me. But I remember that I remember the story when Bob Shea, who used to renew line said, Yeah, we're going to finance these three, Lord of the Rings movies. And then they saw that movie. They said, Oh, my God, what have we done? Because there's nothing to say that, that movie, that guy is going to be able to pull this off. Now, what advice would you give a filmmaker seeking a distributor for the first time with their first movie?

Liz Manashil 51:01
Well, it's interesting, because I used to really want to advocate for filmmakers reaching out to distributors. But now I'm not so sure I kind of feel like you should build your audience. I believe in film festivals. And I believe in the power of film festivals. I believe in the power of publicists. And I think if you grow your audience, and maybe get an indie wire article about it, and maybe cast it properly, the distributors will come to you. And and our big thing that we talk about is doing your due diligence with distributors, and talking to all the filmmakers who have worked with them before and sussing out like a detective whether these bad partners are not very often a distributor. I've just heard a lot of horror stories of distributors who take advantage of filmmakers they don't provide for shocking, they don't provide reporting, and they don't understand the audience. So like the one question you ask, when a distributor approaches you is like, Who do you think the audience is? And how are you going to market this film? And if they give you a lot of like, vague crap about, you know, your audiences, everybody or versus a digital audience or something that's really General, that kind of tells you they're not targeting anyone and, and targeting specific audiences like exactly what people need to do these days. Right? So doing your research is really important.

Alex Ferrari 52:30
Now, um, what advice would you give a filmmaker who's wanting to break into the business?

Liz Manashil 52:37
Well, film school is really great for me, but I don't recommend it for anyone else, because it's very expensive. And I think you can get the same experience, you can replicate that experience outside of film school, the problem is taking the time, you need to like figure out what stories you want to tell and who your teammates are going to be. So if you can do that, on the weekends, I'd encourage you to do it. But I think the best advice that I never took, but I think the best advice is to make a lot of shorts, and don't show them to anyone, like just make a lot of things with your phone, or you know, with an old, you know, with a DSLR or with an old handycam, or whatever it is, edit it yourself, and don't show them because once you show it, you get deterred, you start feeling bad, it's never gonna be as good as you think it is in the beginning. And then once you feel like you have something good enough to show to start to build that audience in turn to make your name as a filmmaker, but I think it's all about, you know, really making a lot of crap as much as possible and getting that out of your system.

Alex Ferrari 53:51
The Robert Rodriguez method, he made 40 he made 40 shirts before he made it. Oh, that's great. He's like, yeah, just get them all out of the way. Get them out and get all that crap out of the way. So make your mistakes, make your mistakes quietly, and don't make it on your first big feature if you can help it.

Liz Manashil 54:07
Yeah. And I was not an advocate for the short film. Like if you were to ask that question to me, like six months ago, I would have been like, don't make any shorts. Just make your feature because all it takes a lot of time and resources and money. But I just made a short that I really enjoyed doing. And there's, there's a lot to audience building that's really effective in short films, because people will watch short films, if you send it to them. They're not going to sit there for 90 minutes and watch your future unless they're like, that's their Friday night, or that's their favorite actor or whatever.

Alex Ferrari 54:43
So now Can you can you tell me the book that had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Liz Manashil 54:51
Oh, wow. Jane Eyre Jane Eyre is my favorite book and it's because it's like an awkward ugly girl and I was like I understand this character leg. There's not a lot of stories of like the awkward girl that are done with like true respect for her, where she's not the comedic foil. And so Jane Eyre was pretty and she's a feminist archetype. She's super cool. She didn't. So that was really important to me. It's it's movies like that, where it's army, sorry, it's books like that, where you read it and you're, like, just shaken out of your comfort zone. And you realize there's a lot more potential for you as an individual that you don't get to see on a regular basis. Very cool.

Alex Ferrari 55:35
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Liz Manashil 55:46
Longest lesson to learn, I've probably still haven't learned it. I think too, very often I stray into my movie, or this is mine, or I did this. Yeah, I forgot to give the credit where it deserves. And I still think that I have stock answers when I talked to other people about bread and butter that aren't fully attributing credit to the people who made the film with me. So in you know, like, especially my lead actress Chrissy who was like just a major part of that, that film. I always like will talk about Bobby and Lauren and I don't talk about Christy enough. So just these things where I feel like I forget to to give credit where credit is due.

Alex Ferrari 56:29
Good and three of your favorite films of all time?

Liz Manashil 56:34
This is fun. Okay, broadcast news. My favorite film of all time,

Alex Ferrari 56:41
Albert Brooks is a genius.

Liz Manashil 56:44
Fox is amazing in that. Silence of the Lambs because he you know, whatever, it's on TV. Can't not watch it. It's just stupendous. And Sherman's March. I've only seen it once. But I just remember just being like, I can't believe this as a movie. This is really magical and vulnerable and exciting. So those are three good movies. Probably. I don't know if I'd give the same answer twice.

Alex Ferrari 57:11
Ofcourse, no, it always changes depending on the day, but as of today, at this moment in time, those movies now where can people find you online? Your Twitter and WhatsApp?

Liz Manashil 57:22
I really like to encourage people to email me it sounds silly.

Alex Ferrari 57:26
Do you seriously I'll put I'll put your email in the show notes.

Liz Manashil 57:31
Please do i do it everywhere I go everywhere I go. I gave my email at freely it's just my name [email protected] Okay. And or you could do womanashil. I mean, I have like five different email addresses. And the reason I do that a you know, it's selfish reasons I run a newsletter and I want people to read what I have to say. It's not me talking about distribution and marketing and my film and other people's films. It's just, you know, me spewing my thoughts. But also, if people hear something or they want to talk about anything, I want them to be able to reach me. So it's so my emails like number one priority B is LizManashil.com or AtlasManashil on Twitter or friend me on Facebook, or I mean, really any way you want to get in touch, I'm open to it.

Alex Ferrari 58:22
I'll put it all in the show notes. Liz, thank you so much for for being so honest and transparent with your, your, your distribution, journey, and the making of your, your awesome little film. I appreciate it.

Liz Manashil 58:34
Aww your lovely, thank you so much.

Alex Ferrari 58:37
It was such a pleasure speaking to Liz and speaking to a filmmaker who can you could just tell he's so passionate about filmmaking, and so passionate about telling good stories, and passionate about only not only about the art of it, but the business of it, the distribution aspect of it, and how we're going to get our films our stories out into the world. So I really want to thank Liz for taking the time out to talk to the tribe. And hope you guys got something out of it. I know I did. I learned a bunch of stuff by talking to her and she was an absolute pleasure. Now, as promised, I was going to give you a little something special at the end of this. And I want to ask you guys a question. What would you do if I gave you an opportunity to be able to have access to a distribution fellowship from Sundance? That's right. Now, Liz wanted me to kind of give a shout out to you guys about this, but I'm going to do something even better. tomorrow's episode is going to be Liz back on the show. First time ever that I have a back to back day after day. guests on the show. I don't think it'll ever happen again. This is a special thing and I wanted her to come back and just talk about that. And how, how amazing that there's barely anyone submitting to it. It's insane. She's like, Are you kidding me? No one when submitting to this fellowship, that competition he would think would be in the hundreds of 1000s. I think that's what a big problem is. He's like, it's Sundance, everyone just thinks that no one's gonna submit to this thing. Well, we're gonna give you all the information in tomorrow's episode, so please take a listen to have it tomorrow. And if you want links to anything we talked about in this episode, please head over to indiefilmhustle.com/196. And I have Episode 200. coming up very soon. It's kind of scaring I gotta look too much pressure on me. I'm putting too much pressure on myself. I don't know what I'm going to do for Episode 200. I really wanted to do something big and, and have a really cool guest on or it might be just me talking. So we're gonna see, I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm gonna try and do something really cool for Episode 200. Again, it might just be a normal episode. I don't know. But anyway, thank you as always for listening. And as always, keep that also going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.




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