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IFH 551: Sundance 2022 – La Guerra Civil with Eva Longoria

Eva Longoria, La Guerra Civil, Sundance

Today we have the award-winning actress, director, producer, entrepreneur and activist by the name of Eva Longoria.

Eva Longoria has long established herself as one of the most sought after television directors in Hollywood. Named by Variety as one of their most anticipated directors of 2021, Longoria continues to hone her craft, seek new projects, and expand opportunities for others by paving the way for future women and minority producers, directors and industry leaders in Hollywood and beyond.

Her strong work ethic coupled with her passion for storytelling has led to a pivotal moment as she prepares for the release of her feature film directorial debut with Flamin’ Hot. She recently wrapped production for the highly anticipated Searchlight biopic about the story of Richard Montañez and the spicy Flamin’ Hot Cheetos snack for which she beat out multiple high profile film directors vying for the job.

Eva became well known worldwide thanks to Desperate Housewives, where she played a main character, Gabrielle Solis.

In my journeys as a colorist, VFX and post production supervisor  I had the pleasure of working on a film Eva starred and produced Without Men years ago. I had a ball working on it.

The women of a remote Latin American town are forced to pick up the pieces and remake their world when all the town’s men are forcibly recruited by communist guerrillas. The only men left in town for years are the priest and Julio who was disguised as a woman.

As an trailblazing actress, director, producer, entrepreneur and activist, Eva Longoria has become one the most significant trailblazers behind the camera. For over a decade, she has been directing and choosing projects that have purpose and are focused on elevating the stories of the Latinx and other underrepresented communities.

Eva past television directing credits include the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Versus, as well as episodes of Ashley Garcia: Genius In Love, Grand Hotel, Black-ish, The Mick, LA to Vegas, Jane the Virgin, Telenovela, Devious Maids, Latinos Living the Dream, and the short films Out of the Blue and A Proper Send-Off.

She was also nominated for a 2021 Daytime Emmy for her directing work on Ashley Garcia: Genius In Love.

As a Global Brand Ambassador for L’Oreal Paris for over 15 years, Longoria has become a frequent director of the brand’s commercials, she recently upped the ante by self-directing the first ever hair color TV commercial created at home on a smartphone at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eva has also contributed writing to publications on the subject of education. She also has a contract with L’Oreal and has been named one of the most beautiful people. Her latest documentary La Guerra Civil is in this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

This feature-length documentary follows the epic rivalry between iconic boxers Oscar De La Hoya and Julio César Chávez in the 1990s sparked a cultural divide between Mexican nationals and Mexican-Americans. A chronicle of a battle that was more than a boxing rivalry, and examining a fascinating slice of the Latino experience in the process.

Here some of why Eva took on this film:

“In the Mexican and Mexican-American communities, boxing is so much more than a sport. It is a cultural expression of who we are. The 1996 “Ultimate Glory” fight between Julio César Chávez and Oscar De La Hoya will forever be an iconic memory in our lifetimes. At the time, Chávez was a Mexican national hero entering the 100th professional fight of his career and De La Hoya was a Mexican-American boxer about to enter his prime.

Given the distinct differences between these two men and their respective fandoms, nowhere has a rivalry been more intense while also transcending borders to bring everybody together to root for the art of boxing. Many of these same issues of cultural identity dramatically parallel what we are dealing with in our world 25 years later.

This is why I wanted to tell this story: to remind people that we can find commonalities amid our differences to bring us back together.”

Eva and I discuss her struggles coming up as an actress, transitioning into directing and producing and her new film La Guerra Civil.

Enjoy my conversation with Eva Longoria Bastón. 

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I'd like to welcome to the show Eva Longoria. How're you doing Eva?

Eva Longoria 0:16
Im good, how are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:17
I'm doing fantastic. Thank you so much for coming on the show as a fellow Latino, or Latin X, as they say, nowadays. Latina, Latina, I appreciate everything you've done for for us as a community in general. And, and you know, growing up has been, it was very difficult to really see a Latino filmmaker in general. I mean, it was Robert for me. When I was coming up, it was Robert Rodriguez. And I was just like, oh my god, there's a director, who's Latino. So that's amazing. It was the first time I saw so I just wanted to start off by saying thank you so much for all the stuff that you've done for our community and the film industry. So thank you.

Eva Longoria 0:53
Thank you, thanks for talking about this amazing documentary.

Alex Ferrari 0:59
I loved it. By the way, I absolutely loved it. I knew about it. I knew about the story, just being Latino in general. And I would tell like I told my dad only Do you remember this Franco's who, if you're Latino, you remember that fight. But I didn't really understand the whole back and forth between the subcultures if you will of Mexico, Mexican American. But before we get started, we're going to talk all about the documentary, is it how did you go from almost becoming a physical therapist to becoming an actor?

Eva Longoria 1:33
My dream was to work for the Dallas Cowboys. Like I was like, I'm a physical trainer for the Dallas Cowboys. And I've arrived ever. I was in a beauty pageant. It was a Scholarship Pageant in Texas. And my final year in college, I ran out of money, I ran out a Pell Grant, like, I had no way to finish my senior year and my friends like, hey, why don't you enter the Scholarship Pageant? I was like, what's that? And she's like, you know, you. If you win, you get money for school. So I did. And I was like, I've never been even. And I'm from Texas, like, we're born and bred football and pageants. And I never seen one. I never been in one and, and so my goal was to win fourth place, because I was like, if I could just give fourth place. It was like books. Right? Okay, I've covered my books. And then like, third place was like, books, tuition. And then, you know, second place was books, tuition boarding. And then the first place was books, tuition boarding and a stipend. Like I was like, Look, I am in high. I just want, I just want my books, right. And then they called the winners, and they were like, fourth place is so and so. And I was like, Ah, man, I didn't get it. And I ended up winning the whole thing. And I was like, oh, okay, that oh, cool, cool. I got I can pay my senior. And then that pageant made me I had it was like a feeder to go into the next level. And I was like, Oh, I don't I'm not make this a thing on my tuition. And so I had to go into the next one, which was Miss Corpus Christi, where I'm from, and I won that one. And, and literally, my mom was like, This is not your food, like you cannot enter one more page. And I'm like, I don't want to I don't know what's happening. I don't know what especially growing up as libreria FEHA, which is the ugly dark one. And I in that prize package, Miss Corpus Christi was a trip to Los Angeles. And that was the first time I was like, Oh, that'd be fun. I've never been outside of Texas. And, and it was like a talent competition in LA that we had to go to. And so I came and then i i won the talent competition. And I was like, What is going on? I don't know what I'm doing and and literally, agents and managers wanted to sign me and because it was like, it was like the Latin craze. I remember. It was like Ricky Martin,

Alex Ferrari 3:53
Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Enrique Iglesias. Yes. Yeah.

Eva Longoria 3:57
Livin La vida loca was, you know, the hit song at the time. And they were like, Oh, my God, if you're Latina, you're gonna like clean up here in Hollywood. They're looking for Latinas. And I was like, Oh, okay. And I just live on one day to the next set. Okay, I think I'm gonna be an actor, just like that. But it was because I had my bachelor's degree that I was like, I can get a job anywhere. It's not like I'm going to be a starving actor, I can go get a job. So I had a lot of confidence that I would be okay. But still not knowing, you know, the industry or anything. I had $23 in my bank account.

Alex Ferrari 4:27
Now the in you decided that, you know, you just like I heard somewhere that you just called up your parents is like, I'm staying. I'm not I'm not going. I'm not flying back.

Eva Longoria 4:35
I didn't even fly back. That's when I moved. I didn't even fly back to go, Okay, let me prepare for this move. No, I just, I came here for three days. And on the third day, I said, I think I'm going to stay. And my mom and my mom was like, Okay, you're going to do what I said, I think I'm gonna be an actor. I mean, I don't know what that means. But I think I'm going to, I'm going to just stay a little longer. See what happens. And my mom said that, well, you know, at least you can get a job. You have your degree, and I said, Yeah, I'm going to Go get a job. And, you know, went got a job and then became a background actor. And, you know, atmosphere actor for a couple years. I was like, let me let me be on a set. I don't even I've never been on a set. Maybe I should figure that out.

Alex Ferrari 5:16
Right. Now did you? Did you feel because I mean, everything seems very serendipitous that you've just a story you've told me did you feel like there was some for something guiding you during this process?

Eva Longoria 5:29
It's so funny you say that. I always say that. I was like, I don't know what it was. But there was something just that felt right. Every step of the way. Like, they were like, I said, I'm going to stay. I wasn't scared. I didn't know anybody. I didn't have a place to live. I didn't have money. And I was like, I'll be okay. I maybe it's naive, you know, naive. It's youth. is bliss. Like if I knew the dangers

Alex Ferrari 5:58
Right, exactly. No, it's like so any any actress is living listening right now. Please don't do what Eva did. Don't just

Eva Longoria 6:05
Don't do it. No, I had like five roommates in a one bedroom of people who like hey, come live with us. I go okay, like not knowing them. I was like, I could have been murdered. I mean, you know what I mean? Like

Alex Ferrari 6:16
Something was sometimes guiding and protecting you during this process, because the story that you just told me it's ends and Dateline.

Eva Longoria 6:27
Well, that in like, there's no recipe for success in Hollywood. So let's say you do exactly what I did. Yeah, he wouldn't get the same result. It doesn't work that way.

Alex Ferrari 6:36
No, it's different timing different plays different everything. I mean, you hit that the right point, right time, but like you were saying, it took you a little while before you started getting some jobs. How did you keep going? Like just I mean, I'm assuming like, I always treat that when I'm ever I'm casting for a movie. I'm always treat. I treat actors with such respect, because it's so hard, and going out on auditions and getting beat up and, and people just walking in and like, Oh, you're to this or you're to that, and it's just so it's so rough. How did you keep going when there was no real signs that this was the right path for you?

Eva Longoria 7:09
Right. 100%! Well, you know, I, when I came to Hollywood, I went to a temp agency to get a job because I was like, well, they'll have a job for me tomorrow. And that company said, Why don't you work here? And I said, What is What do you guys do? And they were like that were headhunters. You find people jobs. And you know, it's like matchmaking job, people. You know? And I go, Okay, I mean, not knowing anything, but I was so good at it. I made a lot of money. So again, I wasn't ever the struggling actor, I was so good. I was like, This is so easy this head on. But I just like I knew how to find match people up with jobs and all my actor friends were jobless. So I'm like, I got tons of supply, you know. And, and because of that, I got an apartment, I had a car, I paid off my student debt. I paid off my credit card debt. I had headshots, I took acting classes, I you know, I really invested all anything that I made back into myself. Right. And, and it was through one of those workshops or seminars or something that a casting director saw me and said, Hey, you should audition for young and the rest of this and I was like, okay, and, and did and then that was like my big break was young and the restless. And, and it paid so badly. It was like two cents for the week that I kept my head hunting job. So I was a headhunter in my dressing room at young in the restless, because it just it was like I was not making enough young, the restless to quit my job for for two years. I did this did both jobs.

Alex Ferrari 8:46
Talk about hustle.

Eva Longoria 8:47
Yeah, I know. That's another thing is like it is about hustle. And it's about, you know, being resourceful. And that's life, by the way that if I if you dropped me in the middle of Paris, I'm going to figure it out. Right? I speak the language, I don't know. But I'm going to eat how many well, and I'm gonna, I'm gonna figure it out. And that's I think what's missing a lot from a lot of the younger generation today is they're just not that resourceful. And they have all the tools in the world at their fingertips. I didn't have an iPhone. I had a Thomas guide, and a printout from Google that I had to follow, you know. And so, yeah, it was like, Oh, if I had the tools that you have today, you know, God, I would have gone far.

Alex Ferrari 9:28
Oh, my God. I mean, same here. I mean, my first directors will cost 50 grand because I've to shoot an on 35 You know, and it was like, now we just grab a phone because you'd be shooting commercials and music videos and short films all day. There's so much technology. I think it's because you know, you and I are of similar vintage. So you know, we when we were when we grew up there was there wasn't anything like I remember there's no internet I remember very easily there was no internet. I remember printing out the Google Maps in LA and having the You know, the directions like printed out line by line driving around LA trying to drop off a demo reel for, you know, an editing gig or something like that.

Eva Longoria 10:08
Stage West. I submitted myself in for auditions and I would send my headshot, and I would use the postage from the company I worked at, so I didn't have to buy stamps. And so I like, at the end of the day, I'd sneak off and I go on, I put postage on, like 20 submissions, and I saw I was like, oh, yeah, I was a hustler. I did background work just to eat. And I would steal the bananas and apples and take it home. Because I was like, well, I might not eat tomorrow. So let me let me take some of these bananas. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 10:38
And so I mean, you struggled but you you were you something, again, was guiding you and giving you these opportunities that normal, normal, the normal acting story in LA is not yours by any stretch of the imagination. Even at the very beginning. Like you're you're living you're eating, you're you're leaving Well, you have a job, you have a car, you've paid off student debt, like this is unheard of for a struggling actor. But yeah, even then, when you got your first big break, you're like, I still want to keep my day job.

Eva Longoria 11:06
Yeah, I still like my car. So I think I'm, I'm gonna I like my apartment. Let me let me just keep doing this. Also, you know, I what you said like what kept you going because there was no signpost to say successes a year from now hang on. I felt it. And I remember my boss at that company. He goes, you know how much money you can make here. You're so good at this. Give up that dream. Like, you know how many people make it in Hollywood one in 1,000,001 in a million, like, Come on, just focus over here and forget that stuff. And I said, I know. And I'm that one. Like I'm taking up that space. So I've got to hurry up and be prepared. Like, I really thought that I really I never gave myself up. Until if I don't make it well, by 30. I'm moving back home. Like I never had a plan B I was just like, No, this will happen. And I also approached it like a business I knew exactly how to invest in you know what I need to classes. I don't know how to do that. I'm not good at that. I'm going to do this. So, you know, in that time, we know when you're going out for Latin roles are like, Can you do it with an accent and I'm like, I don't I don't have an accent and like there's other levels of target. And there's other levels of Latinos zero and it was like Rosie Perez, yesterday, okay, but there's other levels of dimensions of Latino that don't sound like Rosie Perez, you know, and, and so I was like, I gotta I need an accent coach. I don't I don't have an accent. I need to get one. And when people come to Hollywood, they try to lose their accent. I was like I was trying to get an accent. Like,

Alex Ferrari 12:48
Now, so it sounds like the you really put an intention involved. You really had an intention, and almost manifested what you were trying to get like you'd like no, I'm I'm there already. In your mind. You were already successful, even though there was no signs at all. And there's a difference between delusion because we all we all understand. We all

Eva Longoria 13:08
I might have been a little delusional. I might have been a little

Alex Ferrari 13:11
Listen, listen, Eva to be in our business. You got to be insane. You got to be insane in general, it's an insane business. It's like running off with the circus, basically, you know, so it is it is an insanity to be with. But yeah, there is a little you need a little delusion to even think you can make a movie is a delusion. It's insanity.

Eva Longoria 13:30
Yeah, I mean, it is a little delusional. But the other thing that I had on my side was an I'm an insane optimist and a hard worker. So I knew those two went together. But I also felt I felt like I have very tough skin. So the nose didn't affect me. And I got 1000s 1000s The day I got desperate out the day I auditioned for Desperate Housewives. I had nine auditions that day. And I was changing in my car driving from Disney back to Warner Brothers back to Disney back to Sony back to Culver City. And it was like, Oh, my I ran out of gas that day. That's how many auditions I had. And Desperate Housewives was at eight at night. It was the last audition. I'm changing in the car. And I get there and I'm exhausted. And I just was like, you know it you know, the other seven auditions today said No, I already knew I didn't get them. And and it was like, you know, in the car, doctor, okay, lawyer, okay. Yeah. And then Gabby was like, sexy, and I'm like trying to put on this tight dress in the car. I get down and Mark cheery is an audition and he goes. So what do you think of the script? And I was like, I didn't read the script. Like in my head. I'm like, I read my part. Like, who has time I had eight auditions a day. I'm not gonna read eight scripts. And I said, you don't want and I was just done. I was done for the day. And I said, You know what, I didn't read it. I didn't read the script. But I read my part and my parts really good. And and he he told me Later, he knew I was Gabrielle in that moment because it was the most selfish thing to say. I don't know what everybody else but I'm amazing. And I was like, so can I just do the audition? So you can say no. So I can go like, I it was just, you know, and then you did it again the next day. Yeah. And you started all over. So I had this and I have very thick skin even to this day, I really never take things personal. If I'm if I you know, if I get reviewed badly or this I'm like, Well, you know, it's not your cup of tea.

Alex Ferrari 15:32
Now, do you feel that you getting desperate housewives later and a little bit later in life? Because you weren't? You weren't? You know? 20? You know, I think you were 30 you were like 30? Yeah, exactly. 29 When you got it. So you already kind of had an established, you've established who your identity was at that point. Do you think that helped you deal with the tsunami, tsunami, excuse me of fame, and criticism and love and hate and everything that comes along with that package? Did that help you with that? Because that crushes many?

Eva Longoria 16:07
Yeah. 1,000% I knew who I was, you know, I probably knew who I was when I landed in Hollywood. You know, I didn't drink I wasn't into drugs. I didn't smoke. Like I was pretty, you know, and I was like, oh my god, Los Angeles, you're gonna, you know, get into drugs and travel. And I was like, There's drugs and trouble in Texas like the same thing. But I had a really strong sense of who I was. And so when fame hits you, I think God I was 29 I mean, because I was like, you know, you especially back then the tabloids were like the leading thing not like social media today, but like, the tabloids defined you and so it was like America's sweetheart America Sex Kitten. And then you kind of became that, right? Like, if you look at Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera coming up at the same time, and one was America's sweetheart. And one was the bad girl. And they were babies and they kind of go okay, I got to play the part. Now I've got to be the bad girl. And, and so they tried to do that with me. And I was like, you know, that? I'm not that. And, and I'm very grounded. You know, I have a really great family and I have, you know, great friends, my friends back then. Or, you know, the couches I slept on? And the I didn't have a dress for an audition. And my best friend, you know, let me address. They're still my friends today. They're the girlfriends that, you know, traveled with me and lived with me and you know, but I, I you know, they were there for me when I had nothing.

Alex Ferrari 17:36
So you know, so you know that they're their true friends at that point. Yeah, it's yeah, you know, cuz you never know, famous, such a double edged sword. So many people want to be rich and famous and you like, but look at how many people who are rich and famous who who are destroyed by it. It's just Hollywood is riddled with stories like that. You're an exception. You're like, you're an anomaly.

Eva Longoria 17:56
Yeah, thank you. But you remember EQ Hollywood stories that get worse, of course, that was on E and it was like, you know, she was you know, she was such a pretty girl from Missouri. And then and you're like, and so and then they tell you like the downfall of everybody. And I remember we premiered. And literally three days later, there was an E True Hollywood Story on me. And I go What did I do? Did I fall from grace? Did I do drugs? What happened? Like I was like, the beginning of the end now. Like it's supposed to happen later. It was so funny.

Alex Ferrari 18:27
Oh, God. And then of course, any movies that you might have done before Desperate Housewives they started going into, they go into the archives of the stuff that you did, and like look at what she did back then.

Eva Longoria 18:37
And I did so many student films for real, you know, he did and did so many bad things. And then all of a sudden, I was at Blockbuster. I don't know if people remember there was a blockbuster. You had to physically go and get a DVD before Netflix mailed them to you. And, and my I remember going into Blockbuster and my face is on the cover of this film. And I was like, what is that it was a different title. It was and it was just a student film I had done and this director packaged it sold it on my name. And I never knew until I saw it a blockbuster. But yeah, yeah. And family comes out of the woodworks, right? Like all these people who are related to you. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 19:18
So funny story. When I first started out as an editor as trailer editor, I cut a trailer for one of those films of yours early on. I if I say the name, I won't say the name, but I did. I did. I did edit it. And you were ready. You were ready, you know, Desperate Housewives. And I was sitting there and I'm like, This is so wrong. Like they haven't like you were like, I'm like you're in the movie for like 15 minutes, or 20. Right? And they're just like, bam, I'm like, Oh my God. I'm like, but hey, you know, I had to do a gig. So

Eva Longoria 19:51
A friend of mine who was on another hit show and every time he gets recognized around the world, he gets so pissed off because it's like that's all people know me for And I and every time people come up to me and they go, Gabby so Lise, I am like, Yes, that's me. You know, I'm just so grateful. And so like, so grateful that that director thought I had some sort of value. Because that's what you hope for you don't I mean, you have to have a value that you can make something happen.

Alex Ferrari 20:18
No question I read somewhere that you're an avid meditator. How do you cuz I'm, I've been meditating for years, I meditate hours a day sometimes. And it's changed my life. How do you use meditation, in your balancing your insane world that you live in with all the things that you do? And all the plates you spin, you know, mother, and philanthropist, and actor and director and all these kind of things? How does meditation help you kind of balance yourself? And what does it do for you in general,

Eva Longoria 20:48
You know what, it really centers you before the day I have to do it first thing in the morning, and it makes me more patient, it makes me have compassion, it makes me happy. You know, it really just shifts your energy to a place of positivity and a place of gratitude. That's a big one. You know, I really learned also, do be aware of how you speak, right? So I used to be like, I gotta I have to go to this meeting across town. I have to go to this audition, I have to go. Do you know James Corden, or I have to be on Jimmy Kimmel tonight. Instead, just switching it to I get to write, I get to have a meeting about a project, I want to get off the ground. Like, isn't that what you want? So why are you going on after Oh, you know, I get to be on Jimmy Kimmel, to promote this TV show I was on I get to, you know, I have to get home and bathe my kid. No, I get to make it home in time to bathe my child and put them to bed. Like I get to do that. I get to cook dinner for my family. And just that little word was through meditation, right? Like, be careful of how you speak in life, you know, and people go, how was your day to day you are so busy, I'm so busy. It's like I can't I can't it's just too much. I'm so busy. And switching that word to be productive? How was your day productive? Right, I was so productive today. I had eight meetings. I had, you know, this deal go through I had this conversation with so and so it was a pretty productive day. It wasn't a busy day, you're not doing busy work. Everything you do during the day is towards a goal towards something so so have that gratitude in your words, as you approach your day. And that's what meditation does. It really makes you think about things that are on autopilot that you shouldn't be on autopilot about.

Alex Ferrari 22:39
And I agree with you 110%. You also are an you know, an insane philanthropist that you give back so much. Can you just talk a little bit about what giving back means to you and how it affects your life. Because I started, when I started my show six and a half years ago, I was trying to get in, I was trying to you know, I was trying to knock on the doors and try to get these meetings and try to make connections. And I said I said I'm tired of all that I'm going to start giving back to my to my community, which is filmmakers. And all of a sudden doors swung open. And now I get to talk to people like you and all this kind of things. It was because I gave back and it's addictive to giving back and changing people's lives and whatever which way I can, you know, with the show or with whatever the work I do. So how does that affect you?

Eva Longoria 23:26
Yeah, I mean, you hit it right in the nail. I mean, it's it's studies have proven, you know, giving, giving and being charitable, increases your life's fulfillment, right? Like you're like, Oh, I didn't even know I needed this to be filled. And and then it becomes addictive. Like now I you know, I travel all over the world. I go to India, I go to you know, because I just like love, philanthropy and community efforts. But honestly, I grew up with it in my DNA. I mean, I have a special needs sister. She's She was born with a mental disability. So I grew up in her world, I grew up with other people helping us, you know, charities that you know, sponsored a trip for her to go to Disneyland charities who you know, created after school programs for kids with special needs to have a place to go. And so I always I always like who's charity. She's so sweet. She's so nice. That lady, you know, and, and so I knew before I was even famous that I was going to, you know, do something charitable and give back and and then once I got my platform and my microphone, then I was like, oh, okay, I have something to say.

Alex Ferrari 24:33
And I could and I could do some good in the world. Yeah. Now, when did you decide that you wanted to make the art to add directing as part of your resume? Because so many actresses and actors, they just go on through whole life and they're just actors, and they don't want to do any directing. But I've seen and I've spoken to many actors who've turned director, what it does for them and it also elongates their career. They can direct until they're or whatever and, and just really enjoy that process. What when did you decide at what point in your career did you go? I think I want to direct which is the cliche of everything. What I really want to do is direct.

Eva Longoria 25:10
Yeah, I know, I think I'm better at this than easy. You know, I people think I'm an actor, turn producer, director. And I think I was always a producer, especially producer, I loved the business side of our business. You know, that's why I my approach with myself was like, Alright, I gotta do this. I gotta do it. I like how do I set myself up for success? And, and I remember when I moved to Hollywood, I checked out a bay. I went and bought a book it Oh, my God. Samuel French, right?

Alex Ferrari 25:44
Yeah, yeah, it's through city.

Eva Longoria 25:46
No. And Holly now

Alex Ferrari 25:47
Ohh there's another one. That was a second. That's before they moved, I think. Yeah.

Eva Longoria 25:50
And, and, and how to produce one on one. I mean, I bought that book first over acting, because I was like, Well, I got to create, I got to create my own project. So how do I do that? And there was like, a sample budget in the book and I put it on my Excel spreadsheet, and I was like, pay plugging in numbers. And, and, and then I quickly had a gig with this show called Hot Tamales live with Kiki Melendez at the improv. And he was like, hey, help me book some comedians. And then I said, Well, how are we going to pay them? She's like, I don't know. And then so we asked the improv like, well, how much is it to get the night out of dead night? We want to make it Latin Night. Okay, great. You can have the stage we get the door, you get the drift, you know, and and it was just like, you figure it out, right? And I was like, Okay, we watch tapes, VHS tapes of comedians and to book out the night and, and then we got a sponsor was like, Well, you know, a sponsor, right? We need somebody to pay for this. So we should get a tequila, you get a tequila company to give us money. And then we'll mention the tequila. And like, it was all shooting from the hip, Beto. And how did you went? And I did that first. And then through that, you know, directed some of the sketches we had on stage. I'm like, no, no, you've got to come out through there. And we're gonna hear some props. And you know, and I fell in love with it. And then, you know, became an actor, and then use Desperate Housewives. As my film school. I really used I didn't go to film school, but I was on a set for 10 years. So I was like, paying attention. Pay attention to where the camera went, what lenses What are lenses? What does that mean? 2530 511 10 100. Like, what? Why is that light there? What are you doing? What's a balance? You know? And checking the gate? You know, you said back in the day, taking the gate, what does that mean? Now, you know, I used to load the camera. When we we were one of the last shows to go digital, we shot on film for much longer than other TV shows. And, and so I paid attention. And I really took advantage of all the directors that came through and ask them questions, and I was just a sponge. And so that's when it was on during this process where I said, I think I think I want to direct TV. And and then somebody asked me, Hey, you want to direct this short film? And I go, yes. And the minute I said, Yes, I wanted to put it back into my mouth cuz I was like, why did it? Why don't you? You just said yes. You're not ready. You don't know enough? What are you doing? Who do you think you are? And I think women it encounter that imposter syndrome a lot, you know, like, oh, no, ready? I couldn't possibly do that. No, no, no, no, no, no, I'm not No, no, no, not me. Not me. Not me. But I already said yes. So I was like, stuck. And I had to do it. And and I was good. And I knew I was good at it. And I one of my mentors who directed a lot of Desperate Housewives David Grossman, he came on set and I was like, Well, you just be on set because what if I fuck up the lens choice where he goes, You're not that's not your job, by the way. You know, your job is to get performances. And after we wrapped the DP, and that director goes, I think this is your calling. And they really like gave me that confidence of like, you belong this is you know what you're doing, man, man, do you know what you're doing? You know, a lot more than you think. You know? And I was like, really? Okay. And then I did it again. And then I did it again. And then you know, cut did now or you know, 10 years later, I've been directing and this is my first feature length documentary and my feature like film,

Alex Ferrari 29:21
Which we which comes to. How did this project come together? Like I mean, how did it you know, no one had ever done a boxing documentary about you know, Mexican American that I know of at least anything major. I mean, there's I mean, there's a Muhammad Ali one for every five every five minutes there's a new Muhammad Ali and they're all fantastic. And then there's my face. Then Mike Tyson and Sugar Ray and everything but never really about the Latino you know, which has a fame in boxing.

Eva Longoria 29:53
So everybody did you grew up with boxing I go I'm Mexican. Of course I grew up in boxing like it's in our blood. We have to you have to But no, you know, I've known Oscar for 25 years Oscar and I've been friends. That was one of the first people I met when I moved to Hollywood, me, Mario Lopez and Oscar De La Hoya were like The Little Rascals, we ran around in Hollywood and just caused trouble 25 years ago, and, and so he called me and he was like, hey, there's the anime. This is the 25th anniversary of that fight. Can you direct the documentary about it? We want to do a documentary about that, how iconic the fight was. And I said, Oh, God, what do you mean? No, like a boxing doc, like jabs and punches and stuff? Like, no, no, I don't want to do that. I said, you know, it's so funny. I remember that fight dividing my household. Like, I remember that fight, causing so much ruckus within our community and the fighting. And, you know, we couldn't get the fight because it was closed circuits Do you had to go to a bar, and then kids couldn't go and it was like, it was a whole thing. And people the betting in Vegas in the odds, and I was just like, what is that? Whoa, what is happening? And it was just, I think the biggest fight we've ever had in in the golden age of boxing. I mean, that that time, which was my son era, the mike tyson era, you know, the De La Jolla era, the Julio era, you know, it was huge. It was huge. And I said, that's interesting to me to explore is through the lens of what does it mean to be Mexican enough? And how do you navigate your identity as a Mexican American? That is something I know, you know, I straddle the hyphen every single day of my life. And people go, Oh, you're you're half Mexican, half American. And I go, No, I'm 100%, Mexican, and 100%. American at the same time. And these two things can always be true. And so I knew Oscar navigated that, because when he won the gold medal for the Olympics, he had an he won, he won the gold medal for the USA. And he goes into the ring and holds a Mexican flag up. So he has the American flag and the Mexican flag. And I remember that moment, too. And I remember swelling with pride and going oh, my God, that's me. So Oh, so you can celebrate being Mexican, you don't have to hide it, you know, and, and all the Mexican people in the United States embraced Oscar in that moment. They were like he's ours. You know what pride the Mexican president called him and I added him to Los Pinos, which is the Mexican White House. There was a parade in Mexico for him. And so every fight he had after that, that was his audience that was his supporters. Those were his people, until he challenged Julio. And when he challenged Julio, the Mexican community goes, oh, oh, wait, oh, yeah, you're not that Mexican. Yeah. You're not that Mexican. And then he was like, well, he's

Alex Ferrari 32:51
He's Mexican. He's Mexican Jesus, he was Mexican Jesus.

Eva Longoria 32:55
He's like, he's, he can't touch him. You can't touch Julio. He's our campeón de mexico, you know, company on the Mundo. And so that's the lens in which I wanted to explore this particular fight. Because I think that we still encounter this today, we're not we're not a monolithic group, I get that we're very, we have a lot of differences. But we have bigger fights to fight outside of the ring as a Latino community. So whether you're Puerto Rican, or Cuban, or gentle American, or Argentinian or Venezuelan, Mexican, there is a collective aggregation that has to happen, if we're going to have a political power, buying power, you know, if we're going to flex any sort of muscle, we have to do it together. And so we can't concentrate on how we're different. In order to make change, we have to focus on what what we have in common and the common goal, which is like we should have access to voting, we should have access to health care, we should have access to equal education, there's stuff we need to come together on. And so, you know, the beginning of the documentary, starts with those differences. It's, you know, the, the old, you know, the old lion against the young buck and the Mexican national against the Mexican American and the guy from the Pueblo against the golden boy. And the fight really promoted those differences. Because boxing is a sport that has never shied away from using race, right, like leaned into it, if anything or nationality, you know, the, the Italian, against the, the Irish guy, you know, and the black guy against the Puerto Rican and that it, you know, and so, it did the same thing in this fight without understanding the Civil War, it would cause because of the nuances, they thought it was just two Mexican fighters, you know, heading head to head but it was more much more than that.

Alex Ferrari 34:44
Oh, and I mean, I've, in my culture in the Cuban community, it's very simple. I'm a first generation Cuban from Miami. And you know, my parents came over and you know, you it's exactly the same thing. There's Cubans and this Cubans, Americans and How you how they deal with it? Are you Cuban enough in America, Nakamura flying and flying, you know, like, I still remember watching in the height and I saw a flyer on on screen and I lost my mind. I was like, I never seen a flan in a movie before. And I'm like, I can't believe the flood impacted. But you never see that kind of stuff out there. It was just really interesting. But I understand when I was watching it, I just understood it. So, so clear. And there's a lot of those issues that separate the Cuban Americans from Cubans and all this kind of stuff as well, which is, which is crazy.

Eva Longoria 35:35
We all have it. Every community has it, the Puerto Ricans in New York, you know, in Miami, you know, the Islander the island, Puerto Ricans are different than the New York, New York weakens. And then you know, you have it in the Cuban community and the Cuban American community and then we have it in the Mexican community. You know, we really do a lot to we don't need to do so much to separate the world does it for us, right.

Alex Ferrari 36:02
It's like throwing a few more obstacles on our on our path. It's like, let's it's not, it's not hard enough. Let's throw a few more things on our path, which is always fun. You know, what I found really interesting about watching Julio and Oscar. Both of them seem so and I don't mean this in a derogatory they seem sweet. There's, they seem sweet. They seem like you know, because I've seen boxing documentaries, and a lot of these boxers, they're just brute barbarians sometimes in the way they speak, and they're not articulate. But Julio, and Oscar both are, they said, they seem so sweet that they almost kind of both fell into it. Like it just kind of like, Oops, I guess I'm gonna box kind of like you like, I guess I'm gonna act. And it just seemed that way. And I saw that kind of energy from especially Julio, which I wasn't expecting. He seems so sweet. And I'm like, he was he was a killer in the in the ring. But it's like, I think he disconnected that he was like, I'm a sweet guy, but I go to work. Yeah. Did you find that as well?

Eva Longoria 37:02
100%! And you know, like I said, I've known Oscar for 25 years. So I know he's sweet. And I know him. Well, I didn't know Julio was, I didn't know who they were. I'd never I'd never met him. And I fell in love with him. He is such a truth teller, which is interesting in a documentary about your life about something to happen in your life. You could pretty much of revisionist history, like, Oh, I wish I wasn't bothered by that now. Well, you know, of course, I won that fight. I wasn't whining about it. And he was like, Yeah, I was. There was no way at that moment. I was gonna say I lost even though I knew I did. I knew I had lost, but I wasn't going to say, you know, and you're like, wow. So it felt like he had 2020 looking at 2020 vision, looking back at that fight. He was so open and vulnerable, about his obstacles to fame, His addiction, his lack of preparation, and it for other fights. You know, he's like, look, I December's my party month. I wasn't about to fight in January, but it was $9 million. So I was gonna fight you know, he is very candid and vulnerable and, and kind and it wasn't until 10 years after those fights that he finally gave Oscar the the credit that was due. And then an Oscar side people everybody wants us tacos. Oh my God, my I cried for Oscar. I didn't know he had that much pain going into that fight. He he was he was hurt and then revisiting that. He's like, God, it still makes me mad. Still, as we were interviewing him, I was like, oh, yeah, he's like, God. Oh, I'm so mad. Just thinking about that. You know, getting booed in East LA. Like, what the fuck? Are you kidding me? Come on, you know. So he's over about to read this.

Alex Ferrari 38:43
Well, it's a it's a beautiful film. I absolutely loved watching it. And congrats on getting into Sundance. That must be so exciting. And you get to

Eva Longoria 38:53
That opening night is a film directed by a Chicana. About two Mexican boxers like this progress. This is progress. Let's let's let's savor it.

Alex Ferrari 39:05
Absolutely. Now, I have a couple questions. I ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker? Or a screenwriter or an actor trying to make it in today's business?

Eva Longoria 39:17
Yeah, I think you have to define for yourself what does make it mean? You know, famous say I want to be famous. Okay, well then Go cure cancer. Because if you're gonna be real, do I mean like, by the way, that might be easier than Yeah, but is it is like, you know, figure out what what do you mean by that? Like, I really, I really love directing. I love the creative process. I don't I for this film, I just loved exploring this dramatically and going through the archival footage and did it and I and now that it's at Sundance, I'm like, Oh my God, that's Oh, yeah, that's a big deal. And then the reviews like oh my god, we get reviewed. I told I didn't even think about that. Like, I, I didn't do it for that. So if I had started this documentary, I'm going to get good reviews, I'm going to get into Sundance, like, you have to have goals, but like that, that has to be like a product, a byproduct of really good work. And good work only happens when you're passionate about it. And so if you want to be an actor, if you want to be famous, then I don't I don't care if you want to be a writer, because you want to be rich, that ain't gonna happen. You know what I mean? Like, so define what is make it mean for you. And the other thing is, just do it, do it. I know so many people go, I'm a writer, I go show me your scripts, I haven't written anything. Well, then you're not a writer. Write something. Write a grocery list. I don't care. But like write something, you know, a director shoot something on your iPhone, Shoot it, shoot, work with actors figure it out, put some lights up. I'm, I'm, you know, I'm a producer. What have you done? Nothing? Well, producers of anything can do anything. So do it. You got to do it. You only learn by doing

Alex Ferrari 41:00
And now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Eva Longoria 41:06
Um, it didn't take me. Well, I think lesson to learn that, that I know that I'm qualified and I know what I'm doing. I mean, every time I get a directing gig, I have butterflies in my stomach. I go, Oh, God, I hope I know what I'm doing. Like, I still think that imposter syndrome like imposter syndrome. Yeah, like imposter syndrome of like, Am I good enough? Oh, my gosh, you know, in directing flaming hot. I mean, this is the big budget movie I just directed and going home, I'm so excited to see it. By the way. I was like, I'm in charge of how much money Oh my god. And I remember doing a presentation when I had to get the job. And I'm, you know, I think the movie needs to be this and it needs to be this and we're, you know, we should do this and that. And then I finished a pitch and my agent calls me later she goes, what how are you feeling? And I said, I'm really nervous. I'm gonna get it and have to do everything I said. He's a pipe dreams, I don't know, like, then there's a drone. And we're gonna have a techno green, and we're gonna do this shot, it's gonna look like The Matrix, you know, whatever it is. Great. Go do that. And I'm like, Oh, I have to do it now. Oh, okay. So yeah, it's like that lesson of like, No, you're ready, you're ready, you're gonna be fine. And you're gonna fall down, you're gonna make mistakes. And then you're gonna do it again. And you're gonna do it again. And you're gonna do it again and again and again. And so just, that's probably the biggest lesson. And the other mantra that I live by is, is Maya Angelou quote of like, people will forget what you said, they'll forget what you did, that they'll never forget how you made them feel. And I'm living my life, whether it's with my gardener, or president in the United States, or, you know, do make sure every interaction you have with people or my crew, you know, your, your crew, your prop guy, your boom guy, your DP, like, making everybody feel and not that it's my job. But I just want them to feel appreciated and valued and that they have talent and, and I appreciate you being here and helping elevate my vision. Because, you know, directing is not singular, it's, it's just this whole crew of people. And I meet so many people who go, oh, I don't want to work with them. Because I didn't like that person. I don't like that person. I'm like, yeah, there's a lot of people you're not gonna, like, in this industry, you're gonna have to work with so you know, a get your skin get put your big boy pants on, get some tough skin. And, and flip it, you know, and that's what meditation helps to is like, everybody I encounter today, I want them to feel good. And leave an encounter with me in in a positive way. Even if it's a tough conversation, even if it's, I have to fire somebody or I have to, you know, correct somebody on an edit or give notes on a script like, you know, in a way that they leave that experience going. Okay, okay, I'm good. This is a good talk. That wasn't anything negative, you know?

Alex Ferrari 44:04
Well, I want to first of all, I think you are a absolute force of nature. And thank you so much for everything you do. And for my my twin daughters, they say they said tell you thank you for Dora. They loved it and watch it all the time. So thank you so much for that.

Eva Longoria 44:21
I love that movie.

Alex Ferrari 44:22
I love I saw it in the theaters with them. I went to the theaters with them, and it was back when used to do things like that. But I do appreciate you and thank you so much for for coming on the show and continued success and I hope this movie gets out and is seen by everybody. It's such a wonderful film. So thank you again so much.

Eva Longoria 44:39
Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

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IFH 548: Sundance 2022 – The Watcher with Chloe Okuno

Sundance, Chloe Okuno, The Watcher

Well Sundance 2022 has begun and so has our coverage. Today on the show we have writer/director Chloe Okuno.

Chloe is a graduate of UC Berkeley with a masters degree from the American Film Institute Conservatory. There she received the Franklin J. Shaffner Fellow Award, and directed the award-winning horror short film SLUT.

Her recent work includes writing a remake of “Audrey Rose” for Orion Pictures and writing and directing a segment of the anthology series V/H/S/94. She’s the director of this year’s Sundance feature film Watcher.

Julia joins her husband when he relocates to his family’s native Romania for a new job. Having recently abandoned her acting career, she finds herself frequently alone and unoccupied. One night, people-watching from her picture window, she spots a vague figure in an adjacent building, who seems to be looking back at her. Soon after, while alone at a local movie theater, Julia’s sense of being watched intensifies, and she becomes certain she’s being followed — could it be the same unknown neighbor? Meanwhile, a serial killer known as The Spider stalks the city.

Below is the story of making The Watcher from Chloe’s POV.

In making “Watcher,” I wanted to capture a kind of constant, uncomfortable dread that accompanies many women throughout their lives- one that is expressed through the character of Julia. Julia moves into this apartment building with her husband and quickly begins to believe she is being watched.

She recognizes that the Watcher is a threat. She feels it very clearly- even if it’s difficult to articulate the extent of that threat to the people around her. It’s a situation that’s probably quite familiar to most women. We experience the world in a different way than men and then when we try to express that experience, we’re often doubted- written off as paranoid, irrational, or overly sensitive… which in turn can make us begin to doubt ourselves. 

This has always been at the core of a story that in other ways has evolved greatly since I was first hired to direct it in 2017. Initially, the script was set in New York City, but when it became clear that we would be shooting the movie in Romania, I decided to rewrite it to take place in Bucharest.

Sundance, Chloe Okuno, The Watcher

There are times as a filmmaker where practical limitations end up being creatively very freeing- unlocking something great when you’re willing to embrace the unexpected. This was one of those times. Suddenly, Julia’s experience as a foreigner in this new city heightens all her other feelings of unease and uncertainty.

She finds herself increasingly isolated- largely unable to speak the language and therefore alienated from everyone around her. There were of course natural (sometimes uncomfortable) parallels shooting the movie on location in Romania: unable to speak the language, oftentimes sequestered in a hotel room amidst the raging pandemic, and occasionally fighting against the doubt that surrounds you as a woman working in a male dominated profession.

Fortunately, life didn’t fully imitate art. I finished the movie without any nightmarish descent into Watcher-style darkness, content with the hope that all of the tension found its way on screen. 

The filmmakers I admire are the ones who are able to create a language for emotion through their craft, translating what they feel into a form that other people can see and experience for themselves.

For Watcher I was inspired by the work of David Fincher, Sofia Coppola, Satoshi Kon, Roman Polanski, Krzysztof Kieslowski, and Mary Harron- filmmakers who have excelled at translating fear, loneliness, and alienation. The hope is always that there will be someone else who can empathize- telling stories so that we can take comfort in the recognition of ourselves in others. As a person filled with seemingly endless anxieties, making films is the best- and possibly the only- way I’ve found to confront them.

I’ve done my best to portray them honestly in this film, and I can only hope that those who have experienced similar fears and anxieties will find solace in the knowledge that they are not alone. 

Enjoy my conversation with Chloe Okuno.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I'd like to welcome to the show, Chloe Okuno. How're you doing?

Chloe Okuno 0:15
I'm doing good. Thank you. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:18
I'm doing I'm doing great. Thank you so much for being on the show. I had the pleasure of watching your new film, your new Sundance film, The Watcher today, and it was it was creepy is pretty, pretty creepy. So we will get into it. But before we get started, how did you? And why did you want to get into this insanity? That is the film industry?

Chloe Okuno 0:40
Oh, wow. Yeah. What a question. I've asked myself that question many times over the years. questioning my decision to do this instead of going to law school. So I, I'm from Pasadena. So I guess I grew up on the periphery of the business, but my family isn't in the business at all. And I think when I was around in high school, I just, I loved movies. And it was the only thing I was really passionate about. And I sort of started to, you know, consider the idea which seemed very far fetched at the time of being a filmmaker, because there were so many filmmakers who I just had completely fallen in love with. So yeah, I think around high school, I thought about getting into the business. And I did like a six week directing course at the New York Film Academy, where they left us with like 16 millimeter cameras, and like four screws, and none of us knew what we were doing. But they taught us the very basics of cinematography and film editing. And I completely, you know, fell in love with the process of actually making movies. So yeah, it was it was it's been quite a few years now that I've sort of tried to make my way through this very difficult business.

Alex Ferrari 1:58
And was there a film that lit your fire? To do this?

Chloe Okuno 2:02
Oh, god, that's such a good question. I mean, I think there were probably quite a few. I'll be honest, I was a major Quentin Tarantino Stan when I was in high school, and I want you to think he's fantastic. So when I was, I was living abroad in France for like a year. And it was kind of a terrible experience. In a way I was really lonely and miserable. But I went to see Kill Bill like seven times in the theater. And it just provided such a source of comfort and escapism. And I think like that sort of solidified for me the idea that this is what I wanted to do.

Alex Ferrari 2:38
That was not a bad movie to be inspired by. And queenless inspired a couple filmmakers, not many, but a couple. over the over the years. Now, I've noticed that from your filmography, you've kind of lean towards the horror and suspense genre. Is there a specific thing that kind of caught your eye and why you kind of love, you know, telling stories in those genres?

Chloe Okuno 3:04
I think for me, it's just a particularly intense and therefore cathartic experience, to be afraid and to get your heart rate elevated. And I just I love, you know, filmmakers who work across the horror and thriller genres. You know, I like growing up Tarantino, but it was also David Fincher, and the Coen Brothers and John Carpenter and, you know, Toby Hooper and Wes Craven and I just I really fell in love with people who were able to make movies that like, terrified me, but also energized me because I think just their filmmaking craft is for me personally, the most exciting.

Alex Ferrari 3:49
Yeah, without without question, now you start off as a PA, like many of us do. And was there something those was there a time? Is there some Is there a question or excuse me, is there something that you wish someone would have told you some piece of advice? Back when you started this ridiculous, insane adventure filmmaker? Because I say that because I say that with it. I call it the beautiful disease because of the beautiful sickness because it is it's like it's a sickness, but it's a beautiful one. It's the it's the path of the artists. But it's insanity. We're carnies. I mean, we're essentially carnies. We went went off and joined the circus.

Chloe Okuno 4:31
Yeah, completely. Yeah. No, I mean, I think it is weird. I was thinking about like this when I even first started making movies and how intensely stressful it was, but you even sort of fall in love with the stress, you know, your highs and the lows and you definitely fall in love. I think with sort of, like you said, that carny lifestyle of like going from movie to movie and having these really, you know, incredible like experiences with these people and then moving on to the next But yeah, I mean, I wish that I don't know that anyone could have given me any advice that like would have persuaded me one way or the other. You know, I think in this you're in it and like you just, you, you, as long as you continue to love it, you keep going. And I think there are a lot of people who ultimately get disillusioned with this business. And why wouldn't they because it's just heartbreak after heartbreak after heartbreak. And I've certainly experienced that. I mean, I've been working, you know, since graduating AFI in 2014, I've had so many projects kind of fall through the way it's

Alex Ferrari 5:35
Shocking, shocking!

Chloe Okuno 5:38
What a shock. And you really do, I think the other thing is, like, coming up with, you know, your fellow filmmaking friends, you really see that this business is just you're on a roller coaster, and sometimes people will have very high moment in their careers, and you'll feel very low by comparison, oh, then that verts immediately, you know, and I think it's just like, if there was advice, and I sort of just learned it by sticking with it for this long. But, you know, if someone had just sort of told me, like, just sort of ride the ups and downs, because that is part of it, you know, don't get discouraged too much. But at the same time, I certainly, like have a hyper awareness that I need to enjoy this moment in which my career is going well. And I have a movie in Sundance, because, you know, in a year from now, it could be a totally different situation. So I think you just sort of have to, to keep going and try not to let it psychologically damage you permanently.

Alex Ferrari 6:44
Because this is the thing that they don't teach you like at film school, they don't talk about this, this is not part of the curriculum, very often, they teach you how to run a camera, they teach you how to work with an actor, they teach you how to light something, but they don't teach you about the realities, and the hardships and the resilience that is needed. And I know you know this as well, coming up, there are people, you know, colleagues of yours that you look at, and like how are they directing? Like, how did they get that job? You know, because there's people who are not as talented sometimes, but they're more resilient. And, and some and you just look at you like, man, they just hustled harder than everybody else and don't work in. You gotta hustle. Right? It's, but is that resilience that is not that is the that's the thing that I try to preach on the show so much is that resilience that you need to handle the those blows those as Rocky Balboa says, take the hits and keep on and keep on moving forward?

Chloe Okuno 7:40
I mean, 100% that's what it feels like. I sort of feel like it's, it's about tenacity and resilience, it's almost a war of attrition, like who can stay here the longest and take the most time. And I genuinely feel like one of the reasons that I'm still here in this business, is that unfortunately, or fortunately, I have a very high tolerance for other people's bullshit. You know, I just I actually don't It bothers me. But at the same time, I understand that you just sort of have to take a lot of bullshit in this business and like, navigate it and keep, you know, figuring out how you can make your movies but also whether all the stupidity that surrounds you constantly. So

Alex Ferrari 8:22
I'd love to just dig in a little bit on your common is like, you know, it's who was willing to stay here and continue to take the hit. That is the definition of insanity. Like that is literally like you don't see that in the cookie, the cookie business like you know, you don't see that. It's just like, it's this constant, just constant thing. And I always find these, you could, you've won in many ways, there is a lottery ticket mentality to filmmakers, like the next one. It's like we're, we're constantly betting on black, or betting, you know, at the roulette table, like the next projects don't like a blow me up the next project, someone that's going to get me that the big. And the dream of most independent filmmakers is to get a film into Sundance, because back in the 90s, that was what happened. And you saw all of that success of filmmakers who got into Sundance and it blew their careers up and everything like that. But is that kind of weird mentality of just always hoping that the next thing will blow you up? And I found in these my experience as a filmmaker, I finally realized that I'm just going to do the work. And whatever happens happens, did you kind of find Have you found that kind of groove for yourself?

Chloe Okuno 9:29
Oh, completely. Yeah. But I also never really assumed I mean, of course, like, getting into Sundance was incredible. And genuine surprise, I think for me and everyone else who worked on this movie who loved this movie, and we're so proud of it. But Sundance didn't necessarily feel like a realistic goal for us. No, it was kind of a dream. And I in some ways, it is for everyone, because it's so unlikely that you get in because it's so competitive. But yeah, I mean, even now, I certainly don't think like what Well, I've done.

Alex Ferrari 10:00
I've, I've arrived, I have arrived.

Chloe Okuno 10:04
I have arrived. Yeah. No, I think you're probably always feeling that, you know, every movie you work on could be your last, you know. And it's like,

Alex Ferrari 10:13
It's so funny because I talked to I mean, I've, I've had the pleasure of talking to some very, you know, successful filmmakers on the show, Oscar winners and all this kind of stuff. And they're just like, you're only as good as your last project. Like, just because you won the Oscar just because you, Sundance that will open some doors for you. But it, you know, the trucks of money, it's not going to just come and they're not going to just go well, you got into Sundance, oh, how many projects do you want to do will finance all of them and take as long as you need? Like, that's not. But a lot of filmmakers think that that's what happens. Like, oh, you got into Sundance your Sundance Film Festival filmmaker. Now, the doors wide open, the doors creaked open. You know, and it's great. Don't get me wrong. It's absolutely great. And anybody would kill for it. But I just always like to, because I've had films in Sundance, and I've worked on projects with them. And I've seen what happens. Like, okay, great was awesome. Now get to work.

Chloe Okuno 11:06
And, and you have to have, I think a lot of projects going at the same time, because inevitably, only one of the five will go through if you're lucky. So yeah, that's also been kind of the thing that was difficult. Like, I went straight from making VHS 94 into watcher. So I was trying to like, finish up editing VHS while I was in pre production on watcher. And I had a script that I had been contracted to write for a studio. So all of this sort of fell on me at the same time. And, of course, it's like no complaints having things to do. But also it's like, in order to have a viable career and like to increase your chances, you have to be involved with so many things. But then, of course, inevitably, you end up having to do all of them at once.

Alex Ferrari 11:54
Right! Yeah, yeah, we can all wish for these problems. Like, oh, I'm too busy.

Chloe Okuno 11:59
It feels terrible. I'm complaining about that.

Alex Ferrari 12:01
No, no, but no, but you're absolutely right. But there's still a stress and a pressure to that you're like, Okay, great. I just got into Sundance didn't expect that. Oh, God, I got to finish this thing. Oh, God, I gotta do this now. And now it's it. There's a lot of pressure on you. And I can only imagine, you know, being in the orbit of filmmakers who've been in Sundance, you know, working with them on on their on their projects. I see the pressure of what, you know what near like, Oh, God, all this stuff. And you know, before you should be able to go to Sundance now this year, unfortunately, we can't experience the Park City. Have you ever been?

Chloe Okuno 12:33
Oh, no, I've never been.

Alex Ferrari 12:37
I don't think I don't think you'll ever be what it was prior to 2020. Again, because I can't I can't see 60,000 100,000 People walking in a two block radius.

Chloe Okuno 12:47
I mean, right now, yeah, that seems like a futuristic sort of dream.

Alex Ferrari 12:53
Exactly. No, but and I always love asking, How did you get the news? And how did like what was I always love that story? Because those are so much fun.

Chloe Okuno 13:00
Yes. So it was funny, like, from the time resubmitted, like every single week after every time I got a call from my agents, I just braced myself because I was convinced they were calling to tell me that we didn't get in. Right, of course. But no, I got the news. I think it was I can't remember exactly what it was. But I was just at my desk working. And I got an email from a Sundance programmer. I don't know if it's okay to say her name. But I'll say her first name Heidi. And I didn't know her. Personally, I didn't know who this person was. I was like, Who's this email from? And I look and I see she's, like a senior Sundance programmer, and she just says, Are you available to hop on a zoom with me? And like the next 10 minutes? Like, what? Okay, surely they wouldn't be zooming me to tell me I didn't get in, right? They're just gonna give me the bad news through my agents. But I still wasn't like, totally sure. So I hopped on the Zoom. And it's just her and me. And she gives me the good news. And I think I started crying.

Alex Ferrari 14:00
Oh, of course, as you should, I would have cried.

Chloe Okuno 14:04
It was very overwhelming, but it was really nice. I love that they sort of, you know, they give you the news themselves, and and one on one. And it was sort of perfect the way it just totally came out of nowhere.

Alex Ferrari 14:15
Yeah, you're just hanging out. And then you just get that call. It's yeah, that time of year during Thanksgiving. That that's that that's that little two, three week window where they start letting people know and you're just like, and every day that goes by, you're like, I didn't get in. I didn't get in. I didn't get in. And then like December 1, like I definitely didn't get it. I've had some people get called December, like early December, and they're like, Oh my God. But it's, it's an amazing experience. It really is an amazing experience. Now, how did watcher come to be? How did you get watcher off the ground?

Chloe Okuno 14:46
Yes. So um, I was hired to do it in 2017. And it was actually a fairly sort of, you know, typical origin story and that I think the scripts came to me through my agency And I read it and they said that this company is hiring a director. They're talking to a handful of people. And I just at the time, I think I was a few years out of film school, I'd had a one really pretty painful setback in my career, and I was more determined than ever to land the job. So I'm pretty sure they just gave it to me because I like put together a 20 page presentation. And just like, you know, Reese Witherspoon and election style tried harder than everyone else.

Alex Ferrari 15:35
That's a great analogy, by the way, that was awesome. Let's call back. So that says, you basically was a work for hire, you just landed the job.

Chloe Okuno 15:44
It was initially Yeah, it was I laid out the job. It was work for hire. This script by Zack Ford was very interesting. It was, you know, this, the core story was about this couple, Julia and Francis move into an apartment and Julia becomes convinced there's a guy watching her. But then over the five years that it took, you know, for me getting hired to the movie getting made. It actually there was a significant amount of evolution. And I think the the biggest evolution really was when the script initially was set in New York City. I heard pretty, you know, late in the game that we were going to shoot in Toronto, and then that fell through, and then they talked about shooting it in Bucharest, in Romania. And I just decided to totally embrace that and rewrite the script to take place in Romania, which ended up being a real creative blessing, because it kind of took the narrative in this in this whole other direction, that really just sort of help, you know, bolster, what was already there in terms of the emotional journey of our protagonist, and just helping to increase her sense of isolation and alienation. And, you know, suddenly she shows up, and she can't speak the language. And it just brought this whole other level to it. So it was, yeah, it was a very interesting evolution over over those five years,

Alex Ferrari 17:04
I was gonna ask you how Bucharest came to be? Because it was kind of like, that's very unlikely. Do you normally New York, LA, you know, kind of plays, but it actually added such a level of just another texture to the whole story that really made it stand out for me when I was watching it.

Chloe Okuno 17:24
That's awesome. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it was, um, you know, I think there were some budgetary incentives, certainly shooting mania the way Yeah, it's a very common common destination, partially for that reason, but also because, you know, they have the infrastructure there to make good movies, they have really good crew. And I think the financing company had worked in Romania before, so they had experienced there. So there were a lot of practical reasons to go shoot it there. And then I really did. You know, I tried to absorb everything I could, when I was there. I'd never been to Romania previously, I'd lived in in Russia. So I had at least some former Soviet Union experience. But Romania was new to me. But it was great because I really was able to sort of like infuse little details into the script based on experiences I had in pre production. Like, there's a scene where Julia goes into this beautiful sort of museum, and she gets chased by this angry security guard who's screaming at her and Romanian, and she doesn't understand what he's saying, that literally happened to us, like we went that location, like that actual location. And I take out my phone to take pictures, and this guy just comes running out and screaming it. Wow, we actually that's the guy who's in the movie, we cast him. You're terrifying. Like, let's put you in the film.

Alex Ferrari 18:49
He was cooler than after you offered him the part. He was a lot cooler,

Chloe Okuno 18:53
Way cooler. But the greatest thing was that I think he clearly was really nervous because he wasn't an actor. So the first few takes, he wasn't he wasn't like doing the thing that he did to us and in person. But we eventually we got him there.

Alex Ferrari 19:08
That's, that's amazing. That's a great. That's a great story. Now, I didn't notice that this film had a Hitchcockian vibe to it. Was he an influence at all, when you were making this?

Chloe Okuno 19:18
So I mean, definitely, from a pure narrative perspective, like rear window, I think was massively influential on this movie. You know, it's sort of, I think, like, directly referencing it in many ways. Sure. And visually, as well, and I think we're all trying in some ways to emulate Hitchcock in terms of, you know, his ability to create tension and suspense. So yeah, he was a reference. Um, David Fincher was the reference.

Alex Ferrari 19:46
I could see that that could see Fincher Yes, thing in there. No question.

Chloe Okuno 19:50
Absolutely. Yeah. There is a great Japanese movie called Perfect Blue by Satoshi alone, which actually ended up being quite influential as well. Well, it's about like a Japanese Popstar who's being stalked by one of her fans. So yeah, there, there were quite a few influences. And I hope that, you know, they came together in some way that makes sense.

Alex Ferrari 20:15
Now, as a director, you know, when we're on set, you way it's such it's such an interesting thing as directors as artists, we don't get to practice our craft very often, actually directing, it's mostly years of getting things off the ground. Unless you're Ridley Scott, then if you're Ridley Scott, you're directing all the time.

Chloe Okuno 20:36
Gladiator and like Blackhawk down, and like another

Alex Ferrari 20:39
House of Gucci, the last king aliens, like he's doing all of them at the same time. But generally speaking, we don't get to do it very often. And when we're there, I always find them like, it's the hat. I'm the happiest ever being on set. It's just like, Ah, it's great. Is there and there was but with the happiness there have comes that day, where you feel like the entire world's coming crashing around you. You've lost, you've lost. Like, she's not everyone lives who's listening? She's laughing. The second I said that she's like, You mean every day. But there's that specific day that you feel like you lost a location. Actor broke his leg? The sun is you're losing the sun? What was that for you in this project? And how did you overcome it?

Chloe Okuno 21:29
I'm laughing because I'm thinking of like, seven or eight different things

Alex Ferrari 21:36
A couple A couple of them, that would be good.

Chloe Okuno 21:38
Um, okay, so the first one, I think was because of a variety of scheduling issues. Obviously, scheduling is always a nightmare. And indie film, like you put COVID on top of it gets like 50 times harder. So for scheduling reasons, I think on our on day four, we had to do this massive scene, which takes place at the end of the movie, and is probably one of like, the heaviest emotional moments for our two lead characters. And it involves all these extras in an indoor space, so there's no COVID on top of it. And it just was a very, very difficult night, it was also a night shoot. So I think we were shooting from like, 5pm to 5am. So just a lot of difficult circumstances. And again, this is day four on my first feature film, so I'm also just, you know, trying to get my bearings in some way. So that was very hard. And in, without going too into detail, I think, you know, because of that level of stress on every single person in the production, there was a little bit of drama,

Alex Ferrari 22:58
No honest sets stop it!

Chloe Okuno 23:02
A little bit of drama. Um, and I, I feel like I, I, you know, got through it the way that you usually do, which is to sort of just grit your teeth, and like, you know, write it out and try not to get too rattled, and try not to let it make you too emotional, because I will say like, like genuinely, women on set, especially when you're in a position of power you people don't, will not give you a lot of grace, when it comes to showing your emotions, you have to be very careful about it, you have to in a way that, you know, I'm sort of making a movie about that, you know, like Riley to do the same thing. It's just constantly sort of modifying what she feels so that people will, you know, write her off as lacking credibility. Being a female director, you're kind of doing the same thing. So I think it was really just a matter of in some ways, unfortunately, I have a lot of practice with that. So but it still is very difficult. And it just, you know, you had to sort of like take a deep breath, and like, make sure that as much as possible, in spite of all the drama we were getting through our day. And at the end of it, it did feel fairly miraculous that we, we made

Alex Ferrari 24:25
Which, which is interesting, because I've had multiple female directors on the show, and I love talking to female directors because it's a perspective of direct and I don't have I'm a Latino filmmaker, so I have that perspective. But, you know, I've never dealt with a lot of things that female directors have to deal with and vice versa. Is there any advice you could give a young female director listening right now or watching right now on how to deal with difficult situations on set? Because look, I when I was coming up, I was always the youngest guy in the room. That's that's not the case anymore. But I was always like I was was a kid in the room and I would walk on some of these sets as a director and, you know, you'd have the the, the grizzled, you know, 60 year old grip, who you know, who's like, this kid doesn't know what he's doing, or, or the DP that is going his own way, or things like that. It was difficult for me to deal with that coming up, I could only imagine what it'd be like it was, especially in the came up in the 90s. It's not the same world for female directors as it is today. It's gotten better from my understanding, is there things that you can give any tips on how to maneuver those for female directors, or even just young directors? Who just when you've got a DP who's like, Yeah, I'm gonna shoot it my way? What are you going to do? What are you going to do about it? You know, or production designers? Like, no, I don't think that's the way to do it. And like, and you've got to, you've got to kind of show some teeth.

Chloe Okuno 25:50
Yeah, you do. I mean, I think my, my advice would be I, I find it very difficult to stand up for myself and advocate for myself as an individual. And I think that's not uncommon with women, for whatever reason, we've sort of been taught not to do that. And if anything, I think we're sort of it's ingrained in us to try to make other people around us comfortable, right. And that's not what you need to do when you're directing the movie. But what has really helped me is sort of telling myself, Okay, I'm not standing up for myself, Chloe Okuno, I'm standing up for this movie that I'm trying to make. So the movie, like the movie that you're trying to make the thing that is going to exist at the end of the day outside of you, in some ways, that becomes the thing that I'm just like, I'm protecting this. And it doesn't really matter what people think of me, I'm, I'm standing up for what I believe is right? For the sake of this movie that I'm trying to make, it almost becomes like a separate entity, like a little baby that you're trying to protect.

Alex Ferrari 26:54
Okay. That makes sense. That's a good way of looking at it. Like, you separate yourself. You take yourself out of it. And now you're like, No, I'm the mom or the Papa Bear of the of the movie.

Chloe Okuno 27:06
Yeah, no, exactly. And and even doing that, it's still very hard. You know, and it's always hard when you're a director, because you're working with people who are experts in their fields, and you are not, so they're looking at you like, what do you know, it's your first movie, you know? Or no, I've been doing this so many more years than you have. But truly, like, I really find, first of all, if I make the wrong decision, I'd rather it be my wrong decision, then, me accepting someone else's wrong decision and living with that, you know, that's always better. But also, I really feel like, you know, the thing that directors have, that no one else does is we've lived with the movie for probably years, like we know it inside and out, we should know why we're making a certain decision. It's not kind of, for other people, it might be isolated. But for you, you're taking it within the context of the entirety of the movie. So how is production design going to work with cinematography, and the actors and everything else that you've planned to tell this very particular kind of story in the way you want to? So it, I find it constantly challenging every day, to have the sort of confidence to tell people what I want, especially when they give me a lot of pushback. But that's sort of, I feel for me, like, that's the essence of the job in some ways.

Alex Ferrari 28:26
Yeah. And I mean, I, you know, I forgot that this was your first feature. So you had that to deal with? And how did you get from, you know, how did you get your agent from shorts, because I know a lot of people listening are like, this is your first you know, everybody wants their first feature. Everybody wants to get their first feature gig, especially work for hire is unheard of, you know, you normally have to build it all yourself and find the financing yourself and cast by yourself and all this stuff. So this is a very unique scenario. How did you get your first agent? And how did that process go from from short?

Chloe Okuno 28:58
Yeah, so I got it, I had a the short that I made coming out of AFI was called slet. And it was like a coming of age for movie, which did pretty well on the festival circuit. So I can't even remember exactly how they saw it. But they saw the movie, my former agency and reached out to me and wanted to read me, which was incredible. Also something I wasn't necessarily expecting to make the film school. So that's how that happened. But like I said, you know, that was in 2014. And it's now 2022. And I'm you only now premiering my first feature. So that tells you how long it took to get to this point.

Alex Ferrari 29:38
Even with it even with agents, even with agents,

Chloe Okuno 29:41
Even with agents. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 29:43
That's the thing that a lot of filmmakers and screenwriters need to understand is like just because you have an agent doesn't mean that you're gonna just be working all the time.

Chloe Okuno 29:50
Oh, no, no. No, no, even with agents, I think you you know, you still have to really be pushing all the time yourself.

Alex Ferrari 30:00
You got to be hustling and they might open some doors for you like this opportunity that presented you with the watcher you know and you were you are you election did out. It got it got it got it. Now going back to I think was full circle your first short film that kind of made the rounds?

Chloe Okuno 30:18
I guess it will full circle was a not exactly. So when I was 19. And I had been like working as a PA on all these indie sets, I made this little movie called Birdman. And I didn't know what I was doing. It was one of those ones where I like wrote it produced, directed and edited. And it's a miracle that even got made because it was just me stumbling around in the dark. But yeah, there was that one. And then when I was at AFI made a few shorts, one of which was full circle, which hasn't really been seen, because at AFI your first year you make these shorts, but they're sort of designed to be done very quickly for no money and you don't get the rights anything. So you can't really be distributed or go to festivals.

Alex Ferrari 30:58
Of course not why would they right? Yeah. So was there a were there some major takeaways early on in your career that you kind of brought into your careers because I remember one big first first time I did my commercial reels, this is back in the 90s. Where's I shot on 35 I hired to DPS. There were two dps on set. This is how bad the situation was. I've never had any ever since and the professional crew that was hired. They're like, why are there two DPS? Like why? They owned a grip truck. And they had access to a film camera. So I say, Well, if they own the gear, they must know what they're doing. mistake that I never ever made again. And that was something I brought in from those early days of me starting out as a director. So is there anything that you brought from those early days doing your shorts?

Chloe Okuno 31:55
Yeah, I never want to produce something that I'm directing at the same time.

Alex Ferrari 32:02
You said no, I'm good. I'm good.

Chloe Okuno 32:04
Yeah. I mean, it was probably it was a good experience. But no, I mean, it's just like directing, if you're really lucky, and you have good producers. You know, they're the people who allow you to focus creatively, because just that just the creative focus takes up 100% of your time. So when you're trying to like, make the movie, but you're also thinking about like when craft services can arrive. Is this not conducive to?

Alex Ferrari 32:30
I'll tell you what, I've most of the things I've done. I've also produced and I agree with you like and there's been times where I've been in work for hire. I'm like, This is so much easier. It's you mean, I don't have to sign checks during lunch. Like, it's insanity.

Chloe Okuno 32:48
That is it's so hard. Yeah, I don't know how you continue to do it. Because I did it once, like on a tiny little note budget movie. And I was done.

Alex Ferrari 32:57
I think for me, it's just I didn't have a choice. I didn't have a producer. So I was just like, well, I got to do it myself. I came from Florida. So in Florida, there wasn't a plethora, you know, of filmmakers that I could work with. So I was just like, Alright, I got to just sign the checks and produce it and get it done myself. And it was a good horror stories, horror stories growing up during that time. But but you know, it's the shrapnel it's the shrapnel that you you gather along the way, and it makes you who you are as a filmmaker. And, you know, looking back again, I always like going back, especially when we start when you're starting out? Is there something that you wish someone would have told you at the beginning, not in a way to dissuade you from being a filmmaker, but to actually help you on your path? Like if you could go back and say, listen closely. It's gonna be it's gonna take you twice as long and twice as hard as you think it's gonna be. Now you really should think about being a lawyer. But if you're not, if you're going to go down this path, this is this is probably something to look out for.

Chloe Okuno 33:58
Oh, man. I mean, honestly, I'm sort of worried I'm even now making mistakes that I'm not aware of, like, go back and give myself advice when I feel like I'm still sort of in the thick of it, like, ask me again. And I'm 75. And I've done a couple more movies, but I don't know. I mean, I'll be very honest, like, a thing that has been sort of very difficult and surprising to me is that, like you said, you would assume that the easier thing to do as a independent young filmmaker would be to get your own movies made, as opposed to getting hired to direct something else being a director for hire. I actually found it's been the opposite. For me. I'm a writer, director, and I write scripts that I guess are I think accessible, but also they cross a lot of different genres. And I don't know for whatever reason, I found it very difficult to actually get those scripts made, and I found it easier. To get hired on projects, which like us again, it's just, it's upside down world. But, um, I don't know what my advice is because I haven't figured out how to fix it yet. But I guess

Alex Ferrari 35:14
One piece of advice, I think it's wear comfortable shoes, wear comfortable shoes. That's always.

Chloe Okuno 35:20
That's great advice. Yeah, we're comfortable shoes have a lot of pockets. Pockets are essential.

Alex Ferrari 35:26
You remember those pictures of those directors, especially commercial directors had that vest on that they had like 1000s of pockets, and they could stick them in the back and you would just look at them and like, and they were always khaki pants with tons of pockets. And you're like, wow, that's what a director wears. And then when you're on set, you're like, Yeah, that makes so much sense. I always wear khakis. I always have pockets everywhere, just because I'm shoving stuff in all over the place. Here's my shot list over here. Here's, here's the schedule over here. And I'm just constantly Oh, yeah. Unless again, unless you're Ridley Scott.

Chloe Okuno 35:59
Please got released his own director's jacket. I think?

Alex Ferrari 36:02
Did he? Of course he did. Why? Why wouldn't he? I just adore Ridley because he first of all, he didn't give a crap when he was in his 40s which was by the way his first movie was in his early. His very first feature was, I think it was 40 or 41. But by the time he made that first feature, he had directed 2500 commercials. Wow. So he was a professional right I mean, he more proficient and more time on set then all the Masters working at the time, so he was very proficient at it. Same thing for Fincher, same thing for like Bay and Fuqua, these commercial directors. They just constantly worked for decades. But him and Tony both did that. And then they got off the ground with the with the with the directing, but now I don't know, Tony, I think he's just rushing against the clock, because he's just like, I need to make five movies a year.

Chloe Okuno 36:52
I really respect it. Yeah, I've heard that. So we were so lucky. We had the most amazing colorist on watcher named Stephen Nakamura. Gorgeous, gorgeous. Were Yeah, I mean, he did he and my DP Benji Kirk Nielsen. Both did amazing work. But Stephen has worked with Ridley Scott, you know, he he was the colorist on the last tool. And he, and I hope I'm not talking out of turn. But yeah. And he told me that, you know, Ridley is one of these guys who shoots with multiple cameras.

Alex Ferrari 37:23
But the time that I five cameras, I heard five cameras at the same time. Yeah.

Chloe Okuno 37:27
5 Cameras, you know, doesn't like to do a ton of takes. But also, the really big thing that I took away from why Ridley is able to move so quickly, aside from just being a genius, and being in the business for decades, is that the actors show up and immediately respect him. You're not going to get any pushback when you're Ridley Scott, even for movie stars. So I think that's probably helpful.

Alex Ferrari 37:48
And you know what that is, I've noticed that as I've gotten, I've gotten a little bit and I'm a little older now. And I've been doing this for a little bit longer. When I walk on set, I'll still get a pushback sometimes from someone older than me. And I have no I definitely don't have the reputation for at least a stretch of the imagination. Nobody has the reputation everyone's got. But yeah, at a certain point. You, you made enough movies, they just know like, oh, he he or she knows what they're doing. You know, you know, but I still remember the day I walked out on a TV show I was doing which I was producing, and paying everybody out of like I was the production company. And this first ad didn't know who I was. I didn't hire him. And he started giving me crap on day one. And I'm like, dude, like I might I might DP I've been working with forever. My product. My, my line producer I've been working for in the line producer hired him because it was a last minute hire because my first ad was booked. So I was like, okay, and this guy just started giving me crap. And I'm like, dude, come here. Come in for a second. Just pull them aside. It's like, if you don't like the way I'm working, you can leave. I've been doing this close to 30 years, and I could do the show without you. And after that, and I go oh, and oh, by the way, I'm paying you. After that. It was very smooth sailing. It was very calm, quiet. Just chill that he was like the best friend.

Chloe Okuno 39:17
Yeah, oh my God. That's amazing. I mean, I would love to get to that point where I can just pick some one aside, and very quietly tell them that I'm better at this than you are shut up.

Alex Ferrari 39:28
Like, I'm like, dude, between me and my DP we can run the set. Dude, we don't need you on this production. This is not the last duel. I don't need you. If you're gonna give me attitude and be toxic on the set. Like, I don't need that. But by the way, also congratulations on being nominated for the grand prize. The Grand Jury Prize for Sundance I saw on your IMDB that you were nominated.

Chloe Okuno 39:51
Oh wait, I didn't I this is news to me.

Alex Ferrari 39:55
Well, congratulations. But listen, I just saw it on your IMDB that you got it says nominated for Grand Jury Prize at Sundance,

Chloe Okuno 40:02
Isn't aren't all the films who are in competition nominated? I don't know

Alex Ferrari 40:06
If they are, if they are, enjoy it, if they aren't enjoy it, but I saw it on your IMDB. I was like, Oh, that's really cool.

Chloe Okuno 40:15
Love it.

Alex Ferrari 40:17
I'm glad to give you that news.

Chloe Okuno 40:19
I know breaking news

Alex Ferrari 40:23
Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions I asked all of my guests, what advice would you give a filmmaker or screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Chloe Okuno 40:36
My advice would be to, like I said, it could sort of backfire in some ways. But don't be too precious. First of all, because there's no perfect project. And you'd be shocked. I think even sometimes, if you're a director and a script comes to you, that's not perfect. Or if you're a writer, director and writing your own script, and you just feel like, okay, it's not Citizen Kane yet. Don't be afraid, I think to put it out into the world. And don't be afraid to take on jobs that maybe still need some work. Because in this industry, things always a lot of times, they take a lot of time or they happen in like a minute, it's one or the other. But you can you can evolve things. And I just think, you know, there's there's a lot of potential and projects, and there's a lot of pressure on young filmmakers to do something that is sort of perfect their first time out of the gate. And you know, on second and third time filmmakers, you know, you're only as good as your last movie. But I would just say don't get too caught up in that. And don't let that psych you out too much. Because I think to a certain extent, I spent a lot of years. So fearful of making a movie that was bad. It probably prevented me in some ways from taking opportunities that would have been good. So that would be my advice.

Alex Ferrari 41:52
Great advice. i Yeah, before I made my first feature, it was always like I have to be Reservoir Dogs has to be El Mariachi has it has to be cooler has to be this thing that blows up. And it's not. That's an anomaly. Just do the best work, you can move forward. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Chloe Okuno 42:17
Um, I'm still continuing to learn to weave I mean, we had just such a long conversation about it before. But I really am still learning to stand up for myself and to trust my instincts. And you know, every single day, you're sort of confronted with a million different decisions as a director. And if you're a person like me, who's kind of anxious and tends to overly intellectualize everything, like every single one of those decisions, even if they seem really small and unimportant suddenly feels like it could make or break your movie. And maybe that's true, but it's probably not true. And I think it's just like, literally every single day I direct I'm, I'm having to push to believe in my instincts and just believe in myself. And I don't know if I'll ever fully learn that lesson. Because I think it's part of the process like going through that struggle. And maybe that's what makes things interesting. Like there's the inherent tension there.

Alex Ferrari 43:23
Well, I'll tell you what, don't feel bad because I've talked to some of the biggest people in the business and they all feel the exact same way that imposter syndrome. It's a it's a real thing. I think it's just inherent of being an artist. So it happens to all of us. When I hear when I hear that, when I hear certain Oscar winners going, Yeah, I don't know if I can write this. I'm like, Dude, you just won the Oscar. What's wrong with you? Like yeah, I don't know. I still can't I don't think I could do it. And last question, three of your favorite films of all time.

Chloe Okuno 43:52
Oh, okay. Um, Harold and Maude. Way, way up there. Yes. Alien. Also probably my favorite horror movie of all time. And the last one. I'm going to say Once Upon a Time in the West,

Alex Ferrari 44:11
Oh, nice, very good, especially that opening sequence

Chloe Okuno 44:14
The opening sequence. I think that opening sequence and also the sequence where they're like, at the well, like the good shot and the music that like Ennio Morricone score, just that there was something about that, that just sort of like changed me when I saw it.

Alex Ferrari 44:30
So it's a great choices. Chloe, thank you so much for being on the show. I wish you nothing but success. And congratulations again on being at Sundance. Enjoy this moment. It does go fast. Just Just enjoy the ride because it's going to be a fun ride for you. So continued success, my dear.

Chloe Okuno 44:47
Thank you so much. Thank you

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