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IFH 575: From Clerks to Shooting Boba & The Mandalorian with David Klein A.S.C.

David Klein, A.S.C. (born December 1972) is an American cinematographer known for working with director Kevin Smith on the films Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Clerks II, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Cop Out, Red State.

Klein, a member of the American Society of Cinematographers, was the director of photography for True Blood on HBO and for Homeland on Showtime. Klein was hired for the latter position beginning with Homeland’s third season, taking over cinematographer duties from Nelson Cragg who had served as the series’ director of photography for two seasons.

In 2020, Klein served as the cinematographer on Season 2, Episode 6 of The Mandalorian, titled “Chapter 14: The Tragedy” which was directed by Robert Rodriguez. He will also serve as cinematographer on multiple episodes of The Book of Boba Fett.

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Alex Ferrari 0:28
I'd like to welcome to the show. David Klein, man how you doing David?

David Klein 4:36
I'm good. How are you man?

Alex Ferrari 4:38
I'm doing great brother doing great man. We've been trying to get this ready and recorded for god months now at this point but you're busy you're busy man you're working on Boba you're working on Mandalorian you're, you know saving the world little by little. So

David Klein 4:53
I'm about all that. But the first two things are true.

Alex Ferrari 4:57
Exactly. So I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to come and talk to the tribe, my friend. So first questions I have for you, man, why God's green earth did you want to get in this insanity that is this business?

David Klein 5:11
Probably because I didn't know that the hours were gonna be what they are.

Alex Ferrari 5:16
No one tell you that no one taught you that you didn't that you didn't have this podcast. Back in the 90's

David Klein 5:22
I thought it was gonna be I thought it was gonna be hanging out with cool, famous people and you know, doing cool stuff, which is which is true, these things are true. But man, the hours are crazy. They're absolutely just insane. But to answer your question, I always, you know, I always was into movies. I think it was Blade Runner. I know, it was Blade Runner that my father took me to do when I was like 13 years or so. And he took me to the driver, and we watched it the driver. And I remember leaving and saying to him, you know, Dad, I think I want to make movies and he's like, sure, whatever, you know, do whatever you want to do. And he you know, he was really supportive. And he actually helped me, you know, my grandfather gave me this 60 millimeter Bolex when I was young, and my father, you know, at the time we had the VHS camcorder that would that would actually plug into the, you know, the VCR that you had to take with you, you know, from the top of the TV. And so I had those two devices and started making you know, stop animation films. And you know, funnily enough I was a kid I ordered that special edition Boba Fett, you know, would you take like the Box Tops from from General Mills, I think it was and you got to check for my dad and you send it to somewhere in Minnesota or wherever it was. And you wait like eight to 12 weeks and you're supposed to get this little boat fit that comes with a rocket that shoots out of its back. Right? And it shows up? Weeks and weeks later. And the fucking rockets glued in? Its back. Right? So I blew the Holy hell out of that thing when we were making one of these little 16 millimeter stop animation films. And, you know, it's I think it's fitting that I would end up on some of these Star Wars shows. After that.

Alex Ferrari 7:11
How much and how much. Yeah, how much would that Boba Fett be worth today?

David Klein 7:15
I think about $18,000.

Alex Ferrari 7:18
Yeah, not bad. Yeah, that would be that's a good return on investment, I think. Oh, man, listen, we all do things to our Star Wars stories when we were younger

David Klein 7:27
That was fine. Yeah, you know, my dad used to help me with those, you know, those rockets, the little model rockets that he'd set up, shut up, no parachute. And so one day, I took one of the the engines to him and I said, Dad, if I cut the nozzle off on this thing and put a like a wick in there, will it just explode? And he was like, come again. And I think he thought maybe I should help you out. And, you know, so he became my my, he became my grip, my gaffer my special effects, man, everything. That's amazing. He was not in the business. But he was no slouch when it came to helping his kids out.

Alex Ferrari 8:08
Did you ever invite him on any of the sets that you worked on?

David Klein 8:10
I did. I did. I don't think he ever, you know, he passed few years back. But and I don't know that he ever really understood what I do. Same here. Were there were some times you know, I was doing a show in in Hawaii, actually. And I think that's why he came. But he came to set and he you know, spent a week on and off the set and had a good time, you know, but still, I don't think it's sunk in what what precisely my job is?

Alex Ferrari 8:36
Yeah, my dad, I invited my dad onto a set that a commercial said I was direct and commercial. And he just was like, looking around. And he went back and told his family and friends. Everyone just listens to Alex. That's all everyone. He says something and they move and they move. That's all I know. I don't understand that still, to this day, he still doesn't understand what to write, let alone this. This is

David Klein 9:01
for sure. I think at times I don't understand what I do. You know what I mean? I still have so much to learn.

Alex Ferrari 9:11
So when you started off in your career, my friend you started off in a little film, little black and white movie called clerks with a little unknown director named Kevin Smith and an unknown producer named Scott Moser now we've had the pleasure of having Scott on the show as well. So I I've heard it from his perspective on how a lot of this stuff went down. How did you get roped into this insanity? That was clerks?

David Klein 9:37
Well, it started the way so many stories start Alex I found a girl in college right? And, and about two weeks after we got there she she dumped me for another young woman which you know, totally understandable. Even cool now. At the time for an 18 year old young man it was heartbreaking. Right? And so I was like, fuck this place man. I'm No no film school, which I had always wanted to do anyway, but didn't have the courage I guess, to go and you know, just go for it. And so I found the Vancouver Film School which used to advertise very heavily in American cinematographer, which is where I saw it. And, you know, they were they have a sister school now, which is the Los Angeles Film School here in LA, on Sunset, they're almost identical programs. At the time, there was just a Vancouver Film School, and it was a one year program, and they have classes started every two months. So every other month, a new class started. And this young lady that broke my heart put me on a path to end up in the same class with Kevin and Scott, you know, had it not been for her and all that timing, which, you know, is the luck, part of how you get into this business and who, you know, what put you where you are, I guess she was the luck part of it. And she put me in the class with Kevin Scott. You know, her time that put me there. And and to be honest, after, you know, Kevin dropped out halfway through the program to save the rest of his tuition for the movie, and and Moser not finished. And the reason they wanted to bring me on to clerks, you know, to be told this because they didn't want a cinematographer who knew more than they did. And I had, I think I had focused I know, I had focused more in to the cinematography aspect of the Vancouver Film School. But still, you know, it was a one year program, how much can you can you learn in one year a hands on not a whole lot. But I think the biggest compliment I got from clerks was when we were doing the 16th, regular 16 millimeter 235 blow up. We did a lab called good fonti film lab or defund the homeworks in New York, and the biggest compliment I got was that I exposed the film properly and really well.

Alex Ferrari 11:53
You know, from from my point of view, I mean, watch Clerk's made it multiple times in my life. It's exposed. I mean,

David Klein 12:02
You're right about that. Alex, it is exposed.

Alex Ferrari 12:04
It is exposed. You didn't under expose you didn't over expose overexposed. I mean, it's man, you You did you exposed? And what's so fascinating, I mean, for people listening, the young uns listening, you shot this on 16? Not even Super 16 Just straight 16 Right. It wasn't regular regular 16 Right. Get the 16 Emma wasn't it wasn't MLS, it was

David Klein 12:24
No, no, it was think sound. And we got all the all the, you know, the camera equipment and the audio equipment from a guy named Mike Spera, who had a little company called, it was called Pro camera, I think at the time, and he actually went on to run the studio in a story, you know,

Alex Ferrari 12:47
Oh, yeah. The big one over there.

David Klein 12:48
Yeah, yeah, exactly for quite a few years. And I ran into him years, all those years later, when Kevin and I were there doing cop out, which was, which was kind of cool. But it was basically all we could afford this. This Aeroflex Sr, just an Sr.

Alex Ferrari 13:02
Was just straight up. It was

David Klein 13:04
SR one straight up of SR one. And it was all we could afford. I think we had $3,500 for all the you know, camera equipment and audio equipment for the run the show, which was about four weeks. And so he's like, that's the one you get, and it sounded like a machine gun. And it did. And we had we had the little Barney that comes with it. We also had I would end up operating the camera with that Barney and just leather jackets and all sorts of blankets and whatnot on my head. Just so we weren't recording some of that that machine got on my camera.

Alex Ferrari 13:41
Probably because you didn't Did you have a blimp or you didn't have a blip?

David Klein 13:44
We had just, you know, the standard that goes over it, you know, kind of leather thing,

Alex Ferrari 13:49
Which was useless essentially,

David Klein 13:52
It was relatively useless. All the sound is coming out of the lens. You know what I mean?

Alex Ferrari 13:56
Right! I'll tell you Well, I my when I was in film school, the camera I got to use was the SR three. And that was that. Whoosh. We were the first.

David Klein 14:07
That was slick, man. I mean, but I think by the time we were we shot chasing AMI Super 16 on SR three is a great camera was one of the best cameras out there. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 14:17
Oh, yeah. Solid. And you can you can hook up your laptop to get like imports and stuff. Yeah, that was like the big thing. Like, you could hook up a laptop.

David Klein 14:25
I remember that. I remember but not with the SR three. But I remember plugging my laptop into a 535. And oh, yeah, during the speed changes and that sort of thing. And it was that it was that black and white MacBook Pro. Not even a MacBook Pro is a black and white MacBook with 110 megabyte hard drive, you know, which was which was screaming back then. Oh, yeah. You think I'll never fill this up. I said emails bigger than that. You know.

Alex Ferrari 14:50
Exactly. So I see. So I have to like the ins and outs I mean, you guys shot that movie what in what ferrets remember correctly it was like a Just a few weeks. Or is,

David Klein 15:13
It was it was it was four weeks, really. But, you know, the was on nights. You know, that's why Kevin wrote into the script that somebody jammed gum in the locks, because we couldn't, we couldn't have the store during the day. And so we shot nights, and we had the store from about, I want to say we had it from 11pm until 5am. You know, so they were, they were sure, but you know, we would shoot and then Kevin would actually work at the store, either either the community sort of the video store all day, and then we, you know, he finds maybe a little time for for sleep a little bit asleep, and then we get right back to shooting. So it was it was more days than you would expect. But they were shorter.

Alex Ferrari 15:55
Did you? I mean, I did I remember when I was coming up, and I would walk on set as a as a director and I early on, and you just don't know what you don't know. So luckily for you, was there anybody on set that knew more than you about the camera department? Or were you the top of the top of the hill at that point?

David Klein 16:18
I was the top of that very small hill. I was the entire department. So you know, operating the camera pulling focus. And, you know,

Alex Ferrari 16:29
Lighting too right or did you do the lighting?

David Klein 16:31
Well, I had a little we had a little help, you know, there was a cat named Ed half stack, who was a friend of Kevin's and and he would show up and Vinnie Pereira would show up. But they had day jobs too, you know what I mean? So they kind of, yeah, they come in and out. People got to work. But whenever we would go through, we'd burn through a mag, I would shut down and I'd go into the tent and change, you know, I reloaded the mag and unload the current mag. So it was a woman department, you know, oh my god. It's also why if you look at the credit clerks, the boom operator is credited as whoever grabbed the pole first, you know, I mean, because it was literally whoever grabbed it. There was I wish I had I wish I carried a camera around back then that's still camera, because there was one scene where Moser and had half stack and I were in the shot, we play the three people that run out from the funeral home after that whole business goes awry, right. Yeah. And so it was the three of us and Kevin were there. And so Kevin was literally operating the camera, sitting on the ground on the street. He had the Niagra down, you know, by his by his thigh. And so he's holding the boom, he's operating the camera. And there's the three of us running in the shot skewed the intersection. Sorry about that. It's no, but I just wish I had a photograph of Kevin sitting there with the SR one with the boom pole, which was I think it might have been a hockey stick actually, with more likely been attached to it. And one man band at that point, you know,

Alex Ferrari 18:07
Sorry. And I know he got the he bought or rented a steam back and edited the whole thing old school because

David Klein 18:14
Right there in the back of the video store.

Alex Ferrari 18:16
Right in there. So I'm assuming you were there. Part of that as well.

David Klein 18:20
Very just the very beginning. And then and then I was out. I had to go get a job to you know what I mean? Right?

Alex Ferrari 18:26
Yeah, cuz I'm sure you didn't get rich off that first job as far as.

David Klein 18:30
No not at all

Alex Ferrari 18:33
So clerks comes out, man, and you I'm imagining, what do you think was going to happen? Seriously, like, I mean, from a DP's point of view, when you do a show like that, you're not going to go, this is gonna go national, this is going to blow up, it's gonna become a phenom. I'm assuming that's not what you thought.

David Klein 18:50
No, it's not what what any of us thought I think at best, we thought that it would be a calling card, just you know, to a studio or a small production companies that hey, these guys can can get a film made. But so let's hire them to do the next one. Which, you know, that did happen and so much more, you know, we didn't expect it to, you know, go to Sundance and be the little sleeper hit that it was, you know, it took off like crazy. And to be honest, for me, eventually. It was it was a deep hole to climb out of because to have a movie that's successful. And look like that is not great for a cinematographer. The same thing happened years later with chasing AMI, which is a wonderful film, and I stand by it to this day, but it doesn't look great. You know, it's not well, it's not well, lens. We barely moved the camera, aside from some of the many arguments in the movie. But, you know, it was a successful film that didn't look that great. So again, as a cinematographer, it was a there was a hole of time out for sure. Yeah, because

Alex Ferrari 19:57
I guess you were like, Oh, this will be a little thing. I can maybe show around. A little bit, no one's ever really going to see this. And then all of a sudden, you're like, I am known for this, like, Oh, you're the dB of clerks, right? And so that was a bit of a bit of a challenge

David Klein 20:12
It's a struggle, it was a struggle, not as much as I might be jumping ahead. But when Chasing Amy was, was at Sundance, it wasn't in competition, it was just a premiere. And, you know, we had done Mallrats in between and Mallrats had been largely kind of ignored. It has since I think found a huge audience, but at the time, it had been ignored. And so Kevin, and the rest of us were nervous, you know, we were nervous about what was going to happen with Chasing Amy. And so, you know, Kevin and Scott had a meeting with with the morally repugnant Harvey Weinstein before our screening and Harvey, you know, I think Harvey knew what he had. He absolutely knew he had a chasing me, but it hadn't even premiered yet hadn't been screened to a large audience yet, so him was nervous about it. And so Harvey offered him a deal for his next movie. But there were stipulations. You know, Joey Adams, who was lead and Chase, ami was going to be the leading dog when Harvey said, No, he said, that's one of the things and he said, Joe is not gonna be the lead. And you know, Dave's not gonna be a cameraman. And whatever else it was, those are the two that I really remember. Because after that meeting, we were all staying in this condo together. And Kevin takes Joey into, you know, a bedroom, and Moser takes me in the bedroom and breaks the news to us, and then we all go to the premiere. So, you know, it was a very surreal experience to have this audience just adore the movie. And you know, I'm sitting in the back row again, and I don't get to do the bucket. Next one, you know what I mean? So it was it was a kick to the gut, for sure. And then for, you know, Ben Harvey kept me out for about 10 years. And in those 10 years, the first question I always got when I was in a job interview was, why aren't you shooting Kevin's current film, and I would tell them the story, and you know, whether they thought it was true or not, or that I was being kept out, just because I was too inexperienced, and not good enough, that didn't matter. You know, whether they believe this, or that it didn't matter, for one reason or another, I wasn't shooting his movies. And so I had to just get out there and work. And so that's what I did, as I put myself on a 10 year plan when I got to when I moved to Los Angeles, and, and I said, if I if I'm not wearing where I want to be in need to be in 10 years, then I'm gonna go do something else. But I'm gonna give it everything I've got for 10 years. And it took just about all of those years, to finally, you know, I think get a grasp on on, on the craft, and being comfortable and what I can do with the crew and set and telling a story. That's what it's all about, you know, you have all the experience in the world, if you don't know how to tell a story. It's irrelevant. It's all irrelevant.

Alex Ferrari 22:55
It's fascinating to hear that story, man, because it means so many people looking from the outside in, you know, unless like, oh, well, you know, you you worked with Kevin and you did a couple of his movies. And then you know, your career was set. And it's the complete opposite. It was actually you had a hole to climb out of in the first movie. And then the second movie, or the third movie that you did with Chasing Amy, you weren't happy with visually. So it wasn't a great calling card for you visually. And then the movie that might have been the movie that would have taken you to the next level would have been dogma, because you would have had a budget, it would have been a studio project, a real a real Studio project. And it would have maybe opened up a lot of doors for you. But you would literally have to hustle for the next 10 years to kind of whittle your widdle a niche in for yourself. So you feel like no man, I can actually do this, for sure and open and open those doors. That's a really great lesson for people listening because it's like,

David Klein 23:49
It's it's a good thing. It's a hard road to travel. Because I had to learn as I was doing it, you know, I think it's an easier path to work, you know, under somebody with a lot of experience because, you know, everybody you ever meet on a set or in life knows something that you don't and you can learn something from them, especially on a film set. If you work with somebody who's got a lot of experience, you're going to learn so much just by watching just by you know, watching what they're doing. Yeah, exactly. And so to do to learn it on the job was rough. And there are a lot of rough looking projects that I did. You know, it wasn't I don't think it was until 1999 when I really started to figure out and and figure out that I want to say how to light but who knows how to light it

Alex Ferrari 24:50
Until you found a groove that you felt comfortable in and felt comfortable with with the quality of the work that you felt from your own eye that you were comfortable with. Like I feel like I'm getting a grasp of this Take a look. I've talked to so many cinematographers over the years, man, and all of them say the same thing. It's an impossibility to master the craft 100%. There's just so much to understand and learn. And then you look at, you know, you look at someone like deacons, you know, and you see what they're doing. They are, arguably masters at what they do. But there's, you could probably count those on one or two hands that are alive. Yeah, that are just at that level. They're just like a. It's like looking at a director and going up, Chris Nolan, David Fincher, you're like, they are at the top of their game. Like, there's very few of those big Spielberg, there's a camera and there's very few of these kinds of people in the world. So it's tough. I have to ask you, though, man, when you were during those 10 years, did you ever get pushback from crew people? You're like, oh, that's the guy who did clerks. Did you ever get any any shit? Any any like, crap out of that?

David Klein 25:56
I don't think so. I don't remember any behind my back, and I'm sure they're all this guy. This fucking guy shot.

Alex Ferrari 26:07
This guy. This guy shot clerks. Jesus, I'm working on

David Klein 26:10
Funny movie but did you see that GarageBand have a fucking you know, and you know, you know story arcs the reasons why did it because we couldn't afford to balance the lights. Right? We're gonna be shooting, shooting fluorescent. And you know, we had a little tungsten kit and it was gonna be mixed all over the place. And we didn't have the money to either gel, the fluorescence or, or even get like an HMI package or a proper Kino package or any of that stuff. So we shove like wine, which is what gave it I think that GarageBand aesthetic, which I love. And now Now I can sit back and watch it and just adore that movie. But for a long time it was it was rough.

Alex Ferrari 26:53
And that's the thing. I mean, you look at the movie now and it's just so it's so it's beautiful. It's wonderful. It's so it is that GarageBand is that raw on filter, just EQ and all aspects from the writing to the acting to the to the cinematography, the directing all of it. And it's you know, but at the time, I understand your point of view. Look, Robert, Robert Rodriguez had the same issues with El Mariachi. He's like, Yeah, no one was supposed to see this. This is just my test film and you want to release it nationally? Are you crazy? So it's, you know, a lot of those movies were like that when I talked to Rick about slacker you know, is the same thing. And Ed burns with Brothers McMullen. Like all these guys. When you guys were coming up during the 90s. You know, it's just such it's true for people who weren't alive during that time. They won't, and they'll never understand the magic of the 90s. In the independent film space, it is a special it's a very special time from I'm going to say 1990 to 99, that that decade will never happen again. And it had never happened before. And it was the Sundance decade. We call it kind of the it was the Sundance independent film decade was where VHS really started to come up. There was a market for these kind of these imagine it and I asked this to everybody like if parks came out today. No one would even look at it. It would be gone. Maybe, maybe you could catch some fire because of the writing.

David Klein 28:22
Yeah. Well, that's what that movie is. I think it is. It's all writing and it could catch on. But if it came out today, it wouldn't look that way. You know what I mean? It would it's you would have shot? You wish. Yeah, it's easy enough to go get a camera that gives you a really, you know, your iPhone, for example, is shooting HD and, you know, what is it 4k now? Even. And it is it is it's pretty gorgeous. And it accepts mixed light, you know, like the Alexa to shoot mixed light all day long and it

Alex Ferrari 28:54
Low light and low light.

David Klein 28:57
And it would have been so easy.

Alex Ferrari 29:02
Not changing, not changing in the back, not changing the backs of the back.

David Klein 29:06
Non of that. You know, there's a funny story where we shot the salsa shark scene. And we had so little money. Kim wasn't happy with one night but we'd wrapped and I have my fucking hands in the bag in the tent and, and he's like, let's reshoot that tomorrow. And I'm like, What do you want me to do with this film? You know, because we he had decided we're gonna reshoot it. And we had so little money. It was like the sec throw it out. We didn't process it. We didn't want to spend the money to process and print because that's the only you know, that's what we were doing back then. And so you cross it out. Yeah. Deleted Scenes.

Alex Ferrari 29:47
You shouldn't have thrown it out. I should have just kept that maybe, maybe maybe develop it after after Sundance.

David Klein 29:53
We were thinking no one's gonna see this is gonna reshoot it

Alex Ferrari 29:57
So after clerks man after clerks do you have this it was obviously a very big hit. It was it was a phenomenal it was a phenom situation. And then you got an opportunity to shoot a studio movie, which was, which was mall rats, which had a bigger budget, arguably much bigger, bigger movie. What was it like jumping from the one man crew to running a crew of people who obviously, many knew more than you did, if I'm not mistaken is that

David Klein 30:37
Everyone of them

Alex Ferrari 30:43
How do you run the show how do you run a set like that man?

David Klein 30:46
Well, I think you've got to have a little bit of humility. And I was very upfront with with everybody that I was turned on to and basically hiring and I said, um, you know, I remember saying to Andy Graham, who's a really good friend of mine, he's been a friend of mine since then, but I met him on that picture. And he was the focus puller he sent has become an operator and he's operating for me in a lot of projects and a lot with Kevin as well. But I remember telling him that I was green. I said, I'm green man, and I'm gonna fucking lean on you. And he said, you know, this happens a lot. You're the first person that's ever said it. And so I That's it. Yeah. So I owned that, you know what I mean? And Nick McNealy was the gaffer, who had just one of our producers was Jim Jackson, he had just done tombstone, and MC MC Anita was the gaffer on that and so he introduced me to make, I'm like, You did fucking tombstone, we're really afraid. Yeah, I'm on board. And, you know, I was the same way with him. I said, I'm gonna lean on you, man. Because I'm bringing and I'm, you know, I'm in this position. It's very fortunate, I'm very fortunate to be in this position. But if I really want to learn from you, and I learned a lot from, from MC. And it was, you know, across the board, that ever every department, you know, so I think you gotta, you always have to surround yourself with with people who know more than you. But I think you got to be upfront about it, too. You know, and don't try and hide the fact that you don't know anything when you don't know anything. Because everybody's been there. You know, we've all been there. And it's one of the things that a lot of people try to hide, and and it comes out in really ugly ways.

Alex Ferrari 32:23
Oh, yeah, the ego and they start snapping at people. Because if you see people doing that, you can see that they're insecure. insecure, people are insecure people with the loud ones. The white ones are generally not the ones you have to worry about. That is that scenario in that scenario. If there's a bar fight, and there's a quiet guy stretching in the corner, that's the guy you got to apply. Guy you gotta worry. Not the guy swinging is

David Klein 32:48
Not the guy. That's, that's, that's, you know, I'll talk. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 32:53
It's the quiet guy. But when it comes to being on set, like there's a quiet, there's a quiet a when you know, you don't need to show in that way. Like I don't have to be blustery. Like, I know how to do this. And I have if you sit if you're that dude, you obviously have no idea what you're doing. You're extremely insecure. And I'm sure you've worked with directors like that, especially in in God.

David Klein 33:17
We need to get into that. Yeah, yeah, it's like, you know, the showrunner of, of homeland he's, he's in any room is and he's the smartest guy, smartest person in the room. He's also one of the most mild mannered and soft spoken. And so you know, when he's very thoughtful, and he's, he'll talk about seeing when we're when we're prepping and rehearsing a scene, and he's very quiet. And like, everybody leans in to listen to what he's saying, You know what I mean? He never feels deep, never feels the need to be loud. And this is, you know, what I think and that sort of thing. And, you know, I run into that, you know, you run to that all over the place and like, composition or going with Dave Filoni and Jeff Albro. Now, the same way, you know, they never feel the need to be the loud voice in the room. It's the quiet voice in the room that, that everybody listens to,you know,

Alex Ferrari 34:04
Yeah, and when you're working at that level, man with that kind of caliber of people, you know, they've done so much each of them in their own right, that, you know, and I'm sure you've, you've you've had the pleasure of working with some amazing directors and, and collaborators over the years, you know, you start seeing when people know what they're doing, they just, they just are, you know, they just do they don't talk about it, they just very quiet very, like, why don't we move over here?

David Klein 34:31
Well, yeah, also also, I think at this level, Alex, you know, there's, there's an amount of preparation has gone into everything and, and I've done this enough times that I know that I gotta I have to prepare, I have to be ready. And whether that means knowing all the shots that we're going to do or just understanding how we want to like to set up to tell the story, you know, you just have to be I have to be prepared.

Alex Ferrari 34:56
Now after Mallrats which we you said, you know, I actually one of the five people who saw it in the theater.

David Klein 35:04
I actually saw the theater. So who are the other three?

Alex Ferrari 35:07
It must have been Kevin Scott. I actually saw it in a theater while I was in college. And I actually got it was it was a special screening and I got the Mallrats got the book. At the theater, they were handing them out at the feet. I never forgot this. The original book, I had it. And and I saw Mallrats I loved it. I thought it was genius. When I saw it, I was like, This is the greatest thing I've seen since sliced bread. This is amazing. And then it died on the vine. It didn't find an audience at the time. So Kevin was pretty much putting in director jail at that point, correct? No, he was like, Oh, it was a once it was a fluke kind of thing.

David Klein 35:43
Well, you know, he had the script for Chasing Amy. And I think what happened is, you know, we went to Universal for this, this project. And Harvey always wanted to work with Kevin, he knew what he added Kevin. And so Kevin had a script Chasing Amy. And he took it to Harvey and he had a meeting without without Scott Mosier, which may have been a little bit of a mistake, because Kevin agreed in that meeting to do it for a price, you know, without any script changes, and and and so when he goes back and meets with Moshe, he's like, Hey, I got our money, motors thing and, you know, couple, 3 million, 4 million whenever he's like, great, would you get to 50 grand, and motors coming in? What one. And so we ended up making that movement for turning 50 grand, which just, you know, kind of it was a bummer at the time. You know, we all wanted to make movies for more money, which which means more time you know, that's what it means. It means you can actually take the time that you want to devote to each and those things are more time anyway. You never have enough time. Nobody ever has enough time. Even the biggest things I've done, it seems like we're always scrambling, you know,

Alex Ferrari 36:59
Even even if I'm assuming no Marvel set, they're scrambling still. I've heard I've actually talked to some people have worked on this 100,000,200 $50 million dollar budgets. And they're like, Yeah, we stole this shot and like you stole a shot. What?

David Klein 37:12
You guys were shooting for 130 days. Why do you have to steal the shot?

Alex Ferrari 37:16
No, I think was chrome worth. Jeff Grant was on a show also network. He's like, Yeah, I stole this shot. And this shot. I mean, David, like, it was just me, David. And like another guy. I'm like, they needed a shot at Harvard. And they couldn't get it. So they stole it.

David Klein 37:28
That's right. I remember. I remember reading about that.

Alex Ferrari 37:31
And I was like, what? That's amazing. You can't forget your roots. Man. You can't forget that hustle. Man, you no matter how big you get them in the Oscars, you win.

David Klein 37:42
It's true. But anyway, so we ended up you know, we made that that for two and 50 grand. And then what I already mentioned, what happened at that, Sundance was 96. And I pushed out for for 10 years, I went to hustled and the same time, you know, Harvey didn't let Kevin use the same cinematographer. Twice. You know, Bobby almond shot shot dogman. Bobby was excellent cinematographer. And, and Harvey said notes for the next movie. And so then they did Kevin to Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. And it was Jamie Anderson, Jamie and another great cinematographer. And he didn't like the way that looked either, and so on. Jersey girl gives them below segment ends up really not liking the way that looks either. So Kevin finally said, Well, maybe it's not the DP maybe it's the director that that you're unhappy with. And so after that, Kevin was basically like, give me my guy back. And so he and I got got back together for cliques too. So we've been apart for 10 years, nine, nine and a half, 10 years. And so we were bringing 10 years of experience of working with other people together to an existing friendship, and it was the greatest reunion I've ever had, you know, and then we went on to do another four or five pictures we did you know, after clerks two, we did Zack and Miri Make a Porno. And we did, you know, cop out and red state and we end up doing a pilot or two and, and it was just, it was wonderful because it was bringing 10 years of experience and and just just getting back together. And we had a language from before. But we had a new way of telling stories from all this experience. And that coming together, I think created some of the best work that we've done. commendation, which was Redstate, I think is our finest hour, you know, can we do together? I love that movie. I love I love it so much and a lot of blood sweat and tears. That was us getting back to our roots. And, you know, I was the Kevin I actually wrote a letter to see the poster, who was the president the union at the time to allow me to operate, you know, because that the union would have to allow this to happen and you know, it's got to be a creative choice. It can't be budgetary, and it was absolutely Be creative. You know, we were trying to get back to where we'd started. And, you know, Stephen understood that Stephen has worked with Kevin actually. And, you know, likes him a lot. And so they agreed to it, the union agreed to it. So I actually operated the camera, and we were literally we were back to where we begun. And it was a much bigger project, it was $4 million. But, you know, $4 million, as it goes far in 2008, or whatever it was 2009 2010 as it as it did back in the 90s. No question.

Alex Ferrari 40:35
And this man, after all the years that you were doing, you've been doing this? Is there anything you wish someone would have told you at the beginning of the career of your career besides beware of the sides, get out? Both sides get out and be beware of the morally repugnant Harvey Weinstein?

David Klein 40:52
You know, I think it's probably one of the hardest things that I've had to learn is that there's, there's an, there's an elegance and simplicity, you know what I mean? Because when you're when you're starting out, or when I was starting out anyway, I can't speak for other people. But when I was starting out, you know, I was, I was really trying to light a scene to tell the story. And I was, I think it was a lot of it was, was forced, you know, and it was just too much. And it took me a while to sit back. And, you know, when you're lighting a scene, you always got to look for the light to turn off. Because there's always at least one, there's always at least one that is unnecessary, and you don't need it. And it's not telling the story. It's just, you know, you're showing off or you're being, you know, you're being cute or something. But, you know, I wish that's the lesson that took the longest to learn. I wish somebody would have told me that just just fucking relax. And there is, there's a real elegant elegance and simplicity. And I think, you know, it's hard to describe, it's hard for me to describe what is simple, or elegant in lighting, because I can't tell you why I like to see in a certain way, it all comes from the gut. And that's another piece of advice. I wish I would have learned that, you know, just just follow your gut, follow your instinct and and don't second guess yourself, and even if it's gonna even if you're wrong, just fucking do it. And you're gonna learn from your mistakes. You know, if you are wrong, you'll learn from it.

Alex Ferrari 42:19
And you can you talk about the happy accidents. Because as cinematographers and directors we all want to control everything at all times, which is insane, and never happens ever. Yeah. But they're these little things you're like, how did that was perfect? How did that like, just hit the I chest? Right? The flare hit at the right moment? Can you talk a bit about that?

David Klein 42:44
Absolutely. I mean, some of the some of the coolest things that I've learned have been complete and total accident, you know, and when, when you're, when you're on a set you keep, you have to keep your eyes open for these things. Because you know, electrician will be moving a light, and it'll be on. And you know, because it's an HMI, it's not going to hot restrike. And so they want to keep it on while it's moving. And you'll still hit something that was completely unintentional. And it comes over here, and you know, it's reflecting off of that it's hitting the set, and you're like, fucking stop, just freeze where you are. That's what we want. And then the grips are like, Oh, great, now we got to contain the rest of it. You know what I mean? It's still off here. Yeah. turn those lights off. When your MO don't let him see the lights and your moon around, you know, turn them off. But you always have to be open for that. And even you know, in life you're you're out at a restaurant, you're you know, you're at a bar, you're at the movie theater, whatever it is. Pay attention to your surroundings because there's always, you know, I learned so much about lighting from being in far too many bars in New York in the mid 90s. You know what I mean? They were all dark. And a lot of them were dive bars and and you just see the way that these dimly lit bars had really cool things going on, you know, and always you always have to be open for that and keep your eyes open for it. Because you can learn just as much sitting in a seedy dive bar in New York, as you can be asked on set when it comes to lighting. Trust me.

Alex Ferrari 44:20
I've been at some time. No, you know, as a cinematographer, there's always a day on set, where the entire world feels like it's crashing down around you. It could have been on clerks, it could have been on Mandalorian are those Is there a day that sticks out in your head? That you felt like, I shouldn't be here, this whole I'm gonna get fired, this whole thing's not gonna work. And what did you do to to kind of go through that and get through that obstacle?

David Klein 44:49
I don't know if there's a day or a handful of days in particular Alex, but all that that happens all the time. Happens all the time, and you just have to push rule, you know, there's so many times when it feels like the sets falling apart and you're behind schedule, and you're not going to make your day and you're not getting the shots the way you want each set to push through. You know, you have to you always have to push through because it, it feels like that a lot. You know, I had there was a point I was going for, and I missed it asked me something else, man, I, I'll come back to that.

Alex Ferrari 44:49
Well, I mean, I, as I've been, I've been blessed to talk to so many amazing people on this show. I've realized that everybody from the Oscar winner to the first time filmmaker, all suffer from impostor syndrome. Every single one of them, even to this day, you know, I'm talking to some Oscar winning screenwriter. He's like, Yeah, I don't even know if this next script. I'm like, you just won the Oscar, what's wrong with you? Like you just are like, you're considered one of the best writers ever? Like, why are you? Yeah, he was I just, I just do. And I think I came to realize that everybody deals with it. And I think it's something that kind of keeps you sharp. I'm assuming that you have the same issues as far as impostor syndrome. Always. And,

David Klein 46:20
Yeah, you have to be I mean, you have to be your most your fiercest critic, you have to be your biggest fan, you have to be your biggest supporter, you have to be, you know, your most most critical eye against yourself, I think, because nobody knows what anybody else thinks all you have is yourself. So and you have to rely on all the people around you. Um, let me sound pretentious for a second quote, was it? Orson Welles said that, you know, a painter needs a paintbrush or writer needs a pen and a filmmaker needs an army. You know, and it's true. And no, no cinematographer, no director, no filmmaker is an island. We can't You can't do this alone. You know, what I mean, you have to have this this support this support system that is, is, you know, it's the most record is the most complicated and sophisticated recording device known to man. You know, and a lot of the times, you know, a lot of times it is like being deployed, you know, I did homeland for for six years, and we were either for seven months, either out of the state or out of the country, sometimes both within the season. And it is like a deployment, you know, I, it's, it's, I can't, I can't equate it to going to war. I can't compare it to going to war. I've never been to war. But in my life's experience, it is like a deployment. And you know, you're just in the trenches for seven months, eight months, you know, and it's nonstop. And it's hard to remember sometimes to get out of the way, you know, because if somebody looks at something that I this is probably paraphrasing, I think Deakins, but if if somebody looks at something that I've shot, it says, Wow, that's a great looking episode. You know, that's a great looking show. That's a great looking movie. Without talking about a story that I've failed. You know, I think it is our it is my job as a storyteller to be almost invisible. And it should be we should be the silence between the notes, you know, and if somebody looks at something about shots, well, you know, that was that was a great story, you know, then that's a success for everybody for all of us. But if they single out the cinematography, lighting camera work, then then I don't think we were, we weren't serving the story at that point.

Alex Ferrari 48:48
Very true. A lot of a lot of times, especially I don't know about you, but when I started out, I wanted to call the shots. And the story was the like, I'm like, I want to do that Scorsese shot and Goodfellas, I want to do that shot. That's Kubrick did I want to do that shot that Spielberg did like we all we all do it but as you get older, you start realizing like what's the story? What's the story because before it was a it was a lot harder to do those shots. It was super hard to do a lot of those shots back in the 80s 70s 80s 90s. To do some of those insane shots that those masters did was difficult. Where now that technology has gotten to a place where you know you could with a ronin you can run around instead of getting a full giant Steadicam up and you can you can you could do some insane shots run again jumping through going through like there's things that you can do

David Klein 49:35
Absolutely, absolutely. It's not and but but there's there's still, there's still always the next level. There's still somewhere to take it, you know, but it has to start the story I worked a lot during manda Mandalorian Season Two I worked a lot with Sam Hargrave. He was the main senior director and then he went on to do you know, extraction and some of the stuff that that he was doing and did an extraction is absolutely insane. And it was a perfect blend of it was a perfect blend of his background, being a stuntman and becoming a second year director and then a director. And combining that with all the new technology of the day, you know, there's that scene you look at the behind the scenes stuff, where he's basically riding on a four wheeler ATV of some sort, and he's actually directing and operating the camera and somebody you know, chasing a car basically going forward and in reverse and, and then somebody detaches him and he runs up and shoves the camera through the window. And then there was a takeover or some sort, they did a CG a visual effects blend, you know, going into the car, and then they're all all of a sudden in the car in another shot, they blend it together and the car drives away. And so it's it was beautiful choreography. And it was it was like, you know, watching a ballet dancer, except, you know, is more punk rock than that.

Alex Ferrari 51:02
Yeah, I mean, there's always a place to take. I mean, look at that shot that Spielberg did and where the worlds inside the car where the cameras just rotating around the car while the you know, the aliens are attacking and things are exploding and you just like when you know, when you and I sit there going? How the hell did they do that? Then they've done they've gone to another place. Yeah. Because we Graeme Jesus, I mean, you're just like, how did he do that? So it's, it's, it's it's pretty remarkable, man. Now I have to ask you about Mandalorian. Brother, like you worked on season one. You didn't work on season one. You worked on Season Season.

David Klein 51:42
I came in and season two as the second second cinematographer to bash anyone and Matt Jensen. So I was in seeking a matt Jensen got a little overloaded with prep work. And so he turned the episode six over to me. And as you know, when I met Robert and I had I had gotten here, I gotten here from an introduction to Fabbro. Through Lesli Linka Glatter, who was my main policy director on homeland and then you know, Matt Jensen also brought me up. And so that's how I kind of came to be here. After season two, you know, Matt and bass were going off to do their own things. They weren't coming back for their own reasons. And so I got, I guess, promoted to the main cinematographer on the Book of Boba Fett

Alex Ferrari 52:33
So so when you're, I have to ask you some technical stuff, man. Yeah. How the hell do you lighten the volume? Because I know, I have a couple of buddies of mine who are VFX people working who work the Mandalorian season one. And he was telling me that he's like, yeah, they shoot a lot. But there's still a lot of cleanup work that we need to do with some of the edges and, and, and creases and things like that, that it's not all in camera, but it's a lot better than where it's not a green screen either. So there's a kind of happy medium. But how do you like that? I'm assuming there's not an HDMI off? Like, how do you do that? How do you light it?

David Klein 53:08
You know, it's, that's a hard question to answer. It's kind of like asking, How do you like, how do you like anything? You know what I mean? It's got its own. It's a, it's a fucking process.

Alex Ferrari 53:21
I'm just telling you, it's fucking hard, dude. It's weird.

David Klein 53:25
There's nothing easy about it. I think I had a, I had a lucky introduction to it in that, you know, I was doing just a few days here and there during season two. And so I was getting to know and I was able to watch bass and Matt do their thing in the volume. And so I had a slow introduction to the volume and in season two, and then rolled right into Boba Fett shortly after that, and was thrown in the deep end, you know, where there's, there's a long prep, there was a long prep to Boba Fett, I think I was on for about five months before shooting started. And it has a lot to do with with lighting the content that's going on volume walls, you know. And so essentially, you're in the Unreal Engine, you're in a VR session, and you're lighting the content, the way you would want to light it practically, you know, and that's, that's one thing that is always a sticking point at Fabbro. Because the tendency for a cinematographer, when you get into the VR environment, and a virtual lighting environment is to do whatever the fuck you want, you know, because you can do just about anything. But you also have to match that in the practical set that's going to be inside the volume. And one of those things is like don't light it however, you could in a virtual environment, let it how you would in reality, or else it's going to start to look like a video game. It's gonna you know, it's yeah, you can put a source the size of the sun out there and do this but could you do that if you were lighting this virtual environment practically no, you could you You'd have, you'd have HMIs and whatever you're going to use, and that's also what you're going to use on the practical set. So, you know, it starts with lighting the virtual environment and, and knowing how to bridge the gap between the virtual and the practical, because, you know,

Alex Ferrari 55:19
You could actually move light sources within the volume itself that meaning the, the VR aspect of the Unreal Engine, you could put a light somewhere in the virtual space that lights through the LEDs on and there is an aspect to that correct?

David Klein 55:35
There is there is you're not gonna get, you're not gonna get directionality, you're not going to get hard light, you know, you're gonna get a lot of soft light, you're gonna get all the interactive stuff like that you get from the environment, but any, any direct a hard light, you're going to have to do practically and so when you're doing it in the virtual environment ahead of time you know, you have to know that I'm not going to be able to do this entire wash of sunlight in here I'm only going to be able to do this you know, these spots and these broken up bits of sunlight so that's what I should do in the virtual and then I'll do that also in the in the practical you know, with HMIs or we've also gone into tungsten now with with some of the loads started doing that on Boba Fett didn't didn't know if it was possible or not. And I've been told that it was not possible to get the tungsten in the volume but then I was talking to everybody from from state trapped and ILM and they said we can absolutely go tungsten I don't know who told you that and I to be honest, don't remember who told it to me either. But once we started using tungsten light in there it I think it made everything feel a little more real because it's just it's a full spectrum you know, light source and it just kind of fills in all the blanks wavelengths you know, and it just it just made it all feel a little more real for me.

Alex Ferrari 56:58
When I was talking to Dean Conde because he was on the show and he was right before he was heading out to Boba I think he chatted he did did you Boba, or do you shoot it shoot some episodes Ababa. He was telling me that he was lighting outside the volume as well getting some lights built it's something like that, or am I mistaken?

David Klein 57:16
No, you're not mistaken one thing that we haven't you know, we haven't been able to do and I don't know if it'll ever be possible is to do abroad, you know, sunlight source or you know, open moonlight even anytime you want to just just fill the volume with light, if that's what the scene requires, you need to take it outside. Because first of all, there's not enough room, it seems like it's a big space, but it gets it gets very small very quickly. And if you did wash it with with, you know, giant HMIs or big tungsten sources, the lights just gonna bounce all over the LED walls and render them useless. So, anytime we need open sunlight anytime we need, you know, say the desert at night where it's supposed to be Moon source, we'll go on the backlog. But if we need pockets, if we need, you know, a skylight here in there shooting some sunlight and then we have some some parts of the ceiling that we can take out big sections of the ceiling that we take out. And there's still there's a lot of rigging up there a lot hardware to work around. And so there's still not a lot of space to get lights, you know, away from where they need to be so you can have good shadows and so we ended up using mirrors a lot. So we'll have an opening you know, opening in the ceiling that might be five by 10 by by 12 Something like that. And then we'll have a big mirror of above and then we'll have an HMI Thompson for now whatever it is, another 1520 feet away so that there's a good amount of distance from the light and whatever's cutting it which is usually I go about hanging beneath the opening in the ceiling so that we're trying to get as far away from the light as possible so that we have good shadows you know, and there's there's just so much hardware to work around that it's difficult but we kind of cracked it a little bit and are getting better at it as we as we learn more which you know, we're learning something every day that were in there

Alex Ferrari 59:13
Right it seems like from season one to Season Two to boba and now hopefully I can't wait to see Season Three it seems that things are you can just sense things are getting a little bit more real and the way it's shot it just looks like the end sequence of you know the famous Luke Skywalker see and the season two like that's it's a masterwork honestly that whole episodes a masterwork it's absolutely absolute masterwork, I've watched the end sequence 1000 times because I'm a geek and and I got to ask you to use your your your your your similar vintages me, as far as age is concerned. So you got to keep out every once in a while dude, like you're like, You got to geek out

David Klein 1:00:00
For sure No, I'm turning into a 12 13 14 rolls very often on set, you know, I mean, you know, throw 10 stormtroopers in front of a camera and I'm 12 years old again.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:26
Yeah, the whole lightsaber, a lightsaber pops up. You're just like, Oh, forget it. I'm out. I can't.

David Klein 1:00:33
You know, it goes back to me blowing the hell out of that little little special edition Boba Fett. And, you know, I had all I had all the, the toys. I have some some of them in my office right now. Little baby clients to start with.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:46
That's, that's amazing. But so you on boba, you got to shoot with Robert. You shot for Robert Rodriguez, who is known very well known for being his own dp. So what was it like shooting for Robert because Robert is not used to working with other DPS generally speaking.

David Klein 1:01:05
I'll be honest, he largely left me alone. You know, he, I think he enjoys not having all the responsibility. Alright, you know, because he's still, you know, he's still he still edits everything. And even when we were prepping, ie, we were prepping remotely because it was the beginning of the pandemic. And so he was in Austin with his kids, and he was shooting basically animatics or a stump is with his kids and with some of his old, you know, Star Wars toys from when he was kid. So he's still very hands on. But when it came to the, the, you know, how are we gonna light this I realized, said he had ideas that we will talk about when we were prepping and when we were lighting some of the virtual environments, but for the most part, he left me alone. He would do you know, like most directors, so he'll tell me if he doesn't like something. But it wasn't like he was pointing me in a specific direction for lighting. You know, we he left me Well, let me do my own thing.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:09
He trusted. He trusted that you knew what you were doing?

David Klein 1:02:11
Yeah, I guess so. I dont know that's true, but he might think it is so.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:17
I saw I think it was in one of the behind the scenes that day. philon It was like, He's seeing the animatic that you're talking about? And he's like, can you stop? Can you stop it right second? Did you just shoot an animatic? With Star Wars toys in your backyard? He goes Yes. Yes, I did. And he's like, that is the coolest thing I've ever seen in my entire life. I think that was the moment that the book of boba he's like, wait a minute, let's bring Robert into the book of boba. And let's bring him into this because this is this is insane. And did you do with the season two? Boba episode or? No?

David Klein 1:02:51
I didn't. That was episode six. That's the that's the one that I did with Robert.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:57
Oh my god. Dude, you gotta I mean, okay, let's stop for a second geek out for a second when you saw boba show up for the first time. On set. What I mean, you guys have to be five year old.

David Klein 1:03:09
Absolutely. We are. That was a tough shoot, though. And, you know, it was I can't say it was anticlimactic. But we had shot a lot of the scenes with Boba Fett, you know, onstage and on the volume prior to the, you know, when he put your ducks up? The introduction? Yeah. And the introduction was was done out in Simi Valley because it had you know, we just needed the travel that scene needed the travel that you can't get in the volume. And it also needed that that open sunlight. And and so it, it forced us to go out to Simi Valley. And might be one of the reasons I got that episode because maybe Basma Matt didn't didn't want to go out there. You know, it was it was not an easy issue. It was It was rough. It was rough. It was five or six days out there. in Simi Valley was a lot of fun, but, and like I said, I can't say it's anticlimactic, but we had already been introduced. And so you know, I can't say that we were out there just to get it done. But there was a certain aspect of we got to get this done because we had a finite amount of time. And you know, what's funny is we only had six stormtroopers out there.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:19
Really? You did an alien style where they only had six aliens.

David Klein 1:04:25
Either that or I mean, there are a lot of complete CG VFX Stormtroopers. Wow, really, if you you know, and they're really good. They are really good. It's because I think it's, it's obviously much easier and the effects to do a stormtrooper than than version of face, you know. And there's, there's one that I'll point out and it's the last one to jump on the transport when the transports are taking off that you can kind of tell it's remember it I remember that one, right. I remember that. Yeah. So that's the One that that and I think it was only because I knew you know going in that that was CG and that only a portion of the the rest of them that were jumping on the ramp were actual troopers you know?

Alex Ferrari 1:05:13
It's pretty so much fun that out. But when I saw that episode, and I saw that episode, I was just blown away by how how cool it was. And you could tell it was the first time they were off the volume right in the whole series.

David Klein 1:05:28
Well, no, no, not exactly. Because there's a lot of backlot work. There's there's a lot of backlot work Correct.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:35
That was the first locate. That's the first location, first location.

David Klein 1:05:38
You're right about that. And in Boba Fett, we had a lot of a lot of backlot. And we had one location, which was Huntington gardens we went to for a few days, two days. For the for episode six, which was on the band before us, you know, the Luke Skywalker episode of Boba Fett.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:58
I thought that looks familiar. Like I was watching them like, oh, man, that looks like hunting diver.

David Klein 1:06:05
You know, we did. We did three versions of bamboo forest. In that episode. One was backlot one was on the volume and one was Huntington. And going back to, you know, being the silence in between the notes, some of the band before us that we did on the volume was some of the, that might have been the hardest volume that we did the entire season for many different reasons. But I think it blends in pretty well. And the fact that, that, you know, the transition from backlot to volume to Huntington is seamless. I did is is one is one of the things that makes it successful. But it's also like I was saying earlier, it's getting out of the way. And it's it's making, making that transition, you know, invisible and and just just having a sort of elegance and simplicity.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:57
Well, man, congrats on all the amazing work you're doing with John Dave up there. In Northern California, you guys are doing some good work with the Mandalorian. And we're all super excited to see the new season coming up this year. And it didn't just finish its production. It's not done now. I thought it was I thought I read it somewhere, brother. I'm not trying to get you anything. No, no worries. Don't worry. It's okay. I thought I read.

David Klein 1:07:22
Recently, I've recently finished another season of a Disney plus the streaming.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:29
Fair enough. Fair enough. Fair enough. Fair enough. Fair enough. Now, but no, seriously, man, congratulations on all the all the hard work you've done. And now knowing your backstory a bit more than I did before, man. I respect that even that much more because I didn't know about the 10 years in the wilderness that you had to go through like you were

David Klein 1:07:48
Los Angeles,

Alex Ferrari 1:07:50
Then years in the wilderness trying to trying to kind of carve your way in and climb your way back out of of the situation that that repugnant ly more the morally repugnant Harvey and, and those circumstances kind of hurt you on the way up. So kudos to you, man for keeping up there. And hopefully, this is a lesson for for the lessons for people listening that like, you got a castle doesn't matter where you start, or what happens. It happens, you know, things happen, that can slow your progression down in the sea. And then you have to ask yourself, How bad do you want it? Yeah, that's the question.

David Klein 1:08:25
You know, like I was saying earlier about, you know, advice to the young and up and coming. You know, my father was an orthopedic surgeon, he would not let me be a doctor, because he was a doctor, and his father was a doctor, my grandfather was a doctor, and they were never home. And so, I chose a profession with with ours worse than a fucking surgeon. You know what I mean? It's really, you really got to think long and hard about if you want to be in this business, because it takes a toll, you know, and I've got a marriage that was destroyed. I have a 14 year old daughter who as she was growing up, you know, from, from six to 11 or 511. I was doing homeland and I was gone seven months a year. And so I turn around and she's 12. You know what I mean? And I'm like, we're, we're all that time ago. I missed all that time. So you got to think long and hard about it.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:25
Yeah, it's something that they don't tell you in films will tell you that a lot of men, especially for DPS, even more so than directors, DPS are always working. You know, they're, you know, they're not getting the fat, you know, checks a lot of times, so they have to keep hustling, they gotta keep working, they gotta keep going. And that's time and that does break up. I know, a lot of note a lot of DPS with marriages don't make it. They it's, it's, it's, it's tough. So you really got to love what you're doing. You really really really got to love what you're doing.

David Klein 1:09:57
I remember being at a festival how Ah, festival in Bozeman, Montana. And they would always have a couple of cinematographers there. One one year I was there as one of the cinematographers in Haskell Wexler was the other. And so we were speaking to a group of university students and we were talking about the hours and you know, he was he was still promoting, who needs sleep, the documentary that he made about the working hours in the business and and we were talking about the hours and one of the one of the students, you know, ask the question, how do you guys make it work? You know, how do you how do you? How do you have a life live a life and work these hours? And Haskell just goes? I'm on marriage number three guys. You know it sometimes it doesn't.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:40
Bam. Oh, that's a drop the mic moment right there. That's, that's it that is raw and truthful as as it gets. That's so awesome, man. So awesome. I didn't I know you wanted to do a dress the the accidental shooting that happened on the set of Ross with your friend, can you can you discuss that a little bit.

David Klein 1:10:58
You know, I've known Halina for a short amount of time, you know, about a year. She was a wonderful person she was I thought she was a great cinematographer, I'd introduced her to some some members of camera department that we're actually working with her unrest. And I'll be honest, Alex, I, you know, when we were first getting into this, it was so raw, and I had a lot of emotional opinions about it. And I don't remember exactly what I wanted to say specifically. But I'm not, you know, I didn't see a letter that was going around at the time but a lot of cinematographers about No, no actual weapons ever again, you know, no, real firearms on set the suit all the effects. And I'm not that guy. You know, I've probably photographed 2 million routes, you know, obviously blacks in, in, in my day, and she was she, you know, she was a friend of mine. Like I said, not a longtime friend, but she was a friend of mine. And it's a it's a horrible tragedy what happened. But I think what needs to happen is there just needs to be a safety officer, you know, there needs to be a position created that that oversees all safety, because you can't you can't put that on the abs, you know, you can't put that solely on the armor, you know, you there has to be a checks and balances. And that there needs to be a new position, I think created that is that is safety. And we've seen it for the last two years. During the pandemic, we have safety officers that have been going around, you know, and for the first year of it, it was put your face shield down, keep your mask on, put your face shield down, and now it's now it's just masks, but still, there have there has been an entire department created. So I think there should be a safety officer, you know, there should be that, that at least that one position that is in charge of the thing, the things that we all think the long squarely on the shoulders of the abs, you know, you can't you can't put it on them because that it's just not right. I think we need a new position that oversees all the stuff.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:13
I agree with you on that because, you know, working with a DS all my career, man, it's a big, they can handle a lot, man. They handle a lot on their shoulders, and they should be one layer of protection, but it shouldn't stop with them so that the ad should still have some sort of say in what's going on and let everybody know. And you know, I'm shooting on set and he stopped it said, Hey, we've got a live live arm on set. Everyone be aware, this is it. This is that I get that part. And the armor should definitely also have, you know, have some sort of another layer of protection. But there should be the last stop gap. Someone who just finally goes, let me see the gun. Let me check it, make sure everything's good. All right, and go for it. You know, I've done both of I've worked with live rounds, and I've worked with VFX you know, the airsoft guns, and, you know, it's it. Can it be done? Yeah. But I,

David Klein 1:14:13
Here's the problem I have with Alex you know, even even a quarter load blank or a half load blank. An actor doesn't react to the way they act react to a full blank. You know, I don't even I don't like how it flows. I don't like quarter loads. I like full of blanks, because that's that gives them the correct reaction from the gun for them to respond to you know, and that's that's exactly and that's, that's my main thing. And like I said, you know, I hate it when people say I've been in this business for this amount of time. They usually lose me when they say that but I have photographed a lot. A lot of blank rounds and blanks and never had an issue never had a problem.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:56
I mean listen and I got called by variety in Hollywood for You know, quotes and trying to, you know, the asking my opinion on what was going on and I will be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. said, Listen, guys, and they got this from a few other industry vets who said, how many stunt men have had been hurt in the course of the last 100 years on a set? Do we now do away with all stunts and do everything virtually? No, their safety, there was mistakes, you know, what happened in the twilight zone? You know, that horrible, that horrible accident that happened there? And there's so many other you list, you know, accidents that happen in the State Department. Things happen sometimes. But there has to you can't just wash everything away.

David Klein 1:15:46
Like, you can't, and I'm sorry to interrupt you. But I'd be willing to bet. I'd be willing to bet the Condor lighting cranes have hurt more people in the last 10 years than stunts. Have you ever been agreed? We have so many new there are so many new, you know, new safety rules and regulations regarding condors all the time. You know, I remember back in the day when they didn't need a harness.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:15
I remember I remember. Oh, just remember, you remember the cranes? How about the cranes when you're sitting down? I mean, those long cranes with the camera at the top, and you see the pictures? And I got up on one of those plans? Once I'm like, where's my seat belt? Are you are you? No, I'm not doing this. I'll do this from the bottom. I'm not gonna do this.

David Klein 1:16:33
Well, you know, going back to the 90s, Alex, we used a lot of those cranes, you know, the Chapman, the Titans, the Nikes, all that stuff. Because they were so much cheaper, when the remote heads were new, you know, remote heads were coming out in the late 80s, early 90s. And, and so they're very expensive. So we rode those trains all the time, and there usually is usually our seat belts.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:55
Just cheaper

David Klein 1:16:57
But you are you're up there, you know, you're 50 feet in the air or whatever it is, like, wow, this is this is, you know, it's the most treacherous thing I've probably done, aside from, you know, being being in stock cars, you know, as a camera operator being sent cars is pretty wild, too. But along with that, I've been, you know, what's more dangerous than any of the any of the work with blanks that I've done over the years.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:22
Wow, man! Well, I hope that I hope that there is some changes made, I think there will be I hope they're not just a knee jerk reaction, I hope there's a really thoughtful way of moving forward with it. Because, like, I agree with you, 100%, I think there has to be some sort of position created to help this to help this scenario, because obviously, there's a problem, especially with so many low budget, non union, you know, situations, which I've been involved with a lot in my in my day, I get that. And it's a while it's a little wild, wild west, no pun intended, because that was a question. But it's a little bit wild, wild west, in the sense that, oh, yeah, we'll do this, it's gonna cost too much, we're not going to do that. And there has to be some sort of rules has to,

David Klein 1:18:05
There has to be an account, you know, accountable accountability. And I think the way to do it is to assign a person to, you know, overall safety, as we've been during the pandemic, you know, our COVID safety officers will will give a speech, you know, to us about mask wearing and social distancing, and all that stuff. And so, it's easily done, you know, that position is easily created. And I know everything comes with a price tag, but there's no price tag as big as the one. You know. What? Oh, no, that's bad. You know what I mean?

Alex Ferrari 1:18:39
Amen, brother. Amen. I appreciate it. I appreciate you will be willing to talk about that and bring that out to light. Now, I want to ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests now. Yeah. What advice would you give a young cinematographer or filmmaker trying to break into this vicious business?

David Klein 1:18:58
Still fucking do it! An actual an actuality, you know, I would say, take a long, hard look at this industry and really think long and hard about whether you want to commit this much of your life to to this because it'll take every every minute that you get this industry will take every minute, every hour that you give it and then so think long and hard about it and because none of them will listen to that piece of advice. I will then say, you know, you gotta get out there and work you have to learn. As I said, before everybody on a film set everybody in life knows something that you don't So learn from them, you know, and when you're when you're new in the business, you have to just get on set every in any every way that you can, because you'll learn more in a day on set, you know, being that fly on the wall, then you will In a year of film school, you know, at least in terms of the day to day hands on practical way of telling stories, you know, and that's what it all comes down to.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:13
Absolutely no, I learned more during my internship at Universal Studios, Florida than I did in going to go into my college. I would skip school just to go and hang out on on stages and just watched the grips going, go on tangled that cable, and I'm like, All right. All right. Um, this is so cool. You mean that big pile over there? That's been sitting there since 1976? That pile of cable? Okay, sure. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

David Klein 1:20:44
You know, I think and we, we touched on it earlier is, I think the longest lesson it took me to learn is that is to get out of the way, you know, and that there is an elegance and simplicity and the you know, don't, don't, don't lie things just to light them, you gotta you got to serve the story, you have to be telling the story, or all the experience, and all the knowledge that you have is irrelevant, you know, and all the slick lighting that you can do is irrelevant. You know, unless you're serving that story, if you want to be, you know, if you want to shoot just just slick images, then then do commercials. Absolutely. You know, because that's what they're all about. And that in and of itself is telling you a story as well, it's telling you a story of how to buy Bud Light, or whatever it is. And so it has to be flashy in in your face and and you know, high key and, and whatever else it is, but but just just tell the story and otherwise get out of the way, you know, be the silence in between the notes.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:54
And three of your favorite films of all time?

David Klein 1:21:57
Ooh, that's a tough one. I gotta say Blade Runner. That's that's one of the films they got me in this into this business in this industry. And not only do I think it's a great movie, but it it it looks amazing. And it's look is relentless, relentlessly devoted to its story. I mean, it's it's creating that world of what was it 2019 Los Angeles.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:27
Not too far off. Not too far off. I'm still waiting for the Jetsons.

David Klein 1:22:39
But it is relentlessly devoted to its story, the look a bit it's after that kind of target. Three favorite movies. There are so many. Number two, I'd say everything that Conrad Hall ever shot. You know, everything and just about anything. You know. I've been devoted to studying his his work for a long time. And

Alex Ferrari 1:23:03
He did Bobby Fischer. Right?

David Klein 1:23:07
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And it's, again, talk about somebody who was relentlessly devoted to telling the story. You know, it's some of the things that he did with his lining, I still blowing my mind. And I don't know how he did it, or where he came where the idea came from. And I don't know that he knew either. It seems like he was somebody that that didn't shoot from the hip. But, you know, it all came from from the gut from the heart. You know,

Alex Ferrari 1:23:34
He was channeling, he was channeling somebody.

David Klein 1:23:37
That's for sure. That's for sure. So, you know, that takes up my next two answers. I think it's all of his movies. Otherwise, it's it's so hard. It's so I mean, would you choose something like Susan, can you choose something? You know, like, like, 1917? Even, you know?

Alex Ferrari 1:23:54
There's, there's too many. There's too many. Well, that's, that's a good, that's a good, good start. And can you tell us what you're up to next?

David Klein 1:24:04
I'm prepping a new Disney Plus series yet to be announced

Alex Ferrari 1:24:14
Yet to be announcedokay. Fair enough. Fair enough. All right. So it's going to be the Jar Jar series. I know. I know what it is. It's a Jar Jar series. You could just you don't have to admit it. No, it's the Jar Jar series. Rather than it has been an absolute honor and privilege talking to you, man. It has been so much fun. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us and the tribe today and continued success. Brother, you're you're an inspiration out there for us, man. So thank you.

David Klein 1:24:42
Thank you, Alex. Thanks for having me, man. Appreciate it.

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IFH 414: How Indie Films Can Use The Mandalorian Virtual Production Tech with Rene Amador


Right-click here to download the MP3

What if indie filmmakers could access the same virtual production systems used on the hit Disney+ show The Mandalorian? What if you could use that same technology at home for your productions? What if it cost less than most RED Camera packages? Today’s guest wants to do exactly that. Rene Amador is the co-founder and CEO of the virtual production tech company ARWall.

Rene boasts 24 years of working with 16 startups, starting young working for his parent’s startups in silicon valley. He’s also directed over 350 commercials, short films, and pilots. Most recently as co-founder at ARwall, Rene won the SXSW Accelerator 2018 AR/VR category pitch, has been acknowledged as a top AR tech evangelist in Hollywood, and designed the first ARwall Lab in Burbank.

Rene and his team have developed a professional virtual production system that filmmakers can use at home powered by the most powerful real-time graphic engine on the market. How does this all work you may ask? ARFX requires a tracker and at least two sensors installed on set.

Once the tracker is calibrated and attached to the camera, the director of photography has the ability to move anywhere inside the tracked space. The virtual scene runs on the system updates in perfect real-time, no matter where the camera is positioned. This creates a seamless window illusion into the virtual space.

Filmmakers really put this tech to the test on Disney+’s Star Wars show The Mandalorian. If you haven’t seen this show do yourself a favor and get a monthly subscription to Disney+, sit back and enjoy.

I also recommend you watch The Gallery, a behind-the-scenes show on how they made The Mandalorian.

I’m not saying a newcomer to the filmmaking process will just be able to pick up this tech and make The Mandalorian but the tools are there for filmmakers who are ready to make that leap.

This is a massive jump in how filmmakers tell their stories. ARWall’s Home Studio is the next jump for indie filmmakers. The cost is cheaper than most RED or ALEXA cameras.

This technology is one of the most exciting filmmaking tools to come out since digital cameras became the norm. Not only is this tech cool but the speed that it became affordable for the independent filmmaker is mind-blowing.

It took a decade before we had access to the same ground-breaking technology that was used in Jurassic Park.

Rene and I talk virtual production, The Mandalorian, the future of the AR Wall, and how indie filmmakers can start using this technology today. Enjoy my conversation with Rene Amador.

Alex Ferrari 2:21
Now I know a lot of you have watched Disney plus his show, the Mandalorian which is a Star Wars The first Star Wars television series. And it was one of the biggest shows of last year and the new season just started last week. I am a tremendous fan, as many of you already know. But what I was really interested in was the virtual production techniques and technologies that they use and implemented to make a giant very big budget looking show on a budget now mind you on a budget is relative in the Star Wars universe. But let's just say that they were able to put together hours and hours of content for less budget than you would have to spend on a standard Star Wars movie. Now, when I looked at all of this, obviously there's a lot of talk about how this might help filmmakers and production companies deal with the Coronavirus doesn't need a lot of people, you can be very enclosed, very bubble like and you can have a lot of production value and you can save a lot of money because you don't have to do as much green screening and visual effects costs. But I was like this is all great. And again, you know, just like when the T rex showed up in Jurassic Park in 1993. That's really great. But how is that going to help us as independent filmmakers? Well, today's guest is someone who is going to help you get access to this insane technology on a budget. Now today we are speaking to Rene Amador from AR wall. And AR wall is one of the industry leaders in this virtual production technology. And when I saw their newest product, my mouth dropped to the floor they have created the AR wall home studio, which allows you as an independent creator as an independent filmmaker to use same or similar technologies to what they used on the Mandalorian at a very, very affordable price. We're talking less than the cost of a red camera. Now Rene and I get into all of the tech knology how independent filmmakers can use it, what it would do for your production value? How do you get those amazing backgrounds that you're going to be able to move left and right. I mean it is it's just an insane, insane world that we're walking into. We're that much closer to literally just shooting on a holodeck from Star Trek, which is basically an entire room that looks and feels almost like a real room. But it's all holographic. We are very, we're just getting closer and closer to eventually being able to shoot on the holodeck. And this technology is that next step forward. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Rene Amador. I'd like to welcome to the show Rene Amador. How are you doing, Rene?

Rene Amador 5:47
I'm doing just fine. Thanks for having me, Alex.

Alex Ferrari 5:49
Oh, brother, man, thank you for being on the show. Man. I truly appreciate it. I am I have to say before we get started, man, I am such a fan of what you guys are doing at AR it's it's mind blowing. Absolutely mind blowing. But we're gonna get into all of that in this episode. But before we start, I have to tell the story because we were talking about it before we got on.

Rene Amador 6:11
Yes.

Alex Ferrari 6:11
And please tell. Please tell the audience how we know each other.

Rene Amador 6:17
Yeah. So I mean, I think you reached out because we had some big press recently, we came out with some big announcements recently. And, and just this morning, I was thinking Alex Ferrari is such a familiar name is the type of name you don't forget, right? So I was thinking this sounds so familiar. I went back to my personal email from like, you know, over 10 years ago, and went and looked and put your name and found I've been on your newsletter since about 2007. And the Sigma factory, and I think it was originally because you, you were kicking butt on the DB x 100. A and then the HV x 200. And you were one of the few people that was doing visual effects intensive stuff on those cameras. So we were we wanted to use those same cameras. So we were following you to see what you're up to what your workflows were. And then that you came up with a bunch of like workshops to and I think I actually might have purchased them. Yeah, but I think the original way that I that I heard about you is we we had a we had a couple films go to Dragon Con 2007. Your your shorts were there as well. Once I saw those, and I think we were actually in contention against each other. I was like you won first prize. I won second prize. Wow, that that's awesome. Isn't that wild? Yeah. So that's how I first learned about I was like, Who the hell is this guy?

Alex Ferrari 7:41
Why is this guy Why did it Why do you get first place? What the hell's going on here? I got to watch these things.

Rene Amador 7:49
I have an email here. First email from your newsletter, June 2007. What a blast from the past.

Alex Ferrari 7:58
I was when you told me this story. I was absolutely floored. Because, first of all, I can't believe you have email from 2007. So that alone, there's issues that you need to work out. But but that and then you read the email was about my second film sin and you know, Hey, guys, I want to let you know about my new film. It is so funny how that little short film I did in 2005 people still talk to me about it and still reach like when I and it happens more often than you would think like I The last thing I thought of when I when I rang in to our interview today is you were gonna go Hey, dude, I like I remember broken like I just didn't larious That's amazing. It's pretty, pretty amazing, Matt, but thank you for sharing that insane.

Rene Amador 8:46
I'm a fan, just to be clear. And it's awesome here. You know, I'm here just to interview you. Basically.

Alex Ferrari 8:55
I'll come on your podcast or anytime you'd like the AR podcast anytime you. So how did you get into the film business in the first place, sir?

Rene Amador 9:05
Yeah, um, so I think originally, my dad, my dad wanted to be a filmmaker way back in the 70s. And I ended up going into computer engineering instead. So he, he was as one of the top software engineers for the defense industry for about 40 years. But through that entire period from even a young age, that spirit of filmmaking was still inside him. And he definitely, you know, imbued my entire upbringing, my, my, my media culture, with that love of cinema. So you know, I grew up, you know, before the age of 10, watching Fellini and Kurosawa and all these intense films. Just really just thinking like, Okay, this is just this is culture. This is what art is not really knowing that, like it's pretty unusual to get that type of education as a young child. in cinema, so at about the age of 10, I, you know, made a pretty determined statement to my family, like, I am going to be a filmmaker, I'm going to be director, you know, screenwriter and make these projects, do some TV, do some film, you know, just do what I can. And it really, I think it was a couple films that did that. For me, obviously. I think like science fiction films were pretty big for me Star Wars. But then there was one in particular, which people may laugh at, which is din, the David Lynch movie, I happened to own that, because my, my dad was pretty big, big David Lynch fan. And I don't think I'd seen any other films, the first film I'd seen of his. And when I just in the first 10 minutes of that film, you see the set design and the production design that that they brought to that project. And you just think, somebody, his job is to get paid to make the sets. And, and just to think, what, how much fun and how much amazing creativity goes into that type of collaboration. I thought that that's something I have to be involved with. Because you know, as a kid, you look out into the rest of the world. And you're like, who else is approaching that level of creativity and that level of storytelling and imagination. It's not really something that you see out in the world. So film for me was that moment where I realized dream and imagination and reality and career could all come together into one package, and really create something special. So that that's how I really got started. And then just just kind of thinking of that mentality at a very young age. And then I made my first project, obviously, for us for a heist, you know, trying to get rid of doing homework.

Alex Ferrari 11:59
I did that too. It was awesome.

Rene Amador 12:01
When make a video, we made a video. I think my first video was called Deron Gatto, it had to be in Spanish because it was for Spanish class. And it was just it's basically kind of like a Lost Highway rip off. Like some weird surreal thing where people were, you know, in dark lighting looking intense, that type of thing. And that was a lot of fun. And one of the things that happened when I was making it is literally everyone said to me, hey, you've done this before, like, I can tell that you've done this before. And I'll be like, Nope, never done that before just watched every single behind the scenes, you know, DVD thing that I could get my hands on. So that's how I got started. And then in senior year of high school, I made a very popular video called real ultimate power, the official ninja movie, which was based on their website called real ultimate power dotnet, which is very popular at the time. And that got over 3 million views that video. This was in 2002 in high school. So I personally set up the

Alex Ferrari 13:02
How'd you get the views? Where were those views? because YouTube wasn't even around yet.

Rene Amador 13:05
You're correct. So there's two things. One is it's an adaptation of a website into a video, which is something that hadn't really been done before. And in fact, we found out that the only other projects who have done at the time was something called undercover brother, which I think you may remember that was actually a website to begin with. So we were in this we were part of this little wave in the beginning of viral content, where basically we're adapting websites into video. So we we got linked on the front page of that website and that's where a lot of loaded viewership came from. However, there's a there's another component of it, which is that I was very active in 4chan in the something awful com forums, which are kind of the precursor to like read it. And unlike mean groups and that type of stuff, and actually in this something awful form groups with BPI, BYOB and FYI a D. I can't say what those mean on air No, they're acronyms people who there's something awful will know these I was a regular on these in and being able to put the content out, you know, I would be making means shareables This was 10 years before you know, eight people even knew what a meme or shareable was, I'll be making them for the film for my for putting them on the website being like, look at how ridiculous this is putting a link to the video. And that's that's how we made it have that. So we reached millions of views. And that was such a new strategy at that time. And what's funny is 10 years later, I was doing exactly that for Fox. Which is so weird. Exactly that for Fox actually for American Idol. For one of the top brands in the world. I was doing that meme and shareables creation with so going full circle, but that's really how I got started doing my own distribution setting up webhosting myself, and then back when you had to think about that type of stuff, and then that project was extremely absurdist. It was very similar, I would say. It was inspired kind of like by the Christopher Guest movies waiting for guffman that type of stuff. I'm a really big fan of Christopher Guest. Just the whole, that insane improv energy where anything can happen and that sensation of awkwardness, I kind of see him almost as the spiritual successor to Fellini in the way that he casts off oddball characters that look odd, and just give you a certain feeling. And then they go off and do something that's highly unusual or just highly tense. And it gives you such an intense narrative feeling. In those moments. I really enjoy that that type of stuff. So if you if you know that about me, a lot will make sense about my films, because they tend to have an absurdist really irreverent, and a kind of a screwball sensibility to them.

Alex Ferrari 16:02
Well, that's, that's awesome. And yeah, I did the same mean situation in 2004 2005. When I did my short films, it was it. I mean, those that was such the wild, wild west man, it was such a wild wild west back then. And I, it's hard for people to understand that, you know, you couldn't just put your film up, like us literally couldn't, there was no YouTube and even YouTube smocked in 2005, like the quality was atrocious. It's the technology just wasn't there and let alone to stream. You know, you know what I did with sin, that second film that your email, I actually, I actually wanted to sell it on iTunes, but couldn't, because there was no technology to get it up on iTunes. So what I did was, I would sell the download of an iTunes file, the M v four file or whatever the iTunes format is, I would sell it on my on my website, and then they would click dollar 99 to rent it, and then they would double click on it, it would open up in the iTunes app. Back then.

Rene Amador 17:02
Yes. I mean, I think, you know, remembering backups that time and how this how difficult distribution was online? That's a genius move. I used this, this is really going to data I use something called real player.

Alex Ferrari 17:16
Oh, I remember. Of course, the web the the flash is flash based, right? or close to Mr. Flash place, but I know for a player or Yeah, something like that. Yeah.

Rene Amador 17:26
It was JavaScript, possibly flash or you know, Shockwave or whatever the hell they had

Alex Ferrari 17:30
That shock wave. Whoo. Remember, dream weaver.

Rene Amador 17:37
So yeah, I mean, you would have to build the actual infrastructure of distribution at that time, and it was such a pain in the butt. And when YouTube came along, really, the original people not might not realize it's the original pitch that YouTube had wasn't even as a video destination, it was at as a pitch to Video Creators, hey, we'll make it super easy for you to get your video online, then you can embed it wherever you want, you know, you're there everywhere. It wasn't meant to be a destination site. It was only later when people started linking directly to the YouTube page instead of their own website with the video embedded, that it started to become a video destination site. And that was very interesting to see happen in real time.

Alex Ferrari 18:18
No, it's it's increasing. And I also by the way, I have I think, and I want someone to tell me differently, but I think I have the first filmmaking tutorials up on YouTube.

Rene Amador 18:30
I wouldn't be surprised because oh, five. Yeah, I think I bought them. And I remember it being I remember it being unusual. Like I hadn't heard like, I'm trying to think like, it was almost it almost felt infomercial, Lee, you know, like, you know, like a, you know, learn how to meditate or something, you know, you would see that kind of stuff on TV. But you didn't you know, it's not like now we're you know, masterclass and you know, how to cook and learn how to do this or that or it wasn't a common thing. And the fact that you were doing something on media creation was pretty unusual because at that point, it had just become viable to do to do like fully digital media. And then you were you had realized oh, man, like like I can, you know, do screencaps and I can do all sorts of stuff and so you were showing the entire process in an interesting way that I don't think that had been done before. Like Where did you learn how to do that? Because I don't think there's

Alex Ferrari 19:26
I was, I was a post guy did I was I was editing since 96. So I just kind of understood the the post production aspect of things and then I have a marketing head and that's how it kind of all combined that with everything else I've done in my life. It kind of came up and started doing it I always just figured out like and even then I still didn't get it because I left YouTube I should have stayed I should have stayed and it's gonna make it if I would have made tutorials just kept making tutorial videos. I would own own the filmmaking tutorials base but I bought I'm now not a teacher, I don't I'm a filmmaker. Spielberg didn't do tutorial videos. Why should I? And that was the ego spoke speaking, but who knew? No One No one knew no one knew. Exactly. But what So? So we're here to talk about your company that you've co founded AR wall. First of all, which is if I'm if I'm correct about, it's a company that deals with augmented reality, and versions of that, can you explain to people what augmented reality is?

Rene Amador 20:30
Absolutely. So we call ourselves an AR xR company, which basically means augmented reality and what they call extended reality, or some people call it mixed reality. And basically, what this means is we're combining live action elements in real time with CG elements. And it's different from traditional visual effects, which is entirely a time shifted process where you shoot and then you do the compositing at a later point. So we're, we're not, we're not in that game, we're in the game of capturing it on set live, whether it's a live stream, a live broadcast, or live to tape type of scenario, where you want to give the impression of a live broadcast. But the whole point is you walk away from set with the final shot with the final pixel. And that's a fundamental shift in the way that people have been conceiving of virtual production. Because I think, when it comes to film and TV, prior to us coming out to the scene, most people's heads were at pre visualization, which means, you know, you hire the third floor, we work who's worked on Star Wars and Avengers films, one of our one of our sister companies that that we love working with. And so you, you have a temporary composite, which isn't even meant to be like a full, like fully 100% tract composite, it's meant to be reminiscent, and just to give the the filmmakers on set, like an idea of what it's going to be like. So that's not final pixel. And that's where real time graphics have been relegated in film and TV for quite quite some time, about 10 years. When we came on the scene in 2016, there was no solution that was fast enough to do. Like the window illusion and camera tracking the way that we did. There was some stuff for experiential, unreal, had something called VR cluster. And then Barco had developed something for industrial use that use goggles with like big ping pong balls on them, that type of thing. But nobody had looked at how do you combine those experiential and industrial tools that were being developed for, for commercial purposes, into the media industry, so that you could actually get the CG in a realistic way sutured behind the live action actors with sets. So we we saw that as our original challenge. And we actually accomplish that in 2017, and immediately signed a Netflix and NBC Universal project called nightflyers, which was our first project. And to describe what we're up to here, basically, what's happening is, if you think of traditional rear projection, you have a giant screen, it's giving the sensation that the act or the sets are in a location in which they're not actually so in space, or moving or in a forest or whatever the case may be. The problem with reprojection is as you move, as you transpose the camera, move the position of the camera, you begin to see the static rigidity of the to the plate behind the actor and set where the where the reprojection screen is. And that's because obviously, the illusion of parallax is broken, right and this skew is in the skew is not incorrect. The perspective is not correct. So what we realized was with the new real time, like the new advancements in immersive in VR, and AR, and that type of stuff that were happening in 2016, there would be an opportunity now to actually track the cameras position as it moves, and update the vantage point onto the rear projection plate. So that in under, you know, 41 milliseconds, the time that it takes for a shutter to open and close, we can actually update the background dynamically, so that it always looks like you're looking into a deep window illusion, like a deep environment on that screen. So it's basically a way to combine traditional rear projection technology with new immersive tracking technology. And that's that's what what our vision is.

Alex Ferrari 24:48
So I can only imagine what someone like Stanley Kubrick would do with this. If he was alive today. Because he I mean, he was one of the I mean, rear projection been around forever. But But I think Stanley was one of the First to really take it to a whole other level, because I still remember 2001. Yeah, it's flawless. I mean, you can't even tell that it's reprojection. Like,

Rene Amador 25:09
Exactly. And and actually, that that was our thesis statement, when we were going out and getting initial clients and getting financing and everything like that is we would show Wizard of Oz actually. And if you The Wizard of Oz tornado sequence, everybody can picture this picture, the spatial reality of that tornado, and then to sit down with an investor and tell them look, everything here is rear projection, and look how real that looks. And we can come back to this perfection in compositing. And this is a proven technique for 100 years, that this is something that that we can do in a successful way. And that's really how we got the ball rolling it because I think that was key to our company's success. We didn't come in and say, We're the new kids on the blog, and we've got the new stuff. And these are the toys. No, we did it the opposite. We said, we have such amazing reverence for the traditional cinematic methods. And between, basically between 1990 and now is an aberration where everything's green. And, and we need to get right. That's kind of the way that we were pitching it to be serious, like, between 1990 and two, and 2020. Everything was green for like, 30 years, and it was really blue, then green. Yeah, these blue and then green. And that and and we're going to look back at this moment in history and be like, what the hell were they thinking? That's what they were doing before these types of real time backdrops came on the scene. And they started shooting actual photons again, right? Not not making fake virtual photons to bounce around everywhere. So just kind of thinking about the, from a historical perspective, from a legacy perspective, what would be the next technology that comes around? And that's how really, that we thought of it. And I think that we've been acknowledged in this space as people who, you know, didn't try and come in, and you know, and muscle or weigh in with some new tech, but really have reverence and respect for traditional cinema. And I think that's, that's, that's what we're all about.

Alex Ferrari 27:17
So, the first time I really, you know, when when AR came into my viewpoint, I'd heard about it, but again, because of early, like, even in 20 1520 1617, it was still very early on, and the technology has grown so fast. I mean, it's insane how quickly, the processing power is just, you know, grown, that now you're able to do things like we're doing currently. But the first time I really kind of came into the Zeitgeist was Mandalorian. When I mean the Mandalorian is really put it on the map. And and really it would you agree, like when you saw Mandalorian? It was like, Oh, well, yes.

Rene Amador 27:54
Yeah. So I mean, definitely, we were having conversations. And, you know, technically we did the first one. If with a fliers about a year prior to Mandalorian coming out, it's when we so we were doing our work. But But absolutely, we we had such a big splash with this LED backdrop stuff that when people saw Mandalorian, and they saw what what was happening, they got so excited. I mean, we just had an insane rush of interest from everyone in the industry. Most people honestly thought that we had done it because they didn't realize that a second team was capable of doing it, which is good for us, because we get a lot of calls and everything like that. Sure. But that was massive. And it really puts this type of real time technology on the map. Because you have you know, a guy like john fabro backing this talking about and gushing about it, everything like that, and it makes the that makes the sailing process a little bit easier. And it gets us further along on most on most projects, then that then prior. So it helps a lot. It really made people see like, you know what, I don't need to do a camera test, you know, to see if it's viable anymore. I don't need to see any more footage. Like I know, it's I know it's viable. And now I just need to make sure that I'm working with the right team. So because we're one of the longest serving teams in this space during these LED backdrops, we've benefited a lot from the Mandalorians big surge in interest in the industry.

Alex Ferrari 29:22
Yeah, I mean when I saw some of the behind the scenes of also of of what was it nine flyers, I saw some stuff that you were doing the night fliers and some of the Justice just sitting there watching a camera guy, move the camera and then the background move with it. You know, your mouth drops, you're just like, what but there's also another big benefit to that is the lighting, you're getting real time lighting, which you don't get an A green screen and that is something that you just can't replicate or in post. You know, I'm being a post that it's difficult. It's not difficult. It's nearly impossible to do it. Really well, we're now you have reflections, you have lighting. Like if there's a sun out, the sun is hitting you. If there's night, literally no. Night Lights hitting you at night lights are hitting you.

Rene Amador 30:13
And here's the thing, here's what's funny, you wouldn't know exactly, you wouldn't exactly know those benefits unless you'd actually have to go through the green screen compositing process personally, and go, Oh, wait, this doesn't work, like this thing that should work doesn't isn't working, like I need to recreate this entire lighting scheme and lighting conditions, or change it, you know, and fake it or something like that. And really, until you until you run up to, you know, what I would call like, the dead end of what green screen is capable of, there's a certain point which you can't go any further, you know, without really just, you know, faking everything. It's at that point that you realize, gosh, there's got to be a better way. And you know, myself working as a visual effects compositor for quite some time. I think I think thinking, is this what I'm going to be doing when I'm 65 you know, like, Am I gonna be sitting here keying out green? And Bill suppression? Yeah, yeah. Painting out noise. And in like, is this is this when I'm going to be doing and just just having such so much respect for those artists who in you know, in my opinion, these these artists who do high level feature film and TV work and do this green screen compositing, these are the Vinci level artists that like we as a culture have basically said, like, you know, just just remove the rock from the background. Okay, just

Alex Ferrari 31:40
Right.It's like having, it's like having Leonardo da Vinci like, Look, I know that you can do the Sistine Chapel, but it just, I need that rock killed out that that the wire over there, I need you to get rid of that wire.

Rene Amador 31:52
Yeah, exactly. You're absolutely right. Absolutely. That's exactly how it feels. And, and, and like, and you'll be, you'll be hanging around with these visual effects, some positives, and you know, they'll all be like painters, you know, on their free time, and you know, these guys, they're raising amazing work and stuff. And you're going gosh, okay, is that what we're asking these people to do? and religious hack, just thinking? Something is going to come along, and it's going to be able to do this in an automated way. And what is that? What does that look like in realizing that actually has to happen on set while the camera is rolling, if we can get the company, if we can get a robotic compositor, you know, to, you know, use the wrong term, basically, but make an automated compositor that actually composites the shot, before the shutter opens and closes while you're shooting, then ultimately, that's going to be the right moment. And to in order to complete the composite before it goes into the camera's lens. So that's really how, you know backup that entire process all the way up to set all the way up to set and even actually, before the the frame is exposed. That's, that's how we came up with this. And and that's the was the original conception, it's just for like, from a really basic standpoint, thinking of it that way.

Alex Ferrari 33:12
So our so we see the technologies there. And now you know, use these these giant led by backdrops. And how I mean, what's like, do you use projectors? Do you actually use monitors to do a combination of do is there like stitching of giant 80 or 150 inch monitors? How are you doing it?

Rene Amador 33:32
Sure. So it's a technology that was that most people will be familiar with, for concerts. So you imagine, you know, the big Beyonce concert, she's got those amazing LED screens behind her that a coordinated in motion, you know, motion design, motion graphics, with this with the tracks and songs and her performance and everything. So it's literally those same companies that are deploying the screens. You know, there's a lot of great led rental companies out there that we work with. And the difference is that the the density, the pixel density of the screens is much tighter when you're working for film and TV is because you want to avoid pixelation and Moray, and those types of issues that go along with it. So let's say you know, other concert, you might have a pitch that's like 5.6 millimeter, which is describes the distance between the LED diodes, but on film and TV, you might be increasing that by eight times. So eight times more pixels in the same like square inch, that type of thing. So what you end up with is basically kind of like the difference between SD and HD way back in the day, where you'll be looking from the same distance, but you'll just see it being much smoother. Really, the illusion of curves and everything is maintained. And so like what we've basically been looking at right now is about 1.5 millimeter pitch for these ladies, they are built up like Legos. So you know, you build them one, one row, and then you build this next row, and then you build the next row until it's up to the size that you need. So we genuinely The most common size that we're working at is about 24 by 10 feet, or 24 by 12 feet for a screen. And then the largest that we've done for a commercial production is about 45 feet by 16 feet. And now, buyers, see, that's the whole side the that's the whole side of a soundstage, like an entire side of a soundstage is filled with a virtual world. And then that way you have the flexibility to put the sets and put the actors kind of anywhere in the stage and know that you're going to have that amazing backdrop

Alex Ferrari 35:50
Do you have this do you did you do a ceiling as well, because I remember in Mandalorian, they actually have that that's like a dome almost.

Rene Amador 35:59
So we didn't, we didn't do a ceiling. with LED panels. However, there was a full production lighting grid up there, where they were able to coordinate with the action on the screen, to make sure that the lighting lighting is coordinated. And that was done by hands. I think now, because that was way back in was that 2017 something like that

Alex Ferrari 36:23
Way back who way back? trust me, I wish I was back in 2017. We're in 2020 currently.

Rene Amador 36:34
Oh my gosh. Um, so I think if we were to do it now, it would be there will be some automation, there'll be some DMX controlled lighting, that would coordinate with the with the system. And we might be doing some interesting stuff with that very soon. And, and so that's um, that's definitely the screen sizes that we're working at. We have worked with real projection as well. Barco and Christy make some amazing projectors that I think would be suitable, perfectly suitable for film and TV. So just requires, you know, to be frank, like a better dp, you have to just be a dp that knows how to use reprojection. But you can get some really amazing looks. And one of the benefits is it's, it doesn't have the Moray and pixelation the way that you perceive on LED screens. So it can be really good for some scenarios.

Alex Ferrari 37:23
So so in that would be and then you could actually get a much larger screen with a projector as opposed to LEDs easier, or no,

Rene Amador 37:32
Yeah,so for people that want to get into these types of virtual backdrops in virtual production using led or reprojection reprojection can be a good first step, you can play around on reprojection without too much cost. And but I also recommend just playing around on the TV. Because that can be you can get some really large TVs and get some shots that look really good. And just start learning about the technology. So we actually sell we do sell a product specifically for that is called AR FX home studio. It's made for creators that were stuck at home. So basically for myself. And actually, we originally conceived the product because I would have to do the demos here on my, on my TV. And a lot of filmmakers were like, you know, it's great to have a big led setup. Can I get that the exact thing that you are showing me right now on your TV, that would be amazing just to learn. So we did come out with a with a product specifically for that, if people are interested

Alex Ferrari 38:31
And the cost of that is I mean, you're saying right now the price is around 10 grand if I saw your website correctly, right?

Rene Amador 38:36
Yeah. 9500 is what we're asking for FX comm studio that comes with the workstation itself, as well as all the tracking, you additionally get technical support knowledgebase video tutorials, and you know, get to our expertise to support your projects. It also comes with a launch scene pack of about 100 backdrops. That's really everything that somebody would need to get started in this space. And that's going to connect perfectly to your TV and your existing camera.

Alex Ferrari 39:04
So let's talk about the backdrops because that's the one thing that this all sounds fantastic. But unless you're a guy or a gal who knows how to render out real time, like how is the backdrop I was the creation of the backdrops work, how can you create customs? Can you go out and shoot footage and put it on there? Does that work? How is how explain that process? What like the actual creation of the backdrop?

Rene Amador 39:26
Sure, it's definitely the part of the process that still needs work like is this is not a perfect method, the way that it's been done right now. And basically the way that that method is is you build up the actual geometry of the scene either in Maya or 3d Studio, Max blender, whatever the case may be, then you bring it into Unreal Engine. And at that point, you need to apply real time materials and shaders and that type of stuff, lighting, specific types of lighting materials and shaders to the elements and then at that point You're ready to shoot. And you can use the backdrop. So it's, it's, it's taken visual effects folks a little bit to figure out, Okay, this is how I moved from my traditional postman methodology to pushing everything into pre into a real time engine, which is unreal engine is what we're currently working on, which is one of the top real time graphics engines in existence. It's the definitely the leaders in this space.

Alex Ferrari 40:28
And then this was, this is also kind of pioneered in the video game space.

Rene Amador 40:32
Absolutely. And that's, that's, I think, I think when filmmakers start to look at this real time space, and realize they're kind of dipping their toes in the same waters as video game people, they, they can sometimes get intimidated, because it's a different world, it's a different culture, and everything like that. But I think once they realize this key point, it starts to become a lot easier for them. In in the video game world, this is built off of a world of you know, indie makers, and people who are coming out of the culture of technology and independent technology. So these people believe in sharing quite a bit. So whenever if, for example, whenever a video game company finishes a major project, and it you know, it has success, or it doesn't, or whatever, and they're basically done with those assets, they tend to then take every single one of the assets that they made, and liquidate it onto a marketplace for you. So you can go and buy every single thing from the video game. Or you can buy the Select, you know, most in demand things from that video game. So as a filmmaker, when you come to Unreal Engine, and you go to the Unreal Asset Store, and you go to turbosquid and all these other places where you can begin to get these assets, what you realize is, I'm you know, you're sitting on a legacy of 20 plus years of asset creation, where video game creators have just been making making making put it on the marketplace make make make put on the marketplace, and that's been happening 1000s of artists for decades. So you'll you'll be able to go and get you know, your you know, your Lamborghini, your you know, your forests. That's

Alex Ferrari 42:17
your T Rex. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Rene Amador 42:19
So so a lot of the time what we're doing with a client, when we're when we're, when we're, you know, doing a location scout, which is like a virtual location scout, will actually go through the Unreal Asset Store, and do like, What do you want? And they'll be like, okay, I want an alley. Okay, alley, we type it in, we get, you know, 15 different alleys. And then we're doing basically going through the screenshots going, does this feel right? Does that feel right? And that's actually how we're doing it in the moment. And then when we ask, is that crazy. And then when we actually need to, like lock this specific shot, like on, you know, this is shot, eight is shot, be that type of thing, what we'll end up doing is literally on a zoom chat like this, I'll be going flying through the location. And they'll say, you know what, that looks pretty good. Like, I like that tree right there. That's everything. Okay, so then I'll bookmark it into our system. And then when they show up on set, that's exactly what they saw on that zoom call. And that's genuinely how we're doing these locations, guys. Now, in the middle there, of course, we have amazing technical artists, who were you know, making everything look for the real as much as possible, getting the animation done getting the scripted events, done, effects and that type of stuff. So

Alex Ferrari 43:29
Are you are you bringing in the locations? Are you bringing in these files? Are you just bringing elements in and you're putting it all together? Are you building? Like, are you getting a full blown alley with the garbage cans with the lighting schemes? Like what do you what are you getting? Exactly?

Rene Amador 43:43
You're getting everything. Like, either we're either we're building off of one specific existing SOC asset, which is royalty free, by the way, if they're these are all royalty free, you can use them, you know, you could go and you can make a Disney film with them. And technically, the artists couldn't say anything. It's kind of a weird reality that we live in. So the they come with everything genuinely inside them. Or you can populate them with all sorts of whatever props you want. So there's full flexibility here to create the world that you want to be creative.

Alex Ferrari 44:15
Yeah, I mean, I was I was doing a show for legendary a TV show and I, we were doing so many insane visual effects, like we did 150 visual effects a week for a full blown show was insane. And the only way we could do it is we went to turbosquid. And I'm like, okay, we need a dune worm. Okay, great. Let's go. And then we just and we'd go and find them. And they were all pre built. And then my VFX artists can go because if they would have to create those elements, we never make it. And they're cheap. They're not they're not super, I mean, I'm sure an alley or something a little bit more detailed as expensive, but relatively speaking a lot cheaper than having to create it yourself. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Rene Amador 45:02
Yeah, I mean, if you're just getting like a table and chair or something, you're probably spending like, what less than 30 bucks maybe, right like that, for like a really, really nice one. Yeah, so it's a, it's a really interesting world, once you get into, into fully digital environments, and I think it's the same kind of thing that happens when people jumped from physical sets to green screen, what's happening now is that process of, you're ending up with more finalized assets now, whereas before, you know, you'd have to, you'd have to fit it into the world of your film. Now you can go, you can find pretty much anything of any style, you know, change it up a little bit, change the color or something like that, and you have an asset ready to go for your project. So it's, it's really, it's a really odd time. In media right now, because labor and creativity and artistry have been massive, are getting massively undervalued, because you know, all this stuff is out there for free. But at the same time, as a creator, as a filmmaker, it's almost like, never been a better time. Because you've got all this royalty free assets, you've got the actual capability to utilize those assets in your project with this with our technology and similar technology. So you'd like it's, it's it's really interesting time. And what we're seeing from from filmmakers, is actually we're getting this sentence a lot. Wow, I've always had this concept that I would never have been able to do. And now I'm going to do it. And so we're working on a couple projects right now, are these are projects where the artist, the director, you know, they wanted to do this five years ago, but it was not a it's not a budgetary reality. And now we're able to lower that budgetary threshold for them, so that that vision that they have is actually achievable. And as a filmmaker, you know, when I'm moving the needle on, like, it's, it's great, you know, it's great to make some money. And that's awesome. Right. But when I'm moving the needle on, what can what is actually getting greenlit. That's, that's amazing, and to the creative vision that it's actually getting executed upon that Project Greenlight. I mean, to be able to affect that in a meaningful way. It's very satisfying. And it's I mean, that's what that's what I'm working for.

Alex Ferrari 47:20
So that was another thing I want to talk about the the budgetary benefits of this is massive, because a show like Mandalorian could not be made without this technology, it just be too expensive. It'd be like making a half of a Star Wars film, every episode, which

Rene Amador 47:37
You got him it's like,

Alex Ferrari 47:39
it's impossible

Rene Amador 47:40
wouldn't wouldn't have happened like Mandalorian, plain plain plainly wouldn't have happened. And a lot of people might not realize that there was an actual live action Star Wars film, Star Wars series that was attempted not not to, like maybe

Alex Ferrari 47:54
They had like 70 dead 70 episodes written Mmm, remember, like, Luke Lucas, Lucas had like 70 episodes written that he was he was gonna do it. But he's just he couldn't figure it out

Rene Amador 48:05
They couldn't figure out because at that point, they were using green screen. And so that just the compositing and tracking and getting everything working to bomb with a beautiful animation that they you know, were interested in getting just wouldn't happen. Or, you know, frankly, it didn't happen. And I think that they've been putting the live action Star Wars series concept until they saw this technology was accessible. And I like to say that we were part of actually pushing them over that edge. You know, we did a showcase at Disney for about two days where we showed everyone the viability of this technology, and really push it over the edge. And and, you know, we've been definitely causing some trouble, like when we come out here. And just to be clear, not everyone is a fan of what we're doing. You can imagine whose lunch we're eating, when we're coming out and saying you never have to hire a composite or again, you never have to hire a rotor guy again, you know, that type of thing. So. So yeah, I mean, we got all sorts of pushback from the visual effects folks that, you know, many different studios, but I think when you actually see Wait a second, that we're we're not actually taking money out of someone's pocket, what we're doing is we're greenlighting a project, that would have never happened, writing, getting the beginning the cost of those shots that are appropriate for our technology, way, way down. And you know, for those shots, we're visual effects is still a perfect fit, post visual effects is still a perfect fit, you know, they can continue to have those those those shots, and there's many shots in which our technology will never be suitable, you know, flying an X wing down the trench. And again, having those beautiful exterior shots of the x wing and that type of stuff, you know, there's no way that we're gonna we're going to be relevant to that because there's no, you know, the live action component of that is so minor. So like, there's always going to be a place for visual effects. And the fact is, they should be working on those amazing trends from sequences, they should not be working as separating, you know, actresses blonde hair from green.

Alex Ferrari 50:05
And your absolute. They should be more for the like if you try to do this with Avengers endgame, the final, the final battle, I was trying to think about when I saw this technology I'm like, Okay, how could have this been played out? Because I saw the behind the scenes of the Avengers endgame. And it's just massive green. It's just massive, massive, massive amounts of green. But I'm like, how could this worked in that environment? And maybe you would have they could have probably dropped millions of dollars off of it if they would have structured certain shots within some sort of AR dome of some sort. And but but but this those giant, massive shots, when you've got 50 people running? Maybe you could maybe you couldn't there's still going to be some CG comping in there. But there might be a lot of a lot of time and money saved.

Rene Amador 50:57
Yeah, absolutely. So we actually did a case study on my flyers, we went and got comparison pricing for what if the shots had been achieved through Jasmine green screen visual effects. And what we found was pretty startling, we were looking at anywhere from a 62 to 73% reduction budget for those shots. So meaning meaning while so we were cutting somewhere around 400 grand off of an episode budgets, just by being there and accomplishing these effects in small onset versus them having to capture a green, then send it out to a house to work on for two months. Yeah, come back just to give them the flaring and the beautiful play of light that they're getting free out of the box with our technology. This is physical photons coming out of the screen hitting the actor's face hitting the set the you know, the end eventually bouncing into the lens, as opposed to having to replicate that artificially. I mean, it's just for those filmmakers, those DPS and directors that are looking for that, look, it's just a much, much better choice for them. So that's what we've been seeing, seeing be successful. But it's also to be clear, this is a budgetary concern as well, producers are liking this technology, because it's saving them company moves, it's saving them post production time, there, you know, potentially simplifying their post production down. So if your post supervisor, you know, maybe you're working two months instead of four months, if that's the reality that we're bringing to the table with its technology, you know, it's great to, it's great to talk about, you know, bringing dreams, you know, to fruition and that type of stuff. But if the dollars and cents, don't make sense that don't make sense that it's never going to happen. So at every moment of our of our company, we've always been, you know, mindful of the fact that we're independent filmmakers, and we're budget conscious. I know filmmakers like yourself who are working filmmakers, your budget conscious as well. And it goes all the way up and down the ladder. Nobody Nobody is looking to, to spend more than they have to. So if we can create that narrative that, you know, this is an opportunity for you, instead of having to go chase that tax incentive, which is basically what producers are doing. Like they're just okay, we're going to, you know, save money for 10 G's that tax incentive, go to Bulgaria, you know, or wherever we can, we have to go, instead of doing that, you know, cut 70% of your effects budget using this technology. And it's going to be suitable for you know, 90% plus of the shots that you need. And that's basically the narrative that we've been pitching with that case study that's actually available on our website, if people are interested in going and taking a look, just look for nightflyers case study on the homepage. And then hopefully, you'll see there, like just how disruptive this technology is going to be. And and here's the thing is so disruptive that I think without the pandemic occurring, we still would be having we still would be struggling to get adoption. Now that the pandemic occurred, I you know, I've I've done demos for over 400 filmmakers and executives in the past, you know, six months, virtual demos like me and me in my living room in front of my TV. And just beginning to see those those that interest trickle in for quarter one of 2021. Yeah, it's gonna be an exciting time for virtual production in general.

Alex Ferrari 54:29
And I do believe because of, you know, this is a larger conversation, but I think you guys are definitely an ingredient in it. Because Because the theatrical experience and the theatrical component of the distribution pipeline is pretty much gone. Right now, as we're currently recording this. I'm sure it will come back in one way, shape or form in the future. But I just read an article yesterday that Disney is completely doing a reorganization, and they're completely focusing on streaming. So that means that Marvel movie These and all these big tentpole movies are going to start going straight to streaming. Because they just like this is the future. theatrical is not where it's at. I'm sure it's still gonna have a component of it, of course. But it's not what it was. And it's not it's not I don't think it's going to go back to pre COVID levels, anytime in the near future studios are going to that studios are not going to be able to spend 300 to $500 million on temples anymore, because the return on the investment isn't as as much there because the theatrical international theatrical components aren't nearly as big as before you an Avengers will make 2 billion, you know where? I don't know. Could it make that streaming? I don't I don't I don't know. You know what I pay 30 bucks opening day to see endgame probably. And I believe there's probably at least 40 or 50 million people in the world, they probably would. And that's a pretty good that's $1.5 billion.

Rene Amador 55:59
Yeah, I think it's it's it's such a weird time, because actually what's happening is now the the the established streamers, Amazon Netflix, these guys are actually having conversations with the theater owners to see like, could we could we fill this gap that the major studios are no longer filling? Is it just not generating the and releasing the content? They just, you know, basically, the metrics don't make sense, right? They made these projects for a pre COVID world, and they have to release it in a post COVID world. And it's just that those, those metrics are just never going to line up. So what and what's happening with the streamers is they were kind of thinking more of the of those metrics, making sense for them, their business model that they have just fit a little bit better. And they have the flexibility to go out and do a quote unquote, a minor theatrical release, just to drum up some, some publicity for the project. So I think the way that it's trickling down to effects vendors and technology vendors working in entertainment, like us, is no one, the number of people that are looking for a budget conscious solution has spiked, like we're getting Paramount, you know, looking for a budget concert solution, Disney looking for budget conscious solution. And that's just not where you were before. In fact, it was the opposite. If you went above a certain level in quote, unquote, you know, industry, notoriety, industry status, you basically don't play with anyone below a certain level of practice, because you're trying to keep that, you know, the quality high, you're trying to keep the entire, you know, social stratum, high,

Alex Ferrari 57:44
Right,

Rene Amador 57:44
like, so it's it's definitely changed. And the other thing that's changed is, you have a lot of people who are smart, who have been poised and waiting for a moment like this, now attacking and they're now you know, they see the established players all, you know, tripping and falling and stumbling, and they're going Wait a second, this is my opportunity to have a conversation with that studio executive, to have a conversation with that filmmaker, to have a conversation with that talent agent that I wouldn't have been able to have prior. And a lot of the people who are being successful now are people who have experience in effects in virtual production, and then also in working at smaller budgets. So they're willing to have the conversation with us, you know, on behalf of these major studios, in a way that we wouldn't necessarily have had before. And that's been super interesting. Because, you know, these are major filmmakers who want to have these conversations, we're looking to become the virtual production guy at the studio. And that's an exciting thing to be hearing from filmmakers.

Alex Ferrari 58:52
So with your with your AR FX home studio product, can independent filmmakers use this technology in their projects, if you have a 200 or $300,000 movie budget, and you know, it's not a sci fi extravaganza, it doesn't have to be. But if you have an action film, or if you you know, just want to create a little bit more scope in the back in the backdrop of shots, to give more production value to your to your as opposed to flying to Montana for the for that sunset. You can have the Montana endless sunset for 12 hours. Like you've got it. Yeah, so it can be you can they do it and what does it take to get that to work for them?

Rene Amador 59:37
Yeah, so the way that we're pitching errific some studio is that this is the method to learn about this new virtual production technique. However, you know, creators being creators and filmmakers being filmmakers, immediately people are saying, You know what, I could hook this up to a rear projection system I could hook this up to an LED system and actually be able to shoot stuff and get some shots out of the box, like completely compositing and ready to go looking great, just with this air effects home studio box, you know, some lighting and my camera and everything like that. I think that's that's obviously the what we want people to think because at the end of the day, there is nothing special about you know, going out to a TV that's 4k resolution. And going out to a reprojection system that's 4k resolution. From the perspective of the actual system, there is no difference, it's just pushing out resolution, right, just pushing out pixels. And doing that, you know, at a high frame rate that's going to be suitable for the for the scammer their production. So, from the perspective of the system, there is no difference. What we're saying basically is for Airfix home studio, it's the It comes with backdrops, which are preset for your preset backdrops stock environments. So that if you want that for if that temple, that apartment, that office, whatever, that's going to go ahead and come in those same packs for you. But if you want custom content, or you want to have deeper technical tech rehearsal tools, then our air effects professional system, this first system that we came out with, which is what we license out to major studios and that type of stuff, that's still going to be the better choice before for for those professionals,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:25
and what is the cost of those.

Rene Amador 1:01:28
If you're interested in knowing about the cost of Airfix, professionally, you can reach out to us it's actually we have different pricing depending on different types of you know, it's a sliding scale, depending on the project and everything like that. The other reason I mentioned that is because we do actually have bundled packages, with stages located here in LA. So we have partnered with stages here in LA that have the LED screens or have suitable setups. And you can actually get entire bundle packages by coming to us and those and using those stages. So that's what we've been working on during the pandemic's just taking the opportunity to go like, you know, what the stages are having issues getting people in, one way that we can attract those people is having a more COVID safe, you know, social distancing safe solution. So that's what that's what we've done. And we're very hopeful that people are going to find those valuable and attractive

Alex Ferrari 1:02:24
Now. And finally, are we just getting closer and closer to the Star Trek's holodeck. I mean, essentially, is this is this is essentially where we're going.

Rene Amador 1:02:33
It's funny, it's funny, you say that, because one of the first things that happened when we got big studio heads coming in, is the studio head would say, you know, it's great that you can track the camera, that's awesome. When is it going to track me? When is it going to track my head, you know, me as an individual. And I can actually get these illusions for you know, walking around a room. So we actually developed that we built that. And we released it at CES just earlier this year, beginning of the year prior to the pandemic. And we won Best AR experience for that product is called AR wall interactive, very creative name as you can, as you can see. And basically what it is, is it uses depth cameras to establish a track of your head position. So it's tracking this point, right in the bridge of your nose between your eyes. And then it's delivering the same window illusion that we're delivering to our camera, delivering it to you as an individual. So you walk into a room with, you know, three walls of this experience, which is some of the conversations that we're having right now. And you'll you know, you'll be in another world. And as you move this way, that way, is the perspective is going to shift perfectly to your vantage point. And we're actually getting that down to the point where it's no longer perceivable, that delay is no longer perceivable by the human eye. So we're talking about something that feels stuck to your head and you move around, and it feel stuck to your head every every little centimeter that you move. The other interesting thing about that is, since we can track your head, we can actually track your entire body, your hands, your eyes, everything. So we can create situations where based on your body position, your pose, or the actions that you take, the system can respond to you. So what am I talking about? characters that look directly into your eyes, because remember, we know the position of your head, we look directly into your eyes, we talk to you, we respond to your voice. And then we actually respond to your gestures. So if you point and you know, say it's over there, and point over there, the CG character can look at where you're pointing and react realistically using either a chatbot system or AI or something like that. So that's the type of really crazy stuff that we're working in. And I'll be frank, I would love to say that, you know, we're definitely one of the companies that down the line. The patents that we filed, the work that we've been doing with brands and with venues, hopefully will someday lead to a holodeck type. device, not necessarily saying that we're going to be the company to do it, I still do think it's a little bit down the line, maybe by the end of my life, we may have something like 50 years, something, maybe something like that. But I do definitely think that between now and then we're going to have these very interesting experiences, like from the perspective of somebody who, you know, wasn't born with these types of technology being around, it is going to seem and feel like a holiday type of experience. And, and just to be clear, those are conversations we're having right now about, like, let's deploy that first quarter of 2021. Let's make that happen. And I and I think that pandemic also helps push that conversation along, because people can't get out, and they can't have these experiences. And particularly when you think about training and education, these are situations where, you know, you can't stop training people just because it's cumbersome and difficult, right. But people still need to be trained up. So that's, that's what we're seeing kind of the first interest coming from that from that space. So I know it's it's, it's, it's something that may seem distant in science fiction, but that those conversations are happening now creating those immersive rooms, or that's how those conversations are happening.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:13
The funny thing is that as you're saying this, I'm like in 50 years, this will look like SD this will look like a silent movie technology comparatively to what the holodeck is, but it's not that far, like, you know, we're not that far, it's a stone's throw. It's a it's a big stone throw away, but it is still something that's not completely astronomical to in my lifetime, to see a holodeck where, where you're interacting with photo real computer generated images that look literally as part as crystal clear as a human being standing right next to you. Can you imagine the kind of filmmaking that will be? Can you imagine where like kids will be in their in their garages with holodecks shooting the next? Avengers endgame will look like an indie film.

Rene Amador 1:07:06
Exactly. And like, you can imagine a world where you put up the holodeck, like wallpaper, right? You put up the street, the screen like wallpaper, you just like gaining it on? Yeah, rolling it on and that type of thing. And then it all self coordinates, you know, those? Okay, this is, you know, what position I am in the world and everything like that. Like, it's not that difficult to imagine it like I think the technology exists right now. What doesn't exist right now is the will and the actual use case that would demand that investment to get there. Right. That's, that's what we're working on. And we're trying to find those partners, and its folks in location based entertainment. It's folks in training and education. It's also folks in the defense industry, we're having some conversation,

Alex Ferrari 1:07:50
I can imagine.

Rene Amador 1:07:52
So So there's all sorts of use cases for that. But you know, until we find that perfect one, it's it's it's not going to happen. So that that's that's what our job is as a company and as a business right, to talk to have conversations with these decision makers and go, what is actually going to get the money to flow and what is what are the requirements that we can hit that we can hit Now to begin to get that money to flow and actually make investment happen. So that's, that's really my work as a CEO is helping folks see that I've been successful in doing that in filmmaking. Now with this technology, with erawan Interactive, going out with filmmaking out of media out into the rest of the world, and having very interesting conversations, where they're, you know, they're aware of Mandalorian. They're aware of the work that's been happening, because this is something that broke out, even just of the entertainment community. So we're having conversations where that amazing work that has been done in film and TV is actually moving the ball in other industries, because they're like, you know, what john fabro did, maybe have a word for our thing, too. It's a it's a really weird time.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:01
And I think the pandemic has supercharged all of this. I mean, this is all something that would have happened eventually, like we would have all eventually gone to more streaming than theatrical, the writing was on the wall. All this technology would still be moving forward. I think it just sped it up probably a few years in timeframe where it would have been so it is it is what it is in regards to what we're dealing with with the pandemic, but there is some benefits. Because people are like, zoom. Like Now, everybody. I don't know if you've been driving around la traffic's fantastic. Like this is this is like it's the this is a wonderful place to live now. Like all of a sudden, like I drove to Santa Monica last weekend. It took me 35 minutes. Oh, yeah. I live in the valley. That's an hour and a half normally. Exactly.

Rene Amador 1:09:49
Exactly. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:50
Everyone's working at home.

Rene Amador 1:09:52
Exactly. We're almost back to the clueless days where, you know, I think the famous life and clueless is everywhere in LA is 20 minutes away. Yeah, we're almost there. We're getting under 40. Yeah. 40 minutes. We're gonna get there some time. Yeah, I agree with you.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:08
So I'm really appreciate you being on the show. Man, I want to ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today? Besides obviously buying an AR wall? FX studio, home studio?

Rene Amador 1:10:20
Air effects home studio? No, I think I mean, I think my real answer probably tracks with that pretty well, which is, you know, I think I think anybody can see that the media and entertainment industry is undergoing a transition right now. And you don't want to be on the wrong side of that transition, you don't want to be have the mentality of you know, I'm going to need making half billion dollar movies, and we're going to be putting out in theaters. And everybody, you know, we're going to put money in our ears. And, you know, man, you know, that's that. And that's what filmmaking is going to be. I think it's shifted. And I think that a successful filmmaker now is somebody who understands their audience, understands who's coming to their films, listens to those people, and doesn't listen to anybody else. Because that's, that's the reality, right now, in order to be a successful creator, you've got to be selective about who you're listening to. I think that's the big one, right now. You know, a project that is that is successful is going to work on Hulu isn't necessarily going to be successful and work on this new class. And that's just a weird reality that we live in, right now that these are siloed audiences happening. So I think the idea of mainstream filmmaking as a whole has fundamentally collapsed and changed. I don't think that when we think of a mainstream film, we're probably thinking of that, you know, Avengers, endgame or that type of thing. And I think moving forward, it's going to be a different type of film that we're probably thinking about. And to be frank, it's probably not even going to be a film, it's probably going to be a TV show, or a TV series or limited series, or something like that. raised by wolves, I think is a really good example. I don't know if you've been watching that,

Alex Ferrari 1:12:05
I haven't seen it, but it's on my list. Yeah, with Ridley Scott,

Rene Amador 1:12:08
That's a really good example. Because it's, it's, it's a post Ridley Scott film, you know, it's, it's pitched as a Ridley Scott universe, but in reality, you know, it's a TV show, and really, Scott's projects are films, traditionally. So it's a, in my opinion, it's somebody who looked at the model that really Scott head has mastered and has really, you know, gone out of his way to nail and then taking that and transplanting that into this, you know, post transition world that we live in. And that's, I think, a good project for people to think about moving forward, how it takes a traditional, familiar symbology story structure, and just does it in a different way. And I think that's what successful filmmaking is going to be like, in the future. And so technology is a big component of that, you know, virtual production, I don't think it's going to go away anytime soon. So in this in the same way that you know, you and I were, you know, I think saw success in moving into digital video, as a as a as a creative tool for us as a crucial creative tool for us. And nonlinear editing as well. I think that same virtual production is going to be that same tool of empowerment for filmmakers who are coming up right now. Like if you're if you graduate, if you just graduated from film school, and you want to get a job in Hollywood, go and make a project on Unreal Engine, go make a little one minute thing on Unreal Engine, comm then email me, I will freakin hire you. Because there's so few people that have both filmmaking experience and Unreal Engine experience. It's just not something that people are looking at right now. And I think that those for those who do, it's going to be very successful.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:57
And what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Rene Amador 1:14:08
This is this is something this is something definitely something that took me a long time to learn. I was born and raised in Silicon Valley. And we, you know, we're a bunch of tech heads in Silicon Valley, where, you know, we all think that we're smarter than everyone else, basically, is what is, you know, the nice way to say it, and, and I think, coming out of that culture, coming to LA and and really dealing with people in a wide span of industries, you see just how empowering technology is to people, but also how intimidating it can be to people. So I think the one I would I would the thing that took me the longest to learn is you have to be patient and you have to be forgiving for people's familiarity and knowledge with technology. And you if you can be that person that takes a difficult technological process and task, and makes that easy for someone to understand or use or analyze or whatever, that's a friend and a partner and a collaborator that you're going to have for a long time. But if you're the type of person that goes, they don't get the tech, screw him, you know, they're dumb, they're stupid, they're adult, they're, you know, old fashioned, they don't get it, then all of a sudden, you become part of the problem because that person sees you as an obstacle or something. So that that's the thing that took me the longest to learn. being good at technology and being a master at your tools is a way for you to bring people up. It's a way for you to bring people it's not a division between you and the other person is that it's not, we're over here, we know tech, and we know everything and you guys don't, because at the end of the day, no, the reason that that person hasn't learned the tech is because they've been busting their ass, mastering some other part of the creative process, some other part of the of the business process. And they're masters at that, and your master at this and their master at that. And together, you can make some magic and you can make something happen that never would have been possible before. That's how I created this company, ar wall. This is a multidisciplinary, multifaceted company. Not everyone in the company is a full tech head, some people are more creative. Some people are artists, some people are their business people. And being able to get all these people in the room, talking to each other respectfully, and coming up with solutions that are going to be helpful to the entire industry is so amazing. It's such an amazing experience to have, I wish I would have done it at every prior company that I found that I founded three companies prior to this, and I definitely didn't think that way. I you know, I wanted it to be, you know, birds of a feather altogether. Sure. And and it just doesn't work that way. You need people who think differently from Yeah, and I think that's the thing that took me the longest to learn.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:02
And finally, what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Rene Amador 1:17:06
Okay, three favorite films. So vertigo and shining, the shining are usually at the top. vertigo for me is just that it's the quintessential film, just the the analysis of subjectivity. And so just the delusion of trying to recreate a moment from the past. That's exactly what cinema is all about. And in the shining, it's just a terrifying film. It's it's one of those. It's one of those films that really got me because I, I first saw it, I was about the same age as Danny. So it's just like, like I said, My dad was really at the cinema and he was watching stuff I probably shouldn't have been watching at a young age. They the shiny for sure. And then I guess for the third one, I got to put Dune in there, just because it did it did was the catalyst for for me going into film and just just surged my imagination as a kid, just thinking about that universe and what was possible in filmmaking. So I'm like, obviously really looking forward to coming out

Alex Ferrari 1:18:10
in 2025. Now apparently, they're pushing it back.

Rene Amador 1:18:13
I did have a mini heart attack when that got delayed a full year. But yeah, I'm really looking forward. I'm really, really looking forward to that project.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:21
And that and that's a perfect example. You said something so interesting earlier you said like this was a movie made pre COVID trying to release in post COVID and the numbers don't make sense. That's why james bond is having such a difficult time. That's why the Wonder Woman and and Black Widow and all these movies that were made prior, they just don't this this business model doesn't make sense. And the studio's have no idea what to do. So I get it, I get they're gonna hold it like, Look, we'll just put it on the shelf for a year and see what happens. I get it. It sucks. I'm like, I want to see all these movies. It sucks. I want to fit now. Want to know, don't you know somebody who could get a quick screen or somewhere? Don't you know people?

Rene Amador 1:19:01
Yeah, I mean, they they probably got that because of that under guard. You know? Oh, you're the vault. No, no way. anyone's gonna get their hands on that. If they did. Could you imagine? I mean, just just like, just like, crumbling.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:16
Remember when Wolverine The Wolverine got released early, like a week early? Oh, God. brutal. It was brutal. And where can people find you and the good work you're doing over at AR AR wall?

Rene Amador 1:19:28
Yeah, so if you're interested in reaching out to us, you can email us at [email protected] or you can go to our website that's arwall.co and on our website you can find more information about the products that we sell as well as air effects from Studio our newest product, which was released during the pandemic for creators out

Alex Ferrari 1:19:51
Rene man. Thank you so much. This has been an epic conversation. I just wanted to keep asking you questions and questions because I'm fascinated by this new technology and I do think it is going to be The future is a very big component of the future of filmmaking, especially post COVID. So I truly appreciate you for coming on the show and continue doing the good work you're doing over at a AR wall man. Thank you so much.

Rene Amador 1:20:12
Thank you so much for having me, Alex. I really appreciate it.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:16
I want to thank Rene for coming on the show and dropping those virtual production knowledge bombs on the tribe today. Thank you again so much, guys, if you want to get access to anything we spoke about in this episode, including links to AR wall AR walls, home studio, and my recent article on virtual production, just head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/414. And guys, you know that Black Friday and Cyber Monday is coming up. And I have a lot of stuff that I'm going to be offering the tribe during November and December. We've got new courses at ifH Academy. We got special deals coming all over the place for a lot of different educational products and some other stuff as well. So keep an eye out for that. Thank you so much for listening, guys. As always, keep that also going. Keep that dream alive. Stay safe out there, and I'll talk to you soon.

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