Brooks Elms has written more than 25 scripts over the term of his career for companies like Gold Circle Films, Base FX, and Broken Road.
We connected through a mutual friend and I couldn’t wait to have him on the Bulletproof Screenwriting podcast.
Elms is a member of the Writers Guild Of America and a part-time screenwriting instructor at UCLA Extension where he’s shared his filmmaking and plot structuring skills with his students since 2016 through two classes he currently teaches; Story Analysis for Film & TV, and Story Development.
You may have seen films and television series he’s directed such as The Ultimate Fighter, Snapshots from a .500 Season, Montauk Highway, Drew, Trip and Zoey and So Happy Together.
Elms have consulted with all levels of creatives across Hollywood, including studio directors, rewrites for the Oscar-winning writer while also writing and directing his own indie feature films.
In his free time, Elms loves to coach other writers who have a burning ambition to deeply serve their audiences. We both should be working on a project of mine in the near future, so stay tuned.
I’m always down for a good screenwriting 101 conversation and my interview with Brooks will not disappoint.
Enjoy my conversation on how to become a professional screenwriter with Brooke Elms.
Alex Ferrari 0:11
I like to welcome the show Brooks alums How you doin Brooks?
Brooks Elms 0:14
I'm great. I'm excited to be here.
Alex Ferrari 0:16
Thank you so much for being on the show, man. I truly appreciate it. You reached out to me a little while ago. I think you heard me that I was gonna write a screenplay. And you're like hey if you need any help man, I'll coach you through it I'll do that honestly and I appreciate that by the way thank you so much. I don't even know when I'm going to start writing this thing but but I'll I'll let you know
Brooks Elms 0:39
One of the many things that interests me about you because I you got on my radar like like maybe 10 years ago through a mutual friend Scott who did this podcast film trooper
Alex Ferrari 0:51
Of course and Scott yeah a friend of the show yeah
Brooks Elms 0:55
yeah he's awesome and it was funny because he kept going oh yeah there's this guy Alex Ferrari like who is this guy was like all jealous like who is this guy? Who is this man this guy's bringing it you know and so I I've watched how like you always help an indie filmmakers and then it's just kind of snowballs on now you're like the Amazon of helping indie filmmakers. It's amazing. That's
Alex Ferrari 1:16
awesome. I might steal that the Amazon of helping filmmakers.
Brooks Elms 1:21
You're welcome you're welcome to it I actually you can you can use that when I came up with the the tagline for the blacklist calm. Where Where? screenwriters meet filmmakers. There's something like that. They sent out their beta. And it had some terrible you know, line. I was like, This is awful here. You should do something like this. Blah, blah, blah. And they go Oh, that's great. We're awesome. I do marketing stuff too. So it comes comes naturally.
Alex Ferrari 1:47
So how did you start in the businessman?
Brooks Elms 1:50
Oh, man, I started making movies my friends back in high school. And it was just so much fun. I I got started. I was 15 years old. And my friends came up and said, Hey, we're making a kung fu movie you want it you want to do and I was like, Oh, hell yeah, that sounds great. So we made that movie and and then we have another one another we showed our friends. They were laughing their asses off. And I was like, Oh, my guy was so completely and utterly hooked and bite. And that was in high school. And I probably made 50 short film experiments before I even got to NYU film school. Because it was just it was intoxicating. And I loved it. You know, you know how that is? So
Alex Ferrari 2:27
the disease the diseases, I call it the disease? Yes. You get bitten by the bug and you can't get rid of it. It's it's with you for life. It
Brooks Elms 2:35
is it is yeah, consumers are recovering independent filmmaker.
Alex Ferrari 2:40
I'm a recovering independent filmmaker. is always Yeah, we're always constantly recovering. And then and then we and then of course, of course we fall off the wagon. Because we because we go and see you know we watch a Kubrick film or we watch a Nolan film you're like oh my god I gotta go back into God I got it I gotta make another movie. It's it's the we're we're very weird creatures. filmmakers and screenwriters. There's very strange in the world of all creatives, because it's just such a I don't think there's many other forms screenwriters are different but filmmakers need a team need to gather the troops need to get the parties together to put the tent up the pit put on the show. It is unlike any other art form not a writer not a painter even a musician could do something alone if they want to they could be a singer songwriter and do their own thing for us it's it's just weird we got to convince other people to jump on Crazy Train with us as an independent
Brooks Elms 3:42
there there was a moment So after I graduated NYU film school that summer I made my first feature and I was it was was about this based loosely on on the I play them mlu soccer team and the movie was about how our team was like perfectly average they were a great team there were a terrible team we were really good at drinking after games right? So I made this movie that was okay about about the soccer team and I was a four or five days into the shoot and we were doing the soccer sequences so there was like 3040 people on set. I'm 22 years old don't really know what the hell I'm doing but it went around I looked around I was like, oh my god this is the best thing ever. But it was it just and that's that it's just I guess it's like you know that love for movies. And then the love for creation kind of come together when you're directing.
Alex Ferrari 4:32
Yeah, when you're on set I love being on set set is one of the favorite places to be and we get to do it so rarely. You know unless you're Ridley Scott who's working 24 seven every day and he's on set every week. It's it's a tough it's it's tough because as an artist, you only get to actually do your art handful of times really unless you're doing commercials or, or doing something else but like as a feature director. If you're lucky once a year, and In a retina insanity if not you're working every couple years if you're lucky as getting a project off the ground getting the financing it's a weird art form and then you're depressed every the rest of the time. And is it like you when when we when you go off set, and it's the last day of shoot, I'm like depressed? Like I go into the post so it gives me something to look forward to. But when on on the day of like this family, these carnies are my family I've been with for a few weeks now. And it's like this whole, it's just, it's such weird creatures.
Brooks Elms 5:34
It's intense. It's absolutely intense, because it's just it's such a hurricane of intention, and hope and dedication and awesomeness. And then it just goes, Oh, there's a void when it's done.
Alex Ferrari 5:46
Oh, and it's and then and then after post, it's worse. Yeah, now you're just like, Oh, I got I got nothing to do now except, like hope the distributor is gonna send me a check.
Brooks Elms 5:59
I actually love the marketing. So I even saw that film that I made when I was 22. When we finally finished it, I took it on like a college tour on the east coast. So much fun. I did that I like we showed it cuz it was a college movie. But we showed it. I showed a bunch of different colleges on the east coast. And we did like a month long screening event in in an off off Broadway space in New York that I called the New York City gorilla cinema. So I'm from the jump I've always loved the marketing promotion side as much as I love the the creation side
Alex Ferrari 6:29
as I do, as you know, as I love, I love the marketing promotion side it gets me jazzed up big time. Now you work with a lot of screenwriters. And you know you consult and you coach and you help screenwriters break through their own crap. As we all have our own walls we have to grow through Why do you think screen Why do most screenplays fail? In your opinion?
Brooks Elms 6:53
Because they Well, a we have to define how they fail right there's there's failing for story my own Yeah, story well, ultimately like if I mean it, because it's part let's take off the subjectivity right? Because what might be a failure for me might be my favorite or vice versa right so let's take that apart so let's say it's not even by the by the writers own standards it actually didn't hit the mark generally you're talking about its hero goal conflict the the hero probably wasn't as defined as it could be the goal probably wasn't as compelling as it could be. In the stakes, the conflict was it wasn't quite right.
Alex Ferrari 7:31
Now do you when you start writing do you write with starting with character with plot?
Brooks Elms 7:39
Neither I start with concept basically,
Alex Ferrari 7:43
concept. So concept would be more plot esque, I guess, kind of,
Brooks Elms 7:48
if I had a theme. If I had to squeeze one, I don't know I think concept kind of bridges them both right as a great concept, we'll have people kind of you can say in a sentence, and it'll sort of crack open people's mind, they'll go Oh, hey, that sounds like I get I get a lot of the stuff that's happening there. And it's really compelling. Oftentimes, there's a bit of an irony in there that helps you sort of unlock that sort of magic and you can do great work especially if you're a good director or you have a good director do your stuff with a sort of not a great concept right? But like when you start with a great concept everything else gets easier because of that quality of the foundation
Alex Ferrari 8:28
So talk to me about theme because I think that's also another where another place where a lot of screenplays and stories fail if they have no no no compass and the theme is that compass and they just they you see it all the time you watch some of these movies and you're just like there's no theme here there's there's just like Oh look there's a bunch of people fighting or there's a bunch of action or scares but like when you look when you study like a horror movie specifically, you study a Halloween you study you know Exorcist the storytelling is so solid that the scares are just bonus as opposed to films that just focus on the scares and not the thing and there's that theme underneath it that really is the backbone What can you tell me about that?
Brooks Elms 9:14
Yeah, that's it's interesting question so theme is tricky because it's it's a gravitational center point. And yet it's kind of ephemeral. If we kind of hold it too hard it kind of slips through our fingers and it's fine it gets more confusing right? One helpful way that feels kind of concrete with you because you can be theme is like, you know, crime pays or crime doesn't pay or or love conquers all, or we will talk about Shawshank at some sometime we hope versus despair, right? So, but like, a very sort of grounded concrete way of thinking about it is really sort of your character's misbehavior. And then their behavior. So they start out here with some sort of obstacle and problem and they're doing it the wrong way, right. And this is an expression have our own life like we've had, we all have life challenges. And when we're in no more human side of ourselves, we're not meeting our challenge and well, we're running away from something we're cowardly. We're, we're gluttonous, or we're doing something some sort of misbehavior. And, and our screenplays are a metaphor for this real thing going on in us if they're really great. It's some sort of metaphor for something we did. And we did it kind of the wrong way. And the script is about how we learn to do it the right way through painful trial and error. Your theme is a is a word that kind of speaks to that transformation. So in particular, with your idea of shooting for the mob, right? We were talking, I was watching your awesome Episode 501. RV, and I was, and I was listening to it, it was like I was interesting. So if, cuz my understanding of where you're at is, it's like you've written the book, and you know, and at some point, you want to do it, and maybe you have some great tours and might be helpful, but you're kind of like, I'm not sure kind of where to start my, to my mind, cuz that's sort of like my specialties I help I take, I take a writer, and I clarify their superpower. And I walk with them step by step on how to completely powerfully realize it. And what's exciting to me about, at least where you are with your stories, your theme is always is already so light and clear. It's like it's about uh, you know, and I haven't read the book, I'm just basically on the concept. It's about an independent filmmaker that that is so you know, urgent to make his movie that he ends up doing it the wrong way getting that with the wrong people and then realizing he can't do that, right. So that it to me thematically, you're in a really good place. And a lot of times, especially independent filmmakers, they don't have a theme that's so clean and simple. So to my mind, structuring your story, even again, having read the book, I'm sure it's probably pretty good cuz I know you and I, you know, I know what you're doing. But like, just based on a conceptual thing, what's going to make a good film, I can already see potential for how you could structure that thematically and really powerfully, just because your theme is so good.
Alex Ferrari 12:01
Well, I appreciate that. That for me is a tough conversation, just because it's, it's such a, it took me so long to get the courage to just even write the book, and the emotions that were attached to that story. And you know, it was real life. And I literally, you know, was crying through some chapters as I wrote it, because I was like, going back to the darkest times of my life. But I felt that I needed to get out there to help other filmmakers and other not only filmmakers, anybody in a tough situation that they can't they think they can't get out of, but they can. But for me, it's just tough to even think about starting to write it again, going back to that place mentally. Going back to that, that world, I don't mind directing it. And that's actually what I had to prove. It's a precondition of anybody who wants to make the movie with me, is that I have to have, I have to direct and my dp has to be the DP because he was Boris in the movie. And that was in the book. And that's it. Those are the only two. That's it, that's all I need. But I don't know, I think I might be too close to it. But I will I have to, I'll figure that out. Next year, when I begin that process,
Brooks Elms 13:05
I can help you out offline this really quickly in terms of how to, because this is the stuff I started doing. First I like I want a screenplay award at NYU doing this very personal senior thesis film, right. And it was about how I, the previous summer, I brought my girlfriend home to my hometown, and like she and my best friend didn't get along. So it was a very personal film about my best friend, I had to choose between my best friend or my girlfriend, right. And it was very wrong, because it just happened. And then and then the first feature I made was about my friends on the soccer team and how I was frustrated with the coach and blah, blah, blah, so and then when I broke through to the next level and started really selling scripts, I was able to take my superpower as a guy that could write grounded characters and tension, and then put it into a genre that was just more accessible. Because again, I wrote this alien invasion movie that was very gritty and grounded, and it felt like felt like a shooter event or a terrorist attack. But it just kept unfolding from there into being this alien invasion. And it did it did really well. So anyway, so and I work with writers who are working with all sorts of deep personal issues. So one of my specialties is figuring out how to because we have to come in from the personal places exactly what's going to make that movie really great, Alex, and yet you're right, if you're too close to it, it just triggers too much stuff because you lived it. And you wrote about it already. And it's
Alex Ferrari 14:23
and it's tough to make a move because a book is one thing but to make a movie, it has to change, his characters are going to be added storylines, and plots are going to be added that that have to be there to make it into a movie or else and that's the thing that it's hard for me to even comprehend. I'm like, well, that's not the way it happened. And even even if I even if I don't, even if on a conscious level, I say no, no, I'm gonna let that go. On a subconscious level. It's going to it's going to read or it's going to rear its ugly head. So it's your stuff,
Brooks Elms 14:53
and he will hear it and here's how I would advise you or somebody in that situation, right? Because it happens a lot. The key is that unlocking is thinking of it as the same but different of something else. So for example, the last script that I sold, it's a father and son story and I basically ripped off the the form of Kramer versus Kramer right. So Kramer vs. Kramer Dustin Hoffman in 1980 is a workaholic, add man, last guy that is actually a good father, Meryl Streep, having a nervous breakdown takes off and goes, you gotta you got to watch our kid. He's like, what? He has to learn painfully how to be a dad. And then at midpoint, she's like, okay, I've had my breakdown, I want to come back and take custody goes, whoa, whoa, whoa. Now I like being a dad. So then it's them fighting, right? So I took that basic pattern, right? And I swapped out everything, all the characters all the same. And I wrote this script, called the art of the knockout that's going into production next year. And it's about this Bare Knuckle brawler that travels around the circus in the 1920s. he fathered this kid eight years ago that didn't even know about that kid's mom dies, and they stick him into the last guy that should be a dad, his bare knuckle brawler is stuck watching this kid, he hates it and tries to get rid of the kid is awful. And then slowly learns to actually really love being a father. And that has to fight to keep them at the end, right? So it's the same but different. And when that got set up, and I was getting notes, nother notes on the structure, structured, perfect, the only notes were they had a couple ideas on how to raise the stakes and this and that. So my invitation to you, or anybody like you that has something based on personal experience, see if it helps, it'll help you to vote and to sort of differentiate it from what actually happened and thinking that as a movie. And if once you think of it as a movie, oh, it doesn't have to be the same genre, oh, it's kind of like such and such, or this or that. And then what you think of as that, and then you use what actually happened in the book about as a buffet of elements to serve the vehicle of the story. Now you're just making it more accessible, that you might not want to do all that stuff, is independent filmmaking, we can do whatever the hell we want, right? So. So you got to do it the way you want. Most importantly, and if you want to lean into what Hollywood does best in terms of concept and structure, that would be my invitation, find a form of a story that you can kind of use you because you don't, because here's the other thing that happens, Alex, I kind of I liken it to people that put like a triangle wheel on a car, right? really creative, but that car's not going to go anywhere, because it's not gonna run. So what I say is, don't be creative, round wheels, big wheels, small wheels, fine, but round wheels. And then once we know it goes, then get creative. And so for me, for you, I think the most accessible and powerful version of what actually happened and sort of vision would probably be something like that, pick up a movie that you love, and then has an it around wheels from that, and then swap it out and make it completely personal to you. And to me, that's a way of being completely 100% authentic to the to that theme and the feelings because that's what we really care about. But the actual move that story that comes out, you know, is some things exactly what happened and some things that are just there to serve the new truth of your metaphor. That makes sense.
Alex Ferrari 18:15
Yeah, it makes it it makes all the sense in the world. I just had something that was really interesting. And I think it's a lesson that we can can we pass on to the listeners is the Utah Kramer vs. Kramer structure and swapped it out. There's so many screenwriters, working screenwriters, who do that all the time, that they'll take a movie their favorite movie, and they'll swap out the theme, they'll struggle, they'll swap out the conference, they swap out everything characters, it's not like they're stealing anything. Sometimes, sometimes it isn't, I'm going to give you an example of what it was. But, but but, but you can use that structure because the hard work has been laid out. It's kind of like already having a blueprint, and you're putting up new walls, you're dressing it differently, you putting new finishes on, but it's the structure that's been sound and it works already. And it's been proven to work. And that's something that a lot of lot of stress if you especially and again, it's also a good starting point to if you start looking at a movie and you break down there scenes, and you're like okay, I'm gonna replace this scene with this scene and this scene with this scene and I'm just gonna literally copy the the blueprint of that, that's a good starting point to get the juices flowing. And it could shift a bit as you go, it's not going to be exact, but the basic foundation is is is the is the same. And I found that to be really, really valuable. I always look at movies like What movie do I want this to be like it doesn't have to be same genre could be completely different. Perfect example of a movie that we all know that started one of the biggest franchises in the world. Point Break, Point Break. Wonderful film. Love it. One of the best action movies of the 90s Keanu Reeves and all of his glory pastor Patrick Swayze and all of his glory. It is Basically it was stolen. 100% is fast and furious. The first Fast and Furious is Point Break. Look at nice if you look at it and analyze it. Fast and Furious one is the it's actually the they just switched out surfers for cars. That was the only difference.
Brooks Elms 20:16
That's the only difference in the movies same but different.
Alex Ferrari 20:20
It's the exact same movie. It's like it's not surfers. And it's the same thing. And
Brooks Elms 20:27
another interesting example of that I in the script that I just finished now I was using the model of Dead Poets Society, a mentor comes in, gets really overly influenced that goes to a tragic place, but then they still celebrate the mentor at the end, right? And I was telling people when I was getting notes, I go Yeah, this is kind of like Dead Poets as it were, and people would read it and go, there's nothing like that posts it without you talking. So I had been so creative with around and I knew the screamer No, it was exactly exactly that pattern. Those were the exact same round wheels, but they couldn't tell because I made it 100% authentic to me and my characters, despite the fact that I had a rock solid foundation. So that's I think the key for you is that if you find a way of telling an aspect of what happened that feels like really beautifully in harmony with one of your favorite movies sort of patterns, dude, that that to me, I could see you just amazingly telling that story in a really powerful way.
Alex Ferrari 21:24
I appreciate that. Well, we'll see. We'll see I got a couple things I got to do this year.
Brooks Elms 21:30
And the broader thing for everybody is like anybody anybody who's doing memoir write something that's that's starting from a really personal place. It's tricky if we're too close to it, right? So this is a game of getting a real healthy distance. It's great that you're writing what you know, because it's going to resonate with authenticity, the game is to put it in a in a package that's more accessible to more people. depending on whatever audience size you want to serve. It's fine to do something obscure if that's really where your heart is. But if you want to do something that's really bigger and breaks through with a bigger audience, they're looking for a cleaner foundational package. And you can do that just by sort of, you know, understanding how the same but different works in terms of concept.
Alex Ferrari 22:09
Now, you mentioned Shawshank which everyone listened to the show knows my my love for Shawshank. And anytime we get to talk about Shawshank and analyzing and breaking it down, I think it's a benefit to every listener. I love to hear your thoughts on Shawshank and what Shawshank can teach us as writers as storytellers and the brilliance of what Frank Darabont did with a short a short story from Stephen King. Arguably still the worst title in movie history Shawshank Redemption it's absolutely horrendous title for marketing i'd love the title and it makes all the sense in the world but try to market that movie and they couldn't
Brooks Elms 22:53
terrible marketing decision
Alex Ferrari 22:56
but what do you call it though? But let me ask what do you call it if you can't call it a redemption will be but what do you call it?
Brooks Elms 23:01
No you it's about hope you basically not and obviously not like hope this or hope that but like something that evokes hope I would love to bring some really good title for that because I guarantee you won't look you can't do worse than that title right?
Alex Ferrari 23:15
Yeah it's pretty bad but it's like one of the worst titles that I still remember it was nominated for it was nominated for Best Picture didn't win anything down. I think it was not my first screening for I think it had to be nominated for Best screenwriting might have been might have been he got like it got like three or four Oscar nominations like some acting
Brooks Elms 23:32
i think i think its initial release I don't think it did very well i think it didn't buy but it kind of just limped along and then it got some awards and it got another bump but then it really picked up I think in in video dealing afterwards Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 23:45
yeah home video and then it then became number one on IMDB it beat the Godfather as the best movie of emotion love the movie of all time.
Brooks Elms 23:52
That's right That's right so um okay so here's here's here's my thoughts on the number one takeaway for anybody listening because I know these were all star fellow storytellers is to if you happen to like the movie, or especially if you love it, the best takeaway is really theme because the way they talk about hope versus despair is so beautiful and so powerful, and so clean and simple. But again, a lot of times with theme, it gets heavy, it's really hard to kind of track but with Shawshank it's so damn clear and compelling, but not like beating you over the head of head with it. But, but really easy to track. So and what you have is a really interesting dynamic of the way it's structured. So you have read play by Morgan Freeman, who I would characterize as actually the protagonist, even though Tim Robbins in 82 frame is driving the narrative so it's unusual usually are almost always our protagonist drives the narrative. But in this case, I would call read the protagonist because he changes in the end he goes from despair. Look, you can't use hope in this place. Hope will get you killed. You have to disappear. You have to be cynical about life. And then slowly he sees Andy like an effin freight train getting beat up and raped and all these terrible things happen over and over again. And he's afraid chain of hope and hope and hope and hope and hope and digs himself out and breaks out of with a break out of prison with like under a rock hammer for 10 years. I mean, that's the most magnificent expression of hope you could possibly believe. And he finally makes it out. And I think it's such a triumphant expression of hope over despair, and we all feel both of them. But to me, thematically, it's so powerfully laid out, and I think that's why it resonates so deeply. Plus there's some charm in those characters a warmth between that friendship between those two guys, but thematically it's a great model to study if you're confused about theme, or this or that. The thing
Alex Ferrari 25:50
that's so fascinating about about Shawshank for me, is that it on paper, it's it's a horrible pitch. It's a horrible, you know, you see the trailers like it's about a prison. It's a prison movie. It's like it doesn't hide that. Only once you experience it, do you understand the depth of it. And I remember seeing that it was what 94 so I think it was came out in 94. So I had just gotten out of high school a few years. And I was with a bunch of knucklehead friends of mine who were not movie goers, and they were touched. And when those guys were touched, I was like, wow, this is this hit this cut through everything. At that time, I even felt it. When I saw it into theater, I was just like, wow, this is this is a different kind of film. And Hollywood. Yeah. It was a very different kind of film. And I always my analysis of the film has always been like what I always ask the same question, why does it connect? Because we could all just pray for a connection with an audience like Shawshank, Kaz and in work What is it about that film because it's not obvious. It's not like rocky we get why people connect with rocky we connect with what people connect with. With Indiana Jones or or sort of Star Wars. We get it but Shawshank is so under the radar on the surface, you can't What do you think? here's
Brooks Elms 27:14
here's, you're gonna love this answer, because it's clear as day to me why it connects. And you can use that for your own story. It's because we feel despair. And the despair that I feel in my life as you know coddle white male and you know, in the richest country ever, is still hurts, it's scary to me. And when I see a depiction of it like that, like you know, the guys in prison and people are coming after him and he's his physical safety's his, and he was wrongly imprisoned and all these things, all these terrible things. And if that guy can have hope, in that place, holy crap, and then have it pay off by him actually getting out because that hope paid off after like, 1520 years, and it wasn't like, like a week. And to me, that speaks so deeply to all of us, because we all face oftentimes in a daily basis, an aspect sort of much lesser aspect, but an aspect of hope versus despair. Should I even got a bed you know, you feel despair. You don't want to get a bed and but you have hope and you climb out or whatever. So but it's that to me, it's so universal in our own way, that sense of Do we have hope? Do we have enough? Is there an opportunity for something to happen? And so like for your you know, your story about this guy who has this urgent hope that this movie is going to get made and he wants? He's got this beautiful dream? And then he's in this despairing place where he's getting involved with these people that are that are difficult so it's to me what you love about Shawshank? I you can bring out cinematically and what you love about your movie. In fact, when I work with people, that's exactly where I go to so I have the list of favorite movies. And we get into why they love them why Shawshank speaks so deeply to you? What does that hope versus despair really feel like in your real life? And I? Again, I haven't read the book, but I promise you, there are written there are things that went on in your real life that you sort of associate with this idea of hope versus despair that you also connect to Shawshank. And then what I do is I connect those things out so that when people write a movie that feel that has the same sort of pattern as Hollywood but it's authentic in a way that's really deep and personal. That's when it crackles with authenticity. And so that makes sense
Alex Ferrari 29:26
that may it makes it makes perfect sense. I mean I've always come I've always had a I've said this on the show before but I think the analogy of Shawshank and Andy the friends journey is what connects with people because you feel you are Andy defraying and in many ways, many of us in the world depending on where you live in the world. At one point or another feel imprisoned. Feel like the that the universe is doing is wrongly beating you attacking you. Bad things are happening to you, and you're innocent. And you're innocent of these bad things. And then that not only does he have hope to fight through all of that, but he literally crawls through a mile of shed. Then he literally gets out of that his cleanse from the gods of the shit, literally, this shit is coming off of him. He's taking the old clothes off of him, putting on a new suit, living the life that he has been dreaming about, for 15 years. And then on top of it all, he gets revenge the sweetest revenge on his jailers. And he literally lives on a frickin paradise. And that's, but that's why I think it feels so for me, for me, I mean, let's not get into the psychoanalysis of Alex Ferrari for a second, if anybody cares. For me, when I saw that movie, I didn't feel it as much as I felt it years later, where I hadn't been beat up by the business yet, as much. I had been beaten. I had I think when I saw Shawshank I hadn't The thing with the mob had happened to me yet. It was years away. So years later, that movie took another meaning for me, because of all the abuse that the business has given me. And failures that I've had that I'm like, why is this happened to me? Why can't I get the opportunity? Why can't someone open the door for me? Why can't I have my pickaxe, and to knock into some doors, and I felt imprisoned in miles. So there was a lot of that going on. And I think that's one of those things that when people watch it, they identify with,
Brooks Elms 31:47
so and that's exactly it, right? So the metaphor of being in prison, and even getting in and crawling through the shed. And all that stuff is, is a really good metaphor for how so many people feel about their life, how we psychologically process our life. And so when you do that, your own version of that, which is really great, because like most people don't experience prison, most people don't experience a run in with a mob. So it's a really beautiful, exaggerated metaphor for most people. Plus, you've got this hero with this beautiful, innocent Sweet dream. He wants to be a filmmaker, right? So it's, the key is in sort of, the takeaway I would invite for you to take it is just look at how much every scene there's conflict and conflict and conflict and conflict. So that allows us to feel like it's earned so much when it comes a lot of scripts you talked about what are some main things that sort of trip people up in terms of a great screenplay, a lot of times the conflict isn't strong enough. They, they take a little too easy, especially an Act to be when things that's when like Blake Snyder would say things are, because when bad guys close in, things can get much harder. A lot of screenwriters take their foot off the gas, we feel bad, because we love our hero, and it's hard for them. But now we need to burn their house down we need to because the more we torture them in act to be, the more powerfully they can rise from the act from the ashes in Act Three and be the hero they are meant to be.
Alex Ferrari 33:08
Without a good villain, you don't have conflict without a good villain, you can't have a hero be a hero. And that is as simple as that. And the balance is not to make the villain too powerful that the hero has no chance.
Brooks Elms 33:23
Well, well, I would I would do I would say it is, um, make the guy as absolute powerful as you can without losing plausibility. Right, that's Godzilla. I'm not going to win. It's stupid. Right? Right. And that's Godzilla then it's a decent fight.
Alex Ferrari 33:39
Right? Exactly. I know you want to make you know, Darth Vader's Darth Vader, you know, and you want that you want Hannibal Lecter to be Hannibal Lecter. But there's a chance like Apollo versus Rocky, which is I mean that there's not many movies from the 70s that still resonate To this day, in the way that they do, you know, like I could, I could show that to a 20 year old now. And they'll be like, Yeah, it looks a little dated, but I get it, and the music and all that stuff. But the Apollo and Apollo and the thing that was so brilliant about Rocky, in the first Rocky is that rocky didn't have any aspirations to beat Apollo. That was the brilliant move, and Stallone script. He didn't want to beat him. He just wanted to stay with
Brooks Elms 34:25
him was to let me jump in to things that I love about that as an example. So two things. One is one of my favorites is the double refusal of the call. He gets the opportunity to fight the champ and he goes, No, no, I'm just a bomb. I can't do it. Right. And then MIT comes so he basically says no, at first, right? And then Mick comes over and goes, dude, I can train champions, I can train you, you know, and he goes, No, No, I don't. So the double work because a refusal of a call is always a wonderful moment in Act One and they do it twice powerfully, then to your point at the end of Act Two I To my mind, I remember correctly he Oh, he once you committed to answer the call and commit, then he's like, Okay, I'm gonna take on it'd be the champ and at the end of Act Two, he's studying the tape over and over again and goes, I can't beat him. He's not darknight insulting. I can't beat that guy. But to your point, if I can go the distance, if I can hold my own, then I have the real win, which is my redemption and my dignity. That gives me chills just speaking. That's what we all want.
Alex Ferrari 35:29
I mean, it's it's fun when eight movies now it's more still, every time we're like, Okay, I'm gonna watch another one. I'm gonna watch it again. I could watch rocky 134 bolt six
Brooks Elms 35:44
and all the non renewals not a fan of Rocky two
Alex Ferrari 35:46
I don't mind rocky two as much I don't mind rocky two, but five is we should not discuss Five. Five is not to be discussed. It just goes right from four to Rocky Balboa. That's the way and that's actually the way he did it. I think. I think even still, I was like, Yeah, I don't know what I was doing back then. But the thing that was in it for everyone listening if you if you analyze Rocky, there literally could not be a villain like Apollo. There is absolutely no credible chance that Rocky Balboa should even be in the same room with him let alone in the ring with him. And as the movie goes on, you start seeing well wait a minute, he's cracking ribs of of cows. You're giving he's got a shot now is Kenny can he possibly beat the Titan? It's like the it's the mortal going after the Titan it's insane it's a wonderful thing.
Brooks Elms 36:38
It really is wonderful and I hadn't thought about it to to to just the way you said it there but but what's lovely about that construction is at the beginning Rocky's such a low point in his life he's so severely feeling self doubt and just hates himself and it just is and what is the opposite of that Apollo Creed perfect everything just content everything's the rich yeah with a beautiful mirror of each other which is a metaphor for us and part of us always feels that despair part of us feels that that power right and the movie really beautifully. You earn step by step to the point where the part of us that feels despair finds redemption in actually not even beating that beating the world champion just holding his own against the champ
Alex Ferrari 37:25
it's beautiful and the way and I love the way you were saying the the analysis of like he's the mirror image so he's the champ he's perfect he's got everything rock he's got nothing he's got self doubt so they're opposite they're mirror opposites of each other which is exactly what a villain and a hero should be his mirror opposites but as the movie continues and this is the brilliance of what Stallone did the the characters start getting closer together thematically, he starts to lose his confidence a bit he starts to gain it a bit till at the end of the movie they're even there even rocky has gone the distance with the champ the champ has now had a lost the fight or honestly lost the fight to rocky because he allowed a bomb to quote unquote bomb to hold them off and survive against the champ so when rocky two starts they're starting on even keel yeah that's the brilliant and it's just such a brilliant way of looking at it and you look at that now it's it's just it's been stolen a million times I mean how many times we've seen rocky it's like Star Wars
Brooks Elms 38:28
That's right. That's right well yeah and and if they steal it in the right way like we've been talking about the right amount of the same but different it's amazing and that's the tricky thing like when I do my own stuff and I work with other people it's really about dialing in the same amount of the same but different or the right amount because if it's too familiar then it's like boring. And if it's too different than it's like weird right? So you want familiar enough and fresh enough? You know the same but different.
Alex Ferrari 38:54
Did you see the movie warrior?
Brooks Elms 38:57
I did yeah. The MMA
Alex Ferrari 38:58
MMA fight. I absolutely love war. I think it's a master masterwork. It's easily the best MMA movie and there had been a few other MMA movies but then nothing that nothing that hooked it. But the thing that was so brilliant about warrior and because it's a rocky it's kind of a rocky ask there's an A you can mention rocky in the movie which is great. A Rocco you can bring Mickey that but the the emotion I remember seeing that in the theater I was bawling at the end I was bawling. My wife and I were sitting there and I was absolutely just like sniffles boogers coming out. I was on the ball and I connected so well. It because of the the emotional connection with the brothers. And the end of that, but it was just such a brilliantly constructed story. And then Tom Hardy was you know fabula it was it was amazing. It was amazing. Sorry, went off on a tangent there. But no, this is
Brooks Elms 39:55
great. My next project is like it's a fight film. So I love like a raging bull is my favorite fight. So
Alex Ferrari 40:00
I mean in Raging Bull, but like, you look at something like Raging Bull, and you just go, Well, why do I even bother? Sometimes, sometimes you make it. It's like watching you, you walk in and you see the Sistine Chapel. You're like, well, I just dropped the brush right now. It's, it's been done. But the thing is, it's not it's never been done to your, what you can bring to the table, and never underestimate that power. Not that you're going to be better. But there's something inside you that Martin Scorsese doesn't have. And vice versa.
Brooks Elms 40:31
Yeah, no, that's exactly right. Exactly. Right. One of my favorite stories about Raging Bull is, is that I heard that when they went to get this thing set up at a studio, you know, dinero is in there with with Marty, and they're talking in the studio execs like, this thing. This guy's character is kind of like a cockroach. And dinero goes, No, he's not that it was just like, it was that conviction. And that non judgement of this is a human being. And I'm called the plan and that he was, he was a force of an actor, playing a force of a man. And it was to me that was like, yeah, that's why that movie is so good. The guy is really in a lot of ways. He's a terrible husband, a terrible brother, a terrible, he's what makes him amazing in the ring makes them terrible in his personal relationships, which you know, is this is a metaphor that lots of people can do. But like Scorsese, and Schrader and dinero all, we're so devoted to the authenticity of that character and those relationships, that they didn't judge them. And that made it so compelling because we all have those parts of ourselves that go too far in this way
Alex Ferrari 41:40
or that way. Yeah, there's no no question. And sometimes you you like to wallow in the dark areas of your life and you rarely wallow in the good I mean, sometimes you do, but it's it you have to learn, I know you have to learn it's a skill,
Brooks Elms 41:57
it for sure. So that's actually one of the other things I do in my own life. And when I help writers, we practice wallowing in the good stuff, because it makes it more you know, it's a marathon right? And it's easier it's less challenging to run the marathon when we have more good good feelings more often. So this this flow state I'm an absolute champion of getting people into the flow state staying in the flow state as long as possible when they get bumped out getting them back in because it feels better and be you get better results because it's more sustainable than then sort of cynicism.
Alex Ferrari 42:37
Yeah. Can you talk a little bit about that flow state for a minute because it's an interesting thing I've brought this up on on a multiple shows that I host because his I always find it fascinating when I when I talk to you know, some of these you know, Oscar winning or legendary writers or something like that, and I go, how how do you tap into that? Because you know, like when you're writing Forrest Gump, there's something going on, like you're, you're tapping into something else. And then and it's always there's the one offs that do that want a great script, and they never they never can reach that height again. That's one thing and they were just able to get in there for a second and then they left but then there's the people that just hold that career. And they just hit boom and boom and boom and boom, and you're just like, how do you continuously connect to that that state and what is that state and Where Where is that coming from? is always a bigger like Who's the man behind the Who's the man or the woman behind the curtain sending you this this information? I always feel that we're as writers we're just conduits we're conduits of something coming in. I think Spielberg said this, that his like ideas float around the universe and they pop into your head and if you don't do something about it, someone else will pick it up. And you might get the first crack at it and that's why he's always so like it was it was it him know as Prince Prince, I was talking to somebody who worked with Prince and Prince would call three o'clock in the morning to is like a singer. And like a musician like hey, when you're done like I don't know Prince's three o'clock in the morning. What do you what do you need? Ah, do you want to do want to come in and record like it's it's three o'clock in the morning? Can Can I wait four or five hours? He's like, no, if I don't get this Michael Jackson's gonna get it and I want to record it first. It's great. It's this great story but that's a true story.
Brooks Elms 44:33
It's fascinating that you went to a musician because the the the examples that popped into my mind right away are from a few different musicians because they just hear it. So one of them was Chris Martin in an interview and there was just and you just see it, he goes, it was like he was in a listening state. He just said it just I was listening and it came through it came to me, Paul McCartney was like, one of his best songs. He woke up in the morning. He heard The song in his head he was like, Oh, yeah. Who Yeah, who sings this one? Who's this? And he kind of is, like, I'm not I've never heard that one. You know this one? Oh, he realized, Oh, no, but it was me. So it's this thing. It's a state of listening as opposed to like leaning forward. I'm writing my story. It's I'm listening to the universe in this flow state. And that's when we get to the height of our creativity. Same thing with Bob Dylan. I listened to an interview with him a couple days ago. And there it was, like in the interview was a 60 Minutes interview. He's like, he said, You were blown in the wind in 10 minutes. And he goes, yeah. And it was like, and I was looking at him. And it was the same energy. I saw around the other two, same thing with Prince he. And he was like, Well, how did you do it? And you just see him. It's almost like he's radio tuning. You just see him going here. And he was like, yeah, it just, it just came to me, he opened up in a way, and it came through. And then he also didn't, he also said, the same thing is like, I haven't been able to get to that quite flow state
Alex Ferrari 45:54
channel, that channel again, I can't I can't tune into that channel, again,
Brooks Elms 45:57
that that's what he said, but but to the people that are musicians or filmmakers, or whatever, that are able to sort of sustain optimal creative flow over decades, they have a repeatable process of getting into that listening mode, a way of sort of opening up and being soft, and you, you know, you'd have you spoken to all these amazing people, and I'm sure you see, there's almost a lightness of energy, when you talk to those people that are really hitting on that level, at least when they're doing their thing, it'll open and it'll flow and then you don't know where to hide, you're almost like a stenographer. It's like Oh, I didn't write this there's it's coming through me through me in service to the audience. And so that's one of my as a coach is one of my favorite things to do is make choices in my relationship when I'm listening to somebody to induce that flow state really deeply and as often as possible, and then when they show up on a call in and they're, they're having a tough day or whatever, I make choices that kind of just nudge them slightly up or give them really hold space I listen to them and let them unfold into that flow state so that they optimize their creativity. I love it.
Alex Ferrari 47:03
It's no it's amazing. I've actually felt that in an editing I've done that a lot like you feel the flow of the cuts and you just and then all of a sudden you're like I've been sitting here for six hours that's the state
Brooks Elms 47:16
that's all you know. Yeah. But with my
Alex Ferrari 47:19
books my two books that I've written both of them I'll go back to and I'm like who wrote this because it's just channeled through me it really I mean yes I obviously shooting for the mob is my story but the words of putting the story together I would just write and then I would go back and read it I'm like who wrote this like I see Same thing with Rise of the entrepreneur which is a it's a more of a nonfiction it's actually a nonfiction book, instructional book. Even then I'm like the concepts and stuff I know all of them but like who put I don't remember writing that. I don't remember writing this like how who wrote the book? This is good.
Brooks Elms 47:57
So so here's here's an interesting thing. So um, one of the reasons I love one of the things I did about Shawshank I Shawshank Redemption, I made this video about how you can read Shawshank Redemption as a law of attraction story, right? So law of attraction is this idea that you basically, however you show up, you will attract the energy of how you show up. So if you show up feeling successful, you attract success in general, right? That's a lot of other parts to it. But I did a video where I was showing you sort of walking through Shawshank with that lens of law of attraction. So instead of hope versus despair, it was sort of attracting versus sort of repelling. But it's significant in this context. Because when we, because some of those law of attraction people that when they're talking, they actually say they're channeling and they're saying it's coming from some people say aliens, or some people say spirits, right? And look, they might be I don't have that personal experience. But from my perspective, exactly what you said, it's like you felt like it almost wasn't coming from you. And so when some of those law of attraction, people talk about it, they believe literally, it's not coming from them. And who cares, because it puts them in a state of them being able to say, I'm spreading more joy. I'm helping people better on coming up with really deep, powerful ideas more often more consistently. So to my mind, I don't give a crap where how you're talking about it, whether it's aliens or spirits, or just like you or I see it as a sort of the Muse or creativity that comes through. If you're getting to those really beautiful, powerful ideas in a flow state. Great. That's what matters. Yeah. And
Alex Ferrari 49:32
I'm always fascinated about where creativity comes from. You know, I've been fascinated by this. Why always, I'd love asking some of these heavy hitters that come on the show of like, how do you do it? Like, how, where does it come from? And I was I was interviewing on another show, Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer of Iron Maiden. Wow, cool. And what a great conversation that was. And when I was talking to him, I was I asked him I'm like, Man What does it feel like? Being in Wembley Stadium? With 90,000? People? Like what it like, I'm never gonna get that i don't i don't i don't i don't think anytime soon 90,000 people gonna show up to hear me talk. So maybe one day, I don't know, but that's not happening right now. So, not many of us are ever going to feel that. But what does that feel like? And then when you're singing? Where does that come from? Because it's it's one thing to sing. And then there's another thing to perform at a level like that. Regardless if you'd like his music or not, is irrelevant. irrelevant. And he's like, he goes, Oh, it's not me. It just comes through me. Um, am I gonna complete I don't even I don't even know where I'm at when I'm on stage, almost. So it's flying through me. And then I go, Well, how do you get off that train? Like when you're on it? He's like, Oh, I have I have a whole routine after the show. Because like how the high of 90,000 Pete that energy coming towards you. Like as read as screenwriters and filmmakers. We don't get that the closest we get to that is that audience in a movie theater, or at a festival? That's the that's the closest we get to it. And that's really intense. It's Oh, God, if you have I've had been that I've been in that room when that standing ovations and people asking you questions, and all that attention and all that stuff.
Brooks Elms 51:28
And that's hot, explosive energy.
Alex Ferrari 51:31
It is someone like but can you imagine 90,000? like Paul McCartney, like, if I ever got a chance to talk to him, I'm like, How? Like, how is it? How do you live as you know, being the most, most famous human being on the planet?
Brooks Elms 51:48
Here's a great little poll. If you look at the clip of when he was doing a carpool karaoke with
Alex Ferrari 51:56
who's that guy does. James James Gordon James.
Brooks Elms 51:58
There's a really beautiful exchange. And it speaks to this idea that lightness of energy, where they're, they're talking, and, and he's going a while, you know, this is amazing, my dad who died if he knew that I was talking to you right now. And then Paul McCartney goes, he is he's listening. And there was again, there was this this lightness and other worldliness of how he's able to open to something. And, and Dave coordinates are crying. And that's it. And we our job as storytellers are, is to elicit emotion really deeply. And when we can get into sort of this open sort of flowing, ephemeral, sort of spiritual state, those ideas flow, and we're able to elicit motion much more deeply. And so there's a craft to sort of inducing it more often. And if you sort of make those choices, and there's things like meditation, or all sorts of different things, but like, whatever your sort of process is to find your own way. And to make that really the priority, like my priority is I get up and I find that flow state and from that flow state, all these other good things happen, as opposed to my job is to write a screenplay or to cross this next milestone or whatever those are to concrete and they put you down to sort of earthy, what you really want if you're being in the creative, professional creative, to find a way into that floaty, daydreaming state as consistently as deeply as possible because that's where your best ideas are gonna come.
Alex Ferrari 53:25
You know what's funny, I talking about light energy. You know, when I talk to some of these, some of these amazing creatives, the ones that are like that are at the top of their game. Almost all of them had an extremely light energy. They weren't heavy, they weren't heavy. Then there's very accomplished writers and filmmakers who I've talked to who who it seems like they almost grind it out they almost like by pure force are grabbing and creating amazing things. But it's their own physic almost their own will that's pushing them where someone like a Paul McCartney could just go Hey, dude. Hey, dude, okay,
Brooks Elms 54:14
here's my theory on that I love you brought it up. My theory is the grinders are succeeding despite the grind, correct that it's the flow is what works for everybody. Some people are able to more easily flow. Other people have to grind it out and haven't learned to sort of soften the grind part. And they're so good and so talented. There's, they're succeeding despite that sort of effort, grinding, hard work, kind of constipated energy. You want to let that thing flow.
Alex Ferrari 54:41
And that's the thing and that's constipated. Energy is a great word to use. Because, you know, and we talked a little bit about this before we started recording, but like someone like Spielberg, he has a very light energy to him, and everybody and I've talked to a ton of people who worked with him, you know, and I've hear stories on air and OFF AIR about Miss Spielberg and you just go I understand I get I get I get why he Steven Spielberg
Brooks Elms 55:07
I've heard that same exact thing that it's not that you talk to him and there's a there's at once a normalcy. He's totally normal and totally infatuated with the process at the same time. And that's that and that's that sort of light light balances, it's Yeah, it's amazing, it's and, and he makes it sustainable. That's why he's able to hit in multiple decades, because he's able to put himself in that flow state so deeply, so consistently in so many different variables and variations, cuz you're, it is a shark infested business, right? So can I It's one thing for you and I to kind of have a cool conversation about flow here. But can I keep that flow going, a when I'm writing and be when I'm on meetings, and see when I'm in all the more places in your life, you can up that volume of that flow state and be in there, the more success you have in to me somebody like Spielberg is master
Alex Ferrari 55:56
and you but you, but I think also the thing that stops us from doing that is just the the, for lack of a better term, the crap that is surrounding us in living life, the the crap that then in the the frames goes through, like literally, it's this heavy shit that's been thrown on to us. And that could be childhood stuff that could be anger, that can be, you know, envy, that could be ego, all of that is, is holding us down. But if you can shed it, shut it, shut it off. That's when you can become lighter and open up to these other areas.
Brooks Elms 56:35
And here's here's how to how to help you shift that, who put that shit on me. A lot of people say, Oh, it was my parents. No, no, I put it on myself, maybe because my parents were modeling it or whatever happened to my thing. But here's the powerful thing is, I created that reality as a kid, I created how I respond to that. I'm creating my reality now. So if I have if I have a shitty reality, I have the power to create a little less shitty reality, less shitty, less shitty, and eventually really magical, amazing reality. It's us owning our own perceptual system. I mean, it's got to be based on on objective reality, right? There's a there's definitely a consistent reality outside of our subjectivity. But we have a tremendous ability to choose how we respond to objective reality. And that's where that real power comes in our life.
Alex Ferrari 57:34
I'll tell you from my point of view, you know, coming up, I was an angry and bitter guy, because I felt that it was just I wasn't getting that. First of all in my 20s I'm like, why hasn't anyone recognize my genius? I mean, obviously, why don't they don't they understand? Don't they understand who I am? I mean, come on. So when that didn't so you when you didn't become Steven Spielberg or my our generation Robert Rodriguez, because he was the one that kind of like that was the that was the lottery ticket for our generation, no question. So like, if we're not Tarantino or Robert or Linkletter or Smith or any of the guys that came up in the 90s, we have failed. So when I couldn't get to that place, or for whatever reason the universe didn't open up that that those opportunities I became extremely angry, extremely bitter, and that completely stifles any sort of creativity. It stifles everything the moment I launched indie film hustle and let go of Allah all that anger and started to give and started to be of service and start writing my energy became lighter. Don't get me wrong I am perfect I'm definitely not Gandhi. But but I noticed it and this is something only us old farts can talk about. As you get older you start seeing these things some people never learn in a lifetime yeah but I started seeing that entered in then that's when things start then I made my first feature that I made my second feature that I wrote my books then doors that were shut to me all my life doors that would i would kill to talk get into are wide open now. So it was it's really interesting and if you look at some of the I don't want to get religious if you look at some of the spiritual leaders even some spiritual like a Gandhi, sure, sure. There they are not a heavy energy. There they there's a very light lightness to it and I don't want to get Fufu about it. But when we say light energy is kind of like this. You feel it when you meet somebody. People feel like when you meet somebody you just like, I gotta take a shower or Oh my God, I want to be around them. Like I don't know if you've ever been in a room with a movie star. Before I you know, when you when you meet a movie star, who is a real, real movie star, not a fallen star, not a star up and coming movie star. And when you're in the room with them, you'll go Oh, I get it. Don't say Word, and you just get that energy from them, you're like, Oh,
Brooks Elms 1:00:03
this is that's it's that it factor that they talk about. And it absolutely is an energetic thing. They're one way or another able to sort of, sort of show up with a certain type of energy that just is different than the way most people can do it. And part of its, there's an authenticity to it, and a sort of probably a lack of attachment to it. I mean, there's a qualities of how you sort of, sort of facilitate that in yourself. But you're right, they have a politician, I had a friend that met Bill Clinton, he was at some show, like at the Met. And he said, Man, after he walked on stage, and he said, he'd literally never seen somebody that like, literally looked like a million bucks. It was just an aura of energy. And he's not like an energy guy. But he was like that dude had this. And that's the thing. It's like he just, and obviously the President is there's a lot of stuff going on, right. But in terms of like, I mean, that's a need, but like, but movie stars have. And what's great about everybody that's listening, it's not anybody can do it every all of us can be we all are limited by what our own sort of biology believes. But we can be at the max of our own ability. By looking into these in your own way. What sort of spiritual shifts are energetic shifts, there's things you, I promise you, you can do in the return on that investment. It's so phenomenally better for your joy. And as you do that inside job and make those shifts, everything else is better. You write better stories, you have better relationships, it all happens, but it's got to start inside first. Like Like, if you don't do that, and you win the Oscar or whatever, you still feel miserable. And sometimes you feel even more of a fraud because you haven't got the inside job worked out.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:42
Oh, yeah, I've seen I've spoken to people like that, that have won an Oscar and I'm like, so what's it like afterwards? You're like, I feel worse sometimes. You know, it was cool that night, but then afterwards, then what? Then at last for a little bit, and then it's heartbreaking. It's you got a gotta get back up there again, like and then just like, this is like one of the Super Bowl like, Yeah,
Brooks Elms 1:02:05
well, that was where I was going. My one of my favorite stories around this is Phil Jackson's is he, before he like after the bowls, I think when he started coaching the Lakers, he wrote this book called sacred hoops. And he talked about when he as a player won the NBA championships for the Knicks. And they went to like Tavern them green and Robert Redford was there and Dustin Hoffman was there. And he was like, Oh, my whole life was like man to win an NBA championship. And I'm here, and he felt empty, F and felt empty. And he was like, What the hell. And it was because he was, which most people do, he was saying, the outcome defines who I am, as opposed to, I'm just, I'm just a soul that's expressing myself and my, my, my, my sort of purpose on life is to be happy is to be in this flow state. And then from there, I'm a great athlete, or great this or great, whatever. And he and for him, it was a real threshold moment that he was supposed to be the happiest point in his life. And he wasn't, it was a big part of the spiritual journey. So no, it's every day I show up every day, I chop wood and carry water. I can't go up and find my state of happiness in service to people. I love that story for you is that you found that that that place from I'm kind of a victim, things are happening to me to No, no, I'm going to take ownership in my life, you knew so much about independent film, and you started helping people this way and that way the other way. And that spiraled you up and up and up and up, and you can see it your your energy really shines in a way that's different now than it was 10 years ago. It's really awesome.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:36
I appreciate that. I truly appreciate that. And one other area that we all go through we talked we've talked about a little bit is failure. And we all had those those those blocks those things, you know, things not working out the way you go through how do you approach failure in the business in you know, because that script didn't get picked up, that didn't sell that script, I couldn't get the money for the movie. Oh, that's that that actor dropped out or a million things that could have happened. me with my shooting for the mob, I literally got as closest to hanging out with Batman at his house. And I mean, that's as close as you're going to get literally other than being on set, and then getting yanked from you. And that threw me in a two year depression and all of that kind of stuff. So how do you break through these because we all go through it. And it doesn't matter what level you're at. I mean, Spielberg still goes through it, you know, all of them do. Yeah, they go through their own versions of failure, obviously. But how do you get through it?
Brooks Elms 1:04:31
It's exactly what I just said it's it's prioritizing flow state and joy and service above all, right, because when we can be you know, and it's and it's a practice, right, and I'm really, really good at it, and I still stumble with it, right? But when my priority is I'm going to show up, and I'm going to find, you know, authentically, you can't just be like DS, you know, head in the clouds, whatever. You have to sort of be in your body and be of spirit right is the balance of those things. And when you can do that legitimately with authenticity, differentiated from outcome, that's when you know you're nailing it. And so the outcome could be deal goes through good or deal goes through bad you can be gotta be differentiated from either one could be a health crisis, relationship, crisis, business, it's all the same thing, all those things, you will be happy to the extent those things are secondary to your number one priority is I show up, and I'm an open human being. And I'm existing, and I'm trying to help other people. And that's, again, it takes practice, but anybody listening to this, if this sounds like Oh, you know what, there's some truth in it, find your way to practice, because you can do and I promise you, the more you practice this in your own way, in own style, the dividends are amazing. And what happens is you get the end, once you get the inside job shifted, that everything else out in your life, your relationships are gonna get better businesses getting better, you're just not because you know how it works in Hollywood. So you can't be desperate, and you can't be boring, right? You're not boring, you're authentic, and you're not going to be desperate. If you differentiate from outcomes, then you become that cool kid in high school. It's like, Okay, all right, everything's fine. Everything's great. And so wherever you are in your journey, if you have this energy of it's perfect the way it is. Now, it's effin awesome. More good. Things are coming and I'm already here. Everybody wants to work with that guy. If you're the crankier one, then it's it gets sketchy.
Alex Ferrari 1:06:26
Yeah, and the that energy of death I I always joke about the desperation as a cologne. We all can smell it in the business. It's it's called desperation by Calvin Klein. And we can and we can smell it, Amelie, and I know it because I used to wear a desperation quite often, especially when I first got to LA. And you would meet one producer somewhere in a set and you'd be on them like white on rice. And you were just like, what can you do for me? How can you help me How about Baba Baba? And is the wrong way of approaching it. And it's only afterwards where you just go when you sit back and you're like, hey, that works out great. If it doesn't, it's all good. You got that kind of energy to it. People want to work with that energy is much more so than somebody like me. Maybe I can help Canada desperation. It's horrible. And I don't know about you. I've only met a couple of desperate screenwriters in life. Not many. Not many. Never just as rare to meet filmmakers or screenwriters who are desperate. No, I'm joking. I kid who I love. Because we all have been there we've all been that desperate person and if you can break through that, that's where that's why you see some people make it
Brooks Elms 1:07:40
and what's so interesting is screenwriters. What do you Who is the screenwriter, you imagine stuff you imagine worlds you imagine things so screenwriters imagine this beautiful life for yourself. And again, an authentic way, not in a BS way. But like, look at the abundance in your life, the abundance of air, the abundance of like you're going to eat today problem, you're going to have all these few friends, there's so much you can frame legitimately, again, not be asked but like, authentically frame your life in abundance, no matter what's happening. And when you do that, in using the same muscles that you write screenplays in use, imagine this grounded, beautiful, blissful life for yourself and frame it that way. There was a way it struck me. A couple months ago, I was walking to Trader Joe's with my, my, you know, 14 year old son, we're going in there to you know, run an errand. And I had this really beautiful moment of going, Oh, if I was like 10 years, or 20 years in the future, thinking back to this moment, it would be so sort of romanticized and lovely. And then I was like, oh, but I can do that now. And so in that moment, totally mundane error. Aaron with my son, I romanticize that and it was so beautiful, just to be there as a as a dad with his son did nothing. We picked up some lettuce for lunch or whatever, you know, but it was so beautiful. And that ability for me to go, Oh, I can frame my existence in a way that's really beautiful the way we might frame a shot as a director, whereas the way we frame a scene as a screenwriter, you can frame your own existence. And I'm telling you guys, the more you do that, everything slowly up levels.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:15
And I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I ask all my guests. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Brooks Elms 1:09:25
Um, the longest to learn? Yeah, was was that the nowness you know, that I that I have the power to celebrate, right now.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:38
What did you learn from your biggest failure?
Brooks Elms 1:09:43
Um, that it was not the failure. It was my response to the failure and how I what I was talking to myself about what I said, you know, because I failed, that I'm not good enough for this enough or whatever. And as I got more familiar with that voice, And kind of befriended that inner voice then the failure became a really beautiful lesson but in the moment that it happened it didn't feel that way.
Alex Ferrari 1:10:09
And what are three screenplays every screenwriter should read
Brooks Elms 1:10:13
Oh, your favorite three Oh really? yeah yeah no I hate and one of the things at NYU film school I had this one instructor that was like oh you have to watch this Lester's movie and I was like you know what if you I'm never watching them and it was a movie I would have liked but I just I resented that he was telling me I should so I'm very much the mindset that whatever you personally want to read or watch and just the amount that you want to watch it or read it is the ideal amount so five minutes in a Netflix you don't like it, turn it off, five minutes into my screenplay. If you're reading it five pages you don't like it put it down I want you to put it down I want you guys focus on what you love most by your personal perspective because to me that is the most powerful thing you can do for yourself
Alex Ferrari 1:11:03
and where can people get a hold of you and find out what you're doing?
Brooks Elms 1:11:08
Brooks alums coaching comm is my website for if you if you want to sort of explore working with me and there's two main programs that I that I do one is helping people develop a script one is helping people get it sold and and if not me I mentors that I that I because I don't I don't do hourlies sometimes people want our leads and I have other people that that I basically refer them to Although you are the guy to hire if for any sort of independent films guy's telling you because here's the here's the thing let me let me plug you for a second because he's got the Amazon of of internet information for for independent filmmakers you got right and you got everything a lot of it's free. You got premium, you got the whole damn thing. But I'm telling you guys, you don't know what you don't know. And so hire Alex for a couple hours and tell them I think I know this about making my next film or I think I know this or that. And he will go Yeah, you're right here, you're This is correct. But this, you're totally off. And you'd rather get that in one hour from a master like Alex and grow for years to figure it out for yourself and go god dammit, Alex could have told me that last year, but I didn't figure it out. So hire somebody that knows at whatever budget you can, and I'm telling you that's going to speed up your game so much,
Alex Ferrari 1:12:22
I I appreciate that wholeheartedly for that plugs. Or I can tell you from my experience, coaching could save you I've literally sometimes I've had someone give me an hour of their time. And they hire me for an hour and I save them. He's like you just saved me 50,000 bucks. I'm like, because you didn't know I mean, I know I've walked this path man, hire someone who's walked the path. It doesn't have to be me, it could be anybody that you feel comfortable with. But if they can give you an hour to talk into someone coaching that could be Oh my god, it's it's seen what you can learn in in an hour and 16 minutes on your story. It could save you six months, it could save you $60,000 it could save you so much time talking to someone who's just walked and they don't have to particularly be a master, they just have to be ahead of where you're at.
Brooks Elms 1:13:15
Right? Exactly right. It doesn't exam because some people will talk themselves out of getting that help because oh, I haven't heard of anything they've done or this or that or blah blah blah. But it doesn't matter if the guy at Trader Joe's has a good idea to help you with your script or whatever hire him do whoever can help you move one step forward is great. And you don't we don't know what we don't know. So even if here's what happens, this is never gonna happen. But if you guys hire Alex, and he goes, do you got it? Awesome. Yeah, I'm not worried about this, your ideas great, this is great. And he gives you no other tips other than to you are in great shape. That's like the best money ever spent, you're gonna have so much more confidence. It's so great. And of course, that's not going to happen. He's got all sorts of good ideas. But like that feedback loop is really where we make the most progress as quickly as possible. So find some sort of mentor in some sort of way. And that's the fastest way for us.
Alex Ferrari 1:14:06
Brooks. It has been a pleasure talking to you, my friend. I'm sure we'll have you back on the show in the future day. But thank you so much for all you do for screenwriters and filmmakers and thanks for being on the show brother. I appreciate it.
Brooks Elms 1:14:17
Completely, my honor. And my pleasure.
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