This week we have Zak Knutson on the show. Zak is a producer/writer/director/editor based out of Los Angeles. In 2005 he co-founded Chop Shop Entertainment, a filmed entertainment company that supplies added value materials to all of the major studios, and a large number of independents. Chop Shop Entertainment has supplied more movie based content for the internet than any other company in the industry.
The last Chop Shop project was Milius, a documentary on Hollywood rebel John Milius. The film opened at the SXSW Film Festival in 2013. The film also played at the Telluride Film Festival and the BFI London Film Festival. In 2014 Knutson directed Marvel 75: From Pulp to Pop for Marvel and ABC Television.
Zak Knutson directed “Shock the World” a documentary about Jesse Ventura’s path from professional wrestler to Governor of Minnesota. Shock the World premiered April 2015 at the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival.
His latest film Supercon starring Maggie Grace, Clancy Brown, Ryan Kwanten, Mike Epps, and John Malkovich. Here’s the logline:
A rag-tag group of former TV stars and comic book artists, who make their living working at conventions, decide to steal the loot from a crooked promoter and an overbearing former TV icon.
Enjoy my entertaining and funny interview with Zak Knutson.
Alex Ferrari 3:40
So today guys, we've got a really cool episode I've got Zak Knutson on the show today I reached out to Zak because we have a mutual friend, and Zach's a director and he's been working with he kind of made his bones with Kevin Smith. He worked on actually the first time I saw him was in the behind the scenes of clerks two years ago when they were doing webisodes. When webisodes were not something being done at all in the industry. And I saw Zak and his partner at the time that were shooting all these behind the scenes, videos and webisodes for Kevin and for our clerks too. And then they kind of kept going with it because he also was the director of Kevin Smith's to fat for 40 burn in hell sold out an evening with Kevin Smith. Just all these those wonderful if you haven't seen those Kevin Smith, stand up bits. They're hilarious, but he directed all of those and then he got he got this idea to make this insane documentary called millionaire based on the rebel filmmaker, Writer Director probably the most dangerous man in the film industry, john malleus. He, he wrote, I can't I can't even go into john Williams because it's just going to go on for days. He's written So many scripts and it's responsible for so many amazing movies. It's not even funny, but he made this great documentary about miletus also shot a bunch of stuff for Marvel with their some television documentaries. And he just finished directing his first narrative feature called supercon. Starring Maggie grace, Clancy Brown, Mike Epps and john frickin milkovich so that was really amazing to talk to him a little bit about how it was to work with such an amazing cast and super concept really funny funny movie. Will you'll hear all about the movie in the in the interview, but it's a really great episode. Zach, I wanted to bring him on because he has a you know, he's an indie filmmaker through and through and he you know, learn from one of the masters of indie filmmaking, which is Kevin Smith you know, he's one of the filmmakers from our generation both Zak and I are pretty close to age, if not the exact age and and I wanted to kind of pick his brain about what it was like working with Kevin, what is it like doing his first movie what the the trials and tribulations were of making millions which was a thing he told me like it was a four or five year I don't remember exactly was a long time. They were on that and he got the interview. Everyone from Spielberg to Lucas Scorsese, everybody. I mean, he interviewed everybody. It was such a great documentary but but he dropped some really great knowledge bombs, some amazing advice on how to work on production. He also lets us know what his favorite comfortable shoe is. to direct in which I am going to be buying a pair of myself because they're very, very important to have good shoes while you're acting. If you're the kind of director that Zak and I are, which we're always on they're always moving around, never just sitting around a villa video village but Anyway, I digress guys. So without any further ado, guys, I want to bring on Zak Knutson. Guys, I'd like to welcome to the show Zak Knutson. Knutson,
Zak Knutson 7:02
Alex Ferrari 7:04
Knutson. Thank you, sir.
Zak Knutson 7:05
Alex Ferrari 7:07
Thanks for coming on the show, brother. I appreciate it.
Zak Knutson 7:09
No, thank you for having me. Appreciate it.
Alex Ferrari 7:12
Yeah, we have a mutual friend Austin, who was my gaffer on Meg. And he said these, these two film geeks have to get together. So I reached out and here you are.
Zak Knutson 7:23
I said, thanks for having me. Yeah, no, Austin Austin was my dp on a couple of Marvel projects. I did.
Alex Ferrari 7:29
Oh, we'll definitely get in. We'll get into that in a little bit. But how so how did you get into the film business in the first place?
Zak Knutson 7:37
Slept with a lot of guys. No. I always wanted to be in the movies. I didn't know how or what but I always wanted to be in the movies. And I grew up in Orange County, California, which is about an hour hour and a half south of La which I always say it's kind of like living in New Jersey to New York. You're just right across the river, but you can never get to it. And I decided to after I didn't. I had a football scholarship to go to Colorado State and decided I didn't want to play football. I wanted to be in the movies. And I moved out to LA and tried being an actor and I got a little bit of success and then the bottom fell out but I ended up realizing I liked what was going on behind the camera more than I like what was going on in front of the camera. And just started doing things like I was a PA on this movie called speed with Keanu Reeves. I kept doing a little bit parts and there's
Alex Ferrari 8:31
also stuff right there's a European speed that's that's pretty freakin awesome. Yeah. How was How was that? How was that experience?
Zak Knutson 8:40
It was awesome. It was awesome. We got to we got to work with john de Botton, we were shooting at the LA at La x. We I did all the freeway stuff. And then I did all the stuff at La x. I didn't do anything else. And that alone was like I think that was three months. It was an awesome experience just to kind of walk watch a movie that level and how it was going because Keanu Reeves was famous, but Sandra Bullock wasn't. And piano wasn't the piano that he is now you know. And it was just it was awesome to kind of see that experience and watch that massive machine move forward. And you're just sitting there going yeah, I want to do this. Right. So you're doing the PA stuff. And that led into I started working in the office because I thought that might be a better route. So it was the production office. And I did a bunch of stuff there and that led into me meeting Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier on Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back after I did this horrible TV show for Fox and yeah, and then they just kind of went well you're kind of Alright, we'll keep you around and I was like 10 years
Alex Ferrari 9:48
so hot so so you work with kit that brings us right into Kevin man. You know Kevin is is a indie film legend. He's one of the first guys to come out with clerks and the whole $27,000 and You know I'm sure everybody listening knows Kevin's story. And and Kevin's been not shy about being in the spotlight over the last two decades or so
Zak Knutson 10:09
putting him out
Alex Ferrari 10:12
I watched comic book men all the time among all the other things so I the first time I saw you believe it or not was I saw you when I didn't know who you were but I saw you in the behind the scenes of clerks too, because he was shooting all these behind the scenes and releasing them, I think weekly or something like that. And you were you were a part of the team that was putting it together.
Zak Knutson 10:34
It was me it was essentially the guy's doing that was me and Joey Figueroa who was my partner for years and years and years and years years, it was just me and Joey doing everything we did all the behind the scenes. We did all the webisodes. We did all we did the feature length documentary. It was just him and me. We did everything
Alex Ferrari 10:52
that Yeah, and I remember it because Kevin, of course brought you guys in front of the camera a bunch of times. And you were explaining how you were doing it. And it was during one was that clerks two was what? What year was that? 10 years?
Zak Knutson 11:03
it's I think it's 10 years ago now.
Alex Ferrari 11:06
Right? So it was just a little bit after I released my first short film, so there was not a lot of information out there on how to make an independent film back then.
Zak Knutson 11:16
Yeah, I mean, it was kind of the interesting thing is when we started doing webisodes, which nobody knew who though what the hell that was. Yeah, I mean, it was a try pitching that to The Weinstein Company, or I think it was Yeah, it was it was my dream company at that point. It was, yeah. Okay, so we're gonna put out things on the web. And the nice thing is they didn't know what the hell what it was. And the only person even doing it at that point was Peter Jackson. Yeah, what do you do and all this stuff? I think, Lord of the Rings, Lord. Yeah, it was all the Lord of the Rings stuff at that time. So it was him and us. Only thing is he had Lord of the Rings. And we had a convenience store. screen and monsters visual effects. And it was like we got dick and fart jokes. That really I attribute that that's where I learned how to edit. That's where I learned how that was really because we were doing I think we'd put up webisodes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And YouTube had just come out. So we were able to put our stuff on the front page of YouTube. And by the end of the day, yeah, we'd have by the end of day, 150,000 hits, and we were like, oh, huge, huge. Look at that. Amazing now everybody's got like 22 million.
Alex Ferrari 12:26
That would kill 450,000 now.
Zak Knutson 12:29
It actually was Ming Chen who would set us up with YouTube so I'd get okay man. Here's a new one manga get it up and put it on the front page of YouTube. Sorry, I got a plane going overhead and live by Burbank airport noise. And that was really kind of hardcore film school was learning how to shoot and edit and doing it on a turnaround because the turnaround wasn't the same. Oh, I know. You had to wait. You wait. And then we'd edit for another four. When we got back to the house in Orange County, where we shot the movie. It was just insane. But it was fun. It was really fun.
Alex Ferrari 13:02
Yeah, it was that was I love clerks to man i was i was a very big fan of movie but I was I was that was the first time I saw something like webisodes. You're right. And YouTube was in its infancy. Basically it was just coming out that the quality wasn't that great. I remember it was all standard def and the compression kind of socked in all this kind of stuff. But that was the first time I saw webisodes really and especially in the film business and Kevin was always a little bit ahead of the curve on some stuff. He was a he was
Zak Knutson 13:30
one of the first guys to kind of get his hands into the internet when it came out. Like he had a message board before anybody had this internet presence for anybody.
Alex Ferrari 13:40
And he's done pretty well with it and he's the first guy to do the whole podcast thing which you know, which obviously he still podcast like the crazy man. It's pretty it's very interesting. So you worked with him on how many projects you were with him? 10 years so what did you do for my
Zak Knutson 13:54
first name? My first time I worked with Kevin I was the production Secretary on Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. And then that rolled into being the visual effects assistant on Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. And then on jersey girl, I was the post production coordinator. I think that's what my title was okay. And then after jersey girl, which was insane because that that was up that lasted 18 months.
Alex Ferrari 14:20
But that was like the biggest movie he'd ever done at that point. Right? That was a big budget.
Zak Knutson 14:25
Big time. It was like, Yeah, yeah, it was because we had like a it was a 30 $30 budget. We had Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez
Alex Ferrari 14:35
when they were already Ben Affleck agenda. They were ready Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez it wasn't like when they were doing mallrats when Ben was nobody.
Zak Knutson 14:42
Oh yeah, this is Ben Ben had already won an Oscar. Yeah, exactly. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 14:45
so Ben was Ben Jennifer was and then that whole bennifer crap better for happy and that destroyed everything.
Zak Knutson 14:51
Yeah, months where we would get we tested that movie into the ground and Kevin wouldn't change. It was a whole thing. And
Alex Ferrari 14:58
but and then it was also he worked The Vilma sigmon as a dp which was the first time he had worked with, like, a fucking legend. Yeah,
Zak Knutson 15:07
I mean really I mean
Alex Ferrari 15:12
God rest and rest in peace brother. I mean he was he was a legend. And when I remember that I was like, I'm sorry. paint with light Yes, I paint with lights with this this dick and fart joke I don't understand
Zak Knutson 15:25
it. I remember we get in the call mode. You're telling me goes bill Marsh gonna be the DP. I was like zigman. Your 100 years ago, it was like the rest of development. You go Really?
Alex Ferrari 15:38
Close. Close. Close Encounters. Really? Yeah, that guy?
Zak Knutson 15:42
Oh, that's great. Oh, huge.
Alex Ferrari 15:45
Yeah, that was Yeah, I'm sure how did Kevin work with him? Because I know that once. It's been an interesting clash of styles.
Zak Knutson 15:52
I think I think everything was fine. I just, Kevin. I took this away from my own movies. Everyone knew and I just did my own feature. I think Kevin likes working with people that he likes, and I think he did eternally after. I think Kevin really wanted to work with Dave Klein again, you know, because David Dunn, clerks and mallrats but he didn't get to do dogma and Dave kind of went off and did his own thing, kind of cutting his own teeth and learning because nobody gets to be dp straight out of film school. But Dave was, but Dave hadn't really learned the craft. He'll be the first one to admit it. Dave does homeland right now on Showtime and he's been nominated for like three Emmys or something like that. Right. Right. Which score to score to shot but he also Oh, it's awesome. And, like, hits that sweet spot for Dave, who I love to death. And I think I think Kevin no matter who he worked with, he always wanted to work with Dave again. Because Dave was this guy you want to work with Dave So vilmos was Bill motion he respected him and I think Bill most respected Kevin but I think it's that thing of honor work of Dave Dave's my guy
Alex Ferrari 17:04
came up together they came up together. Exactly, you know, and that must have been so so you worked with Isa you did. Jersey girl Then where did you go from there just kept working on with them, but basically on every project
Zak Knutson 17:15
after jersey girl Ay, ay, ay was the line producer UPM whatever you want to call it on a James frame on James Franco's first first directorial effort called the ape which Scott Mosier edited and Dave Klein shot I think we shot that in 12 days in downtown LA so because I wanted to get into producing I wanted to kind of spread my wings a bit Sure. And I did two movies with James and Vince is his producing partner and then we went into clerks to an unclear why wasn't good to ask don't when we were in post on jersey girl We had lots of downtime because we were just sitting around waiting for people to make like Weinstein Company to figure out what's going on with GE and all this other guys
Alex Ferrari 17:59
that the I mean he just got pork Kevin I just got caught in the frickin eye of the storm man that day.
Zak Knutson 18:04
It was it was I've never seen anything like that. It I mean, yeah, it was insane. It was insane and then to be caught in the kind of the crossfire it was silly. Yeah, but it was during that time all of a sudden that came up that you know, Kevin came in, he was having meetings and he goes, I'm gonna do Green Hornet. So we're gonna go to Prague for a year. And Joey and I heard that we're like, well, we just don't want to go to Prague to do what we're doing now. Like I didn't get in the movie business to be a post production you know, supervisor or anything like that. Although I've done it, I like it. I want to do creative so we were so we kind of figured out this game plan like alright, the webisodes. We did like before, or the webisodes. We're gonna do webisodes. We're gonna do these things we're gonna do and this is before the Peter Jackson stuff or anything. Like Okay, we're gonna put out stuff on the internet, and we can do it. And this is going to be so we made this whole pitch to Kevin, but we're in Prague, we're gonna do our jobs at same time we're gonna shoot all this other stuff. And him and Scott, were like, We love that idea. Because that's something nobody's doing right now. You're looking forward to the whole thing. And then Green Hornet didn't happen. Right? Right. And Kevin was gonna do Fletch. Just gonna do it with Fletch.
Alex Ferrari 19:20
Fletch would have been awesome.
Zak Knutson 19:23
Read the flex script. It was really good. It was really good. It was one of those like, man, when that's when Fletch didn't happen. Then it was like then clerks two came up and we were actually doing we were doing the documentary with the post production supervisor at the time who actually directed it's called back to the well on the Clarks x DVD. And we were doing it we were shooting the interview with Scott and Kevin at the quick stop in Jersey doing their interview and it was after that Kevin first mentioned, I think I think I'm thinking about doing a C While doing clerks to and it was just kind of that surreal moment where you're with these guys who stand their rear with clerks and you're in the location and the whole thing and it's three o'clock in the morning. Go oh shit they're doing it. You're gonna do a sequel to clerks
Alex Ferrari 20:16
like this Kevin does Kevin owned that damn quick stop at this point.
Zak Knutson 20:20
Alex Ferrari 20:22
I mean seriously it's like a frickin landmark.
Zak Knutson 20:24
I went I think he tried to at one point I think I remember hearing a story where he was going to buy the building yeah not to buy the building and then they were going to put a second story on top and then the second story was where the rescue offices were going to be which has been awesome but I don't think that I think the family won't know this is our business like we'd like this place and these same families still owns it Wow.
Alex Ferrari 20:49
But they obviously they they love Kevin so they do they work with Kevin when he needs it Are
Zak Knutson 20:54
they get a nod they get a lot of business when people go in there just to buy you know, a gallon of milk or eggs or a pack of cigarettes or go you know, to drink this coffee hot?
Alex Ferrari 21:03
Yeah. Every day every damn sure every second every single day. It's it's Yeah, it's it's tourist attraction at this point.
Zak Knutson 21:09
Oh, it's I mean, it's Leonardo New Jersey. I think that's the only tourist attraction and Leonardo.
Alex Ferrari 21:17
So um, so you were saying,
Zak Knutson 21:19
Oh, so when Clark came up, we we pitched this idea of, Okay, we're just going to do webisodes. We're going to do a feature length documentary. We're going to do webisodes, we're going to do the entire DVD. We're going to do all this stuff and we're sure we'll shoot all the EP gay. That's awesome. And they said yes. And that was it. That's when Jodi and I kind of decided we that's when we formed chop shop. And that's when we kind of did all of our stuff. Moving forward. We moved out of working for people and working for ourselves and making our own stuff that's kind of where it all started. So
Alex Ferrari 21:50
then basically, you had you've just basically built your own production company and then your main client was Kevin.
Zak Knutson 21:56
Yeah, exactly. Man main client was Kevin. That's where the bread and butter came out of. We did some other stuff. We did you know, we did stuff for Sony. We did stuff for Panasonic. We did stuff for Disney. But really, I mean, what we did was you were always coming up with stuff to It's like he did the evening with Kevin Smith stuff.
Alex Ferrari 22:15
Which genius. You shot that stuff? Right? Right. Well,
Zak Knutson 22:19
we didn't do the first two. First you were done by Sony. And then the contract was done with Sony. So he was like, I want to do it with Bob and Harvey. So we shot the next the two or three he's
Alex Ferrari 22:32
he's got 45
Zak Knutson 22:33
Yeah, yeah, he's got a bunch of them. It's almost like and they start blurring together is like which one about redstate? You're talking about the one about Bruce Willis. He's
Alex Ferrari 22:43
the print story, which is the one like
Zak Knutson 22:47
I think the first one
Alex Ferrari 22:48
was the first one. I think the prints and the john Peters story was the first one because it but it was like three hours. I mean, it just keeps going.
Zak Knutson 22:59
We did the one we did in New Jersey for his birthday, which I think might if it wasn't the last one is the second or maybe it's the first one. It was that this whole thing was going on in the press about Dane Cook and Dave Chappelle are going back and forth about doing sets as long as they could like all of a sudden Dane Cook it for hours at the Comedy Store. Dave Chappelle did five hours at this point. So Kevin came out and he goes, What's the record? At that point? It was like seven hours. I think Dave Chappelle did seven hours in like Cleveland, and he goes okay, I'm gonna do seven and a half hours. That's
Alex Ferrari 23:34
Yeah, he could he could talk for seven and a half hours. Sure. When
Zak Knutson 23:37
he didn't he didn't sit down we have to shoot. We didn't even think about it because we'd never done it before. I don't think we had to shoot the ending of the DVD first because we knew people were going to be leaving because by the time seven and a half hour is going to be up it was going to be like 330 in the morning.
Alex Ferrari 23:53
And it's just gonna be 15 people in the audience.
Zak Knutson 23:55
Yeah, exactly. Exact But surprisingly, I think most people stay at some people young kids and jobs and babysitters but I mean it was like an event it was an event great way to put it. Great way to put it
Alex Ferrari 24:09
so then you work that you worked with a bunch of those so you did a bunch of those videos for him and then where did you go from there?
Zak Knutson 24:16
Obviously we did all those and then once he works it and then we did some we did some stuff on it. Forgive me at the point oh, and then we we produce the
Alex Ferrari 24:27
show? Yeah, spoilers, right. Introduce spoilers,
Zak Knutson 24:31
good spoilers. That was hulu's first original show, which show which we did. We did that for a season. And then they did season two, I believe up in Vancouver or something like that. Because we were down here, and at which point we were trying to get our own kind of stuff going and then I started writing. I wanted to get in writing and directing what I wanted to do and now and then technically we kind of rolled over during this entire time towards the end. We started doing millia which is documentary I did on Writer Director john Miller which I
Alex Ferrari 25:02
was gonna I was gonna come into Millis because seriously, I was it for anybody listening if you guys have not seen the john millia story, the documentary it's, it's really remarkable and if you're a film geek, you've got to watch it.
Zak Knutson 25:17
It is a it's a it's it's film geek heaven. I will say that it really is. I mean, everybody and their grandmother you
Alex Ferrari 25:23
so that's the thing, dude. Like you talked to everybody's Spielberg, Lucas Coppola and like, every, like, I think Scorsese is everybody.
Zak Knutson 25:32
Yeah, we need to get all those guys in one way, or the only documentary to have all those guys shoot original interviews for it wasn't like, taken from archival footage,
Alex Ferrari 25:43
because it's john. Yeah, cuz john is that guy, you know, and for people who don't know, and I'll talk a little bit about john from, from what I know about, but he was like one of the best writers in the history of the business. And he's made, how many movies how many of his movies have been made?
Zak Knutson 26:02
It's been a while now. I'm gonna go into my john Millis bank here. I mean, john. Yeah. JOHN started out at USC with he was a he was in the same class as George Lucas. And George Lucas. Randall Randall closer who did grease Blue Lagoon. White Fang ran a class he was there. JOHN Carpenter was there. Oh, that guy? Oh, that guy. But john Carpenter won't have anything to do with USC. Oh, it's kind of an awesome thing. Because they tried suing him over Halloween because he used their equipment to shoot Halloween. Oh,
Alex Ferrari 26:39
really? Oh, that's frickin because it was such a huge hit. So anytime there's a huge hit, you know, the lawsuits will come out.
Zak Knutson 26:47
Yeah, exactly. No, but all these guys were they're learning how to make film. And at the time, you didn't go to film school and actually come out and be a director there. Like, you'll probably end up doing like, you know, industrial films or things like yeah, at
Alex Ferrari 26:59
that time, there was no pathway to going into the studio system out of film school during that time. It was Coppola was the first guy
Zak Knutson 27:07
that not the school but the film school was literally shot.
Alex Ferrari 27:10
Yeah, it's I just I literally I just want to speak at USC, like a month or two ago. It's it's I mean, seriously, it's like, it's like going to Rome. in a row.
Zak Knutson 27:21
The Schwarzenegger bill. I mean, all these buildings. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 27:25
I'm doing they're taking me around the tour. Like hey, we have five sound stages here. I'm like, I'm looking like I'm like, Are you freaking kidding me?
Zak Knutson 27:33
Literally old stables that they converted. I heard about this film school. And that's where john and all these guys kind of learn the basis of their craft. And then john went over to work at AIP that I think that was his first real job. He wrote him and his writing partner. And we didn't we weren't able to put this into the dock. Not because we couldn't tell the story but john tells that in order to pay the bills him and his buddy were living in West Hollywood, they wrote softcore porn for magazines. Sure, sure. I was like well we gotta find some of these I want to find the stuff that john melius wrote it because he knew it was gonna go into some like, you know, she wore sexy lingerie when World War Two had to go into some tirade. You know? Yeah, exactly. But john was the guy that if they were right, if they were doing a short I always want to john to writing. john was the best writer and he continued to be that for his entire career.
Alex Ferrari 28:26
I mean, john, I mean, little little known fact that you say this in the in the doc is like he wrote that amazing monologue in jaws.
Zak Knutson 28:38
Lead wants to take credit for it. Steven Spielberg says it was john. It was really john and Shaw. Yeah, did on wrote 10 pages over the phone one night. He showed it to shosh. I goes, this is great, but it's too long. Yeah. And he took John's 10 pages, put it in the five pages. And that's what we got in the movie. And if you are shocked
Alex Ferrari 29:01
it's genius. I mean, he did Conan, which is still so I mean, Conan, Red Dawn. He wrote Dirty Harry. I mean, seriously.
Zak Knutson 29:10
He writes, too. He was a big rewrite guy. Yeah, he
Alex Ferrari 29:13
was he was a ghost. He was the guy always behind the scenes, just rewriting everything. He was the go to guy. Yep. Yep. He was. He was a rock star. But he was quiet rock star. That's the thing. He wasn't it wasn't the time of the fight. It wasn't the Shane Black days, where they were making $5 million. A script.
Zak Knutson 29:30
Well, actually, he broke the record. When he was gonna he wrote a script called the life and times of joy. Judge Roy bean. Yeah. written it for Lee Marvin. Lee Marvin had the script and he was doing a movie with Paul Newman's the story. And Paul Newman picked it up because Lee had a couple of drinks or whatever went to his trailer, Paul picked up the script and read it and fell in love with it. called Warner Brothers says I want the script. And so they called john john said, Sure you can have it but I'm going to direct it based on that. If not possible, you've never directed a movie before.
Alex Ferrari 30:03
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Zak Knutson 30:14
They go Yeah, they go now even you you've never directed a movie for your near night because john had done Dylan's your for AIP doesn't count. doesn't count. Yeah. That's a that's an independent. That's that Roger Corman shit. Yeah, over here. We do real movies. Right? So Johnson will tell you what, it's gonna it's this price with me directing or it's this price with me not directing. He
Alex Ferrari 30:36
pulled the front he pulled the Frank Darabont. Yeah, exactly.
Zak Knutson 30:41
Yeah, and the longer it went, the higher the price went. So john actually broke the record at the time for the highest price ever paid for a script, which at the time was $330,000
Alex Ferrari 30:54
back in the 70s Oh,
Zak Knutson 30:56
maybe I think this would be the late 60s maybe 1970
Alex Ferrari 31:01
Oh, cheese is that's a that's that's basically like a $3 million payday back then. Oh,
Zak Knutson 31:06
huge, huge and john, if you look I think we've even got a couple of the old variety articles where it was like and people were pissed because you're like this is gonna ruin Ryder. You know all this kind of stuff. Of course john Yeah, but john was the first one to kind of go look if you want me to direct it'll be nothing but if you don't want me to direct you're gonna pay for it. And they paid for that kind of set john up and the other thing it did was a day it enabled you know guys like Francis to be able to bring john on to do things like it gave john freedom to do other things. He could write Apocalypse Now for Francis for nothing because he loved Francis right? He could do this kind of stuff and they all help each other that's the one thing I wish a lot more is dead now. Which is help each other out.
Alex Ferrari 31:51
You know it you know, that's something I talk about man on on that's one of the reasons why I created indie film hustle in the first place. I wanted to help other filmmakers and and a lot of a lot of filmmakers, man, they hoard knowledge. And at the end, I'm like, Dude, why are you gonna hoard the knowledge? You know, it? lets you know raise a rising tide lifts all boats, man. You know, and I've just I just heard a great quote by Robert Rodriguez the other day, where he says, If you compete with other people, no one will help you. But if you compete with against yourself, everybody will help you.
Zak Knutson 32:24
It's true. It's totally true. I am a big believer in that.
Alex Ferrari 32:28
Yeah, you just help each other out. And that was the thing about those guys. And from all the documentaries that I've seen on the the core group, which is George Lucas, Spielberg, Coppola, miletus, de Palma. They were all kind of like the barbarians at the gate. And they're like, Look, and one of us is not gonna be able to knock this door down. But if all of us do it, and Scorsese as well, all of us do it, we can, we can do it together and they just helped each other. And I think what was the points thing you got? There was a points joke in the in the documentary if I remember, which was a great thing about God. Yes, somebody? Yeah. Emily has got points on what Star Wars? And then
Zak Knutson 33:05
yeah, no, they've made a deal, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and john Millis. They all had movies coming out. And they were all buddies. They're like, like, Steven, when when john was doing the Wyndham lion, Steven would come in and help edit the action stuff, because that's what he was really good at. And when Stephen had a speech that had to be done, that's where john had come in. And Lucas was very much at the end of the technical aspects of things and visual effects and editing techniques. And that's where he would come in. So they all help each other out one day, they said, You know what, let's all trade points on our movies. So if one of us because one of us is going to get one of us hits, we all win. And they were like, Great, good idea. So john,
Alex Ferrari 33:49
What year is it? This is, this is before Star Wars, obviously
Zak Knutson 33:53
70 1975 or 1976, before jaws and
Alex Ferrari 33:57
before, after, after, they were already
Zak Knutson 34:00
successful, because the movies that they had coming out was they traded points. It was two points to each of them. And sorry, I got another plane going overhead. It was Lucas had Star Wars coming out. Spielberg had Close Encounters of the Third time, and john had big Wednesday. So all of a sudden, these movies come out. And it's like, you know, Star Wars encounters is huge. But Star Wars becomes a cultural milestone. Yeah. And when big Wednesday came out, big Wednesday, by all intents purpose was a flop. It's now a cult classic and Everett, surfers favorite movie and the most accurate depiction of it. But it's like, you know, so yeah, John's got points on Star Wars on Star Wars. And because it was at Close Encounters of the Third guest, so
Alex Ferrari 34:48
those points alone. You're good.
Zak Knutson 34:53
As we tell him until we tell us a story in the documentary his manager, his business manager took Money.
Alex Ferrari 35:02
Zak Knutson 35:04
make your butthole Parker ah. Oh yeah, that's where john john went to David Milch that here's a story that it's in the dark, but I'll tell the story. Sure. Essentially, john, his business manager took all his money, just swiped it. And it was heartbreaking because john had worked his entire career and had built this and then all of a sudden it's gone. John's now got an ex wife, three kids. Yeah, no good place to be.
Alex Ferrari 35:29
So how long ago did he get get taken? Oh, this
Zak Knutson 35:33
wasn't that long ago because how john Johnson was in going to college john son wanted to be a lawyer. Want to go to law school. So john had to kind of go hand in hand to David Milch. And say, you've got this show Deadwood. I want to be a staff writer on
Alex Ferrari 35:48
it. Yeah, yeah, I heard that. We remember that from the dock.
Zak Knutson 35:51
Yeah, yeah. And David Mills said You're crazy. You wrote Apocalypse Now. You can't be a staff writer. Like that's that's not possible. So what Milton did was Milt wrote him a check for the first two years of tuition I think it was jack and said here, here you go. That just just john go go. I want you to be john. I don't want you to be a staff writer on Deadwood. And as the story goes, and Ed O'Neill Al Bundy for anybody. I don't Neal tells the story because he's really good friends with milk and a couple years. A couple I think a year later john was able to sell or john had Rome I think it was wrong. And he was and all of a sudden so john had Rome on the air and he got that going. And all of a sudden one day john David Milch got a check. And he goes son of a bitch he called a battle Neil he goes Do you believe this crazy fucking millions he goes What are you talking about? He goes he just paid me back because I just opened up an envelope got a check from john he does he's the only son of a bitches aid me ever paid me back in my entire life. Wow. If anybody knows story David Milch. He is a renowned gambler. So that's really saying something to show John's character like you know, john wasn't gonna let his friends Hey,
Alex Ferrari 37:10
that's that's it so I mean so if you guys haven't been sold already you've got to watch that movie I'll put a link to it in the show notes guys because it's we could talk about john melius for the next three hours easily.
Zak Knutson 37:22
Hulu if you have epics on epics
Alex Ferrari 37:25
yeah i mean it's it's such a great doc and it took you how long to make it oh god five years
Zak Knutson 37:30
beginning to end it was five years.
Alex Ferrari 37:33
How did I just have a curiosity man? How the hell do you get that started? Do you just call john up and go hey, I want to make a doc about you.
Zak Knutson 37:41
A guy who'd been working with Kevin and well I got to know really well this guy by the name of Ken plume he had done this interview with john that was like 47 or 67 pages or something he used to work for IGN 10 years prior did this interview with john that was epic. And I read it and it was in that interview was the basis of the documentary cuz I didn't know like I didn't know john did all this ghost writing for like all the Harrison Ford the jack Ryan movies. Okay. Ghost Rider on that. Oh yeah. One of the biggest scenes I think it was clear and present danger yeah this whole thing about they're driving down the street and the Mexican cartels or pin the Secret Service guys. Secret Service actually uses that scene to show people this is the right way of doing it in the movie got it right because john did it when he
Alex Ferrari 38:36
made that amazing scene when they got pinned down between the the the buildings and the gal blocked in that's Johnson
Zak Knutson 38:43
Yeah, that was all john that was all john sitting at lunch one day with mace Neufeld and Harrison Ford with salt and salt and pepper shakers and I think a napkin and showing them how it would be done.
Alex Ferrari 38:54
That's the best part of the movie like so clearly remember that it's so amazing
Zak Knutson 39:00
that's all john millison I think he when they asked for payment he said I don't need any pay just buy me a brand new suburban filled with cigars that's he got a brand new suburban filled with cigars.
Alex Ferrari 39:14
Seriously, man I mean they just don't make them like that anymore Do they?
Zak Knutson 39:19
Oh, john has got a thing where you know a he would he would make the head of the studio in his deal he got a brand new gun because John's a huge gun guy. Yeah. People like to paint him he's he's just to the right of a tell the honeys Really? Don't get me wrong. I don't think he you know. Even john likes a second amendment like that. Yeah, but he would have, he would have he would want the head of the studio to present him a gun as a gift to the completion of the contract. So he has these amazing, you know, talion, handmade rifles, shotguns almost, and that was part of his contract was part of his deal. So he got paid and then He got a new shotgun or a new handgun or a vintage this or whatever that was part of his contract
Alex Ferrari 40:04
if so this is this is that I'm going to just share with you one of my dreams as a director one day, if I ever have the opportunity to do a studio movie i want i want to do something similar but I just like I would like the entire Criterion Collection on blu ray.
Zak Knutson 40:19
Oh, that you'll get easily that's like I was
Alex Ferrari 40:22
just I just I just want the entire Criterion Collection. If it's not on blu ray Give me the DVD and the blu ray. I want them all for life
Zak Knutson 40:33
on is not in print anymore go on eBay and find it get it to me I want one one through whatever they hold them.
Alex Ferrari 40:39
I want them all I want them all. I might never see them all but just in case I want them all. That would be that would be my that would be one of my my dreams. And it's not asking a lot honestly.
Zak Knutson 40:53
That's that's good dude. Man. Those guys are Scott and Kevin chasing me was put out by criteria. Yeah. And every every time they put out a DVD would send it to Scott. And I just after a week of being the kind of brother father. I just kind of keeps taking all those criteria in this to go through.
Alex Ferrari 41:11
So by the way, Scott how Scott to work with as a producer, man, he must be he's must be a pretty cool dude.
Zak Knutson 41:17
He's got a dream. Yeah, I mean, that's the only way I can eat. He is. He's awesome. I really I have a hard time even describing Scott to people because he's just undescribable amazing. Yeah, I mean, the guy. He's been a champion. For me. He helped me out with anything I want to do. He's a great sounding board. Like even now with supercon movie I just did. It's like, he's open. Like, I'll watch cut. I'll give you notes. He's been he was a producer on millea. He's the guy who helped us find the money in order to go go out and do it. Which is gonna be a consulting producer. And on a couple of documentaries. I got going like he's just, he's awesome. Yeah, there's no other way to put it. He's always he just Mosher.
Alex Ferrari 42:06
Now one before we move on familiarise off since you were able to sit down with these frickin legends. Do you have any stories behind the scenes of like talking to Spielberg or Lucas or Coppola or Scorsese or De Palma or any of these any any cool stories?
Zak Knutson 42:22
Lucas, I wasn't there. I was in Mexico City. I didn't I didn't do the interviews for Lucas or Swartz Nagar, which are two of the interviews I wanted to do because I was in Mexico City doing doing a Mel Gibson movie. I was like, you got to go do this. I need the money. Yeah, because we were financing it all ourselves at that point. They were the first two big names to sign on. But see, Spielberg we chased Spielberg for I think four years, until we finally got him. And then when we got him, we went to amblin at Universal, and I'm sitting there doing the interview with him because we had to deal Joey got to do Scorsese. I got to do Spielberg. Scorsese was his and Spielberg was mine. Okay? So I'm sitting there and it's like, okay, we're interviewing Spielberg, no, okay. Okay, this is amazing. And during the during the entire thing, there was a picture when john was telling the story, it's an old picture black and white, John's telling the story. And I would pull the picture out and give it to anybody and say, describe to me what's going on in this and they'll usually spark some kind of a story or conversation about it. And I'm Spielberg's talking and I'm trying to be all coy and cool and of course Jen and I as I pulled the picture out all my notes and all my questions in my head just went flying you know so in the middle of the interview it's like boom All I hear is paper flying and it was almost like you hear me go Yeah, I'm just like oh my god this is horrible. You watch back to the interview now he says like Now don't worry about he just kept talking. Interesting was we had all the cameras and all the lights set up and all that kind of stuff. Goes move the camera closer to you because you want the audience to feel more of a voyeuristic part of it. And I'm thinking like we had this look for the whole thing and I was two seconds away from just going this way I want to shop the look and did that thing registers in your brain where you're like, I can Spielberg stupid movie. or something. You might know something you don't You arrogant, dude. I just moved my chair. Close your camera. We're all good to go. But it's a you have that stupid filmmaker like arts right? Your Steven?
Alex Ferrari 44:33
Oh, yeah, yeah, I should. I should probably listen.
Zak Knutson 44:37
Because I think maybe he knows what he's talking about. Maybe
Alex Ferrari 44:41
Maybe you should take a listen to him. Wow.
Zak Knutson 44:43
your entire life for this and now it's happening and you're gonna go Go fuck yourself. I want the camera here. It's like no, listen. Yeah, exactly. We chased forever. We interviewed him in New York. Of course, that was
Alex Ferrari 44:55
awesome. Well, he just he just talks. He'll talk for four days.
Zak Knutson 45:00
Going I said, Why don't you watch the documentary? Just pull the string? And he just goes,
Alex Ferrari 45:06
Yeah, yeah, just as you just he doesn't stop he's just all he's always teaching.
Zak Knutson 45:12
Yeah, you just kind of leave you want to lean forward with like your hands on your on your chin just got to tell me more. And Marty when you start noticing little things that you're never able to notice for like he's got, he's impeccably dressed. And he's got his initials on like the sleeve of his French cuff shirt. You know, it's like, oh, by the way, all the stupid things.
Alex Ferrari 45:35
So do you know why he has that? I'll tell you exactly why he has that. I'd love to know, the reason why he is that way is that he directed a short film for this guy, what's his name, Giorgio Armani. And his deal was, I'll direct your short promotional film. I need Armani suits for life. So all in all, all of his clothing comes from Armani, fur, and they're all custom made for Marty because Marty directed a promotional short film for Giorgio Armani.
Zak Knutson 46:09
That's a good deal. I would do that deal. I think he's impeccably dressed. That's the first thing he knows like, Damn, dude, you look good.
Alex Ferrari 46:18
That's because because the man has shit customized for him by Giorgio Armani for the rest of his life.
Zak Knutson 46:23
That's why I like that man style. Well, it's
Alex Ferrari 46:27
it's Marty man. It's it's Marty What are you gonna do? So uh, but anyway, so did you just contact john and john said Yeah, sure. I'll do it.
Zak Knutson 46:34
Oh, yeah, essentially get back to it. So can still add his contact info. So we literally kind of were talking about a beverage talking to Scott Mosier. I was like, did you know this guy was the basis for Walter and The Big Lebowski. He know this guy wrote Red Dawn, you know, the same guy who did this did that and he was like, why don't you just do a documentary on like being light bulb went off. So we called. We got in touch with john. We talked to his assistant, we pitched his assistant we sent over like kind of a rough outline we did. And john came to our office, we figured it was actually Kevin's office, Kevin was kind enough to give join me in office in his office. So he came down to our place when he was in town because he was living in New York at the time. And him and Leonard came in and we pitch john, and what should have been a one hour meeting became a five hour meeting. JOHN starts talking, he doesn't stop. Pre stroke, john, for anybody doesn't know. And we covered the documentary. So john, was,
Alex Ferrari 47:27
is he getting better? But is he getting better? By the way? Yeah, he's talking more now.
Zak Knutson 47:31
That it's one of those things. It's a slow, slow process. But john weed because when we started the documentary, john had not had the stroke. And actually, we were doing a Kevin Smith show in New Jersey, one of the live things. And immediately after the show, we were going to drive to upstate New York where john lived, and we were going to do the interview. And we got a call. As soon as we finished the show saying, don't come up, something's happened. Go back to LA, we'll tell you about it later. So we were supposed to interview john the week that he had a stroke. We never actually got john on camera, pre stroke. We actually shut down the doc for I think it was nine months to a year. And then john came out to LA to continue his physical therapy. His kids live out here. Sure. And at the time, john could only say yes or no. And he didn't know whether or not he was saying yes or no. Like, that's how the aphasia through the stroke really affected him. Oh, man, it was really sad. But the kids and john who knew everything that was going on, he just the, the way it's been best explained to me was the bridge from the brain to the mouth blew up. Right? His body was slowly repairing it. And that's the way it was with physical so everything in the head was there, his mind is fine. It's just he was trying to get back those motor skills and those speech skills so you can communicate, it was kind of this thing of this guy who loves nothing more than the talk and share stories was now robbed of that. So he's trying to get it back. So his family and john, they still wanted to continue going down the road of the documentary. And that's what we did. And we are able to get them on camera for the end of the documentary and get them to talk and do all that other kind of stuff. So yeah, he's definitely doing better and coming back and he's got other projects. He's got this Kangas con. Yeah, he's
Alex Ferrari 49:24
been trying to do that forever. Right. Yeah, they're trying to
Zak Knutson 49:27
find a director right now for it. I think it's going to be I don't think it's going to be a movie movie because it doesn't have a caper superhero in it. Yeah. I'm thinking that this day and age, I think it's going to go to someplace like Netflix or HBO, or someplace where you can do cool stuff. first draft of that, and it's amazing. It's everything you want to john millia script to be yes. So good. It's got that thing of, you know, I think it's first draft of the script was on like 230 pages.
Alex Ferrari 49:58
Because it's just because it's done. So I
Zak Knutson 50:00
think if it goes someplace like HBO or Netflix, it can be a miniseries, which I think is really what it should be to be able to tell that story and have those massive epic.
Alex Ferrari 50:09
It's kind of it's kind of like what's Kubrick's doing Cooper? They're doing Napoleon that Cooper. Yeah, that Kubrick script I think Spielberg is trying to get Napoleon done as a mini series because it was just a massive amount of stuff. So you also work with Marvel for a little bit, man what it was that you weren't good at two docks for them like the Marvel 75 and Captain America. 75. Right.
Zak Knutson 50:32
That was fun. And that was fast. That was super I got a call from Matt Pernice Yarrow, who he was the EP on melius and we'd gotten to be friends. He was also a producer he did fanboys and I did a little bass and fanboys and we had friends and all that kind of stuff. And he said hey, I got this thing with Marvel. It's called 75 years from pop the pop and it's gonna be Marvel 75 years and we're going to do in an hour special for ABC. Like Yeah, I'm in because I like comic books. I knew a lot of that stuff sure. But from the get from getting that phone call to airing it was seven weeks
Alex Ferrari 51:09
Oh Jesus Christ. Yeah, it was it was like How the hell do you like coordinate all those interviews?
Zak Knutson 51:15
It was that thing of Marvel was a lot of help Johnson really and Harry go at Marvel were huge helps and you know and getting everything going Scott Mosier was the editor on the first one so that put me at a place of I've never directed a network special before they should be oh shit but I had Mosier there I had Matt Prentice hero there I had my buddy Andre there who had me on knew I was like, okay, we're in a good place we can keep going. And we just did it. It was one of those things where Okay, you don't have time to be scared. Just do it. Wow. And even Scott hit me up. I think it was a couple of weeks ago. He's like I finally watched it. It's actually pretty good. We did a good job on that.
Alex Ferrari 51:54
Is that is that an impression of Scott?
Zak Knutson 51:56
Yeah, he's got he's really dry a very try. From
Alex Ferrari 52:00
what I've seen in the behind the scenes. You've hit him pretty good.
Zak Knutson 52:03
Yeah, usually I try to do the opposite because everybody's got a Mosher. I do. Hi, I'm Scott Mosier. Anyway, I digress. Yeah. And then a year later because and the thing is, when that thing aired, it was election. It was the midterm elections. And Marvel did or I think ABC didn't really have a lot of faith in it. They didn't think it was really going to do anything. So it aired election night. I think a quarter of the country never even saw it because all the election coverage was going on, right? And then all of a sudden it was like it started like he got great reviews. And then DVR was a huge thing and people bought it on iTunes and people were loving it. They're like okay, we think we pooch this one. So we did another one of the following year. Captain America was Captain America which was Craig a huge cap fan. I got to meet all these guys and you met you met cap for God's got Mecca even I got my I got it. We have a shield. If you watch the documentary, we bought a one to one replica metal shield app. And as a wrap gift, Matt Prentiss arrow he says keep it just keep it so when we went to go interview Chris, I was like, Hey, man, can you find my shield? Because Sure. So I got assigned metal Captain America shield. My total nerd and he was like, This is awesome. This is awesome. This can be so cool. In my office. Exactly my system worked on. I had we signed an NDA, because we couldn't talk about anything because they were doing Civil War. I was working on civil war in Atlanta. So it was nice that like I could talk to my sister and be like, what's going on? while we're doing this? Yeah, we're doing this over here. But she and I were the only ones who could talk because marva locks you down. You're not allowed to
Alex Ferrari 53:51
speak about anything? Yeah, yeah, of course, of course. But yeah, no,
Zak Knutson 53:55
but that was another one where I think we had, I think that one they were nice. And they gave us eight weeks to do it. Oh, that was nice. That's nice. It was fun. It was a blast. He did end up traveling around the country and you know, shooting all these interviews and meeting all these people and getting to tell his story. And really, and I mean is like Joe Simon and jack Kirby kind of enabled it since jack Kirby state was kind of finished all their lawsuits with Marvel, we were able to say, jack Kirby was a massive influence. Josiah, like these guys, the creators, we were able to put a real focus on the creators on the comic book guys, not just the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Started with a bunch of guys who were usually poor, Jewish, they were bullied. They were always remember. And they created this amazing guy. We now like cap, you know, it's great.
Alex Ferrari 54:53
That's awesome. That's awesome. So now after all of this, you've, you've had this a pretty cool career. So far, and then you get a shot to direct your first feature film. Yeah. Which is called supercon. Yep. And you've got you got a pretty decent cast I would say. Not bad. Not bad for you first time out. You got an Oscar nominated Mr. john malkovich. In the movie, I
Zak Knutson 55:20
still don't know how that one. Yeah, you've
Alex Ferrari 55:22
got to tell me man Well, first and foremost, how did the movie come together? How did like the financing of this than that? Because it's not a it's not like my movie, which was much lower budget than so how did how did that whole thing come together?
Zak Knutson 55:36
It came about there was Marian McDonald down in Austin. I knew her and actually Susan girl whose husband is Kenny grill who I did Zack and Miri Make a Porno with he was a special effects guy. They were looking to put together a movie and they wanted to get the movie business. They really liked it. Okay, and they came to me and they said, Do you have any ideas? Yeah, I got a couple of playing around with and one of the ideas was essentially I know, a buddy of mine is Dana Snyder, who's the voice of master shake on Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Okay. And I had gone to this convention with him in Florida called supercon.
Alex Ferrari 56:14
Yeah, no, I've been I'm from Florida, so I'm very well aware.
Zak Knutson 56:18
There we go. Yeah. So I went down there with him. And it was just we met these people and these guys. God, this is like, what an amazing world. I've been to comic book conventions, but I've never seen the behind the scenes. Oh, yeah. And that's a whole different world. And then essentially, it was like Okay, and then we had heard this story about a bunch of guys ripping off Dragon Con in Atlanta. They dressed up as storm troopers gone in and how they escaped was the Bible first. Legion was walking because they have this huge cosplay princess downtown Atlanta. They had rip off the office and then how they got out was they got him to the cosplay parade. And I was like that's great like heist movie.
Alex Ferrari 57:02
Like a geeky heist movie.
Zak Knutson 57:04
It was like you know, you've seen all the cool like Thomas Crown Affair Oh 123 all this kind of stuff. But it was like whoa, what if you What if we made George Clooney and Brad Pitt morons? thing so we essentially we're gonna start doing it as just that story. I knew a couple people at Lucasfilm through my contacts with Kevin because we got up to Skywalker and immix mailing us up at Skywalker on we shot some interviews for Lucas Films. I was like maybe, you know, and fanboys have gotten the rifle. Like maybe we can actually get the rights to actually use stormtroopers. And then Disney bought them. And that's the end of that. And I was like, okay, that's Disney is never going to let that happen. So they said, well, doesn't have to be stormtroopers. It can be whatever we want it to be that we started with. So me and Dana and Andy sipes who was a writer on code monkeys, and he's a great writer does a bunch of stuff he's pitching shows around right now for something else. He was the matter of fact, him and his writing partner gated that show trip tank on Comedy Central. We started writing this thing. And Susan and Maria paid for it. And we wrote this script, and it was like, what is it that we're going to get made? Right? This isn't that because this is just too weird. And then all of a sudden, they got financing, and they got this other outfit and evolved and we all of a sudden, I found myself after a year and a half down in New Orleans. And we're in an office and we're actually going to make the movie, you know, and we're sending the script out to actors and getting response and it was amazing. And the cast we ended up getting was we we sent it out to john or the one of the one of the producers at the time, we said it's not what the movie anymore was like, we're gonna send it out to john Malik, which I was like fucking Why? Like, my thing is I'm always like, I will be mister. I just I don't have enough faith in my own stuff. Even though I like Like, there's no fucking way anybody's gonna make this. That's not a huge pirate either. That's the thing. It was like john McAfee. And we met with john because he's got a place in New Orleans, where I got another plane. Yeah. He said he really liked the scripts. And Julian sands is a friend to his Reddit and he goes, you got to do this because Julian, he was in wishmaster. And he comes he goes, you should really do this. This is funny. So john signed on. And then we had Maggie grace. She was actually the first one to sign on. She read it. She wanted to play Allison. She was all stoked for it. To take on the character. She had a Pinterest board for the character she'd come up with, like, that's awesome. And then we got Clancy Brown to play. Amazing. Class is there's no one cooler. And Clancy Brown guys is a true Pro. He came to play He's not he wasn't that sure himself and comedy but it was like Clancy everything you've done. It's been funny whether you like it or not, you know, but one of the things we have a we have an action sequence for clients. He actually has a sword in his hand. And at one point couple of camera guys were getting ready to shoot. When the camera guys leaned over to me go do it. I just want to say thanks. Thanks for what he does. You got the Kurgan with a fucking sword in his hand again, fucking.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:32
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Actually, a funny thing I actually reached out to Clancy on on a short that I was going to do, and we couldn't get him for scheduling. But he was such a pro man, he was so sweet. And so nice and most professional. It was
Zak Knutson 1:00:58
not be more awesome, especially for a first time filmmaker like me, in order to you know, to have Clancy there and to be as awesome as he was and not to say the RS cast wasn't Russell's great Mike Epps great, you know Ryan Kwan, everybody, uh, Brooks. Brooks is a friend of ours. We got in there. It's like, it's I could not have been more lucky with the cast that I got.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:23
No, and then some relief. Absolutely.
Zak Knutson 1:01:27
But it has it's one of those things where super cons of a heist movie, but it really is. It's a comedy. It's a real and it's a hard R. It gets an R rated dick and fart joke. Like it really is
Alex Ferrari 1:01:39
with john with with john malkovich, john Mack, and
Zak Knutson 1:01:42
it's one of those things,
Alex Ferrari 1:01:42
man, where does he do that? Has he?
Zak Knutson 1:01:45
Ellen Molly, I was telling my wife. I was like, I called her up one day from set chills. What's wrong? I'm freaking out. I'm freaking out. I don't know what I'm doing. I'm going to go to movie jail after this. Done. I gotta, I gotta go back to construction or something. I can't do this. She goes, What's going on? You're freaking out. I said, I've waited 20 years to do a movie since I was 20 years old. 42 whatever. It's like. I've got john malkovich and Clancy Brown. And I'm doing this scene and in the middle of it I just realized john Malka just two Academy Awards Clancy's Clancy's worked with their bodies in a praise literally in a movie I called perfect. You can't change it. Absolutely. You know, I Shashank and I'm just like, I've got these two guys in a movie and I got them doing dick and fart jokes. What the fuck am I doing? Oh my God. He goes Calm down, calm down, but it's one of those moments where you just go and then all of a sudden you just go Wait no, I got john. I'm good. I got Mike I got Russell Peters. I got ya know, this is great. We're all having a great time. So this is good. This is good.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:56
But there's that moment man, you know, it's meant to it's so funny how our paths are, are parallel in so many ways. Because the exact same thing I've been waiting 20 years to make my movie. And I literally just made it and we're both editing it down the street from each other basically.
Zak Knutson 1:03:11
Yeah, exactly. That thing of like, you have those moments where you just like, lost.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:18
This is just frickin This is Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And you like and it wasn't it wasn't for you, because I haven't talked to anybody else who's actually literally kind of walked the path that I've walked. We walked different paths obviously. But
Zak Knutson 1:03:34
but we've gotten to the same going to the same destination
Alex Ferrari 1:03:38
same destination so when you were making your first movie, I'm assuming that you did the same thing I did, which was create this mountain that was the feature film your first feature film it was this monstrous Goliath that you had to climb? Yeah. And it was like there's just no way I can't do it dislike and you always throw obstacles in front of yourself to not make the first not to make it my pretty close and fat
Zak Knutson 1:04:05
fingers like I never thought I when we were writing I was like nobody's ever gonna make it. They're never gonna
Alex Ferrari 1:04:09
pay Yeah, because you've been you've probably been close so often
Zak Knutson 1:04:12
oh that's it you don't It's that thing of look. I always say your job in this town is not to work your job in this town is to get said no to you. That's your job. If you get a couple knows that day, but eventually just as law of averages, you're gonna have somebody say yes,
Alex Ferrari 1:04:26
it might take 20 years.
Zak Knutson 1:04:29
For me, like I have friends of mine who were like way more successful way earlier, but I've also never been one of those guys who gets super jealous when other people I'm always super happy with my friends like what do you mean George is like an actor. It's like we were tour guides Universal Studios together and now this guy's like kicking ass as an actor on how he shows it's like in movies. It's like it's wonderful. I know guys who are just like, anytime somebody else gets something they're angry or pissed. I'm like I'm not that guy. I always root for you know, it's hard enough in this town. Like, no, it's great when somebody gets something going, they want to get going, you should be happy for him. You know? Absolutely, absolutely that thing of like doing supercon it was you I got down in New Orleans and I was like, holy shit, we're gonna do this thing. Oh my god, I have no idea what I'm doing then you start calling people and you get even more freaked out. I had a monitor every morning, which was one foot in front of the other every time I get out of bed, one foot in front of the other. You have this massive mountain. Instead of looking at the top of it. Just look down. Look at your feet. Just keep putting one step in front of me. Exactly,
Alex Ferrari 1:05:29
exactly. And then after an after you got the whole thing in the can. That monster doesn't look it's a toothless tiger.
Zak Knutson 1:05:39
It was like a wait. Yeah, it was like, I would say I've got a gorilla on my back. And he's always bugging me. If I'm not doing something, he's always bugging me. It was like the gorilla. The second wheel, I yelled at them. And that's a wrap on supercon That was our last day last shot. It was like the monkey took a vacation for a little while. We just like we actually shot this like, cuz even during production, there were we had so many things that went on. It was like we're never gonna finish this thing. And then all of a sudden, it was like, holy shit. We got the movie in the can.
Alex Ferrari 1:06:18
We just have posts to deal with. And we I could Yeah, I could do pose that's
Zak Knutson 1:06:22
like posters, like, Yeah, but we've got the footage, it can now be turned in. Like we have the raw materials. That's essentially what everybody's wanting. Like you've got it. It's shot.
Alex Ferrari 1:06:33
You just got to make that cake. It's got to gotta bake that cake.
Zak Knutson 1:06:37
And I got john malkovich and Clancy Brown in it. I'm doing pretty good.
Alex Ferrari 1:06:40
Not Not bad for your first time out, brother. Not Not Not bad. Now, what was it like directing, john? And do you have any advice on directing someone of his caliber?
Zak Knutson 1:06:50
I still ask the question myself. One of the things when john first shot because john, we were talking about the character of said, and john goes, I said, What ideas do you have for said, he goes, Well, I would really like to wear to pay. I like cool. No problem. So originally, the character was written as kind of like a Stan Lee. Yeah, after john mon. We said, well, let's ratchet it back as he's not that old. And I don't want john to play, you know, 93 or 94, or whatever standard? Nothing against Sure. Sure. Like we need to do we need to do a little pivot on the character here. So I was like, okay, and he says, I really like to wear to pay, and I really like to wear a bow tie. That was his only thing. Okay. And then, but he doesn't know much about comic books. I was like, well, Jonathan, you really don't need to know much about the comic books. It's like any kind of creative thing that really it's about the people who make them. So I started telling about, you know, there's a guy by the name of Jim starlin, Jim starlin, created theta star Lord, these big things. And I started saying instead of staying lean, that I think should be a little more like Jim starlin, who went to Vietnam came back, you know, you went to Vietnam, because he was he was going to art school, I went through this whole thing. But he's the nicest guy in the world. He goes, Okay, I got that. I said, Now, john, look, I'm not going to be the arrogant douchebag director here. I said, I'm just gonna ask you straight out. I said, Is there a particular way that you want to be directed because I've been in front of camera been behind and some actors want to be completely left alone? Some people really want you to get in there and really work with them. I said, I'm not going to be arrogant enough to say, I know how to direct you. You're obviously know what you're doing. He goes, No, no, no, no, no. I'm glad you asked the question. I wish more directors would ask, would would, would ask the question, because if you don't see me doing something you think is true to the character. Bring it up to me, and we'll talk. Okay, perfect. And there were a couple things. There was a scene between john and Clancy. In the rehearsal we did john did this really kind of angry kind of take? I loved it. Then when we started rolling camera, or you know, hit the button on that on the Alexa. JOHN is doing it, but he wasn't getting this kind of anger that I wanted, because essentially John's character never gets a you never see a man or you never see him turn the side myth. This is the part I just want up to Jonathan. In the rehearsal, he did real angry take us that this is the scene where I want to see that partisan. This is the part I want to see sit hasn't been this angry since Vietnam. You know, he was listed. He's pissed off at the officer. She goes, Oh, Lieutenant Newberry shows up. And that's all he needed. Then all of a sudden, we go back I go action. And we run this thing out. And we shoot it and john, we shot in this auditorium and it's just him and Clancy and the crew, you know, we're behind. And john does this thing. And it's amazing and I looked at my first ad Doug at IGN. looked at me like, I don't think that's gonna get any better than that for they're like, God, that's a wrap.
Alex Ferrari 1:10:06
We're good, we're good, we're good. We gotta
Zak Knutson 1:10:08
get better in general like where you gotta get me like, even Clancy game I mean that was awesome just to be on the opposite side. Why these amazing kind of like, jobs gonna put on a clinic right now for everybody. And even in the crew you know, it's you know, it's kind of awesome when a crew comes up and goes holy.
Alex Ferrari 1:10:31
That's right, exactly. When you got the grip going Damn, that was good. You know?
Zak Knutson 1:10:36
Yeah. That's it we you know, you like Okay, we got something special in that take. Kind of right there.
Alex Ferrari 1:10:45
Why are you gonna do it? Yeah,
Zak Knutson 1:10:47
I would say this as far as doing the first with the budget level we had which was about $8 million dollars. I had a baby. Okay, add a first ad in a production designer, and everybody on the crew is great. But the two guys I leaned on the most in prep, I leaned on this guy, Freddy woff, who was my production designer who's amazing. He did bone Tomahawk, Freddy because I don't know shit about production design. And I liked his stuff. And we're very good friends now. And I leaned on him a lot. But then when we got into production, I had a first ad. His name's Doug Metzger. And Doug did Dances with Wolves did The Italian Job he just he just finished Baywatch. with
Alex Ferrari 1:11:27
with with rock, the rocker.
Zak Knutson 1:11:30
And dog Doug was the first ad on a movie I was I did. I was a horrible stunt man and called on Deadly Ground with Steven Seagal. That's right.
Alex Ferrari 1:11:39
Hey, on Deadly Ground. That was if I'm not mistaken, was like that. Was that his directorial debut? If I
Zak Knutson 1:11:47
remember correctly, yes. You see, I guess debut. It was.
Alex Ferrari 1:11:51
It was a horrendous that was the Alaska movie, right? That was that whole? It was oil and Alaska and Michael Caine was the villain. What a horrible fucking
Zak Knutson 1:12:02
black air Michael Caine. And he does the speech at the end, which is
Alex Ferrari 1:12:05
Oh, it's so bad. He was walking around in some sort of like, Indian coat or something like that. It was just oh pelts or something. It was just horrendous. Okay,
Zak Knutson 1:12:16
good, tequila. But Doug was the first ad on that movie. And I had always remembered Doug, because Doug was the only person on that movie him and the actor by the name of Mike Starr, who was in Jersey girl. And I've actually gotten to know a little bit because he hangs out at the same restaurant bar, hang out, and now it's got a great, but Doug was the first ad on that movie. And him and Mike, were the only really nice guys on that set. Always remember, like, for first ad to be a nice guy like that. So years later, a stock guy by the name of Gary Jensen introduced us because he's like, you got to talk to Doug. And Doug became my, my Cornerstone, my whatever the hell you want to call it, like, people would come up with questions, because essentially your job more than anything, when you're directing isn't like, Oh, this is I want the camera to flow. It's like, red, green. Yes, no. You have to have a decision. Even if it's wrong, you better have a decision. And you it doesn't matter, you better have it because you've got entire departments who are ready to go. So you got to know everything you want to be in this movie. And sometimes when we run into schedules, like we live, we have a dance sequence in this movie, we have a musical number that has no place being there. But it's everybody's favorite scene. But when we were shooting it, we're in New Orleans, we're outside. It's at night, it's 97 degrees 100% humidity. It's mosquitoes fire ants, the whole thing. And one of the grips, no faulty is he put a spike down to hold something down and he had watermain. So all of a sudden, this dance sequence that we had with a 30 foot crane arm and all this other stuff we can't do because now we're flooded with four inches of water, and a year below sea level. So the waters not sinking. So all of a sudden, oh shit. Alright, how are we going to do this dance secret? How are we going to do this musical number? This is possible. I got I had seven crew and seven grads, seven cast members, 50 extras and 100 crew. And everybody's looking at you going should What do you want to do? I had remembered a story that I had just told Doug earlier that day, and we were laughing about it because he's that's actually a really good idea, which was essentially john, john melius had gotten to know john Houston. And he says, you know, john, if you ever don't know what to do, one day goes if you ever tried to figure out what to do, he goes when you show up to set go to your go to your first ad and your grips here and get all the departments. I want 50 yards of Dolly tracks set up right here Dolly track and that's going to take them to lunch to set that up. Because they've got to put the lights on
Alex Ferrari 1:14:55
that's a fucking that's a it's a nightmare. Yeah.
Zak Knutson 1:14:58
And essentially so they go off Do it and that buys you about four hours to figure out what the fuck you want to do. Okay, so essentially and I was like and then after lunch you go okay and john story is Euston goes okay, I don't like it. They're all down, put the sticks right here. Sudden, I've got we can't turn off the water. It's just billowing over. We've got a marsh created. I've got literally 175 people literally standing there looking at me going, what the fuck do you want to do now? And I looked at Doug and Doug looked at me and I said, Okay, I want Dolly track. cameras. And I don't remember, the DP is like, Well, you know, I really think I was like dawn can be Dolly track here. That bought me half hour and go okay, how the fuck am I gonna do this? Now Doug was like, that's good. You really you got you got 30 minutes to figure out what the fuck you want to do. So he figured it out. And we got it. And now everybody's favorite scene in the movie. But it's I storyboarded that thing for two months.
Alex Ferrari 1:16:11
And it gets thrown out. Oh, yeah,
Zak Knutson 1:16:13
literally got thrown out. Because I knew I was like, I have to know every single shot we're going to do in the movie. Every single shot we're going to do in this sequence because I'm not going to have enough time because we're it's it's plus it's in the summer. So the nights are shorter. So I've gotten the crew to be willing to work French hours. So there wasn't going to be a lunch break. But he What are French hours, French hour, essentially you work through lunch, okay, you don't actually break for lunch. So you show up to work, you work 10 hours instead of 12. And but you burn all the way through. He doesn't go you don't break for lunch, we bring out food to you. You eat there, because the nights are shorter. and pleasant was like nobody wants to shoot at night and it's humid.
Alex Ferrari 1:16:56
I'm from Miami, I get it. Yeah, there you go.
Zak Knutson 1:16:58
You know better Yeah, like, Okay, so that's what that was my fans like, and then all of a sudden. And I think the one thing I learned too is you have to be prepared, you have to know what you want. But when something like that happens, or when an actor comes up to you says I got an idea. Or you go this, I want to do this. Or maybe I want to do this you have to be able to go Yeah, you know what, that's a good idea. We should use that. Don't lock yourself off to what you drew on a piece of paper on your iPad or what you're absolutely. Because you're hiring these actors for a reason. Because they're talented, they bring something to the table and I always believe that once an actor does a role, really they own it. Because that's who they're going to be associated with. And plus you may not come back for future sequels or if there are sequels because no sequels but the actor is more likely and be associated with this character. That's now I look at it as there's like, you know, you're kind of the surrogate, you write it, you birth it, you hand it over and then you just kind of go Okay, you're on your own you're college make yourself out. So but yeah, no, and also no tricks like set up the dolly track over here. So you can buy yourself a half hour to figure out what the fuck you're gonna do. That's it.
Alex Ferrari 1:18:09
That's a great, great, great piece of a great knowledge bomb as I call it.
Zak Knutson 1:18:16
freak out. The crew will look at you if you freak out. The crew freaks out. But
Alex Ferrari 1:18:21
yeah, yeah, yeah, so what So real quick, what is the biggest lesson you learned shooting your first film?
Zak Knutson 1:18:27
Ah, biggest lesson I learned. Got there so many. Don't stop until you get what you want. When you get what you want, stop. Don't there's a thing now with a lot of people just want to shoot to shoot or let the camera run? Oh, God, I don't I don't I don't I'm not a fan of that, especially like in a comedy.
Alex Ferrari 1:18:51
No, I'm in post. That's why I hate it. Because I have to deal with it later. It's just obscene amounts of footage you're gonna go through.
Zak Knutson 1:18:57
That's it. It's like if it's funny. That's different, at least in a comedy. You know, I'm coming from a comedy standpoint right now. It's like, I just don't want to do comedy. I want to do other stuff, too. But it's that thing of, you've got X amount of shots to do in the day, I went, I was a first time film director. I didn't have a whole lot of money. But I did have money because we built an entire comic book convention. I had real actors not but with that comes its own restrictions as well. It's not like, yeah, you can do whatever you want. It's not that at all. But your time is, your time is is so precious. And you have to get through X, Y and Z shots. So stay on the shot until you get what you want. But no one you got it to move on to the next thing. My entire time. I never went I went over. I went over 12 hours one day, and I only went over a half hour. Nice because I'm not a fan. If Clint Eastwood can shoot all his stuff and have it look as good and amazing as he Doesn't eight hours? No reason why I shouldn't be able to do it in 12 we haven't you know, spent the last 20 years working on film sets. Working 12 hours, man, it just kicks your ass. It does. And you start going into 14 hours. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 1:20:16
And you might be able to pull that off a day or two man but you know, we're not 20
Zak Knutson 1:20:22
like, Go fuck yourself. And plus, I just I think it goes to show you don't know what you're doing. Right? It's not like we're in Louisiana. We had rain we had rain wasn't the problem. The problem was lightning. When you're shooting outside lightning, it's if it's in a certain range of space, like five miles out, you instantly shut down for 40 minutes. You're not shooting anything. Because the crew can't even move the gear inside the gear a crew instantly walks into a safe place. Well, shit, man when you're shooting an independent film in New Orleans in the middle of summer, and it does nothing
Alex Ferrari 1:20:56
but rain for 40 minutes. Yeah,
Zak Knutson 1:21:00
I miss precious time is precious. You can't you got to know what you want and go. You know, that's the big thing. manage your time. You'll get what you want. But at the same time when you get what you want. Move the fuck on.
Alex Ferrari 1:21:13
Yeah, that's a that's a good quote.
Zak Knutson 1:21:18
That would be the one thing I bet plus a really good first ad, a first ad who's far more. Matter of fact, everybody you hire should be vastly more talented and experienced.
Alex Ferrari 1:21:28
Yep. Amen. Amen. I
Zak Knutson 1:21:31
know, people get threatened by somebody who's more talented or more experienced. I'm not gonna say I know everything. I know what I want. But it's that thing of, Oh, you got a better idea? What is it? Yeah. Yeah. If somebody's got
Alex Ferrari 1:21:48
a better idea, I'm using it. Right? Because you get the credit for it later. If it's
Zak Knutson 1:21:53
not good, hey, if I'm going to take the hit anywhere, I'm more prepared for the hit than I am for the, for the accolades. You know, it's one of the things I always expect everything to go the worst and all that other kind of shit. Man, what a good, I'll take it. It's great. You know, the actors came up with stuff ready came up with Doug first he came up with gags if he did the scary movies, with Joker, but with the Zucker brothers, like why am I not gonna listen to him? Yeah, he's got great ideas. Yeah, I'm using that.
Alex Ferrari 1:22:25
So out of all these people, you've worked with Kevin and john, and you've interviewed so many amazing people? Is there one piece of advice that any of them gave you that you can share with the audience?
Zak Knutson 1:22:37
Bob Gale, and it was that I kind of went over it earlier, which was the main job as a director is going to be to just have a just make a decision. That's your job is to answer questions, which is essentially making a decision. Somebody comes up to you and goes, red, green, look at it, green. Even if you're wrong, you can fix it later, but have a decision for them. What do you want to do? Yes or no? You got to make the decision now. Because like on tomorrow on our movie, it was $100,000 a day, essentially. And not 100,000 died, but it was some something weird. Yeah, it was like $100,000 a day. Every dollar was costing us about $9,000. Like, the more you're sitting there with your thumb up your ass gone. I don't know. And I've worked with those guys before.
Alex Ferrari 1:23:26
Of course, we all have.
Zak Knutson 1:23:28
I don't know what do you think like fuck you, man. You're the director. You figure it out. Yeah. I don't want to end I'm not Kevin was never that way. Kevin always knew what the hell he wanted. Kevin always had the movie in his head before we even started shooting it exactly what he's gonna get if anything else he got was gravy. You know the what. And the other thing Kevin does is he runs. He tries to keep the set fun, which is something I try to do. I know Quentin plays music and all this stuff. I find it I don't have enough time to play DJ as well. I'm not that skilled. But I want everybody to know that they're doing a good job. You know, extras. We couldn't have made this movie without background actors and extras. So do something as simple as at the end of the day, go over to where your extras and background are and just say thank you. All of a sudden, man I was getting thank you notes from extras and background actors or I was like, what how am I getting but it was because I just took enough time to say thank you to the crew. Same thing, always tell them thank you. Somebody shot your focus puller really nailed the difficult shot at the son of a bitch now, because they work with people all the time who don't. And I never get that. I just think it's it's nice because you cruise in there with you. Your crew is there with you. And they're going on their journey to and they don't want to make shit. Nobody gets in the business to make shit. They want to make something good too. So if they see you're excited and the actors are happy in the rest of the crew, that that's gonna it's that leadership. thing i don't i never kind of I'm a leader but it's that if I do it and I know everybody's looking to me it'll be better I it just it makes it better experience for everybody. Yeah tried all the time and no matter whether I'm working on a documentary or whether I'm working on a feature film or behind the scenes or helping somebody out it's like, if you have a positive attitude toward it, it kind of bleeds over into everything else for everybody
Alex Ferrari 1:25:25
so yeah, absolutely. I agree with you i do the same thing on my sets it's absolutely you always be thankful and always be grateful for them and and you're right they just are not used to it a lot of times which is mind boggling, but it's true.
Zak Knutson 1:25:37
Yeah, I mean, I've worked with directors who are just complete pricks and I just see the crew shut down on them. Like we're getting paid union anyway so we'll do what we want when we want to do it. That's like I don't want you hate going to work i didn't i never I had the whole reason why I'm in this business so I don't have to wear suit. I like wearing flip flops and shorts. Or like getting up and going to work is awesome I don't I always hated working on a set where I was like God dammit I gotta go to work today I hate that feeling. I hate that feeling. I never want to experience that feeling because then it's like a job I don't want to have a job yeah, no factory I could do that. I don't want to do that some people do is great not NACA shows up that's not what I personally want to do. I want to do this and I wanna have a good time doing it. I want the people around me to have a good time doing it.
Alex Ferrari 1:26:31
Amen brother, amen. mantra
Zak Knutson 1:26:35
mantra I got a whole bunch of other shit but that's that's the big one.
Alex Ferrari 1:26:41
So I have two last questions I ask of all of my guests are. These are my Oprah questions so be careful.
Zak Knutson 1:26:50
Wait for the James lifted actor studio like
Alex Ferrari 1:26:52
No, no. It's like if you were if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be now? What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in life or in the film business?
Zak Knutson 1:27:08
Really good question. Try not to give you some witty bullshit answer and give you an honest one.
Alex Ferrari 1:27:14
Zak Knutson 1:27:18
The people that surround you, influenced you. That's when that's the one I never really bought for a long time. You know, the people that surround you influenced you and they can help propel you or pull you back. I've been lucky enough to where over the last couple you know 20 years. I've met friends of mine because I was a bouncer and a titty bar those guys are still my friends. And they actually give me really good notes on projects. Right very, very supportive. And then you know the guys I work with who I'm very tight with now like Dana and Andy and j Edwards, my editor and these guys, they're all driven and they help propel you forward and be more creative. So the people that use arrivee surround yourself with it's never gonna happen it's never gonna happen. You don't need that you're gonna get enough of that in this business. So surround yourself with creatives that are positive but at the same time not delusional. There's reality involved there
Alex Ferrari 1:28:20
there's apps that's absolute truth my friend because I tell you you know when I was in Miami it you know I love Miami but I was there for a long time and the business is just not the same as La obviously. And the second I landed in LA man, I just took off because I was surrounded by people just different caliber of professional and good people.
Zak Knutson 1:28:43
closest people ever get to Hollywood is just getting off the plane Yep. So you've kind of already wanted that point but that's not the goal always keep the goal in mind I'm not saying I haven't reached mine I'm still going for it So yeah, I know what you're talking about.
Alex Ferrari 1:28:58
Yeah, absolutely. And you just were you know when you when you work with you know me you had you worked with Kevin for a long time and just by working with him that I'm sure propelled your skill level to a much higher level
Zak Knutson 1:29:10
Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 1:29:13
You went to the Kevin Smith film school
Zak Knutson 1:29:15
very much so I always say like when you go to film school it's not really kind of the school districts is really the Kevin Smith Scott Mosier film. School of film.
Alex Ferrari 1:29:26
Yeah, that's not a bad film school to go to tell you the truth. Like tuition was good. So and then what are the three three of your favorite films of all time?
Zak Knutson 1:29:39
Well, first off Star Wars but I can't be original trilogy is one film The Trinity. So that's one. I'm obsessed with a movie called revenge that Tony Scott.
Alex Ferrari 1:29:49
Oh my god. It's an amazing film. It's an amazing movie. I love I love the
Zak Knutson 1:29:54
studio version. And I like his Director's Cut that he put out but I actually do like the studio version. Better. But I think revenge is ever everything I want in a movie. It's so good. It's beautiful the story, it's heartbreaking, it doesn't have a happy ending, not my huge Tony Scott fan. I don't think he gets enough credit for his influence on film in the last 30 years,
Alex Ferrari 1:30:17
he changed, he changed the action movie. I mean, he was, yeah, he did change the action movie.
Zak Knutson 1:30:23
He changed everything, in my opinion.
Alex Ferrari 1:30:27
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. And that was one of those movies. And I was working at a video store when that came out. And that movie was one of those that just kind of came and went. It wasn't a big hit at the time. It kind of grew quietly. But it's just one of those odd movies that not odd in the sense of the story but odd that it didn't get the recognition that it shouldn't have Kevin Kevin Costner in it and Madeline Stowe and Anthony Anthony Quinn
Zak Knutson 1:31:02
and Jose for air and that was Miguel for air at john Jagger's I'm ah yeah movie ever
Alex Ferrari 1:31:10
Yeah, it was so freakin good and it's shot like a Tony Scott movie. Yeah, it's shot like a Tony Scott movie I mean it's gorgeous.
Zak Knutson 1:31:18
What I did that Mel Gibson movie we shot in the same locations that they shot revenge which was also a lot of the same locations that they shot man on fire which is my other movie which is another Tony Scott thing or not another I won't throw another Tony Scott one in there but the stand there in those locations where they shot those movies and I was like, Oh shit, Tony Scott, like, walked by ballcap walking around and he was
Alex Ferrari 1:31:41
and he wore spandex a lot. I heard I saw that. I saw that.
Zak Knutson 1:31:48
Like Days of Thunder words like walking around. No, he's got speed away with that director's vest on and he's got Gar and a ball cap. Balls he did.
Alex Ferrari 1:31:55
That's exactly how he did it. But then he would wear black spandex underneath for comfort. And it was I saw that was behind the scenes of Oh god. What was the Will Smith, Gene Hackman.
Zak Knutson 1:32:11
Oh, enemy of the state. Yes. Will sequel to the conversation. Yes.
Alex Ferrari 1:32:16
Zak Knutson 1:32:17
back is that that's the conversation. This is a sequel to conversation
Alex Ferrari 1:32:22
but but the funny thing is that behind the scenes, I would see it and he would be just dressed in Fuck, it's bad to x. And I will
Zak Knutson 1:32:29
say this as balls. Two things you're gonna want to do, especially if you're working in New Orleans or anywhere where there's any kind of heat or cold. Make sure you got uncomfortable shoes. Always. Okay, personally. Russell Peters bought me a pair of Nike Air Force One fly nets. I'm never wearing another pair of shoes in my entire life. They're awesome. They are the best most comfortable shoes you can wear on set. Don't be a fucking dick and wear a suit to set. am fucking Ramy
Alex Ferrari 1:32:59
right? Or Scorsese god bless
Zak Knutson 1:33:02
or scores and Scorsese see pictures of me chilling out he's not wearing a fucking suit every day. Yeah, don't be that deca that pretentious fucking prick. I think there's no purpose to wear suit on set. It's just fucking stupid. Never I see pictures of some guys were like Don't be a fucking dick.
Alex Ferrari 1:33:20
While you were a monocle and loud. One of those bull horns.
Zak Knutson 1:33:23
His name is Sam Raimi or Alfred Hitchcock, you're not allowed to wear our art. I tell Paul Feig it because Paul
Alex Ferrari 1:33:31
Yeah, he's immaculate. immaculate.
Zak Knutson 1:33:35
I don't want to see Paul in anything other than the suit at this point if Paul ever wore a pair of jeans and a pair of jeans and sneakers and be like Paul you're falling apart What's going on? Yeah gotta get your back in so what jacket no
Alex Ferrari 1:33:47
So what you're saying is basically if you're going to wear suit this at first of all you have to be a really talented filmmaker. And secondly you've got to start that way kind of like set the precedents
Zak Knutson 1:33:57
just don't all of a sudden MCAT gamut where it well
Alex Ferrari 1:34:02
well well, it's got Hitchcock where
Zak Knutson 1:34:06
you that Washington where dickhead like dammit shine your shoes you dirty piece is that
Alex Ferrari 1:34:12
is that off the rack? Is that off the rack? Seriously?
Zak Knutson 1:34:16
I'm not exactly the books like I'm not I don't have the Calvin Klein body you're
Alex Ferrari 1:34:21
not the fashion forward guy I mean either I'm board shorts and flip flops. Dude I'm literally in board shorts and flip flops right now.
Zak Knutson 1:34:31
I think doesn't get enough credit and I put the pick out three stuff. But they're comedies because I like our I go comedy,
Alex Ferrari 1:34:41
but to go without saying obviously Shawshank is Shawshank Shashank
Zak Knutson 1:34:44
is perfect you can't. Like Shawshank he can't. There's very few films where you're like don't touch it right? Not not touch or nothing Shawshank is one of them. It's a perfect perfect movie. Yes a perfect blend of Comedy Action drama. Everything is like you know Raiders of the Lost Ark. I will watch Raiders of the Lost Ark massacre later.
Alex Ferrari 1:35:06
It is it's a masterpiece.
Zak Knutson 1:35:08
That's one thing I think I'm I think Marvel does. I think Marvel does better than most but I still don't I still I haven't seen the action star that gets beat up nd gets all the time.
Alex Ferrari 1:35:25
Well I mean looking at same thing with Bruce man Bruce got picked up. I mean, john McClane gets the sheer kick out of them all the time
Zak Knutson 1:35:31
relate to and that's kind of why I really do like the jack Ryan movies, or at least the very first one without Baldwin, because I like the books too. Because here's a guy he's like, I'm an analyst. I'm not a fucking I'm not a navy seal. I'm an animal. I write books. I write fucking manuals. This is what I do. And all of a sudden, this guy's thrown into it. JOHN McClane doesn't have any shoes on he's a cop from New York. All of a sudden, these guys save everybody in an office building. It's like, it's a relatable hero. But I'd like to see when your movie here at the worst thing to me is like the movie hero who can do no wrong and he looks great. It's just
Alex Ferrari 1:36:11
luminiferous. Schwarzenegger, Stallone.
Zak Knutson 1:36:15
JOHN Claude Van Damme world Yeah, but even their early stuff like the best Schwarzenegger stuff like kick predator predator.
Alex Ferrari 1:36:21
That's a masterpiece it's a masterpiece it's a masterpiece and
Zak Knutson 1:36:23
he gets a kick out of it.
Alex Ferrari 1:36:24
He does no you're absolutely right. He does. commando doesn't get Commando. Not that so much. It doesn't get kicked but it's still great he's such
Zak Knutson 1:36:33
a good fucking move. Oh, I think he won the first fight. No, he was right. he'd lost you ask people who won rocky you know in Rocky did rocky when they go Yeah, like no we lost that's how good that fucking movie Stallone
Alex Ferrari 1:36:48
I mean seriously.
Zak Knutson 1:36:50
I like movies where the weather heroes get get you know they beat the thing that they're going to plan on happening never happens. I will that's that's my favorite stuff. It's like indie. He's fighting the guy with a plane spinning propellers guy hauls off hits. He hits the deck, but just like he can he just falls to the ground on his ass. And it's like blood coming out of his lips like Oh, you got a long way to go. This one
Alex Ferrari 1:37:16
was the perfect movie as well. So what was it? What was your third one? It was our RNA those the third one?
Zak Knutson 1:37:21
I'd say you know, it'd be a toss up between Raiders and the jerk
Alex Ferrari 1:37:26
of a church man. Yeah, Steve Martin.
Zak Knutson 1:37:29
That's one of those movies are in like it opens up with our board a poor black child. Brilliant movie just goes places where you comedies never went? And it was Carl Reiner. And it was you know, Steve Martin. It's just up the ante for the guy. Grab away grab it. What the hell but it's just one of those things where it's I will laugh at that I will judge but most women in my opinion, from what horrible bullshit research I've done. They do not like to jerk like the reason why they don't most women I think don't like The Three Stooges. Right? When I met my wife, it was like, Okay, what movies you like and we started talking? I said yes, like a jerk and tries brightened up she's like yeah, I love the jerk. Bernadette Peters I like okay, you're gonna be beekeeping then she started singing the song with the ukulele and all I was like, Oh, you're good. I like you.
Alex Ferrari 1:38:35
So and I'll throw another one out from that same kind of like time period. stir crazy yeah, stir crazy Silver Streak that that Gene Wilder with Richard Pryor man
Zak Knutson 1:38:47
oh and and i mean you look at something like like I think Young Frankenstein.
Alex Ferrari 1:38:52
You know, the fundament, I had the opportunity to do a workshop with the cinematographer of Young Frankenstein. I forgot his name. I did a week long I sat with him and we had lunch and we It was like, you know, seven people up in Maine somewhere. And we just talk shop man, he was just telling me these stories about Oh, yeah, you know, and he almost got an Oscar nomination for that. Because that was the first year that they did not do a black and white cinematography award. Of course, that was a first year that did not do it if they would have done it. He would have won the Oscar. because there wasn't a lot of black and white films being made that year obviously
Zak Knutson 1:39:29
no, no they still they don't want I think what's the last black and white film by Studio to be made at wood?
Alex Ferrari 1:39:35
No, wasn't it the man who the Coen Brothers yeah the man who wasn't there I think was the last I'm there might have been another one. That right like a studio studio. Yeah, I think that was the last one but but yeah, I had the opportunity to work to work with him and just have him teach you lighting is
Zak Knutson 1:39:56
one of the great movies behind that movie or like the shots were from the original Franken Find the variable to go into universal and find the original prop guy and the original set dresser and pull those original things out and those are what's in the movies from the original monster movie it's like
Alex Ferrari 1:40:10
so much beautiful
Zak Knutson 1:40:12
movie in the love of it. I mean just Mel Brooks in the style of comedy and I mean it just Madeline Kahn
Alex Ferrari 1:40:21
Gene Wilder I mean gene wow
Zak Knutson 1:40:22
I mean everything about that it's like I look I don't touch your frame. That's your frame you're messing with that magic it's on there. Don't touch it.
Alex Ferrari 1:40:33
That's a matte so you shouldn't go back and redo the visual effects on facts are no special no special additions no that's why when
Zak Knutson 1:40:43
like oh god people go on a great night now. Star Wars It was like I want to see the original Star Wars Oh the original Star Wars which sounds all fucked up Yeah, I don't want that well that's the original Star Wars, Star Wars sounds all you know you what you want is you want the explosion and you want the match cleaned up? Yeah, because guess what the original Star Wars match whatever we couldn't see him on the screen because 50% of the light gets lost between the projector and the screen
Alex Ferrari 1:41:11
but you saw it on VHS. I always used to say I'm a VHS I used to see the little boxes going around the the TIE Fighter. I always see that shit. It used to drive me nuts. Even when before I knew anything about visual every one of those boxes doing there. I remember that there's there's I get certain like they did with Blade Runner. They went back and spent 20 million bucks and didn't redo anything, cleaned everything up. re composited everything on that remaster that really put out
Zak Knutson 1:41:37
and I really I mean it to me. It's like it's always up to the director to like the fact that George went into his movies. I don't give a shit. I always have. Yeah, you know, like, okay, he went in and he put you know, that horrible scene with Jabba the Hutt back in the first movie. I don't give a shit. I guess that's a great thing about DVD or Blu ray I just jump ahead of it. I don't care. I am I am. I mean I'd like as much money as they made off mean. last 42 years of
Alex Ferrari 1:42:04
my life. How many how many? How many copies of Star Wars Do you own?
Zak Knutson 1:42:08
I'll tell you about every format I'm assuming. I bought I remember getting the VHS when it first came out. Of course. A friend of mine had eight millimeter. Wow. Which I was like that's gotta be worth some money. Matter of fact, I got invited to go see the original print of Star Wars. Dave Mendell, who is the showrunner for Veep just won the Emmy here Yeah, a few weeks ago yeah, he's a huge Star Wars fan he's got some awesome shit. Yeah, like he's got the Chewbacca from Episode One. He's got Chewbacca from from Episode Four, which was actually the added outfit was used as to Balkans wife in the Christmas special Oh,
Alex Ferrari 1:42:48
let's not talk about that. Oh, that's great. That's
Zak Knutson 1:42:52
my saying it because he's got it. It was in a New York Times article they did on him and all his stuff. But he got a hold of an original 1977 Star Wars print and in Westwood and invited a whole bunch of us to come see it are obviously completely you know, Goofy for Star Wars. And the first real was beat the shit right for obvious because that's the one everybody throws up. But man to watch that movie in a theater projected and the last reel was almost pristine. It was pretty great to listen to the original sound and see the original picture you're not seeing any of that stuff, but you're looking for it. And but all of a sudden, I because I found myself like Alright, let's see the fight. I want to see all the stuff. I've seen that movie hundreds of times. Sure. Of course. I still sitting in that theater and I was sitting with my buddy Ryan, we're sitting there watching the movie. I lost myself again. Of course, I totally forgot about looking for all the techie shit I wanted to look for. All of a sudden, I was, you know, wrapped up in the story. Again, wrapped up in a story and even though I knew exactly what's going to happen frame by frame, I was just like, this is fucking awesome.
Alex Ferrari 1:44:11
Vader oh my gosh, I was Raider.
Zak Knutson 1:44:14
Every time we walk through that door in the opening, I get chills because I'm like, that's the baddest motherfucker in the galaxy. You just know it. Holy shit. You can't even see his eyes. Awesome. Yeah, you start going goofy for that kind of stuff.
Alex Ferrari 1:44:29
Dude, you're talking to a guy who has a life size Yoda in his office. So I want what I have a life size Yoda in my office. So yeah, it's I get you. And oh, by the way, I also have a George Lucas autograph lunchbox.
Zak Knutson 1:44:42
Which one did the
Alex Ferrari 1:44:45
lunchbox The story goes? And I've said this on the podcast before but my cell phone people haven't heard it. I was working in my office in Toluca Lake. years ago, and my buddy goes hey, George Lucas having lunch next door. I'm like, get the fuck out. We're here to why would George Lucas be having lunch at Toluca Lake next door? That's like ridiculous. So I walk out. And Holy shit. George Lucas is sitting there with his daughter having lunch. And I'm like, Fuck, that day. I had ordered a Star Wars lunchbox, just a generic, you know, lunchbox. Yeah, you know, like on Amazon for 10 bucks, because I always wanted to have a lunch a Star Wars lunchbox because I'm from the 80s. So and I want it so it came that day, and they're in the window of the time that it would be in my office. At work, it would have been only three or four hour window in that three or four hour windows when George Lucas was next door. And I always have autographed pins lying around for my clients to autograph posters and shit. And I got the thing autographed by George Lucas and his daughters. I can't just just just go go just autograph it because he doesn't sign. I mean, George Lucas never signs. So like, I didn't know that George Lucas never science and he has assigned for years he never signs. So like if you just just google George Lucas autograph on eBay. Just try to find one. And it's like 2500 bucks. Like, damn, I knew that it George Lucas never science, but I had him sign it to me. So I said, say say Alex because I'm never selling it. It doesn't matter. I'm never gonna sell.
Zak Knutson 1:46:16
I had work with Mark Hamill, on Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and I have a I have a mini lunchbox I got when I was a kid. Empire Strikes Back mini lunchbox. Yeah. And Mark came into the office and Mark like pictures like he didn't he knows Luke Skywalker. So he was willing to sign stuff for everybody. I literally brought up and he said to Zack, and it was a mini lunchbox I have to Zack force yourself Mark Hamill. poster signed by him and stuff. It was just like, this is awesome. This is so cool thing is like I've been able to say like, because when I've been up at Skywalker Ranch, I've seen Lucas I've never actually met the guy. Yeah, I've seen him. But I've you know, I've worked with Carrie Fisher a couple times now. And now I have Harrison Ford and my documentary and he jumped at the chance to be in the documentary because he loved his job. And it's like, Okay,
Alex Ferrari 1:47:11
did you get Did you get anything signed by him when you were working?
Zak Knutson 1:47:13
Wow, I was too much of a nerd.
Alex Ferrari 1:47:15
I was a fresher. Yeah, you were prepared. Yeah, you are. You are Pro.
Zak Knutson 1:47:19
Was that thing of like you're sitting there? It's like, No, I'm having a conversation with Harrison Ford. Like, this is better than anything. I do have a picture with him. I do after I did get a photo with him.
Alex Ferrari 1:47:31
I least I live because that's that's acceptable. But when you bust out the shit the sign, that's when you bite the pens you might have crossed the line.
Zak Knutson 1:47:41
And I was even thinking a couple times like oh man, How awesome would it be to have a you know? comedy poster signed by Scorsese not Goodfellas, that Raging Bull King a comedy you're in on that? picture. That's where I think like okay, now do you mind if we take a photo and Joe and I would get a photo with whoever it was?
Alex Ferrari 1:48:01
So I'd like to apologize to the audience for us just geeking out for the last 20 minutes. Yeah.
Zak Knutson 1:48:08
Last two questions. Oh, and by the way, here's some nerdy shit about a Star Wars movie. autograph.
Alex Ferrari 1:48:16
Zack, man, dude, I knew this was gonna be an awesome interview. I really appreciate you being on the show. Man. Thank you so so much for taking the time and I know you're busy in post with supercon so I appreciate you taking the time out, man.
Zak Knutson 1:48:29
Thank you, man. I appreciate it was a blast and fun time to hear any kind of good stuff. It's it's been it's been fun. I'm sorry for wasting all of your listeners. Our 42 hours? Yeah, no. We
Alex Ferrari 1:48:43
there was a lot of knowledge in there mixed in with some geekness which I was expecting.
Zak Knutson 1:48:50
A little about all geek. Yeah, we geeked out
Alex Ferrari 1:48:53
a bit. But there was a ton of knowledge. And there's so thanks again, brother. I appreciate it.
Zak Knutson 1:48:56
No problem. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Super con 2017 go watch it.
Alex Ferrari 1:49:02
I know it was a long one. But I hope it was worth it for you guys. I love talking to Zak and he has amazing stories. Very, very funny stories and very good and a bunch of good knowledge bombs thrown out there. Really great advice for filmmakers just starting out. So I hope you guys got something out of that. Now don't forget to head over to filmmaking podcast calm that's filmmaking podcast calm and leave me a good review. Would you guys on iTunes, it really helps the show out a lot. I really appreciate it. And if you guys want to check out what all the hoopla is with indie film syndicate, and you still you know, I know you guys might have missed this Cyber Monday Black Friday for four or five days that we're giving you the first month for free. But I'm still gonna give you guys 20% off and you can head over to indie film, syndicate calm and just use the promo code. I f h 20 off. That's AI f H two O off and I'll get you 20% off your first month of the syndicate and you can check it out. It's, I mean the amount of stuff that we have are now closing in on 350 video lessons in the syndicate, just hours upon hours of knowledge and information about everything you can think of in the film industry that can help you guys get closer to your goals. I wish I would have had it when I was starting out. It's a lot of great information in there. So definitely check that out guys. And also, just I want to let you guys know I've been taking the master classes or Warner Hertzog Aaron Sorkin i'm actually going through Aaron Sorkin's again. screenwriting legend Aaron Sorkin's masterclass again, because it's so amazing because I'm in the middle of writing my next project and I'm using a lot of the techniques he's using that he talks about in that course. But Warner's was really good and they just released Hans Zimmer films composing course, which I'm going to take as well because you really got to know what, how to talk to a film composer and what they're doing with their processes. And they also have Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman which are my next ones up because I want to see what they do and how they you know teach actors how to act and and how to perform and to get that information is invaluable. So all you got to do is head over to indie film, hustle, calm Ford slash masterclass. And it'll take you right to the courses and check them out. See what you guys think. You know, they're really really really valuable, great information and I love what those guys are doing over there. And hopefully they're going to be coming out with some really cool ones as well. And just on a side note, they did just released the pre pre enrollment for Gordon Ramsay's cooking masterclass, which I'm going to be taking because I love to cook on the side. And, and I'm a big fan of Gordon, and what he does, so it's gonna be really cool. So, head over to indie film hustle.com for slash masterclass, guys, thank you so much for everything, all the support all the help. This has been a record breaking month for indie film, hustle, we've had more traffic, and more downloads than ever before, for the podcast and for the website. So you guys, I owe it all too you guys, thank you so so much for spreading the word about the indie film, hustle tribe. And getting just getting the word out there, and just supporting what I'm trying to do here at the indie film, hustle and getting the word out there. So again, it's gonna be a lot of cool stuff coming up in the new year, we still got a month left in the in this year. But I have a bunch of really, really cool stuff coming up in the new year. And I got some big Sundance announcements coming up again, not about getting in the festival. I doubt that I got in, but about other cool stuff that we're going to be doing at Sundance. So as soon as everything is completely solidified, I'll be telling you guys all about it. And if you guys are going to be there, actually, if anybody is going to that's listening, are you guys going to be at Sundance this year or slam down? Same thing? Let me know and maybe we can kind of coordinate a little meet and greet. Kind of get together an indie film hustle kind of get together at a bar, something like that one night, we can all kind of sit down meet talk to each other. And network and you know, kind of see we can help each other out. So if if you ever if you want to get a hold of me just hit me up in my email [email protected] That's [email protected] And don't forget to send me your your your questions for the new ask Alex segment that I'm doing on the podcast. So if you have any questions, filmmaking questions, please filmmaking only. So if you have any questions about filmmaking, please email me at [email protected] And I'm going to pick a few questions. Try to do it every week, if not every other week and answer questions for you guys live on the podcast to help you guys out more. So thanks again guys. I'm not gonna talk anymore. Keep the hustle going. keep the dream alive and I will talk to you soon.
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Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
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